during the last week of May, Darin and I took an honest-to-goodness vacation to Southern Appalachia. i was so excited to see a part of the country i had never before explored, but a little bit less excited about the 16+ hour road trip from New Hampshire to Tennessee. one way that we typically battle long drives is by streaming podcasts. our favorites include radiolab, the moth, grantland, and ask me another, just to name a few. in planning the trip, we came up with another strategy to keep sane on the journey: take an extra day to *not drive* and instead, explore Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
we explored mostly the southern half of the 100-mile park. in just 24 hours we had enough time to explore the Big Meadows visitor center, do a couple beautiful waterfall hikes, pass over the AT, which weaves its way all through the park, and have a relaxing camp evening and breakfast. we arrived on Memorial Day, so the first waterfall we explored was BUSY. i don’t mind seeing a lot of people on hikes every now and then, though. it’s fascinating to see the diversity of people that visit national parks and hike their trails. i like to just observe what other people do and say, and for the most part, it’s kinda sweet to see folks from all walks doing their own thing.
that night the majority of the tourists had already left the park to go back to work. the few of us that were left set up camps at the various campgrounds. we stayed at Loft Mountain, which is the largest campground in the park, but still has beautiful and private sites. A19 is a gem and supplied us with the most beautiful sunset view!! we had fun trying to identify the birds hanging out in the area and staring into the campfire for what seemed like hours, all the while appreciating the complete lack of mosquitoes!!
our second waterfall hike was spectacular. we went the next morning to stretch our legs before getting back into the car for 7+ hours of more driving. we only saw three other people on our hike, and got to enjoy the sight of the waterfall all by ourselves. i was really taken away by how beautiful Shenandoah’s deciduous forest was. for many people, it seems the big sights are the many overlooks on Skyline Drive, or the “wow” factor of the waterfalls. we really just loved the trees, the sounds, the smells, and the critters. coming from a late New England spring, i was energized to feel warm air and see lush airy green forest everywhere. the large ash trees at our campground were especially mesmerizing. we just don’t have that up North!
… more to come on our adventures in Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains!