August 2016 – We spent one night at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia after leaving DC (about an hour’s drive to
the north entrance). The lodge rooms were very nice, with a roomy bathroom, thick blankets on the bed, and an ice machine a short walk from the room. The back door opened onto a patio with a couple of chairs and a nice view down the mountain. The only issue was that the neighbors liked to stand in front of the dividing wall, so we could see them through the blinds and eventually just closed our blinds to protect our privacy. The walls were also very thin, so their morning news show on tv woke us up earlier than we would have liked.
A storm moved in just as we were arriving at the park, but it passed after a couple of hours. In the meantime, we ate sandwiches that we had purchased at the cafe next to the office where we checked in.
We decided to hike the Whiteoak Canyon Trail and left our cabin around 6:30 pm. The trail is a little over four and a half miles roundtrip, out and back. We only saw two other people on the entire trail, and we passed them shortly after starting. The first half of the trail is downhill, but we stopped frequently to look at things and take pictures. There are several small “waterfalls” along the side of the path. It might have been a dry time that we visited, but I wouldn’t really call them waterfalls. They were still interesting to check out, though, since we found a lot of scratches and prints that were evidence of bears and other wildlife in the area. There were also a few small bridges to cross that made for some nice photos along the way.
A little after our turnaround spot, the sun went down completely and the woods became pretty dark. We pulled out our flashlights and proceeded uphill in the direction that we had come. We stopped at a few spots to check for wildlife, but we didn’t find much. We could hear a lot of cracking in the woods around us, so I’m sure plenty of animals were watching us.
After arriving back at our car at the trail head, we proceeded south on Skyline Drive. We stopped at Big Meadows and a few overlooks because we had heard the sky does not have as much light pollution in the park as most of the eastern coast does. We had a great view of the Big Dipper. It was one of the few times I have ever
been able to see it that clearly. We saw quite a few deer along the way back to the lodge.
The next morning, we drove south about twenty more miles before exiting the park’s eastern entrance to head to Richmond’s airport (about two and half hours from where we stayed in the park). The weather had cleared up,
and the sunny skies made for some incredible views as we headed down the mountain. The temperature outside was amazing; it was right around eighty degrees and dry, clean mountain air. After spending the summer in Florida and the past week in humid DC, the weather was a grateful change.
Shenandoah Park is gorgeous and clean, and the staff is incredibly friendly. The areas surrounding the park are rural, but it is not far from DC. I will definitely visit again if I am ever in the area.