Wednesday, October 3, 2012

More Shenandoah

Now for more Shenandoah National Park. We woke up early Wednesday morning, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, after a better nights sleep. There was no loud rain drops to keep us awake throughout the night.
 We made a quick breakfast and went on our way south to the other end of the park for our first hike of the day. It was such a beautiful day, I am so glad Andrew convinced me to stay another day. The weather was perfect, and we could now see more than two miles out from the overlooks!
 We decided to do a section of Riprap trail, according to our Falcon guide: one of the prettiest hikes in the park...
 Really, the coolest part of this hike was the ~.4 miles you walked along the Appalacian Trail, I took some pictures next to the white blazes, but I looked like a dork.
 The best thing about this hike was the views, you'd hike for a bit, come to a clearing with some rocks, and could see all the mountains in the distance.

 Here is the end of the first leg, to Chimney Rocks. Not exactly what we expected, but once again, the views were great. We hiked just a bit further but decided to turn back.
I'm not sure about this being a "pretty" hike, the views are great, but you walk through the woods for most of it.
After that we went back north to check out the #1 falls in the park, Dark Hallow...which, from my post not the same thing. The first day was White Oak trail, I got confuzzeled, so eventually I'll go back and change the other post.
 Can you see me being silly behind that tree? Andrew was taking a picture of something and said I was in the way so I took a step to the side to hide behind the tree but stuck my head out : )

 Dark Hallow Falls! Very pretty, and a much busier trail than the others. It's relatively short, but it's almost straight down...and what goes down, has to come back up.
That was it for hikes...but I have to talk about our amazing campground.
 Those are my new boots! I love them. We stayed at Lewis Mountain campground the whole time, all sites are first come first served, so we were a little worried. But we drove the loop and campsite 18 was perfect.
 Across the road the first night, there were two small campers, but they were gone by the time we got back from our hike on Tuesday, and so was everyone else on our side of the campground. The loop is split in half by a hill and in the middle are the restrooms, we were the only people on our side. It was so wonderful.
18 is definitely the best in the campground, it's the largest and has the most trees. We turned our tent away from the road so we had even more privacy.
We weren't able to have a real fire until Wednesday night, and fire we had! Andrew chopped a bunch of wood, while I sat there.
That night I made foiled potatoes. Potatoes, sausage, carrots (mushrooms for me), olive oil and spices all put into a foil packet and cooked over the fire. It was really good!
 It never fails, cold and fire make me look like a jolly Santa Claus. But, I gotta say, I was pretty jolly while drinking up our hot cocoa before bedtime. : )
The sky finally cleared too and the stars were ah-mazing!

The next morning, we had to leave : ( But, the bear signs finally came true and on our way out of the park we saw a bear! He was super cute, too! It looked like he just woke up because his hair was sticking up funny, like bed-hair, or bear-hair (har, har...I know).
This is actually when we were leaving, we never got a picture of the sign on the way in.
Shenandoah is beautiful. Andrew and me both like how most of the features involve several miles of hiking, which for when we were there meant small crowds. It would be interesting to go during a busier time to see how many people hike the trails.
Busy or not, this place was beautiful and we cannot wait to go back. But next, we're going camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shenandoah National Park

We've been pretty busy lately! September started with my birthday and Andrew coming home after six months away!!! We dove right into a housing project (which I'll post about later).
But, we also went camping!
 We planned to camp in Ohio, but last minute we decided to go down to Shenandoah National Park. We are so glad we did, the seven hour drive was worth it! We camped at Lewis Mountain, towards the center of the park, but I'll talk about the campsite more later.
The first night, we set up camp and made stew for dinner while the fog and mist settled in around us. We arrived Monday and the forecast for Tuesday was 100% rain, and it got there early. By the time we were done cleaning up dinner, it started to come down and we called it a night and curled up in our tent.
Rain...rain...rain. All night, we woke up quite a bit due to the wind and pelting of raindrops on our tent. We stayed dry though, we're very happy with our REI Halfdome tent.
We woke up early (still pouring rain) and decided we'd go eat breakfast at the Big Meadow Lodge. It was delicious and worth not cooking in the rain. We needed gas and drove from Big Meadow north out of the park. Stopping at the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center along the way. Can you see the rain in that picture??
Along our drive we realized that the rest of the park was exposed to way more wind than our campground. We even encountered a tree across the road. Instead of turning back, Andrew and I got out of the car and moved it ourselves. We felt pretty badass. Sadly, I didn't take pictures of it across the road. But, you can see where it came off the rocks and to the other side.

After getting gas, ice and a car-charger for Andrew's cell phone we went back the way we came and had a few nice moments of no rain.

That's when we decided we'd go for a hike, it was barely sprinkling and we just had to get out of the car. We were right by White Oak Trail, and decided to do that. We ate a quick lunch in the car and headed down. Just before we stopped at the Skyland Lodge and I bought a rain jacket (such a good idea).
Not 500 feet down the trail it started to rain...then pour. We hovered under some pine trees for a few minutes hoping it would slow down but it never did. So we just pressed on. 
 Within minutes, exposed skin was soaked through. But the trail was very pretty...and there was no one else on it.
 You wind your way down, coming close to the water from time to time. I was pretty happy with my gift shop rain jacket, it kept me pretty dry up top. My jeans soaked through in minutes though.
We saw lots of salamanders!! I've never seen a salamander in the wild and I was silly excited about every one. It was too wet to stop and get any pictures of them though.
 Finally, we made it down to the falls, this was only the first leg of the longer hike, but we decided we should head back.
 Despite the pouring rain, it was gorgeous. The rain probably made the falls even more impressive.
So, after a Cliff bar, we headed back up to complete the 3.6 mile trek in the rain.
We headed back to camp for hot showers and dry clothes. Then decided we didn't feel like cooking dinner in the rain either and went back to the lodge for a delicious, hot, filling...and so yummy dinner.
 All in all it was a good day in the rain. Originally, we had planned to leave on Wednesday but the weather was supposed to be perfect and we decided to stay another day so we could hike in the sunshine. And Wednesday turned out to be gorgeous...but there are pictures and another post for that.