I don’t mind sleeping on the ground if it means waking up in a forest.
Over the past year of Mid-Atlantic living, I have fallen more and more in love with the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It’s a beautiful park comprised of waves of mountains covered in thick forest and rock rivers. It couldn’t be more different than the jagged peaks of the Colorado Rockies I grew up in. But this kind of beauty is “old world” and majestic in it’s own right.
Foggy mornings open to misty sunshine. And the ground never gets hard, nor the sun too intense. And after walking through trees and brush, a trail opens to a rocky ledge granting endless lookouts over the valleys
We camped in Lewis Mountain campground, a small, mostly tent camping site off the Appalachian Trail (AT). On our first morning, I walked to the camp store for hot coffee and struck up conversation with some AT hikers. I met a woman who explained how she and her high school-aged son were just walking the trail through Shenandoah. They were from Indiana and as a graduation gift, she brought him to experience his first long hike. She told me stories of bears they had run into; a cub crossed their path the day before forcing them to hike backwards as the mama-bear charged at them twice.
“We’re only half way,” she explained, somewhat reluctantly adding, “But we’ve seen bears almost every day of our hike.”
We also saw two bears during our drive into the park. However, we spotted them from the safety of our car.
One of the best hikes (Or at least, one of my favorites) is Stony Man. There’s a small parking lot at the trail-head, then it climbs quickly to reveal amazing views. The first viewpoint gives a small taste of what’s to come, getting you closer to Stony Man, a rock formation that looks like a resting man. The second outlook is the closest you get to Stony man; the end of the hike takes you on to Stony Man’s face. There are rocky trails that allow you to climb all over his upper body, and the views are breathtaking.
Camping trips end too quickly. And as summer draws to a close, I’m not sure we’ll get another chance to explore before the leaves turn varying shades of yellow. Although, that would make for another great excuse to explore familiar terrain.