Friday, October 9, 2015

Oh Shenandoah

Shenandoah National Park – what a jewel of the National Park Service.

Shenandoah is a park that runs 105 miles north-south in the northern Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia. Besides getting my solar installed, this has been my major destination for this trip. I've been hearing about Shenandoah for years and I've finally made it here.

The park itself is not very wide, but it sits on top of the mountain so it is a long climb to get up here. There are several campgrounds here – I ended up in Big Meadow which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of the Skyline Drive – the drive which takes you from one end of the park to another. I lucked out, getting here on Tuesday – there were plenty of first-come, first-serve campsites left. That changed quickly as the week went on – this is Columbus Day weekend, a three day weekend when everybody wants to spend it here in Shenandoah.  I'm one of the few RVs in the park, most people are here in tents and pop-up trailers - I sort of feel like I'm RV ostentatious.   

My campsite has no hook-ups – no electricity, no water. It will be another good test of my solar system. As I write this, I've been here for four days and haven't had to use my generator once. Again, I feel so green. There is very limited phone/internet service here. Rumors run rampant – if you go to the center picnic table in the picnic area, you should get a few bars. In the lodge, there is supposed to be WIFI.

About the only thing to do is Ranger Programs and hiking. And more hiking. I did go to one Ranger Programs – Shenandoah Wildlife at night. The ranger played recordings of various wildlife – frogs, coyotes, barred owls. Not five minutes after she played the barred owl call, an actual barred owl flew across in front of us. Wowzer.

Because we are in the mountains, there is a lot of climbing up the hills and going down the hills. I always thought going up was more difficult, but I've since changed my mind. Going down a hill is much more stress on the old body. I am trying out my new hiking pole and I don't think I will ever hike again without a pole – they really make it a lot easier to hike on uneven terrain. Let me say at this point, I have got to be the world's slowest hiker. That is not counting my sister-in-law, Barb, who is much slower, but at least she stops every five feet to take a picture.

So far, the best hike for me has been the Rose River Trail. This trail goes down to the Rose River Falls. You are following the river for most of the way and because of all the rains we have had lately, the river is flowing. Cascades, Falls – we had to cross one of the streams on rocks– Miko's favorite thing(not) – again she misjudged and ended up in the drink. According to my FITBIT, I walked about 14,000 steps and climbed 74 flights of stairs.


The Actual Rose River Falls

The second day we walked about 12,000 steps but climbed 89 flights of stairs. I wonder how FITBIT measures flights of stairs when there aren't any stairs. We did the Lewis Falls Trail which goes to Lewis Falls (go figure), a falls that is 83 feet high. Of course I only saw the very top of the falls – to see the whole thing you would have to climb out on some rocks and hang over the edge. Not for height phobic me.

This all I saw of 83 foot Lewis Falls

 Today we went to Hawksbill Summit, the highest peak in the park at 4050 ft. Only 10,000 steps and 70 flights of stairs. It was a great day to do this – it seems like overnight the colors have changed. When we got here, everything was green, now it is the proverbial riot of colors. I'm so lucky. The views were great – I really wish my little point and shoot camera could capture what the eye sees.

Taken through the car window, hence the foggy look


One of the coolest things though is that I have now officially walked on the Appalachian Trail. I've been wanting to do this for years. The Trail goes from Georgia to Maine and while I would like to walk the entire thing in one shot and be an official Thru Hiker, I think I am going to have to settle on being a Segment Hiker. I have now officially completed almost two miles of the Appalachian Trail. I only have 2,198 more miles to go. How exciting is that? 

Lows tonight are going to be low forties. Since I'm really low on propane, it will be interesting to see how it goes without heat. I have enough for the furnace, but I'm trying to save the propane until I get back into civilization. I've plenty of warm clothes – all will be fine.

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