Finally! An East Coast National Park to add to our list! I had really been looking forward to this stop. It did not disappoint. There were a couple of snags, Example, we expected the fall colors to be peaking, but, we were wrong. The same odd weather that dimmed the northeast foliage, was affecting Virginia’s colors too. As usual, the east coast weather was quite variable and we got a few nice days and a few hellish days.
We still enjoyed the park and we did find some patches of gorgeous leaves. Not all was lost. The campground was lovely with hiking trails right by our site! We managed a few hikes and snagged some JR Ranger badges.
Shenandoah is a little different then the parks I have experienced before. The Western Parks were mostly made from previously protected lands. This park was made because the nation was paying attention to the states with national parks, and Virginia wanted a park of her own. The state government chose to build Skyline Drive. Unfortunately, some people already lived there. The state government made a few land grabs (one result being – there are family plots scattered through the park) and carved out a long skinny park stretched along the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The result is a beautiful winding road that takes you through pretty patches of woods and past a great many overlooks. The hiking is good too, but expect to climb or descend. We managed a few good hike days, enjoyed a Ranger program, and hunkered down for the bad weather.
We kicked off the hiking by tackling a teeny piece of The AT (Appalachian Trail). We hiked out to Lewis Falls, which gets you to a pretty overlook at top of the Falls.
When we hiked it, the Falls wasn’t showing very well, but we enjoyed the view. Our lack of waterfall was compensated by sighting of bear! We were very excited about that!
We took another day to hike the highest peak in the park, Hawksbill Peak. There is a loop you can do with a slow meander up and a steeper trail down. We accidentally went the other way, but it wasn’t too bad.
The destination is another viewpoint, along with a shelter where the girls enjoyed lunch. No bear sightings, but we did find some beautiful mushrooms and an area where there was a study concerning salamanders occurring. Apparently there is an endemic species of Salamander in Shenandoah.
Our final hike in the park was the Rose River Loop. It’s a pretty Trail that descends through forest to a few view points along a river. There’s a nice cascades to enjoy and a few deep pools. We did our usual lunch picnic and took an easier route up.
With all the fun weather we encountered, we found plenty of time to do homeschool lessons and earn the junior ranger badges! We made it to one great ranger program about Red Tailed Hawks. It was outside, and bitterly cold, but we came prepared and learned a few things. The girls really loved seeing a hawk so close!
We picked a great time to visit the park. As usual, we learned a lot, we saw a lot, and we left wanting to see more.