Thursday, December 20, 2012
Shenandoah National Park
Inca Trail on the way to Machu Picchu, we leave you with some thoughts on a more local hiking destination: Shenandoah National Park.
As much as we loved our Old Rag Mountain hike, we understand that it isn't for everyone. After all, we paid a price for those spectacular views: 10 miles and 2000 feet of elevation gain, scrambling up rocks and through narrow crevices, and a brutal 0400 wake up call (what does the 0 stand for? Oh my God it's early!).
Fortunately, there are plenty of other options in the region's National Park. Yes, I know that there are technically lots of National Parks in the DC area, but when I think of that title, this West Coaster thinks of Yosemite, Sequoia, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Arches, Zion, etc. By that measure, Shenandoah is "the" National Park in the area. Fortunately, it is a good one.
Skyline Drive. That's a good starting point but there is so much more. After all, why restrict your excursion into nature by staying behind glass and on pavement? Recently, we were joined by our hiking buddy Commie (his name is Comstock; he's not a Communist) for a 3 day stroll through the backcountry. We chose a roughly 20 mile loop that started at Bootens Gap and included time in and around Jones Mountain, the Staunton River, and President Hoover's Rapidan Camp.
There are two things that make hiking in Shenadoah particularly nice. There is plenty of access to water (i.e., less you have to carry) and all the trails are extremely well marked.
Appalachian Trail (AT)).
I don't know if B brainwashed me or what, but I really love spending a weekend away from civilization in the form of a backpacking trip. After just two days, you feel as refreshed as if you've been gone for a week. There's just nothing like being away from everything, including my beloved iPhone.
As B said, Shenandoah has everything you'd want in a National Park and us Washingtonians are lucky enough to have it within easy driving distance. If you're not ready to venture out on the trail overnight, there are lots of day hikes that you can cap off with an actual meal in a restaurant along Skyline Drive. I suggest calling a ranger and getting suggestions for a hike or talking to someone in the book section of your local REI. We've found all of our best hikes this way and they'll teach you how to beat the crowds.
I hope your holiday season is filled with plenty of time with friends and family and just maybe (if the weather permits) a walk in the woods!