If you want to travel in the United States, road trip is a popular option. Unlike Europe where I took totally advantage of train traveling, in the United States train traveling is inflexible and pricey. People rather prefer to drive or take the buses if they have to go somewhere far. So when the Memorial Day weekend came up in May 2014, my boyfriend and I decided to go on a road trip. Our first road trip destination was to the mountains and history: Shenandoah and Charlottesville in Virginia.
The timing was perfect. The media was going crazy about Camelopardalids. (Yea, I know that was a mouthful.) Supposedly, this was going to be the best meteor shower ever in ages. I have always wanted to watch the stars so I was not going to lose this opportunity. We packed our bags and excitedly drove to the mountains. Sun setting ahead of us, Google Map speaking to us with her kind navigation, our journey have begun.
It is no secret to how much DC/VA/MD people love Shenandoah National Park. I meant LOVE. When I first came back to Washington, D.C. and asked where is a good getaway nearby, almost nine out of ten will mention Shenandoah. I was curious. The problem is you can’t go there unless you have a car. Plus, without studying the different hiking routes, I feared that I’d get lost in the wilderness. I quickly figured I shouldn’t take the same “get lost in this city for few hours and enjoy” approach which I did in other places I’ve visited. But with proper planning, it will be a destination you would always want to return to. My first trip was to hike the Old Rag tracks in 2013 summer with my friends. The May 2014 was the second trip, but surely not my last.
So, here are few highlights and tips you shouldn’t miss out on your trip to Shenandoah!
- Take your time driving Skyline Drive
The Skyline Drive is one of the most scenic driveways. Located along the crest of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the 105-mile driveway traverse the entire length of the park’s 200,000 acres. If you are not a hiker but want to see some nature, just come out here for a drive. You will be dazzled to see endless beauty. Along the driveway, there are many rest stops and small cabins where you could park to admire to view or to do picnic.
- Go hiking and climb some rocks
Hike lovers, this is your kingdom. Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Some trails lead to waterfall or viewpoints, while others penetrate deep into the forest and wilderness. I mean look at these maps the National Park Service already provides!
If you are a hiker, check out Old Rag! I hiked there with my friends in summer 2013 and loved it. You actually get to climb rocks. How cool is that! Make sure to wear proper shoes and outfit, and pack snacks and water. That way you don’t scratch your legs like me. I missed one rock. Opps.
If you want an easier option, there are plenty. For this trip, we did Jones Run and Doyles River area. It’s a pleasant walk in the middle of the forest and you get to see two waterfalls along the way. For the second one, you can even climb up to see a better view. Some people were chilling next to the rocks to enjoy their day.
If you don’t know where to go, check out websites such as HikingUpward. It is like Yelp for hiking. Hikers leave reviews, indicate difficulty levels, estimated hiking time, and pictures. Click Shenandoah NP and you’ll see a list of trails.
- Admire the starry night
Have you seen Lion King where Simba lays down under the night full of stars? Well, that is exactly how a night star watching at Shenandoah can be. It is not a surprising why the website lists this as the top 10 things to do in Shenandoah.
Oh even me who could barely open her eyes pass midnight did everything to not miss this. Especially since we came here to see the meteor showers. While we didn’t get to see a firing meteor shower, we did see about 4 to 6 shooting stars and endless stream of stars. The night view was spectacular. I couldn’t stop starring outside our car window.
I wanted to put these moments in my camera. Unfortunately, I was still learning how to use my DSLR night version so all I could get were shots like this. The lesson is go check out the stars for your self!
- Wake up with the Sunrise
I get it. 5:50 am is really early. But isn’t this gorgeous? No details needed for this one. Go plan to see at least one sunrise. Oh and make sure you spot which location will be good to see the perfect sunrise. We found one.
- Be Prepared to go Offline
At first when my iPhone lost signal I stumbled. I got so used to traveling with my full 4G signal that when I didn’t see it I got uncomfortable. Be prepared to see this when you go to the mountains. This is nature speaking to you. If you need maps, print them out just in case you lose signal. When you hike, you’ll especially experience your phone losing signal. Its ok. Take advantage of this moment to go offline and pay attention to what is surrounding you.
By the time we finished our hiking trail on day 2 in the mountains we were ready to head to our next destination – Charlottesville, VA.
Copyright © 2015. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved.