In October 2010, we made our first trip to Shenandoah National Park. Loving National Parks as I do, our visit was long overdue.
The kids had Friday off of school, but we still had a soccer game on Saturday. We figured if we left Thursday afternoon, we could camp two nights and come back in time for the game on Saturday. That’s exactly what we did. We camped at Big Meadows Campground,
visited Luray Caverns, which is close by,
and hiked a few fun trails in the park. (I wish I could remember the names of them—one of them was a really fun rock scramble, but not a very long one.)
While we were there, the weather was pretty cold. It must have been in the 30s or close to it both nights. There were four of us huddled close together in a tent, with the wind howling all night. We wore hats to bed; Natalie, Kara and I even wore gloves as well. We had lots of blankets, but even with all the blankets, there were complaints in the morning of being cold the night before. Our only solace from the cold was the Big Meadows Lodge. Fortunately, you didn’t have to stay at the lodge to curl up in front of the blazing fire in the main room. It was very relaxing, warm and we stayed as late as we could.
Here are the most memorable things about that trip: 1. It was freezing!, 2. It was really cold., and 3. The fall colors were beautiful.
This year as were deciding where to go for our annual fall camping trip (We are not summer campers—Sterling does not like sleeping in the heat without air conditioning!), Shenandoah came up again. Before we made our final decision, I kept checking the temperatures, because I did not want a repeat of the freezing temperatures from our last trip. About four days out, I became satisfied that if we went, we wouldn’t freeze like last time.
By that time there were no more reservations to be had at Shenandoah though. But I kind of expected that. I know that during the fall the campgrounds fill up fast. But they do reserve a certain amount for walkup campers. When we went in 2010, we got a walkup spot at Big Meadows Campground—which seems to be the most coveted spot in the central part of the park. I was assuming that if we got there early enough (meaning Thursday night or early Friday morning), we would find a spot.
And we did. When we got there, Big Meadows Campground was completely full, but the other three campgrounds still had room. So we took a spot in Mathews Arm, which is the furthest north campground, and the closest to what we wanted to do.
(Mathews Arm has no showers, which doesn’t bother us for short trips). By Friday afternoon, when we passed the ranger station again, we saw that all campgrounds were full at that point.
We spent our full day there hiking Old Rag, one of the most famous and challenging hikes in the park.
(See my post on Old Rag) But if you’re not up for a 6-7 hour strenuous hike, there are lots of other hikes in the park. And in the fall, you can just drive along Skyline Drive and enjoy the colors of the trees too.
As we were leaving the park, we saw lots of cars coming into the park, presumably to enjoy the fall colors of Skyline Drive.
We had a great trip—camping, hiking, and loving being outside and together. And I’m happy to report that this camping trip was a lot warmer than our first to Shenandoah. We didn’t have to go around with our winter coats and hats and gloves. (Although Natalie did put her coat on for a while at night!)