After wistfully reading Cindy's blogposts and staring at her gorgeous photos
of camping in Shenandoah National Park
, we were invited to join her family for a weekend of camping. We tried to squeeze the last bit of summer fun and gorgeous warm weather into these days, and we were handsomely rewarded. I'm almost ashamed to admit that even though the Shenandoah National Park is only a 4.5 hour drive from us, we'd never actually been into the park yet. (Driving up 81 through VA will give you a lovely taste though.) The amazing scenic views on Skyline Drive rival almost any I've seen in Alaska and Colorado.
We arrived a day after Cindy's family, and we immediately set up camp and then dove into our first hike. Paulie decided to rig up a quick fishing rod from a stick, yarn, and a hook-shaped rock while his siblings hunted for worms.
I think their noisy splashing about may have frightened the fish away.
(I need to remember to ALWAYS have Finn switch to a swimsuit if water is involved in the hike. Otherwise, we end up with a 6 year old hiking in underwear.)
After a steep hike down the mountainside, we reached Dark Hollow Falls. (sounds ominous, eh? I think it's the warning for the steep hike straight UP to get back to the campground.)
Paulie, of course, had to scale the largest rock in the vicinity. (I try not to watch to preserve the health of my heart.)
Finn became a little salamander and tried to dry off in the sun before our hike back up the trail.
Back at camp, there was torch making (and plenty of discussion about how Bear Grylls made one),
ash made into face paint,
and numerous games of hide-and-seek in the ferns and among the deer.
On Saturday morning, we visited a park ranger talk on Birds of Prey. She spoke specifically of the bard owl and the screech owl.
After a few minutes of sharing information, she pulled a screech owl out of a cage. He'd been permanently injured a few years before, and he's now used as a teaching tool
It's amazing how well his coloring blends in to the nearby trees!
Following the ranger talk, we ventured out into the Big Meadow.
The primary wildflowers we saw were Musk Thistle and Goldenrod.
We also saw several of these red berry (almost tomato-looking) thorny bushes. I'd love to know more about them if anyone knows what they are.
We rested at an outcropping of rocks. Well, at least the adults rested. The kids scampered in and around the rocks.
We also brought some art supplies for sketching, weaving God's Eyes
, and watercolor painting.
Once we rested and had our fill of artistic endeavors, we walked a little further into the meadow to the ruins of a old farmplace. The brick cellar was really the only remains and it was so overgrown it was quite hard to photograph. Finn and Zach seemed to enjoy poking around the place, despite the warning of possible snakes lurking.
Once we finished exploring, we hiked back across the meadow, such a beautiful, if warm in all that sunshine, walk.
After some lunch back at camp, we wandered up to the lodge, which has an amazing view of the valley and mountains beyond.
The lodge is also full of games and rocking chairs to entertain the children out of the sun for a few minutes.
Cindy let me borrow her wide angle lens, which was great fun to play with. I might need to add one to my Christmas list. (ahem, Paul!)
The lodge also has a fun little grassy hill just outside which the kids found quite delightful for rolling down.
One last hike called our names before we headed out yesterday morning. There was a small road straight off Skyline Drive with a 2 mile hike to an abandoned Episcopalian mission.
More exploration fun for the children!
This was one of the most beautiful places we've ever camped. As if the beauty alone weren't enough, their are plenty of ranger-led hikes and talks, and a lodge to escape the rain or heat for a bit. We are already planning a return trip for next year!