July brought many fun Summer activities but for this Changing Seasons post I want to focus on one in particular…I went on vacation to Shenandoah National Park. It was my first visit there and I have to say that the beauty was AMAZING and was hard to capture in my pictures and it is going to be hard to describe in my post. BUT…I’ll do my best.
On our first day in the park we hiked the Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail. I knew going in that this was some type of tunnel but I had fairly low expectations as it pertained to size. I’ve hiked many a trail that took you under a road and so I figured this would be similar, offering perhaps a 50 foot stone or brick structure allowing hikers to not have to cross a busy road. Boy did I have it wrong!!!!!!! The tunnel is actually 3/4 of a mile long and is huge. It used to be part of the railway and it doesn’t go under a road, it goes through the mountain. Literally, they blew their way through so the trains wouldn’t have to go around. It ended up being one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever taken.
We knew that hiking was not the only way to see the park so we rented horses and took a trail ride too. It had been a really long time since I’d thrown a leg over a horse that didn’t belong to me and at first it felt really strange. But Mack was a well trained horse and he knew his job well so after just a few minutes we had each other figured out and had a lovely time in the woods together
As if hiking and riding weren’t enough we decided we should see the park by water too. So off to the river outfitters we went where we dropped our vehicle and they transported us and our rented gear up river to paddle back down. It was a blazing hot day so it felt wonderful to get out and swim from time to time. The trip was a bit on the adventurous side as the water levels were low and we frequently found ourselves stuck on rocks or trying to find the right “line” that would guarantee passage. Paddling down the river surrounded by mountains felt surreal and I had moments of such gratitude to be experiencing the beauty.
One of my favorite hikes during our visit was the one we took right at dusk to watch the sunset over the valley. It was perfection!!!!! We had clear skies, a bit windy but that was expected at such high elevations at that time day. We settled on our rock and watched as the sun made her descent into night. It was interesting hiking back in the dark in bear country but we arrived back at our lodge without incident.
As if the beauty above ground was not enough we were lucky enough to explore some of the beauty below ground too. Luray Caverns was one of the prettiest caves I’ve ever been in…the colors, the stalactites and stalagmites were all breathtaking. I tried to capture it, but without context of the size of the cave and the 360 degree view of these formations being all around you these photos pale in comparison to what I actually experienced.
A highlight of the trip was definitely meeting Faye LeComte. His blacksmith shop was part of the Shenandoah Heritage Village. He would give demonstrations, making key chains for the tourists. But really, at 88 years young, he had stories galore. He was so interesting to talk to and had experienced so much life and was so wiling to share what he learned. We sat for hours in the heat of the day, at his shop, just to hear all that he had to say. The cherry on top of the visit was getting to watch him in action.
A write up about this trip would not be complete if I didn’t mention the Brookside Restaurant. They made the best blackberry cobbler I’ve ever had. So good, in fact, we stopped there three times during our trip just to indulge in dessert.
It’s been a lengthy wrap up and if you’ve hung in this long, thanks for reading. I leave you with some of the images I haven’t already shared because this place is just that beautiful!!!!!!!!!