Come long weekend and what is that one obvious outdoor activity that adults, kids and pets across the globe enjoy? Yep camping & hiking in wilderness. It’s cheap, in fact most economical outdoor activity in my opinion, it’s accessible to all, it gives a sense of belonging, gratitude and a sense of achievement, it educates one about nature and our precious planet, above all…believe it or not, it turns you into a storyteller;-)
So here’s a tale of a day: One of my good friends and her family were planning on going to a meditation + camping + hiking retreat, which they do once a year as part of a group…what a wonderful way of staying connected with one’s mind, body & soul I say! One day we got talking, and she very graciously asked me if I’d like to join them on their next retreat in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia as the members could bring friends and family along. Lo & behold, those words were like music to my ears, as a trip like this is straight up my alley. Best part about this trip? They had already pitched tents and had breakfast, Lunch & Dinner available. Perfect! Starting to get jealous already?? All I had to carry, along with my high & free spirited adventurous self was this
- A comforter and blanket, but for next camping trip I’d prefer Sleeping bag OR Inflatable Mattress. FYI it get’s really cold at night
- A hooded light jacket
- Some snacks, marshmallows, s’mores, lighter, water
- Quarters (it costs $1.75 to shower and they accept only quarters). There are dedicated washrooms/toilets and shower areas in the campground. One campground has 4-5 groups and each group has it’s own Washrooms/toilets, however one common shower area for all. Toilets are free and Shower area is chargeable. You put the coins and water comes for only 5 minutes. I am sure there is some logic to it, but didn’t bother checking!
- Bug spray
- Portable phone charger (charge your phone well in advance)
- Wet disposable wipes & toilet paper
- Garbage Bag
- The usual hiking gear : Ozark Trail Backpack. You can get it really cheap in Walmart, my waterproof Oboz Hiking boots (these babies are awesome!) and Socks that I purchased from REI, Cap/Bandana, sunglasses, Trail mix, protein shake, water, first aid kit, camera
TIP #1: AllTrails app is the best thing that happened to hikers!! Download before going on any hike, short or long!
TIP #2: Take ear plugs…it can get noisy!
We took off on our road trip from NJ to Luray, VA, on Saturday July 1st, about 280 miles it said…Woohoo!! The excitement of visiting a new State in the US and my first National Park was building up inside me! I have been to 7 States already and goal is to visit all 50:-) Road trip was awesome…music gave us company, Despacito was on loop!! It was all going well only until we realized that the rest of the world was also going to Luray;-(….as if the traffic wasn’t bad enough, to add to our agony it started to rain heavily, which further slowed the traffic. 5 hour journey became 7 hour torture, our bums started hurting, despacito became desparito, everyone’s spirit along with the bladder gave up, we thought we’d never reach!! somehow…we finally reached paradise. YES!! what views…God’s landscaping is impeccable in this park!! There are various spots on skyline drive on your way up to the campground where you can stop, soak in the beauty and finish off storage in your camera! We were booked in Big Meadows Campground, sharing space with 100 odd other people;-)
Here’s the thing about camping on a long weekend….DON’T!! Unless you like crowd!! It was a shocker for me as the campground was crawling with people, trailers and cars parked next to each others, tents pitched in close proximity…people playing movies on projectors, kids biking around, it was literally bumper to bumper traffic once inside the campground….all I could hear were human voices…it was New Jersey all over again;-)!!!
However, for first time experience I think it’s a good idea to camp with people around. We were famished after a long journey. After savoring delicious dinner already laid out for latecomers, we rushed to find the perfect spot for sunset viewing…Viola! Blackrock Trailhead it was….if you get a chance to visit Shenandoah National Park, watch the sunset from this point. The sun played peek-a-boo, but I ain’t complaining as I got wonderful pictures of myself posing;-).
Came back, lit the bonfire and performed typical campfire rituals that included making marshmallow and s’mores (I hate them!)…chatting loudly to add to the noise…discussing ghost/scary stories…some that happened in real and some made up (what you don’t believe in ghosts??);-). It was pitch dark by then, human voices had started to fade away and finally could hear the rustling of trees, chirping of crickets and sounds of bugs, and an inner voice hoping to hear a bear somewhere…Super tired, hit the sack by 11 with the hope to get a good night sleep in the ‘wild’!! BUT, God had different plans. I couldn’t sleep all night as due to the close proximity of tents I could hear everything that everyone else was talking or doing;-) in their tents!! That’s why TIP#2 is useful! Next morning was epic! We were awoken by the chirping of birds SO LOUD that we thought we’d go deaf…lol! sweet sound of revenge!! Everybody gave everybody else “I know what you did last night” look…it was as if we all spoke a secret language without speaking a word. Humanity was united for a while!!
Finished breakfast, wrapped up tents as had to check out by 11. Once all things packed and stuffed in the cars, we decided to go hiking. Obviously we didn’t have time to do a long hike as we had to be back in NJ by Sunday night. So we chose Hawksbill Trailhead.
Personally, I wanted to do White Oak/Cedar run trail (about 9 miles), because of a lot of waterfalls, but, again due to lack of time and general feedback from people that the waterfalls were not as grand as they were in spring time, we chose not to hike this one. I am glad we did Hawksbill cuz it leads to the Summit which is the highest point of the park with a breathtaking view. A moderate trail with rocky patches.
Once done hiking, we stopped on skyline drive to click some more, nobody wanted to leave yet!
On our way back we stopped at a farm house to pick peaches, but I guess the peach picking season was over. Got this gorgeous click of the farm though!
Overall felt satiated, my first camping experience in the US, first National Park visit, 8th state explored, hiked up to a gorgeous view and company of wonderful souls…what not to like in this short trip!
Keep travelling keep exploring!