Shenandoah National Park offers over 500 miles of hiking trails through Virginia’s spectacular mountain scenery. We reserved four nights just outside the park in Luray at Spacious Skies RV Park, excited about three full days to explore the park.
Our first day found us back on a section of the Appalachian Trail. We were curious to see the overnight shelters distance hikers frequent, so we chose a 6-mile out and back trail called Mary’s Rock and Birds Nest 3 Shelter.
It was a rocky, uphill path to Mary’s Rock but the view was worth the climb. We continued on until we reached the shelter known as Birds Nest 3. While it was pretty rustic, it would certainly provide welcome relief to weary hikers eager to escape bad weather. At one end was a large fireplace while a raised sleeping platform stretched across the back. Tucked away at a discrete distance was another treat…an outhouse. I didn’t peek inside assuming it was likely pretty rustic, but figured it would offer a bit of hard-to-come-by privacy after miles of wilderness.
That night the temperatures dropped and the rains began. Hard rains…relentless rains. Perhaps day two was a good time to drive a part of 105-mile Skyline Drive that winds along the spine of the park.
It was obviously not a day for sightseeing, so we went back to our trailer and got the laundry done. The rain and cold continued into the next day. Our Shenandoah National Park visit was a bit of a bust, and we weren’t able to fully appreciate the beautiful campsite we had, but we did have one great hike and a good laugh about our “drive through the park.”
The idea of converting miles of unused railroad lines into safe and scenic hiking/biking trails was pure genius. We rode a few last year as we traveled across country and back, enjoying the smooth paths free from traffic and cross streets. This year, again with trailer in tow, we hit the road in search of new trails to ride.
It’s always fun to ride toward an exciting destination, so Reg and I drove to High Bridge Trail State Park to catch the rail trail in the town of Farmville, Virginia, close to the midpoint of the 31-mile stretch, thus assuring us (me) that we (I) wouldn’t poop out before reaching the spectacular centerpiece of the trail.
More than 2,400 feet long and 125 feet above the Appomattox River, the High Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s the longest recreational bridge in Virginia. The original bridge opened in 1854, was rebuilt in 1914 and saw the last train cross in 2005. In 2012 the renovated bridge opened to the public, 147 years after the Battle of High Bridge.
Not only was the bridge a thrill to ride across, but it provided us a lunch stop with a pretty good view.
A short drive to Virginia’s Grayson Highlands State Park allowed us a chance for a short hike with a link to one of the country’s most iconic national trails.
The 2.3-mile Massie Gap and Wilburn Ridge loop trail overlaps a portion of the Appalachian Trail, the nearly 2,200-mile path that leads thru-hikers from Springer Mountain in the state of Georgia, north to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
We read that we could expect spectacular views and, if we were lucky, glimpses of a wild Grayson Highland pony or two.
From atop the rock outcropping (behind Reg in photo with trail marker above) we could see forever. We rejoined the Appalachian Trail section and continued on for a short bit until a steep downhill (requiring a steep return ascent) turned us around.
Our perfect timing allowed us to spend Easter weekend with Chris and Gail in and around Charleston, West Virginia. We relaxed with dinner out Saturday night and spent Easter Sunday hanging around our campsite. After two games of croquet, where the guys fought for first place and Gail and I battled it out for last place, we rounded out the evening gathered around our cozy trailer dinette feasting on barbecued shish kebabs. And then it was time to say goodbye…
We’re not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 469-mile national parkway that runs through Virginia and North Carolina. We drove a part of it on a trip 5 years ago, but the weather was so cold and foggy we deserted it after just a few miles. This time the weather was beautiful, but cold…36 degrees as we stopped at various viewpoints and took a quick look around the historical 1889 Brinegar cabin property. Returning by way of an alternate route, we saw acres of Christmas tree farms decorating the landscape.
A six-mile roundtrip walk along the New River Trail State Park, a 57-mile strip that follows the abandoned railroad right-of-way, got us out of the truck for some much needed exercise. With two more days to fill and temperatures promising to warm up into the 70s (F), we expect to explore more of this rail trail with our bikes.
We’re spending the night in southern Virginia where spring is just beginning to show its colors. Our campsite was surrounded by trees, but there was barely a leaf to be seen. It looked quite winter-like.
A good night for what Reg calls “Comfort Food.”
Although he rolled his eyes when I dropped this in our grocery cart the other day, we thoroughly enjoyed our Deluxe Kraft Macaroni & Cheese dinner, incredibly easy to make with the enclosed packet of squeeze cheese!
And what better way to dine on this gourmet delight than from good old fashioned TV trays! Bon Appétit!