June 2016 Trip: Shenandoah NP

This past summer I had the opportunity to travel to the mid-Atlantic region of the US. My reason for traveling was an assessment institute for work. Once I got the okay to attend the institute, I decided to add a few days to the trip since I was visiting an area of the country new to me. Initially, the institute was to take place in Charlotte, NC, and then was moved to just outside of Baltimore, MD. When the trip was still to Charlotte, my loose plan had been to spend a few days visiting Great Smoky Mountain National Park and also my friend Cassie who lives in North Carolina. Then all the plans changed! I was so set on seeing Cassie, so I had to figure out how to get myself from Baltimore to Winston-Salem, NC. Enter, America’s Favorite Drive. I wanted a fun way to get myself through Maryland and Virginia, preferably with some National Park stuff along the way. I drove through Maryland; a snapshot of West VirginiaShenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia; and North Carolina. My plan is to write separate posts about the BRP and North Carolina. Today is all about Shenandoah!

I’ll rewind a little bit because I have to share a photo from the very start of my trip. I flew Duluth to Minneapolis to Baltimore. I left Duluth on the first flight out at 5:15am! The sun was rising as we were taking off and it was gorgeous!

Leaving Duluth at Sunrise

Fast-forward 4 days, I’m done with the work portion of my trip and I’m off to do fun things!  I picked up my rental car and ventured to Shenandoah. Let me just say, Maryland is gorgeous. There were so many trees and it was so lush. I also happened to drive through just about the worst rainstorm I’ve ever driven in. I was so happy when I got out of that. Not fun.

Shenandoah NP, VA

I got to Shenandoah around 3pm (my institute went until about 11am and I left the Baltimore area around 12/12:30pm). Since I was staying in the park at one of the lodges, I only had to get through about half the park. For those who’ve never been to Shenandoah…the park is rather narrow and about 100 miles long. The single road that runs north/south (Skyline Drive) has a speed limit of about 35mph. It’s designed for you to meander and enjoy the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Plus, slower speeds are safer for the animals that live in the park. I stayed at the Big Meadows Lodge in one of the terrace rooms. I so highly recommend it! My view was of the mountains and I had the perfect view at sunset.

Shenandoah NP, VA - Range View Overlook 1 of 2

I journaled at the end of each day throughout my trip. Here’s a portion of what I wrote about the park.

Oh, Shenandoah. This park is something else. It’s officially the 10th National Park I have visited and the 15th overall National Park System site. This park is so gorgeous. Every view and overlook are beautiful. The drive on Skyline Drive is…the best. The trees and the slowness…I love it all. A preview of all day tomorrow as I drive the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Shenandoah NP, VA - 1 of 2

Before I got to the lodge for the evening, it started raining. It paused long enough for me to get all my stuff to my room. Then, more rain. Magically, the rain stopped and the clouds parted for sunset. Just stunning. I kept pinching myself because I was able to walk 10 steps out of my room and have this incredible view. Again, booking the room at one of the lodges in the park was sooo worth it.

Shenandoah NP, VA - Sunset outside room at Big Meadow Lodge

The next morning was so foggy! After I got ready for the day, I ventured into the main part of the lodge for breakfast. After breakfast, I walked a path about a mile to the Byrd Visitor Center. I really had wanted to do some hiking in the park, I just didn’t have enough time.

Shenandoah NP, VA - walk to Byrd Visitor Center

The fog was so creepy, yet cool, all at the same time. It was probably some of the worst fog I’ve experienced, and I live on Lake Superior,where we know fog! So that’s saying something.

Shenandoah NP, VA - walk to Byrd Visitor Center

After checking out the Visitor Center and picking up a few souvenirs, I headed back to the lodge. I checked out and got back on the road. I drove through the second half of the park. It was rather foggy, so I felt like I really didn’t see too much. Oh well. As you leave Shenandoah National Park, you connect to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I’ll leave that adventure for another day!

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