Take the name "Shenandoah" for instance. No one is quite sure what it really means.
"River of High Mountains".
"Daughter of the Stars".
I would submit that it means all of the above. Maybe add "Place of the Sideways Rain" to list as well.
I spent seven days at Shenandoah National Park and three of them were sunny. The others, not so much.
I left Claytor Lake State Park a week ago Tuesday. My route took me north along Interstate 81.
The road roughly parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway to the east and looks a little nicer than Interstate 5 through Los Angeles.
Just a tad.
I wound up at Cave Mountain Lake for the night.
The campground is near Natural Bridge, VA, close by the parkway, and offers up 42 sites. 28 of those can reserved.
I set up camp in number 28.
There is a nifty little creek that flows through the campground before emptying into the lake.
I enjoyed the sounds that night.
Site number two was nice and large with the creek right behind it.
$30 for the double, $15 for the rest of the sites.
There are no hookups of any kind here but the recent addition of a new bathhouse provided a wonderful warm shower.
My plan of dragging the picnic table under my awning fell apart at Claytor Lake due to a cable that held it in place, so I stopped at Wally World and picked up a folding table. It's five feet long and fits perfectly between the tarp legs.
I am really enjoying this trailer/awning/table setup. By the end of this trip I should have everything dialed in...
I grabbed some logs, cut them up, and built a fire.
Larger logs are readily available.
They only ask that you chop them here and not at your site.
The sun starting sinking which got me to thinking it was about time.
You Bet! I finished off the last of my taco meat.
But it is all about the lake here, so I went and checked it out before leaving Wednesday morning. It's about 1/4 mile from the campground.
Next to the lake parking lot is a cool picnic shelter.
I could live in that.
A short path takes you past the bathhouse to the beach.
Turning around gives a view of the lawn.
The lake is restricted to hand powered rafts and tubes.
By hand I mean just your hand. No paddles. But no big deal. After floating around on the lake you can burn off some calories on a short trail.
I came away very impressed with this Forest Service campground.
Small roads led to larger roads as I headed 60 miles north to my next stop.
Which led to this road.
They really keep the sign makers busy around here.
I traversed the last few miles of the parkway heading north. There are over 400 miles south of me that I will explore this fall.
The "Ridge" in the name is very apt.
Seems like most of the road I drove was right on top of the mountains.
Offering great views.
And traffic jams.
I spent Wednesday and Thursday nights at Sherando Lake.
The campground's 66 sites are in three loops. B and C offer electric hookups while A has naught, nada, none.
I stayed in C11.
Having made the required reservation beforehand.
I think the cost was $20 for power and $15 for the rest but I forgot.
Like Cave Mountain Lake, a creek flows by the campground. Number C9 was a great spot.
Loop A was on a hillside. A23 had a nice view.
At least until the leaves appear on the trees. I am getting a bit bored of naked trees. I am assuming that they will eventually wear clothes. Someday.
And also like Cave Mountain Lake, Sherando was no slouch in the water department.
A couple of picnic areas.
A fishing pier and beach.
A bathhouse and an island.
All add up to what a fellow camper called her favorite campground in the state.
But wait, there's more. If you act now you also get a bonus lake and a dam with a view of loop C. At no additional charge.
Last Friday was when Big Meadows campground opened in Shenandoah National Park. So that's where I went next.
Here are some numbers for you. 105. 469. 40.
Skyline Drive is 105 miles long and forms the backbone of Shenandoah National Park. The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long and joins Skyline Drive in Front Royal, Virginia and continues south to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
40 mph is how hard the wind was blowing the rain last Friday night.
No awning, no nothing. I hid in my trailer and went to bed.
Saturday was a little better. The long legged grass rats were out and about.
If you look close, there are four of them in that photo.
Which made me hungry so it was time to cook.
Another batch of taco meat.
I didn't want to overfill the pots so I used the rest to make a burger.
A big fat cheeseburger. I live decadently sometimes.
I was encamped at site 139 surrounded by naked trees.
When I arrived on Friday, there was no one in this section, except for some crazy tenters across the road. Saturday morning a 40 foot diesel pusher parks right next to me and mentions that he will be running his generator as there is no power here. Right next to me.
There are almost 200 other sites to choose from. Uggh.
But I made the best of it. I told him that it was fine if I could tap into said generator to recharge my camera and other batteries. We struck a deal.
So after that I walked the campground before it became too crowded.
There are well over 200 sites. The first 54 are walk-in tent sites, there are no numbers 55 or 56, 57 is a host site, so I took pics of 58 to 231.
The older section of the campground has several sites, like number 183, that are just a few feet from the Appalachian Trail.
The newer section has more open sites such as number 64.
About half the sites are reserveable. $17 off season (yippee!) and $20 the rest of the time.
Saturday night the clouds paid a visit but their tenure was short-lived.
I made a fire to keep them away.
Sunday. Ah, Sunday. 75 degrees and sunny. Perfect.
I made a suitable breakfast.
Tacos. And then did a quick 2 mile hike to the visitor center and store and restaurant and back. Lot of "and's" there. Shouldn't have skipped English class so often.
Which just reminded me of the one English class I did attend in seventh grade. It's funny how a good teacher's teachings will stay with you.
He wrote this sentence on the chalkboard.
John where Paul had had had had had had had had had had had the teacher's approval.
With the proper punctuation, the sentence makes perfect sense. I figured it out. Can you?
Where was I? Oh, the trail.
It leads to the Harry Byrd Visitor Center. Great name.
Along with a store and eatery.
There are gas pumps here as well. The only ones in the park.
Looping back to my site I passed a teaser of a sign (saw no bears) and the laundry and shower building. I used both of those facilities, thank you very much. Bag O' Laundry is mercifully not nagging me anymore.
I found a new addition to my camping area since I had been gone.
Turned out that they were from Vancouver (so the intrusion was forgiven) and on a two year voyage. We chatted for a while and then I hit the sack.
Monday started out OK.
I drove south 30 miles south on Skyline Drive to Loft Mountain campground. The next three campgrounds are all $15 per night.
There was even a nice view along the way.
This campground, like the next one I stopped by on Wednesday, Mathews Arm, don't open until May 7th. I had to park in the wayside and hike 1 1/2 miles uphill to take a gander.
It wasn't raining, so I foolishly headed out, wearing a canvas coat and jeans.
There are well over 200 sites here, but not counting the walk-in ones I scoped out 158 that had pads.
The campers store has laundry and showers.
Several sites, like numbers 12 and 13, had good views.
At least while the trees are topless.
Number 165 is a great choice as well for a non-view site. Huge, yet not too intimidatingly so.
The rain started as I headed down the mountain.
I was completely sodden, soaked, drenched throughout. But at least the walk back was downhill.
I drove back to camp.
Even the long legged grass rats were not happy.
Everyone else had left. I was all alone.
Tuesday was worse.
No pictures. I spent the whole day inside my trailer. Cooked two meals there and read a 400 page book while the storm raged outside.
Wednesday was no picnic in the park either. But I needed to go visit Mathews Arm, 29 miles to the north.
This time I dressed appropriately and took my umbrella.
There are 178 sites here. Not really, they took 12 away to make group sites 91-93. No showers either. But who cares. It's camping, not about smelling nice.
They are a mixture of pull-throughs and back-ins.
I liked 47 and 49 in the former category.
And 68 and 84 in the later.
The walk down to the campground was less than a mile. The walk back up to my car was a pain. The rain was being blown sideways and I had to close my umbrella and just deal with it. I was laughing and singing some song I don't remember right now. Could have been Creedence. Who'll Stop The Rain or some such.
The clouds lifted a bit on my way back. Or settled, depending on your perspective. Maybe they did both.
I drove through a few.
When I got back to camp I had an epiphany. I was the only person camping at Big Meadows. Loft Mountain and Mathews Arm were not open yet. Lewis Mountain was open, but with only 31 sites was probably empty as well (I later confirmed this).
So at that moment on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014, the last day of the month, I was the only person camping in the whole National Park!
Lock the gates! I claim it as mine! Raise the pirate flag yet again!
Didn't happen, as Thursday dawned sunny and warmer and campers started to trickle in for the weekend.
So I headed just six miles south to visit Lewis Mountain campground.
With a view on the way.
Number 14 is good also, in fact, they all are.
There is a store and showers.
A bunch of goodies for such a small campground so close to the amenities at Big Meadows.
After another scenic view on the way back I ate a sandwich and went to bed.
But not before noticing the long legged grass rats were having a field day with the fresh sprouts.
Worms. For some reason they cannot handle the rain. They insist on coming out of the ground and slithering to puddles where they inevitably drown. Right next to a campsite. Like mine for example. When the sun finally makes an appearance, these shallow pools dry up, as do the worms. But their shriveling also entails a wonderfully pungent smell. I hope you can experience this aroma as I did. Not to be missed.
Friday morning at dawn the long legged tree rats were back at it.
It was 120 miles to my next stop, Greenbrier State Park in Maryland.
I actually went through 4 states yesterday, Friday, but Virginia was counted twice.
It went Virginia, West Virginia, Virginia again, and then Maryland.
Here are some nice views as I left Shenandoah National Park.
It's one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. Worn down by erosion and now covered with trees. Mostly naked. At this time. The Rockies will look like this in a few thousand years.
I dropped out of the mountains and had to wait for a train.
I love this photo, mainly because of the reflections on my hood. The cars hood, actually. I am not a hood. Or so I tell myself.
I saw the train rolling by as I pulled up to the crossing. I wanted to get a sense of movement for the photograph but things were happening fast.
I quickly set my camera to shutter priority and was dialing down the speed as fast as I could. I got to 1/30th of a second and then had to frame and shoot. Almost lost it. I would have preferred 1/15th or less since I was static, but if I fiddled around any longer the train would have passed me by.
But it was enough to convey a sense of speed, blur the graffiti, and still make out the word "SOUTHERN" on the last boxcar. In fact, I am glad of the shutter speed I used.
Just past the crossing was a juxtaposition I have noticed in some smaller towns.
I crossed the Shenandoah River.
Which joined the Potomac River.
The rivers were both above flood stage due to the massive rains that have inundated the southeast. Sorry. My bad. Moisture Man and all. I should be in California. They need the rains. Not like Pensacola, FL. that got two feet in one day last week. My residuals, my coattails dragging behind me. I was there only a few months ago.
Merryland. They spell it Maryland. This is where I'm now sitting in my California Room as the rain makes up it's mind.
Sporadic, yet hard when it falls. Sunny when the wind tosses the clouds past me.
But that is for the next post.
Regards, Park Ranger