My mom flew out for a visit this past week. Rather than stay in DC, she had the lovely idea of booking a night at the pet-friendly Lewis Cabins in Shenandoah National Park, which is about 2-2.5 hours Southwest of DC. Surprisingly, this park has numerous pet-friendly trails as well. If you are planning your first trip, be sure to have taken down specific directions, our phones lost service as soon as our ears began to pop from the elevation, and I missed my turn.
The cabins ended up being a bit more rustic than we had anticipated. Upon our arrival, I Googled, "What to do if you see a bear" after feeling a bit overwhelmed by the many signs that warned of "Bear Country" and of "Good Bears Gone Bad." My Google search let me know that humans are not capable of outrunning a bear (so don't even try), and then my friend helped comfort me by sharing that she had just watched an episode of, "I Survived!" where a ravenous and relentless bear followed a man up a tree and pulled him down and nearly killed him. Needless to say, I was sufficiently paranoid during our first jaunt into the woods with my little pup.
I like to follow my time in the woods with a nice meal and a selection of fine Virginia wines, which is exactly what we found at the Big Meadows Lodge. The Big Meadows Lodge was actually really nice. It was a beautiful rustic restaurant with a stone fireplace, chandeliers, and a picturesque view. After dinner, we stopped at the campsite shop for a few bundles of firewood and then stopped several more times to snap photos of deer that wandered around fearlessly. We also took in the breathtaking views at the numerous lookout points and tried to imagine how amazing it must look in the fall.
Each Lewis Cabin comes with its own firepit and a covered picnic table, which both came in handy. We celebrated like Tom Hanks in Castaway after creating a blazing campfire (unlike Tom, with had a lighter). My mother walked over a flaming stick after we'd watched our cabin neighbors struggle unsuccessfully to do the same (sharing an open flame is probably not something Smoky the Bear would recommend, though). The sturdy covered picnic table came in handy when a torrential downpour blew in and hung around for several hours. The next morning I felt like a major Miss. Priss after complaining about the dripping shower faucet that disturbed my sleep after seeing the serious campers strap their flimsy tents to their backs. I bet they were soaked.
After consuming our free coffee, we rescued our granola bars from their bear safe containers and made our way to the closest trail sans pup, The Bearfence Trail. There were two route options; we took the one that avoided the rock scramble. The rock scramble route warned that it was not suited for incimiate weather or for those who feared heights, which was enough to detour me so early in the day. We finished in about an hour and made it back in time to grab the pup and head back home to DC. We took the long way back; driving the entire stretch of the amazingly scenic Skyline Drive.
I would absoltuelty love to return this summer for a little horseback riding or stargazing or maybe even the Blackberry Festival that's coming up on July 25th. I would also absolutely love to see the sprawling green mountains turn a million shades of red in the fall.
Do you have a favorite National Park? I definitely have ambition to become one of those serious hikers someday.