Shenandoah National Park

The mountains have always been a place I have naturally wanted to retreat to.

When I was young I used to beg my parents to reroute our drives down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (our favorite family vacation spot) so we could drive through either Shenandoah National Park or the Blue Ridge Parkway. Feelings of nostalgia overwhelm me when I remember the feeling of summer mountain air hitting me as I pull open our mini-van door. 16-year-old me has freshly dyed blue hair tips and is equipped with an Olympus OM-1 loaded with long expired Kodak Gold 400 IOS film that I found in my parents closet. 

But today is the first day of July 2016 and I am not traveling with my family, but with Jesse, and we are not just driving by, we are camping for 3 nights. We entered the park via Front Royal and made it to our campsite by the afternoon, but not before pulling off several times to take in the view of rolling mountains and patchwork farmland. We set up the tent and geared up for a hike to some waterfalls tucked in the backcountry of the park. The weather was hot and sticky with rain evaporating off the ground. The mist rising from the lush foliage added a dreamy element to our photos. We returned from the hike sweaty and ready for a hearty campfire meal. 

Our second day at Shenandoah started off with tea boiled over the campfire and "fried pies" we bought at a gas station the night before. We decided to make our way south towards Big Meadow. I told Jesse that my goal for the day was to take at least 1 self portrait. As we drove down the Skyline Drive we were treated with amazing overviews, each as amazing as the last. The sun was in full effect as we parked the car and grabbed sandwiches for an impromptu picnic. We set out on foot through the Big Meadow until we found the perfect place to stop and eat; a grassy break in the forest on the perimeter of the meadow protected us from them sun and provided up with the ultimate atmosphere to eat our soggy packaged sandwiches. Afterwords we continued to wander in the grass and ferns, we even met a young deer grazing near the edge of the meadow. After snapping photo after photo we decided to leave the park for a little to check out an abandoned farm we spotted as well as Luray Caverns. The farmhouse was everything we expected, a dilapidated vessel of crumbling paster walls, scattered forgotten belongings, and recent Four Loco cans from the local teenagers. Lurey Caverns was more than we expected; lines and crowds of people waiting to get an entrance ticket as if they were waiting to get into Six Flags. We opted out of the cavern tour because of the wait and found a rinky dink hedge maze to get lost in. It was getting late when we decided to head back to our campsite. 

Our third day at the park was shrouded in clouds. We were delighted to drive through and see mist constantly rolling over the scenery, and of course it made for a great backdrop for photos. We decided to dive all the way thought the Skyline Drive and exit the park to venture into the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest and see the hot springs tucked away in the mountains. We pulled off constantly to along the Skyline Drive to make photos until we exited the park. We drove though the valley and back into the mountains parallel to Shenandoah and wandered until we found an abandoned resort that caught our eyes. We pulled off, hid the car, and sprinted into the cover of overgrown hedges. We explored the building for a while until we got our fix and then we headed back into the park, late again. 

Our last day started by packing up our campsite and making our way back north. It was another misty day so we stopped several time to take photos until we started getting hungry. We continued north until we decided to take a break from drive to explore an abandoned school in Pennsylvania. 

And now we wait for our next adventure

More to come

-Kayla