Sunday, June 1, 2014

Part 4 of 10: The Mighty Shenandoah

The Mountains—grow unnoticed—
Their Purple figures rise
Without attempt—Exhaustion—
Assistance—or Applause—

In Their Eternal Faces
The Sun—with just delight
Looks long—and last—and golden—
For fellowship—at night— 

Emily Dickenson, "The Mountains —Grow Unnoticed"

The mighty Shenandoah Valley stretches 200 miles and is flanked by mountain ranges, the Blue Ridge Mountains on one side and the Allegheny Mountains on the other.  Nestled in this valley is the Shenandoah National Park - a nearly 200,000 acre park that is abound of forest and mountainous beauty. Upon entering the Park's boundary on Skyline Drive, you are hard pressed to find a moment without a view of the magnificent mountains. With five major campgrounds, lodges, and more than 500 miles of hiking trails, including part of the Appalachian Trail (the legendary 2,175-mile footpath that takes hikers through 14 states), the Park is set up for you to truly experience the beauty of the mountains.

Certainly this Park has made it its mission to not let these mountains grow unnoticed. But when you reach the top of a vista and look out at the mighty Shenandoah Valley there is something comforting in knowing that "without attempt, exhaustion, assistance or applause" these mountains are here, just rising and effortlessly glorious for as far as the eye can see.

Part 4 of 10:  Shenandoah National Park

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Big Meadows Lodge.

Big Meadows Lodge - known for it's rustic beauty and hospitality. A warm place to take a break, enjoy the view and some local flavors (if you're ever up there for breakfast, try their delicious Blackberry Syrup).

The start of our hike up to Black Rock.

About 70 years ago there were no deer in the neck of the Blue Ridge Mountains because they were hunted out of existence. However, 13 white-tailed deer were introduced to the Park when it was created in 1936 and since then the population has flourished.  Now, white-tailed deer are a common sighting all around the Park and along Skyline Drive.

 A beautiful view of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains from a vista point on Black Rock.

Roughly 101 miles of the legendary Appalachian Trail winds its way through the Shenandoah National Park. Many thru-hikers claim that the section of the A.T. that runs through the Park is the most beautiful of the 2,100 mile-long footpath that runs from Georgia to Maine.  

Though we only hiked a couple miles of the A.T., it was easy to see what all the fuss was about - a well kept and well marked trail running through deep-seeming woods, and a special touch of spring-time greenery and wild flowers. 

Wild flowers along the trail.

We camped in Mathews Arm Campground. A little crowded but a very well-kept campground with nearly 650 sites to choose from.

 Shenandoah is believed to have the highest density of black bears in the world - slightly over one per square mile. Though we never saw one in person, black bears certainly seem to be a natural mascot for this park.