Shenandoah National Park is one of the very well preserved and maintained national parks in the Central Atlantic region of East Coast. Coming from the background of the giant ranges of Karakorums and Himalayas, this mountain range might feel like a child, but for the people living around, this offers a nice break.
One of the major attractions of this park is Skyline drive which is a 175 km long road that runs the entire length of park. Drive on this road is a treat in itself.
Park has a large population of black bear and white tailed deer. Black beer sightings from normal visitors are so common that the Big Meadows Lodge has kept a register in their main lobby where visitors document their sighting details of the day. The register as I saw it was almost getting one full page every day. One entry dated for the day before I stayed there had the bear sighting reported just behind lodge around 5 PM in the evening. Black bear is however a very shy animal and very rarely confronts humans. White tailed deer have a huge population here and interestingly they are not generally shy of humans unless explicitly provoked.
The legendary Appalachian Trail also passes through this park. This is a 3500km long trail that starts from Georgia and goes all the way to the Canadian border in Maine state. Some crazy souls even attempt this whole length in a single stretch and are known as thru hikers. Appalachian is the reason from is where I picked up this park and decided to spend a weekend there. I was looking over the web for some short hikes touching Appalachian and I came across this article mentioning 12 very interesting options to do smaller few day hikes on the trail if you don’t have time for a bigger one.
Trekking in the Americas is a very different experience from that of Pakistan’s North. Although they talk about freedoms, the hiking in itself like many other activities comes with a plenty of instructions and SOPs. And yes, I am not debating the need of these SOPs here, it is just that trekking experience is so natural and pure there in our North, these restrictions and/or instruction make one feel a bit limited. There cannot be any off-trail trekking for example, tents can only be pitched at designated campsites with all prior permissions, wood cannot be cut and lit even if it is a dry one on the surface. Moreover, as there are no nomads, no shepherds and summer settlers as we are used to of in our part of the world, all the interactions happen with the other trekkers only. And then all of these trails have to be marked and maintained by someone – which in different cases are different organizations.
Once done with the weekend destination, I had to pick the accommodation option and hike to take. There are a few lodges available in the park besides some camping grounds. I picked the Big Meadows Lodge right in the middle of park at around 1800m altitude and it didn’t disappoint me. Out of many options available on park’s official website here and unlimited number of articles posted over the web, Old Rag hike became the obvious choice. Almost everyone ranked it as the number one option to be done in this park with crowd as the only negative thing as so I picked it up. I will describe the trail in another blog post soon. Next morning, I had more time so took the 3.2 miles Lewis Waterfall trail which is just a moderate trail and takes about 90 minutes to complete the loop.