Day 5 – Washington DC to Shenandoah NP
Today we rose early for what would be a relatively chilled out day for me. We packed up from our lovely campsite ready to begin the shortest driving day of our trip, an 85 mile drive to Big Meadows Campgroud in the Shenandoah National Park, home of the famous Blue Ridge Mountains and the famous 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail – which goes all the way from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
The first stop on our drive was our first visit to Walmart – something which we had all been looking forward too! We used this time to do some personal shopping for various bits and bots we had realised we were missing. A few people on the trip bought pillows from Walmart, for using in the van and camping. The van is a great place to relax and catch up on some sleep so its a good idea to take a pillow or buy one on trek! My reason for visiting Walmart though was entirely different! As I mentioned in the last post, I had gotten a few pretty serious blisters on the front of my feet, and I was on the hunt for things to relieve the pain! I picked up some blisters and moleskin after recommendation from our tour leader. This helped to cushion the blisters but unfortunately I was still very uncomfortable!
After our quick Walmart stop we headed on our way to Shenandoa National Park. The drive to our campsite was on what is called the ‘Skyline Drive’ – a 105 mile drive through the park mostly on mountain ridges. This was a seriously beautiful drive with some stunning views of the park. The trees were in full bloom and everything was really colourful. It’s clear to see why they’re called the Blue Ridge Mountains with the awesome blue haze covering the mountain tops! It was also our first time visiting bear country – the park is home to the black bear.
We stopped for lunch at a nice picnic area. As it was our first time in bear country we went over bear safety, something I was glad to hear! – I had been slightly anxious about camping in the home of black bears! It’s actually fairly straight forward – when your out hiking it’s best to stay together and keep chatting and making noise. The key to avoiding bear confrontation is to make noise! It’s when the bears are surprised that problems can occur. We were told that if you are on your own to always make noise by shouting something like “Hey Bear!” or clapping. Bears on the whole though, well black bears, aren’t really interested in humans and will only attack if surprised.
After lunch we drove a bit further into the park, and stopped of where the group went to walk a section of the Appalachian Trail from the Little Stony Man Trailhead to a great viewpoint over the mountains. I decided to skip this walk to prevent any further damage to my feet, and instead just stayed around the trailhead, taking a few photos from the awesome views at the side of the road. That’s the awesome thing about Trek America trips, everything is optional, and you can do what you fancy! Obviously it’s better to do as much as you can as a group though!
When everyone returned we done some stretches at the side of the road! The tour leader promoted stretching throughout the trip – It’s important when your in the van for long hours! After this it was a short drive to our campsite. We had been hoping to see some bears on the way but it wasn’t to be. We arrived at the campsite by early afternoon. The Big Meadows campsite was probably the most basic campsite we stayed in, but it did have working toilets and showers – what more do you need! The first thing I noticed about this site was the abundance of wild deer just roaming about the site – it was pretty spectacular to see.
That evening it was my groups turn to cook dinner for everyone and myself, Portia, Olivia and Margo had decided to cook spaghetti bolognese for the group. This turned out to be a bit of a challenge cooking such a huge amount (enough for 14 people!), but with some perseverance we came through and it turned out to be pretty decent! After dinner we had a pretty chilled out night. We had planned to sleep under the stars that night but unfortunately the weather changed and it was just a bit too windy to sleep out! I had been all set up ready to sleep out, but my sleeping bag had became slightly damp so we quickly decided to set up the tents.
With camp set up we packed away everything with a scent (food, toiletries etc) into the trailer to avoid any bears smelling them and coming after food! During the night I can’t deny being aware of the noises around me, thinking every noise could be a bear! In the end though we had a safe night and came out in one piece.