There is nothing quite like visiting a national park. The sites are typically full of natural wonders, incredible human interest stories and tales of a storied past and present. Shenandoah National Park was all of these things. Being autumn and being located near the vast east coast megalopolis of WashingtonBaltimorePhiladelpia means that folks are desperate to grasp the solitude and peace that a hike, a campout or a ride in the woods can provide.
Shenandoah is part of the northern Blue Ridge Mountains. Its valleys were often byways for troops marching either north or south during the Civil War — eventually it also had a role in the battle of Gettysburg. Its woods and meadows were once home to thousands of human inhabitants that were eventually forced to move out of the area when the Coolidge administration decided to support the creation of the Shenandoah National Park. This action was focused on creating job and tax revenue opportunities. The Hoover administration continued the “Dream” and the final decision to move everyone outside the boundaries of the future park was carried out by FDR’s administration.
The main visitor center contains a historical exhibit that tells the Park’s story — the photos of the soon to be moved residents are painful to view especially when one realizes that there had been minimal compensation for land that had been in families for several generations.
The weather for our second day in the park was such a contrast to the day before. The temperature was 39 degrees — eventually achieving a high of 50 degrees (there had been a hard frost the night before.) We pulled on our hiking boots and set off on Trace Trail. Moving up and down hills, we set out to find a waterfall that was said to be six miles away. This was to be our first true taste of autumn and we welcomed the coolness as we tromped around for nearly four hours.
Due to the time of the year we expected some increase in visitors on our second day in the park. What we failed to reckon with was how crowded the park could really get this time of year. Imagine that one day you can travel miles without seeing a fellow hiker or driver. Then on the weekend all hell breaks loose–as if we were “up at the lake” in northern MN or WI. Of course, Shenandoah is a much grander location servicing tens of thousand nature lovers every week.