Shenandoah National Park

Roadtripping and hiking is a combination I really like. 

Life in times of the epidemic, part II: In times when having to practice physical distancing, being away from your loved one, having to spend a lot of time inside (I am with my parents in Germany at the moment) it is a good opportunity to catch up on writing some stuff and sharing stories. 

Let me take a look back to earlier in the year …

The more often I go, the more I like the Appalachians. 

I am not gonna hide: I love wild, rough, spectacular, remote mountains. Mountains, where you loose yourself, challenge yourself and where every step offers new views, … epic views. 

However, the Appalachians Mountains are not quite like that. 

They’re relatively close to the densely populated areas on the US-east coast and therefore easy to access. So, remoteness – not that much. Rough, also not that much – not that rugged and high and rocky as, let’s say the Northern Cascades in WA or the European Alps. Views, ehm, if you’d go in spring and summer you won’t see much but a green tunnel. 

But, however, a different beauty can be found in the endless foothills and ranges of the Appalachian Mountains that stretch out from northern Alabama all the way up to Maine and further into Canada. But not just the mountains, also the whole area is an interesting one. Far from the bustling and well-known east or west coast urban centres, another shade of the country could be found: especially in the south amazing hospitality, down-to-earth food, an interesting history. But also a lot of guns and conservatism. 

A trip along the Appalachians is always worth it, always surprising, always adding new perspectives.  

One of my favourite stretches is the Shenandoah National Park in the state of Virginia, about a 2-hours-drive south west of Washington D.C. This park offers rolling hills, picturesque creeks and – if you’re lucky – a bit of wildlife to spot. The Appalachians there are not stunningly high: the highest peak is Hawksbill Mountain at 4,051 feet (1235 m). But once you’re off Skyline Drive (a scenic road that runs the entire length of the park) and once you leave the Visitor Centers behind you, you’ll dive into that typical eastern Mid-Atlantic woodland with commonly found plants such as oak, hickory, chestnut, maple, tulip poplar, mountain laurel, milkweed, daisies, and many species of ferns. Once there was the predominant American chestnut tree, that was effectively brought to extinction by a fungus known as the chestnut blight during the 1930s. John and I learned on our hike on the Benton MacKaye-Trail (though, further south in the Appalachians) that there are re-planting programmes, but apparently the tree dies back before it can actually reproduce. 

Anyway, one of the most iconic trails, the Appalachian Trail, goes right through the park, also, there are miles and miles of more and other trails. Shenandoah NP is a true hikers paradise and so its not surprising that John and I hiked there a couple of times and added more miles to our trail journals.

I, in particular, like the late winter, early spring time the most: the trails are less populated, the air is crisp and cool, the views are – because of the lack of leaves – undisturbed. The higher up you get, the more likely you’ll come across some frost on the leaves that are covering the ground. Beautiful! But be aware of the wind! Nothing will protect you from the occasional gust. But, as a matter of fact, I really love the rattling and whirring sounds the wind creates when you’re standing on a mountain top in the Appalachians. 

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