Tentsite 43 – Big Meadows, Shenandoah NP
I had the site reserved well in advance. This was planned to be an outing with my nieces “No Bend Barbie” and “Jedi”, but No Bend is finishing up her Master’s in Geology and was way too deep in research to come…so we postponed until next May.
So I figured I would take Sidekick Pauli! My first solo camping trip and a long time since Pauli has been on an overnight with me. This would be fun! We could chill out at the campsite, enjoying the crisp autumn air, watching the leaves fall, and take an occasional hike. Hey, I even bought a new camp chair for the occasion at the REI sale a few weeks ago!
As our weekend approached I got nervous…too many nice weekends in a row…oh, the probability for a rainy weekend…
Right on cue, the forecast said occasional showers, then rain at 6 PM on Friday night. Okay, okay, I will get there early and set up the tent. We can get a hike in before it starts raining…
Cruising up to Sperryville, Virginia, I glanced at the wall of mountains before me shrouded in white…uh oh…
Well, I will just drive on up to the park entrance and see what is happening. As my car climbed up, the fog rolled in, and soon I was moving at about 20 mph, hands gripping the wheel, as shapes swirled in and out of the fog in front of me. Hmmm, It’s not raining…maybe we just need to gain a little altitude, you know, to get above the fog bank. So I flashed my pass at the gate and turned south on Skyline Drive headed for Big Meadows (still at 20 mph, but now with the addition of the hazards blinking merrily to the sorry souls who dared hug my bumper).
Turning into Big Meadows, I was mollified somewhat. The fog had lifted a bit and my optimism for an adventure had returned! Tentsite 43 let’s go!
Great site by the way. Way back in the woods. There is a picnic table, bear box and tent pad. There were also a few little trails behind the site. These trails made walking Sidekick Pauli late at night very easy!
After setting up the tent, We set out for Lewis Spring Falls. This trail is a 3.3 mile loop which I was able to reach by walking from my site (a nice plus!). The fog was again falling through the trees which made my traverse along the Appalachian Trail magical.
The trail followed the AT south past the lodge, then a right turn on the fire road, passing an exhausted looking family unit. “Hey, how are you guys?” I cheerfully greeted them…Dad says, “We’re great!”…Mom says, “Kill me now…” The teenagers were happy though! I left them to their resting spot and headed on to the falls.
Whoa…lots of switchbacks!!! It sprinkled a bit, but I had dropped below the fog and could now see distant peaks. Reaching the top of the falls, everything was wet and the rocks were slippery. I guess to actually see the falls I would need to descend a little more…but knowing my propensity for taking a tumble and that at the moment I was hiking sans hiking poles (and with a dog)…I decided not to go any further! I didn’t feel even the least bit sad about that decision either. Some people just love waterfalls, I am not one of those people. I like them, they are pretty, but I don’t have to see them in person…unless of course we are talking about Niagra…
I wondered why everyone was going back up the same switchbacks they came down…then I figured it out. When you loop, the trail gets pretty rocky. Holy crap! I hadn’t bargained on this for my easy, afternoon, 3.3 mile hike!! Careful, whew! I didn’t slide and I didn’t fall!!
Back at the site, I proceeded to make dinner. As soon as I had finished cleaning up and putting things away, then rain started in earnest. It was 6 pm.
We didn’t come out of the tent until after dark so Sidekick Pauli could have a little walk into the woods, so to speak. Then we were in for good! Into the fog…hike on!