October is one of my favorite months of the year, partly because of Halloween, and partly because it’s when I do my annual pilgrimage to Shennandoah National Park. I rent a cabin. I hike for 3-4 hours a day. I decompress in a place where the WiFi is so horrible that it’s pretty much nonexistent, and the cell service is spotty at best. I tend to just put the phone on airplane mode, and check it a twice a day when I’m at an overlook or near the lodge. I do get some writing done, but the purpose of this trip is for me to get my butt outside, get my heart-rate up, maybe see a bear or two.
Day 1 – I drop the kids off at the bus stop. I drop the dogs off at the kennel. I do a little bit of laundry, a little bit of vacuuming, then I get in the car and drive. The trip to Front Royal (the north end of Skyline Drive) is so familiar I could probably do it in my sleep. I’ve been coming up her to camp and hike since I was in college. I can feel myself unwind and relax the moment I pay my $25 park entrance fee and joke with the ranger about how I’m going to race my Challenger along the winding roads.
I’d love drive this road top-speed, but I won’t because I don’t want to hit any bears.
Still, top speed has to be faster than this:
Yes. I’m behind a mini van. I get to Skyland at 3:00 and check in. I unload my car and unpack. I dine on hummus and kale chips (Gabe would be so proud). I drink a tiny plastic bottle of some generic red wine. I nap. And at night, as the sky begins to darken, I sit in my cabin with the windows open wide and listen. Owls. Oh, how I love the sound of owls at night.
Day 2 – I’m up before the sun because that’s when I’m used to rising in order to get my kids on the bus for school. Once the sun comes up and I’ve already had a small pot of coffee, I hike up to the lodge for breakfast, and work in their cozy lounge area. Then at noon, I forego lunch, throw one of those go-packs of tuna and crackers in my pack along with binoculars and my trail maps, grab my hiking poles, and head out. Continue reading