My ninth park was Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. We went there a few weeks ago, right before school started back. This park, while small (as most of the parks on the east coast are), has the highest concentration of black bears in the country. The ranger we spoke to said that at any given time there are between 400
and 600 bears inside the boundaries of Shenandoah. Unfortunately, we made the trek up there during a rainy weekend. Bears don’t like to get wet, so they were all under things to keep dry. My only goal on this trip was to see a bear, but that didn’t happen.
Shenandoah was one of the parks that came around in the 1930s. Much of the road that runs through it as well as the retaining walls was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which gave young men jobs during the Depression so they could help their families. All of these original walls are still there. as strong and beautiful as ever. Shenandoah is also home to Rapidan Camp, which was the presidential retreat prior to the building of Camp David in Maryland. Visitors to the park can walk through Rapidan Camp and even go in some of the buildings; others are accessible only by ranger-led tour. We didn’t visit Rapidan–it was a long walk and as I mentioned, most of the weekend was rainy.
We did hike despite the rain. I have to say that the hikes in this park were not my favorites. One of them was up a very long trail to what was supposed to be the best view in the park. It was raining the entire hike, but we were too hot in our raincoats, so we just got wet. We got to the top to see the view to find a very thick fog. I just sat down on a rock and laid my head on my knees. It was the most disappointing thing.
The second big hike we did was to a waterfall. I will never again make the mistake again of going on a trail where you hike down before you hike up. I’m pretty out-of-shape, and at one point on the way back up by heart rate was 140 beats per minute. The hike was nice and the waterfall was beautiful, but if I ever hiked it again I would need to some serious exercising beforehand. I would absolutely rather go up to a view then down to one. It was pretty steep, to the point that we would stop every 300 feet or so because we couldn’t breathe.
Shenandoah is #8. Not because I disliked it, but I spend a lot of time in the mountains already, so I think it just didn’t feel like a unique place to me. It has way more bears, but in general the views are similar and the types of hikes are as well. My next stop is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so I’ll be interested to see if I feel like it’s just more of the same as well!