Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shenandoah National Park

After one of the busiest weeks of my entire life, I decided to reward myself by going on an adventure through a club at my university. The plan was to leave on Friday night to drive three hours to Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia. We would be backpacking and backcountry camping for the weekend. I had signed up and gone on trips through this outdoor adventures club before, but I had never participated in an overnight trip like this one. I love being in the great outdoors, but I had never really been tent camping before, until this past weekend.

 I took a step out of my comfort zone, and decided to give it a shot. I left with a group of nine, with two experienced club leaders who know what they were doing. They would be guiding us through the park and helping us survive the weekend as smoothly as possible. The club also provided us with backpacks, sleeping bags, food and cooking items, tents, sleeping mats and camp chairs.
 Our group left our university on Friday evening, so when we got to the park, it was after nightfall. We hiked about a half a mile along a fire road from the parking lot to our camp site. After finding a flat, well-hidden place away from the road, we set up our tents and I spent my first night in the great outdoors. The sounds of the night were not hard to get used to, but it was a brand new experience for me... I kept trying not to think of the signs we had seen, warning us about bears (at least we were using bear bags).
 Saturday was spent hiking up Old Rag Mountain. The total distance up the mountain, to the summit is about seven miles, but the second half of the trail is all up hill. The scenery and sights were beautiful. We hiked under the threat of rain, but eventually the clouds gave way to blue skies and great views.
 My groupmates and I only brought three packs full of lunch, snacks, and gear for our day hike, so we took turns sharing the load. I also brought along my brand new camera and took over 200 photos during the weekend.
Some other important things to bring on a trip like this would be:
      1. Non-cotton shirts and comfortable shorts/bottoms
      2. A hat
      3. Pre-broken in hiking boots and hiking socks
      4. A water bottle (and water treatment so you can drink right out of streams)
      5. A properly-fitted backpack
      6. Face wipes (since you won't be showering...)
      7. Bear bag equipment (for tying up your food and good smelling toiletries)
      8. A map
      9. Headlamps 
      10. Camp shoes for after your hike!
 Although some of the rock scrambles on the way up were challenging, the hike was incredible and the vistas were exhilarating. I had never been so high up, with such a great view of our earth as when I was on top of Old Rag. The sight was contemplation-worthy.
If you would like to learn more about Shenandoah National Park, please visit the park's website:
Although I am no expert, if you have any questions about my backpacking and backcountry camping experience, feel free to leave a comment!

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