Do not go to Shenandoah National Park in March. We learned this a few weeks ago when the feeling of spring had crept into the woods behind our apartment in Virginia and inspired us to seek the tops of the nearest mountains.
Spring, however, had not sprung in Shenandoah. Miniature ice waterfalls frozen in free fall from the cliffs on the roadside and loomed downward menacingly from the tops of the tunnel arches. The trails were snow-lined and mud filled. Simple walking proved difficult by the frozen surface atop the mushy ground. Slip, slide, squish. It may have been fun had my husband not been carrying our six-month-old baby and I with my flat-bottomed sketchers made for sidewalks.
I’m kicking myself now because I should have known better. I would have packed a lunch instead of spending a cranky day hungry. I would have worn warmer clothes instead of feeling chilled the whole time. I would have worn my normal shoes instead of walking at a snail’s pace so as not to bruise my backside. I would’ve done a lot of things different, but spring was in the air a few thousand feet below and I always have to do things the hard way.
Shenandoah really was beautiful and as we took a hike to one of the falls my spirits were lifted, as they always are when confronted with fresh air, the smell of woods, and a trail that needs hiking.
From the top of the mountain range you can see for miles. Looking down from our perches on the various “summits” we could draw a map of the towns below. This is a completely foreign notion to somebody from the West Coast. To just look down the mountainside and there is a town, or ten, on either side.
Mountains on the West Coast are bigger. You don’t generally drive along the top of them and they are surrounded by other mountains so close that you don’t have towns dotting both sides. At least not big ones that you can see. We don’t have a single line of mountains. We have long clusters of them with large volcanic peaks rising in the middle.
We also don’t generally just drive around the mountain. We go through mountain passes which are often dangerous in the winter weather and closed when it becomes too rough. But not to be disingenuous to Shenandoah, when looking out from certain pullouts, the view is incredible.
That is my advice to the Appalachian tourist: don’t look down, look out. And don’t forget to breathe.