A Long Overdue Return To Big Meadows In The Shenandoah National Park
After my short visit to Kings Gap State Park in Cumberland County on Memorial Day I was on the road again. This time I was driving 3 hours south to the lodge at Big Meadows in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It’s hard to believe I last visited, and camped, here over 38 years ago. More about that later. It was sunny and a perfect day for a drive on roads that I haven’t traveled in decades.
The long winding drive up Route 211 brought back memories of the many visits to the park I made in my orange Ventura Sprint when I was in law school at Catholic University in Washington D.C. It seemed like yesterday when I first entered the park at the Thornton Gap Entrance and drove south on famous Skyline Drive through the tunnel. I remember it so well, it was a sunny October day 40 years ago!
After entering the park, I stopped at the first of many overlooks, the Tunnel Parking Overlook. It was nice to see the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains again. I recalled the first time I saw this impressive view.
I had camped here a few times while in law school. I will be honest and admit I hated law school. I found peace from the stress in these mountains. My last, and favorite visit, was with my baby brother Mike after my law school graduation. It was in May of 1983. (I am old I know) He drove down from Pennsylvania with my parents and was driving back home with me. We first drove to Shenandoah National Park and camped here in the rain. It was a good time. I remember saying we will have to come back again soon. Is 38 years soon? But better late than never they say.
And then followed a trail to the campgrounds, where I had such wonderful memories. The woods along the trail were covered with pretty golden ragwort flowers.
I have never seen these flowers before. My visits to the park where when I was attending school from September to early May. I learned that this maybe of the aster family is one of the few members of this species that blooms in the Spring.
The trail followed the access road to the campground. I walked past some of the camps and memories flooded my mind. It was nice to hear a couple of young college age females setting up their camp like I did so many years ago.
I walked over to the ranger station and had a pleasant chat with a young ranger about my visits to the park long before she was born. She also gave me some advice on hiking trails and places to watch the sunset.
I loved the room and wished I could stay longer than one night. I had already asked at the desk and was told lodge was booked all week. So I had to make the best of the 14 hours I had. Here is a link to some more photos from my ride to and walk in the Shenandoah National Park. Big Meadows drive and walk May 31 2021.
After settling in my room I did another exploration of the lodge and its history. It was here on July 3 1936 that Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Big Meadows and dedicated the Shenandoah National Park.
I was advised the dining room gets crowded between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. I was hungry, I had already walked over seven miles, so I decided to grab an early dinner. I was pleasantly surprised with the amazing meal I was served. I started with a delicious lentil chili. The main course was awesome. Mushroom ravioli served with shaved Parmesan, a spinach alfredo sauces , shrimp and Texas toast.
It was a great feeling to be on the Appalachian Trail again, especially atop the Blue Ridge mountains. I have hiked small sections of the trail and it was a dream of mine to someday hike the entire trail from Georgia to Maine. I doubt I will realize this dream but I hope to spend many more hours exploring sections of the trail. I hiked about a 1/4 mile on the trail and came to this young group of hikers getting ready to watch the sunset.
It was long overdue and finally allowed me to fulfill a promise I made to myself as a much younger man. I hope to return soon. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my evening walk and sunset. Big Meadows sunset May 31 2021.
Shenandoah National Park is lovely. It is possibly the most wonderful national park I have ever been in, and, considering the impossible and conflicting demands put on it, it is extremely well run. Almost at once it became my favorite part of the Appalachian Trail. – Author: Bill Bryson