The Beauty of Shenandoah – Day Two

Monday we started our day with a sturdy breakfast provided by our hotel (The Hampton Inn – Harrisonburg is really awesome, you guys, for reals) and immediately headed back into Shenandoah National Park for a different hike. This hike was just south of Big Meadows, so we stopped there again to use the facilities and drove back south to Milam Gap Overlook, where we parked. I had worn the brightest colors I could (hey I have a lot of running clothes) so that people could see me coming! Here I am “hiding” behind a tree:

The trailhead for Mill Prong Trail to Rapidan Camp was just across Skyline Drive. We were really surprised to discover how different this trail was from the previous day’s trail: it was quieter/less populated, and instead of many waterfalls (there were a few) we got stream crossings. It was much less steep than the previous day’s too.

At first, the stream crossings intimidated me, particularly the first one. I was terrified of slipping and hurting myself for some reason. Once I got over the first big rock I gained more confidence and didn’t have as much trouble. It was cooler on Monday, too, I never felt the need to take off my obnoxious orange shirt to just wear a tank top.

The trail wound slowly down, meandering back and forth across the stream until we got to Big Rock Falls.

Finally at the end of the trail we reached Rapidan Camp. This was the place Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover spent their summers. Most of the camp is long gone, but a few cabins remain. The Prime Minister’s Cabin (where British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald would sometimes stay) is now a museum and the Brown House has been restored to it’s original design. We couldn’t go inside the Brown House, but peeked through the windows to discover Southwestern style decor.

The Prime Minister’s Cabin

We spent quite a bit of time in the Prime Minister’s Cabin, however, and I found myself fascinated by Lou Henry Hoover. A thoroughly modern woman despite being born in the latter half of the 19th century, she was the first female geology major at Stanford University, graduating with a B.A. in geology in 1898.

She said that when she was FIFTEEN years old? How cool is that?! She also was the key player in designing Rapidan Camp as well as overseeing its construction. There was even a list of rules for the camp:

Make sure you tell a Filipino boy beforehand.

Wildlife was much less prominent than the day before but we did see a little frog on our way out!

After the hike out of Rapidan Camp we headed back to our hotel and cleaned ourselves up and headed out to Staunton, Virgina to check out the little town. Unfortunately many things were closed after 5 pm on a Monday, but we managed to find a pho place! The broth at Snapdragon Pho was so good I didn’t need to add anything to it at all.


I ordered the special (steak, brisket, shank, buttery soft tendon and Vietnamese meatballs), because I can’t pass on eating beef tendon, ever. Susan got the steak, and we split steak summer rolls. (What can I say, we’re ladies who like us some beef!)

20170626_180217We wandered around and found the Shakespearean Blackfriars Playhouse, too! Staunton also has an amazing used/vintage book store. I had a blast browsing through all the vintage cookbooks.

We also stopped and got THE MOST AMAZING GELATO at The Split Banana. I had a scoop of amazing hazelnut and a scoop of tiramisu. Sue had a hot fudge sundae with brownie blast and vanilla, topped with homemade hot fudge and handmade whipped cream. TO DIE FOR. They even had a board with a listing of their ingredient sources. Great finds in Staunton!

On the way back to the hotel we weren’t quite ready to go back. It was a gorgeous night, and we decided to drive around check out downtown Harrisonburg. We discovered James Madison University, and decided to go on adventure to find Eastern Mennonite University. I bet you didn’t know that Eastern Mennonite University has men’s and women’s basketball, did you?

20170626_194755-1Sadly our trip was almost at an end, but we had amazing weather, incredible food and an all around fabulous time while in Shenandoah, and we’re already planning on going back next year.


The Beauty of Shenandoah – Day One

I have a serious case of the Post-Vacation Blues, you guys.

I spent a long weekend in Virginia visiting my mom then hiking in Shenandoah with my cousin Susan, and after five glorious days out of town, coming back to real life feels like a bit of a struggle.

Sunday morning I picked Susan up from her hotel in Richmond and, after a brief stop at WaWa, we sailed west down Route 64 towards the university town of Harrisonburg. We dropped our bags at the hotel then immediately headed into Shenandoah National Park. IMG_1798We’d picked two sub 4-mile trails and the first day’s selection was Rose River Loop. We stopped at Big Meadow Campgrounds to use the facilities then parked just up Skyline Drive at Fishers Gap Overlook. From there it was a short walk across the road to the trailhead. Rose River Loop is full of lovely little waterfalls. Being a Sunday it was pretty well populated, not not crowded. We even piggybacked a volunteer digging  out the drainage channels along the trail.

IMG_1805The first half of the trail was a steady downward slope without being too steep. Near the bottom of a trail we saw a couple in swimsuits ready to take a dip in a cool, crisp pool.

IMG_1822The second half of the trail was a steady incline upwards, and we caught up with the trail volunteer at a bridge. We stopped for a snack about a third of the way back up.


At the footbridge at the foot of Dark Hollow Falls we were supposed to make a sharp right and turn up the Fire Road, but we missed the turn on headed up the much steeper, much more populated incline of Dark Hollow Falls Trail. Unfortunately this put us about a mile and a half down the road from where we parked the car, so we had to haul it on foot down Skyline Drive.

IMG_1871Along that trip we saw a bear, which I sadly did not get a picture of. From the car we drove back to the hotel to shower and head out to eat, but not before snagging this stunning view of the valley below:

IMG_1893Now Harrisonburg is a college town (James Madison University is there) so we were lucky enough to find a tasty Indian restaurant not a half mile from our hotel. After that we relaxed at the hotel and conked out early to ready ourselves for the next day’s adventures.

(To Be Continued…)


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