Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Oh Shenandoah, I hear you calling

This weekend I was reminded that Virginia is fucking beautiful and nature is fucking awesome.

I also learned that hiking for 6 hours straight makes every muscle and joint in your body scream at you each and every time you move over the course of the next handful of days.

The short version: I climbed a mountain. This one, to be exact:

Old Rag
The long version: the boyfriend and I went hiking on Old Rag Mountain, spent the night at Big Meadows Lodge off of Skyline Drive, and visited Luray Caverns.

We left Richmond around 8:30 on Sunday morning in an effort to try to make it to Old Rag before a flood of hikers got there. Our plan seemed to work as we only came across a few clusters of hikers here and there on our way up.

This hike is not for the faint of heart. I've hiked a handful of times over the years, so I thought Old Rag wouldn't be that big of a deal. Boy, was I wrong. It's uphill for a seemingly impossible length of time and then you have to climb up, over, and around boulders to get to the summit. And by climb, I mean climb with your hands, knees, and anything else that'll pull you forward. It's a freaking beast. If the views weren't so breathtaking, I would say that Old Rag is not worth it, not in the least, but it absolutely is. Once you reach a certain altitude, it seems like every 50 feet there is another overlook that offers an absolutely gorgeous view. See:

Once we reached the summit and began heading downhill, I was so tired and, frankly, sick of hiking that I felt like I was going to start going delirious. I thought for sure that I was going to start seeing things at any second from the overwhelming effort it was taking to stay upright and moving. I made it out alive and in one piece though and I felt like a such a champ for telling that mountain who's boss sweating out all of my water weight and living to tell the tale:

Check out those guns!
Once we made it back to the car, we sped toward Big Meadows as fast as my car could safely carry us to check in, take a long shower, and lie comatose until dinner. Once I could manage to get back on my feet, I ate fried green tomatoes (for the first time!), sweet potato fries, and blackberry ice cream pie because I had just climbed a damn mountain and I deserved it, damn it. We had a bottle of wine delivered to our room after dinner because we are awesome and super special scored a sweet package deal on Living Social and then watched cartoons until we fell asleep. That's what all mountain conquerors do, right?

In the morning, we got up super early to get (free) breakfast before checking out and going to Luray Caverns (also included in the Living Social package. The boyfriend and I have talked about going to Luray for such a long time that this package deal was really perfect for us). Walking down the rather short set of stairs to get to the caverns was admittedly painful for my sore knees and legs and I may have grunted like an old man a few times, but again, the sights were well worth the pain:

I've never visited caverns before, so Luray was really something else for me to see. I had to keep reminding myself that what I was seeing was real, made over millennia, and not manmade. Nature is really spectacular if you take the time to really look around you.

If you ever find yourself near the Shenandoah National Park, by all means, go! No ifs, ands, or buts, y'all. It is far too beautiful to pass up. One night was by no means long enough. I cannot wait to visit again after I, you know, fully recover.

Totally worth it

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