For months we had been talking about taking a day trip to Shenandoah, but never quite finding the time or energy to go. Tied up with seemingly never-ending settling-in errands, catching up on language study and sleep, foiled by a handful of rainy weekends. The park entrance is less than a two-hours’ drive from DC, but for some reason the outing felt like it necessitated a three-day weekend. Columbus Day would have been the perfect occasion to go, with the fall foliage in its fully resplendent display, but D was away on a work trip.
By the time we finally got around to going this weekend, autumn felt like little more than a distant memory. The hillsides retained a few russet overtones, some desiccated leaves clinging desperately to otherwise denuded tree branches. However, an early touch of winter had clearly left its imprint on the park’s topography. Frosty crystals grew on the brittle leaves carpeting the forest floor and icefalls formed at the higher elevations, cascading down in arrested motion.
We got fortunate with a crisp, sunny afternoon, but even with hardly any wind the cold penetrated to the bone. The temperature plunged a dozen degrees on the half-hour drive from the park entrance up to the Skyline Drive, and our car literally sounded an alarm to alert us to the fact that we were approaching freezing temperatures. Poor Junebug, who hates wearing her hat and jacket and stripped down as soon as we had stopped in a sunny clearing for lunch midway through our hike, started turning blue with the cold and actually welcomed being strapped back into her carrier.
Hiking with Munchkin is never easy, and he put up his usual resistance, though he did pretty well, all things considered. He walked the entire 3-mile loop: two miles up to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain, the park’s highest peak, and one mile back down to the parking lot. We have no illusions, however, that he enjoyed the walk or that we are any closer to turning him on to hiking.
We also brought Emmie along for the walk. Moving back to DC and taking up this hectic lifestyle, we’ve felt bad about neglecting our pup and thought she would appreciate spending the day outdoors. However, it’s far from clear how much she enjoyed this outing. On leash, Emmie is a bit of a nervous hiker and it didn’t help that she spent the walk tethered to D, who advanced at Munchkin’s pace. On the narrow trail this meant that she would trot ahead only to be checked by the harness after a couple of steps; she would then halt and stand in the middle of the path until D bumped into her.
All that said, we’re glad to have finally made it out to Shenandoah and will try to use this trip as a motivation for other, less ambitious weekend outings, lest we get trapped into the sedentary city lifestyle that winter in DC encourages.