Travel Retrospective: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

January 5, 2014

Travel Retrospective: Shenandoah National Park - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Our camper van and home for three and a half months, an old Toyota Dolphin.

On Friday afternoon, as we drove back from a lovely North Carolina vacation, Andy and I wanted to make a stop in Virginia to revisit Shenandoah National Park. The Park features 105-mile Skyline Drive, a north-south road with a speed limit of only 35 miles an hour and dozens of scenic overlooks to enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I’ve always looked back on our time in Shenandoah National Park fondly, as it’s the only time I’ve ever seen bears in the wild. Andy and I spent the winter of ’07-’08 on the road in a camper van (a most grand adventure, I assure you) and were hiking one day when in the distance there they were: two black bear cubs playing adorably with each other.

Bear cubs! Not in the zoo, but in their natural habitat! I loved it.

Travel Retrospective: Shenandoah National Park - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Adorable bear cubs, who I’m sure would have loved more than our peanut butter sandwiches if we’d stuck around much longer.

We stood for several minutes, just watching them in awe. Andy actually took some video footage, because who knew if we’d ever see something so rare again? Of course, we told each other that wherever cubs are, the mama bear is always close by. When we did spot a much larger bear, we abruptly ceased any conversation and photographing and turned around, abandoning whatever lay ahead of us on the trail in favor of the safety of our camper.

Travel Retrospective: Shenandoah National Park - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

No cars! No traffic! Who needs the interstate anyway?

Skyline Drive is the perfect place to go if you just want quiet- especially in winter. We hardly saw any other people the two days we spent driving there. It was us, the woods, and the wildlife.

Travel Retrospective: Shenandoah National Park - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Twenty-five-year-old me!

Travel Retrospective: Shenandoah National Park - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Human-deer staring contest!

Oh, yes: the scenery was spectacular, as well:

Travel Retrospective: Shenandoah National Park - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

I don’t think I could ever get tired of watching the changing colors of the sky.

Travel Retrospective: Shenandoah National Park - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Triple the beauty from the driver’s seat.

Travel Retrospective: Shenandoah National Park - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

And the view from up in our bed!

Travel Retrospective: Shenandoah National Park - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

So many colors!

 See more of the bears, the views, and a time-lapse sunset in this video Andy made (try not to laugh too much at me getting in my ‘exercise’ by running around the camper:)

And so we come back to Friday. We eagerly followed the signs for Skyline Drive as we headed west along Virginia Route 250…and found a bunch of others cars parked in front of a closed gate. It was closed until morning! I was disappointed, but in retrospect, it would have taken us a lot longer to get home has we gone through the park, and we were delirious enough as it was.

We did get out of the car south of the Skyline gate, and just because we were there, took a picture at the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Travel Retrospective: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

My friend Ellen and I, shivering but smiling for the camera anyway.

My, what a much-needed road trip this was! Look for more posts from our trip coming up soon!

Have you been to many national parks? Shenandoah was only my third, after Acadia National Park in Maine and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. What are some of your favorite places to go for peace and quiet?



National parks, for me, provide a doorway into a transcendent experience. A sense of something that’s greater than yourself, a way of being that’s greater than yourself…There’s no need to stand on airs and think that you’re better than this person or not as good as that person, because we’re all diminished and at the same time amplified by being in their presence.     –Shelton Johnson


You Might Also Like

  • Tamara January 5, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    I’ve seen bears in my own yard more times than I care to count! Black bears. And I’ve seen grizzlies in Yellowstone. I’ve been to Yellowstone and Yosemite..many more are on my list.
    The mountains look gorgeous.

    • Christy January 6, 2014 at 7:10 pm

      Oh wow, you have them in your yard! Do you have a method for keeping them away?
      I would love to go to both Yellowstone and Yosemite one day!

  • Life Breath Present January 6, 2014 at 11:55 am

    We absolutely LOVE LOVE state parks!! Thanks for sharing your pictures. Since we haven’t really written things down, I’m not sure where all we’ve been in total. Recently though, Caledonia in PA, Hanging Rock in NC, Roan Mountain in TN, and Morrow Mountain in NC.

    • Christy January 6, 2014 at 7:17 pm

      That’s a lot of recent ones! Do you have a favorite? A favorite local state park for me is Minnewaska State Park Preserve in the Shawangunk Ridge.

  • Katherine January 6, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    First off, I’ve been a little MIA when it comes to the blogging world lately, so I would just like to welcome you back! I missed you for that long month you were gone! It made me realize how much I look forward to reading about you and your adventures! I hope you had a marvelous holiday season too!

    My family is from North Carolina and Virginia, so I get to visit all the sites and National Parks at least once a year. It’s always a privilege. It amazes me how beautiful the world truly is. Since I visit these places so often, I rarely think of photographing them. Your pictures have made me rethink that notion! You and your friend Ellen look so gorgeous in that picture! (I have taken a picture in front of the signs! Those are a must!) I’m glad you liked your visit!

    • Christy January 6, 2014 at 7:31 pm

      Once again a comment from you has made my day, Katherine! I’m planning on getting back to at least 3 posts per week and your words are such welcome encouragement. Thank you so much 🙂
      Definitely photograph, on matter how often you see it! Everything’s different every time, you know? Different seasons, different colors in the sky, different state of mind.
      And thanks for your nice compliment!

  • Kristen January 6, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Awww… black bears and deer. I used to watch both of those animals walk through my front yard where I used to live. I miss them! Some of my favorite places in the country are state and national parks. Yellowstone. Mesa Verde. Bryce Canyon. Goodness. The list could just go on and on.
    Kristen recently posted…New year, new changesMy Profile

    • Christy January 6, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      I can’t wait to visit all those parks out west! Lucky that you’ve seen so many of them. We have deer around my house, but I worry for them with how fast many of the cars go down our street :\

  • Shana Norris January 7, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Thanks for the GORGEOUS photos. That skyline – wow.

    I’ve not been to nearly as many national parks as I’d like. I’ve been to Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain, and I think that’s it. I’d love to go to Zion and Smoky Mountain national parks.

    • Christy January 7, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      I love sharing my husband’s photos! 🙂 I’ve heard Zion is fantastic, but then again…each of the National parks probably have some bit of amazing.

  • The Dose of Reality January 7, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    I absolutely LOVE National Parks and have been to many. We have been trying to figure out a time to hit some of the biggies out West. They are the ones that we have seen the least!
    I just love the mountains! You captured some beautiful photos!! –Lisa

    • Christy January 7, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Lisa! I’d love to explore out West more, too- severely lacking on my mental ‘where I’ve been’ list for some reason. Thanks for the compliment, will pass it on to my husband!

  • Sarah | The Sugar Hit January 7, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Those bears! Seeing bears in the wild is definitely on my bucket list. Such a great trip.

    • Christy January 8, 2014 at 11:05 am

      It felt like such a treat seeing them! Next thing I want to see in the wild is moose- I’m in Maine nearly every year and I still haven’t seen one yet!

  • Wilson Tom January 11, 2014 at 6:25 am

    Hi I am a new follower to your lovely blog (Via Pinterest & Blogvin)and it really feel pleasure meeting new awesome bloggers like you. Found you through Weekend Wander Hop. I would love it if you follow me back

  • Kelly January 12, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Hi Christy, your photography is beautiful! My husband and I drove through this area on our way home from Atlanta over the Thanksgiving holiday and we pledged to return. It is so pretty…so serene…and so rich with history, which my husband loves. Thanks for adding to the interest level in this area. 🙂


    • Christy January 13, 2014 at 7:33 am

      Thanks for your nice comment, Kelly! I’d love to go back in the springtime to see everything in bloom

  • Rosey January 12, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    It does look like a wonderful road trip. I love that you came across the small bears playing. I’m visiting today from the Weekend Wandering blog hop.

    • Christy January 13, 2014 at 7:35 am

      Thanks for stopping by, Rosey. I’ll never forget those bears!

  • DB Landes February 11, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    I grew up in Northern VA. Every year my family and I visited Shenandoah National Park. I remember the deer being so tame that they ate apples out of our hands. It was great. I’m stopping by via the SITS comment love tribe.

  • %d bloggers like this: