Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Shenandoah Trip: Preview

Nothing makes me look forward to fall more than a 90 degree day in September*! So, let's talk about our next road trip.

(* - I shouldn't really complain, because this has been a pretty tame summer. Only one day over 94°F all summer!)

We make it a point to drive somewhere see pretty leaves every fall, whether it's just for a couple of hours, or a full week. Sure, it'd be nice to spend another full week somewhere nice again this fall, but the realities of work vacation time balances - money, too, since these trips cost us more than they used to - mean that we're only doing a weekend trip this year.

When deciding where to go on vacation, I often just look at my county map. Where haven't I been before? If we had a full week to work with again this year, I might have suggested either Michigan's Upper Peninsula, or Arkansas. (Because who wouldn't want to spend a week in Arkansas??) But since we're only making a weekend of it, it basically boiled down to Cumberland Gap (NE Tennessee / SE Kentucky / SW Virginia), or Shenandoah National Park. I chose the latter.

I actually have been to Shenandoah National Park before, though. Twice! But both of those visits were a long time ago, so it'll be basically new. (Those counties are still blank on my county map - Greene, Madison, and Rappahannock - because I'm not sure where in the park I went on those visits, or which routes we took to and from. I didn't sweat it, because I knew I'd make another Shenandoah trip some day.)

So, to maximize our fall foliage experience, when should we go? Peak foliage in the mountains of northern Virginia appears to be mid-to-late-October, perhaps a little before then at the highest elevations. So, I think the ideal time to go would be either of the last two weekends in October. ... BUT, instead, we're going over Columbus Day weekend (Saturday 10/12 through Monday 10/14), for two reasons: 1) Marla's day care will likely be closed on Columbus Day, so we may as well be out of town that day; and 2) that's an off weekend in our curling leagues. (Hey, we take our curling seriously.) This means we'll be a week or two before peak, but I think it'll be close enough.

What are we going to do while we're up there? Take it easy, first and foremost. We have a cabin reserved for Saturday and Sunday night, and we learned on our Vermont trip that if we end up spending a lot of time at the cabin, as opposed to out seeing things, that's quite alright. One thing we won't really be able to do, that we did some of last fall, is hike, since Marla has outgrown the hiking backpack. So, our Shenandoah National Park experience will likely be limited to driving the length of Skyline Drive, and stopping at a few overlooks along the way. Aside from that, we'll just be taking it easy. And there is this place called "Dinosaur Land" located a few minutes north of the park that could be kind of fun for Marla.

Shenandoah National Park, and our cabin (near Luray), are only five hours from home. Easy! By our standards, maybe I shouldn't even be calling this a "road trip". But hey, it's something, and it'll be nice.

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