Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Shenandoah National Park: Day Trip

I’ve had this fear that my boys will grow up not knowing much about forests and rivers and basic agriculture: things like the fact that corn grows on stalks, not on trees, but more importantly that none of it grows at the grocery store.

Since I grew up in a little house in a big woods, this fear makes sense. I basically had pine needles stuck in my hair for most of my childhood and made more varieties of mud pies on the stone kitchen counter by the creek than anyone ever has or ever will. (boo-ya) Now my boys know roughly how to navigate the bus routes we take and the metro—including the names of many of the metro stops in DC, but last night Clark asked me what a corn tree looked like. So, I’m always conscientious to teach the boys about nature whenever I can. 

The boys know signs for various outdoor activities that they’ve never been a part of, specifically because of the outdoors DVD in the Signing Time series. So when I decided I wanted to go to Shenandoah National Park for a picnic and some hiking on Mother’s Day, the boys piped up excitedly that they wanted to find hiking sticks. Yay! They knew about hiking sticks!

So, on Mother’s Day we took a trip to Shenandoah. It took us a little over an hour, driving from Reston, to get to the northern gate of the park, just outside Front Royal. If you get off Route 66 at Markham and onto Route 55 (John Marshall Highway) you can drive the last few miles on a more scenic road. From Front Royal, follow the signs south and you’re there.

One of the first overlooks
It costs $15 to get in, and your pass is good for a week. The park itself is gigantic, but for a day trip with two three year-olds, we picnicked at the first picnic area and hiked at the first short trail and called it a day. Camping for several days or even a week would be an excellent way to experience the beautiful park. The boys hiked for about a mile on a loop. I was surprised how long they were able to go and how much they liked it. Only as we climbed the hill back toward our parked car, did they ask to be carried. And that was during their normal naptime, too! We saw some deer, birds, lots of butterflies, squirrels, caterpillars, and a giant millipede. The boys found hiking sticks. Cal named his Trail Stick and Clark named his Climbing Stick.

On the way home we stopped at the Apple House, which is right by the entrance to 66 at Markham. They have apple donuts that are somehow always warm, as well as some decent pulled pork and burgers and such. We had dinner and donuts, nestled amongst the many souvenirs, and headed home. The boys slept all the way.

Now my boys know how to hike in the woods, what a millipede looks like, and that grass can whistle. Not so bad for two little suburban chaps whose default answers about where things come from are “Costco” and “Harris Teeter.”

5 Shouts!


A shark in the meadow!
Always the clown

Please notice the charming mud on Cal's face.

Ahh. Open space.

On the hike!

Mr. Millipede

Happy Hiker A

Extreme Happy Hiker B

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