This past weekend we took our daughter on her first camping trip. We decided to go camping at a family resort near Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Park. The resort had 2 pools and a waterslide, several parks and a bouncing pillow for the children to enjoy. We had a great time relaxing by the fire and playing at the pool. But the real excitement occurred when we went for a short hike. We were able to use our new hiking baby carrier for the first time and it worked flawlessly. Ava is 15 months old now and weights about 25 pounds but the carrier spread her weight so well over my shoulders and back that I could hardly feel she was there. We hiked for about three miles total with an elevation change from the parking lot to the summit of Stony Man Mountain of about 800 feet.
It was as if we were walking in the clouds for most of the hike. Walking along the trail was like being in an enchanted forest. Everything was covered in dew drops that sparkled like gems and the clouds moved past us like a thick, magical fog. We saw beautiful and strange looking mushrooms, emerald green moss covered the forest floor and critters of every type were out and about.
When we reached the summit we were expecting to see panoramic views of the valley below. Normally there are scenic vistas from several points along this trail that let you see down into the hills below. All we saw was a sheet of white as the low clouds continued to swallow us up. It was pretty eerie to be standing on a rock outcropping several hundred feet up in the air and not be able to see a thing!
We passed a hiker on our way back from the summit that said she saw a Black Bear roaming about, but we never saw it. What we did see were to HUGE deer! We were walking along and making conversation (to pass the time and to let the bear know we were coming) and as we came around one of the switchbacks we came face-to-shoulders with one of the tallest deer I have ever seen. I am about six feet tall and I was looking right at this deer’s shoulders! The deer saw us and continued to forage for leaves and berries as if we were not even there. They never flinched, but we were in awe. Two more hikers came along while we were watching the deer and were equally surprised by how unafraid the deer were. After a few more moments of watching and taking pictures we finished up our hike and made our way back to camp.
On Sunday we drove around the countryside just enjoying the views and hunting a few geocaches before getting back on the road to go home . It was a great weekend and Ava seemed to really enjoy the outdoors .