I am a buffet for a horde of biting insects. The all-you-can-eat kind of buffet, that never seems to deplete. Whatever romantic idea of the road trip I had before we left is gone. Finito. Dead.
It’s all reality now, baby. The reality is sleeping in a van that cooks you like a toaster oven. And bugs in every crevice of your body. And a lot of sweat, which hardly ever gets washed off. All those “cute” outfits I brought for the trip are a distant memory, reminding me that I used to be a normal person with normal habits like going out and being social. Now I’m a roadie that could give a rat’s ass about anything besides having a good time and swatting bugs. You know, I think I have it pretty good.
This was the first week on the road, and who am I kidding. It’s amazing. My stress level has never been so low. I don’t worry about making money, because I’m happily unemployed. I don’t worry about what to wear because whatever is easiest to grab is what it’s going to be. The first week of the trip was all in the state of Virginia. After spoiling ourselves in Virginia Beach with some friends and their family, we headed into Richmond to explore the city. Driving around we happily stumbled upon Belle Isle, a beautiful little system of trails on an island right off of the city. From there, we drove to Pocahontas State Park where we sweltered for two nights in the lowlands, dreaming of arctic breezes. The park itself was beautiful, with many amenities for locals to enjoy like a nature center and beautifully shaded trails that made for a great trail run. And then, after a brief visit with some good friends in Charlottesville, it was time for Shenandoah.
Shenandoah—the name itself is poetry. And I’ve found the Park is too. Founded in 1935, Shenandoah National Park is one of America’s most visited. However, after all that we have heard about visitation to the park, we were surprised that even on a mid-week visit, there weren’t more people around. The campsites were busy, but not totally booked. We didn’t feel like we were in a line of cars the whole time on Skyline Drive, and we definitely weren’t fighting for space on overlooks. It was amazing. We fell in love. From the sleepy way the bees buzzed around to the soft green ferns hiding in the shadows of the trees, it was everything we were looking for in an experience on our road trip.
I expected Skyline Drive to be much like The Blue Ridge Parkway, which I grew up going to on weekends to camp, and even though similar, Skyline Drive had a character all it’s own. After our few scorching days sleeping in the van in the lowlands, we rose to the top of Virginia on those dark green mountains that are so iconic to the southern Appalachian Mountains. At night we were chilly enough to wear our jackets for the first time in months. It was pure bliss. I have never seen so much wildlife in such a heavily trafficked area. I woke up just before dawn and heard an owl calling its last calls of the night, and not but ten minutes later the birds started chattering for the day. Deer grazed gently near our campsite, one being a long little speckled fawn. I’m sure you could have these experiences in any bit of forest, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t amazing time after time, and I’ll never tire of them.
Alas, here we are again on the road in the heat wave that is sweeping the country, heading to Washington D.C. But next week, we’re visiting the national park I can barely contain my excitement for: Acadia National Park, Maine.
Lunden Herron worked in the outdoor industry before quitting her job to set out for the great outdoors. She’s currently driving from National Park to National Park. Check back to follow along with her trip. Read more of her work at lundenherron.com.