Monday, November 25, 2013

Guest Post by Ray: A Day at Shenandoah National Park

Another great guest post by our friend Ray Beimel in Pennsylvania:

A Day at Shenandoah National Park
by Ray Beimel
One of the good things about becoming a senior citizen is the Senior Lifetime Pass from the National Park Service and other Federal agencies. It costs $10 one time and then you get into any NPS fee area free. Normally it would be $15 for a week long pass to Shenandoah National Park. It paid for itself the first time out.

My first visit to SNP was in 1977 when I traveled with Steve Herzing. We covered the entire length of the Skyline Drive and camped at Matthews Arm. A year later I was there again with Chris Doran and we camped at Loft Mountain. And in the 1990’s I hiked the Appalachian Trail through the park with Chris and Brad. So it’s like an old friend and it was nice to get back into the park again, especially for free.

Back in 1992, we camped at Gravel Springs Hut on our last night on the trail. In the morning we had a few miles to get to the car. We stepped out into the open at an overlook and beheld what we called The Grim Mount Badass. It was not nearly the steepest hill we ever climbed but it was so right there in our face. Something changed on the hike up that First Peak of Hogback that made us better hikers for years afterwards. There was snow on the ground on a cold frosty morning. I wanted to hike it again, only this time in summer and without a full pack. It was, as we say, nothing but a thang.
Grim Mount Badass
Appalachian Trail
There was a new place once on top. This is a launch site. It didn’t say what was to be launched there but here is what the potential landing sites would be.
Hang Glider Landing Spot
I stopped at the Elk Wallow Wayside for a snack. They sell beer by the bottle there among all the other usual stuff in a camp store. I was sitting at an outdoor table when a white haired but obviously fit woman rolled up on a road bike with a flat rear tire. The tube was holed and it was obvious why. The tire was threadbare in a half a dozen places. She had a spare tube and a pump but needed a little help getting the Presta valve through the rim. It was a very tight fit and I was about to see if the awl on my Swiss Army knife could help when another twist brought it home. Her tire was so bare that I doubted she could make the 20 miles she had to go to meet her husband. Fortunately, another biker came by with a patch. She was training for a ride in Croatia or Slovenia or some such place.

For all my visits to the park, I had never hiked around the back side of Big Meadows so I decided this was the day to do it. What used to be a trail is now a road that allows access to President Hoover’s camp on the Rapidan River. Previously if you wanted to see the three remaining buildings you had to hike in. Now you can ride in a van with a Ranger explaining it all. Long time ago I wrote a story about hiking down there with my nephew Eric. It’s a good hike well worth the up and down. Knowing where the main road went, I took the left fork and found the place where old picnic tables go to die. Not quite the discovery of the secret elephants graveyard, but still it was interesting to see the underside of the park where tourists seldom go. Among other things seen were signs for explosives that weren’t there, piles of rock, and electrical infrastructure. Oh yeah, some big bucks wandered by as well with that insouciance never seen in bucks in north central Pennsylvania.

On the way back I noticed this curiosity. If you wonder why I look at manhole covers there is a good reason. My time as a City Councilman made me very aware of infrastructure and I always look at poles and manholes and hydrants and such. I always wonder where did the water come from. So I looked down and saw this, an Americast brand manhole cover made in India installed in a national park. Sure, it was likely cheaper but money spent in India does not come back. Money spent on an American made manhole cover comes back in taxes and local spending. Am I the only one who remembers the multiplier effect from Econ 2?

After a good day of hiking in the National Park, I went to the Shenandoah County Fair in Woodstock. This was much like all the other fairs I have written stories about. One little difference was this. In Pennsylvania most of the girls wore flip flops to the fair. Here I saw lots of girls wearing cowboy boots.

I had a good time and for the first time ever, I did not eat anything by way of fair food. There was an ice cream stand that looked favorable but the line was longer than (fill in your own metaphor for a really long line here). I did ride some rides including the bump cars. I am freak oh wow for the bump cars. I was just tootling around, not smacking into kids, enjoying myself when some kid’s mother decided I was having too easy a time of it and started chasing me. That was not wise on her part as I had a 1973 Gateway Fair flashback and after several bumps pinned her helplessly against the wall. I took the ferris wheel ride and got this “aerial” view of the place.

Since I ate no fair food, I was under budget and when I went by the tent that advertised World’s Largest Horse, curiosity took over and I paid a buck to see this. I can’t vouch for his being the world’s largest but I can attest he was one helluva big horse. And like all big horses I have seen, he seemed laid back and easygoing. I asked him to turn to get a better view and he obliged.

There will be another part of this story coming soon as I show what I saw at Shenandoah Caverns.

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