After a busy few weeks in mega cities, we needed to take a breather. Traffic, people and crowds wear you down. What a better place than a National Park in the Mountains. And funny enough, Shenandoah National Park was created to serve this exact purpose- a rest from city life. With Yellowstone + Yosemite National Parks giving Westerners a place to relax, the east needed their own park. Authorized in 1926, and fully established in 1935, Shenandoah opened 110KM away from Washington, DC.
We entered from the north, near Front Royal, VA and drove about an hour south to Lewis Mountain Campground. We chose Lewis Mountain because it was the smallest of the campgrounds and we thought that would be nicer than staying in the busier sites. We later found out why Lewis Mountain was so small.
In 1935 when the park opened, Virginia was still heavily segregated, The State of Virginia wanted to ban Blacks from visiting the Park, but settled on segregated facilities at the insistence of the head of the National Park Service. The park did open without segregated facilities, but soon thereafter opened Lewis Mountain, exclusively for Blacks.
Most of the original Blacks only facilities are still in tact as they were in the 1930’s. The restaurant is now the camp store, the camp sites are unchanged, and the camping cabins are still standing.
After our history lesson, we needed to get out on foot and explore. We figured the 6.5 KM Rose River Trail would be a good place to start.
We took a calculated risk: the tap water in Virginia is generally moldy tasting- We filled up our bottles with River water and it was delicious. I understand now why a Moonshiner will tell you the water makes a difference.
We were unlucky on this day in the wildlife viewing category. We missed four bears, which is not a huge disappointment, but we also missed a Bobcat- that wold have been exciting.
We retreated to the comforts of our campground and a shower- it was another hot day.
The next day we hiked up Bearfence Mountain, the trail is mostly over rocks, and not really a trail at all. We did pass over the Appalachian Trail on our way up, and took the A-trail for a few hundred meters on the way back.
That concluded our stay in Shenandoah, we headed to Richmond, VA- The capitol of the Confederate States of America.
We were headed to the Museum of the Confederacy and stumbled upon Chimborazo Hospital. Chimborazo was the largest Confederate hospital and housed about 3,000 men at any given time. As the extent of Doctors knowledge at the time was to essentially amputate, one can imagine the gruesome place this would have been.
The buildings were spaced equally apart to allow air flow to all beds. The humidity can make a 30 C day feel like 40 C. Thankfully we now have Air Conditioning.
From here, we drove a few minutes down the road to the Tredager Civil War Museum. Tredager was the biggest Iron manufacturer for the Confederate Army.
The vast majority of The Confederates cannons and ammunition were made right here. The Museum is now run by the National Park Service, and as usual put on an excellent display. We watched some historic videos depicting the history of the factory, and admired the photos and old cannons.
All in, Virginia put on a good show. Thanks