First and foremost, it feels great to be back on the road! After we got home on July 11, we spent a week tidying up things at home and then retreated to the beach for some much needed R&R. It was great to be home and see everyone for a brief moment, including getting to celebrate Nolan’s brother's 30th Birthday.
Aside from catching up on things, we started to plan our American road trip. To start, we decided to stay closer to home just to make sure we could handle this whole camping & living out of our car thing. We planned on two nights in Shenandoah National Park and two in Deep Creek, Maryland. Before we took off, we spent a LOT of time at REI getting outfitted and even turned our car into a place where we could sleep if we wanted to. Check out the guide to that here
All in all, we are back at it and it feels terrific. We cannot wait to explore the US for the next 2-3 months!
Shenandoah National Park
We were quite anxious as we arrived at the gate to Shanendoah. We both had not been camping in probably 15 years and had no idea what to expect. After we got settled and found our way to the campground, we obviously had to stop at the store and stock up on some firewood. What’s a camping trip without a fire?! The first thing we realized when we arrived was that US park rangers look exactly as you would expect them to. The second thing is that bears are a real thing. We got a full rundown on what attracted the bears to our campsite, which was basically everything. Terrific.
We found our little plot and and got the camp set up, though it took some work. We had a lovely MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) dinner over a single burner and then tried to get some sleep. The first night was a little creepy getting used to sleeping outside. Probably the worst part were our camping neighbors. They were up late and certainly did NOT abide by the 10pm curfew. Oh well, once we finally fell asleep, we woke up 12 hours later. Guess we were tired…
The next day we did a 6.5 mile hike through part of the Apalachian Trail, explored Loft Mountain and had lunch at Doyles River Falls, which was awesome. Thankfully we did not encounter any black bear friends on our excursion. We also got some amazing views of the park itself and the takeaway was this: endless hills of forest. Literally. As far as you could see in any direction was sprawling deep forests covering mountains. It was beautiful!
Night two went smoother and we woke up early to head to Deep Creek and also stop at Luray Caverns on the way. After our first two nights- no bears, not too smelly and feeling fresh. Think we might be OK!!!
Luray Caverns & Deep Creek
On our way to Deep Creek, we stopped at Luray Caverns, which are the largest caverns on the East Coast and the fourth largest in the USA. They were discovered in 1878 by some explorers and while they are now a huge tourist attraction, once you get down there, they are breathtaking! The rock formations, many of which are still active, are crazy! We definitely are not the biggest fans of tours, but this one was worth it. If you are nearby, and have two hours to spare, do it!
After Luray, we kept heading north towards Deep Creek Lake, which took us through a portion of West Virginia and man was it rural! It actually looks a lot like Shenandoah with rolling hills of forest, but we were definitely glad we had a full tank of gas because there wasn’t much in the way of civilization.
Deep Creek itself is part of a state park in Western Maryland (our home state) and neither of us had ever been. Upon driving in, we realized it is definitely beautiful. A huge lake surrounded by cabins and forests. Since we were now pros at camping, we got our camp set up and a fire going in no time! We also splurged and did some hot dogs and s'mores over the fire…again #campinglife.
Our Deep Creek campsite was way more spread out and quiet. That also adds to a level of creepiness because at night you can hear things…but, after we settled down we slept great and conquered another 6 miles hike around the lake before ending up back near our campsite. We also were able to head down to the “beach” near our campsite and swim. It was a great way to end the day!
Tomorrow we are off to visit some family in Kittanning, PA for the weekend, where we will be spending time on the Allegheny River. This is where Nolan learned to waterski very young. While we both haven’t skied behind a boat in many years, I think we will have to give it a try once again!