At the Overlook deck
It’s undeniable that my husband and I are nature lovers. On the 12th of May (Saturday), we went to Shenandoah State Park carrying our homemade food with us on this year’s first ever perfect sunny day. The temperature was perfect and driving was smooth. Shenandoah River State Park is 1,604 acres of nature with a 56-mile river running from the Northern side of the bigger Shenandoah National Park on the South. This State Park is a smaller version of the National Park but their rivers on the visible surface are interconnected and run all the way down to Waynesboro and to the Southern East Coast states. God knows where this river system really begins and ends. I tried tracing it through Google Maps and I said to myself: Good Luck! However, their woods are a little bit apart on its parallel point where they almost meet. I mean just a teeny tiny bit apart which means they are only separated by the Stonewall Jackson Highway or Highway 340.
Sunday was the right time to get back on the road again after a long winter of extreme temperatures here in Northern Virginia. I didn’t experience a -22 winter even in Europe until I moved to this suburban area where we currently live. Oh, but we love nature so we don’t have any regrets living in this beautiful place. Driving to Shenandoah I remembered the lawyer who wed us saying:
Lawyer: I think you are a great couple, you look really great together! Are you guys outdoorsy people?
Us: “Yes, indeed! We love nature so much. We can live outdoors. How did you know”?
Lawyer: I can see that you are both very active and fun. Enjoy while you’re young!
Us: “Do you love nature too”?
Lawyer: Me? No, I’d rather be in Ritz taking a rest by the pool and have all the comfort around me. I don’t like the inconveniences of camping, mosquitoes or insect bites.
Us: “Oh, we love that too… but only sometimes”!
She was an honest person like my sister who I’m sure would pick the same! People are all different and that’s why this world is so beautiful in all its colors and varieties. Don’t you agree? I’m saying this because since I got pregnant I thought I would avoid going out to nature again in order to avoid potential diseases and infections. However, I became even closer to nature… Wishing winter was over sooner than it was intended to last. It’s beneficial for pregnancy as it relaxes your mind and makes you forget anxieties that shouldn’t even be bothering you. The worries of giving birth, becoming a good parent, and being more mindful than I ever was—I know are part of the “mama-brain” experience. My mind has been full of anticipations, planning, and infinite gratitude for the life growing inside of me. Despite all these worries I wake up in the morning feeling more and more beautiful inside and out. It’s euphoric—this feeling is the exact same feeling I feel when I am with nature. It’s an oxytocin overdrive.
Finally, after almost six months of cold winter and grey skies, we are able to get a hold of sunlight steadily for the entire day. I baked my favorite vegan banana bread recipe on a Friday night to make sure we have something to eat along the way. As you may know already, eating outside is a rare occasion for us. It’s for birthdays only when I’m lazy to cook or just want to be treated on that special day. Aside from that, everything we eat even when venturing into the wilderness is all homemade.
So we brought our picnic blanket, his favorite blanky with patterns of shells because it reminds him of our tropical honeymoon. My husband still cries when he remembers that once in a lifetime feeling of driving on the side of a turquoise blue water and a blinding sun glimmering over the beaches we pass by. I know every time we drive to nature he remembers those days.
We reached Shenandoah around 11:30 AM. We drove around and saw picnic areas under the shades of big trees by the river banks. We already picked the spot to go back to before we even got the park’s map from the visitor center. We paid only $5.00 entrance fee for both of us. It was worth it! We presented our National Park pass but it was limited only to National Parks and State Parks are not included in the package. Aside from the picnic areas by the river bank, the overlook caught our attention. You could see the long stretch of the Shenandoah River and the valley from that angle. There were kids with mom and dad and grandparents around us. There were also groups of families who came altogether to enjoy the day with their kids. It was a very nice day and it wasn’t crowded. Before we left home the sky was grey but on our way to the park, the weather was getting sunnier and sunnier until it became hot as we reached the park’s entrance.
One thing I noticed every time we go out is that parks are full of Latin Americans who really know how to enjoy life. They have all the equipment necessary for a whole day or even probably a week’s stay at the park. We see them with complete barbecue equipment, firewood, 3 different coolers with ice, cold drinks, meat, coca cola, and some other food. They also bring chairs, hammocks, sound systems, and fishing rods. Their cars are always full and some even use an extension wagon for their equipment or large coolers attached to their cars or pick up trucks. I’m always in awe of their level of preparedness and to see their picnic tables with complete utensils and a colorful tablecloth or a plastic cover on at least two to three tables next to each other. They also occupy two to three barbecue areas most of the time. Sometimes, even two pavilions for three to five families! They love to have fun and I always look at them and think “wow if only people know how to live these days”. Although, one not so good thing is that some do leave a lot of trash and not really put them in the garbage cans properly. I also see flying plastic bags and water bottles that were not thrown properly in the recycling bins whether at the park or in our old neighborhood. But boy, they know how to live. I love it when I see the mothers willingly preparing the food for their children who are enjoying with their siblings and friends while their husbands look after the children or are fishing with their friends like the photo below.
love seeing families enjoying life during weekends
The United States is truly diverse not only in ethnicity but also in hobbies and interests. I should have taken a picture of a scene where there were Afghan families occupying the big pavilion in front of our picnic table that day. They were very traditional and women were wearing their traditional clothes while their children were more modern. They had two little girls in the group wearing very ornate modern dresses. The smaller one was wearing a yellow chiffon dress down to her ankles while the taller one was wearing large polka dots in pink and blue dots and a long ribbon tied around her waist. Their dads dressed similarly to the younger boys who were wearing regular shirts and pants. Then, a Korean woman who was sitting on our left side closer to the river bank walked straight to our direction and started picking up Dandelion leaves from the ground. I could still see her husband sitting in the same place just watching her picking the wild herbs. As the woman was getting closer back to their picnic table, just a little bit past ours, a group of young adult Indians came walking across her while chattering in a friendly manner. They walked past the right side of the Latin American families just a few tables behind us. There was also an American couple in between our picnic table and the Korean couple’s table. They had two dogs: a Golden Retriever and most probably a German Shepherd. They obviously just finished water sports (their clothes were still a bit wet) and were resting from the sun.
No beach but it’s still water. Better than nothing!
Don’t underestimate the will of a pregnant woman who wants to dip her feet in the water
I really wanted to swim that day but the rocks were slippery and I’m in my last month of pregnancy so I better stay safe. My husband was so extra careful holding me every step of the way because he was afraid that I may trip or fall out of balance with my bump and that is totally understandable. Next time we will come fully equipped with water shoes (we just bought it on Sunday) and a bigger picnic blanket! By the way, if you like camping or glamping, the park offers all of the perks for you aside from watersports like canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing, rafting, and tubing. They have zip lines, wildlife, camping areas, picnic areas, RV campgrounds, and even semi and full cabins for an entire family who plans to stay for days, a week, or longer. Of course, nothing here is for free and you have to bring or make your own food. If you want a bigger, more fun adventure, the Shenandoah National Park is just close by and they have amazing accommodations, restaurants, and trails. So far, we’ve only hiked Old Rag Mountain but when I give birth we will hike each station past Lewis Mountain where you will find the last stop with dining and hotel accommodation. Going farther than Waynesboro you will reach Blueridge (Rockfish Gap) but for this we need to physically and mentally prepare ourselves.
The Shenandoah River State Park Map is downloadable on this link: Download Map
Just in case you are unable to download the map from the link above I added these JPEG maps for you:
You may download this map by hitting right click and “Save As” then print it out
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Happy hiking and always enjoy your weekend! From our family to yours, have a blessed week ahead!
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