Last week we drove up to Shenandoah from the Smokies and it took us about 7 hours to get to Loft Mountain Campground. On the way into the campground we saw a mother bear and 3 cubs. Then we drove a little further and saw another bear!
We originally reserved site F132 but when we tried to set the camper on the site, it was on too much of an incline so we went and asked if we could move. The hosts were wonderful and we had no problem moving to A4. While we sat at our campsite, we saw some bicyclists stop suddenly. When I asked what they saw, they asked us if we saw the bear that just passed by our campsite! When we were walking around the campground, we saw another bear. We had dinner at the Loft Mountain Wayside and it was very good. While we were there a young girl approached us and told us that the 5 of them were AT hikers and wondered if we could give them a lift back up to the campground. So, we rearranged our car and squeezed them all in the car! They were so much fun to talk to and were very appreciative of the ride.
On Friday we drove up to Big Meadows and tried to have lunch at the lodge. After waiting for 20 minutes without seeing a waitress or even getting a cup of coffee, we left and had breakfast at the Wayside. It was cheaper and the service was great. Then we went to the visitor center and signed up for a tour of Rapidan on Saturday ($10 per person). While we were there we watched a video on the CCC. Then hiked for a while on the AT going north before going back to the Wayside for lunch. At 2pm we joined Ranger Travis for a hike going south on the AT at Milam Gap. He did a great job with his short talks along the way. At 8:30pm we went to a bear talk at the amphitheater by Ranger Kelsey, who happened to be Ranger Travis’s sister. Before the talk we saw a bear up in an apple tree eating dinner. The view from the amphitheater was fabulous and we watched a thunder and lightning storm in the distance.
On Saturday we went back to Big Meadows Wayside for breakfast. Then at 10am we boarded a van to ride down to Rapidan, which was President Hoover’s “Camp David.” The tour was led by Ranger Ginny Browne (a seasonal ranger who is also a history teacher at Page County High School) who did a phenomenal job! She made me see President Hoover in a different light since I only think about him during the stock market crash and depression. I never knew all the good things he did before he became president and even after he left office! The tour was 2 ½ hours but it flew by! On the ride down we saw a bear, deer, and hawks. I would highly recommend this tour to everyone. At lunch at the Wayside, we were joined by 4 bikers from VA and PA. They were really interesting and we had a nice time. After lunch we went back to camp.
The gnats were really awful every day which made us choose not to cook at the campsite. The bears were so plentiful that I didn’t sit outside in the morning waiting for the sun to come up. In fact, there were so many bears around that I didn’t walk to the bathroom alone. The whole time we were there, we saw 10 bears!! We decided to hook up the camper on Saturday night and leave on Sunday morning instead of Monday. We hoped the traffic for the 6 ½ hr. ride home would be better on Sunday.