Shenandoah National Park Trip – Cost and Tips to Get Outside More

June 1st. Shenandoah. There’s no better way to start the month.

Fresh air. No cell phone service. Good company. Trees. Sunsets. Hikes. Friendly strangers. Abundance of Clif Bars.

I made some last minute plans with a friend to meet up in the park for a quick trip. It’s a 4-5 hour drive (depending on where I enter the park) and we had two days to make it happen.

I prepared the night before. Nothing like waiting until the last minute. That’s when I do my best work, or so I tell myself. I had a list and got everything packed and ready to go. Food, clothes, pillows, blankets, camera, tripod, chargers, tooth brush, contact case, glasses, water, money, and sunglasses. That’s pretty much all I took with me because when you’re out in the woods for an extended period of time, what more do you really need?

I left work on Thursday and drove straight to Shenandoah. I arrived at the camp site around 7:30 p.m. along with my friend, Jaimee, who was meeting me for the adventure.

We got our campsite and then went to watch the sunset and snack on some food.

We laid a blanket out in the grass, watched the sunset, and caught up on life since we haven’t seen each other since February.

I honestly ate enough almond butter to last me for about 29 days and haven’t had a single bite of it since the trip. Whoops.

*note to self; take multiple kinds of nut butters on the next trip*

We snacked until the sun set and then we went back to set up our camp aka the trunk of the car. Lots of pillows and blankets tossed in the back after the seats were collapsed. Home sweet home!

Once that was taken care of we attempted to look at the stars but the moon was pretty bright and it was nothing compared to our trip to Cherry Springs last year. We decided to go back to the car and just hang out until bedtime. We ended up talking for the longest time which was so nice. Catching up with someone you don’t get to see often is one of the best things. Time freaking flies when that’s the case. But we talked and then fell asleep to rest up for the hike the next morning.

We woke up, had breakfast, and made triple decker almond butter sandwiches that we stuffed in our backpacks for lunch. Hashtag gluten-forever.

We were going to hike Old Rag Mountain. It was my first time doing it, so of course prior to hiking I hit up Google to see what the deal was. Basically it’s rated as very strenuous but word on the street; or website, I guess – is that it’s really fun. Alright, I’m in!

We drove to the trailhead which isn’t accessible from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah, park, and hit the trail.

Right off the bat you’re going up the hill. Actually, let me rephrase that; you’re immediately going up the mountain. It’s like, oh hey human you wanted to go for a hike, let’s hike! So that’s what you do. We started around 9:45 a.m. on a Friday and it wasn’t super busy at all.

We walked, and walked, and walked; hardly talking because our focus was on putting one foot in front of the other. It wasn’t extremely difficult but it was definitely a workout. I was pretty content throughout the initial portion of the hike because I was anticipating the rock scramble up ahead. I read about it and heard about how fun it is so I couldn’t wait to see what all the talk was about.

We got to the rock scramble and I can vouch for it. SO FUN. I was grateful that my arms are relatively strong because there were some areas that I had to pull myself up completely with the grasp of my hands on the rocks. It was fun and required a bit of strategy to figure out how to keep going. I don’t have many pictures from the rock scramble itself because I was busy being in the moment, which is a good and bad thing for someone who likes to document things like me!

We made it through the rock scramble and after about 3 hours to the top of the mountain.

Sweet victory!!

We hung out at the summit for a while on top of a huge rock overlooking miles and miles of beautiful scenery. It was so amazing to just sit there, eat my orange, and watch birds soaring through the sky.

Just thinking about the fact that a place like that exists and we were sitting there together on a Friday afternoon is so crazy. So many choices and decisions in life took us to that point, and that is something that I am extremely grateful for.

We took the same way back down through the rocks which was easier than going up and also equally as fun, if not more. There was a few times we had to stop and wait for people either going down in front of us or coming up but that was good because it gave us a nice break.

We made it back down and to the car by 2:45 p.m. giving us a total of 5 hour hiking time which included about 30 minutes up at the top and random breaks in between. Not bad! Very much exhausted though!

We got back to our cars and headed to a random pizza shop where we got kombucha and a pizza to split. We hung out, ate, and drank our overpriced kombucha’s knowing that goodbye was coming soon.

How the heck did our time together end so quickly!?

We said our goodbyes, not knowing when we’ll see each other again. My friends that I’ve met online are some of the greatest people I know but when you live hours away from each other your time is typically limited. I always try to see that in a positive light, remembering that our time together means that much more and instead of just hanging out at home we usually get to meet up in really awesome places like Shenandoah. Perspective!

We parted ways and I made my way home through Skyline Drive since I was already right there. On that drive as I overlooked the mountains and beautiful scenery below me I realized that this isn’t really a “normal” thing. A lot of people I tell that I drove 8+ hours in 2 days to spend 24 hours in Shenandoah with someone I’ve only met in real life 2 times before would think that I’m crazy or that I’m spending all kinds of crazy money on travel.

I might be a bit crazy but one of my goals is to inspire others to get outside and realize that you don’t need to take a week of vacation off of work to take a trip. You can take little adventures over the weekend or during the evenings after work. If you’re reading this then there is most likely time in your life to take little trips. Sure 24 hours to spend in a place isn’t a lot of time, but 24 hours is a heck of a lot better than no hours.

It’s simple, all that you have to do is go do it.

The second thing that people tell me after they share that they don’t have the time to go on trips like this is that they don’t have the money to do so.

I think money is something that we don’t really talk about enough and from this point on I plan to share the costs of all of my trips and adventures in a really honest way.

I pay for everything in my life except rent currently. I’m blessed to not have that expense at the moment but I’m a firm believer in spending mindfully regardless. I budget every month and even when I do have rent to pay, I will do my best to budget and save money for trips because they are important to me. I literally don’t buy anything except food, gas, and pay for the remainder of my expenses like insurance, appointments, etc.

This trip in total cost me $99.94
That includes:
$25 entrance fee into the park
$10 for camping
$22.53 for gas (thank you cheap VA gas and 40 MPG)
$13.68 for a pair of Shenandoah socks (obsessed with their socks, for real)
$7.57 for food supplies
$6.16 for Starbucks x2 (whoops)
$5.00 kombucha
$9.00 pizza

Obviously I could have skipped the Starbucks, socks, and kombucha to make the trip even cheaper but I save money so that I can treat myself to things like that when I want to. I find value in them and I would rather skip out on a new pair of yoga pants so that I can buy little things like that when I’m traveling.

Moral of the story: you can do amazing things and you can do them a lot more often than you believe. With the proper planning and saving small adventures can be a bigger part of your life.

“Investment in travel is an investment in yourself.”
– Matthew Karsten

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: