Monday, April 9, 2012

Camping, Hiking, and History

Here's the deal, Chris and I love to go camping and hiking, but so do a lot of other people. We've had bad luck in the past where we'd driven all the way out to a park, only to find out that there were no more campsites available. Boo. So, this past weekend I was lucky enough to have a couple of days off work, Chris wanted to get away from the grind of homework, and there was no rain in the forecast, so we headed out to Shenandoah National Park, which is a couple of hours outside of DC in Virginia, to try to camp for a night and get some hiking in. And, as you can probably guess since I am writing about it, we were successful! Not only did we get to camp under a full moon, but we got in almost 17 miles of hiking. It was great to get outside, work our bodies, and get away from life for a day. A good hike and some outdoors is always rejuvenating for us!

We got to Shenandoah a little later than we had wanted, but after we quickly get our campsite set-up we hit the trails. We actually decided to repeat a hike we had tried to do a few years ago, but the pouring rain made us turn around early. The first leg of the hike was to Rapidan Camp, or Camp Hoover. But, before I get off track talking about that, here are some photos of that hike . . .

One of the first things we noticed was all of the greenery popping up throughout the park. The greens were just stunning, including these strange ferns . . .


Seriously, does someone know what these are?


We also came across a TON of deer. Seriously, a lot of deer. I probably saw more deer in those 24 hours than I have in my whole life. We came across a little herd of deer in the middle of our hike, they were all just chilling, eating some stuff. You know, doing deer things.


We saw a pretty waterfall . . .


. . . and the Blue Ridge Mountains. (Chris said they looked like a painting, and they did.)


And, I couldn't resist capturing the setting sun.


Lastly, our hike ended with a couple of miles along the Appalachian Trail which looked so serene and pretty with the grass sprouting up along the edges.


Now, as I mentioned, our hike took us to Rapidan Camp, otherwise known as Camp Hoover. Before Camp David, U.S. Presidents had other retreat locations, and President Herbert Hoover had Camp Rapidan (you can also read about it here at a NPS travel site). President Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, desired a close retreat and settled on the 164 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the headwaters of the Rapidan River less than 3 weeks after his Inauguration. To reduce the Presidential budget, Hoover decommissioned the Presidential Yacht Mayflower (yes, there was once a Presidential Yacht!) and transferred its mess crew mess crew and supplies to the new camp. The camp consisted of a lodge, mess halls, cabins, an outdoor fireplace, hiking trails, trout pools, and even a mini golf course! Hoover hosted many distinguished guests while on retreat there, such as Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, and the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald (there is even a cabin for the Prime Minister at the camp).

When Hoover lost his bid for re-election in 1932, he donated the camp to the Federal government for future Presidents' use. Unfortunately, only Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter visited the camp. The camp also served the Boy Scouts and other high-ranking government officials, the last one being Vice President Al Gore, before being renovated to its original condition and opening it for public access.

Ok, so now that I got that brief history lesson out of the way, here's some photos! First, the big outdoor fireplace that often served as the backdrop for many group photos.


The Brown House (in contrast to the White House, get it?!) where President Hoover and his wife stayed.

Another pic of the Brown House and its view of the mountain peak.


The Brown House is usually open for ranger-led tours (which we took last time we visited the Camp Rapidan site), but it was closed by the time we got there that afternoon. We learned last time though, and it still fascinates me, that the walls in between the windows could fold down only leaving a screened wall in its place. President Hoover and his wife chose this design so that the cabin felt more tent-like, reminiscent of the time they spent in mining camps.


And lastly, us!

We had an amazing day for hiking and camping, and soaking up some history along with it. The next day, we hiked Old Rag Mountain, a Shenandoah favorite for us which I blogged about last year, before heading home, back to life in DC. I'm so glad we got a couple of days to escape, enjoy some fresh air, get our exercise on, and explore some local history! If any of you want to go out there, you know I'd be on board!


  1. Replies
    1. Do you really? Next time you're in we'll drive out there!

  2. Awesome! My husband and I are campers too! We usually canoe and camp, where we'll put all our gear (and dogs) in the canoe, float downstream and camp somewhere along the river. It's nice because we avoid campsites and other people and usually have miles of river to ourselves for fishing and hiking. Now I'm ready for a weekend camping trip!

  3. What an awesome weekend! Camping is something I really want to do more of. I visited Shenandoah National Park once last year when visiting a friend who was going to grad school in Richmond, VA. It was AMAZINGLY beautiful, and I regret so much that we were there only for one afternoon and could only do one hike while I was visiting (which was gorgeous). We talked about camping, but the weather was to unpredictable. I got to walk my 1 mile on the Appalachian Trail, which is like my Mt. Everest dream. And Mt. Rag looks awesome! I'm super jealous, glad you had a great time!


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