October 7 – Shenandoah Valley National Park and Appalachian Trail, Luray Caverns

This has been a phenomenal day.  I suppose you could sum it up by saying we got really high (summitted Stony Man Mountain), and then hit rock bottom (Luray Caverns – at about 180 feet underground).

Beth joined us around 0815 hrs. this morning, and we set off for Shenandoah Valley National Park.  There are a lot of mountains in this part of the country, and relatively few flat spots.  The drive was very scenic – including many clouds at or below our altitude.

Beth suggested we hike Little Stony Man Loop and included Stony Man Summit.  Bill and I were both excited about the idea, the trail description was easy to moderate, and depending on which description you read, anywhere from 2.9 to 4 miles in length.  Although I’ve read about the Appalachian Trail, I was not familiar with signage or much about the actual trail.  Beth was an excellent teacher.

This experience ranks right up there as a life-changer – at least for me.  The pictures we took will not do justice to what we saw and experienced.  The trail, at least for me, was very challenging because of the heights and drop-offs.  It included much scrambling over rocks, an elevation gain of 1709 ft, and a loss of 1720 ft.  Our starting elevation was 2,760 ft and our max elevation was 4,010 ft.  It took us 3 hours, which included several rest breaks, photo breaks, and stopping to admire what was before us.  Wildlife sightings were pretty tame – several squirrels, chipmunks, and one lone green caterpillar.

If you are ever in a position to experience this – DO IT!!!  Please enjoy a few pictures (tons more posted on my Facebook page.

On the way back to the campground, we stopped at Luray Caverns.  Unbelievable to realize what is hidden beneath the ground we walk on.  The caverns were cool (56 degrees) and humid (86%), and spectacular.  They possess a completely different beauty and mystique.  Again – difficult to find words to express the experience – I’ll share a few pictures here – and there are many more on my Facebook page.  This is another experience worth exploring.

In both settings, Beth made the comment that it was really easy to feel small against the settings of the gigantic rocks on the mountain as well as the stalactites and stalagmites in the caverns.  Even when standing by some of the trees.  That is absolutely true – I felt so tiny and insignificant.  At the same time – filled with wonder.  The same God that formed these mighty and beautiful creations created me.  Think on that for a bit – and realize how wonderful you are!

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