The ‘first’ week

The ‘first’ week

I’m writing from Shenandoah River State park, after our first night camping solo. It’s a stunning place, with pitches so spacious that the total area is bigger than the plot of our house in the UK. It’s peaceful, and surrounded by excellent hiking trails (good for working off that pie), and we’re really chuffed that we got a spot here for the weekend, as many places are booked up.

The week’s other firsts have been:

Hitting the road with Steve and Deb, to our first ever campsite, in Waynesboro (yes, really!), Virginia, where John tries to get the hang of backing into sites where you can’t pull through (this is a term for when you can drive in one end and straight out the other, popular among RV’ers). My role in this is as spotter, looking out for obstacles like trees, sewer caps, fire rings and so on, and it’s a job I took on with trepidation, not being exactly an ace at spatial awareness myself. Nish, who taught me to parallel park, will be laughing at the idea of me directing an 8 seater SUV and a 26 foot trailer into a space the size of an average driveway. Luckily, for the first go, Steve was on hand to give us both tips – including to back in to the left if possible, so the driver can see more.

Building our first camp fire. Most campgrounds here sell wood and have fire rings/pits for you to use on your site, and you can also pick up kindling from the woods. There’s nothing nicer when your back’s to the chilly autumn night, to have your legs and toes toasting away and chatting about the day.

On the same subject…Toasting our first S’mores. Deb and Steve taught us this – toasting marshmallows on forks over the fire (according to Deb they must be toasty and golden), then sandwiching the toasted marshmallow between two Graham crackers (pronounced ‘Gram’), with a chunk of Hershey’s chocolate thrown in. Gooey, melty, goodness. And must be better than pie….right?!

Explored the first National Park of our trip. Steve and Deb took us up to their ‘local’ – Shenandoah National Park, which was already looking autumnal, with bright reds and golds appearing across the mountain sides. It’s a spectacular place, where we saw deer and many birds of prey, as well as enjoying sunset and dinner looking out over the valley at Big Meadow. One of our big aims here is to enjoy as many of the national and state parks as we can – the sheer vastness and beauty of them gets me every time.

Used our first laundry room.  This was at the KOA, a chain of campsites offering lots of ‘family’ type facilities and the only and therefore best option in Harpers Ferry. Sad fact but I am excited about the big top loaders they have here – for weeks I have been coveting Deb’s beautiful old machine and wondering how I could get one shipped and installed at home. They seem to last and are also super quick – a big load of washing done in half an hour. Anyway, enough about laundry…

First time in West Virginia. The third state we’ve visited so far on our trip, and we follow Steve and Deb in their A-class to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (the absence of an apostrophe baffles me as there was a Harper and he did have a ferry). This is a beautiful old town, at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, which are huge! It’s been flooded numerous times in the last 350 years, ravaged by the Civil War in the 1860s, and then recently suffered a fire that destroyed a number of businesses. The people must be resilient, I’m not sure I’d choose to build my home there! There’s lots of history stuff for John to enjoy, and lots of cute little shops and nice views for me.

Other points to note about West Virginia (so far): It’s expensive and has higher sales tax than Virginia, and people keep making jokes about ‘not getting shot’, which suggests to us that West Virginians may be a bit more trigger happy than their neighbours. Let’s hope not. We get in some good hiking, including a trail up a mountain for lunch at an overlook in Maryland where we look back at both Virginia and West Virginia (see picture below), and some great food – dinner, breakfast and takeout pie (oops!) – from the Mountain View Diner. We also enjoy our first paddle in a US river – the Potomac, which as Steve says is still clean at this point, before it flows on to DC and gets nasty. It’s a welcome break for our feet after the hike.  All round great time!

Lunch overlooking Harpers Ferry
Lunch overlooking Harpers Ferry – the Shenandoah and Virginia on the left; the Potomac and West Virginia on the right. We are sat on a rock in Maryland.

This evening we are expecting to experience our first night of freezing temperatures so John has done has instructed and filled up our water tank and will pull in the hose, to stop it freezing. I wasn’t anticipating any kind of cold weather when I packed (we hadn’t realised we could see so much in autumn before heading south), so I’m a little light on clothing. Will report back how this goes – it could be the first real test of tempers, as I am not one for being cold at night!








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