23 May 2016

The Skyline Drive

Shenandoah National Park

Sunset at one of the many overlooks

Shenandoah National Park surrounds the Skyline Drive which is an extension of the Blue Ridge Parkway and is still in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Tom Turkey

When we tried to book a campsite in Shenandoah online there were no sites available. There are two loops that are non-reservable, but that doesn't mean that they will be available, so we rang the National Park, as we have been disappointed before and we were worried because the weekend was the Memorial Day weekend. We told them we were planning to come in on Monday, shouldn't be a problem they advised and it wasn't. We got a great site on a corner but when we went to put our rams down, nothing happened. So Lindsay put the generator on and we brought the rams down and opened the slides. There was no power going from the batteries into the trailer and he couldn't work out why. The fridge can work off gas, but it needs power to operate. No battery power meant we wouldn't be able to stay. What to do. Of course there was no mobile reception at our site, so we went up to the office and they told us we should get reception up at the amphitheatre. We ring Keystone, the trailer manufacturer and talk to their help line; we have two hours to sort it out the problem before they close for the day. She and Lindsay discuss the issue but don't find a solution, but something she says makes Lindsay think about the relay he replaced last week. You see the hydraulics that open and close our slides had been tripping, they would go for a few centimetres/inches then stop, I would wait for it to reset and then push the button again. We rang the hydraulic manufacturer and he said it wasn't his product but the relay, so we bought a new one. Perfect, the slides worked effortlessly and the rams also worked better than ever before. It turns out the new relay we bought has a manual reset button while our previous one automatically reset itself. Something had made the relay trip and we all we needed to do was to push the reset button. Problem solved and we got to stay for the week. It's funny, I don't think anyone stays longer than a few days because when you say you want to stay for a week, they clarify it not once but three times. You want seven days, yes, seven days. Seven days. Yes seven days, a week. Is it my accent?

Dark Hollows Falls
It was supposed to rain, so I thought it might get cold, but it didn't

The campground at Big Meadow is one of the nicest National Park campgrounds we have been in. Green grass with lovely shady trees and large sites. We could easily fit our 5th wheel and truck too. We have sunshine after a couple of overcast days, just the weather we need to sit outside to have a drink. Life is good.

White tailed deer fawn

Lots of black bears

There are plenty of trails. Wildlife in the area includes black bears, white tailed deer, squirrels and many birds. There are a few waterfalls here and we walked to two as it's always nicer if you have a reason to walk somewhere.

Rapidan Camp

The Brown House

President Hoover wanted a summer house to escape the heat and humidity of Washington DC. He wanted it to have a stream so that he could fish and be within an easy distance of the White House. His personal secretary found a fishing lodge called Rapidan Camp through William Carson, who had heard about the search and lured the President to Shenandoah by building a road, securing fishing rights and stocking the stream with trout. It paid off.

Congress and William Carson had offered money to help pay for the property but Hoover refused. While Hoover paid for the property and all the building materials himself, 500 soldiers built the roads, cabins and other buildings, installed a water supply, sewage systems, built furniture and landscaped the grounds with paths, bridges and waterfalls. From the beginning Rapidan Camp was always intended to be donated to the national park when he had finished with it. Not surprisingly though the public were not happy about him using military labour to build the camp. He was the first President to donate his salary to charity, so I guess that made up for some of it. After construction the Marines ran the camp and guarded the Hoovers and their guests within a two mile radius around the camp - no easy feat when you see the forest.

The two mile walk here was through beautiful lush forest, three creek crossings

The Lodge consisted of two living areas with large fireplaces. Lou (Mrs Hoover) had an office which looked down towards the river as she was involved in lots of things including the girl guides. A second bedroom and bathroom was created by closing in a verandah for Mrs Hoover when President Hoover started being woken up during the night to attend to his presidential duties. As was the era, they slept in separate single beds. There are three buildings left – Creel Cabin where the volunteer curator lives, the Prime Minister’s cabin which was a guest cabin and the Brown House (as opposed to the White House) – a lot of thought went into that name.

The Brown House was refurnished seventy years after Hoover used it, so the original items were long gone. Photographs were used to recreate it as authentically as possible. Mrs Hoover liked to shop local, so many items could be recreated by local tradesmen. Native Indian rugs adorned the floors but are no longer on display as mice like to eat them. All the other buildings including the Mess Tent building have been demolished. There is a huge fireplace outside, this was never enclosed by a building, it was like an outdoor fire that everyone could sit around. Other activities for guests to do in the area were horse riding, hiking and of course fishing. Both the Hoover’s were geologists and Mr Hoover’s first job as a mining engineer was at a gold mine in the region around Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.

Now that's an outdoor fireplace
There are two ways of getting to Rapidan Camp, a six mile drive down a fire road or a two mile hike via Mill Prong Trail from the Milam Gap parking area. It’s a moderate hike, steep in places with three stream crossings. As this was our walk for the day, we hiked.

President Hoover was not well liked as the opposition told the people that he was responsible for the great depression and his summer camp was nearly left to decay.

A lone Yellow Slipper

Big Meadows National Park Campground

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