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Trip 11: Shenandoah National Park

After a hiatus on trips for about nine months due to family issues, we spent two days in late September exploring Shenandoah National Park, relatively close to home for us. The main feature of the park is Skyline Drive, which runs along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains with many fantastic views. We were a few weeks early for views of fall foliage, when the hills and valley are ablaze with color, but the views were still really nice. There are also over 500 miles of hiking trails throughout the park to explore. The park is fairly pet-friendly; there are only a few trails where pets are prohibited.

We entered the park through the Front Royal Entrance Station at the northern end and then worked our way south. Among the trails we chose to hike on the first day were Fox Hollow Trail, Compton Gap (which follows part of the Appalachian Trail), Limberlost Trail Loop, and the Blackrock Summit Trail. Our total hiking distance for the day was close to 10 miles.

We stayed overnight at the Skyland Lodge in the park, which is conveniently located near the trailhead for Stony Man Trail, allowing us to get in an early morning hike before checking out. The trail itself was lovely, with wildflowers all along the path. The only downside of the early morning hike was that fog had settled in the valley, so we did not have a good view from Stony Man Mountain at the end of the trail. We also hike the Hawksbill Summit Trail, which led to an overlook providing beautiful 360-degree views of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains and was worth the hike!

As for brew pubs, at the end of our first day, we drove about 45 minutes to the Elkton Brewing Company in Elkton, VA, and enjoyed their SheandOats Porter and Mercky Water Imperial IPA. The Skyland Lodge has a Mountain Taproom serving an assortment of local craft beers. Mike tried The 6th Lord American IPA from Basic City Beer Co (Waynesboro, VA) and I had a refreshing and delicious Peach Team Blonde from Beale's, a microbrewery in Bedford, VA. On our way home we stopped in Delaplane, VA, at Barrel Oak Brewery to try their Wise Oak IPA, Yuzu Ginger Seltzer (very good if you like ginger!) and the Release the Butterfly Barrel Aged Sour with butterfly pea flower and blueberries (an unusual combination that was very tasty). Barrel Oak also is a winery for those who enjoy wine tasting! Definitely worth a stop.

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