Chicks in the Sticks: Shenandoah Valley Edition
My preppy, pearl-wearing pal from Orange County was in DC for a conference, so I took advantage of her (relatively) close proximity and we spent a weekend out in the boonies of Virginia – the Shenandoah Valley.
This is gaw-geous country, people! We moved ourselves into a log cabin and our highlight of the weekend was hiking the brutal Old Rag Mountain. “Old Rag is Shenandoah’s most popular and dangerous hike. The number of blogs about this hike attests to its popularity. The number of search and rescue missions each year attests to its danger.” This hike is no joke. I spent 7 days hiking Machu Picchu once. This is harder. After hiking higher and higher and higher, let’s say for ohhh three hours, you come across another hour of rock scrambles. This means jumping into narrow rock crevices and shimmy-ing your way to the side of a cliff, then figuring out a way to get your body and your backpack through a little rock hole, and then scaling the sides of rocks that are so slippery you just can’t get up them, and then sit your butt down and slide down rock faces on the other side. It was exhausting. It was so awesome. That GD mountain.
In the tiny town of Scottsville, we moved into a log cabin called Quinta Bela (Portuguese for “beautiful farm”). Complete with a hot tub to soak our sore muscles, and friendly dogs who came to visit us every day, the cabin was on a large property with horses, geese, and roosters. We climbed a little ladder to get to our beds upstairs, and I’m convinced we ate every type of pot pie that Trader Joe’s has created.
Every Fall, I go apple picking with a group of friends. A plethora of orchards is one of those perks of making a life in the northeast. But I have never been to a more beautiful orchard than Carter Mountain in Charlottesville. Perched at the top of a mountain, it looks over rolling hills like a Sonoma vineyard. The trees are grown in rows along steep slants in the mountain, and I have only ever seen flat orchards. I had no idea the trees could grow healthily at that angle. I’m sure you know about the typical apple cider doughnuts and sweet, gross homemade wines but at Carter Mountain, oh joy of joys, I discovered the apple cider slushie!
Check out our new little friends, so happy and silly!Because we’re big suckers for a historical tour, we visited nearby Monticello. Um, twice. Monticello was the plantation of Thomas Jefferson, and was constantly being renovated and upgraded during his time. He filled it with inventions and gadgets, my favorite being the hidden wine dumbwaiter – he could call for a new bottle during dinner and it would be sent up from the underground slave quarters by pulley system to appear by the side of the fireplace. On our first visit, we took a guided tour of the house during sunset, so the grounds were beautiful. But that also meant it was closing, so we had to rush off. Our second trip was a visit to the museum and the educational video (ugh, I love an educational video before a tour). Did you know that Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia? Along with James Madison and James Monroe, who formed a presidential boys club, Jefferson bought farmland outside of Charlottesville to build a university that, unlike William & Mary, embraced the sciences and didn’t shove religion and catechism down students’ throats. (I say that with love – my alma mater shoved religion and catechism down my throat and I still adore it.) In fact, that’s why UVA has their famous rotunda – because the founders wanted to center the campus around something other than a church. Check out that little door and rocking chair. These dorm rooms are for seniors who are class leaders, and they receive little engraved golden plaques with their names on each door. At one point, Edgar Allen Poe lived in one of these rooms and it’s preserved behind plate glass if you want to stare in. No creature comforts in these rooms for the elitist of the senior class, though – if you need the bathroom, you need to go outside, rain or shine, day or night, and take a walk to the communal restroom. Must be fun during a hangover.
Not splurging for dinner at The Inn at Little Washington