Trail Mix

Appalachian Trail at Sky Meadows

We ventured further outside of the city and our normal routes this weekend in search of fall in all its glory – turning leaves, pumpkin patches, apples still on the tree.  Our destination came recommended by the Washingtonian as a great day trip and one to bring the dog.  After an hour on 66, we pulled onto Route 17 and into Sky Meadows State Park, where a friendly park ranger welcomed us at the gate with a trail map, a list of family activities, and a package of Milkbone trail mix for our dog.  I instantly knew we were in the right place.  We weren’t alone. The parking lot was almost full, though we easily pulled into the grassy overfill area, close enough to easily justify the $4 fee.

Sky Meadows

The Pumpkin Patch at Sky Meadows

Fall on the farm included a hay bale maze, demonstrations, a horse-drawn cart that trotted into the pumpkin patch, and an old-time band dressed for the part.  We stopped briefly to observe the activities and study the trail map before selecting the North Ridge path that would take us to the Appalachian Trail.  We encountered plenty of other hikers at the beginning, but when the field erupted into jagged rocks and rooted trails, we found fewer and fewer people joining us. Eventually, we could travel a mile with only the occasional passersby.  The North Ridge trail leading in and the Ambassador Whitehouse trail taking us back both provided a hilly challenge, but the Appalachian Trail opened up to relatively smooth walking and expansive views of the Shenandoah mountains and valleys.   We also spotted the obligatory wildlife in the form of a 6 foot black snake sunning on a rock on the path.

A black snake crosses our path

The resulting 4.3 mile hike easily filled a Sunday afternoon and took us far enough away from the city to see only the green and gold of early fall, instead of the concrete gray of the weekdays.

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