As someone passionate about the outdoors, I am always happy to share my enthusiasm for Virginia’s seemingly endless supply of outdoor fun and breathtaking scenery. A Virginia native and hiking lover, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend many days in Shenandoah National Park (SNP). But, it wasn’t until recently, when I had the opportunity to experience SNP’s rappelling and rock climbing program, that I saw one of my most beloved places in an entirely new way.
I made my reservation for May 11 so I could spend the rest of the weekend in SNP with my mom (post on that coming soon). The day kicked off at 9a.m. at Skyland Resort where we met Chad Heddleston from Shenandoah Mountain Guides. He then led our group (my mom and I, and Amy and Gi, a young couple from Maryland) on a short hike up the Little Stony Man Trail to the top of 100-foot-tall Stony Man Cliffs, where we would rappel down and then climb back up.
Chad, a climbing instructor and outdoor guide for 15 years, was more than knowledgeable about SNP and all things climbing. Chad explained how to tie in and suit up in the harness, how to tie ropes, secure anchors, what climbing lingo to use and when to use it.
So there I was. All tied in and giddy with excitement as this was my first time rappelling. I looked at the spectacular scene around me and couldn’t help but feel extremely grateful to be in that very place at that very moment. The view of the lush, green, tree-covered mountains as far as the eye could see, with a sliver of Skyline Drive peeking through them down below; the slight chill in the air from the wind; the sounds of birds and wildlife all around; feeling the edge of the cliff under my feet…talk about sensory overload! I was so present and alive in that moment. Then down I went.
Luckily, I’m not afraid of heights, so stepping backwards off a cliff for me was exhilarating. On the way down, and back up for that matter, I was in a very calm, focused, Zen-like mindset. It was just me, the ropes, the scenery and the cliff (though at times I did notice several “good jobs” and other words of encouragement from Chad and the group).
SNP’s rappelling rock climbing programs are designed for beginners and are not overly physically demanding. Though rappelling down is much easier than climbing back up, both are completely doable for folks who are in decent shape. If you’re looking for a fun new adventure, give this a try. Then, spend the rest of your time enjoying SNP’s 500 miles of hiking trails, free ranger programs, fantastic restaurants, scenic overlooks and so much more. If you want to experience this for yourself, here’ the scoop:
Rock climbing and rappelling is offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but can be booked any weekday with a three day advance notice departing from Skyland Resort. The package price (May 6 – September 13) is $284.50 double occupancy and includes one night lodging, bag lunch & area map for two, guide fee, utility surcharge and NPF donation. Or, for $174 per person, get one night lodging in a single room, a bag lunch, area map and guide fee.
Stay tuned for another post about the rest of our weekend, but in the meantime, here’s a few words to sum it up: wildlife sightings, AMAZING sunset, waterfall, hiking, local food = new Mother’s Day tradition.