We picked some dates in October to make a little fall getaway to Shenandoah National Park. Little did we know that fall foliage wouldn’t be peaking for another two weeks, and when it did it would be the worst color on record for the last several decades. Too little rain means too little color in the leaves! Also, I would end up injuring myself and hobbling back a day earlier than planned. But alas, we still had a fun little road trip from Philadelphia down to western Virginia, visiting little towns and little shops all along the way!
We kick off the road trip with a pit stop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for a meal at the Lancaster Central Market.
And we eventually make it down to Staunton, Virginia, where we stayed in a cute Airbnb for the first two nights.
Our historic airbnb home!
So many fun details. Our host owns an antique shop in town, and her son owns a delicious restaurant down the street.
Some balcony painting at sunset.
And my sketch of the town, as seen from the coffee shop.
We took a free walking tour of the town of Staunton, on which we learned that it is pronounced like ‘Stanton’ despite the extra ‘u’ in the spelling.
The best grilled cheese sandwich at a wine & cheese shop called the Yelping Dog!
Our airbnb host’s antique shop.
Proud son of Staunton, President Woodrow Wilson.
And our final stop in Staunton before heading in to Shenandoah, brunch at The Shack, a tiny little restaurant lauded with James Beard awards. The cacio e pepe was delicious!
Popping over to the other side of the park, we visited The Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville for some whiskey tastings.
Lots of cute farm stands along the road!
And we finally reached the actual national park, Shenandoah. With spots of fall color, but mostly green.
After a night camping in the woods, we headed out for a long hike up Old Rag Mountain, during which I would fatefully twist my ankle, thus canceling our last day of camping and hikes. But we’ll get to that!
Fun leaves spotted along the trail!
I was slightly worried about how I would fare along this hike since it’s 9 miles long, with “significant elevation change and a strenuous rock scramble that requires good upper body strength. Often, children and shorter adults need assistance navigating the scramble.” Well, since I have no upper body strength and very little reach, I was set!
The ascent was tiring, and there were moments during the rock scramble when I wasn’t sure exactly how to get across the rocks, but I made it thorugh all of that to get to the eventual summit.
We then saw a man holding a rattlesnake (why?) and later came across a black bear blocking our trail, looking at us, and crossing from left to right and left again. We had to wait it out, accumulating a group of 9 humans that were hesitantly strategizing on whether we could make it past the bear.
But despite the difficult hike, the rattlesnake, and the bear, none of those exciting things were why I got hurt. The part that got me in the end was just the flat, paved road, five minutes from getting back to the parking lot. And as I was turned, not looking at where I was stepping, I stepped off the small ledge where the pavement ended, and I totally twisted my ankle. Justin helped me hobble back, and two nice ladies even got their car to drive me the last little bit back to the parking lot.
Well, it’s still better to have hurt myself at the end rather than have to scale a mountain with a broken ankle, I suppose. But after we camped the second night, we decided to cancel the next day that Justin had planned full of smaller hikes, and we headed back to Philly early.
Adorable apple cider that I had picked up from Lancaster + delicious apple cider donuts that we got at Apple House on the way back! Apple cider always reminds me of childhood in Michigan.
And finally, one more farm stop at Great Country Farms, before our trek back to Philadelphia.
Well, injury, missing actual foliage colors, and all, it was still a lovely little trip. And I’m happy to report my ankle seems to be back to normal now too. :)
Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco but often traveling and working around the world. She creates beautiful, soft, and timeless imagery while capturing the most fleeting of moments. View her work at annawu.com, follow her daily adventures on instagram, or contact her to book your own session today.