Saturday morning I woke up, got a cup of coffee, and turned on my computer. On my homepage, a headline said, “Grab your gear and head to the mountains to see the spectacular meteor shower tonight”. The article reported that as many as one hundred meteors an hour could be seen during the peak, Saturday night, of this annual Perseid Meteor Shower. I took the advice, quickly threw some gear together, and headed south to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
When I arrived at the park, it was evident that I wasn’t the only person with the idea of checking out the night’s show from the vantage point of the Shenandoah Mountains. The park has four campgrounds and almost five hundred campsites. When I made it to the park there were only a few sites left at one campground, Mathews Arm.
I had my humble camp set up by five o’clock. Wanting to take advantage of the beautiful weather and the rest of the daylight I decided to take hike. I discovered that a trail from the Mathews Arm Campground led to the tallest waterfalls in the park, the Overall Run Falls.
The hike to the Overall Run Falls is listed as a seven mile hike that is moderately difficult to strenuous. It was a little more than I wanted to do with the sun sinking in the sky, but I was anxious to check out the falls and decided a double-time hike would be good for me. With a map obtained from the campers’ registration, I headed down the trail. There are concrete posts with directions and distances marked at trail intersections throughout the woods, so if you set off without a map you’ll be able to find your way. The hike starts off on the Traces Trail and is relatively flat and easy. Once on the Overall Run Trail, the path becomes gradually steeper and rockier. The trail just before the Overall Run Falls is the most difficult part with steep rocky switchbacks.
When I arrived at the falls, I found a beautiful vista from a stone outcrop. To the left the Overall Run Falls drop down a cliff into a rocky gorge and to the front is a great view of the Shenandoah Mountains. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed about one thing; there was only a trickle of water coming over the falls. From talking to other campers, later I found out that during mid-summer and dry periods the ninety-three ft. tall waterfall slows down and sometimes completely dries up. It was still pretty, but not exactly what I was expecting.
Not having a way to tell time (I left my cell at camp), I hastily made my way back to the campground to beat the darkness. To my surprise, the hike only took me a little over two hours. I guess I could have taken my time and ended the hike without the rubbery feeling in my legs. When I arrived at my site, I rewarded myself with some water and a cold beer for a job well done.
After a little rest, I set up my camp stove to cook dinner. At this time I realized my stove was missing the regulator. Pretzels and another beer for dinner it is. The next morning I would try to get a campsite at Big Meadows, thirty miles to the south, where there’s a restaurant and campstore nearby. Tonight I would relax and watch the meteor shower.
As the sun set and the first few stars were visible, I saw something that could potentially ruin my plan; a wall of clouds ominously approaching. The blanket of clouds settled over the mountains and didn’t leave until the next morning. I peeked out of my tent every time I woke up, hoping to catch a glimpse of clear sky and maybe a shooting star or two, but to no avail. The good, it wasn’t raining and the temperature was perfect for camping.
The next morning I packed up my tent and headed south to do some hiking and see if I could find a campsite at Big Meadows.