Virginia is for Lovers

Published: February 25th 2017
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Virginia is for lovers. So goes their state motto. And so captures the essence for one of my most magical friendships. Last weekend, my very best good friend Felicia took me down to Shenandoah Valley from Washington, D.C. and we had the opportunity to hike along one of my most beloved trails in America - the Appalachian Trail. I felt like we were living Bill Bryson's and Stephen Katz's adventure in the hilarious classic, A Walk in the Woods. Only we had company with our other best good friend, dog.

Let me state right here and right now that it has been my dream for ages to hike along the AT in Virginia. Shenandoah is dubbed one of the most beautiful parks in the United States, and with good reason: I was absolutely astounded at how well run the park is. The AT is well marked (look for the white blazes!!), the roads are well paved, and the towns surrounding the trail are adorable and delightfully quaint. It was all so... charming. Immediately upon driving into the town of Luray (pronounced LOO-Ray, not LUR-IE... ) all the stresses of the city and of life simply melted away. I had gone, in what my friend Lexie and I like to call back in California, into "Big Bear Time" mode. Big Bear Time is this phenomenon when overworked and overstressed city folk simply abandon all sense of urgency, time, hygiene, and diet. It is when we lose our phones, drive under the speed limit, and say howdy to nearly everyone we see. And when we gorge ourselves on burritos and classic movies. Big Bear Time is a great time.

But we were not going all the way down to Luray and Shenandoah to be blobs, dammit. We were going to have adventure, and we were going to like it!! Big Bear Time didn't last very long as Felicia and I immediately hiked a little peak by 11 am the morning we arrived. And then we scurried down the mountain to visit the famed Luray Caverns, which as you can see for yourself, were spectacular! I was completely blown away. Good call Felicia!

I had been watching my eating and drinking habits remarkably closely for being on holiday because I gained a bit of weight since moving back to Chicago in November. My goodness, do those pounds pack on... Yasmeen was on a diet and the world better watch out. So the next day, armed with bananas, decaf coffee (and breakfast at the hotel - ha), we set off for our BIG hike. That BIG hike sure did accomplish a lot. We hiked up a peak, we snaked through my beloved Appalachian Trail, and we ascended some lovely waterfalls. The best part is that true to its reputation, the hike was absolutely lovely. It was exactly as Bill Bryson noted, a walk in the woods. It wasn't strenuous, the path was well beaten, and every step we took I felt an aura of history beneath my feet. I tried to imagine all the hikers with dreams of making it to the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, and the many who had been defeated along the way. I thought about Charyl Strayed who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail to escape her troubled past, and I reflected on my own experiences over the past few weeks. Since moving to Chicago, Trump was elected and all the shock and chaos followed, and my father experienced severe setbacks in his health. I was genuinely afraid, things were hitting way too close to home. I remembered how fragile being a daughter of immigrants really was in our country, and I realized too that my father is mortal. The latter thought does terrify me the most. Hiking in the company of a dear friend who has stood by my side for years and loved me unconditionally throughout was healing. I am not sure how much she could see my pain and fear, but her taking me on that hike was one of the best gifts anyone had given me in recent memory. I desperately needed it. Thank you, sweet friend.

Overall that day, my lovely companions and I hiked a little over 10 miles. After we returned to her massive Mini Cooper that loyally awaited us in the parking lot, we rolled back down the mountains and into the valley heading back to Washington, D.C. If there is one thing that brings Americans together, it is tacos. We were on a mission to find some tacos to reward ourselves for such a good day of walking. If you can believe it, the moment we captured 4G, we picked the first Mexican restaurant we could find on Google Maps and showed no mercy to our beef tacos. Nom.

I could go on and on about this wonderful trip, but I will leave my readers with this: travel often, read even more, and never stop discovering. There are adventures awaiting every day. And most of all, share those experiences with the people you adore. We are, after all, mortal.

Additional photos below
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a glow in the darka glow in the dark
a glow in the dark

Luray Caverns
The Wishing Well at Luray CavesThe Wishing Well at Luray Caves
The Wishing Well at Luray Caves

I wished for my father's swift recovery from his illness.
starting out on our first hike up!starting out on our first hike up!
starting out on our first hike up!

such a magical weekend :)
The Appalachian Trail and Me! :DThe Appalachian Trail and Me! :D
The Appalachian Trail and Me! :D

I recognized the sign as the Appalachian Trail!

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