As we work the last few weeks of our jobs, sell off our possessions and prepare for our travels, it’s been difficult to practice the yogic principles of aparigrah (non-grasping) and santosha (contentment). We are at an important intersection in life. The road ahead is full of travel plans and change. The road behind us, which we still look back upon with pangs of sadness, is full of memories and contemplation.
One of those roads behind us leads straight to Shenandoah National Park, a place near and dear to our hearts. Among the chaos, change and worry, we can still go to Shenandoah to experience a peaceful connection with nature. It’s hard to say goodbye to this place.

Green Bud ShenandoahWhen I visit Shenandoah and witness the beauty of nature it reminds me that there is a greater power in control here and it’s time to slow down, just breathe and let the worries go. The one constant even among the permanence of Shenandoah? Change. On this visit, signs of life are everywhere. New greens, pinks and yellows but less than a month ago….

Shenandoah is alive, beautiful, bursting with life. There are no signs that Shenandoah is mourning the loss of the winter ice and lamenting the change ahead. After this visit I will no longer lament the loss of the old life, but celebrate the change ahead. How can we not celebrate change when it is featured so prominently around every corner? Two trips to Shenandoah, six days apart, and the change could not be more evident. On Sunday the mountain was cold, wet, windy and shrouded in fog, by the following Friday, it was sunny, warm, and signs of spring were everywhere…

White Shenendoah Flowers

jesty of the mountains, the serenity of the wildlife, the beauty of the plants and flowers all come together for a memorable experience. Even in winter, the mountains were eerily beautiful and white with ice.

So what’s left to do on a beautiful sunny day? No worries but to begin the three-mile journey down to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the park, Lewis Mountain Falls. We were surprisingly alone on such a beautiful day.

I’m having a hard time saying goodbye, but as I look out over the Shenandoah Valley and at the same time look back at the past smiling, I have no regrets. I know that it’s time to move on, one day at a time, one foot in front of another. Shenandoah will always be here, always changing. Our old lives will always be with us, for better or for worse, the good and the bad. It’s ok to look back at our old lives, it will always be a part of us, always changing, just like the mountain. It’s ok to smile at that!

At the end of the hike down into the valley, our reward is a spring waterfall in its full glory. Without the change from winter into spring, there would be no waterfall! If we had waited until the full summer foliage was in bloom, the waterfall wouldn’t be visible. Change is good and there is no time like the present moment, because it is the only moment.

This will probably be one of my last visits to Shenandoah and I thought it was time to say a proper goodbye. I’ve already said goodbye to most of my material possessions, I’m saying goodbye to my job in a few weeks, and we will say goodbye to Virginia at the same time. But Shenandoah, you deserve a special goodbye. Joe and I each took home a quality hand carved hiking stick, to remember our hikes in Shenandoah. After two years spent hiking the trails, visiting the waterfalls, the archaeological sites, and the exhibits, I still feel like I barely know the park.

While I’m saying goodbye to Shenandoah, I know that there will be adventures to look forward to in Florida, Mexico, France, and Greece. We will have a lifetime of adventures. We will be unburdened by a house to take care of and we have drastically downsized our possessions. We will start this new life full of excitement, hope, and anticipation.

On the way home, the sun is setting and the deer come out to eat, unafraid of humans. They don’t know fear in the park. Cars go by slowly (most of the time) and hunting is not allowed. they are not worried, and we shouldn’t be either. There is just the quiet beauty of nature.

He was a few feet from certain in the death in the highway, so two U-turns later, he was safely in our car.  As he crawled around my floorboard a selfish thought came to mind, I wanted to keep him, but I knew it was wrong…

As we waited for “Jeff” to crawl away to his new home, all I could think about was how much his life had changed in just a few minutes. Saved from certain death, uprooted from his home, only to be relocated to a better place where he can enjoy his life and relax. I could’t help but see the parallels to the change going on in our lives right now, and instead of longing for what’s left behind, I started looking forward to all the adventures that are waiting for us.

Want to visit Shenandoah National Park?

Take nothing, disturb nothing, and leave nothing behind (except your footprints)

The park is 101 miles long with 4 access points at Front Royal, Thornton Gap (Sperryville), Swift Run Gap (Stanardsville) and Rockfish Gap (Crozet).

Hikes range from leisurely strolls to technical rock scrambles and there are free trail printouts here.

The entrance fee is $20 for one-time or you can purchase a Shenandoah annual pass for $40 or an annual pass for every national park in the United States for $80.

Shenandoah National Park Homepage