Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Virtual learning is back in session for my high school girls, so we wished to journey one last time before full focus took precedence in their busy lives. With the weather dropping and the days becoming shorter, a family road trip was right for the moment. Represented by three generations of family love, we decided to camp in the cabins of Skyland Resort while exploring the various trails of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, just a 90-minute drive from Washington, DC.

Thankfully, Toyota provided Fit Fathers with a 2020 Tundra TRD Pro in Army Green for the fall family getaway. My father joined us to bring back cherished moments when he would head to Shenandoah Valley to camp and meditate with mother nature. The CrewMax cabin was quite sizable with Mika and Aya in the back seat, and the rear windowpane retracts for a wind-gushing ride. The 5.7-liter V8 handled the road with force, and the sports seats kept me and pop comfortable for the trip’s entirety. For individuals arriving in electric vehicles, there are charging stations at Skyland (mile 41.7 and 42.5) and Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51).

Inaugurated in 1935, Shenandoah National Park is the perfect escape for active and adventurous families or couples who fancy the wild. The scenery will mesmerize with its cascading waterfalls, incredible vistas, over 500 miles of trails, and 200,000 acres of protected lands that are home to black bears, deer, songbirds, peregrine falcons, and many more species of wildlife. Upon arrival, we paid the $30 entry fee and then preceded up Skyline Drive for another 10-miles before arriving at Skyland’s check-in lodge. Here you will also find dining for breakfast, lunch, dinner, grab and go foods, a memorabilia gift shop, and live entertainment some nights in the taproom. The girls were hungry from the ride down, so we ordered salads and vegan burgers to go.

 We booked two premium cabins with double beds and updated touchstones. It featured wood panel walls, heat and A/C, a back door with a full-length balcony facing the wilderness, Smart TV with DirecTV (but the internet doesn’t reach the room), a large desk between the beds, and a modern bathroom. A fridge or microwave can be ordered for an additional $10 each per day. If you want to leave the advancements at home, then there are authentic, rustic cabins with just the basics.

What  I love most about spending nights this close to nature is the depth of your sleeping state. And like magic, you arise with the sun to the fresh, crisp morning air. Once awake, you can head out for breakfast or make some tea in the room — as I always do — and then prepare for a classic hike while bonding with one another. We focused on White Oak Canyon Trail, which was a short walk from our room. I equate the property to ancient, indigenous villages where people cultivated and lived off the land. The narrow, rocky, and steep trail is 7.3-miles with a 2,150-foot elevation gain and passes by idyllic upper and lower waterfalls. Other paths to trek include Millers Head Lookout, Stony Man Summit, Limberlost Trail, and the famous Appalachian Trail, to name a few.

Other activities to partake in include horseback riding, family picnicking, biking along Skyland Drive’s 75 scenic overlooks or joining a Ranger Program to discover hidden treasures. Yet, this environment’s beauty is its calm spirituality, which allows for peaceful moments that generate positive vibrations and harmonious intentions. Autumn travel on the East Coast is one of the most enlightening and energetic pathways to kick off a new season. Mika and Aya were always upbeat and didn’t seem to mind losing internet connectivity, which is a significant distraction to their generation. In fact, they said they couldn’t wait to return as early as my birthday in November!

It was another memorable weekend experience to cherish. The kids needed the mental break and my father and I required added bonding for rejuvenated memories. Continue freeing the mind and unleashing your soul people! For more information on Shenandoah National Park, visit www.goshenandoah.com.

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