Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One last hike, to Rapidan Camp in Shenandoah Nat’l Park

Indulge me, please, in this one last hike that I will share with you from our visit to Virginia last week. The trail that leads to Rapidan Camp is a beautiful walk with a gradual decline of about 850 feet. Believe me, it’s a lot when you ascend, but I just kept taking small breaks on the way back up.

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The Mill Prong Trail begins at milepost 52.8, up by Big Meadows. The camp was formerly named Camp Hoover and was Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover’s home away from home from 1929 to 1932.

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That’s my husband, crossing the stream in the first photo up there. We crossed Mill Prong Stream back and forth for a total of three times and the footing was pretty good on all three crosses. There are beautiful pools and little waterfalls along the trail as well.

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We hiked for approximately 2 miles and the photo above shows us coming out to the edge of the camp on the main camp road.  There are three buildings that have been restored and the rest of the camp is gone except for the trails that still run through the retreat. The house we’re coming to first is the Creel.

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The Creel housed two of the president’s chief aids. Larry Richey, his personal secretary and former FBI agent, shared this cabin with the president’s personal physician, Joel T. Boone, Jr.

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Presidential aids that were stationed at the camp have said that this fireplace was mainly used for outdoor photographs. When reporters and authors wanted pictures of the Chief Executive and his guests, they were often posed here. Logs were positioned around the hearth for people to sit upon.


Here’s the fireplace, circa 1930. That fire looks pretty photogenic, too.

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President Hoover was an avid outdoorsman and loved to fish, saying that it was “an excuse and a valid reason of the widest range of usefulness for temporary retreat from our busy world”. He and his wife wanted a place within 100 miles driving distance from the capitol and chose this spot because of the natural beauty and the proximity to the Rapidan River which flows right by the camp. The photo above shows the presidential cabin which is callled The Brown House. During the week, they lived in The White House. Get it?


This is a file photo of President Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover standing on the footbridge that you see in the photo above.

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“This camp,—at the end of nowhere, with a road that in wet weather lets you sink to your hubs in slushy mush and while there bump over the most amazing boulders . . . -- has electric lights and a telephone and its morning papers. The mail is dropped from an airplane!”

—Mrs. Lou Henry Hoover

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US and foreign leaders came to the isolated and secure location of this camp for strategy sessions with the president.

It’s really an interesting place. And what’s even better is that if you don’t want to do the hike, a little tour van leaves from Big Meadows, driving the two miles in to the camp. Plus, you get to go inside all the buildings and get a guided tour from a park official. The last time we were here, we lucked out and all the buildings were open as there was a tour going on.

To view some wonderful old photographs of the camp, visit this site.

Thanks, everyone, for sharing this hike with me. I do have to admit that on the way back up the trail, just after we’d eaten our lunch, I spotted a black bear cub running up the trail about 100 yards behind us. I freaked out and took off up the trail! My husband thought I was crazy and told me to change the lens, to put on the zoom. I just wanted to get out of there because I knew that momma bear would be around somewhere and I didn’t want to run into HER. The cub eventually veered off into the woods.


Until tomorrow, my friends . . .


Char said...

what a beautiful hike and what great shots to go with this information. I didn't really know all of this about President Hoover.

Woman in a Window said...

Nope, in the spring with a bear cub, you were right to not stick around!

What amazing history to the place and great hiking trails.

Maria said...

enjoyed this walk as well and all the interesting information. what a beautiful area, I love the first photo the best and your husband, the avid wildlife photographer, his only thought was change the lens

Ellen said...

Wonderful photos and a history lesson. What a great post.

Please tell you husband that if we ever meet him face to face that we probably won't recognize him from the front, but from the back, we'll know who he is right away!!!

Mary said...

Oh Kate, thanks for taking us along on your hike! It looks like such a beautiful spot. The history lesson was fun, too. Can you imagine the Secret Service trying to secure a location like that?

Jill of All Trades said...

That looks like it was an awesome place to hike around in. I love places like that. EEK, bear. Had a nightmare the other night about a brown bear chasing me. Woke up with my heart racing like crazy. EEK!

Anonymous said...

It's a very interesting place and beautifully natural too. That fireplace does indeed look impressive.

CJ xx

Barb T. said...

You don't have to apologize for any hiking-related posts; I am an avid hiker--favorite destination, the White Mts. in New Hampshire--and love seeing anything hiking related. Even though I love hiking, I don't like camping and never will, and I am absolutely terrified of ever seeing a bear. I have very vivid nightmares about them. I probably would've reacted the same way. There's lots written about what to do, but I think black bears are very unpredictable; therefore, no correct way to react.
Have you read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson? Even if you aren't that into hiking, it is a wonderfully funny book about the Appalachian Trail!
Loved your getaway posts!

High Desert Diva said...

What a cool hike, full of interesting historical tidbits.

Anonymous said...

Wow that is really cool. I did not even know it was there!

I would have run down the trail to get away from the bear too. Forget about the picture, no one would have seen it anyway if the bear had gotten you. (Mama bears are quite mad)

Deb said...

And where is the loving George? Was he not fortunate enough to take the trip?
Lovely shots...are you calling National Geographic????

Anonymous said...

I love the Shenandoah! I grew up in Northern Virgina and camped in Luray many times as a kid. I love the caverns. I love your pics ... and all your tidbits of interesting trivia ... keep up the good work!

Starwoodgal said...

My parents lived in Eden, NC for about 4 years in the early 80's. I visited a couple of times and they drove us up thought the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was lovely.

Jeannelle said...

Wonderful post, Kate! Tell us about hikes as often as you want!

Great history lesson, too. Mail dropped from an airplane, how cool is that! Lou Henry Hoover grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, not far from where I live.

A Friendly Reader Only said...

Wonderful Photos - Thanks for sharing. Love the outdoor fireplace - would love to sit around it looking at old photographs- would be awesome to take a few new ones too. :}

Anonymous said...

Oh that is a wonderful trip. It is exactly the type of holiday that my husband and I would like. Thanks for sharing it.

Donalyn said...

A great hike - I love historical stuff like that. I never go anywhere without wondering what it looked like 100 years ago. And ther baby bear thing made me LOL - I am convinced that I will someday miss the shot of a lifetime in similar circumstances. Don't feel bad - bears are probably like black dogs - hard to photograph. :)