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I Finally Tried Bushwhacking!

Bushwhacking in Shenandoah National Park

By: Jenn Gonzalez + Save to a List

Up until two weeks ago, I had never gone "bushwhacking".  Sure, I had wandered off trail here and there on various hikes. Often times the "off trail" was just to grab a photo of a stream or waterfall and I would always stay very close. I do not generally carry maps or a compass with me so I'm a bit scared of getting lost if I go too far.

I had read about a waterfall located in Shenandoah National Park and I really wanted to go and photograph it. Thankfully, between the person who shared the waterfall and another website, I felt like I had enough information to complete this hike. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit worried. I would be in the backcountry with my son trying to find a waterfall.

My son was very excited about this. He loves to climb and explore and the idea that we would create our own trail thrilled him. We made our way to Naked Creek Overlook in Shenandoah. I reviewed the instructions I had once more and we set off. We were to follow the creek all the way down to the falls and thankfully the creek was very easy to find. The water was flowing enough that we could hear it immediately.  So on we went.

The hike was to be just a half mile. However, that half mile included rock scrambling, climbing over downed trees, navigating through thorny plants and sometimes back-tracking to find a better way. It wasn't easy. We took our time and I stopped for photos along the way. Naked Creek has a few different small falls that are really pretty.

Soon we came to a fairly significant waterfall.  The drop was about 15 feet. I took my time photographing this and my son declared, "That's it! We made it."  I had to explain that this wasn't the waterfall we wanted. The problem was that finding a way down to the next level was difficult. I think he was actually a little scared. But we are nimble and athletic people so we slid down rocks and passed the camera back and forth and made it to the larger waterfall.  It was well worth it. The waterfall was just beautiful and loud. There were plenty of places for us to sit and relax for a bit and just enjoy the fact that we had completed our first bushwhack.  I have to admit that I felt pretty proud of myself. It is also a big thrill to know that I was seeing a waterfall that hardly anyone sees. It isn't listed in any Shenandoah National Park guide.

Eventually we decided to head back knowing the trek back up the mountain wouldn't be easy. We covered about 1000 feet in elevation in just that half mile.  We had to stop a couple of times for a quick breather. We both received numerous scratchers from the thorns that run amok in Virginia and at times I sunk down into holes. The joys of not being on an official trail. When we reached the car we both gave each other high-fives and cheered knowing we had completed our first bushwhack.

If you'd like more information on the hike, you can read my Adventure with all of the details.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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