Shenandoah: A Hello, A Farewell

I went to Shenandoah National Park at 3:30am with a camera, no water and a friend. Here are some photos and some thoughts from my unprepared adventures.

I am nearing one month until my departure for Rwanda. These last few weeks, I have begun to dive further into pre-departure training, also preparing myself for leaving the place I have called home for the past year. I never thought I would become sentimental over D.C. and the surrounding Virginia wonders of the world, but as I near departure, I feel so appreciative of this city’s culture and the community I have found here.

The people I have met in DC have far outshone the dark side of DC traffic and its constant metro fires.

And yet, at the same time, I feel like I am living in this “no expectations” bubble, nearing a precipice and preparing to simply disappear over the edge from everything I have ever known. It’s a strikingly dramatic transition to leave the United States for almost three years, and it seems naïve not to at least somewhat steel myself for this transition. I know things won’t be the same when I get back. I know friendships change, people change, cities change and communities change. I know two and a half years will fly by, but things will still be different on the other side of that time bubble. And the precipice nears. I’m not sure if I’m hang-gliding off or aiming for water, but it is a precipice all the same.

Shenandoah valley is one place I have wanted to truly “appreciate” in Virginia before leaving for Rwanda. So obviously, my friend Amy and I left at 3:30am one fine Saturday night/morning to capture the beautiful beast of Shenandoah National Park. I barely packed, and forgot water, which is an important material to have when you’re heading into a national park on a 97 degree day. We arrived at 5:30am after a dimly lit two hour drive on delightfully empty roads. We drove into the park right as the sun began to creep over the horizon, and it was beautiful. Stunning.

The sun screams “hope” for me. It slowly rose higher, illuminating all the dark corners of a valley that I sat in hours before, unable to see more than thirty feet in front of me.


We continued into Shenandoah, heading for Hawksbill Peak, the highest elevation in the area. We met a man named Earl in the lodging and dining area near the trail. Earl has lived in Shenandoah for six years, and he runs a café at roughly 3,000 feet of elevation. Earl gave us sandwiches and water. Earl is chill.

Hawksbill Peak was a beautiful and somewhat steep climb. The rocks at the summit are perched at an elevation of over 4,000 feet. We found beauty in the vastness of the majestic hills on the horizon, but we also saw special intricacies of nature in the small flowers and insect life that thrived in the cragged rock faces.

How cool is it to study the design of small creatures and plants, and then look up and scan a breathtaking view of the rising sun? Insert cheesy metaphor. Nature will always be something that continues to strengthen my faith in a deeper purpose, in a God who is so much bigger than us, but still loves to design each of us differently with care and precision. It boggles my mind. I love it.

This flower sat alone in a rock face with hardly any soil or place to grow, with no other flowers of its kind surrounding it. I think that makes it even more beautiful.


Hawskbill Peak!


I think this is goldenrod. I love taking photos of #majesticviews with a centered smaller object of nature. It really changes the perspective of the entire shot.
This butterfly was lit.
Amy looks off into the distance, pondering what filters would adequately add to this view.



And so here we are. One life season changing into a new adventure. I guess I don’t have it so bad. The precipice at the beginning of an adventure is scary, but it is one of the most exciting places to be. 


1 Comment

  1. Hi Ryan-
    This is one of your best posts ever. Please keep your posts coming. I enjoy them very much.
    I love that you can appreciate the beauty of a single flower. It is so important to be able to see and acknowledge all the “little” things around us every day amongst the craziness of life and the world. All best wishes for your trip and life in Rwanda. We will be thinking of you (and your parents.)
    Mike & Matt’s Moms

    Liked by 1 person

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