Little Stony Man Sunset with a Middle Schooler

Where has June gone? It seems to have flown by and I feel lost without hiking. I feel like I had a lot more time to hike last year and I need it more this summer.  Finally, I told my son that we were going to Shenandoah. I didn’t care what we did or what we saw but I needed the mountains.

As we drove there, we encountered a massive downpour. The kind where you can’t really see 10 feet in front of you. And then, as fast as it arrived, it left leaving blue skies and sunshine. Alas, no rainbow where I was.  We continued on to the park and arrived at an overlook. I got excited, grabbed my camera and realized I had no memory card. GAH! As I silently cursed myself, I suggested we head to Skyland and see if it was still open. Thankfully, it was and I bought two tiny, overpriced memory cards.  We made our way back to the Little Stony Man trail stopping at a few overlooks along the way.  If you have never hiked up to Little Stony Man, I highly recommend it.  It is a nice, short  half mile hike.  You can continue on to Stony Man or the Passamaquaddy Trail.

I was happy that there would be some clouds for the sunset. While we were on the trail, he let me know that he hikes with me to make me happy not because he enjoys it. My heart quietly broke. I know I should feel good that my son does something just to make me happy it also makes me sad. I felt like I was instilling a love of the outdoors in him and now I feel like a failure at that. All the times he was excited to plan our spring break hiking trip… the times he wanted to go explore… I thought he loved it. Maybe it is his age. He is 13 after all. I hiked in front of him trying not to cry (just as I am writing this right now). I attempted to focus on the “happy” part and kept going. We reached the small clearing at the cliffs. My son threw down the blanket and stretched out knowing he would have time to just chill while I snapped my photos. At first there were beautiful sunrays filtering through the clouds. It looked amazing even though I don’t feel like my photos do it justice. When the sun made an appearance, it was blazing bright. Almost too bright. I tried some new composition ideas (new to me) and am very pleased with how they turned out.


overlooking skyilne

Skyline Drive from Little Stony Man

I finally switched my lens so I could get some close-ups. In the past, I’ve cropped because I never think to bring my zoom lens for sunsets. They are some of my favorite Shenandoah photos. I will repeat it over and over:  I love the ridges and layers of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am so happy with my shots and can’t wait to make prints.

colorful ridges

So in love with this

My son finally joined me at the sunset. He sat on the rocks and looked out. We saw a Peregrine Falcon flying around and he couldn’t hide his thrill at seeing it. It wasn’t long before he went back to laying down. He has a fear of heights and the rocks turn into cliffs at that location. I went to set up my tripod and realized I had forgotten the nub for my camera. I swear I take photos on a regular basis! Truly I do! For some reason, I rushed packing my equipment this time.  I had a specific idea for photos after the sunset but will have to return another time for those.

On the way home, I reflected on what my son said. I think I don’t believe him.  I think he does love the outside. He may not enjoy long, difficult hikes, but I remember how excited he was for spring break. I know how happy he is when we’re out exploring. It wasn’t long before he was asleep and I drove home content with our afternoon and evening.

About Jennifer G

Nature lover. Being outside keeps me sane and balanced.

Posted on June 25, 2018, in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia Hiking and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi Jennifer – Maybe you might want to consider having your son invite one or two of his best friends to come along the next time. Involve them in deciding where to go, and what to do (with suggestions from you, of course :-)). You could ask them to bring their own cameras to take pictures of things that interest them (birds, animals, butterflies, wildflowers, scenery etc). Make it adventurous, with the promise of a “treat” at a wayside afterwards. I think your son may be at the age where he wants to spread his wings a bit, and chum around with his friends. I was 13 once (a long time ago..) and still remember some of the good times I had on day hikes, and overnight camp-outs. Good Luck to you! (and you got some great images captured here)


    • That’s a great idea. I’ll have him do that next time. He does generally help decide on where we go. His original idea wasn’t feasible because it was 5 hrs away. 🙂 But yes, you are quite right about the age. Thanks so much. I really appreciate the comment.


  2. You take beautiful photos! I always wonder how so many day hikers manage sunset views on mountain tops – won’t they be hiking in the dark once the sun goes down? I have a hard time staying on trail with just a headlamp. That Shenandoah’s skyline drive drops you a half mile from such views is a treat.

    Sometimes I suspect my partner only hikes and camps because I enjoy it. I try to make it feel like an adventure project. He’s very goal oriented and seems more interested now the we’re working towards the 35er club in the Catskills (35 peaks over 3500 ft + 4 in winter) and the 4k club in the White Mountains. It’s a slow process, but makes the challenging, longer hikes feel part of something bigger.

    You’re giving your son lifelong memories. The hike may not be the highlight of those memories right now, but the time together in nature, removed from distractions matters. Happy hiking!


    • Thank you for the compliment on the photos. A couple of these photos were taken at an overlook. We hiked down in the last of the light. I did have headlamps with us as my first thought was to be there in the dark.

      I think that’s great about your goal. At least your partner goes with you. It is the little things sometimes. I bet the Catskills are beautiful!

      Thanks so much for your comment. I do hope he thinks back on these hikes fondly.


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