Weekend: Charlottesville + The Shenandoahs

On Saturday afternoon, Matt, his parents, and I all drove down to Charlottesville for a big event: Matt’s graduation from graduate school with his masters degree! He spent the past year working full time while also pursuing a Master of Science in the Management of Information Technology, which is kind of like an M.S. in IT combined with an MBA.

The program involved class all day every other Saturday here in the DC area (they met in an office building in Rosslyn), plus occasional trips to Charlottesville (about once a quarter) for 3 to 4 back-to-back class days. When Matt applied to and was accepted to this program, I’m not sure either of us realized just how much time and effort would be required – of course, we knew a masters wouldn’t be easy, but I think that people tend to underestimate things like this a bit – which is probably a good thing or else we might not start them in the first place. Besides lots of late nights doing grad school work after a long day of normal work, it also required Matt taking a fair amount of work vacation time for school (because they had class down at UVA each quarter during the workweek), which was tough given that this program coincided with an extremely busy time at his day job, too. I did my best to respond to his “Yeah… we have another last minute group project meeting tonight, so we have to cancel our date night again” or “I’m sorry, I can’t go kayaking/running/hiking/biking/adventuring, I have to read/study all day” comments with a smile and an “I’m proud of you”, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have one or two minor tantrums, particularly near the end of the program when I was starting to feel quite lonely (we’re all human, right?).

So with that said, Matt really earned this degree, and I’m extremely proud of him and impressed that he pulled it off amidst a demanding job, an occasionally demanding wife, and a demanding cat (because Zara usually interprets either of us saying “I’m going to go do work in my office, now” to mean “I’ll be sitting here just waiting to entertain you”).

The graduation reception and ceremony (which was just for his specific program/department, not a school wide thing) was lovely and personal, and a great way to acknowledge all the hard work everyone in the program had just done.

After the ceremony, Matt’s parents had reservations for us to enjoy a nice dinner at The Ivy Inn, an adorable local/seasonal restaurant near campus that is nestled in a pretty old estate home.

(If you want more ideas, see this post from a local friend: Best Restaurants for Dinner in Charlottesville)

I started with a mushroom and microgreen salad with a walnut crusted goat cheese (yum!). 

And for my entrée I had the lamb two ways – lamb chops with a really good lentil couscous mix, plus a mini lamb gyro!

It was amazing – love lamb chops.

For dessert, Matt and I shared the sticky English toffee pudding. It was delicious but quite rich so two bites was the perfect amount. 🙂

We all enjoyed sleeping in a bit on Sunday before meeting up for brunch! We walked around a little and then ended up popping in to Three Penny Café, a cute spot with live music.

I had a big iced coffee to start and shared the strawberry and marcona almond (obsessed) salad with Matt’s dad.

My main event: huevos rancheros. Always a fave. 🙂 These weren’t the most amazing I’ve ever had, but it was good!

After Matt and I said goodbye to his parents, we strolled around the UVA grounds. Since we’re not sure the next time we’ll be back, we wanted to give it a proper farewell!

After walking around for awhile, we hit the road for our favorite spot: Shenandoah National Park! It was so hot out we considered just heading back to DC, but in the end decided it should be cooler on the mountains (and in the shade of the trees) – and we didn’t want to miss out on a chance to get in a nice hike!

We grabbed some sandwiches (with chips – I was so sweaty and really craving salt!) on the way out and arrived at our destination a little while later: Dark Hollow Falls! Apparently it’s one of the most popular hikes in the Shenandoahs, but we’d never done it before – time to change that!

The trail to the falls is only 1.4 miles round trip, and on the way there it’s easy – all downhill, following the falls!

The views of the falls at the bottom were gorgeous, too, even if it was a bit crowded down there. (Lots of people swimming!)

It was cooler in the woods than it had been at UVA and Matt and I were feeling good, so we hiked on about another three quarters of a mile or so – there are a couple offshoot trails that you can continue on if you want to, and it was less steep which was nice.

And then, it was time to go back up! If this trail was easy on the way down, the way back is not. Straight up! That will get the blood flowing!

Those are my Brooks PureGrit 4 trail shoes, which I was gifted a couple months ago to test out as part of my Run Happy Blogger Ambassadorship. I had the previous version of PureGrits (the 3s) and have been a big fan of them for awhile. They are lightweight and flexible but still very durable and with great grip, too, whether you are hiking or running! Kind of a combination between secure climbing shoes and comfy lightweight running shoes, with a nice rock shield and toe guard to protect and provide traction, too. Big fan!

Brooks gifted me some new socks recently, too, which I’ve been wearing nonstop the past few weeks. I’ve been wearing their running socks for many years and absolutely love them – comfortable, durable, and breathable! The Ghost Midweight and Ravenna Double Tab socks are my fave – highly recommend!

Anyway – the hike ended up being the perfect way to spend the afternoon! As you guys know our engagement occurred in the Shenandoahs, and it’s always been a special place for us. Love going back there together. 🙂 On our drive out, we pulled over to say a distant hello to Old Rag Mountain – that peak is where we got engaged! It’s one of the best hikes in the Shenandoahs – gorgeous views on a clear day, and lots of fun rock scrambling.

Have you ever been hiking in Shenandoah National Park? What’s your favorite hike?

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