July 29, 2011

7/26/11 – Shenandoah NP

It's 5 miles from where the RV was parked to the Front Royal entrance of Shenandoah National Park.  The major attraction is Skyline Drive, which follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains 105 miles south where it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It was built by the CCC during the Depression.  It’s just 60 miles from Washington, DC.

We stopped at the Dickey Ridge Visitors Center, but their power had gone off so we couldn’t see the movie…George got passport stamps though.

Skyline Drive is a narrow mountain road built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the Depression.  The low rock walls they built line the road.  They built 75 overlooks too, and we stopped at a bunch of them. 

We walked a tiny section of the Appalachian Trail from one of the overlooks.  The mountain views are hazy, but there are marvelous views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west, with the river meandering back and forth, paralleling the ridge we were on. 
Summer is wildflower season and there were lots alongside the road—blue chicory, white Queen Anne’s lace and fairy candles, yellow goldenrod and coneflowers.   
Although there are 500 miles of hiking trails in the park, we only went on the one to Dark Hollow Falls.  It’s about ¾ mile downhill to the falls, but feels like double that going back!  We are so out of shape--too much flatland, heat & humidity lately!
We stopped at Byrd Visitors Center across from Big Meadows, but it was getting near to closing time so we didn’t get to see their movie either.   They have a statue out front as a tribute to the CCC.  (I took a picture--"Iron Mike" is the one on the right.)
We’d only gone 50 miles, but as the sun got lower the haze got worse.  We decided that we’d go back up to the Thornton Gap entrance just past the Marys Rock Tunnel, head east and north so we could drive through the Shenandoah Valley.  I think the Shenandoah Valley is the prettiest part of Virginia. 
Just as we got back in the truck, and I was digging out something for us to eat, a mama bear with 2 cubs crossed the road in front of us.  I wasn’t quick enough to get the camera turned back on so I missed the picture.  (The cubs were really cute though.) 

I think the views at Great Smoky Mountains NP were better; apparently Washington DC pollutes a lot more than just the political environment...Go here for more pictures:  Shenandoah National Park 

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