Sunday, November 3, 2013

Riding the ridge line..

Now this is my idea of sightseeing!  Driving on top of a mountain, on a two-lane with a 35 mph speed limit.  Sitting in the passenger lounge with cameras on hand, surrounded by huge windows and cozy surroundings. Wide, long pull-offs for scenic overlooks presenting every mile or two. There's been no lack of beautiful scenery on this trip, that's for sure, but this suits my fancy. Well, I should mention it is cold and days are interspersed with clouds and drizzle which often turns to snow flurries....No worries, it's a temporary condition.

From The Promised Land, we overnighted in Front Royal, VA, a destination in itself, close to DC with lots of history.  For us it was the gateway to the Shenandoah National Park and the 105 mile Skyline Drive.  75 scenic overlooks featured the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the rolling Piedmont to the east.  We cleared the 12'8" Mary's Rock Tunnel, barely.  And missed the darting deer.  How I don't know.  This beast practically stopped on a dime and that beast will live to see another day.  Pulling off for a few deep breaths and to check for damage in cabinets, Howard was cheered and high-fived as those behind us stopped for a kind word! Traffic came to another screeching halt up ahead with drivers jumping from stopped cars to photograph...but what?  A black bear was rambling in the woods, seemingly oblivious to its audience. Use your imagination; its the black bump in the center.

Shenandoah's campgrounds are open Spring, Summer, and Fall and most accommodate RVs. At milepost 79.5 we stopped at Loft Mountain and were greeted by a most friendly Park Ranger who spent a lot of time telling us about the park and pointing out the best sites we might choose from.  We wanted the west side for the sunset and found a large pull-through that just happened to be next to the Appalachian Trail.  Jackpot, we stayed two nights!

The Blue Ridge Parkway picks up where the Shenandoah NP ends.  This National Scenic Byway runs 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee.  Run by two separate Federal agencies, the Parkway and the National Park differ in many ways.  In Virginia, the recreated mountain farms give visitors a glimpse of traditional mountain life in the early days of settlement.  In addition to the stops right along the Parkway itself, the road is next to historic towns from top to bottom, making for fascinating exploration of the heritage and culture of the region.  Our hope was to make it to Asheville in two days of driving.  That was not to be.

Noticing many campgrounds along the way were closed for the season, we stopped at the next information center to see what lie ahead.  The weather was getting nasty and we were ready to stop for the day.  The Peaks of Otter campground was within reasonable driving range.  There were few other campers there.  It was so cold our time outside was limited and the catalytic propane heater barely took the chill off.  No hookups and no solar, so the generator was called into service to fire the diesel furnace.  The morning dawned at 22 degrees, and we remembered we have choices, we're mobile, we're Snowbirds, for heaven's sake.  We exited the Parkway at Fancy Gap, VA and headed to the Lowcountry.

No comments: