Almost Shenandoah

In 2008, I took my trusty PowerShot G3 for it’s final trip.  While I would have preferred my Canon 40D by then, since our plan included canoeing/camping in the Everglades, I was content to take a camera I wasn’t worried about ruining.

On our way to the Everglades and Key West, we stopped in Shenandoah.  It was on a list of places to see before you die, so we thought we’d check it out.  On our way through Virginia, we entered the North end of the park and managed to get in a short hike in thick fog before heading on toward lower elevations.  The fog was forming hoarfrost on the trees as we exited the trail.  We crept along the main road through the park, barely able to see a young buck walking along the road.

We made it safely to our hotel, where it was completely clear and much warmer.  The next morning, we learned the entire park was closed due to ice, but we were told to call back in a few hours–things might improve.

We decided to go for a cave tour nearby to kill the morning.  Luray Caverns was interesting. Although, because it’s privately owned, it’s treated commercially instead of for preservation purposes.  This means there were formations we could touch, lots of colored lights, a wishing well, and an organ that played a song by triggering mallets that hit various formations.  The cave was pretty astounding none-the-less.  I just hope it survives being shown off long enough for many to enjoy.

Returning to daylight, the valley was sunny and relatively warm for late December.  We decided we needed to get on the road whether we were able to hike in Shenandoah or not, so we drove on up to the park.

As we continued upward in elevation, the skies got cloudier and more and more of the scenery was blanketed in white.  As it turned out, all of the trees and roads were still frozen in a coat of ice.  It was beautiful to see, but the entrance to the park was closed.

Instead of hanging out for an extra day to see if things improved, we decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway South and enjoy the scenery as we drove.

This turned out to be a surprisingly good decision considering the weather.  The further South we went, the sunnier the skies and we encountered no ice at all.  I guess the Parkway South of the park is a little lower in elevation.

We not only got to enjoy beautiful views of the valley below, but we were treated to spotting a couple of mountain goats tussling at the side of the road.  They were so entangled with one another, they looked like a two-headed goat.

We were sorry to leave the parkway behind, but we did make it to Congaree National Park early enough to take a long hike there and work the kinks out.