By Lynn R. Mitchell
The Friday before Thanksgiving … we took the day to play in Shenandoah National Park. It was sunny but a very cold 22 degrees with some wind and few visitors. I wrote about our day with photos (see The mountains were calling) … here are more photos from a wonderful day on the mountain.
From Staunton, we took I-81 north to the Weyers Cave exit, then drove to the traffic light at Keezletown Road and turned left, following it to Rt. 33 east of Harrisonburg. Turning right, we drove east on Rt. 33 toward the mountains and jumped onto Skyline Drive at the Swift Run Gap entrance. A sign at the entrance was a reminder to visitors that the Drive closes daily during hunting season (November 10-January 4, 2015) from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. (see Shenandoah National Park’s hunting season night closure). The sign in this photo says 15 miles to Big Meadows. Our destination was Skyland which is about 10 miles beyond Big Meadows so we had a nice, leisurely drive ahead of us. It was relaxing.
The winter woods have returned … leaves have fallen … trees look stark but beautiful in the late-fall landscape. With the leaf canopy gone, long-distance views are possible in places not seen during summer months, and the floor of the forest is also visible. It’s amazing to see the rock outcroppings and other features that are hidden behind the greenery of warmer months.
Big Meadows Lodge had already closed for the season so our destination was Skyland Resort. With few visitors in the park, there was no problem finding a window table. This was my view looking into the Page Valley. I always think of Polly as I look out into that Valley … she grew up at the foot of the mountain beneath Big Meadows Lodge, and her carpenter father was one of the builders of both Big Meadows Lodge and Skyland. (For more about Polly, see Polly Yager Campbell … growing up in the shadow of Shenandoah National Park and Lunch with Polly Campbell … surprise presentation of RPV resolution and Resolution honoring Polly Yager Campbell for 50 years with Republican Party of Virginia).
I’ve got to admit it would have been nice to have toasty fire in that fireplace because the cold from outdoors kept pushing in around the wall of windows that overlooked the valley. Our waitress was a delightful young lady named Kat who was very attentive since there were two wait staff and only seven diners. The service was pleasant and prompt, and it was fun to talk with her about the beauty of the Park in the off-season when most people don’t see the changing winter landscape. They’ve had a couple of snows so far this season, something that would be a pleasure to watch out the windows of this dining room.
For anyone who may be interested, Skyland Resort is open until Sunday, November 30, and will be serving Thanksgiving Buffet on Thursday from noon until 7:30. Reservations for dinner and/or a room can be made at the website (see Skyland Lodge website).
Addie’s house (see Massanutten Lodge … Skyland home of early renaissance woman Addie Hunter Pollock).
The Big Meadows Wayside — gift shop, service station, and visitor center — are open until Sunday, November 30. This was as close as we got to seeing any bears on our journey but deer were absolutely everywhere including a number of bucks.
Ahh … the path from the Wayside to Big Meadows campground holds special memories. Years ago when I was in my 20s, I went camping in November with a couple my parents’ age. They had a camper and I had my tent and we spent a long weekend enjoying the mountains. Mrs. Seay had ingredients for hobo pies to be cooked over the fire — similar to miniature fruit pies — so Mr. Seay decided we needed ice cream to go with them. He got no argument from me so we hit the path and walked to the camp store at the Wayside, bought ice cream, and carried it back for a feast beside the campfire. After dinner, all three of us headed to the amphitheater for the evening ranger program … and the bears headed for the campground to see who had been careless enough to leave something yummy within reach. Every time I see this walkway, I smile at the memory of that weekend.
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
November 21, 2014