Skyline Drive’s icy wonderland

By Lynn R. Mitchell

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Snow-flocked trees at Big Meadows.

Winter. It’s a special time to visit Shenandoah National Park in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains because conditions continually change. On Wednesday SWAC Husband and I were in Weyers Cave so when we left, our path turned north toward Route 33, and then east toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were heading to the Skyline Drive, and I had my camera in hand.

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Approaching from Route 33, we could see white along the mountain tops. Fog had frozen and coated trees along the ridges in an icy white beauty against a deep blue sky. It was breath-taking as the sun sparkled and gleamed on the branches.

??????????The photos do not begin to do it justice. I stood outside and took dozens of pics in every direction, amazed at the beauty around me.

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??????????Even the winter “weeds” strutted their stuff in the cold February sun.

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??????????There was a haze that partially burned off during the day but never totally cleared up, causing gauzy views across the Shenandoah Valley.

??????????Ice-encased trees gave a magical appearance as we drove under glistening limbs.

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??????????At Big Meadows, many trees were flocked on one side as if the snow had come in sideways. The ground was covered earlier in the week but is melting a bit before another storm hits. In fact, Skyline Drive had been closed until Tuesday afternoon. The highest temperature we encountered was 38 degrees but it was mostly hovering just above freezing with an icy wind.

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??????????This is just south of the entrance to Big Meadows — Tanners Ridge Overlook — with views into the Page Valley where Polly Campbell grew up (see Polly Yager Campbell … growing up in the shadow of Shenandoah National Park and Lunch with Polly Campbell … surprise presentation of RPV resolution). [Update — I received an email from Polly after this post was published: “The photos are beautiful — I have never seen Skyline Drive in the winter — now I know what it looks like.”]

??????????The Byrd Visitor Center at Big Meadows (Milepost 51) with some interesting clouds overhead. The visitor center will be open this weekend, February 13-16, for Presidents Day. With frigid arctic temperatures moving in, it will surely be extra brisk and a special experience (see Presidents Day fee-free weekend in Shenandoah National Park).

??????????The path leading from the Byrd Visitor Center to Big Meadows Campground was snow-covered and shaded under the icy trees.

??????????There is something extra special about the winter woods. Their starkness reminds of the difficult, cold months. Lack of leaf canopy opens the views and provides an opportunity to see the bone structure of the earth … rock outcroppings, valleys and drop-offs, downed trees, brown leaf-carpeted forest floor, trickly icy streams, animals. Most of those things are hidden in warmer months by the greenery of spring, summer, and early fall.

??????????The Big Meadow in winter. Maybe I will be able to photograph it one day when covered in snow.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
February 11, 2015

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