Tag Archives: Blue Ridge Mountains

Weekend Escape to the Fall Colors of Sherando, Blue Ridge Parkway

Sherando Lake | Augusta County, Va.

There’s something extremely rewarding about roaming the back roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the color season of autumn so two weeks ago I picked up friend Barb one day when the temperature was in the low 70s and ladybugs were swarming and leaves seemed to shimmer in the sunshine. Here are photos of our trek through our corner of Virginia where there is so much to love.


Old Howardsville Turnpike | George Washington National Forest | Blue Ridge Mountains |Augusta County, Va.

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Bluegrass Music Sunday at Humpback Rocks Farm

If you’ve not been to Humpback Rocks Farm’s concert series, you may want to plan a visit to western Virginia and get lost in the music of the mountains.

Wander the historic mountain farmstead, hike Humpback Rock trail to a rock outcropping with a view across the Shenandoah Valley to the Appalachians, picnic under the trees, and soak in the beauty of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains as you listen to talented musicians entertain guests in the shade of the big tree near the cabin.

This Sunday, July 16, the Bill Wellington String Band will be on stage at 2:00. All concerts are FREE in the series that continues through October 1.

July 16 – The Bill Wellington String Band
Aug 6 – Harmony Hill
Aug 20 – Grassy Ridge
Sep 3 – The Mutton Busters
Sep 17 – Blue Mountain Sunrise
Oct 1 – Uncle Henry’s Favorites

Humpback Rocks Farm is located at Milepost 5.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Entertainment for 2017 includes some favorite bands from the past, and several new ones. Power and sound equipment have been upgraded, thanks to Friends of the Blue Ride Parkway’s Humpback Rocks Chapter and the generous donations of friends. Volunteers are always welcomed to help with set-up, table attendants, clean-up, and parking attendants to help with overflow crowds.

Come prepared to have fun. Bring a chair, and don’t be surprised if clogging breaks out!

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Spring Creeps Into Shenandoah National Park

May 2017 … green is creeping up the ridges in Shenandoah National Park. It was a road trip along Skyline Drive to see the shades of green, wildflowers, and even ridges where winter was still clinging in the form of leafless trees….

Route 33 east of Harrisonburg as it approaches Shenandoah National Park.

Swift Run Gap entrance station.

Blackened trees are a reminder of the April 2016 Rocky Mount forest fire that burned thousands of acres in the southern section of Skyline Drive.


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‘Oh, Shenandoah’

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“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” –John Muir

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“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.” –Lord Byron

dscn6668-2“Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you….”

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“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” –Edmund Hillary

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“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” –Henry David Thoreau

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“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way.” –Dr. Seuss

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“I’m sure I shall always feel like a child in the woods.” –L.M. Montgomerydscn6689-2

“Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.” –John Muir

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Shenandoah National Park
February 17, 2017

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SNP’s Big Run Loop Trail

dscn6655-2Shenandoah National Park during the winter months offers a unique experience unlike the busier, warmer months with vistas that open to the horizon through bare branches — views that are not visible during summer. Big Run Loop Trail at Milepost 81.2 on the southern end of Skyline Drive near Loft Mountain Campground offers a perfect seasonal hike through the winter woods with several route options. Hiking Upward and Virginia Trail Guide both have good recaps and feedback from hikers.

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Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
February 21, 2017

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The Quietness of Skyline Drive in Winter

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Route 33 climbs the western slope of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

There’s a particular magic living in the shadow of Shenandoah National Park especially since we are able to visit in all seasons of the year. Winter is especially inviting because there are few, if any, visitors. With the spring-like streak of weather we were experiencing in late February, Mr. Mitchell and I decided to spend a day in the winter woods. At this time of year, with no leaf canopy, the vistas open as far as the eye can see, and the forest floor is visible with its rock outcroppings, ravines, old rock walls, and the indention of ancient roadways from the days before there was a Park.

dscn6478-2We decided to drive north from Staunton on Rt. 11 to Weyers Cave, then took Keezletown Road to Rt. 33 and turned east  toward the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Ascending the mountain, I always feel the decades fall away the higher we climb, returning to an earlier time when these ridges and hollows were home to the pioneers who lived here before their land was taken away by the government to make way for the Park.  In my lifetime, signs of the past have disappeared and, though it’s still possible to see a rock foundation or find a family cemetery or maybe the crumbling remains of a long-ago rugged fence, the forest has almost completed its takeover of the land.

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dscn6482-2At Swift Run Gap, we stopped at the entrance station to talk with the ranger, then turned south on Skyline Drive to slowly make our way to Afton Mountain. There were few people — perfect. Temp was in the upper 40s but skies were overcast and the brisk wind had icicles on it.

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St. Patrick’s Day at Peaks of Otter

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Spend your St. Patrick’s Day in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia! Peaks of Otter has a menu planned for your getaway.

St. Patrick’s Day Buffet

Friday, March 17, 2017

4:30 – 9:00 PM

$19.95 – Adults

$9.95 – Children (12 years & under)

Prices subject to 5.3% State Tax, 4% Local Tax, and Gratuity
Beverages Are Additional

Groups of 6 or more are encouraged to call ahead,
540-586-1081.

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Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway Offer Winter Solitude

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As old as the hills . . . Peaks of Otter has drawn settlers and travelers to the region for more than 8,000 years. The community whose vestiges remain to be explored today had its beginning in 1766 when Thomas Wood arrived from Pennsylvania.

The wife of one of Wood’s descendants would open her home as the area’s first lodging for travelers in 1834. By the late 1800s, Peaks of Otter would be home to some 20 families, a school, a church and a resort hotel.

In the mid 1900s, the location was selected for special attention as the National Parks Service developed recreation and service areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Abbott Lake was constructed and Peaks of Otter Lodge opened in 1964.

The peaceful solitude of winter is found in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia. A short drive up the mountain from Bedford, rustic and quaint Peaks of Otter Lodge, open weekends now through mid-March, is surrounded by hiking trails and thousands of acres of nature. With national park lodges closed for the season along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Peaks of Otter offers rare on-site accommodations along the Blue Ridge Parkway in winter.

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Autumn 2016 … Winter Woods Return, Thankgiving Blessings

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Autumn was late arriving this year and warm temps hung on into November. Leaf color was about two weeks later than usual and, like past years, when it began, it went fast. This past weekend a cold front passed through the Shenandoah Valley complete with below freezing temps and extremely blustery winds. Any leaves clinging to trees were no match and flew away, leaving behind bare branches as the winter woods returned. It was a good time to walk the yard and woods to see the transformation from fall into winter.

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Photos of Skyline Drive in late November

[Originally posted November 2014. Updated.]

??????????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 14-January 8, 2017) from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. 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.

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Fire Danger High In Western Virginia

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Graphic courtesy of National Park Service.

It’s dry in western Virginia. Fall has not brought much rain and, with freshly-fallen autumn leaves littering the mountain woods, fire danger is high.

With that in mind, and with forest fires raging in the mountains of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park decided to be proactive and prohibit fire of any kind in the driest portion of the park.

Beginning Wednesday, November 16, the South District of the Skyline Drive, located between I-64 at Afton Mountain and Rt. 33, is off-limits to campfires and more, according to the National Park Service:

Building, attending, maintaining or using an open fire anywhere within the South District of Shenandoah National Park is prohibited. This ban includes:

o    All wood, charcoal, coal or other solid fuel open air fires.
o    Fires in grates, grills, rings or pits in campgrounds, picnic areas, shelters and huts.
o    Please note that wood, charcoal, coal or other solid fuel fires are always prohibited in the backcountry of the entire Shenandoah National Park.
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The use of pressurized gas-fuel camp stoves and backpacking stoves will be allowed in Dundo Picnic Grounds and in the backcountry. However, the use of liquid-fuel or wood-fuel portable stoves is prohibited.
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Smoking will be permitted only inside vehicles and at established paved or gravel parking areas. Smoking will be prohibited on all trails.

Restrictions will continue indefinitely until conditions improve.

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift.

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Black bear breaks into vehicle on BRP near Humpback Rock

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Mother black bear with cubs at Loft Mountain. Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

After a weekend of aggressive bear activities including a black bear breaking into a vehicle, the Appalachian Trail has been closed in the Humpback Rock picnic area (MP 5-ish). This comes on the heels of Thursday’s bear encounter at MP 5 of the Skyline Drive just south of Front Royal when a hiker’s dog was chased and killed by a bear.

A notice went out Sunday afternoon about the bear encounters and trail closures. By way of Appalachian Trail friend Rockfish to Reeds:

Received via email (AT TRAIL & CAMPING CLOSURES – between Paul Wolfe Shelter and Dripping Rock – 9.5 miles):

Good afternoon everyone,

We wanted to advise you that the Blue Ridge Parkway has experienced a number of bear incidents this weekend in the Humpback Rocks Picnic Area on the north end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The picnic area itself has been closed for the past week due to bears approaching visitors looking for food.

This afternoon a bear broke into a car at the Dripping Rock Parking area north of Humpback Rocks. In addition, two hikers along the Appalachian Trail near Humpback Rocks saw two bears which refused to leave the trail.

Out of an abundance of caution we would like to implement a trail closure and closure to all camping along the Appalachian Trail between the Paul Wolfe Shelter and Dripping Rock (approximately 9.5 miles). We realize this will be an inconvenience for many hikers using the Appalachian Trail through this area, however, based upon the current bear activity we feel we must err on the side of safety.

The National Park Service is in the process of reviewing the alternatives for managing the 2-3 bears we believe responsible for most of the on-going activity.

Any thing you can do to help get the word out about the above closures would be greatly appreciated. We will be posting signs at the effected trail-heads along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Best regards,

Tom Davis
Natural Resource Specialist
National Park Service
Blue Ridge Parkway
1670 Blue Ridge Parkway
Floyd, VA 24091

Black bear activity has caused trail closures the past several years in Shenandoah National Park and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is not to alarm but a heads-up to be safe and alert.

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Valley views

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Wednesday Mr. Mitchell and I drove to Front Royal and hopped on the Skyline Drive at Milepost 1, meandering the north and central sections before exiting at the end of the day onto Rt. 33 to head home to Staunton. Temps were in the 50s and low 60s with a very blustery breeze all day. The day trip included stops along the way, tailgating our lunch, and stopping often to take pictures and enjoy the views.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
Shenandoah National Park
June 8, 2016

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