By Lynn R. Mitchell
It’s October and autumn leaves are peaking along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. The Blue Ridge Mountains on the southern end of the Drive are made up of the golds of poplars, oaks, and hickories, and the reds of maples and black gums. Red sumac, Virginia Creeper, and poison ivy add to the palate that makes a drive along the ridges a beauty to behold. High winds over the weekend took a toll on some trees, stripping their leaves and leaving bare branches even as others are in full glory, and some are still green with just a tinge of color.
Sunday’s drive from Afton to Loft Mountain was sunny with cold temps in the upper 30s and blustery winds. The bright October sun bleached out many photos as the brightness reflected off golden trees quaking in the wind.
Loft Mountain campground had many bare trees but also some that were still showing color, and yet others that were beyond peak and turning brown. At mid-day on Sunday, most campers had packed up and left with a few scragglers who were in the process of getting those last few items in the car. The smell of campfires permeated the cold air and completed the ambiance of the mountain top.
Every hiking area was filled with parked vehicles including Riprap where hikers filled the lot and then began parking on the shoulder of the Drive. There was even an activity bus from RVA’s Collegiate School in the parking lot.
As we left, there was a line of visitors waiting at the entrance station. Prepared for the expected October peak weekend crowd, there were two rangers / volunteers at the two fee windows, and two more working this line of cars to collect entrance fees and speed up the process. We are grateful to live so close because we are able to head to the Park anytime — it’s just a short drive from our house — but we are also mindful that many have only their weekends to drive a long distance and enjoy the beauty we never take for granted. I may have to head to Big Meadows later this week as peak color moves north along the Blue Ridge Mountains. All too soon, it will be over. It’s fall in Virginia….
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
October 18, 2015