Tag Archives: Shenandoah National Park

Autumn Drive Along the Skyline


Afton Mountain

Mr. Mitchell and I woke Thursday, grabbed the picnic basket, cooler, and our jackets, and headed to the southern section of Skyline Drive. The mountains were calling! I love October and leaf season, and look forward to it every year.

The mountains had been calling for a while but a busy autumn had delayed our annual trek to Shenandoah National Park to see the leaves. With heavy rain in the forecast for Sunday, we wanted to do some leaf peeping before precipitation and wind hit, sending leaves to the ground and leaving behind bare trees.

As we drove up I-64 to Afton from the Shenandoah Valley, leaf color was definitely in the process and had occurred since the weekend just four days earlier when it was still green.

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Skyline Drive, South Entrance Station

There were five cars ahead of us in line waiting at the entrance station. Our son and his wife were on the Drive last weekend and counted 16 cars ahead of them so this was a short wait, not to mention we usually try to avoid weekends in October.

The $25 daily fee (that is good for seven days) is in danger of being almost tripled with a proposal by the National Park Service to raise the entrance fee to $70. If enacted, it would also affect 16 other National Parks, the most popular ones in the system, possibly putting the parks out of the price range of many who would no longer be able to afford enjoy America’s playground. There is a 30-day comment period now through November 23, 2017, to share your opinion about the proposed fee increase (link to comment is here). I already wrote to let them know I was against it.

Beagle Gap

Hikers were at Beagle Gap where the color was not yet at peak.

Leaves, berries, vistas, flora and fauna … the following are photos (iPhone and Nikon) of the day. We picnicked at Loft Mountain Campground where we have spent many years as a family tent camping and hiking. It was in the 40s and cold with a wind … perfect for an autumn day.

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Tourism: Night Sky Festival and Eclipse at Shenandoah National Park

Celebrate the night sky in Shenandoah National Park by attending the Second Annual Night Sky Festival. Join in the fun Friday, August 18, through Monday, August 21, at various locations along Skyline Drive:

– Guest presentations by astronomy experts
– Ranger programs
– Constellation tours
– Solar scope viewing
– Telescope viewing
– Junior Ranger programs
– Audio-visual presentations
– Hands-on activities

The weekend will culminate on Monday, August 21, with the 2017 solar eclipse that will cross the continental United States, the first since 1979. While Shenandoah National Park will only experience 80-85% coverage of the sun at approximately 2:40 pm, and will not experience a total eclipse, it is still a great place to join a Ranger to learn about why a solar eclipse happens, what to expect, and how to view it safely. Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.6) AND Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51)

Below are workshops and events available throughout the weekend:

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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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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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Free Entrance to National Parks Monday

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Old Rag as seen from Skyline Drive.

This Monday, January 16, is fee free day at all of America’s 400 national parks. In my neck of the woods that includes Shenandoah National Park. For other locations, check FindYourPark.com. Many will have the day off to celebrate the Martin Luther King holiday so can escape to one of our national jewels.

For those interested in accessing Shenandoah National Park, there are a few alerts and notifications in place.

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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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It’s fawn season

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Deer 1 SNP

It’s fawn season in western Virginia. This doe was seen with her fawn alongside the Skyline Drive on Wednesday. I didn’t even notice the tracking collar until uploading the picture. Since this is in Shenandoah National Park, it would be interesting to know why they are tracking and what information they are looking for.

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

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Updated: Shenandoah National Park forest fire closes part of Skyline Drive

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Rocky Mount fire in Shenandoah National Park. April 18, 2016. Photo by Alan Williams with National Park Service.

By Lynn R. Mitchell

[Also check for fire updates at Bearing Drift.]

A forest fire in Shenandoah National Park that has grown to more than 3,000 acres has disrupted National Parks Week that began Saturday, the same day the Rocky Mount fire broke out in the southern portion of the Park.

Tuesday evening Park spokeswoman Lisa Wilkolak confirmed that Skyline Drive remains closed in the southern section between Swift Run Gap and Loft Mountain Campground.

A narrow plume of smoke rising from the Blue Ridge Mountain ridges within the Park was spotted from Harrisonburg on Saturday and became larger over the weekend as the fire spread. Abundant natural fuel combined with extremely dry conditions, low humidity, and high winds contributed to the fire growing to more than 3,000 acres.

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The mountains were calling

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Skyline Drive 5 April 2016

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” –John Muir

Skyline Drive 2 April 2016
Monday was one of those days to just get away to the mountains. Nothing does that more than the heights and sights and fresh air, and so Mr. Mitchell and I headed to Shenandoah National Park and the beauty of the Skyline Drive. We were a little early since most of the facilities don’t open until April 8, but we weren’t going for that. We took a picnic lunch and began the very familiar drive climbing from Rockfish Gap to Loft Mountain, stopping at every overlook and enjoying the views that never get old, and that are still wintry at those elevations. That drive never gets old.
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Shenandoah National Park … snow-covered Big Meadows

By Lynn R. Mitchell

This is the view today in Shenandoah National Park at Big Meadows. Growing up, we spent many fun-filled days at this campground, exploring and hiking in God’s sanctuary. Today the park embraces winter … the quiet, peaceful beauty of the mountains covered in a snowy blanket of white. February 9, 2016.

Shenandoah National Park's photo.“Snow was falling, so much like stars filling the dark trees that one could easily imagine its reason for being was nothing more than prettiness.”― Mary Oliver

Big Meadows web cam the morning of February 9, 2016. It is truly beautiful in the park today!

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