Tag Archives: Skyline Drive

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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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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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

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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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Shenandoah National Park’s October leaves are peaking — Sunday’s trek along Skyline Drive

By Lynn R. Mitchell

3It’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.

1Sunday’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.

2This is a view looking west over Waynesboro and the Appalachian Mountains in the distance.

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5Loft 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.

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11Every 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.

12As 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

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Autumn travel and leaf peeping in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley

By Lynn R. Mitchell
Originally published in the Washington Examiner, October 4, 2010 – Updated

17Now that autumn has arrived in the Shenandoah Valley, October’s calendar is full of festivals and events for those who wish to enjoy cooler temperatures and colorful leaves. If waiting until the fall color show hits its peak, be sure to check out Virginia Tourism’s Fall Color Hotline at 1-800-424-LOVE or check the Fall Color report.

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Shenandoah National Park: The bobcat and the timber rattler

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By Lynn R. Mitchell

This intriguing picture was posted by Shenandoah National Park on their Facebook page with an explanation:

This photo was taken by remote game camera near the Park boundary in eastern Page County, VA (shared by Park cooperator, Steve Long). The bobcat (Felis rufus) is most likely “Trying Something New” and making a meal out of a timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). Bobcats have been known to opportunistically but seldom take rattlesnakes as prey. Capturing this kind of image is so rare, that we thought we should share it with you!

Bobcat 1; timber rattler 0. Shenandoah National Park

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Summer storm clouds over Shenandoah Valley

By Lynn R. Mitchell

1Summer thunderstorms were developing over the mountains Tuesday afternoon as we drove to Fishersville to visit friends. Turning into their neighborhood, the clouds over the Blue Ridge were beginning to build …

2… and a storm could be seen along the Skyline Drive just north of Afton.

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