Tag Archives: Virginia Is For Lovers

Blue Ridge Parkway, Humpback Rocks Farm 2017 Free Concert Series

If you’ve not been to Humpback Rocks Farm’s concert series, plan to visit the Blue Ridge and get lost in the music of the mountains! Wander the historic farmstead, hike Humpback Rock trail, picnic, and soak in the beauty of Virginia while you kick back to listen while talented musicians entertain guests under the big old tree near the cabin.

And it’s all FREE on select Sunday afternoons at 2:00pm on the farm located at Milepost 5.8. Bands will include some old favorites and several new ones. Power and sound equipment has been upgraded, thanks to some generous donations, and there will be more concerts this summer than ever before.

June 18 – Farm Use String Band
July 2 – The Lovell Coleman Band
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

This is possible through Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway — Humpback Rocks Chapter. Roles for volunteers are available: help with set-up, table attendant(s), clean-up, and parking attendants to help with the overflow crowds, all while enjoying fabulous mountain music! Follow the Humpback Rocks Chapter Friends on Facebook for the latest on participating bands.

Mark your calendars and then join in the fun! Bring a chair, lunch or snack, and be ready if clogging breaks out. Most of all, come prepared to have fun. See you on the mountain!

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Shenandoah Mountain to Sapsuckers, a Photo Trip Through Maple Syrup Country

The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon Saturday morning when we left our house in western Augusta County on the annual trek to Highland County’s Maple Festival. The air was cold, and we had experienced a wintry mix of rain, sleet, and snow the previous night. Our destination had snow on the ground before more fell on Friday so we were hopeful there would be plenty of photo ops since the last time I had photographed the festival in snow was 2013. Road trip!

I clicked a photo of the sunrise from the road, and then we turned west onto Route 250, pointed toward the Appalachians. By the time we reached Deerfield in far western Augusta County, the ground was covered in snow and from that point on we were in snow until we returned home. The temperature was hovering just above freezing, and we still had to cross four mountains before reaching Monterey. Driving up Shenandoah Mountain, the fog set in, snow was deeper on the sides of the road, and snow plows passed going in the other direction. Mr. Mitchell, who had worked for VDOT while in high school, gave a wave to the drivers we passed. Thanks to them, we were about to make this trek on clear roads. The top of Shenandoah Mountain was socked in with fog and the historical overlook was empty — no view to be seen in all that fog.

At the bottom of Shenandoah Mountain we passed through the sleepy berg of Headwaters. The little general store, a popular stop for many over the years, is closed and for sale. Fog lifted for a bit at the lower elevation …


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Mountains, Maple Syrup, Sheep … 2017 Highland Maple Festival

That’s my child bonding with a sheep.

It is known as Virginia’s Switzerland, this rural, mountainous, southern-most location for gathering maple syrup, and it is right here in our back yard. Just 45 miles west of Staunton, picturesque Highland County hosts its 59th annual Maple Festival during the weekends of March 11-12 and March 18-19, 2017.

Make plans to meander back roads, stuff yourself on pancakes drenched with locally-harvested maple syrup, or fill up on mouth-watering maple chicken. Be entertained by local cloggers and bluegrass bands while enjoying the wildly popular fresh maple donuts made by local Ruritans. Stroll the main street of Monterey, population 150, to check out the many vendors peddling crafts, art work, maple products, and Kettle Korn. Take in the beauty of this rural setting populated with sheep and cattle. Relax. Slow down. Breathe the cold, fresh, mountain air.

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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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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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Shenandoah sunset

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Saturday’s sunset over the Appalachian Mountains.

God’s palate of colors filled the evening sky … the field was dotted with a neighbor’s hay bales waiting to be stored in his barn … the sky was on fire as the sun disappeared behind the mountains. The air was quiet … even the birds had hushed for the night. I still marvel at this place I call home.

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.” -Psalm 121:1

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

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Meandering Scenic Byway Route 6 from RVA to Afton Mountain

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Why would anyone ever drive a straight route from Point A to Point B when there are roads to be explored? I-64 is a boring straight shot through the Virginia countryside and a track my husband and I have taken countless times over the years.

With that in mind, we decided to meander Route 6 to return to the Shenandoah Valley, picking up that Virginia Scenic Byway to follow the James River from Richmond to Afton Mountain. Along the way we passed farms and vineyards and small river towns on the partly overcast day. My husband reminisced about canoeing the James with friends in his younger years, taking a weekend to drift from Columbia to Powhatan.

Here are photos of our meandering drive back to the mountains….

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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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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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Snow on the eve of spring in Shenandoah Valley

By Lynn R. Mitchell

26“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” –Hal Borland

25Next winter’s wood waits to be split.

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Winter haters rewarded with earliest spring since 1896, snow in western Virginia

By Lynn R. Mitchell

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By Lynn R. Mitchell

For those who don’t like winter, rejoice! It silently crept in just past midnight, the earliest spring in 120 years. It’s the way they figure these things, and it’s only by hours that makes it the earliest in so long, but the method is fascinating, nonetheless:

The reason why goes back to Pope Gregory XIII, who created the Gregorian calendar in 1582, according to the website EarthSky. Each year on Earth lasts 365.242 days, and the existing calendar in Gregory’s time accounted for this fraction of a day by having most years be 365 days long, with leap years every four years, where were 366 days long.

But under this system, with one extra day every four years, the average length of a year was 365.25 days — still a hair longer than the actual length of a year.

And so Pope Gregory XIII declared that years ending in “00” should not be leap years unless they’re also divisible by 400, EarthSky reported. That means that the year 2000 was a leap year, but the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not, and 2100 won’t be either.

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Stick around … spring 2020 will happen on March 19. Now that’s early.

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