Saturday, October 27, 2007

October 29--Skyline Drive North, Front Royal to Sperryville via Panorama

This trip began at the northern end of Skyline Drive, Rt#340 just south of Front Royal. We were hoping to see some of the expected brilliant fall covers and also find some small red leaves for my wife's crafts. We expected to see the types of trees and colors change as we climbed in altitude from the entrance, around 1700' to over 3000' at the peak of this section.

Then we were going to continue on to Thornton Gap, Rt#211 interchange, and possibly on towards Skyland and Big Meadows. And then finally continue down the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge down towards the crafts and produce village of Sperryville.

There was supposed to be a chance of rain and thunderstorms over the course of the afternoon.

View of the Massanutten Mountain to the west, and Signal Knob at its northern end.

Colors as we move south

Moody view of the Massanutten Mountain

The best overlook appeared to be Gooney Run Overlook, approaching mile marker 8. At this overlook, we observed a falcon riding the thermals. Following its departure from the visible area, we then had the opportunity to watch a red-tailed hawk flying leisurely above, coming to a stationary position in several instances.

(View from SW to NW)

As we rose in altitude, the rain quickly turned to fog--where we observed a number of yellow-slickered bicyclists riding towards Front Royal. The fog became so thick that the white and yellow lines almost disappeared, and cars from the other direction abruptly appeared out of the fog.

After approximately 6 miles of hard fog driving, we drove out of the fog around Mathews Arm campground. We decided to take a rest at Elkwallow Wayside. The next stop was Pass Mountain Overlook. Pass Mountain is associated with Pass Run, which runs down the western side of the Blue Ridge, down to the town of Kimball on US Rt#40, where the Country Waye RV resort is located--cited in an earlier blog entry.

Pass Mountain Overlook

Looking west to Rt#211 west, Luray, and Massanutten Gap

When we arrived at Thornton Gap, we noted that fog was starting back up, continuing as you proceeded south, past Mary's Rock. So we chose to head down Rt#211 to Sperryville.

Departing Skyline Drive at Rt#211, Thornton Gap/Panorama

Driving down Rt#211 towards Sperryville

Leaving Shenandoah National Park

Sperryville was in full activity--with crafts, apples [including my all time favorite the Stayman], honey, cider, hams, and other specialty items available for sale.

School is out at Rappahannock High School

Continuing east on Rt#211

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Blue Ridge Parkway NC + Grayson Highlands State Park VA: Sept 27- 29 2007

This trip took us to a number of places--it was a good trip. Locales visited included Rural Retreat Lake, Rural Retreat, Va.; the Blue Ridge Parkway (the 40 northern most miles in NC); and Fall Festival at the Grayson Highlands State Park, just 5 miles above the Va-NC border.

Rural Retreat is located approximately 5 miles east of I-81, south of Wytheville and and north of Marion. This little town is known for being the place that Mountain Dew was concocted at the local drug store.

The water level at the lake was quite low, and I would not recommend camping at this lake, even though it did have RV hookups.

However, this site is listed as being the Va Birding and Wildlife Trail location, and we did see some unusual birds and wildlife here. First, we saw and heard a number of killdeer. And, a bittern [type of heron] plus a form of grebe. To top it off, we witnessed a beaver swimming across the water, leaving a nice "vee" behind him. And, there were the usual number of ducks and geese.

From Rural Retreat, we continued south on US Rt#11, determined to locate the Appalachian Trail crossing. While there are no signs identifying this momentous spot, we determined that the actual crossing occurs just south of the Mountain Empire Airport, at the Rt# 683 crossing from I-81--and where the middle fork of the South Holston River is, right by a redwood stained exterior restaurant. This locale would be northern Atkins.

On the next day, Friday, we drove across Rt#16 from Marion, past Sugar Grove and into Vollney. From there, we headed down into NC, crossing both the north and south forks of the New River. My wife drove us to a place she visited as a child: Shatley Springs, a family-style eating establishment. All you can eat, country cooking. Then, we passed by Jefferson and joined the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Northwest Corner Trading Post and proceeded north.
Memorable spots included the Devil's Garden overlook, a place we had caught a sun rise several years ago--with wild boars rooting around in the nearby woods! The Doughton Park area was also impressive. Pilot Mountain can be seen off in the distance.

We reached Low Gap, and left the Parkway to follow a highway into Galax. In driving through Galax [south to north], we were able to see the downtown area, including the Rex Theater [bluegrass music every weekend] and Felts Park, home of the Old Time Fiddler's Convention. From this point, we picked up US Rt#58 heading west towards Grayson Highlands Park. We arrived at the Park around check-in, 4:30pm.

In the morning of the next day, we drove from our campsite down to the picnic area, location of the fall festival. We choose our second row seats to the sound stage [30 feet?] and looked at various vendor stands. Across the way, old time crafts were being practiced, including the making of Molasses from sugar cane grown from nearby Sugar Grove, apple butter making from local apples, and Appalachian style iron rendering. Several pictures from the iron rendering are below.

The first bluegrass group was named "True Grass". Pictures and two video (movie) clips are presented below. You need Windows Media Player to view/listen to them. These clips were taken with my Canon S3 IS camera. Cloggers appeared on the dance stage throughout the day.

Unknown group:

True Grass:

Crafts Area:

Long Line for the BBQ Chicken Dinner

In the afternoon we were charmed by local guitar player and instrument maker Wayne Henderson of Mouth of Wilson, Va. Wayne and his group played a number of old time songs replete with humorous commentary. The pictures of him and his group plus a single video are presented below.

Wayne holds his own festival in June at Grayson Highlands: the Wayne Henderson Festival and Guitar Championship.

Wayne Henderson Band

Wayne Henderson

The Park Superintendent:

For details on all of the events at Grayson Highlands State Park, the friends of Grayson Highlands maintain a very niche web site:

True Grass_1

Wayne Henderson

True Grass_2