Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blue Ridge Parkway Mid-Sept 2009

My wife and I pointed our RV down the Blue Ridge Parkway, starting at MP Zero, Rockfish Gap/ Afton Mountain in Va., just past the end of Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park, and heading south.

We camped at a succession of National Park campgrounds: Otter Creek, Peaks of Otter, and Roanoke Mountain. We thoroughly enjoyed the regional cooking served up at the Otter Creek restaurant and the lodge at the Peaks of Otter.

Below the Peaks of Otter put prior to Roanoke Mountain, we watched the Broad-Wing Hawk migration at Harvey's Knob, a well known hawk observatory in the area. We saw over a hundred broad wing hawks in an hour, starting at noon. The sky was too hazy to get a really good photograph of the swirling hawks. We did look for hawks at the Afton Mountain hawk watch site, but none were evident at that time.

The weather was balmy, 60 - 70 by day, and the 50's at night, requiring the furnace to turn on.

In the extreme uphill climb from the James River Visitor's Center--the lowest point on the Parkway to the Peaks of Otter via Apple Orchard Mountain (highest point on Parkway in Va.), we met a couple named Bob and Christina from the Research Triangle area of NC who were biking from Front Royal (start of Skyline Drive) in Va. to Mt Mitchell in NC, the highest point in North Carolina, a distance of 480 miles. We were able to provide them with some extra water as they steadily biked uphill.

This is a view of Otter Creek, passing under the Parkway

At Otter Creek Lake, we found two butterflies very attracted to a piece of apparently white bread.
Nearby, we found another, different butterfly
This dragonfly presented itself above the water's edge

This unusual butterfly was just sitting on the side of a nearby structure

While walking around Abbot Lake (Peaks of Otter Lodge), a very curious deer came over to see me. Her ears perked up when I spoke to her.

Near the Peaks of Otter, we discovered some thistle in bloom, attracting both bees and butterflies

On the fringe of Abbot Lake, I found these plants growing at the water's edge

The spiders were quite active at the Otter Creek Campground

An interesting pair of stumps

Some wildflowers at Otter Creek

A small collection of wildflowers not far from the creek

Along the Otter Creek Trail, I spied a spider's web

Some person(s) with a sense of humor stacked rocks on top of each other in Otter Creek. This recurred over a distance of half a mile

The Parkway offers up a fascinating variety of lichens and ferns, particularly north and south of Otter Creek.

More lichen with yellow wildflowers
This is a view of the James River Water Gap, with the James River Face Wilderness in the mountains there--along with the Appalachian Trail
This bridge underpass is accessible from the James River Visitor's Center. The US Highway passes overhead; this path will take you to a set of old locks

A short trail from the Visitor's Center passes by these rocks on the way to a view of the Water Gap

Just outside the Visitor's Center, some of the stone were deliberately set to resemble a buffaloe

Before the advent of the railroads and their progress to the Blue Ridge Mountains from Richmond, the James and Kanawha Canal paralleled the James River. This is one of the lock control mechanisms
This is a more complete view of a lock

These wildflowers were just above the locks

Adjacent wildflowers

A set of pretty yellow wildflowers, with the mountains by Buchanan in the background. James River bottom land in the foreground

Wildflowers seen on the Parkway
A view from the north of the Peaks of Otter

I see this flowering plant up on Skyline Drive, too

Bob and Christina, on their way to Mt Mitchell in NC

We stopped at an overlook called Thunder Ridge. These wildflowers were on the walkway to the overlook

This wildflowere really caught my attention, with the white and yellow together
A caterpillar enjoying this plant

More wildflowers enroute to overlook
While registering at the Peaks of Otter Campground, this deer came over to see us. When my wife talked to her--for several minutes--her ears perked up!

While walking along the lake (Abbot) trail, I saw these berries growing along the path

View of the lodge rooms, which all face Abbot Lake and Sharp Top Mountain. The tall mountain behind is called Mourning Hill

Sharp Top rising above Abbot Lake

At dusk and using ISO 6400 handheld, I captured this thistle on the Lake Trail
One more deer browsing along the Lake Trail; she was watching me carefully

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cape Henry Lighthouse and 1st Landing State Park (Va)

On our way to Va's Eastern Shore, my wife and I decided to stay on the mainland side of the Bay: 1st Landing (Va) State Park, on Cape Henry.

This cape is outside the Hampton Roads/Chesapeake Bay area of Tidewater and sits on the Atlantic Ocean. This is the site where the first colonists from England stayed on their way to Jamestown, further upstream.

First Landing State Park is open year round. RV's get to park nestled in between the large sand dunes, right on the ocean!

This park is strategically poised right adjacent to Fort Story, which houses both the original Cape Henry Lighthouse (first in the US) and the newer, operational Cape Henry Lighthouse. In addition, you are just 5 minutes north of Va Beach, with its boardwalk and associated amenities. And, you are a short jump to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel going north on US Rt#13 to the Eastern Shore.

During our first evening in the RV, fog was setting in from the ocean just as we set up. We listened to (and occasionally saw the lights o ) the ships at anchor, who would cross over the Bay Bridge Tunnel on their way up the Bay.

Previous RV, nestled in the sand dunes

Map showing Cape Henry, plus start of Chesapeake Bay Bridge TunnelWalk to the beach from our camp site
View of nearby boardwalk to the beach
Ships waiting for a pilot before crossing over the Bay Bridge Tunnel

The current Cape Henry Lighthouse, located on the grounds of Fort Story

An interesting section of the lighthouse

Still foggy, a view Old Cape Henry Lighthouse
View looking up into the dome of lighthouse

Looking down from the top of the lighthouse. I like the lines here.

The afternoon sun began casting shadows.

One of the original set of buildings on Va Beach's boardwalk
More shadows as you look out into the Atlantic Ocean

I like these shadows, late in the afternoon

Dune grass
Ships are lining up for the next day's transit

Gorgeous sunset