It was cooler last night, but we still needed the AC for sleeping. When the sun started to come up this morning, I was awakened by the many different calls of songbirds. They were such beautiful sounds–some that I've never heard before. I laid there awake, just listening. I got up around 7:00 and let Bob sleep in until 8:30. He was plum tuckered out and needed the rest. Our plan was to leave at 10:00 and drive a stretch of the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. (Skyline Drive follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles. In the south, it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway for 469 miles.) We packed a lunch and were on the road at 10:00. The thermometer in the truck said 74 degrees. We drove with the windows open for quite a ways. What a treat! The highway took us into the town of New Market. It was a quaint little town with a lot of historical buildings.
We picked up HIghway 211 which took us through the larger town of Luray where we stopped at the Food Lion there for 3 items. From there, we continued on a winding road past vine covered hillsides and over the Shenandoah River.
It was early and we were the only car entering Shenandoah National Park. With the Senior Lifetime Pass, we paid no entrance fee. The average person would pay $30.
We entered the park at the Thornton Gap entrance station about midway through the park at Mile Marker 31. Within the first mile we encountered the Mary's Rock Tunnel.
We stopped at the tunnel overlook and got our first glimpse of the mountains. They don't call them "Blue Ridge" for nothing.
We made stops at most of the overlooks along the way. The many shades of blue were beautiful.
We were amazed at how many people were biking up…and down the mountain. That's a scary thought!
As we got out of the truck at Pinnacles Overlook, the sweet scent of the milkweed in bloom was apparent, but it was the multitude of all varieties of butterflies that got our attention.
We caught a glimpse of a doe and a fawn as we climbed higher into the park, but they were just a little too fast to catch them on camera.
Jewell Hollow Overlook gave us a view in the opposite direction. There was a haze that covered the valley, but the cool breeze coming up the hillside was refreshing.
At Stony Man Overlook, we got the perfect view of Stony Man Mountain (elev. 4011 ft,). If you use your imagination, you can see the face of a man laying on his back. His forehead is at the top left of the picture, his eyebrow comes next, then his chiseled nose, and lastly his lip and chin. The cutout in the trees even resembles an ear.
Stoney Man is the 2nd highest peak and Hawksbill is the highest (4051 ft.) peak in northern Virginia. This sign reminded us that there are bears in the park. A ranger said that someone had seen one just this morning. We were on the lookout in the hopes of seeing one ourselves.
We reached the highest point in the drive after a lot of twists and turns.
It was around noon when we reached Skyland. Skyland is an area that has lodging, a full-service restaurant, a taproom (which was closed), gift shop, and stables. It was a busy place. This was our turning around point and where we'd eat our picnic lunch. We walked around a little to check out the area. We visited the gift shop and scenic overlook before having lunch. This drinking fountain was perfect for both the 2-legged and 4-legged drinkers. I had never seen one like this before.
After lunch, we found a sign marking the Appalachian Trail which parallels and crosses the Skyline Drive in many places.
When we left the park today, there was a line of cars waiting to get in. Our drive back down the mountain took less time and we were soon back at the campground.
In all, we only drove about 15 miles of twists, turns, and switchbacks of the Skyline Drive, but it was an awesome drive with some fantastic views. Back at the campground we checked out the pool which was pretty busy…and very sunny, so we passed on that for now.
We went back to the camper to check on Auggie before getting ready for the 2:00 tour of the caverns which are located right on the same grounds as the campground. We grabbed our jackets and put on our walking shoes and drove up to the office to buy our tickets. (Adults are $20, but if you are camping, it is only $15. That's a nice perk.) Our tour began at this beautiful stone entrance to the cave inside this home.
Jake was our guide and he gave us a fabulous and informative 90 minute tour. He is a local and has been coming to the caves in this area since he was a schoolboy taking field trips.
We walked on two levels of the cave into many large rooms and through small walkways. The many rock formations were amazing and Jake explained them all. He added local insight and humor for a wonderful experience.
We were happy to have our jackets for the cave's 55 degree temperature, but it was so refreshing. As we exited the cave, our glasses steamed up and we were reminded of the heat and humidity outside.
Back at the trailer, we sat outside in the shade with Auggie until dinner. We had dinner and Auggie and I took our evening walk. It was still a little warm out until the sun started going down, but still too warm to sleep with the windows open. Bummer! We leave tomorrow for the Poconos area of East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. We are still in search of cooler weather.