Staunton, VA Day 2

We woke to a pleasant morning of 76 degrees.  After having breakfast and doing our morning chores, we packed our gear for a day in Shennandoah National Park.  We stopped for fuel in Waynesboro before taking the 30 minute drive to the park.

We paid our entrance fee of $15 and began our day on Skyline Drive.

The speed limit was 35 mph in the park on this winding, tree-lined road.

We rolled down our windows and took in the cool, fresh air as we looked for wildlife and enjoyed the scenery.

There are 76 outlooks on this 105 mile road through Shennandoah NP and I wanted to see it all.  Our first stop wasn’t far into the park at McCormick Gap.

There was a haze over the mountains and as we learned later, it was pollution from the coal-fired power plants in the Ohio Valley.  Who would have thought? According to the information on the signs, it is clear over the mountains 10% of the time.  You can see 20 miles 50% of the time and it’s very hazy 11% of the time.  We figured out by comparing the  diagrams on the signs that we had good visibility for about 10 miles, so we were in the hazy 11%.  The haze did burn off a little as the morning wore on, but grew heavier later in the afternoon.  A lot had to do with the warm, windless weather we were having.  Our next stop was Sawmill Ridge.  You can see where it got its name.

Crimora Lake Overlook did not afford us a view of the lake, but it was worth a stop.  Moorman’s River Overlook had a good view of the river and dammed-up lake. Through binoculars, we could easily see the dam on the far side of the lake.

Trayfoot Mountain Overlook gave us a view of the exposed Talus rocks on the mountainside.

As we approached Dundo Picnic Area, we decided to make a pit stop.  The electricity was out in a lot of areas in the park, so the ranger suggested that we use this area if we needed to stop.  Brown’s Gap was the place where Stonewall Jackson with 17,000 troops fought 5 battles to defeat the Union soldiers.

The next area we came to was the Loft Mountain Campground.  The largest of the 3 campgrounds in the park.

We wanted to check it out and see how hard it would be to pull a travel trailer into a campsite.  They have no sites that provide electricity, but they have water and a dump station.  I guess you’d call that “roughing it” or dry camping.  The campsites were good-sized and some were filled with travel trailers.  The campground sits on top of Big Flat Mountain so the views are spectacular.  Our next stop was Two Mile Run Overlook.  From here, you could see Massanutter Point and Ridge that splits the Shennandoah and Allegheny Mountains for 50 miles to the north of this mountain.

We passed a sign that reminded us that this was bear country and to take the proper precautions.  I wonder if we’ll be lucky enough to see one??  

We stopped for lunch at Big Meadows Lodge–one of the few places with electricity in the park.  

The restaurant is rustic and has quite a history here.  

We enjoyed a light lunch and a view from the large balcony of the valley below.  From there we drove to Byrd’s Visitor Center to get directions on how to find the head of the Lewis Falls Trail.  It was just 1/4 mile away from the Visitor’s Center.  We reparked the car and donned our walking shoes for the 2 mile hike down to the falls.  It was described as a hike of “moderate difficulty” that starts out on a service road and then down a fairly steep rocky path to the top of the falls.  It took us 30 minutes to pick our way carefully down the trail.  On the walk, Bob spotted a cluster of yellow butterflies near this log.  We couldn’t figure out why they were there, but it was interesting to see.

We finally reached the overlook and a view of the falls.  

There were three other adults and a child resting there when we arrived.  They were kind enough to snap our picture.

After a brief rest, we decided to make the trek back up.  Unfortunately, what comes down must go back up….and if a little kid could do it, so could we.  The falls were less than awesome, but the hike did us both good. The walk back up to the top took us 40 minutes with 5 rest breaks. Fortunately, there was a lot of shade and the temps were only in the mid-70’s.  When we got to the top, we were thankful to rest and sit for the rest of the drive.  As we left, we spied a female deer and her spotted fawn crossing the road.

As we inched the truck closer, we could see another female at the edge of the woods.

We had caught a fleeting glimpse of 2 spotted fawns along the highway as we first entered the park, but this gave us a much better view.  We continued on and stopped at Timber Hollow Overlook where we spotted a marker for the Appalachian Trail.  

The Appalachian Trail follows parts of the Skyline Drive, but at this point, it leaves the road for awhile.

I grabbed the walking stick that someone had left there for a photo “op” and stood on the trail for a picture.

We reached the highest peak in the park, Hawksbill Peak, at 4051 feet.

As we turned one corner, we saw huge plumes of smoke in the valley.  We were concerned it was a forest fire and hoped it was not.

As we drove the last few miles of the Skyline Drive that we were doing today, we saw a young black bear along the side of the road foraging for food.  We finally DID get to see a bear!   We neared Mary’s Rock and the tunnel we would have to pass through to get us to our exit.  

We took the exit here and caught the Interstate that would take us back to the campground.  I drove us back so Bob could have a break from all the driving he was doing. We had a great time in the park and driving the 75 miles of the Skyline Drive today. We stopped in Staunton on the way back to fuel up and get a few groceries.  We arrived at the campsite at 4:30 and relaxed with cocktails under the shade of the awning before having burgers on the grill.

After dinner as the sun was going down, Auggie and I took a nice long walk to see how everyone was enjoying the 4th.  When we got back, 2 of our neighbors had stopped over to chat about RV camping with Bob.  They offered tidbits and helpful suggestions about RVing.  We had a good view of the sun as it set behind the mountains from our campsite.

As darkness fell, everyone went back to their own campsite and we retired for the evening.  We were both exhausted from a great 4th of July.

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