Yesterday’s post in Virginia…
Today the dogs and I started down the Blue Ridge Parkway which connects to the south end of Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah Valley that I completed last week. The drives, similar in scenery, were quite different in other ways. Skyline Drive passes through a National Park where a toll booth marks a limited amount of entry and exit points…I believe three in total. As such, the Skyline Drive area is more pristine. With signs identifying activities such as picnicking, hiking, and camping, the Blue Ridge Parkway is slightly more commercialized, though still an extremely natural area. In addition, many more exhibits line the area such as self-guided geological trails, Appalachian farm houses, and a rebuilt logging railroad the dogs and I visited today. A nice feature at most trailheads included a sign posted with the mileage and approximate time to complete the trail…a bonus for me as I didn’t have any trail maps.
For much of the drive I passed beneath brown leaves fluttering to the ground,
but occasionally I crossed through regions where the hemlocks, hickories, maples, and oaks ranged in colors of green, red, yellow, orange, and brown. I’d have to use the names of crayons from the 128 count box to describe the appropriate shades…raw umber, goldenrod, neon carrot, mango tango, laser lemon, burnt orange, maize, orange red, sunglow, scarlet, burnt orange, forest green, and mahogany to name a few. I wanted to pull off the side of the road so many times for a photo; however, the turnouts tended to be in overlook areas where the winter weather had already arrived as opposed to the protected sections of the forest. The overlook areas provided brilliant views of their own. Green valleys separated mountain tops covered in crimson red trees….nature’s version of Christmas decorations.
The drive passes by several creeks, waterfalls, springs where pioneers brewed moonshine, lakes, rivers, and even the Kanawha canal. The dogs and I took a few walks by the water. We first strolled by Otter Creek, which tumbles ten miles down the Blue Ridge to the James River, and around Otter Lake. Lily pads covered the edge of the lake as Bluegills hovered beneath the fishing dock waiting for tourists to drop some bread.
Before exiting the Parkway in Roanoke to visit a distant relative, Quinn, we took one last 1.6 mile loop trail by Fallingwater Cascades. As we walked 2,000 feet, mostly down, I knew a nice uphill climb awaited us before reaching the parking lot. Aside from Scout beginning to feel puny toward the end, a moderate hike was an exuberant way to finish the day.
We spent a delightful late afternoon and evening with Quinn. Over a home cooked meal of steaks, potatoes, and salad, I learned all about the business of auctioning farmland…quite fascinating! To top it off, I got to see the Cowboys play for the second time this season (both games against the Giants), and surprisingly they squeaked out a win!