May 20, 2008 - More Rain!

Another raining day here in the mountains so we decided to come down to the valley for WiFi and some shopping in Luray.

The library did not have WiFi but we were told we might be able to get it in one of the corners and we did! So that is where I am uploading.

We will be doing some shopping this afternoon and heading back up the mountain. Hopefully it will not be as foggy as it was this morning. (Visibility must have been about 50' so we took it VERY SLOW.)

We will be here until after Memorial Day. I will not be doing Wifi again until after we leave (unless we have to come down the mountain again). So that also means checking email, etc.

Until then!

May 19, 2008 – Sunshine and Skyline Drive

We woke to beautiful blue skies and 39 degrees – Brrr! (But at least it was sunny).

No hikes for today – I hurt my foot yesterday and want to make sure it is okay before we hit the trails again. Instead we put up our screen tent (mostly to see if we could do it easily). When I have a chance I will post a picture.

In the three years that we have been coming here, we explored Skyline Drive from Big Meadows to Thornton Gap. So today we decided to go the other way (from Big Meadows to Loft Mountain). And there were some incredible views:

One of the things we learned at the ranger talks was that spring arrives early in the Shenandoah Valley and slowly makes its way up the mountains at about 100’ per day (with the exception of cold fronts and other nasty weather patterns). And that was very evident to us today. In Big Meadows area, the altitude is ~ 3200’ and the leaves are just starting to come out on some of the trees. On our travels today, we went down to ~2000’ and the leaves were all out and had that beautiful shade of spring green. It was interesting to see the changes as we went up and down the mountains.

Back at camp, we did get a chance to talk with the campground host and learn the type of duties they do. (Something for Andy and I to consider.)

And of course another campfire evening!

May 18, 2008 – More Hiking and More Rain

The day started out sunny but we knew it was going to rain by noon, so we only did a short hike – 2.1 miles. We took the Appalachian Trail to Fishers Gap Overlook (same place we drove to yesterday).

Some pictures of the trail:

The view (notice the clouds coming in versus yesterday’s picture):

And more wildflowers:

When we came back to the campground, we were amazed at how empty it was. We know that it was full last night and now there are probably about 7 campers in our area.
It is so nice not to have to pack and leave!

The rain started ~ noon so we headed to the visitor center for the ranger talk about bears in the park by Ranger Debbie. (Did I mention I just love these talks???)

We did get a chance to talk with Ranger Bob about other upcoming programs and made reservations for a trip to Rapidan Camp (Herbert Hoover’s Summer House) for Saturday morning. Last year we hiked to the camp but could not get into any of the buildings. With the Ranger trip, we will get to see the inside. Stay tuned.

We also inquired about the library in Luray (yes they have WiFi) and grocery stores, etc. We will be making a trip there later this week.

Back at camp, we were finally able to connect with family and friends to get caught up on what is happening back home (thanks!).

The rain finally stopped but it stayed cold so no campfire tonight - :-)

May 17, 2008 – Sunshine and Hiking

Sunshine – all day – how wonderful. We got out early and hit the trails. We took the “Story of the Forest” trail to the visitor’s center:
We stopped in the center to get trail maps for the meadow but were told to just follow the fire road and the animal paths so off we went to the Rapidan Fire Road. We came upon these fellows:

Pictures of the meadow:

The fire road was so nice that we kept on walking:

Some wildflowers along the way:

There are so many beautiful wildflowers here.

We tried to find the ruins of an old community school that was marked on the GPS but it was hidden from us - :-(. So we decided to head back. Today’s walk – 7.75 miles – really not bad for 2 old folks!

The afternoon was spent just relaxing and me, organizing (I am still not sure where I want everything.) (I know my friends will get a kick out of that – “A!!!") We have been on the road almost 2 weeks and hopefully, I will soon be done moving everything!

It has really been bothering me living without cell phone service so we drove around trying to find a place to call out. What is funny is that we also have a Tracfone that we did not turn on. Well, it works, here in the motorhome. The Verizon phone is still not working so I am not sure what is happening with it.

We found this incredible view at Fishers Gap Overlook (while we were looking for cell phone service):

Back at camp, we were finally able to enjoy the campfire for supper and until dark – YEA!!!

May 16, 2008 – Great Ranger Programs

The day began rainy and very foggy. Since we are on the top of the mountain, the clouds just seem to settle. At one point, it was so foggy, we could not see the campers near us.

So this morning, we put shelves in one of our closets – the small one that cannot fit any more than 5 hangers. Having the shelves gives me more storage space for folded clothes.

This afternoon, we went to the Byrd Visitor Center for the Ranger’s choice talk. Today was Ranger Bob’s turn and his talk was “Photography in the Park”. He had some great pictures and some really great suggestions for pictures. What a wonderful program.

From there, we headed to Skyland Conference Center for another ranger program – A Tour of Massanutten Lodge.

We stopped at one of the overlooks for some incredible pictures of the fog and the valley below:

The land around Skyland was originally owned by a group of investors in the 1800’s. It was started as a summer place - for those who could afford land parcels and summer cottages. At one point, one of the investor’s sons, George Pollack got involved and managed the resort.

Addie Hunter was purchased a parcel and spared no expense on the cottage – Massanutten Lodge – so named because of the view of the Massanutten Mountains and the valley below. What was different about her is that she was a very wealthy divorced woman in a time when divorced women did not fare well.

Within a year after the cabin was completed, she married George Pollack and became very active in the running of the resort. She was the first one to have a radio and a car here. She was also the only female member of the committee that lobbied the White House in 1925 for authorization of Shenandoah National Park.

The lodge itself is beautiful:

There is an area of the house that is dedicated to the woman of Skyland – a very impressive group.

Another one of the original cabins:

(I just love these ranger programs!)

On our way home, we saw a black bear and two cubs in the woods – sorry no pictures – they were on the move.

This evening the fog finally cleared but it is cold. Tomorrow promises to be sunny and we are so looking forward to doing some hiking. Hopefully we will have a lot more sunny days to come.

May 15, 2008 - Travel to Shenandoah National Park

We headed on our way after filling with propane and gas (Yikes!!) and took a nice leisurely ride to Shenandoah National Park.

When we went to register, Ranger Hazel looked at me and said “You were here last year at this time”. It was really nice to be remembered. So we had a little chat and then went to our site:
We are in the first-come, first-served area since we will be here until after Memorial Day.

So after the normal setup, I left Andy to set up his antennas and radios and walked to the visitor’s center (1 mile away) to get information on the trails and the programs available over the next week. Last year, the visitor center was in the middle of construction. It is finished now and quite beautiful. They dedicated it to the 10,000 men who worked in the CCC in the 1930’s:

On the way back from the center, I took the shortcut through the campground and came upon this little lady:

I sat on the curb and just kept taking pictures as she came towards me. When she was about 10’ away, I made a noise so she would know I was there. (I did not want to get attacked by a startled deer. J ) But I got some great pictures. (Notice that she is pregnant. From now until mid June, there will be lots of fawn here.)

And a little further down the path, there were two young bucks:

Who then came thru the campground:

When I got back, Andy had mounted his radios more permanently. (Bill, you will be jealous!!!)

We just love this park and hopefully someday we will do volunteer work and spend the summer. For those of you that follow the blog, when we came here last year we were interviewed by a reporter doing a story on the park for “Route 66 Magazine” – an RV dealer magazine. Here is a link to the article (we even had our picture in it!):
http://dealers.route66rv.com/Portals/152/Current%20Article/Archive%20Articles/Vol3N3_Shenandoah.pdf If the link doesn’t work, just Google “Diane Hitzel Route 66”.

One of the things I also did today was walk around the campground and up to the lodge to find cell phone service – none, so we will be out of touch again. We do get bars but we seem to be on the fringe of the service. So I will be looking for an amplifier and antennae next. Anyone have any suggestions, please email me.

We were able to cook supper with the campfire and just as we were getting ready to spend the rest of the evening at the fire, it began to rain (and stayed raining all night)!

Miles Traveled: 75 miles
Routes Traveled:
VA: US 55, US 340, US 33


May 14, 2008 – Reset Day

We sadly left the forest today and moved to North Fork Campground in Front Royal. We needed to charge all our batteries after boondocking for so long.

Even though the campground is nice, we are still crammed in. Our neighbors are about 10’ away from us on both sides. (No wonder we like the national and state parks.)

So today was laundry, grocery shopping, etc. before our trip to Shenandoah National Park.

We do have WiFi, cell phone service and TV right now, so we are also getting caught up with messages, phone calls, emails, the news, etc.

Until tomorrow.

May 13, 2008 – Sunshine!!

Sunshine, sunshine, sunshine with a beautiful blue sky…. What a wonderful day!

We spent our day walking around the campground and picnic areas and talking with the other campers.

And just sitting in the sun. Even Elliot wanted out to lie in the sun!!!

And here he is helping Andy read:

As I promised yesterday, here is a picture of Passage Creek as of this morning:

Here is a picture of the same creek from May 6:

Notice the rocks in the earlier picture but not in today’s picture. There were measurement lines on the bridge. On May 6, it was about 8 inches, today was 2 feet. And that was this morning – yesterday was even higher. Incredible the power of water!!

And we really enjoyed another campfire tonight!!!


May 12, 2008 - Rain, Library, and Update

It rained and rained more last night and continued into the morning. BUT the forecast calls for clearing this afternoon and nice tomorrow so we decided to continue our stay in the National Forest.

Since it is still raining, we are currently at the library doing our updates, email, etc.

On the way here, we pass by Passage Creek and it is roaring. Maybe I will have some pictures for you tomorrow.

Until then! :-)

May 11, 2008 – Buzzard Overlook

Another cloudy morning and they were calling for rain early afternoon, so we decided to hike to Buzzard Overlook on the Massanutten Trail – 1.50 miles up with an elevation change of +800’ (Not bad for 2 old folks!!).

Some views:

The trail views:

Hazards on the trail (yes, we did have to climb under!):

On the way back to the car, we took a detour and came upon a Forest Service Cabin. What a beautiful place, however, it did not look like it was used in a very long time.

Today may be our last day here. We are moving to a full service campground for a reset (charge batteries, empty tanks, refill other tanks, maybe even watch TV and have WIFI). And the rain came in mid-afternoon and continued!!

May 10, 2008 – May Fest and Camp Roosevelt

This morning we went to the annual May Fest in Historic Downtown Luray.

A picture:

Does it look familiar? In all the travels we have done, it is comforting to see how much all towns are alike. I could have been walking at Pottsville’s May Day with the sounds, the items for sale, and the aroma of good food (MMMMMM!!!). The only difference is seeing people I know vs. people I do not – but the smiles are the same.

From there, we made a stop at the local Wal-Mart and traveled to Camp Roosevelt.

This picture is of the Shenandoah Valley – notice the clouds around the mountain tops:

Camp Roosevelt was still not open but we parked the Tracker and walked in. This camp was the first Civilian Conservation Corp camp in the US and the first inductee to the CCC, Henry Rich, worked here. There are still some of the foundations visible throughout the park.

Here is one we found interesting:

According to the brochure, this was part of the truck shed and garages. Notice the work on the fireplace. It is actually double sided as if it were the divider between two rooms.

And another foundation:

The drive back to camp was thru Fort Valley. The valley is between Massanutten Mountain and Green Mountain and is mostly all farm and livestock. We saw many horses, cattle, goats, and sheep farms. Everything is such a lush green color. Beautiful!

The rest of the day was spent relaxing:

And another great campfire!

May 9, 2008 – Rainy Day

Well, no severe storm last night in our area but lots of rain and it was still raining this morning. So our travels today took us to the Cedar Creek Battlefield Visitor Center where we spoke with the curators and found the best way to see the battlefields since many of them are on private property. (And that we will do when it is not raining.)

Our next stop was a tour of the Route 11 Chip factory. Chips, all flavors, mmmm, need I say more!

We then went to historic Winchester.

Some pictures:

There are a number of walking tours and we may come back on a nicer day.

The rain finally stopped and the sun came out around suppertime so we had another great campfire.