"Of all the paths you take in life make sure a few of them are dirt" US Forest Sevice

Friday, May 19, 2017

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park 

It was time to head for the mountains as Charlottesville was heating up. The Shenandoah
National Park's scenic roadway, Skyline Drive, follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Parkway,
which stretches 469 miles south to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As we climbed
up to 3500 feet above sea level, the temperatures dropped to the 60s in the sunshine.
Shortly after turning onto the parkway, a big black bear bounded across the road.
Once she was in the woods, she looked back at us as we stopped in the middle of the
road. No one was behind us so we enjoyed the moment.


Traveling in the shoulder season is the best. No reservations were needed at the Big Meadow
Campground. We settled in after our 55 mile drive and took a hike to Dark Hollow Falls and
made a stop at the visitor's center to listen to the naturalist's talk. After the talk, he
took us out to see a nest of the Junko, a bird that nests in the grass. We missed the baby
birds but the parents were out.

Dark Hollow Falls

Most of the trees are just starting to bloom, making getting a peak of the views from the trail possible.

One evening after we had gone inside, I noticed an older lady pull up across from us in a Class C motorhome. I noticed she was alone and didn't think much about that until I heard hear trying to level the RV. She would back up and try to get a running start to get on the levelers. They would shoot out when she hit them making lots of noise. I told Mike that I was going out there and help her. That really meant that he should get his shoes on and give us a hand.
She was quite a character and had flown from Tallahassee to purchase the RV from a couple of elderly ladies. She previously had a Road Trek and she was getting acquainted with the Class C. She had never married and had traveled to all 49 states and Canadian Provinces in that Road Trek and was ready for a larger unit. It was fun to hear her story and adventurous spirit. "We" got here all set so she could get some rest. 

Not an easy bike ride uphill at 4 mph but the downhill was sweet at 30 plus mph.

 After our bike ride on Skyline Drive, we stopped at the visitor's center. While taking a break at
picnic tables, we met "Born Ready", his AT hiking name. He was happy to sit and visit about his journey on the AT which runs by our campground. He retired at 65 and decided to take on the challenge, leaving Springer, GA on Feb 15th. He said that it was harder than anything he could have imagined even after training for several weeks before starting. We have done day hikes on many sections of the trail and agree that it is tough.

The number of hikers on the AT is at a high number this year. The few days we got to spend in
Shenandoah National Park, there was a steady flow of hikers. The different hikers we have spoken with agree that the weather has been tough the past two months.
Lewis Falls

The mornings before the sun comes up is the best with the cool morning air and peaceful quiet before
people start moving around. It also makes taking this picture pretty nice.

We saw plenty of critters but most of the time no picture, except for this guy.
    At the tunnel leaving Shenandoah a bear cub turned and ran up the hill as we got close. The two bears  we got to see were quite a treat.
In the mornings, We would wake to the whippoorwill's song and the hoot of the owl as we closed our eyes at night. I am sure glad that some very smart people felt this was something important to preserve.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


We have continually changed the way we travel.  15 years ago when we started this adventure, we would stay in furnished apartments for three months while I worked at hospitals across the country.  Mike would find part time work that would give him time off on my days off so we could experience the area. We would pack up and move to the next place we wanted to see. once I completed a contract.
Sometimes, we would go home to Colorado for a while until we got the itch to get back out there again. This was usually during ski season. Snow birding backwards.
Then we tried 3 months in a place working and travel three months in our trailer. Now, we spent 6 months in Arizona and now driving to Maine to work for two months in the summer. That has given us a new experience of driving 50-200 miles to stop and see what is there.
We left Arizona two months ago. Now as we look back, it has been a whirlwind of so much diversity. Our time frame has been based on dates that we had plans but everything in between has been "winging it". It is strange and wonderful to know that we are doing this.
I guess we have found that there is no "one way" of living life.
Monticello, Thomas's Jefferson's Home
We didn't get the opportunity to visit Monticello when we lived in Bethesda, MD several years ago. This was a great opportunity for us to make the stop and enjoy a tour, even if it was still raining. We stayed outside of Charlottesville, VA in the KOA which was pretty handy.
 Thomas Jefferson is said to be one of the most quoted and misquoted figures in American history.
Having inherited a considerable land estate from his father, Jefferson began building Monticello when he was twenty-six years old. Jefferson inherited slaves from both his father and father-in-law. In a typical year, he owned about 200, almost half of them under the age of sixteen.

 Thomas Jefferson -- author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia.
This weather vane is on the underside of the porch so Mr. Jefferson would not have to go out in the weather to see which way the wind was blowing. He had the vane run through the ceiling and liked to make living easier by inventing new ways of doing things.

Thomas Jefferson's carriage traveled at three miles per hour. It took him 6 days to get to Washington DC.

Wine and beer were made for the family and guests in the lower quarters.

What a great old tree.
Even though it was raining, we put on our rain gear and walked the grounds. Needless to say, the crowds were not huge. But visitors that traveled from all over the world to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site got out and took the tours.
Thomas Jefferson was badly in debt when he died. It could have been due to all of the people that came to visit and didn't leave for quite some time or all of the extended family that lived with him. He would buy many many books at a time and barrels of wine to share. But the economic downturn towards the end of his life probably made the debt much worse.

The family cemetary 
The tour guide was very good and our group small.

 Mitchie's Tavern

MICHIE TAVERN, located ½ mile below Jefferson’s Monticello, accommodated travelers with food, drink and lodging more than 200 years ago. Today, we experienced the Tavern’s past through a recreated 18th-century tavern life.
Servers in period attire served Southern Midday Fare.  The rustic restaurant serves up  an 18th-century buffet of southern fried chicken, marinated baked chicken, hickory-smoked pork barbecue, stewed tomatoes, black-eyed peas, buttermilk biscuits and so much more. I don't know if that is what they really ate. Most of the pictures showed thin people. But that is what the story is.

The humidity was making many of my pictures blurred. This was such a good lunch but a bit spendy at $18.95 for fried chicken, very good fried chicken.
We returned the next morning to stoll around the grounds once the rain had stopped.

Not only was this a gristmill, it served as a pre-hospital facility during the Civil War. The owner of the gristmill convinced the Union officer leading the troops that the apparent slaves working the mill were actually feed men earning wages.

The return to this area brought back many good memories of my time working at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, MD 12 years ago. I remember taking care of people from the embassies, lobbyists and people that had emigrated here under difficult circumstances, like an official that worked for the Shah of Iran in the 1970s. They often were more than willing to share their experiences with all of the time spent in a hospital bed or at the bedside of someone they care about.
We had considered riding our bikes on the C&O Canal but had done that many times on our previous visit. This worked out well. It was a great new experience and the canal path would have been a muddy mess.