The adventure beginsWednesday 10/28/2009 - We have been in our first campground for a few days, and have settled in. We already called the insurance to put a claim for the RV accident we had, and they came right away and took pictures and measurements. We are very happy with our insurance so far (Progressive) – they work with us and our plans and try to get the RV fixed in one of our destinations. We agreed to get the RV fixed in Alabama, where we planned to stay for a few weeks.
When we drove to town – few minutes away, we have noticed some signs that invites to visit a local attraction – Luray Caverns. The main attraction we wanted to see was Shenandoah National Park, but from reading about it, it looks like you can get most of the impact just by driving through the park.
Since it was rainy , we decides to explore the caverns area, and we are happy we did. These are amazing! We learned about stalactites (the formation that grow from the ceiling down) and stalagmites (this post like formation from the floor up). The cave has a nice tour with a self guided audio with a track for kids and a more serious one for adults. I listened to the kids’ track :)
This was our first attraction on our trip and we enjoyed it very much. And oh, BTW, if you have kids, there is a maze from live plants right outside the caverns. Worth a visit!
Follow the AppalachiansThursday 10/29/2009 - If you love the mountain views – this is a trip you have to make one day. When you are in the mountains there are all sort of nature wonders – Rivers, Water Falls, Canyons, Caves, and many other unique features that are typical to the mountains. The roads are curvy narrow and windy, and surprises are around every corner.
We decided to take the mountain trail all the way to TN, and drive from Shenandoah NP (A) to Smoky Mountains NP. The way between the parks goes through Skyline Drive (B) and Blue Ridge Parkway (C). Those are connected and form a breathtaking trail on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Before we started we opened the map and chose a good place to stop overnight in the middle, between the two parks, allowing ourselves some time to drive slowly and enjoy the way. We found a small campground in Buchanan, VA 148 miles away (D).
Drive in the SkyShenandoah National Park has several entrances. We took the Thornton Gap entrance, the one close to Luray, and started our journey south. In the welcome center, as we entered the park, we found out that there is a tunnel just south of the entrance that is only 12’8” high. We did not know if we are going to make it…
It took us less then 5 minutes to get to the tunnel, and luckily there was no traffic. Patti (My wife) stepped out as I approached the tunnel driving in the middle of the road. The tunnel is arch shaped so the highest clearance we can get is by driving in the middle. We barely made it, but we did. So Patti jumped back in and we drove the whole tunnel in the middle. We were very lucky since no car came from the opposite direction all the way to the other side.
We felt lucky (Like Google says) and continued our slow drive though the park. I wish I could describe in words the deep strong felling that you have when you look at those views around you. Even at that time of the year the fall colors still ruled the mountains, and the range of green yellow orange red and brown created an amazing background to the valleys below.
Most people enjoy the park simply by driving through and stopping at the side overview bays. We decided to take one short hike to one of the waterfalls not too far from the road. I think it said on the park map that each way is around 2 miles. We parked out truck (there is enough room to park even with the RV) and started walking down on the trail. The way down was very steep, but as you go down and down you think – hmm, I need to climb it back. And after a while you think it must be almost there. I am not going to turn around here for nothing, after this long of a way. After very looooong 2 miles we got to the falls. The falls were beautiful and had clear water, so clear you could see every rock on the bottom and every fish in the pond. We took some nice pictures, rested a little and started the climb back. I am sure someone moved the trail in the mountain, because the way up was at least twice as long. but we made it, and we were happy we did.
From Skyline Drive to Blue Ridge ParkwayAs we drove out of the park, the same road continues through the mountain tops and you can enjoy the same views all the way down. Only the road name changes on the way.
I think that in that case, pictures are better than of words (as they say) so here is just a handful pictures from the drive.