Friday, April 11, 2014

Skyline Drive

After staying two nights with our friends in Charlottesville, we drove home via the Skyline Drive. If you know your American geography, you would know about the Appalachian Mountains that run up the east coast. Like the Great Dividing Range in Australia, they are very old mountains that once were much higher.

The Skyline Drive was built along ridges near the tops of the mountains and extends for 105 miles in Virginia. We drove the 65 mile section from Route 33 to Front Royal.

Much of the drive lies between 2000 and 3500 feet high so there are plenty of places where you can stop your car, get out and take in a view of the Shenandoah Valley to the west.

Trucks are not allowed on the road and consequently, the road surface is lovely to drive on. There are lots and lots of curves and the speed limit is 35 mph so progress is slow if you stop to look at the views.

We were fortunate that it had rained two days prior and the air is relatively clear and clean.

Snow on a mountain top in the distance.

You can see the white of the snow on the far left.

Even though the air was clean, there is still quite a lot of haze even for this view to the west. The views to the east were limited because of the morning sun shining through the haze.

Because of the long winter, all the deciduous trees were without their leaves. not many even had buds. Many people do the drive in Fall (Autumn) to see the leaves in colour.

We stopped at a Vistors Center that had a display about the young men who built the road back between 1933 and 1942. It was one of the ways President Roosevelt dealt with the huge unemployment during the Depression. Marianne's step-father was Part of the CCC when he was a young man, but he did not work on this project.

The view today.

The  view at the dedication.

The road became very popular. Fortunately we were not driving this road in summer so there was very little traffic. Incidently, admission was free for us because I showed my National Parks Seniors Card. If you live in the USA and are over 62, your should get one of these cards for $10 and keep it in your wallet. It's good for life or until you lose the card.

It was a great idea and this National Park was the first on the east coast of the US.

Hawksbill Mountain, the highest point at 4050 feet.

The views are best when there are no leaves. At other times of year, the views are much more limited.

Leaving one of the view points.

Towards the end of the drive, the clouds rolled in and the mist became more pronounced.

Even so, it is still very beautiful.

One of the branches of the Shenandoah River.

A farm in a pool of sunshine.

As we reached the Visitors Center near Front Royal, a group of hikers appeared. I immediately felt some camaraderie with them after my experiences hiking the Grand Canyon and the Wainwright walk across England. Oddly enough, I have no desire to walk the Appalachian Trail. As Bill Bryson says in his book, it is a Walk in the Woods. There is too much vegetation and the views are obscured too much by the mist.

The 65 mile drive took about three hours. I really enjoyed the drive but I would have to say that I would only want to do it once every 10 years.

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