A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Road Trip to Virginia Day 2 - The Blue Ridge Parkway

August 2, 2012

We let ourselves sleep in just a bit, since we were on vacation, but got ourselves moving at a reasonable hour so as not to miss out on any of the sights we were planning on seeing.  We packed up most of our things, grabbed some complimentary breakfast and went back to our room to finish up and load the car.  (Let's face it, we all needed to go potty before a long car ride anyway!) As we "gathered our things" (ahem) we discovered that we had no running water.  A call to the front desk found that they were doing some repairs and the water would be off for a couple of hours.  I asked where my 6 year old was supposed to go potty and the desk clerk said, "I guess you'll have to find a restroom somewhere else."  Nice.  We meandered around the area and finally found a spot for us all to take care of business, but not without a lot of grumbling and whining. :-)

We headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is a magnificent scenic byway that should be on everyone's bucket list.  For more information on the Parkway, check out all Wikipedia has to say here. The byway has its own site also: www.blueridgeparkway.org/
Everything on the parkway is beautiful, even the overpasses, bridges and guardrails.  Most of these structures are built of concrete and stone.

We weren't on the parkway more than ten minutes (likely less), when a bear ran across the road in front of us.  I didn't get a picture, as I was so excited and wasn't prepared with the camera.  It was so cool, and we had heard that bear sightings aren't frequent.

The lake at Peaks of Otter
We stopped to pick up maps at the Peaks of Otter area, checking out their cute little store and visitor center.  I got excited because the views were already so serene and breathtaking.

One of the Peaks

The "Peaks" of Otter were really just a couple of very pointy peaks, but they were neat, nonetheless.

We had been given some great advice by some dear friends: Don't stop at EVERY overlook, pick out just a few and enjoy the drive to them.  We asked at the Visitor Center and the gentleman there made a recommendation or two for us to keep in mind.  We totally failed at heeding the advice we were given for quite a while, stopping regularly to snap pictures.  After some time, we realized many of our shots looked quite the same and we might be better served to actually take the chance to stop at the really remarkable places and spend our time wisely.  Sometimes we learn slowly...

Onion Mountain Overlook caught our attention and we decided to take a little stroll.  The most scenic view was supposed to be a short hike away, so why not. We walked for a while, not finding anything spectacular until we met some folks coming back who said it was entirely not worth the walk, since the view was obscured a great deal by overgrowth that had not been trimmed.  We decided to head back to the car to try for something more "wowing"down the road.  The view was lovely, however, even from the parking area at Onion Mountain.

Arnold Valley Overlook (looking at Arnold Valley 2900 feet below, sitting at an elevation of 3700 feet) was a great spot for some fun pictures.  By fun, I mean Lexi and I nearly gave Shane a heart attack. :-)  There were some great big boulders begging to be climbed on that happened to be perched at the edge of a sizable cliff.  OF COURSE I thought Lexi should sit out there for pictures.  Shane turned a special shade of green when I let her stand up to take her own pictures.  I couldn't help it.  I stood close, and she looked so darn adorable on the rocks with the valley behind her.

Our next stop was at the James River Bridge, where the park ranger recommended we take the trail and stretch our legs.  The Bridge was neat and we were even treated to seeing some late-to-leave-the-nest Cliff Swallows nestled in the rafters.  We crossed the water and explored a really old boat lock in a creek that runs off the river.  Lexi was antsy to keep moving, so we headed back to the car and looked for some lunch.

After a bite at a super cute tiny local diner (that was one half of a convenience store), the little lady was ready for a nap.  I guess the full tummy and a car ride make for an easy snooze.

There was a neat stop on the way with a little waterfall and a charming trail leading to it.  Shane left the already uneven trail and explored his way to the water.

Parts of the path were mulch, parts were logs stacked with earth and still others were winding staircases of stone and moss.  The shade and lushness of the area combined with the sound of nothing but nature and flowing water made this a magical spot to spend some time as a family.

On our way back to the car, Lexi and I happened upon two very bizarre and large creepy crawlies. I am sure I should do some research to see what they are. Let me just say this, I am glad they live in Virginia and not Michigan. I think. I hope.  Oh geez... now I have to research them to be sure...

We came out of the deep woods we had been driving in to a clearing.  It was the oddest thing.  Right there in the mountains was a semi-flat piece of farm land.  There were tractors and balers sitting in the field, having recently cut hay.  It was a fleeting reminder of home and a fun surprise on our drive.

20 Minute Cliff was a great spot to stretch our legs and take some great photos.  I took a ton here, so I will settle with sharing just this one.

We soon came to the end of our tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway and we had decided to pick up the drive again a touch further north on Skyline Drive, which is in the Shenandoah National Park.

On our way out of/off the parkway, we found some construction.  Since the road is barely two lanes and the speed limit confined mostly to 45 or less, they choreograph construction carefully.  This truck led us through the section that was reduced to one lane...

(To be continued in Road Trip To Virginia Day 2 - Skyline Drive)

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