A year ago, our son-in-law mentioned that he was going to be in Washington DC the first week of July. We have never been to our nation’s capitol over the 4th of July, so we started to make plans. First, we used our Marriott credit card points to book a suite, so that there would be no hotel expenses. Then we used our Southwest credit card points and booked our air so that it only cost $11.00 per person to fly. Our daughter Jodi and her family drove down from Iowa, so that we would have a vehicle for the week. Everything was set and we were off….we packed a container of snacks as we knew that we would be on the run all week. In the Dallas airport, they have a stage for local talent to play. The young lady who entertained us during our layover was very good!!!
Coming into Washington DC, it was fun to pick out the buildings. The Washington Monument made it easy to get our bearings.
We met up with our Iowa crew and headed to dinner at Famous Dave’s.
On Saturday morning, Wade went to the last day of his conference and rest of us headed to Shenandoah National Park, 75 miles to the north-west of Washington DC. It became a national park in 1935. However, the legislation to create the park was originally introduced in 1901. The Commonwealth of Virginia was instrumental in obtaining the land the park would encompass. Unlike many of the national parks in the western United States, most of the land consisted of 1,000 privately owened tracts of land. President Herbert Hoover made a strong push for a park when he established Rapidan Camp as a refuge from the heat of Washington DC. When he left office, he donated his land and camp buildings. The process of obtaining the land was not without conflict. Some of the land was obtained through eminent domain and the National Park Service declared that only vacant land could be accepted into the park boundaries. Many families as well as entire communities were forced to move. The boundaries of the proposed park were reduced to 160,000 acres and re-shaped to avoid some higher priced tracts of land. Some of the tactics used to obtain the land would be looked upon as unethical today, with the area portrayed as uneducated Hillbillies. Unfortunately, some residents cabins were burned to force them off their land.
Once the land was obtained and ownership was transferred, the CCC “boys” were sent in to build the infrastructure for the proposed park. Today, the park consists of Skyline Drive, which follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles. It is a narrow mountain road with 75 scenic over-looks. The speed limit is 35 miles per hour and you have to watch for bicyclist as well as deer.
There is information at most of the lookouts.
We stopped at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, with it’s nice viewing area.
Inside, there were very nice exhibits, an electric may, and a very good movie on the history of the park. We picked up Junior Ranger books for Whitney and Wyatt and started our exploration of the park.
We stopped along the way at the numerous overlooks…
Jade had to have a “conquer the world” picture, with Whitney having her own version. Everyone then got in on the act…
The Appalachian Trail runs the entire length of the park, closely following Skyline Drive. We wanted to hike part of the trail. So we set off on a small adventure to locate the trail.
We went right instead of left which resulted in a longer hike to find the actual Trail, but still enjoyed the adventure.
Since we had taken a wrong turn, we sent Jim and Jodi back for the car, while the rest of us made it to a nearby parking area, that had information boards on the Appalachian Trail.
Just past Thornton Gap, there is a pretty cool tunnel.
If you use your imagination you can see the “Old Man”.
The highest point on Skyline Road is 3680 feet but the highest peak in the park is Hawksbill at 4051 feet.
We decided to walk to Dark Hollow Falls.
It was a pleasant day and the trail was nice. Steep in a few places and abit crowded.
Being past high water, the falls was just a trickle but still nice.
We headed back up the trail. Whitney was in front of us and she stopped and said, “Bear, bear”. Cindy thinking that she was just saying things, told her to stop as she would scare people. Then we all saw what Whitney had seen, a momma bear and her 2 cubs.
Not wanting to startle the bears, and having really no place to go except to walk the trail quite close to them, we slowly worked our way past them. Momma was really just interested in searching for grubs.
Everyone was trying to be very quiet and slow in their movements so as not to startle the momma bear. However, a hiker came up the trail quite quickly, momma didn’t like that he was so close and she charged…
As you can see, it was a pretty frantic situation. Luckily, it was a false charge, just to let us know that she was still in control. It is the closest bear encounter we have ever had at about 10 yards. After our exciting hike, we headed to Byrd Visitor Center as Whitney and Wyatt had completed their Junior Ranger books.
After some answering of questions, and refocusing Wyatt after the bear encounter, we had a Junior Ranger swearing in ceremony.
And everyone had to get their picture taken…
It had been a day full of history, scenery, information, and fun. The back of the car fell asleep, while Jodi just didn’t want her picture taken.
We were off to a good start on this vacation. On day 3 we would start our exploration of Washington DC…