Spring and storms in Virginia

27 Apr

Once the storm had passed we were able to explore our surroundings at Belle Isle State Park. We rode out on our bikes across the field trail to Brewers Point, so calm and peaceful, hard to believe how the storm had raged and the damage it had caused in many locations across the country.

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In the campground we met some new friends, newly started on an adventure very similar to ours. Seamus and Linda from – Newport Pagnel, England – travelling in ‘Harvey the RV’, the four of us decided he could be Big Harvey( as he is a little older) and haRVey then would be little haRVey, there must be something about this travelling which sends very normal sensible people a little strange (no cheek from the family thank you!). Whilst we meet fellow travellers often and enjoy exchanging stories, hints and tips it was so nice to meet English people with whom we had so much in common.

We very much wanted to visit the Virginia mountains before we finally moved out of the State, we would have liked to go to the Smokey Mountains, much further south, but it had been too cold, but, the Shenandoah National Park was perhaps a possibility.Twice we had it in mind to head that way and the weather changed but, at last, it looked like we had a window of opportunity. From Belle Isle we drove west for a short stop at Lake Anna State Park to break up the journey. We have been so impressed with Virginia State Parks, the surroundings have been lovely but the campgrounds are great. All very similar with large clean sites, a central washroom facility which includes a laundry and all have been very clean and well kept ( The exception to this was Virginia Beach SP which is very tired).

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This is Shenandoah River camp ground but typical of what we have found elsewhere. All have identical washrooms (the small building) with laundry facility.

From Lake Anna we drove through more rural agricultural land, the sun was shining, the sky blue and the roads were lined with trees of various shades of green coming into leaf. Blossom trees too, Dogwoods in white and shades of pink, red bud (which is purple) flowering cherry and the odd lilac, this being the Thursday before Easter it was a very fitting picture. We almost felt in holiday mood! As the road continued we began to see the mountains in the distance, we have been on flat land for so long we were really excited at the thought of getting into the hills!

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We entered the National Park at Swift Run Gap. The road began to climb higher, at around 2,500ft the trees no longer had leaves and the buds were still tightly closed on their branches. This was quite a good thing however as it gave us more chance to see the view between the branches, which will be hidden from visitors later.

Checking in at the campground we read the weather forecast, we had been aware Saturday could be a little rainy and we were also aware that overnight temperatures would be in the low 40’s F (5C?) what we read however was a little chillier than that, they were now predicting around freezing. Not deterred, we were confident of keeping warm with our gas heater and an extra layer on the bed. We chose our spot before walking back to the visitor centre where a display related the history of the park.

Opened in 1936 Shenandoah is celebrating 75years of being a National Park. To enable the rolling green hillsides to return to a natural state, covered in deciduous woodland and Skyline Drive to be constructed with the various viewing points we enjoy today, many families had their land and homes purchased under a compulsory order. In most cases not to their benefit. It would appear that to fulfil the dream of a few, for the appreciation of many, a not inconsiderable number of people suffered.

The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) again had a hand in the construction of the park. I have previously related our gratitude for the work these men did in so many places which we enjoy. Building miles of stone walls, footpaths, steps, cabins and washrooms. The infrastructure of many National and State Parks in the early days, built so solidly that with a few modernisations and a little maintenance and repair they act as a reminder of the men who created them.

In the early hours of Friday morning we heard the rain begin, the wind had been blowing fairly strong all night and when we got up around 7am our weather station was reading 32degrees. Undeterred by the showers we were preparing to go for a walk around 10am when a heavier shower delayed us. That shower continued, developed, brought stronger winds and fog. The temperature did not rise above 35degrees until bedtime! Our gas heater did not stop all day and at one point Robert watched as the rain dripping from the roof began to turn into icicles. This was 48hours after we had slept with the air conditioning on as we were so hot… this I think is Spring…

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During the night the wind increased further, I got up and pulled the slide in to prevent the topper above it flapping and being damaged. By next morning we had reached the dizzy heights of 45 degrees but the mist was still down, but we had rain showers, rather than constant rain lashing on the roof. Rather than risk another day hiding from the weather we drove out along the Skyline Drive north with the intention of going down into the valley for the night but visiting the view points along the way.

Thankfully the day began to brighten as a warm front pushed north and west chasing the storm out to the coast. The lingering clouds in the valley bottoms made a pretty scene when we stopped to enjoy the views.

 

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We were able to stop and admire the view at several points this one looking back towards the Blue Ridge mountains

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west we could see the vast Massanutten mountain

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and lying between us and it was the winding Shenandoah river and its valley. We intended to stay at the Shenandoah River State Park down in the valley, we hoped that we might be able to get in some walking there as we had been outwitted by the weather in the National Park.

We left the National Park disappointed to a certain extent, but we had a lovely afternoon Thursday, the drive out was enjoyable Saturday and we had visited with the knowledge the weather would play a big part in what we were able to do. By the time we had checked in at the State Park the sun was shining and the walking boots were beckoning.

We saw from the trail map we could  complete a nice 3 mile circuit starting and ending at the campground part of the walk through the woods and part alongside the river. We set off. After the rain it was a little humid and we were pestered by small black flies. Despite some muddy spots the trail to Cullers Overlook was pleasant.We were in good spirit and Robert was determined the Troll under the bridge was not going to eat us for tea!

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Robert jumping on the bridge to scare the Troll!

Once on the overlook platform the strong breeze cooled us down.

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and the view was great

A flood watch on the river had now expired but it was obviously brim full and flowing fast. A steep trail led down from here before we would join the Bluebell trail alongside the river, from there it would be less than a mile back to the camp ground. This trail was a little steeper and rougher than the previous parts had been. On arriving at the trail head for the Bluebell trail we were met with a ‘TRAIL CLOSED’ sign. We walked a few yards along but it was obviously very muddy, a shame as there were so many wild flowers blooming it would have been very pretty.

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There was no other option but to retrace our steps. We arrived back hot and mithered but satisfied we had finally got some sort of a walk!

Easter Sunday (today) has been hot and humid too, we set out for another walk the other direction along the river this morning but that trail too was closed we presume due to flooding. Not to be out witted again we walked up the roadway to join a higher trail but found in the hollows everywhere lots of mud, continually pestered by the black flies again we cut back to the campground along a partly gravel trail between fields lined with wild roses just showing bud. On the fences were nest boxes and darting back and forth all the way were swallows.

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Surely this means better weather is coming!

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