Nothing much to tell you about today. We didn’t do any sightseeing. We had to get our laundry done and buy some groceries for our week stay here in Washington DC. Our hotel is actually in Lanham Maryland. The hotel provides a short shuttle ride to the New Carrolton Metro Station. Tomorrow we will get on the Metro and ride it into Washington DC. It should be about a 15 minute subway ride.
Karen took a few photos today of the lobby of our hotel.
This morning we are on the road again. Today our destination is Washington DC, but first we will drive through Shenandoah National Park in the State of Virginia.
This park is long and narrow and the main road through the park is called Skyline Drive.
Skyline Drive is very similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We arrived at the park gate and showed our National Park Pass to the Ranger on duty. We will have to buy a new annual pass in a couple of days as this one will expire on July 31st. We sure did receive good value for our $80.00 investment in the park pass. I would have to sit down and add up all the National Parks and Monuments we have visited since purchasing the pass last summer, but it is somewhere around 30 or so.
Skyline Drive is 105 miles long with lots of pull offs to view the scenery.
We stopped at the Big Meadows Wayside Store for a bite to eat and then walked next door to the Harry F. Byrd Visitors Center to get our National Parks Passport Book stamped.
This year Shenandoah NP is celebrating its 75 year. I like the logo.
Back on Skyline Drive we drive over the highest point on the drive.. a whole 3680 ft of elevation. Compared to the highest points of drives we have done in the Rockies, this is more of a large hill. Again I will say that this would be a pretty drive in the fall.
There is one tunnel in Shenandoah National Park, the Marys Rock Tunnel. This is a 610 ft long tunnel.
We stopped to take a look at the Hogback Overlook at mile marker 21.
Another overlook we stopped at, the Range View Overlook.
We drove out of the park at the North end and headed along I-66 towards Washington DC.
I was expecting the traffic congestion to be probably the worst we have ever had to drive in on any of our vacations, after all this is the Nations Capital. Even on a Sunday afternoon, the traffic heavy, but it is moving.
We were supposed to follow the “Beltway” around the downtown core to our hotel, but with road construction comes ramp and lane changes and GPS confusion, and the GPS which I updated in June with the most current maps was not able to direct me in enough time to be in the correct lane and we missed our exit. Now we are heading downtown. Karen and I usually take a tour of the large cities and their downtowns with a tour company, but we are getting our own first peak at Washington with our own GPS guided tour through the downtown.
We are on the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, crossing the Potomac River and ahead of us is the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Beside us is the Arlington Memorial Bridge.
Here is another view of the Washington Monument. At one point we were driving on Pennsylvania Avenue and I was wondering if we were going to drive past The White House, but the GPS told me to turn left and then we were back on track to our hotel.
We arrived at our hotel and got checked in for the week. Tomorrow there won’t be any sightseeing, we need to sleep in, then get laundry done and get some groceries in for the week.
If you would like to see the photos we took today you can click on the link to our FLICKR site.
Up early this morning and back on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We are picking up where we left off yesterday.
We hadn’t gone very far before we encountered a detour which took us off of the Parkway and it was about 10 miles further North that we were able to get back on. That portion that we had to detour was having the classic stone wall restored and repaired.
Pretty soon we cross the State line into Virginia.
It has been many years since I have seen a “Gulf Gas Station” but we are seeing lots of them in North Carolina and now Virginia. I like the brilliant colours, and the price is much cheaper than at home.
As there was yesterday, there are many pull offs and scenic vistas along our route. Here is one, The Groundhog Mountain Overlook. There is an observation deck and some examples of different styles of wooden fencing.
A bit further North, we stopped at Mabry Mill, bought a few souvenirs and walked around the site. There is an old mill here with a water wheel. They actually still grind grains here and sell bread in their store made from the ground wheat. A great photo opportunity, right here at the side of the road.
Some of the scenery we see as we drive along.
We then spotted a white tail deer ahead of us on the road, so we stopped and watched and then we saw the 2 fawns that were following her. We gave them plenty of time and room to get across the road.
This is Abbot Lake.
This is a squirrel that was sitting in the middle of the road, he posed long enough for us to get his photo before scampering off into the forest.
Otter Lake, another picture good enough to be a postcard.
We saw another deer crossing the road ahead of us.
And then we came to the only tunnel in Virginia. If you recall, North Carolina had 25 tunnels. This is the Bluff Mountain Tunnel.
Shortly after passing through the tunnel we come to the end of our drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. That was a very enjoyable scenic drive. We would like to do this drive again and it would be a good drive to do in the fall with all the fall colours.
To see all the photos that we took today, you can click on this link to our FLICKR site.
Today we are going to start our drive North along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We will drive as far North as Boone North Carolina where we will stay for the night before finishing the parkway tomorrow.
The road has 2 designations. It is a National Scenic Byway and it is an All American Road. The All American Road designation means that there are features along the way that are not seen anywhere else in the USA. Some traditionalists will say that we are starting at the wrong end, but you know what… you do it any way you can, and South to North works for us on this trip.
The Blue Ridge Parkway was built to connect Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Shenandoah National Park and is 469 miles long. The road took 52 years to complete as segments were stitched together. It became one continuous stretch of road in 1987.
We arrived at the beginning of our journey at mile marker 469 to find a parks official painting the sign.
We will pass through 25 tunnels today on our journey, I won’t bore you with photos of each and every tunnel, but believe me when I say we did get photos of each and every tunnel. They all pretty much look the same style and design, a tunnel is a tunnel.
Here are 3 and you can see all of them on our FLICKR site.
There are dozens and dozens of overlooks along our route to day. I will just show you a few of the overlooks.
There is a Visitors Center at Waterrock Knob Overlook, so this was one of our many stops.
As you can imagine, it is a very scenic, windy, twisty, uphill, downhill kind of a road, just the sort of road we love to drive on. Why take the Interstate when you can drive along at 35 - 45 mph and enjoy this kind of scenery.
We stopped at the Richard Balsam Overlook which is the highest point we will reach along the total length of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Lots and lots of wild flowers and butterflies. This is Green Headed Coneflowers, Bindweed and a Pipevine Swallowtail.
At the Glassmine Falls overlook, if you look just above the sign you can barely see the falls, but with a little zoom action from our camera, the falls come into view.
We stopped at the Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center. This viaduct was the last structure to be built and connected the completed North and South sections of the parkway. We walked along the trail underneath the viaduct.
Price Lake was very picturesque.
Our hotel for the night is in Boone NC. We went to Hardee’s for dinner. This has become my new favourite fast food chain, the hand scooped ice cream shakes are the best. Their burgers are also very good.
Tomorrow we will continue North along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
To see all of the photos from today (around 300 or so) they are all on my FLICKR site.
We started out along the Newfound Gap Road. This is a mountain pass located near the centre of the park.
At one of the pull offs, the State Line of Tennessee and North Carolina pass through the parking lot.
The scenery is very beautiful as we drive along the Newfound Gap Road, it would even be better in the fall as the leaves are changing colours.
The reason for the early departure this morning from the hotel was so that we could do the hike to Clingman’s Dome. With afternoon temperatures in the mid 90’s we want to do this 1/2 mile UPHILL hike while the morning temperatures are still cool. This is the highest mountain in the Smokies. There is an observation tower at the peak.
The pathway is paved, but it is steep and 1/2 mile long. Up we go, slowly, we had to stop at the benches placed every 10th of a mile for a little rest break. We weren't the only ones resting though, just about everyone was stopping for a break.
Here we are about 1/2 way to the top, I looked back and could see the parking lot where we parked the car.
And the view from 1/2 way to the top.
And here we are, we made it to the top… This is our first views of the observation tower. We still have to walk up the spiral walkway to the top.
The view from atop the observation tower.
The best thing about the uphill struggle at the beginning of the hike to get to the top is that from now on it is an easy downhill stroll. On the way up, the goal was just getting to the top, now on the way down, we have time to stop and smell the wild flowers along the side of the walkway.
We stopped at the visitor center and got our National Park Passport Book stamped and we bought t-shirts that proclaimed our feat of climbing to the top of Clingman’s Dome. I was happy to see that there were t-shirts available to purchase because I remember climbing to the top of Moro Rock in Sequoia NP last summer with our friend Patty, and after that climb I wanted a t-shirt that said “I climbed Moro Rock” but there were no such t-shirts available.
I can’t imagine doing this hike in the mid afternoon with the temperatures in the 90’s so we were smart to do it in the early morning hours.
We stopped at the Oconaluftee Visitors Center to get another passport stamp and to tour their Mountain Farm Museum.
We leave the main park briefly and head to another part of the park that is less known or accessed. Lake View Drive, but it is better known as The Road To Nowhere. Between 1948 and 1970, the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service built 7.2 miles of this road just outside of Bryson City into the park. However, due to financing issues and opposition from environmental groups, the project stalled. The unfinished 7.2-mile stretch was nicknamed "the Road to Nowhere" by locals. At the dead end of the road is a completed tunnel.
We then headed back to our hotel in Pigeon Forge TN, passing through a Cherokee Indian Reservation where we saw several fiberglass bears painted in different motifs.
We took some more photos of Main Street Pigeon Forge.
To see all of our photos from today, you can click on this link to our FLICKR site.