Is it true when people say, “Virginia is for Lovers”? Perhaps!
I believe Virginia is for anyone who admires natural beauty with rolling hills, sandy seashores and majestic mountains. It is a land that possesses hospitable colonial charm in an age that has “gone with the wind.”
It is a land where people appreciate the memoirs of great men who formed our Republic. Old Virginia is rich in the annals of America’s most turbulent years.
We arrived in quaint Charles Town, West Virginia, and lazily spent the afternoon strolling by the colorful shops, taverns and notable streets where our founding fathers once gathered. Our first travel evening was spent at the beautiful and historic Bavarian Inn. It overlooks the Potomac in Sherpardstown.
We especially enjoyed the cozy informal ambiance of the Rathskeller with a cold dark beer before feasting on a delicious German-style dinner. Our room at the inn with a king-size bed was very comfortable. A cool nightly breeze and the comforting sound of the Potomac River flowing pass invited sleep. There was no better way to end a lovely day.
It was an early July morning when we headed south to explore this historical land from the rocky rims of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We discovered it is a distance of 574 miles from Front Royal, Virginia, to Cherokee Gap, North Carolina. At the park entrance, we purchased a National Parks Senior Pass, which is for life and the single best bargain the federal government has ever given senior citizens.
By 1939, Skyline Drive was opened to the public after President Herbert Hoover approved its construction in 1932. Today, it is one of America’s most scenic and popular byways; an impressive 105-mile windy road along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains overlooking the spectacular and breathtaking Shenandoah Valley. It twists and turns through some of Virginia’s most beautiful countryside.
Wildlife, deer, bears and turkeys are abundant along the roadway. An autumn or spring visit among these mountain peaks is especially colorful with mile after glorious mile of spectacular scenery. In late July, the drive was thriving with flowering wild rhododendrons and countless bouquets of mountain laurel that flourish along the road.
As we approached Pinnacles Overlook, a breathtaking view of Virginia’s Piedmont countryside unfolded before us. A short distance further near Skyland Resort, a great camping location is the entrance to a 4.6-mile round trip trail into White Oak Canyon.
The canyon is an area teeming with towering oaks and hemlocks, large boulders, steep gorges and a lazy meandering stream. At Mile Post 50, there is a short but steep trail leading down to Dark Hollow Falls, a stream that drops nearly 100 feet through a wooded ravine. The hike down is easy, but the return that told me I needed to exercise more.
A favorite stop for us has always been Big Meadows, a grassy 150-acre area of wide-open meadows that is a dramatic change to the wooded forest of the park. We have many fond memories of weekend outings at the Big Meadows Lodge when our children were young, the boulders we climbed, the trails we explored, and the viewing of whitetail deer.
This is a place to get out the bikes and ride among abundant wildflowers of violets, geraniums, azaleas and the many deer that call the meadow home. After a tasty dinner in the lodge and as evening set over Big Meadow, we descended the mountain. We had made reservations to sleep over at the Massanutten Resort in Harrisonburg.
We felt the Fareways Restaurant within the resort was an excellent place to begin our day. The restaurant sits aside a hill overlooking the big valley and the mountains beyond. We found the service satisfactory and price reasonable. After a tasty breakfast, we took a leisurely walk on a pathway leading to one of the many flowering gardens within the resort.
After an early breakfast and walk we returned to Skyline Drive, entering at Swift Run Gap and headed south towards North Carolina. It was a beautiful morning, a morning to loiter and take pleasure in an unhurried drive. When we arrived at Ivy Creek, we found a spectacular vista before us of the great southern countryside.
Diane and I remembered the chilly autumn weekend we spent in a lonely cabin on the hillside as we passed Loft Mountain. We spent 48 hours alone on the mountain with wild creatures, flora and fauna as our only neighbors. No television, radio, telephones or noisy neighbors, just quiet times with nature and a good book.
We recalled the evening crackling of the fireplace and the warm light glow as we cuddled together and fell asleep. If you’d like to remove stress and just get away from it all for day or two, we highly recommend a cabin on Loft Mountain.
Continuing south, we lingered at Trayfoot and Horsehead Mountain and the Moorman River Overlook. The views of the southern Appalachian Range were absolutely breathtaking. The scenic drive approaching Calf Mountain winding through the Bear Den Mountains to McCormick Gap was incredible as well.
At the far end of Skyline Drive at Rockfish Gap, the road officially becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway. The parkway continues for 469 miles into North Carolina passing points of interest such as Indian Gap, Peaks of Otter, and Stone Mountain. It finally ends at the base of the Great Smokey Mountains.
We will continue to explore this wondrous region to Cherokee Gap in our next publication. All our best.