Saturday, June 03, 2006

Passing through Shenandoah

Radha and I spent the memorial day weekend hopping through Shenandoah and thereabouts. We left Cary on the morning of the 27th and drove upto Charlotesville. A fairly uneventful 4 hour drive up I85 and west on I64. Charlottesville is a small little town, home to University of Virginia founder by Thomas Jefferson. The downtown area has a marketplace that is about 8 square blocks and open only to folk on foot. We spent the afternoon there walking around, gazing at street wares and waiting an eternity for our pizza. Being close to the university we decided it might be worth driving through the campus...hearing it was in the west of Charlottesville, we just drove west hoping to run into it. :) After a few miles Radha thought it was'nt working and stopped at a gas station for directions and gas...we lucked out and found that we were just a mile away from our intended destination.

The campus was spectacular, its centerpiece a rotunda, courtyard and students quarters designed by Jefferson. We mulled around a bit taking in the quiet serenity of the campus. Stocking up on some water and soda at the local 7-11 we were ready for Shenandoah.

A 40 minute drive got us to the entrance to the park at Rockfish Gap. We entered at milepost 105...quick enquiry with the ranger at the ticket counter revealed our intended hike for the day was at milepost 21...kind of far away. So we settled on Joan River falls - a 3 mile roundtrip hike. The hike was wonderful, we saw a few cascades and went down some steep inclines. Fairly quiet trail, but we did see more desis than locals...always a curiosity when that happens. We managed to get back to the car before sunset and headed on to Staunton. Ignoring Radha's advice to retrace to MP105 I decided to head to the next exit north...and added an extra half hour to our drive. :) We got to Staunton pretty late and I think the B&B host was slightly peeved. But hell....we had to get our hike in for the day. We ventured out for a bite to eat and found a town lacking folks on the street at 10 PM. All we managed was some cake and smoothie at a quaint coffee place.

The sunday dawned nice and bright. Breakfast cooked by the host was delicious - fruit, yoghurt and pancakes. The company @breakfast interesting and varied...some conversation, quick goodbye and off to Luray. An hour's drive north on I81 got us to Luray in short order. We had to see the much heard of caverns. The place looked like a strip mall from the outside with a huge parking area.

Once inside the cavern though, its a spectacular treat of 4 million year old subterranean rock formations. There were guides fluent in many languages it seemed...including telugu. Anyways, the stalagcites and stalagmites are huge and the caves deep and cavernous. there are pools of water that reflect like a mirror presenting unique and wonderous views. There are formations that form templates for your imagination revealing pictures of earthly objects. We trudged thro the caves, with me trying to get through the crowds and radha counting the stalagcites...:p we emerged eventually in the customary gift shop and left with good memories and no trinkets. Lunch time it was and the local patel owned Subway was the destination. Good subs.

We left Luray and headed back into Shenandoah. A short drive got us to Thornton Gap at MP31. Radha wanted to check out an appalachian trail hut on Big Devils trail @ MP17. We got to the trail and hiked to the hut. It looked like backpackers heaven...with a roof, fireplace, potty and bear prods...yeah...for them hikers who agitiate the local balu. We pondered going farther down big devils but didnt like the look or the smell of the trail...we retreated to the car and decided to try Piney River Falls. At MP21 it was fairly close. Oh..and we ran into a bear and its cub. But from the safe confines of our car we werent too concerned. But then...hiking in bear territory after spotting a bear upped the excitement a bit. :p Piney River Falls trail was desolate. We just wanted to get down to the river and back...this was the least populated of all the trails we were on...and saw less than a dozen people in three hours. It just seemed cool to see a bear in the wild. ButThe river when we got to it was very pretty. We ventured off the trail a bit to sit at a cascade and taste the quiet gurgle of the mountain stream. Yes, stream is more like it...if you can refer the smokies as have to call these streams rivers. :) On the way back to the parking lot, we saw wild deer that leapt across our trail and hung out for a while checking us out. It eventually scooted away and we hiked on...we drove back down to Staunton and parked our hinies at Frederick's house this time. For dinner we found a place called the depot located in the old Staunton railway station..a really nice bar with lots of veggie stuff on the menu. The ale was from Maine..magic cat 9 was its name...and as good as it gets. At this point in the day I was pre-occupied by thoughts of the hurricanes playing in game 5 of the EC finals...i was out in nascar country though..No hockey at the bars.

Monday morning, memorial day. Weekend is coming to an end. Breakfast at the inn was a bit different. They seated people like in a restuarant but provided great service. It was the first time we had tasted fresh multi-grain waffles. Good stuff! Oh, the Canes took game 5 according to the "News Leader." On the way out of Staunton, we stopped by Woodrow Wilson's library. We cheaped out and refused to pay the entry fee...but we walked around the library and got a pic of radha next to yet another prezident's limo. We have one of LBJ's too. :)

The plan for the drive back was to avoid the madcaps on the interstates. So we took Route 29 and 501 back home. On the way, we crossed the James River and ran into a famous footbridge on the AT. We stopped there for a while and chatted with some thru hikers resting in the shade...after 800 miles of a 2100 mile hike. :) While we were strolling on the bridge a crazy kid started peeling his shirt off and indicated an intent to jump off the bridge...i thought he was kidding. Apparently not. He jumped. Something like 50 feet? Into the water! I couldnt look until I heard a wild yelp from down below. He made it. Nuts! I asked him how he knew it was deep enough...he thought it was a big river and it ought to be deep. Hmm...Darwin might take care of this one. His girlfriend was smart. She made sure he survived before taking the plunge herself.

After crossing the James River, we were heading south again. Hooked up with 40 around Greensboro and back home it was to wash the car and mow the yard.

More photos from the trip are over here.


Blogger Dead By Now said...

Keep up the writing.

3:29 PM  

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