VIRGINIA: Shenandoah

I have quite a few friends that live in Florida.

They like living in Florida; the constant warmth, the bewitching sunsets on the calm waters, the sturdy palms swaying in the breeze…the bugs, the hurricanes, the constant threat that an alligator will run off with their cat. So it is with eye rolling shrugs of envy that I endure their barrage of, “Haha, it’ll be 82° here today,” social media posts when we are in the grips of a deep freeze during the darkest days of winter.

However, there is one time of year, one glorious brilliant time of year, where I can truly say that I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else on the planet.


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*NOTE: This blog post is from November of 2017

It’s been a weird fall this year, way too warm, we ran about 6° degrees above normal, and we were in desperate need of rain, so our trees continued producing the chlorophyll that makes the green stand out above the other pigments in the cells of the leaf well into late October. The Maples, the Ash, the Gum, Hickories, Peach and Beech, all absorbing the sunshine and basking in the golden, slanted light that makes us all think for a few weeks that we live in the hills of Tuscany.

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It was a brutally cold day for November. November is not known to be brutally cold in the mid-atlantic, it is usual so agreeable in November that we often sit outside around fire pits and chimineas on Thanksgiving. But a deep trough of arctic air from Canada had parked itself over us just in time for the weekend. We were determined however to see what was left of the foliage; so thumbing our cold noses at Canada we loaded up the car with hats, gloves and our camera and headed toward Luray Virginia.

Mike picked this destination because of our countless drives to James Madison University in Harrisonburg Virginia where our two sons attended college. Both played Rugby for the school and we spent many a fall weekend driving down I-81, an interstate that literally runs between two massive National Forests. As we would drive during those collegiate days we were always captivated by the gorgeous, unbroken ridgeline that paralleled the highway.

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Turning off on route 211 we headed into Shenandoah National Park, but we could have just as easily turned the opposite way and headed into the 1.8 million acres that make up the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, with its 40 species of trees, and its 1700 miles of open roads.

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SIDE NOTE: You will need to use an abundance of caution and patience when driving the winding back roads of the National Parks during the warm autumn months. Skyline Drive is a very well known drive for motorcycle enthusiasts and peepers in all modes of transportation.

​My recommendation is to find small side roads, or country lanes where you can take all the time you want with your camera. In addition, the Skyline Drive portion of the park has a fee. The back roads do not.

We enjoyed a peaceful day driving the lesser traveled crossroads of the commonwealth of Virginia. Stopping here and there to take a photo of whatever caught our attention. I am partial to weathered barns and sweet old churches. My husband is entranced by sweeping vistas, we saw both as we headed east on route 211 through the town of Luray, past the Thornton Gap entrance to Skyline Drive and on toward Sperryville.

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Because the day was so cold and the light was starting to fade, we decided to head toward home to stoically face the long dark nights of winter ahead, but just as we sighed one finally sigh of sadness at losing our favorite time of year, we rounded a bend and saw this happy sight.

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Seeing the brilliant colors of the balloon as it floated quietly over the darkening hills, made us feel grateful and reflective; which are right and proper emotions to feel during this time of thanksgiving.

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