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Trip back across the USA

I left my brothers house close to Frederick MD on October 15th, taking a more southern route for my trip back to California. Amongst other things, I was hoping to time it with some fall color viewing in the Appalachians and the Ozarks.

I was also looking forward to stops at a number of national parks and monuments on the way. I was eager to give my National Park $80 annual pass a good workout.

All the images on these pages are rather small and saved as medium quality Jpegs to keep the file sizes down.
So please click on any image to see the full size high quality version.


Day 1 – Frederick MD to Buena Vista VA

An hour or two south of Frederick is Shenandoah National Park, with the 105 mile long Skyline Drive running down the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is just one of many ridges and ranges that make up the greater Appalachian Mountains.

The speed limit on Skyline Drive is 35 mph maximum, so needless to say, you need to allot several hours to cover the distance. The moment Skyline Drive ends, close to the town of Waynesboro VA, the 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway begins. At least on the Parkway, you can go the break-neck speed of 45 mph.

The Parkway ends at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is on the N. Carolina/Tennessee border. The Blue Ridge Parkway is book ended by two national parks.

So as I entered Shenandoah that morning, I was facing 574 miles and three long days of slow driving. For some reason .... that felt a little overwhelming.


The hallmark of the Appalachians in general, and the Blue Ridge Mountains in particular, is the numerous blue toned ridges that fade away in the haze, the further distant they get.








That thistle bush in the photo to the right was playing host to some butterflies. These vividly colorful creatures are like flying flowers.









Closer in macro shots show the furry topside of the butterfly … or is it a moth? The bright colors and antennas with knobs on the end are characteristic of butterflies, but the thick furry body is a common trait of moths. For now, I will call it a butterfly.








I use a 50mm f-2.8 Sigma macro lens for these close in shots. With a macro lens, its possible to get just inches away from the subject.





These rocks with the exceptionally red vines growing around it caught my eye.






This set of railroad tracks was close to the southern end of Shenandoah. I don’t think they were in service anymore.

This sort of indirect bright overcast even lighting is just perfect for bringing out all the colors of the dead leaves on the ground.






The Blue Ridge Mountains have their unique charm, but as far as altitude goes, these would only be considered foothills to the great mountain ranges of the west, like the Sierras and the Rockies.




I stayed that night in the small town of Buena Vista, just off the Parkway. I was deliberately avoiding the larger towns along the way, like Roanoke, which was an hour or three further down the road.


Day 2 – Buena Vista VA to Laurel Springs NC

I got back on the Parkway before sunrise, so I could catch the first glimpse of the sun rising above the eastern mountains. If it is not shielded by clouds, there is only about a minute or two before the exposed sun gets too bright for direct pictures.











This is looking to the west side of the Parkway, before being lit up by direct sunlight.

The low lying mist is still clinging to the low lying areas.






I like this scene where the early morning sun hit only the most colorful part of the roadside foliage.





I came across a charming little leaf covered pond just off the Parkway. This was right by the James River, which crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway. Notable settlements further downstream on the James River include Lynchburg, Richmond, and the first permanent settlement in the USA, -- Jamestown.








As far as the fall colors situation, Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Parkway were maybe around 50 or 60% of peak color, yet there were some scattered small pockets that were in full peak and quite colorful. But for the most part, it was about halfway turned.

I did manage to find a colorful walking path that morning though.








Every single person I talked to about fall colors, ... spoke of the unusually hot dry summer delaying and diminishing the changing of the leaves.

One year earlier, I had been to New England, which was ABLAZE in color … in many parts. So I guess I had a high standard for comparison.



I never get tired of these lush leaf covered trails meandering through the woods.








One of the welcome features about the Blue Ridge Parkway, is the lack of modern human structures right off the road. However, this handsome looking church on a hill nestled amongst the foliage caused me to pull over and take a few shots.









Further down, south of Roanoke, is one of the most visited spots on the Parkway -- Mabry Mills. There is a group of preserved old buildings here, giving a peek into early Appalachian existence. Most prominent is the old mill, which actually works, by the way.







What’s this? A relic from old-fashioned Appalachia?
More likely a docent demonstrating early blacksmithing techniques.




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