Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shenandoah National Park - Day 1

This morning we headed to the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park.  This park has been on Troy's bucket-list for quite awhile, and he particularly wanted to go in the fall to see the the autumn foliage.
 We went on three hikes today, the first being Turk Gap.  This hike is a little over two miles round-trip, and it takes you to the top of Turk Mountain.  Our littlest hiker was complaining quite a bit, so we turned around and headed back before reaching the end of the trail.  That's okay, though, because we were all getting hungry, too.
 We stopped at several overlooks as we drove north.  At this stop, Troy and Evelyn saw some birds flying around - I took out my camera and zoomed waaaaaaaay out to see what kind of birds they were.  Look closely in the picture below, and you'll see a bluebird perched on the big branch (we were told bluebirds are an unusual sighting in the park).
 Our second hike of the day was the Black Rock Summit trail.  This was a short (0.8-mile round-trip) hike to an outcropping of black lava rock.  Once at the summit, we carefully walked around the top, checking out the unique rocks.
 While the fall color was beautiful, it wasn't as vibrant as we thought it would be.  This is because of two reasons:  the peak of color came about two weeks early this year; and a major thunderstorm rolled through the area two days ago, stripping some of the trees of their leaves.  Still, each overlook provided amazing views of the golden peaks and valleys.
 Our last hike of the day was a 1.4-mile (round-trip) hike to 70-foot Dark Hollow Falls.  The hike to the falls was a piece of cake because it was all downhill.
You have to look very closely at the picture below to find Julia and me.  Troy and Evelyn were at the bottom of the waterfalls (where Troy took this picture), and Julia and I are at the very top.  There's a clearing at the top, in the middle of the picture, and that's where we are; if it helps, I'm wearing a hot-pink vest, and Julia is wearing a lavender jacket.  Anyway, the hike back to the top wasn't as painful as we thought it would be, mostly because Julia was a happy hiker.
 Here's one last picture from our first day in the park.  The setting sun made the mountains look like they were on fire.  Julia is standing in front of the sign of the mountain we plan to hike tomorrow morning.  See you at Stony Man!