September 5, 2011 [LINK / comment]

End-of-summer day tripping

Labor Day marks the effective end of summer, in terms of most people's vacation travel. (For many of us in the education sector, the fall semester actually began two weeks ago.) Anyway, it's time to wrap up another seasonal batch of scenic photos, which you can see on the Summer 2011 photo gallery. (Two of those pics are shown below on the blog post.)

A couple weekends ago, Jacqueline and I paid a visit to Natural Bridge, the second time we had been there. The weather was perfect: mild temperatures and clear blue skies. We walked underneath the bridge (U.S. Route 11 passes overhead), along a trail that goes past a recreated Indian village, an abandonded saltpeter mine (very cool inside!), and terminates at a nice waterfall. It was very enjoyable, and yes, awesome! Afterwards we went to the Wax Museum next door, observing historical displays and many presidential figures. (They actually use a plastic material, not wax.)

One of the new features at Natural Bridge is the butterfly exhibit, which is staffed by a government biologist. As someone who has recently taken an interest in those winged insects, I was very impressed. Some of the children were less than cautious with those tiny creatures, and I wonder what the "attrition rate" is due to carelessness by patrons.

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge, the premier natural wonder of the Old Dominion.

On the way home from Natural Bridge later in the afternoon, we drove into picturesque downtown Lexington, Virginia, took some pictures, and had dinner at the Southern Inn Restaurant. The old-fashioned neon-light sign outside is quite a contrast to the modern, upscale furnishings inside. Fine food, and very good service.

This past weekend we drove up to Shenandoah National Park, doing a bit of hiking. I was hoping to see some migrating birds, but hardly any were present; more on that later. There were a few interesting mushrooms along the trail, but the photographic highlight of the day was at the store at Loft Mountain: Arachnophobia!

Marbled Orb Weaver

The ventral (belly) side of a Marbled Orb Weaver, at the Loft Mountain Wayside, Shenandoah National Park. It's a little less than one inch across.