October 14, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Shenandoah National Park getaway
Jacqueline and I spent a pleasant two days at Shenandoah National Park early last week, taking advantage of good weather following many days of rain and/or gloom. (I previously reported on our birding activities there in my Oct. 5 blog post.) To avoid missing any important baseball games, I picked a day between the end of the regular season and the first of the two wild card games. Unlike our previous trip to SNP in late June, the weather was very nice for the most part, excellent for taking photos. It was getting a bit cloudier as we departed to return home on Tuesday, October 4.
While hiking to the top of Hawksbill Mountain on Monday, October 3, we were advised by other hikers that a bear was lurking in the area. We didn't see it, which was both a relief and a disappointment. But later as we were driving from the parking area along Skyline Drive, we saw some cars that were stopped up ahead, and sure enough we had a great closeup bear photo op! In the late afternoon we strolled casually through the amazing, unique habitat that is Big Meadows. We had such a busy day hiking to and fro that we fell asleep not long after enjoying a sumptuous dinner at the Big Meadows lodge. It's a very good restaurant there, with a good choice of wine and beer.
The next morning we hiked along the west slope near the Big Meadows lodge, and I found it difficult to get good photos, because of the glare from the morning light and the fact that my camera (Canon PowerShot SX-50) can't handle extreme variations between light and dark portions of a photo. So, I had to spend some time carefully editing some of those photos on my Macintosh back home. Later in the morning we hiked along the road on the south edge of Big Meadows, where we saw a number of butterflies. Then we headed for home, full of natural energy from the beautiful surroundings.
To see more photos from that trip, see the Chronological (2016) photo gallery.
To the home of James Monroe (?)
Later that week (Thursday, October 6), we made a day trip to Albemarle County, intending among other things to see Monticello, home of the third president, Thomas Jefferson. (We have not been there since we lived in Charlottesville in the 1990s!) The skies were overcast, however, and I didn't want to waste the steep price of admission ($25) only to get mediocre photos. So we contented ourselves with browsing through the "David Rubenstein Visitor Center," an entirely new addition that was built since our last visit.
Then, we drove a few miles southeast to visit the nearby "Highland" estate, home of the fifth president, James Monroe. (For years it was also called "Ashlawn," but that was the name given by the subsequent estate owner.) I had been there with my brother Dan during the early 1990s, at which point there was some doubt about which of the currently-standing structures were in existence when James Monroe was alive. Just in the last couple years, archeologists have determined that only the smaller white portion of the main residential structure was there during Monroe's life, and it was just a guest residence. Monroe's own home burned down in the mid-19th Century, and was replaced by the yellow house which stands today. (That is why the title above contains a question mark.) The tour guide was very knowledgeable about history, and I learned quite a bit about the president who promulgated the Monroe Doctrine (1823), a lynchpin of U.S. foreign policy for well over a century. I also learned that Monroe came from humble middle-class origins, and indeed Highland pales in comparison to the elaborate Monticello nearby.
Then we had a tasty all-natural lunch at a delightful country market in the village of Simeon, where St. Luke's Episcopal Church stands. Then we headed back up hill, went past Monticello, and arrived at Carter's Mountain Orchard to shop for apples and other farm treats. The skies had turned clear blue by then, perfect for taking photos of Charlottesville and the surrounding countryside! Too bad it was cloudy earlier in the day... After sampling some local wines and buying some bottles, we drove back down the mountain, and stopped to browse at the shop in the Meadow Run Mill, next to historic Michie Tavern. Then, we headed home, satisfied with another fun day.
To see more photos from those two trips, see the Chronological (2016) photo gallery.