Oh, Shenandoah! (Reprise)

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0514acsIndependence Day, 2015. The day Don and I returned to the scene of the crime. The offense? Visiting a National Treasure without Robb. This Fourth of July we were to serve the term of our punishment.

Three months after we left Shenandoah National Park, we returned for a weekend, this time with Robb in tow. A chance for Don and I to introduce him to the wonders of Skyline Drive.

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0485 aWhat a change in the landscape! When we left in April, the mountainsides were mostly brown with tinges of the lime green of new spring growth. Now all is lush dark green.

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0400 acsWith plans to hike to up The Massanutten toward Signal Knob the next day, Robb and Don took the opportunity to take a compass heading and puzzle over the proper approach.

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0423 acsRobb on one of the rock faces that line parts of the east side of Skyline Drive. Now who’s doing the hard time?

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0551acsWith all these vast mountain vistas and valley views in a new environment, what’s Robb looking at? Plants, of course.

There’s this one spiky flower we kept seeing along the roadsides as we were driving.

We couldn’t identify it on the move, but it was never present at the overlooks.

Finally Robb and I walked back along the road to take a closer look.

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0559acsArmed with a hand lens and Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, we were able to identify it as Cimicifuga racemes, commonly called Black Snakeroot or Black Cohosh. Mystery solved!

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0616acsA tree and granite vignette.

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0585acsHeadlights appear from the mist. Shenandoah’s only tunnel bores 670 feet through the granite of Marys Rock. Fog along the Skyline Drive. How – familiar.

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0619acsFranklin Cliffs never ceases to delight. I could spend the whole day here, clambering around on the rocks. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0647acsMan vs. mountain. From the looks of it, the mountain won.

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0686acsAlways an argument with these two.

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0628acsCedar Waxwing, wearing a robber’s mask.

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0548acs copyColumbine.

Robb and I had wanted to walk to a waterfall. Small problem – the crowds. It was the Fourth of July in one of America’s most popular National Parks, after all.

We opted instead to take the hike to the top of Stony Man, knowing Robb would love scrambling around on the boulders.


150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0690acsExcept that those boulders were covered with people. On the horizon, ominous dark clouds were quickly swallowing the views. And as we turned to leave, the skies opened up.

Oh great. Thunder and lightning. And there were Don and I on the second highest peak in Shenandoah, clutching metal trekking poles. Cruel and unusual punishment.

The rain was relentless, and we were walking downhill in a rushing streambed that used to be a trail. Oddly, I was thoroughly enjoying it. I’d not been feeling well that day, but the rain was cooling and rejuvenating. Even when I had to pour it out of my “waterproof” boots at trail’s end.

As we reached our car, the rains stopped. But of course. By the time we returned to Skyland Resort for a brief stop, the skies were clearing and the sun was coming out. The mountain air had a delicious washed-clean feel to it.

Later, in a nondescript hotel room, a different kind of washing took place. Don used a hair dryer on his cash, blowing dry each individual paper bill. Money laundering at its most elemental.

Same scenery, different crime.

150704_VA Shenandoah National Park_0666aRobb relishing the view from Franklin Cliffs, while Don and I served out our sentence for neglecting him, with no time off for good behavior.

If spending a day in Shenandoah National Park is “punishment”, I’m going to have to be very, very naughty.