On Top Of The World

Hans Haus

Hi!  This is Archon, your friendly tour guide/travel agent.  If you’ve been reading my stuff long enough, you’ll know that you’re all invited to Oktoberfest, Kitchener’s beer-bash bacchanalia, beginning Oct. 9, 2015.  That’s a long way off though.  If the Eastern section of the U. S. is accessible to you, and you have some free time and are looking for somewhere scenic to go this summer, I have a suggestion for you.

Skyline map

SKYLINE DRIVE 

Skyline trail

Skyline Drive is a part of the Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia.  It is a glorious 105-mile drive along the tops of the mountains.  There is a reasonable day-trip fee to enter the park.  The Drive is a twisty little two-lane paved road that dodges around this side of this mountain, and then swings around that side of that mountain.  The speed limit is 30 MPH, and nobody rushes it.  The views are magnificent.

Skyline panorama

We took the trip several years ago.  Like the Interstates, once you’re on, you’re committed.  There are only three access roads, one at each end, and one about halfway.  There are several pull-off places where you can park and enjoy the views – a couple with a westerly view, and a couple facing east.

Skyline outlook

At one of the outlook spots, I wandered over to the other side of the road, wondering if I could see any of the opposite vista through the trees.  I encountered several graves, with monument stones set flat to the earth.  I briefly wondered what money or political pull it took to be buried in a National Park.  A glance at the burial dates – late 19th/early 20th century – revealed that these were the resting places of Mountain Folk, people who had lived here, hunted and fished, lived and died, and were buried as close to their God as they could get, long before the Government created this Park.

Skyline Cabin

If you want to do more than a day’s drive-through, there are a couple of lodges, and a couple of sets of cabins that you can rent.  They are extremely popular, so you might have to reserve for next year, or even beyond.

Stony Man

At about the ¾ mark, heading south, is Stony Man Mountain, featured in a set of books I used to read.  I’m glad those arrows hang in midair, or I might have missed it.  Finally pulling off the Drive, we headed west to drive back north up the valley between the two chains of mountains.  We decided that we would pull in somewhere to get food and drink.  I’ve often heard that you should never eat at a place called “Mom’s.”  Apparently many others had also heard this admonition.  Mom’s was closed and boarded up.  The Cracker Barrel in the next town was an acceptable alternative.

Moms 1

Moms 2

We came down from the north, and stayed in Front Royal VA, a small city featured in another series of my books. You can go from high to low, because there are also several caves and caverns in the area, that can be toured.  Just south of Front Royal, near the park access road, is Skyline Caverns.

Skyline caverns

It’s a 2.1 mile underground walk in an almost figure-eight, except the cross point doesn’t touch.  Long before it was opened up, a portion of the roof collapsed, creating a vacuum, and crystals found nowhere else on earth.

Skyline crystals

Among several other caves in the area is Luray Caverns.  This is a 2.2 mile stroll in a helix.  At one point along the edge of a large grotto, there are three levels of the path, 10/12 feet above each other.  An organ was hauled down and assembled, and a caver with perfect pitch wandered the place for days, tapping stalactites with a mallet to hear the note each gave off.  Then little rubber hammers with actuators were attached, and connected to the organ.  Nowadays they have been disconnected to prevent damage, and what you hear is a recording of the final performance, still, it’s awesome.

Luray organ

I’d never heard of Skyline Drive until my plant supervisor told me about it.  I’m not so much interested in any compensation from these sites or the area tourist bureau.  I will be more pleased if only one or two of my readers are the back-to-Earth types who can enjoy what we have experienced.  Happy holidaying!  😀

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14 thoughts on “On Top Of The World

  1. Daniel Digby says:

    You’re right; Skyline is absolutely magnificent. It continues into the Blue Ridge Parkway, parts of which are well worth the drive. Several years ago when we traveled the length of it in spring, we were snowed in and the roads closed. We stayed at a beautiful park inn just before the closure.

    One of your photos looks like the cantilever bridge that goes around Grandfather Mountain. It doesn’t touch the ground anywhere in its span, required to protect endangered plant life below.

    One place that I really like is the folk museum at the south end of the parkway. If you’re in the market for a good hammer dulcimer, the ones they sell are very reasonably priced.

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    • Archon's Den says:

      We’re hoping, if all goes well, to go that way again in a couple of years. You’re probably right about the Grandfather Mountain bridge. While I have clear memories of most of the drive, I don’t remember that section. 😕
      The daughter, LadyRyl, published a recent post about finding, purchasing and rehabilitating a hammered Dulcimer. I’ve seen it, but not heard it yet. 🙂

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  2. Dan Antion says:

    That drive is beautiful. We made that a couple of times while I was growing up. I remember the stunning views. Thanks for the memory jog.

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  3. Our eldest lives in Cambridge, and has been going to Oktoberfest the past few years and loves it, I really should join her, I’ve never been.

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  4. I’ve been intending to do a post on my visit to Skyline Drive back in the 1970s. I stayed in the Big Meadows Lodge – right at the top of the Drive. It had a dining room with a gorgeous view of the entire park. I was young and stupid, but it was still a very nice trip.

    As for your Oktoberfest – if I hadn’t already made hotel reservations for my impending visit, I would change it to October. Probably just as well, though – there could be snow in October, and I don’t like driving in snow.

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    • Archon's Den says:

      I don’t hold a copyright. Go ahead and do a skyline post, especially if you can still find some old photos. If not, mine the Bing images, and use some I didn’t put up. 🙂
      Coming to Oktoberfest now is like going to Disneyworld to see ‘the real Princess.’ Unless your idea of culture, is drunks in leather shorts, your September touchdown date probably a good one. We’ll have the summer detours finished up, and the winter detours in full swing. 🙄

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      • Actually, I have a print I bought when I was at Skyline, and the artist is still alive and has given me permission to use it. Just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

        “Drunks in leather shorts” – well, that sure sounds like fun, but since I’m not a beer drinker, I’ll stick with the September plans.

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  5. merlin_pan says:

    Thanks for the reminders. I’ve done parts of Skyline and Blue Ridge two or three times; this a good refresher plus new information.

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  6. I’ve been on Skyline Drive with my parents years ago. My husband, son, and myself traveled the mountains in North Caroline some years ago. They are the same mountains, just in a different state. 🙂

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    • Archon's Den says:

      I’m happy. That’s you, Cordelia’s Mom, Dan Antion and Merlin_Pan who have enjoyed that grandeur. We’ve crossed west-to-east, into the NC Piedmont a couple of times. Under different names, the range of mountains extends right up into Canada, and comprises a large part of the island Province of Newfoundland. 🙄

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  7. […] Smoky Mountains, the Appalachians, and the Shenandoahs, where we took a hundred-mile trip along the Top Of The World on the Skyline Drive, seeing Stony Man […]

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