Harpers Ferry & Skyline Drive

Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia

Tuesday, 7 November 2006, Coinjock, NC
It's Election Day in America and it remains to be seen what joy or otherwise that will bring. We are staying in a not so quaint and fairly dishevelled campground directly on Currituck Sound, just into North Carolina, and it is pouring with rain. But the weather is a distinct improvement temperature wise to what we have been experiencing recently! More on that to follow... As mentioned at the beginning of the last diary entry, we drove through 4 states on Wednesday to arrive in Virginia. After leaving Pennsylvania, we drove through Maryland - not a big state and not a long journey, since we crossed one of its narrowest points! We did find it pretty though and stopped to take more photos of yet another farm with yet another red barn and yet more autumn colours as a backdrop. We also stopped in Frederick to shop and visit at least one town in this state! It was another rather attractive large town.
After about 50 miles we were in West Virginia for an even shorter journey, but a longer stay. We visited Harpers Ferry, which is at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers and located where the borders of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet. Harpers Ferry "has served in a pivotal role in several events that impacted the nation's history", and is now a National Historic Park. There is a lot of information about this place on the web, so I won't repeat it here. I think it's great that places like this are protected by the National Parks, but once again it was an historic place which holds little significance to either of us, so our visit was relatively short.
From Harpers Ferry we drove into Virginia in the direction of Front Royal to reach the beginning of the Skyline Drive, which runs along the Blue Ridge of the Appalachian Mountain Range in the Shenandoah National Park. Once again we arrived at a renowned tourist destination to find almost everything 'closed for the season'. Just one campground remained open on the Drive and that was about 50 miles from the beginning. We were a bit later than we had planned and took much longer driving this scenic byway than we had expected, so we were driving the last half of this section at dusk and in the dark. It was quite stressful as there are a great many deer there and they all love to just run across the road in front of you! For this reason we didn't fully enjoy the experience of the first half of the Skyline Drive. We also arrived at the campground in the dark - AGAIN!
It was not only the paucity of campgrounds that presented problems, but also the complete lack of availability of information. The entry gate to the Park wasn't staffed, the first visitors centre was closed Monday and Tuesday, and the second one, next to the campground (where we woke up on Wednesday morning), was closed Wednesday and Thursday! They can't even leave information outside of these closed places where the public could access it. We managed to get the National Park map and information from the gate when we were leaving the Park! Then we could sit at our leisure and read where we had been. We were disappointed to find that there were some very short walks that Juergen could have managed, and would have given us some sensational views, but since we didn't have the information we had driven straight past them. And as for finding a public toilet open - don't even think about it! I do find it very short-sighted of the National Park system to decide that no one travels before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, whereas this drive is supposed to be very popular in autumn!
We spent the night at Big Meadow campground, which is about halfway along the Skyline Drive, and woke to find the place completely shrouded in fog, or maybe low cloud, and very cold out. It wasn't possible to see more than a couple of metres in front of you. We took our time getting organised for the day and by about 10.00 the fog had lifted and we had a clear sunny day - but still cold. We drove the rest of this scenic route and saw some beautiful vistas. From the ridge you can see West Virginia to the west and Virginia to the east, and the autumn colours in the valleys are still quite stunning. On the drive it depends a lot on the altitude - the higher you go, the more bare trees. We realised that we are having the longest autumn ever, since it began in August when we were in the Arctic tundra, and it continues into November.

Continuation on > Page 2 > !

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