Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Luray Trip: Day 1 Recap

I had been calling this the "Shenandoah Trip"...but then, the government shutdown happened, and Shenandoah National Park closed. But we had a cabin reserved for last weekend near Luray, and it was too late to cancel, so we were going regardless. There are plenty of other things to do and see in the Luray area, right?

So, we changed our plans. The Blue Ridge Parkway was still open, so instead of driving straight to and spending Saturday afternoon in Shenandoah National Park, we focused more on the Blue Ridge Parkway on Saturday.

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The 80 miles or so of the Blue Ridge Parkway between I-77 and Roanoke might be the least heralded section of the entire parkway. You don't get the dramatic mountain views here that you do farther north or south. But you still get pretty leaves! And that's why we're making this trip, after all: for the fall foliage. The best color was found in the mountains and at higher elevations; the valleys were still a couple of weeks away from peak. So, the Blue Ridge Parkway? Perfect. (Even the highest elevations weren't quite at peak yet, but they were close.)

Not everything on the Blue Ridge Parkway was open, but some things were. So we stopped at the first thing we saw along the Parkway that was open: Mabry Mill, near US-58 / Meadows of Dan (point B on the map). We were just looking for a good place to stop and eat lunch...but Marla decided she wanted to explore, so she led us this way.

In the end, Marla actually gave us a pretty good tour of Mabry Mill. And she did virtually all of the walking on her own, without us having to carry her or anything. She's growing up! And she even knows to stay on the trail, too (at least when appropriate).

The original plan was to stick with the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to the end. But we spent a lot more time than we originally planned at Mabry Mill, so we hopped back to the interstate for a while and rejoined the Parkway much farther north. We then went to Crabtree Falls (point C on the map), one of Virginia's more accessible waterfalls.

Marla could have done this trail (paved, only a couple tenths of a mile) all by herself, too, but we brought the stroller anyway as "backup". In hindsight, maybe we would have been better off leaving the stroller in the car, because whenever we have it with us, Marla insists on pushing the stroller herself.

Either way, aside from the always nice scenery, my main takeaway from this was learning that Marla is now old enough - and willing enough - to start doing some "hiking" on her own now, at least on paved, shorter trails (under a mile round trip).

Now...a word about GPS navigation. I was looking for a road that would take us northeast from Crabtree Falls - with the ultimate goal of taking US-29 north from Charlottesville - without doing too much backtracking. This being the mountains, there isn't always a road to take you directly from point A to point B. But our trusted Jill recommended we take this road back north to the Blue Ridge Parkway:

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It looks all well and good on a map, right? Even fun! Well...as is sometimes the case with map software, the road ended up being unpaved. I wasn't in the mood for a potentially treacherous unpaved road, so instead we ended up going way out of the way, heading back south for a bit before heading back north. Normally I wouldn't have mentioned this, but the shortcut that our GPS gave us the next day turned out to be a huge success! It's always good to at least consider the GPS-recommended route. Sometimes it can be a disaster, but other times it can be tremendous.

A few minutes after sunset, we arrived at our cabin in the woods. (These pictures are from the next day.)

Rental cabins aren't cheap, but is there any better way to do a fall trip? Nope. Well, short of tent camping, maybe, but that's not really an option at the moment. Last year's cabin, and this year's, were terrific. We just got back home yesterday, and I'm already looking forward to our next fall trip, wherever that might be.

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