Day One Hundred Sixty Eight: June 16
The Applachians are the second-oldest mountain chain on earth. When they were new their average height towered to more than 30,000 feet; taller than the Himalayas are today. Yet time and the forces of nature have worn them down to their weathered humpbacks we east-coasters call “mountains” and my west coast friends call “bumps”. The official geologic definition of the Appalachians says the chain stretches from Newfoundland to Mississippi, although the tallest mountains in the chain are in North Carolina and Virginia.
Filled with new car-wanderlust, we set out to celebrate Father’s Day with a trip to Shenandoah National Park, only an hour and fifteen minutes from home. A mere 75 minutes, that is, if you’re two adults without kids in tow. But, no, with kids we pushed more than two hours, including a stop in Rappahannock County Park in Washington, Virginia, on the way out so that J could eat. I knew I had left the big city when a lady at the park setting up for a family reunion under the park picnic shelter invited me in for a glass of lemonade. While we chatted, she was curious about J’s DOC band. “Did he hurt his head?” she asked. I explained that, no, his skull wasn’t completely round and this headgear encouraged it to grow in the right direction. She said “Oh, well, it will be a good thing when he starts crawling, then, since that helmet will keep him from getting hurt.”
We made it into the park, and through a very long line of similarly-minded folks escaping the big city for the cool dry air of Skyline Drive. After waiting 15 minutes in line at the entrance station, we were let in and were on our way. We drove down to Skyland and had lunch. After lunch we went outside to find people stupidly taking pictures of a black bear cub. This is when having a crummy camera can be a matter of life or death. Idiots, armed only with an iPhone camera, knew they needed to get close to the bear because the iPhone is not exactly known for having a telephoto lens. So off they go, running through the brush, chasing a bear cub in an effort to get close enough to take a good picture of it with a cell phone camera.
Make no mistake, my camera is an entry-level camera that costs less than the fees we paid to buy our new car. But at least I have the sense to respect a bear and not chase after it through the brush. While everyone else was distracted by the bear, we sat down on the rocks and took this picture looking out over the valley. We are seated on the long, low mountain that has three different names in three different states; Virginians call it Massanutten, Marylanders call it Catoctin, and finally Pennsylvanians call it South Mountain. Behind us lies the Shenandoah Valley and the town of Luray, Virginia, and forming the far wall of the valley is the Blue Ridge.
We had a great day, and as we drove home, even M was so tired that she fell asleep in the car, something that hasn’t happened in at least two and a half years. I’m looking forward to what tomorrow brings!