June 1, 2010 [LINK / comment]

Blue Ridge Parkway day trip

Jacqueline and I are slowly recovering from our exhilarating but exhausting excursion to the Blue Ridge Parkway on Sunday. (She is in better shape than I am, actually.) Aside from all the colorful birds (which I reported on May 30), we also saw quite a few butterflies and flowers. Though physically tired, we were spiritually refreshed by seeing all the beauty of God's creation, unspoiled by human hands.

Our initial plan was to hike to the top of Humpback Rocks as early as possible, so as to beat the large crowds that were sure to be there later on. The trail was a bit slippery due to the recent rains, and we paused frequently to look for birds. We made it to the top just after 8:00 A.M., a net gain in elevation of about 800 feet. Only one other hiker was there, plus his dog. With clear skies (though slightly hazy), mild temperatures, and no sound but for the birds singing, it was sheer bliss -- for a while. Sure enough, several large groups soon arrived, and so we headed back down just before 9:00 A.M.

After the hike, we spent some time at the Humpback Rocks visitors center, where we learned about the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway (1935-2010). Because it was Memorial Day weekend, they had some exhibitions at the recreated farm nearby, and we talked to a guy at a tent who was displaying memorabilia from the Vietnam War. Then we decided to continue south on the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping to walk around at some of the scenic overlooks. It was the first time we had gone south of the Wintergreen turnoff in years, and I especially enjoyed the dramatic view at Twenty Minute Cliff. A bit further along, I was delighted to finally get a good look at a Chestnut-sided Warbler, which is one of my favorites. Finally we reached the intersection of Route 56, and descended into the Shenandoah Valley once again, passing through the towns of Vesuvius, Steele's Tavern, and Greenville on the way back to Staunton. Time well spent on a wonderful day!

Andrew & Jacqueline at Humpback Rocks

"Los Clems" taking in the awesome view at Humpback Rocks. Roll the mouse over this image to see a Fritillary butterfly on Mountain Laurel blossoms at the Humpback Rocks visitor center.

Those photos, and others, have been posted on the new Summer 2010 photo gallery page.

Spider photos

I have also created a new nature photo gallery for our tiny eight-legged "friends" in the Arachnid family: Spiders. Some of those photos are enhanced, re-edited versions of spider photos that I posted years ago.

Spider montage