Shenandoah National Park

Three years ago I was discussing photography with a fellow photographer, pictured below.  We were discussing places for good photography in the DC-Baltimore vicinity and he mentioned Shenandoah Valley.  He also showed me some photos of deer he had gotten there.  He was pretty impressed with how close he got to the deer (although – spoiler – I eventually got closer).  I was impressed with the deer photos and his description of Shenandoah Valley.  I resolved to visit it.

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The guy who told me about Shenandoah Valley

I told my wife and she seemed amenable to the idea.  The only problem was that it took over two hours to get there.  And, when I looked up information about the National Park, it turns out that it was a 105 mile drive in which drivers are limited to 35 miles per hour.  We realized that while it was technically doable in one day, we would probably be miserable at the end of the day.  So we decided we had to wait until we could plan a trip where we’d spend the night in a hotel there.  Fast forward to 2009 and we resolved to go for our anniversary.  Then some other things came up around that time (lots of travel) and we decided to go in the fall.  Somewhere along the line we mentioned it to my in-laws and they asked to join us.  So over Columbus Day holiday we made a visit to Shenandoah National Park, my third visit to a US National Park.  Following is a photo essay with a selection of my photos from my Shenandoah National Valley Trip set on flickr.  All the above-ground images are GPS tagged so click through to the flickr page if you want to see where the photo was taken.  Once on the page, click on the “map” link on the right near the bottom (around where it says the date the photo was taken).

The Trip to Shenandoah Begins
Going South on I-95 near Calverton, MD
Danielle, the Tour Driver
Danielle was the driver so I could concentrate on photography during the trip.

Tag-a-longs

Our Hotel Outside Front Royal
Our hotel outside Front Royal, VA
Front Royal Motel
One of the motels in Front Royal Proper. Many of them looked as though they had been constructed in the 1930s when the park was opened

Shenandoah North Entrace

Shenandoah Sign and Logo

Southbound on Skyline Drive
The weather made shooting out the window a necessity, although this sometimes produced less than stellar results.

Shenandoah Deer
This was the first deer we saw in the park. We only saw it because the car in front of us stopped so we looked to see what they were looking at. It was a bit of a surprise and I tried my best to get the deer, but it still came out blurry. I've left this photo in the photo essay because for a long time we thought this was the only deer we'd see in the park and I was so annoyed I was unable to catch a good, clear photo of a deer in Shenandoah. Little did we know how wrong we would be. Still, seeing the deer put the trip off on a positive note. We were a little dismayed that the foliage would be peaking in the following week, so seeing the wildlife lifted our spirits. I was unable to contain my excitement after this and I know it really helped me enjoy the trip.

Tree Among Shrubs

Danielle and her Mom on one of the Overlooks

Colourful Slope

35 MPH is a lot faster than you think
When I read, on the park's website, that the speed limit was 35 MPH, I pictured a leisurely drive in the park. But as I saw the trees passing by while I looked for deer and bears, I came to feel that perhaps 35 MPH was a little too fast to enjoy nature. The Ken Burns documentary mentioned people passing through the parks so quickly they can't enjoy its true purpose - connecting with nature. I felt that way at times during this visit. If I ever make it out to Shenandoah again, I would like to partake in some hikes and some tours with the park rangers.
Water Fountain at Ranger Station
We stopped at the ranger station to find out the hours for the restaurants in the middle of the park.

Duc and Mai at an Overlook Facing North

Day One Hundred Forty-Four:  My Third National Park

The Colourful Leaves Start to Become More Plentiful

The #1 Threat to America
This bear made my day. All I wanted to see at the park was a bear. I also wanted to see deer, but I'd seen those before. Never had I seen a bear in the wild. We were extremely lucky to see this bear. If you believe in a god that meddles in human affairs, it was certainly God who caused us to be there right at that moment. We would have never spotted the bear had the two cars in front of us not been stopped in a section of the park that did not have a place to pull over. I looked to see what they were looking at and I thought I saw a bear. I ran out of the car, crossed the street, and saw the bear far away. I ran back and grabbed my 400D which had the 55-200mm lens attached. I popped off a few shots of the bear, but this was the only one at ISO 400 to come out non-blurry. So, glad I decided to chimp, I realized this and upped the ISO to 1600 to get the rest of the bear shots in this series. I jumped up and down like a child and was so excited about the bear, I'm sure I made a fool of myself. I spent the rest of the trip elated despite the poor weather. I also spent the rest of the trip looking for another bear. But there were no others to be found near Skyline Drive.

Imitation 800mm lens

Lone Tree in the Field

Turkey Vulture over the Valley

Danielle and Parents at the Rocky Overlook

Mostly Variations of Yellow

Deer gets curious about the car

Deer
With every click of my shutter, the deer would look up and so every other shot was a good one.

Turning Head

Very Orange followed by Very Green

The River Ends

Leaving Skyline Drive
And so we left the park after about eight hours.
Portait at Luray Caverns
After Skyline Drive we had three choices of caverns to visit. We decided to go to Luray Caverns because it seemed to be the one no one in our party had yet been to. According to wikipedia, we were four of this year's 500,000 expected visitors.

Cavern Stalagtites

The Skyscrapers

Dan's Steak House
I only included this shot (taken while driving around Front Royal) for my brother.

Sunset on I-81
With the sun making its descent, we headed back to the hotel.

This Sunset Cannot be Contained

Shenandoah GPS Track
Shenandoah GPS Track; Not as pretty as the google one, but guaranteed to be here as long as this blog is up.

Author: Eric Mesa

To find out a little more about me, see About Me

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