The magazine said, "This route stretches through Shenandoah National Park, end-to-end, with the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and more than 1,300 species of plants. Warm weather brings purple and yellow violets; by May, pink azaleas appear throughout the forest, followed by white flowers of mountain laurel in early June."
Sounds about right. I was just on Skyline Drive over the weekend. Up until about 2200 feet, everything is in bloom. The redbuds are glowing; white dogwoods lean over the road; and through any clearing you see a patchwork of pale green down on the valley floor.
Above that height, though, spring comes more slowly. The trees are bare and bitter gusts made me question whether I jumped the gun by wearing shorts. Still, my partner Ryan and I braved a hike along the eastern side of the mountains, and I'm glad of it. Winds were from the west, so we were buffered, and after a while, we got downright warm. About halfway into our four mile loop, we shed our jackets and walked in t-shirt sleeves under the bright April sun.
We were on the Rose River Trail. This short hike originates at the Fishers Gap Overlook (around mile marker 49). It starts out mild, on a wide and easy fire road, but soon the trail departs from the mountaintop's narrow plateau. It turns to dirt then to rock and then it heads down...fast. Gravity tugged us along the mountainside. Like the falling water beside us, we scrambled over creekside boulders in a rush for the bottom.
The only thing that slowed my velocity was the urge to snap pictures. I'm a notorious shutterbug--the kind who will keep an entire group waiting while he shoots a barn door from eight angles and three different aperture settings. This weekend, I only slowed down one person, Ryan. He either welcomed the breaks or faked it well. He found a stump or a stone and sat patiently while I switched between my Nikon and my iPhone, between stills and video, between normal video and sepia-hipster video that looks like it was shot with an 8-mm camera. The man deserves a pie or something.
And you deserve some photos. Rather than tell you about every deer and twig we saw, I figured I'd show them to you. Below are some of my favorite images from the day. I hope they capture some fraction of the beauty found along this remarkable springtime drive.