A photo diary of a 2-week road trip to Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway and Smoky Mountains National Park.
2014 07 05: Ottawa to Skyland Resort, Shenandoah National Park, Luray, Virginia. Tired after driving almost 1000 km. It was almost 8:00PM when we arrived at the resort.
2014 07 06: Hiked Dark Hollow Falls trail, a very popular trail in the national park due to its short distance (1.5 miles round-trip). Going to the falls was a breeze, 0.5 mile downhill hike. The view was sweet despite poor lighting.
Afternoon was spent in Luray Caverns, the largest and most popular caverns in the eastern America. No doubt the cavern is a nature wonder, there was not much photography opportunity. It was also a bit too touristy for my taste.
Had an early dinner after coming back from the Luray Caverns. Not too late to hike the Little Stony Man Trail before sunset. This is the best place to see the Skyline Parkway and the mountain ranges.
2014 07 07: Checked out from the Skyland Resort. Before going to Loft Mountain Campground located in the middle section of the National Park, we went to the north section to visit the Stony Man Summit.
2014 07 08: Hiking the 8.5-mile John’s Run/Doyles River circuit was strenuous. Highlights were the waterfalls along the trail. The prettiest one was the Lower Doyles River Falls.
Storm was looming by the time we completed the 8.5 miles hike and returned to our camping site for a quick dinner. When it began to rain, we jumped into our mini van and hit the road again, expecting something unusual after the thunder storm.
2014 07 09: Our last day at Shenandoah National Park. Hot weather made us lazy. Hiked the Bearfence Trail and joined a guided tour about the Appalachian Trail.
Our tour guide seemed to be determined to be a through walker of the Appalachian Trail one day.
2014 07 10: In transit to our first stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway: Peak of Otter.
2014 07 11: Hiked the Sharp Top Trail near the Peak of Otter. Along the way to our next stop, visited the historical Mabry Mill.
2014 07 12: Traveling to the Smoketree Lodge located at MP200. We stopped in front of a temporary traffic light. The little dog was so cute. I grabbed my my camera which had a 100mm macro lens and took this shot.
2014 07 13: Continue driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway to our next stop Pisgah Inn.
2014 07 14: Heading to the Smoky Mountains National Park.
2014 07 15: The Abram Falls Trail in the Smoky Mountains National Park was named as one of top 10 most dangerous trails in the America by the Backpacker Magazine. We were a little concerned that the trail might be too difficult for us to handle. The path leading to the falls was decorated with Rhododendron blossoms. After 1.5 hours relaxing and uneventful hike, the falls were right in front of us. I was puzzled, we just hiked one of the most dangerous trails, that’s it? Of course, only half of the hike, but the return path is the same. It was an aha moment when I saw this:
On the way back, there was a traffic jam on the Cades Cove Loop Road because someone spotted a bear on a tree beside the road. I pulled over, jumped out of the mini van, picked up my gear and followed the crowd. A few of us attempted to get closer to the bear by walking in knee-deep grass for more than 100 meters. We stopped at a safe distance. A pro hand holding a big lens began shooting continuously. I took the time to set up my tripod knowing the bear would not go anywhere. After taking a few shots using AF, I turned on the LCD of the camera, zoomed in the bear’s eye at 10x and focused manually. The photo below has been featured on the National Geographic’s website.
In the afternoon, while it was raining we took the opportunity to get back to civilization by visiting the lovely town of Gatlinburg.
Nature was performing a cloud show on our way back to the park.
2014 07 16: Roaring Folk Motor Nature Trail offers plenty of opportunities for photographing exuberant mountain streams. Unfortunately, this trail was busy. The narrow road had little room to pull over the car. Here is one of the few shots I managed to get.
After spending two days in the park, we were longing for tranquility. The northern section of the park was too crowded, so we decided to go the Deep Creek Campground area located at the southern tip of the park. GPS navigation led us to a bumpy unpaved road, which made us firmly believe we were heading to a remote area of the park.
I was shocked to see how many people were tubing in the creek when we finally arrived at Deep Creek.
Is this an amusement park or a national park? That was the question I had in my mind when I took this shot.
As planned, the rest of the day was spent at the Clingmans Dome, a fantastic place to view spectacular sunset.
2014 07 17: Activity – hiking. Destination: Mt. Le Conte via the Alum Cave Trail. To reach the 6593-foot summit of Mount LeConte we will have to climb 2763 feet, and hike 5.5 miles from the Alum Cave Trailhead.
I finally got a few Rhododendron shots while hiking the Alum Cave Trail. Even in mid-July, rhododendrons were everywhere in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The old Mill Restaurant was a perfect place to celebrate – our family has completely the longest hike (11 miles).