– Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Ranford, Virginia –

Today’s drive would’ve only been about 5 hours if we’d done it directly, but instead, we spent the afternoon on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

We finally did get to run today. It wasn’t raining, but it clearly had been. Mark picked a trail that ran along the river, and the first one, down beside the river, was actually under water. When we got there, we ran into a local man that worked for Amtrak who told us that the river was up 18 feet thanks to the recent flooding. It certainly looked it.

Sheetz coffee

Luckily, since the river is right by the city, there was another path up closer to the road, and we were able to run on that. We really enjoyed running along the river, looking at the fooding and watching trees float by on the racing river.

There’s an island in the middle of the river there with what looks like a baseball stadium on it, and it was at least partially underwater. Trees along the banks were under water up to their leaves. It was pretty impressive. The man told us they were expecting more rain after the weekend. I’m glad it isn’t us. We are bone dry back home in Texas. I guess they could share a little, but not that much.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitor Center

We finished our run, showered, and had our La Quinta Breakfast. I love how consistent La Quintas are. Once on the road, we stopped at a Sheetz for gas and ice. It’s kind of fun to stop at the locally popular gas chains. I’m sad we missed WaWa when we were further north. I like those, too.

Our first stop of the morning was at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. I say that, but I guess we really stopped first at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitor Center. Not only is Harpers Ferry home to a national park, the Appalachian Trail also passes through. It’s also the home of the second federal armory, after the Springfield Armory we visited a couple of days ago. Cool, right?

Harpers Ferry

Mark and I ran into the AT visitor center to look for photos of Mark’s dad and brother, as they’d been photographed there when they passed through Harpers Ferry while hiking the AT in the early 2000’s. We didn’t find it, but we had fun looking. He already has a picture of it in the photo database, so he’s clearly found it before.

From there, we drove down through downtown Harpers Ferry, where most of the national park is located along the river. We looked around briefly, but there’s nowhere to park down there, and the roads are congested with construction at the moment.

Delicious veggie sandwich

Instead, we drove to the visitor center, which is a bit more out of town. We found a shuttle there to take down into the park (or you can walk), but we decided it wasn’t worth the effort, given that we’d be in the much cooler Shenandoah National Park in a few hours. After a quick visitor center trip, we were back on the road.

We stopped in Charles Town just a little ahead, where Mom and Dad had Long John Silver’s, and Mark and I had veggie sandwiches from a local bagel place. It was a pretty good sandwich, and the shop was really cute. The baked goods in particular looked great. We left with two cannoli for dessert.

Shenandoah maps with the Appalachian Trail highlighted

Our drive took us to Front Royal next, and the start of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. This park is part of the area where my parents grew up, so they spent a lot of the trip telling us stories from their childhood. When Mom was little, she used to catch salamanders on the river at one of the campgrounds here. She couldn’t remember which one it was, but had fun looking, I think.

We did stop at the visitor center there in Front Royal, where we checked out the exhibits and got our park map. If you aren’t hiking, most of this park is the drive and the many, many overlooks you can take along the way. It’s quite pretty. The park is mostly mountains and hills covered in bright green grass and trees. It was a little hazy today, but not too bad.

Shenandoah National Park

We’ve all been here before, but it is nice to see it again, and breaks up the monotony of the long drive back to Texas. We stopped at many of the pulloffs for photos. Mark’s favorite was the tunnel, which has a little waterfall along the road beside it. He has a particular fascination with tunnels, which we found easy enough to indulge.

We stopped at Big Meadows and the other visitor center as well, and happened to spot a horseback tour along the meadow while we were there. I bet that would be a lot of fun in the fall. Ripley couldn’t come, though. Maybe we could bring some grandparents to babysit. I doubt any of them want to sit on a horse for a couple of hours anymore.

Mark’s tunnel

After we’d finished about 2/3rds of Skyline Drive, we decided to turn off. It takes more than 3 hours to do the whole thing, and we still had a couple of hours to drive to our hotel for the night, so we elected to return to the highway.

It started to rain not long after. We’d been noticing dark skies behind us in the park, so we weren’t too surprised. Still, though it rained for a much longer period of time yesterday, today’s rain was especially fierce. We had to park under a gas station’s awning to change drivers. The rain was coming down in sheets.

Rain, rain, go away

Unfortunately, we did run into some terrible traffic when we found the interstate. We were delayed probably half an hour for an accident. I-81 is perhaps one of the worst highways I’ve ever been on. It’s absolutely miserable with traffic and terrifyingly deranged drivers. I wasn’t too worried, but Mom, who’s anxious about highways anyway, was pretty worked up while Dad navigated the traffic. I’m writing this, so clearly we all survived.

So much traffic

For dinner we stopped for Taco Bell. That’s one of my desperation meals, along with Sonic and Subway, so I was a little disappointed. Actually, Mark and I haven’t had Subway or Sonic on the trip at all, so I guess we’d done pretty well up to this point. It was a particularly disappointing Taco Bell experience, too. Their food is always some degree or terrible, but this one was way up on the scale.

We made it to the hotel around 8pm. It’s a nice, grassy La Quinta. Ripley and I met a couple outside who’d been talking about getting a brittany, and they were particularly excited to meet her. She’s an excellent representative of her breed, being so sweet and obedient, so I think she made a good impression.

Ugh, Taco Bell

Tomorrow morning we’ll go for a run here in Ranford, and we’ve got a possible planned stop or two to break up the drive. Mark hasn’t decided exactly which ones we are going to do yet. We’ll know more tomorrow.

– Trip Total : 8,167 miles

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