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Front Royal and the Shenandoah Valley, VA

Looking for my next stop, I spotted the Shenandoah Valley on the map. I felt a terrible ache to see it though I didn’t know why. Happily, there is a C2C campground there in Front Royal, VA so deciding to go there was very easy. I stayed at the Skyline Ranch Resort in Front Royal. I found it to be an excellent campground with full amenities and friendly staff. They have a petting zoo, stables, very large pool, jacuzzi, clubhouse with snack bar, games, putt putt golf, and fabulous adult lounge. The theme of everything in the resort is western which is fun and the country porch on the cowboy and cowgirl bathrooms is a nice touch. The “treehouse” design of all the rental cabins is certainly interesting. The only issue I had was no satellite TV there due to all the trees. Oh well. Again on the plus side is the excellent location just down the road from both Skyline Caverns and Shenandoah National Park with Skyline Drive across the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Trail. Luray Caverns is not far either.

I managed to get a lovely sunshine day to go to the north entrance of the national park and drive Skyline Drive. The views up there are stunning. I very much enjoyed the twists and turns of the drive through mountains filling up with spring color. My GPS came in pretty handy as it showed me each turn coming up. There are a lot of hikers and bicyclists there so you may want to bring some extra water to help out a fellow traveler.

I took time to hit the visitor’s center and check out their movie about the area. The area is so lovely and close to Washington, DC that many city dwellers go there to relax in the campgrounds and lodges. President Hoover built his summer Whitehouse there to get away from the pressures of DC. The visitor’s center offers a CD auto tour of the drive for sale. You start it up and it gives you a lot of information on the area, tells you where to go next, you stop the CD and go to the next place, then start it again to learn more about the park or the specific location you are in. I used it and found it interesting. This again has a lot of civil war history as well as a history of mountain people. When the park was designated, the mountain folk were forced out but some of the older ones refused to leave their homes and were allowed to live the rest of their lives there in the park.

The Appalachian Trail crisscrosses back and forth across the road. I stopped at one trailhead and got in a bit of hiking on it. It is very well marked. Be careful of snakes though. They do have 2 deadly species in the park along with lots of other wildlife and bugs, bugs, bugs.

The drive is over 100 miles long though the park. Half-way through, you can bail at a crossroads and take a good state road down out of the park for a faster return to start. Oh and I did figure out why I felt called to this place. My favorite song in music class as a kid was Shenandoah and one of my favorite Jimmy Stewart movies is Shenandoah. 😛

On another day, I went to Skyline Caverns. They are probably not as big as Luray Caverns but defintely worth seeing since they are much closer and contain a formation that cannot be seen anywhere else in the country. They used to contain a new species of beetle as well except the scientists who discovered them also killed them. Whoops! If you are tall, watch your head while going through on the tour. This is one time when being short really helps. I was the only one in my group who never ducked even once! They also have a kid sized train to ride and a mirror maze there.

Mixing a little pleasure with work since I needed to do some shopping at several stores and find some lunch, I set out after a geocache that seemed like it might be in a mini-mall in hopes that what I needed could be found near it. Bingo! Everything I was looking for including the lunch were right there and the cache was an easy find under a lamppost apron. A large van was kind enough to park next to the lamppost and give me some cover from muggle eyes. Bond. Katrina Bond. 007 at your service. 😉

For more Shenandoah pics, click here. For Skyline Caverns, click here.

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