2008 Keys 2 Canada travel blog

the wind is still blowing hard

and we have our slide-out pulled in

a very frigid campground this morning

not even the hornets are stirring

and that's a good thing!

it may look warm but the wind chill is fierce

it took great courage to get out and take a picture

but the scenery demanded it

surprisingly the trees have not lost their leaves yet

well - that one has

Visitor Center display on the growth of the National Parks

map of the park showing the extent of the CCC involvement

remembering the war years

the deer are out this morning too

parkway road

there is ice in the shaded areas

that mountain ridge runs right down the middle of the Shenandoah Valley

rock formation

with the runoff turned to ice

a view of the valley floor

Madolyn stayed inside to take this one because the wind was rocking...

Stonewall Jackson fought here

Lee thought he'd have won Gettysburg if he'd had Stonewall Jackson with...

the beauty is not limited just to the trees

the CCC built all these beautiful walls

but you have to watch out for what's behind them!

the walls can hide a multitude of surprises

they also make a nice trail

'Let's see - should we follow her?'


'this thing's kind of high'

'Hey mom - wait for us!'

down on the Piedmont valley floor we head for Monticello

it's a thirty mile drive

this shuttle bus takes you up to Jefferson's home

Jefferson had a good view of the valley

if he could see through the trees

Monticello's front entrance

this woman entertained us while we waited for the next tour -...

finally it was our turn

our guide met us at the steps and gave us a brief...

they don't let you take pictures inside the house

the right end of the house - the front is to the...

this prominade walk was also the roof of the storage sheds below

a sundial and a view of the valley

this was a cistern with a cleverly system for collecting rainwater

Thomas Jefferson's back yard

now we were on our own to explore the spaces below the...

and take as many pictures as we wanted of the outside

below the deck you could take pictures in the storage spaces

Jefferson liked his beer

storage room

Jefferson also liked these arched windows

think of the history this old sugar maple has seen

garden that supported the plantation

now the staff gets to take home the vegetables

the Jefferson family cemetery - but no black members of the family...

the white monument is the tombstone of the great man himself

don't know who the little stones are for

various other family members

and we say 'goodbye' to the Jeffersons

Movie Clips - Playback Requirements - Problems?

(MP4 - 2.46 MB)

Dinah Shore/Chevrolet

(MP4 - 4.04 MB)

Skyline Drive

(MP4 - 2.92 MB)

Bear Family

(MP4 - 3.28 MB)

Mom and Baby Bears

(MP4 - 1.34 MB)

Bears Into the Woods

A day of contrasts - Tuesday, October 29

It only got down to 26 last night and it didn’t get warmer when the sun came up. The wind is still blowing a gale and with the temperature below freezing the wind chill just dares you to go outside. With our slide-out pulled in we stayed cozy and warm. Despite having to work off the battery all night (there are no hookups here) the heater worked just fine and nothing froze. Something may freeze if it doesn’t warm up soon though!

There is a lodge here that serves breakfast, so we opted to eat out this morning. We had French toast and a waffle with a great view of the Shenandoah Valley through the window. Next to the lodge there is another visitor center so we stopped to see what this one had to offer. The Shenandoah National Park is over 100 miles long and we are about half way through it at a place called Big Meadows. Big Meadows was the site of a huge CCC camp in the thirties, and the Visitor Center has a great movie on the CCC and how it changed the lives of many young men.

Shenandoah was the first really big national park in the east, and being near Washington DC it was a favorite project of a number of presidents and politicians of the day. Calvin Coolidge signed the bill that created the park, and Herbert Hoover fished here and built a fishing resort in the middle of the park. But it was left to Franklin Roosevelt to make the park what it is today. His CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was the force that built the park. They built roads and all of the infrastructure, and they planted several million trees to reforest the mountain slopes that had been denuded by lumbering and erosion. Roosevelt visited the camps often and he was the one who dedicated the park when it finally opened.

The movie interviewed a number of old men who worked in the camps, and it was obvious from the way they choked up when they talked that the camp and the park meant a lot to them. They all agreed that the CCC had made men out of them, and they said it was the best thing that ever happened to them. With the World War ll bringing back jobs and prosperity the CCC died a natural death. The military took most of the young men, and those who were left had found better paying jobs. The CCC could not compete and it died out, but it had done it’s job well. The park those ‘boys’ created is one of the jewels of the National Park System.

The Visitor Center also had some very moving exhibits on the controversy that surrounded acquiring land for the park. Several thousand residents had to be moved off their land and it was a painful and emotion filled process. The land was condemned and acquired by eminent domain, but the human suffering that accompanied the relocation was acute and it is as much a part of the parks history as the CCC.

It took us until early afternoon to drive the rest of the way through the park. We stopped at nearly every one of the many overlooks, and we were always rewarded with a wonderful view. Sometimes it was the Shenandoah Valley, sometimes it was a view of the rugged peaks ahead, and sometimes it was a view out over the Piedmont, the wide flat valley that lies east of the Blue Ridge Mountains between the mountains and the sea.

It was while we were driving this route that we had one of our best experiences. Madolyn suddenly said, “Stop! It’s a bear!” I stopped, and sure enough a black bear was peering at us from behind the stone wall at the side of the road. It ducked down behind the wall and at first we thought it would run away before we could get a picture of it, but a moment later it raised it’s head again. I heard Madolyn say, “Wait - there’s two!” But by the time I looked again there were three! By the time we got our cameras ready a fourth bear had made an appearance, and we soon were looking at a Mama and three cubs.

The cubs were big and the mother was small for an adult bear, so it wasn’t until we saw them climb the wall and cross the road that we realized it was a family. They were so cute and it was a real treat to get to see them so close and natural. They finally disappeared and the last we saw of them the cubs were chasing Mama up the hill into the woods.

Not long after seeing the bears we began a descent to the end of the park. The road continues and becomes the 400+ mile long Blue Ridge Parkway, but we decided to get off it for a while and go to see Jefferson’s home at Monticello, which is near the town of Charlottesville, Virginia. It was a half hour drive from the park, but we found it easily by following the signs. We parked in the lot and bought tickets for the shuttle up to the house, and for a guided tour of the house.

I’ve heard about Monticello all my life and it was a real thrill to finally get to see it. Jefferson designed it himself, and they say to understand Jefferson you have to understand Monticello. It was more than architecture to him - it was his ‘autobiography’. Jefferson was a true renaissance man, brilliant and talented in many fields. His life took him through much turmoil, and to many places - but through it all Monticello was his anchor and his rock.

It is not as large a house as I had expected, and while it has two floors of bedrooms above the ground floor we saw, the rooms of the house are not large, and some like the dining room are surprisingly small. The home sits on a hilltop with a commanding view of the surrounding valleys. It is beautifully landscaped, and the garden that supported the plantation is still huge and healthy. We had a guide to take us through the home and then we got to see the lower floor of storage and utility rooms on our own.

After the tour we decided to skip the bus and walk back to the Visitor Center. The path took us past the Jefferson family cemetery and Jefferson’s gravesite. It was a nice way to end the day, and we enjoyed the peaceful walk down the hill through the woods.

One of the interesting things about this place is the way it points out the Jeffersonian contradiction. The enormous gulf between what Jefferson said he believed (in the Declaration of Independence) and what he practiced as a slave owner. The contradiction must have bothered him, and there is some evidence it did - but he never did anything about it. Instead he fell into line with the vapid rationalizations of the day. At one point he acknowledged that slavery was wrong, but he said that “to free them would be like abandoning a child.” He did free a few, and he did not object to his slaves learning to read and getting an education. One reason he may have freed so few is because he died in debt and slaves were part of his wealth and assets that were sold after his death to pay off his debts.

We found a KOA nearby and decided to spend the night at a lower elevation where hopefully it will be warmer and less windy.

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