Little Manatee River State Park

Little Manatee River State Park
Little Manatee River State Park

Saturday, May 27, 2017

May 15-22, 2017

Travel day to Big Meadows Campground

Shenandoah National Park
We timed our departure from Glen Maury Park just right. There is only one dump station for the entire campground.  No one was waiting when we arrived at it but while we were dumping, three rigs lined up behind us.
Once we passed through the entrance to Shenandoah National Park we began to climb in elevation.  The next 13 miles were kind of terrifying as we continued climbing.  Skyline Drive is a narrow mountain road with beautiful vistas.  But honestly I couldn’t appreciate the view while we were towing the rig.
There are no hookups in the campground so we stopped off at the dump/water station to take on fresh water. 
A short drive later we arrived at the registration booth to check in.  I don’t really like to make reservations but they are necessary at certain places and times of the year. 

 We were glad that we had made reservations because there were only a few sites available that we would have fit in but none of them were available for the entire week we planned on staying at the park. 

The site was a little difficult to get into because of the trees but Monte made it look easy.

Most of the week was sunny so we were able to get almost a full charge on our batteries but we did have to run the generator at least once a day.  And surprisingly we were able to pick up satellite reception and over 30 channels with our TV antenna.
After setting up we visited the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center to get information about the park and where we might be able to pick up cell and wifi signals.
(There was absolutely no signal in the campground.)
The ranger on duty informed us we could get a cell phone signal if at the Big Meadows Lodge. 
There was no signal in the lodge but we were able to make calls on the terrace while enjoying a spectacular view.

As we were driving back to the campground we encountered a few deer crossing the road.  

A man standing on the side of the road yelled out to us that there was a fawn that was maybe two days old tucked in at the base of a tree. 

Unfortunately, we got too close and spooked it.  We were dismayed that the mother had abandoned it but later learned that the reason a doe will leave her newborn is to protect it.  A newborn does not have a scent but the mother does and it could attract predators. 

During our after dinner walk we encountered another deer grazing near our campsite.

On Tuesday we took a leisurely drive along Skyline Drive stopping several times to take in the amazing views.

At Skyland we browsed the gift shop.

We passed through Mary’s Tunnel.  The tunnel is not rig-friendly with a clearance of only 12.8.

The place we stopped to enjoy our lunch was across the way from an entrance to the Appalachian Trail.

At the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center I stamped my passport and we watched a film. 

We exited the park at the northern part which is actually considered the starting point at mile marker 0 near the town of Front Royal.
The speed limit in Skyline Drive is only 35 miles per hour.  We were kind of tired and it was getting late so we took a different route back entering at the Thornton Gap entrance shaved of quite a few miles on Skyline Drive. 

In the evening we returned to the lodge to make phone calls and were treated with an amazing sunset.

Big Meadows Lodge offers free nightly entertainment from 8:30 to 10:00pm.  Kathy Davis and Bradley Bishop are bluegrass and old time music musicians.  We thoroughly enjoyed listening to them perform their toe-tapping music.
Our first hike of the week was to Dark Hollow Falls.  According to the pamphlet the hike is rated moderate. 
It is only 1.4 miles round trip but the steep and rocky return climb made it feel as if we hiked 5 miles.
It was definitely worth it just to see the waterfall.

On Thursday we drove to Luray to take a cavern tour.  We almost decided against the cavern tour because we have already been to Mammoth, Carlsbad and a few other caves. 
But we were glad we went. 

The cavern, discovered in 1878, is a U.S. Natural Landmark. 

The one hour tour on paved walkways, led us to a chamber with the world’s largest musical instrument, the Great Stalacpipe Organ. 


Included in the tour is admission to the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum.

Also included are admission to the Luray Valley Museum that houses an extensive collection of Shenandoah Valley artifacts from the 1750s to the 1920s and a collection of local, restored historic buildings creating a small 19th century farming community.

On Friday we took the Upper Hawksbill Trail. 

We made it back in time to catch a Ranger program. 
On our way over to the lodge to listen to a medley of music from the 60s through the years performed by Tommy Rueckert, we witnessed a bear run across the road with something in its mouth.  Monte pulled the truck over to the side of the road and turned off the engine.  We could make out the bear a few yards away. We wondered what he was carrying until we heard the awful sound of a fawn cry out.  That sound was one of the most haunting sounds I have ever heard.

On Saturday we took our laptops to Skyland to use the wifi.  We weren’t able to get a signal so we ended up using our phones as a hotspot.

Our last hike was to the Stoney Man Overlook. 
Unfortunately there was so much fog we couldn’t see anything at the overlook.
Sunday rained the entire day so we got caught up on laundry ($1/a load) and hot showers ($1.75 for 5.5 minutes)