After heading south down US-340 to Luray, we climbed us US-211 east up into the gap. Actually, the Garmin had us cut through a back road from 340 to 211 and thus avoid Luray altogether. Once we turned north off 211 in the gap to enter the Skyline Drive, we found ourselves 20 cars back in the line at the entrance station. Thanks Memorial Day weekend! I was hoping for a line exclusively for season passholders, but only one line was open. I can't really blame the Park Service for this: who wants to work on the big pre-summer holiday weekend?
While waiting our turn, we amused ourselves watching the myriad Barn Swallows that are nesting under the eaves of the entrance station. They were performing their aerobatic maneuvers within mere feet of the car. They are splendidly-colored and highly entertaining to spend a few minutes with. Once through the gate, we headed south on Skyline Drive and a minute later were pulling into the Panorama parking lot, where we hit the head, put on our hiking shoes, and saddled up for the day.
I got to try out my new camera rig, straps that attach directly to the shoulder straps of my backpack. It seems to work great, but I think I need to try some extenders so that I have enough room to twist the camera to portrait orientation. It's a promising $9 start to carrying my camera, rather than a $100 or $150 investment in a harness.
|Mary's Rock Trailhead at Panorama Visitor's Center|
|Halfway Up, Looking East|
|Mary's Rock, Looking Northwest|
|On Top of This Part of the World|
|Atop Mary's Rock, Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa?|
|Blueberries in Bloom|
|Juncos are Nesting Atop Mary's Rock|
|Seven-Foot Black Rat Snake|
|Silene caroliniana, Wild Pink|
|Blackberries in Abundance|
|Tiny Raspberry Growing up Through Bloodroot|
|Tall White Violet, Viola canadensis|
|Wild Geranium, Geranium maculatum, and Ferns|
|The AT above 3200-Feet Was Lined in Head-Height Azaleas|
|Michaux's Saxifrage at 3500 Feet|
|Solomon's Seal with Blooms Below Stalk|
|False Solomon's Seal|
|Mountain Laurel Beginning to Bloom Below 2500 Feet|
|A Blue Groundcover, Likely a Creeping Veronica|
|Creekside Golden Ragwort, a Beautiful Sight|
|Greater Celandine, Chelidonium majus|
|Mostly Glades North of Thornton Gap, Deer Heaven|
|Admiring the Ubiquitous Blackberries|
|A Really Big Doe|
Our afternoon had clouded over and the relief in the heat was palpable. It started to spit rain on our return trip and we spent the last 30 minutes of the hike in a little bit of rain, but not enough to warrant getting out the raincoats. About 10 minutes away from the car, I did grab a plastic bag out of my pack to cover up the camera, but that was about it for rain. It had pretty much stopped by the time we packed up and headed back home.
|Paso Robles Syrah|