The national park movement originally grew out of the 19th century recognition that it was important to protect the spectacular natural wonders of the American west. It took a few more decades for the eastern part of our country to gain some respect for its own scenic gems. Eventually, however, many national parks were established east of the Mississippi and now play host to scores of millions of visitors annually. Three of these, Mammoth Cave, Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains, form a line through the Appalachians and were created at the urging of FDR.
In addition to my usual narrative on a particular park, this month I would like to make a special mention of the centennial celebration of the National Park Service. (See https://www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial/index.htm.) There is no time like the present to get out and spend some time in one of America’s most special places. So pack your gear and visit a national park! Or, two.
Among the premier drives located east of the Mississippi, the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive is certainly one of them. This great road runs across the top of the Blue Ridge above the Shenandoah Valley. The views along its route are so majestic that many folks would be drawn here just for the ride, even if this were not Shenandoah National Park.
The northern end of the drive begins at Front Royal, Virginia, near the junction of Interstates 66 and 81. Its southern terminus connects with the north end of the famed 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. In between are several entrances to the park and many scenic stops and trailheads. Continue reading →