Ahhh. November in Virginia with leaves on the ground and the return of the winter woods.
It has become a tradition to head to Shenandoah National Park once the crowds of leaf peepers leave and November arrives, and this year we had our son and his new bride with us. Last Friday was going to be brisk with a high in the low 40s up on the mountain, the perfect day to reconnect with the winter woods along Skyline Drive.
We saw some wildlife during the day included a couple of deer, and north of Skyland while rounding a curve we caught a glimpse of a bobcat as it jumped off the stone wall into the woods. That’s the first I’ve seen a bobcat up there in at least 20 years.
At Skyland, the highest point of Skyline Drive, it was a cold 39 degrees but we didn’t encounter any winter driving conditions, thank goodness.
Icicles on rocks along the Drive. Yep, it was that cold.
Big Meadows. The lodge, campground, and picnic area closed the end of October but horseback riders were enjoying the crisp day.
Big Meadows brings back childhood memories of camping with family — parents, sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins. We laughed together and hiked together and enjoyed campfires together, lifetime connections that were re-enforced in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Even today when we can visit on a more regular basis, I can hear the distant echo of those youthful and fun-filled days.
I see beauty in the starkness of the late fall/winter landscape.
Old Rag | Old Rag Mountain is a 3,284 feet mountain in Madison County, the most popular hiking destination in Shenandoah National Park.
Skyland is located at the highest point along the Skyline Drive. Each year, it stays open through the weekend of Thanksgiving, longer than any other concessions in the Park, and then closes until the season begins again in March. During winter there is are no overnight facilities within the Park.
This tree is a landmark at Skyland.
Stony Man Mountain, elevation 4,011 feet, was very visible above Skyland now that the leaf canopy is gone. Stony Man Mountain, also known as Stony Man, is a mountain in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia and is the most northerly 4,000 foot peak in the Blue Ridge
Waiting patiently outside the dining room for their riders to return.
It was 39 degrees with plenty of available seating on the patio that overlooked the Luray Valley.
November special | Harvest salad. The lunch crowd was steady but not crowded.
Our view out the huge wall of windows.
Skyland’s Pollock dining room, named after founder George Pollock, offers meals with views. The wait staff said during peak seasons people will wait an hour for the opportunity to dine at a window table.
There is a timeless beauty in the wood and stone of the vintage buildings found in Shenandoah National Park. Skyland Resort , located at Milepost 42 on the Skyline Drive, is an 1890s mountain resort that was incorporated into the National Park system in the 1930s providing a rustic getaway to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Shenandoah National Park. Located at the highest point of the park on Stony Man Mountain, it was developed by George Freeman Pollock as a summer retreat for city dwellers who wanted to enjoy the coolness of the mountains.
Stony Man. Twenty-four hours later a wildfire near this iconic site closed Skyline Drive between Thornton Gap at Rt. 211 and Big Meadows, and caused the evacuation of Skyland for several hours as firefighters got the fire under control.
Looking from Massanutten Lodge into Luray valley.
Massanutten Lodge was the summer resort home of Addie Hunter who later married Skyland founder George Pollock.
Within Skyland Resort is this mountain summer home called “Massanutten Lodge” (see Skyland Resort … Shenandoah National Park ) that was owned by Addie Hunter, a Washington, DC, divorcee who later married Skyland developer George Pollock “when she was almost 40 years old,” the lady ranger-interpreter told us. When they married, she said, he had financial issues and she was wealthy but, well, almost 40. Theirs was an interesting relationship that eventually floundered but is part of the overall history of Skyland.
The “lodge” is a cozy hideaway in the Blue Ridge Mountains with a view of the Shenandoah Valley 3600 feet below. By far the most imposing of the structures, it was designed by architect Victor E. Mindeleff and built in 1911, consisting of two rooms on the main floor — front-to-back living room with massive stone fireplace on the east side and double doors that open onto a deck on the western (view) side, and a bedroom and bath. It was very modern for the time with, at first, gas lights that were later updated to electricity, and running water. There was no kitchen because guests and cabin owners were expected to eat in the main dining room. Guests also participated in “elaborate balls, costume parties, teas, jousts and tournaments, musicales, pageants, and bonfires.”
Here are indoor pictures  from an earlier visit. Massanutten Lodge is open only on select days.
The day before two huge boulders fell at the opposite end of Mary’s Tunnel north of Skyland but they had been cleared by the time we were there, leaving only dirt on the pavement.
Thornton Gap | Route 211 | Entrance to Shenandoah National Park
Leaving Shenandoah National Park | Route 211 heading west toward Luray
I have been going to Shenandoah National Park for decades but Friday was the first time we had ever stopped at the National Park Headquarters at the edge of SNP on Rt. 211 outside Luray. As our daughter-in-law said, it was almost like being at the Emerald City with its historic and rustic architecture.
Thankfully, we arrived at 4:15.
The purpose for our stop was for the kids to get a stamp in their National Park Passport book that they purchased eighteen months ago when we were at the Hatteras Lighthouse on the Outer Banks. The park person was friendly and accommodating, and so the stamp was acquired and another page was completed. It had been a good stop.
Downtown Luray at sunset.
Shenandoah River at sunset.
As we left Elton and drove west on Rt. 33 toward Harrisonburg, a fiery sunset lit the sky ahead of us, a beautiful sight at the end of a beautiful day.
Also from Lynn R. Mitchell:
- Massanutten Lodge … Skyland Home of Early 20th Century Renaissance Woman Addie Hunter Pollock 
- Skyland Resort … Shenandoah National Park 
- Photos … Skyline Drive in Late November 
- Photos of Skyline Drive in Late November 2014 
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
November 17, 2017