Thursday, October 10, 2013

September Road Trip No 2 - Blue Mountain Brewery and The Skyline Drive

One of the pleasures of taking two-lane highways rather than interstates is the opportunity to stop on a whim because you have chanced upon something that you would have missed entirely on the interstate. On my return trip from Greensboro, NC to New York, I found several reasons to do just that.  

After hours of driving through picturesque scenery on Routes 29 and 151 in Virginia, we needed somewhere to stop for lunch. Our options didn’t look promising. At that point we were in a seemingly sparsely populated area, the greenery far outweighing signs of habitation, when we saw a sign for the Blue Mountain Brewery.

Looking for food not beer, we drove past what we assumed was the brewery, only to notice it had an attractive outdoor sitting area. Curiosity got the better of us, so we turned around and went back. Imagine our delight when we discovered that not only was it a brewery, but also a restaurant—and a delightful restaurant at that, with friendly service, excellent food and a pleasing view. And there is even a shop, so that if you really like their beer, you can stock up before you head for home.

After lunch, we headed for The Skyline Drive, a 105 mile road through the Shenandoah National Park which is classed as one of America’s great scenic routes. With a speed limt of 35 miles ph, there are faster ways of getting from Waynesboro in the south to Front Royal in the north, but the spectacular views make the three hour journey more than worthwhile.

With numerous viewing points, hiking trails and visitor’s centers, you could  actually spend several days exploring the park. I found myself wishing we’d arranged to spend the night in one of the attractive little cabins dotted between the trees at Skyland Lodge, but unfortunately we still had further to drive that day. We did manage to fit in a short hike however.

According to the brochure that you are given when you go into the park over two-fifths of the park is considered wilderness and is home to animals such as deer, bears and bobcats. On an earlier visit, a few years ago, I did see a black bear and was hoping that we’d get another sighting this time, but unfortunately it was not to be. We did, however, see this little fellow.

Sadly, at the time of writing, the park and the road are closed due to the government shutdown, not only robbing visitors of a chance to view the magnificent fall colors, but also meaning that much needed revenue will be lost as there is a fee to enter the park and October is one of the peak periods for visitors.

The day’s drive ended in Martinsburg, West Virginia allowing me to add another name to the list of ‘states I’ve spent at least one night in’. While the Holiday Inn did not have quite the charm of those cabins in the woods, I have to say, it was one of the nicest Holiday Inns that I have stayed in, the perfect place to get both a good night's rest and a workout in the pool and fitness center before we had to hit the interstates for the rest of our journey back to New York.  

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