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YEAR #3 - STOP #47

Today's travels had us going south by southwest following along the contours of the Shenandoah Valley. We passed by the location where Skyline Drive (inside of the Shenandoah National Park) ends and the northern entrance of the Blueridge Parkway begins.

Two years ago we traveled the entire length of both parkways, which are located on the top ridge line of the mountains, so this year we will be exploring the foothills and valleys located below.

Our destination today is the campground at Sherando Lake Recreation Area which is maintained by the United States Forest Service. Seeing as how it is managed by a division of the U.S. government it means we can use our Lifetime Senior Pass to receive a 50% discount.

We get a campsite with electricity, a drinking water spigot nearby (if we need it), clean flushing toilets and free hot showers, plus a free dump station on the way out of the park to empty our holding tanks. All this for just $17.00 a night! If we had elected to go without the electricity we could have stayed here for just $11.00 a night. Not a bad deal considering the state park we just left cost us $46.00 a night for basically the same amenities.

The last of the Fall Color here at Sherando Lake

Campsite C14 here at Sherando Lake Recreation Area

With just as many leaves on the ground as in the trees,
I'd say we are definitely past the peak of the fall color season here in Virginia.

It was so beautiful, but only lasted for just the briefest amount of time.

TUESDAY - Guess what we're doing this morning?

If you guessed going on another one of those cave tours you would be right!

Today we're headed to Grand Caverns to take another tour. Grand Caverns opened for tours in 1806 as Weyer's Cave, named after the man who discovered it two years earlier in 1804.

They have been giving tours here ever since, making Grand Caverns the oldest continually operating show cave in the United States.

The tours today are a little different than what they offered back in 1806. Back in the early days they gave you a candle, some matches and pointed you to an 18 inch round hole in the ground. You followed your tour guide into the hole and began the arduous 8 hour journey through the caverns.

Today you still get to walk through the same half mile of caverns, but the pathway has been smoothed out with concrete and gravel, the entrance has been enlarged and improved with electric lights to show you the way. Today's tour takes just a little over an hour and only involves a few dozen stairs to climb. Thankfully no ropes or ladders like in earlier times!

Just to put things into perspective.
See that well lit stalagmite down in the center of the walkway?
It's 10 feet tall and 4 feet around.

We learned something new today, it's called a shield formation.
You can follow the link to get better photos and an explaination of how they form.

We haven't seen this paticular formation on any previous cave tour we've been on. There is one room in Grand Cavern where to can see 30 of these formations in one place. Some of them are double and even a triple formation growing from the bottom of the previous one.

Here is a pair of shield formations that appear to be hinged at the top, like a clamshell.

This next photo we took while driving back home after the cave tour. If you follow Tricia on Facebook or Instagram you have probably already seen it. It was so well displayed I just had to include it here. Can you spot the two human inhabitants of the house?


WEDNESDAY - We have another sightseeing day planned today. Two years ago when we traveled through this area we passed on visiting this attraction and regretted it ever since. Well today we drove the 40 miles to make it happen.

If anyone has a United States nickel in their pocket that was made after 1938 and flips it over to the back side they'll know where we went. If you flip it back to the front side you'll know who designed and owned this archetectural masterpiece.

We visited Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, a spokesman for democracy, an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the 3rd President of the United States (1801–1809).

Monticello, along with the nearby University of Virginia, which Jefferson founded, is also another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the tenth (out of 19 in the Lower 48) World Heritage site we have visited.

Our admission tickets included two short documentary films about Jefferson and his relationship with his slaves. The visitor center is at the base of a 5000 acre mountain and Monticello is at the summit. Thankfully our ticket inculed a short shuttle bus ride to the top.

The shuttle drops you off at the back door of Monticello where you are given a short 10 minute overview of what you'll be seeing and all of the discussions that are offered underneath these huge white event tents set up all over the property.

We decided to attend two of these discussions, the first was a gentleman dressed in period clothing of the early 1800's and he cut his hair, not a wig, to look as close to Thomas Jefferson as possible. He was very well educated about everything Jefferson related and after 15 minutes of dialog about his life and ambitions he opened up the floor to questions. His entire speech was done using the vocabulary of the times and when asked about events that took place after his lifetime he was simply answer, "I know not of what you speak about." It was the highlight of the day for both of us.

The second presentation was about the gardens and trees all over the grounds. It seems Jefferson was very interested in trying to grow items from around the world on his little 5000 acre mountain.

After the two presentations we walked around the grounds. It wasn't the best time of year to experience the foilage and flowers, not much was in bloom and the leaves had already left most of the trees.

Next we went inside the home and did a self-quided tour of the first floor which consisted of the living, dining and library rooms. The second floor where the bedrooms are located was not open to the public at this time.

We spent the better part of two hours touring the area before we started back down the mountain. We elected to walk back down to the visitor center because about halfway down is the Jefferson family cemetery. Thomas Jefferson is buried here along with many relatives and descendants.

At the time of our visit they were enlarging the cemetery to create enough space to include descendants wishing to be buried here in the future.

THURSDAY - Rather than risk traveling today we decided to stay put while the remnants of Hurricane Zeta pass by us up here in Virginia.

We are forecast to have strong winds and rain most of the day so we'll have a very rare Friday travel day tomorrow.

As soon as we get set up at the next stop we'll have another cave tour to share.

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