Blue Ridge Mountain weekend

I really do plan to start posting recipes more frequently so I feel guilty making a non-recipe post today, but as it turns out, I have a cold and I simply don’t have the energy to cook anything interesting, let alone photograph and write about it. However, I did just return from a beautiful weekend in the mountains with Mark and I have some pictures, so that’ll have to suffice for today.

As a surprise for me, Mark made reservations at a B&B in the Shenandoah Valley – about a 2 1/2 hour drive from our home in Northern Virginia – and we spent the weekend taking in the sights. Although we stayed in one of their three cottages, which typically do not include breakfast, Fox Hill is vegan-friendly and were able to fit us in for breakfast one morning, where we enjoyed bagels, fruit, and vegan French toast. And I loved the ability to make our dinners in our full kitchen.

Fox Hill grows corn; here is a picture of the back of the B&B from the cornfield:

Mark is always striving to get so far away from city lights that we can see the stars without light pollution. Despite clouds, we had a great view of the stars, although Mark was disappointed we could hear traffic noises from I-81.

We spent much of Saturday driving around the northern part of Blue Ridge Parkway.

Yankee Falls is visible right from the parkway.

Nearby, Pig enjoyed his own little Pig-size falls.

Typical view from the parkway:

Mark enjoyed taking his Jeep down some of the logging and narrow local gravel roads, that seem to go for miles, through dense forest, passing nothing but the occasional abandoned camp site. Here is a creek we found in the middle of nowhere.

And okay, here is the real reason I wanted to do a post! I PHOTOGRAPHED AN OWL! This is a barred owl and I was so excited because a few weeks ago my aunt sent me a picture of a barred owl that my uncle had taken at their cabin in West Virginia and I was very jealous because by nature, owls are REALLY hard to see in trees and as they are nocturnal, you rarely see them flying around, so my hopes of ever being able to photograph a wild owl were pretty low. Then what did we see flying into a tree less than a month later, off some non-road in the George Washington National Forest? A barred owl! He was sooo cute, all hunched down trying as hard to see us through the leaves as we were trying to see him!

Back at Fox Hill, we went back out after dark to take more star pictures, but found the sky completely covered in clouds, with non-stop lightning brightening the sky….which was perhaps even more fun to photograph than the stars.

I don’t like doing a lot of processing with my pictures. For one thing, I don’t like the look of overly processed photographs, and for another, I don’t have the time or patience to spend hours behind a computer working on an image, and for yet another, I’ve had no success getting Photoshop to run on Linux. If I absolutely need to, I can use gimp to do Photoshoppy things, but I’m embarrassingly ignorant on how to use it and all the photography books and sites I read are Photoshop-oriented. However, it’s very rare I don’t make some minor change to a photograph such as adjusting the white balance or exposure, or in the case of wildlife pictures, usually cropping, so I usually spend a minute or two on each photo in Aftershot Pro. I was surprised therefore to see the pictures of a Christmas tree farm I took near Vesuvius, Virginia, looked perfect right off the camera. All I did was convert these from RAW to JPG.

I guess it was the lighting from the storm clouds or something; something about this scene just captivated me.

Sunday afternoon we got back on Blue Ridge Parkway, heading north towards home this time. Blue Ridge Parkway turns into Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park, which after its full 105 miles deposited us near Route 66 in Front Royal about an hour from home. This drive took considerably longer than I-81 but is of course magnitudes more beautiful and we stopped at a high percentage of overlooks.

Another first: I see and photograph does and fawns frequently, including in our own yard. So this mother and two children in Shenandoah were, while lovely, not that special.

But….I don’t think I’ve ever photographed a buck before!

Finally, here’s an overlook near the northern end of Skyline Drive.

All in all, an absolutely perfect weekend – minus the cold I seem to have come down with. And now I’m going to curl up with a book and feel sorry for myself until my throat stops this stupid tickling. I have another post I want to do this week, so hopefully I’ll be feeling better soon.


  1. Jes Said,

    July 2, 2013 @ 9:25 am

    Fox Hill looks amazing! I’m definitely bookmarking it for some ‘staycation’-y type adventures. Surprisingly I’ve barely spent any time in that part of the state except for visiting Charlottesville. Everywhere you photographed is absolutely gorgeous–now I’m itching to drive up and camp! And that barred owl! What an incredible photo!

  2. renae Said,

    July 2, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

    Susan, thanks!

    Jes, you totally should drive up that way – I kept seeing signs that Roanoke was only about 80-90 miles away. I was surprised how light traffic was, too, although it’ll be much heavier come fall when the leaves change.

  3. susan Said,

    July 2, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

    Gorgeous photos. The owl looks so sweet.

  4. Josiane Said,

    July 7, 2013 @ 9:48 pm

    Gorgeous night skies, a barred owl, and a buck: that was a highly photogenic weekend!

  5. Nikki Said,

    July 8, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

    Beautiful pics as always, Nae! As far as photo editing goes, some us need a little help when those improv moments happen and all I have is an iphone cam. Some of us will never get beyond snapshots.

  6. Annie Said,

    September 9, 2013 @ 11:07 am

    Hey Renae !
    Guess what? We went to Fox Hill B&B! And yes, the place is really beautiful!
    My husband and I went this past Labor Day weekend. We wanted to go somewhere during the long weekend, but flights were expensive, and we didn’t feel like driving 12 hours to go to our favorite places up north. So we were bummed for ideas. It was late Wednesday night, and I was absently searching for where to go during the long weekend when I suddenly thought about the post you made about your trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I pulled up that particular blog entry again, and clicked on the B&B website. I seriously did not expect them to have any rooms available as it was already late in the week right before Labor Day weekend and I figured they would be booked to the gills. To my absolute surprise and delight, they had a room available!! Apparently, when I asked them later about it, they informed me that somebody cancelled at the last minute. So we made our reservations and went! And it was a wonderful trip! And only 3 hours from our place in Arlington!
    The place is WONDERFUL. They are on 38 acres of land, and when you open the door in the morning you can see green, green, green! Such a contrast from our usual concrete jungle in Arlington.
    We hung out on the patio at around 11 pm at night to see the stars. It was pitch, pitch black outside – I had to momentarily grope my way about – again, a contrast from the light pollution in our area. I tilted my head up and I gasped – it was a blanket of stars up in the sky. It was so beautiful. We actually saw the Big Dipper! I think I teared up a little bit because I haven’t seen stars like this for a long time. We didn’t hear any traffic from I-81, thankfully. It was very quiet, very serene.
    A tip to anybody who may consider checking this place out : For rooms that come with full breakfasts, you can specify any dietary concerns or food restrictions in the Comment/Request box when you reserve or inquire about the place. We are vegetarians with some other food restrictions and we informed them about it and they were very appreciative, since they had incidents where they served people at breakfast and were told “Oh, I can’t eat that”. So they very much appreciate knowing your concerns beforehand.
    We also had dinner in the area at a café attached to the Cool Springs Organics Market, where they have a lot of vegan items on the menu. The food was okay, not overly wowed by it, but it’s great to know that in this little corner of Virginia they have vegan options.
    So, thanks Renae, for writing about this beautiful place, and now we got to experience it too!

  7. Renae Said,

    September 9, 2013 @ 11:29 am

    Thanks for sharing, Annie! I’m so glad you were able to make a last-minute reservation and get out to Fox Hill and that you enjoyed it so much! Being able to see the stars was just about our highest priority when looking for a place to stay. Living in Northern Virginia it’s so easy to forget that we have such beauty just a couple hours away.

    I was also going to suggest The White Pig to you (which I talked about here), but when I went to their website to copy and paste the URL, I just saw that it’s up for sale, which saddens me. Hopefully whoever buys it will continue to maintain it as a vegan B&B, but I don’t know how likely that is. It seems to still be operating in the meantime, so the next time you’re looking for a local weekend getaway, it’s something to consider as well.

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment