Virginia

The Shenandoah Valley and Virginia Countryside

We got a chance to get away for a quick trip over the Labor Day weekend, so we took a drive to the Virginia Countryside. Virginia is a fairly large state by area, but not densely populated like the North East. The landmass is just under 43,000 square miles with a population of about 8.5 million people. For comparison purposes consider New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation.  NJ has a population of about 8.8 million, (about the same as Virginia) but a landmass of only 8.7 million square miles—which is only 20% as much as Virginia. 

The upshot is that there is a lot of beautiful unspoiled country to see in Virginia. For instance, forests cover 62% of the State. There is quite a bit of wildlife. There are over 1 million white-tailed deer. Carnivores include black bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes and skunks. The skunks can generally be seen on the beltway heading toward the district. 

Photo of farmland in Virgina with the morning fog burning off.

There are lots of parks in Virginia, both State and Federal. The bigger ones include Great Falls Park, the Appalachian Trail and Shenandoah National Park. Almost 40% of the  Shenandoah National Park has been declared to be a wilderness preserve. A particular interest of ours is the Virginia Natural Bridge State Park. 

An old barn in a Shenandoah Valley meadow; the Blue Ridge Mountains are in the background.

The park includes a 215 foot arch that serves as a natural foot bridge over Cedar Creek, a tributary of the James River. It is estimated to be almost 500 million years old. In 1774, Thomas Jefferson bought 157 acres of land, including the Natural Bridge, from King George III for 20 shillings. Jefferson built a log cabin with a guest room on the land and had many famous visitors including John Marshall, James Monroe, Henry Clay, Sam Houston and Martin Van Buren. (Note).

Photo of a woman tourist walking toward the landmark Natural Bridge in Virginia.
Natural Bridge, Virginia, USA — September 7, 2020. Tourists walk along a hiking trail by a stream under the landmark Natural Bridge in Virginia.

On our trip we saw the spectacularly beautiful countryside of the Shenandoah Valley, visited the Natural Bridge, took a ride along the Skyline Drive, and stayed in the small town of Lexington, VA. 

Blue Ridge Mountains from the Skyline Drive

The Shenandoah Valley and its surroundings are sights that should not be missed. Here are a few photos of from the trip. 

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Arlington National Cemetery

In the United States it is easy—much too easy—to take freedom for granted. In part it is because we have a long tradition of freedom; for most Americans  the idea of being without it is almost inconceivable.  But that can be a dangerous thing if it leads to letting down our guard. 

In that respect, a trip to Arlington National Cemetery is a sobering reminder that freedom has to be zealously defended; that freedom is not free, as the saying goes.  The endless rows of headstones that quietly mark the final resting places of over 400,000 people is a monument to the price of freedom. 

We visited Arlington Cemetery today; it is a place that belongs on everyone’s list of places to go and things to see. A few photos from the cemetery are below. 

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Arlington, VA, USA — October 14, 2019. Photo of a sea of headstones in Arlington National Cemetery on a clear Autumn day.
Arlington, VA, USA — October 14, 2019. Soldiers begin the changing of the guard in Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington, VA, USA — October 14, 2019. Wide angle photo of an amphitheatre outside the entrance to the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier.
Arlington, VA, USA — October 14, 2019. Photo of the Eternal Flame over JFK’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery; Arlington House is in the background.

Great Falls National Park in Autumn

We had some visitors from the wilds of New Jersey the other day. Mary Anne’s sister Ellen and her husband Steve came by our neck of the woods for a visit. The four of us took a walk around town and then made our way to Great Falls National Park in McLean Virginia. Among other things, the park is known for its stunning views of the Great Falls of the Potomac. Here (below) are a couple of shots taken in the park, along with one photo taken on a hiking trail by Lake Anne in Reston. 

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Wide angle shot of the Great Falls waterfall in Fairfax, Virginia
Great Falls Park on an Autumn afternoon.
A close-up photo of tree leaves that have turned from green to burnt orange.
Hiking path by Lake Anne in Reston, VA.