|Virginia's fall colors light up the landscape along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. Michelle Carr takes us on a 3-day leaf peeping road trip with Front Royal, VA as her base. Photos by Michelle Carr|
Swapping Stilettos for Hiking Shoes: a Leaf Peeping Story
Guest Post by Michelle Carr
Each year when summer fades to fall, I dream of visiting a place with gold, orange, and red tree-lined landscapes that offer winding roads, hiking trails, and harvest festivals. Since I live in Houston, Texas where the seasonal lines are not clearly defined, I posted a Tweet asking where to go leaf peeping. Within minutes, I received a reply from a follower suggesting several areas from his home state of Virginia. I researched the recommended sites and discovered that the third weekend in October wasVirginia's most popular weekend for leaf peeping activities, including Virginia's Wine Tour month. The wheels were in motion to making this dream come true, but two weeks before my departure the US government shutdown and closed all national parks, museums, and monuments. Despite the threat of an extended US government shutdown, I swapped out my stilettos for hiking shoes and made my leaf peeping pilgrimage to Virginia.
As I arrived to my base location at Front Royal, Virginia in my rental car, I was greeted with a warm sunset casting off of the Blue Ridge Mountains and a kiss from the crisp fall air. I followed Google Maps’ narration through a series of back roads that closely resembled Thomas Kinkade's American landscape themed artwork, exhibiting barns with red doors, rolling hills with grazing sheep, and cozy cottages adorned with seasonal decorations. Every turn unveiled a breathtaking view that made me want to pull the car over to take pictures. Shortly after seven p.m., I checked-in at the Holiday Inn at Front Royal Blue Ridge Shadows and I was upgraded to a spacious suite that overlooked the golf course and the Blue Ridge Mountains. After the long day’s journey, I refreshed up and made reservations at Apartment 2G in Front Royal’s historic district for their Third Thursdays Tapas Night. It was a treat to watch David and Stacy Gedney, the executive chefs and restaurant owners of Apartment 2G, broadcast their culinary skills over closed-circuit TV monitors as they prepared the Spanish tapas for their guests like Food Network stars. I sampled an array of tapas ranging from gambas ajillo to scallops with walnut grape salsa and finished dinner with a homemade apple tart made from local ingredients. With my wine glass lifted to the TV monitor, I toasted the beginning of my trip with a verbal "Cheers!"
Day Two- Shenandoah National Park
Luck was on my side because the US government shutdown ended the day I arrived Virginia. The next morning, I packed a bag with water and snacks, and started my leaf peeping adventure at Shenandoah National Park’s North Entrance. The thirty-five miles per hour Skyline Drive captured my full attention
Day Three: Syria, Virginia - Harvest Festival and Wine Tour
A light morning fog hovered off the ground as I drove to Syria, Virginia to attend the Graves' Annual Harvest Festival. I took the wine tour route 211 to the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoyed thebeautiful fall vistas. As I neared Syria, cars formed a line to enter the Graves' festival grounds to park in an open field. The smell of freshly popped kettle corn filled the air with sweetness and lured guests to the first samplings of the day. A bluegrass band entertained the crowd with banjos and guitars as children chased each other around the grounds. Families posed for pictures in the pumpkin patches, children rode on hayrides, and vendors sold their homemade crafts. Across from the festival grounds, the Graves' working farm was open to the public. The farm was stocked with chickens, goats, and pigs, and the apple orchard was open for apple picking.
Around mid-afternoon, I decided to leave the harvest festival in search of one of Virginia’s nearbywineries. I veered on to Weakly Hollow Road for an off the beaten path drive that displayed some of the best fall foliage views of Madison County and down RT 643 to the DuCard Vineyards Tasting
As my Twitter follower promised, Virginia exceeded my expectations with an abundance of fall foliage, hiking trails, civil war sights, museums, national parks, festivals, and wineries. The one thing that impressed me the most about Virginia was the first class hospitality shown to visitors.
Michelle Carr, from Houston, Texas, writes stories and travels for fun. She gleans tips and ideas from her Twitter followers and writes about her “life by tweets” adventures on her blog. You can follow her on Twitter @lifebytweets to post ideas where she should travel next.
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