Blue Ridge Parkway – Milepost 85.6 – 176.1

Blog Working Folder10This is now day 7 of our F.A.R.T.!  In order to maximize our time on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we decided that it would be most efficient to car-camp in the campgrounds along the road.  We had read in multiple places that October is a very busy month for the BRP, so we made reservations for our campsite well in advance.  We spent our first night on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Peaks of Otter Campground.  Our campsite was nice enough, but the bathrooms and water spigot were out of order in our section of the campground (site B16).  We didn’t receive any warning of this despite having reservations.  We could have moved to another section of the campground, but we had already set up our campsite, so we chose to stay where we were and walk to the other area of the campground.  We made chili for supper that night.  We got up with the sun so that we could pack up our campsite and get on the road before the crowds hit.

The scenery along the parkway is beautiful during the fall!

I’m a sucker for cows, barns, and cemeteries, so we stopped for a bit at the Shaver Cemetery at milepost 136.

The first big stop for this day was Mabry Mill.  We wanted to get there early in an attempt to avoid the crowds, as we read that it is one of the more popular sites along the parkway.  It certainly did not disappoint.  The mill was beautiful and still functional (which was a big plus for this engineer)!

There were several other buildings to see while at the mill.  On our way out, there was a yarn making demonstration being done, but we did not have time to stay and watch.  I did snap a few photos as we were leaving.  We had hoped to eat lunch at the restaurant, but the wait was too long.  We bought some locally-ground grits and hit the road!

Apple Orchard Falls

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After completing our hike to White Rock Falls we continued south on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The next hike on our list was Apple Orchard Falls.  We did an out-and-back hike that ended at the falls for a total of 2.4 miles.

These were easily the newest trail markers we’ve ever seen!

By the time we started the hike, the sun was already setting.  We knew we’d have to book it to the falls in order to be able to see them before it got dark. The foliage along the way was beautiful, and the trail was covered in leaves.

I was a bit nervous about making this hike at all because I knew that the return trip would be in the dark.  I’m so thankful that we made the decision to go ahead with the hike, as the Apple Orchard Falls were beautiful!

We went ahead and donned our headlamps before setting out on the return hike.


Making the return hike in the dark was a bit intimidating, but we didn’t encounter any issues along the way.  We’ve backpacked in the wilderness before, but we’ve never hiked after dark, so this was a first for us.  I’m thankful that we had the foresight to put our headlamps in our backpacks before setting out.

Shenandoah National Park – A Black Bear and Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble

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After checking out of our room at the Big Meadows Lodge, we continued our drive South along Skyline Drive. Up to this point I had been fairly disappointed about the amount of wildlife in the park.  That all changed as soon as we made it to the parking area for our next hike, the Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble.

Perched high up in a tree was a black bear! He didn’t pay any attention to the small group of people stating up at him — he was much more interested in getting to the walnuts hanging in the tree he had climbed.

After watching the bear for a bit and taking a few photos, we set out on our hike.

I tend to be a bit more of a scaredy cat than my husband, so I was a little concerned about what this “rock scramble” hike would entail. The initial part of the hike was just a normal trail. As we approached the rocky area, I was relieved to see that the path for the rock scramble portion of the hike was actually painted on the rocks (note the white blazes in the photos below).

This hike ended up being one of our favorites from the entire trip. Check out the panoramic views of the surrounding area from the top!

Our trip took place during the middle of October, so there weren’t many wildflowers left by then, but there were a few still hanging on.

Shenandoah National Park – Part 2


We picked out the hikes that we wanted to complete during our trip ahead of time.  We put quite a bit of thought into how many miles we thought we’d be able to hike (and drive) in a day.  We also tried to pick hikes that featured different things (waterfalls, good views, interesting terrain, etc.).  There are a ton of hikes to pick from, so having a game-plan ahead of time will allow you to make better use of your time.  The three hikes that we did on our first day in Shenandoah definitely reflect our thoughtful planning process.  We chose one with good views, one with good trees, and one with a waterfall.

Hike With A View

Our first hike of the day was Stony Man.  We started in the Stony Man parking area and took the Appalachian Trail to the Stony Man Trail.  We spent some time taking in the views at the Stony Man summit and then headed back to the parking lot.  The views were amazing, and the total hike distance was only 1.4 miles, so it was definitely worth the time/effort.  One of my favorite things about the view from the summit was getting to see Skyline Drive winding through the trees down below.

 Squirrel on Stony Man Trail

View from Stony Man Summit

Skyline Drive via Stony Man Summit

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Beavers Bend State Park – Broken Bow, Oklahoma


Fall is upon us in the Texas panhandle!  The days are getting cooler and shorter, and I can’t help but look back on the trip we took to Beavers Bend State Park during the first weekend in November last year.  We went out of our way to take Talimena National Scenic Byway on our way to the park.  The byway was beautiful, but it wasn’t very conducive to stopping for photographs, which was a little disappointing.

Talimena National Scenic Byway

There were several areas to pull over and stop at scenic overlooks, but many of them were on the west side of the road, which meant that we were staring straight into the sun.  This overlook was on the east side of the road, so the sun was at our backs, and we were actually able to see the view.

Talimena National Scenic Byway

We arrived at Beavers Bend after dark and spent quite a bit of time searching for a campsite.  It would have been easier to find a campsite had we arrived when it was still light outside.  This was our first trip to Beavers Bend, and we weren’t familiar with how the campsites were set up (common parking lot, a parking area at each campsite, etc.).  It had been awhile since we had eaten, and I was getting hangry, so we finally gave up, got out of the car, and stumbled across an open campsite at the Dogwood Campground.  It was the only open campsite we had come across in our hour-plus search, and we just knew it was going to be a crummy campsite, but our chili was calling (actually…the ingredients for chili were calling).  We woke up in the morning, and Bryan got out of the tent first.  He ventured out, and then came back and told me that I had to get up because it was the most beautiful campground ever.  I initially thought that he had to be lying but got up anyways and was me with a gorgeous view.  The Mountain Fork River was a short (less than 1 minute) walk away from our tent.  We did quite a bit of hiking while we were there, but the trails were not marked very well, and we weren’t able to plan our hikes ahead of time because web-based-information for Oklahoma State Parks in general is…lacking.  Here’s a link to a site with some information on hiking trails at Beavers Bend.  I think we hiked several portions of the David Boren Hiking Trail, the Skyline Trail, and the Forest Heritage Tree Trail.

If you visit Beavers Bend and aren’t able to find a place to pay for your campsite, don’t worry about it.  We went to the headquarters office and asked where we were supposed to pay for our site.  They told us that someone walks around the campgrounds each day collecting fees from the people who are at their campsites at that time.  So….if you’re not at your campsite, then you ultimately don’t have to pay — not much of a way to run a business.

Fog Rolling Across Mountain Fork River (Dogwood Campground)

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