upon entering Virginia out of DC we drove southwest in order to hit Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. its a pretty drive that curls and bends and goes up and down across a strip of mountainous midsouth forest. the picture BELOW is from one of the many scenic views along the drive. we stopped there and hiked in the woods for a few hours before getting back on the road.
the big highlight of the drive was seeing a black bear run across the road in front of us. it wasnt a very big black bear but it was still a bear and seeing one is always kind of magical. it climbed the embankment then stopped and looked back at us over its shoulder with those weird dark thinking eyes all bears have.
we visited friends in Charlottesville and spent a night there then continued south along the Virginia and West Virginia border in search of swimming holes. we found one at Blowing Springs National Recreation area (pictured BELOW).
the water was cool, not frigid. we swam. the whole floor of the swimming hole and all the underwater rocks were covered in tiny watersnails. i like snails and kept a few as pets briefly while living in RI and it hurt my heart to feel them popping underneath my bare feet. eventually i found a clear place to stand. i was paranoid about snapping turtles even though i know they prefer murkier water. fortunately there were no close encounters except for some little fish floating up to me and nibbling on my calves.
Blowing Springs Recreation Area is named after some kind of warm-air cave across the road from the campground. the water coming out of this cave is always 53 degrees no matter the time of year. i walked across the road and felt the water; it was indeed cold. the campground was simple but well-manicured (see pic BELOW). it was $10/night and had well-water and toilets. there were other RVs and tent-campers. around mid-day an entourage arrived that looked like something out of Slab City. they had a van, a tow trailer, a car, and a converted schoolbus (!), and they set up a wall tent, a dome tent, a dining tent, a picnic table, and many chairs, and dumped out a big pile of firewood too. oddly i only ever saw 2-3 people at the site at a time...
being in the mountains as we were it was a little cooler at night. the fireflies were out and up in the trees as high as 30 or 40 feet and it looked like a big blinking wall towering over us.
we spent 2 nights at Blowing Springs. at the end of the 2nd day we both started to get a little antsy. there really wasnt much to do other than swim or lounge around the van. so today we set out early (6 am) with it in mind to reach another swimming hole / campground further south along the virginia / west virginia border.
what ensued was a weirdly "unfortunate" driving experience (to quote Jora). it looked on the map like it would take 2 or 2.5 hours at most. i was anxious to get there early and snag a site since it was a saturday. so we just woke up and took off without coffee or breakfast or anything. 1 hour passed, then 2, then 3... and according to the map we still had a trek ahead of us. what the hell? why was it taking so long? the road was very twisty and turny and the line on the map didnt do justice to all these squiggles. driving squiggly roads in the van is very stressful for me. youre constantly fighting momentum. on the downhills you fight with the brakes, on uphills the engine strains.
at 4 hours we were both unraveled mentally. the lack of caffeine, combined with the unprecedented driving time, did us in. it was one of those situations where if i'd known it was gonna be 4 or 5 hours, i would have been OK; but i didnt... so we called it quits and stopped in Blacksburg for the day. we'll try for that swimming hole tomorrow.
thanks for the positive feedback, and thanks for reading.