Tag Archives: landscape

Western survivors

On my first western trip, I visited Moab in July. We went hiking in 105 degree heat, the sun pounding the ground and anything above it. We learned to respect the desert, because the desert will win.

I always stop and admire the brave stalwarts of the desert—that scraggly tree growing from a forbidding rock face or that little flower, full of color if only briefly. They can never move. They survive or die.

In an ancient landscape shaped by wind and water on continents that no longer exist, the desert plants are ephemeral. Like the ruins of the southwest and our cities, the landscape will outlast them. But they, like us, can be beautiful for their time.

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Scrub at Canyon de Chelly National Monument

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Wildflower in Capitol Reef National Park

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A lone tree at Bryce Canyon National Park

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Wildflower at Zion National Park

The Blue Ridge Parkway

 

The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long, connecting Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is managed by the National Park System, though it is not a national park itself. Still, it has been the most visited part of the National Park System every year for over 50 years.

This weekend, I drove and hiked along a portion of it between Vesuvius and Roanoke, Virginia. It rained last week, so the vegetation was especially lush and the waterfalls especially spectacular.SONY DSCCrabtree Falls bottom-most waterfall, off mile marker 30 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Highway 56, which leads to Crabtree Falls, is a beautiful drive whether you go east of the Parkway or west. We stayed in a cabin near these falls, and at night, we could hear the water rush.

SONY DSCThe James River.

SONY DSCOverlooking Buena Vista, Virginia shortly before sunset.

SONY DSCFurther into sunset near Buena Vista, Virginia.

SONY DSCVegetation approaching the Apple Orchard waterfall trail.

SONY DSCBlooming azalea bushes lined the trail to Apple Orchard waterfall.

SONY DSCApple Orchard waterfall near mile marker 78 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

SONY DSCAnother waterfall on the Crabtree Falls trail. In 1.5 miles, you can see 4 different falls, though on the weekends it can be somewhat crowded. We went on Monday and shared the path with a different and slightly-too-exciting crowd: a rattlesnake and a six-foot long black snake. Nature!