On the trail of the Lonesome Pine

Misty views on the Skyline Drive, Shenandoah

12th June – 124 miles from Front Royal, Virginia, to Harrisonburg, Virginia
13th June – 277 miles from Harrisonburg Virginia, to Greensboro, North Carolina

I’ve lumped these days together because it’s hard to distinguish which day was which from the photos. That’s another problem with film; there’s no handy metadata to keep it organised!

We started the day with breakfast in a Hardee’s restaurant. Sausage, egg, and hash browns were definitely required to take the edge off of the hangover from the night before.

The weather wasn’t great, and views on the Skyline drive through the Shenandoah National Park were obscured by mist for most of the morning, but it was atmospheric and we managed some good short walks on the trails. We also spoke to a couple who said they’d seen a bear on one of the trails, but, to our relief, we avoided any unwanted encounters with the local wildlife.

The weather improved in the afternoon, which created its own challenges on a short hike to a waterfall. Flatter light would have been easier to deal with, given the very limited dynamic range of slide film. With the sun breaking through the trees, a modern digital camera would have dealt better with the extreme range of brightness, as would the ability to preview the shots and try again.

In the Shenandoah Valley

It was also here that we discovered that the estimated times for some of the hikes were, presumably, based on low expectations of the fitness of the hiker. A trail might, for example, be shown as taking an hour and we’d finish it in forty minutes or less, even stopping to take photos. It’s true that we were young and probably carrying a bit less body weight than the average American tourist, but the discrepancy surprised us. That changed to the west of the Rockies, in the parks of Utah and Arizona, where the estimated times on the trails were a closer match to our pace.

By the afternoon the sun had burned off the last of the fog, we were able to enjoy the wider views a bit more.

The Skyline Drive… or the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Our overnight stop was in Harrisonburg, which was very much a pit stop. A quick trip to the nearest mall for dinner was enough for us after the excesses of the night before. On such a long trip it simply wouldn’t have been within our budget to have a big night out every night, but wandering around a mall and taking in the local atmosphere was often enough.

The next day we took the Blue Ridge Parkway south before heading to Greensboro, North Carolina, for our overnight stop on the way out to the coast.

Unusually for our trip, the hotel was multi-story and we were on the sixth floor. The balcony overlooked a gas station and some of the sprawl typical of the outskirts of an American city. Note the gas prices, just $1.17 for regular unleaded. Taking into account the exchange rate and smaller US gallon, that was around a third of the UK price at the time.

View from our motel balcony, Greensboro

There was a thunderstorm that night, and we picked up a six pack of beer from the gas station, sat on the balcony and enjoyed the view. It was a good, and much needed, opportunity to relax after a flying start to our trip.

14th June – 228 miles from Greensboro, North Carolina to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

On the road to the coast, photo by Spencer

One of the longer drives of the eastern leg of our tour took us out to Myrtle Beach. It was wet for most of the drive and there were few photo opportunities. Myrtle Beach proved to be a mistake. It was extremely busy on what was, I suspect, the first day of summer vacation. It was full of partying students and we only managed to get a cheap motel on the outskirts that came complete with cockroaches.

In the evening we played crazy golf for the first time on the trip. American crazy golf, or mini golf, was much more varied than its UK counterparts of the time. Most UK courses were the standard Arnold Palmer course, but we got the impression that many of the American courses were custom designed by their owners and were often more creative.

I don’t have any photos of Myrtle Beach, and that’s a shame because it would have been great to capture the chaos of the place. Customised cars were cruising the seafront strip with bass blaring, and there were signs banning cars from cruising between 2am and 6am. The photo opportunities were endless, and I missed them with my fixation on landscapes and landmarks.

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Next: “Charleston to the Smoky Mountains”