Virginias and Maryland

We have traveled through some beautiful country since our last post, and we’ve seen a ton of family and friends. Today we made it to Jersey City, NJ, completing Phase I of our 15-week trip (traveling 3,214 miles in less than 3 weeks) (we’ll be exploring New York City over the next couple of days, which I’m sure will warrant its own post).

A week ago, we traveled through northern Kentucky horse farms that led to southern West Virginia, where we wound our way near the Big Sandy and Ohio Rivers before landing at Beech Fork State Park. They don’t call it flooding in this part of the country, but we had to drive the RV through some “High Water” to get to this lovely state park that was almost deserted.

Kentucky Horse Farm
Beech Fork State Park, West Virginia

There were beautiful trees and lots of bird-watching along Beech Fork Lake, so it made the curvy, wet drive worth it.

We think this was a Baltimore Oriole!

Next, we headed through the Allegheny Mountains and north into western Virginia, where we camped in a county park called Natural Chimneys, which are cute rock formations right at one end of the campground. We also got a chance to visit our friends Mary and Mark, who toured us around Eastern Mennonite University and fed us well!

Natural Chimneys--use your imagination!

Shenandoah National Park was our next destination, and we had two great hikes there. The hike to Hightop Summit (3.3 miles round trip, 3296’ elevation) near the Swift Run Gap entrance station gave us a chance to enjoy oodles of spring wildflowers and a bit of a view of the eastern mountains.

The hike to Mary’s Rock Summit (2.9 miles round trip, 3,514’ elevation) in the afternoon pushed our stamina, but provided a terrific view of the Alleghenies. This hike was close to the Thornton Gap station, where we exited the park and headed back to our campsite at Natural Chimneys.

In between the hikes, we drove Skyline Drive and tried to grasp how challenging a place this would have been for early explorers and settlers. It also gave us a renewed appreciation for the Civilian Conservation Corps, who constructed so many of the roads and structures in our older national parks, including Shenandoah.

Next, we braved the challenges of again driving our RV through a major metropolitan area (this time, Washington, DC), and headed out to Kent Island, Maryland, the largest island in the Chesapeake Bay, and the oldest English settlement within the present-day state of Maryland (founded in 1631), after Jamestown, VA, and Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Our goal for this part of the trip was to visit family and friends, and we had lots of opportunities! Hank’s cousins Jean, Ray and Morgan let us park our RV in their driveway, helping us out with laundry facilities and major fix-it support on the RV and car, while wining and dining us repeatedly.

We also were able to visit Hank’s cousins on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, including George and Karen, Phyllis and Roger, Trudy and David, and Eloise. Hank’s dad grew up on the Eastern Shore, so Hank has two family lines in and around the town of Chestertown. Trying to figure out second cousins, first cousins once removed, etc., required lots of details and a few diagrams.

Cindy’s side of the family was also represented in this part of the country. Her nephew, Major Thomas Carson in the Marine Corps, is currently stationed at the Pentagon, so he gave us a private tour (alas, no pictures allowed), which we highly recommend (the Pentagon tour is available to the general public, even if you don’t have a nephew in the Marines, but you do have to pre-register because they do a background check on everyone). Hank liked Saddam Hussein’s gold-plated AK-47, while Cindy admired the handmade quilts made by people from all over the country after the 9/11 attacks.

We also got to follow Tom home so we could spend time with his wife Danielle and their three children, LilaKate, Penelope, and baby Drew, getting soaked as we carried pizza from the Metro station to their house. It was a very fun visit, with non-stop action on the part of the girls.

Hank also got to visit with a friend from his World Impact days, Gary, so there were a lot of memories shared throughout our time on the Eastern Shore.

A deer in Ray and Jean's backyard!

We’ve continued to have quite a bit of rain, which is to be expected in May, but at least we’re not encountering the thunderstorms and tornadoes we faced in the Midwest. 

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