Annapolis MD/Luray & Natural Bridge VA April 2013

It’s going to be a long one, so bear with me. I had a lot of subject material to cover ;-)

We began our trip driving the roughly 2.5 hours north to Annapolis, Maryland. We arrived just in time to wait for the next 40 minute harbor tour. A school field trip with over 100 kids booked the cruise right before we got there, so Mom and I wandered around the shops and enjoyed the sights for a little bit.

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Wouldn’t you love to own one of these houses?

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I mistakenly sat on the wrong side as we passed by the Naval Academy. I thought we would pass by it again on the way back, but we didn’t, so I got what I could from a distance.

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The Martha Ann can be rented for a measly $78,000 a week. Whose in with me? ;-)

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We then walked around the Naval Academy for a short while. A very short while. Mom just wanted to say she had stepped foot on it. We stopped by the gift shop and that was about it. I’m practically shaming my family by posting naval pictures in the first place. Grandfather was in the Air Force and Dad was in the Army (CORRECTION! Dad was in the Air Force as well! Sorry Dad!!). However, my cousin IS a bona-fide Navy Seal, so technically we have a Navy boy in the family!

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Mom makes a good John Paul Jones, no?

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FEAR THE GOAT!!

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Dinner was at the Chart House, one of our favorite restaurants. And no vacation of mine would be complete without either a sunrise or a sunset!

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The next day we woke up and drove two hours to Luray, Virginia to do some spelunking!

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Arrow drawn to show people, just to show some perspective.

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This is called Dream Lake. All of the spikes pointing up are a perfect reflection of the stalactites above. The water is perfectly still so it reflects a mirror image from above.

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All of this image is the water, of the reflection.

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This formation reminded me of a fish.

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If you look closely at the spotlight bottom left-center, then look just to the right of it, that is a man in a hat looking up at our platform. The two brown circular things in the very bottom corners are the tops of people’s heads. Again, perspective.

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This was my favorite room.

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The white formation is made from pure calcite and was named “Titania’s Veil,” after Shakespeare’s Fairy Queen from his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Our tour guide pointed out that this formation, if you look at it a certain way, reminds some people of a shaggy dog. The head is on the left, the split down the middle separates the two legs and the shaggy tail is on the right. See it?

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These formations are called “Totem Poles,” as the cluster of differently shaped stalactites and stalagmites look like totem poles.

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This formation is known as Saracen’s Tent. It is said to look like a drapery folded by hand. It is one of the most perfectly formed stone drapery structures in the world. I included the shot with people in it to show the sheer magnitude of it.

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Our tour guide pointed out that this reminded people of a fallen redwood tree. In the next shot, from a slightly different angle, I’ve highlighted where the column broke off from the ceiling.

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Just to prove I was there.

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And there’s Mom!

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It actually played music!

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More people bottom right.

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These are known as the Fried Eggs…very appropriate.

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After Luray, we drove about an hour and a half to Lexington. We had dinner then drove to the Natural Bridge to watch the Drama of Creation. It was a bit cold, but was unique and very interesting to see.

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I was happy to see that I captured some of the stars before the show started.

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There’s Dad on the left!

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I started the adventure by going into the butterfly room while the ‘rents went straight down to the bridge.

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This one actually landed on my hip and I shot it straight down. I also had two land on my shoulders, one on each, at the exact same time!

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I would have stayed longer but they were misting the room and kept it humid, so my lens fogged up every five seconds.

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But the ones I was able to capture were very pretty!

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Next I made my way down to the bridge and the nature trail.

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It’s Springtime so I, of course, had to take pictures of flowers!

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Finally, I made it back to the Natural Bridge!

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There’s Mom and Dad patiently waiting for me.

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George Washington helped to survey the Natural Bridge and he climbed up 25 feet to carve his initials into the rock face. The below is as it appears, but I darkened the initials in the next one to see them better.

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On my nature hike I found many interesting things.

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Including the fact that the waterfall was much further than the kid behind the desk said it was. He said it was about a quarter of a mile from the bridge. It was more like a mile away. Which wasn’t bad at all, but Dad stayed behind and I knew I had lost Mom about half a mile ago, so I was trying to hoof it so they weren’t just sitting around too long waiting for me.

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Found Mom on my way back!

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We think this is a pitcher plant.

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One last look back.

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We then went over to the Natural Bridge Caverns. By then, the folks were pretty spent so I did this adventure solo. And it was a good thing too. The guide warned our group ahead of time that this would involve a strenuous climb, lots of slippery steps, air pressure changes and that anyone with a heart condition or an inner ear infection might actually want to sit it out (you would think they would post those warnings BEFORE you bought the tickets). And yes, that tunnel is as steep as it looks!

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Our tour guide let us experience cave darkness. Holy schnikies!!

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Out of the two, Luray was definitely the more impressive caven experience. But the Natural Bridge was spectacular, the nature hike was beautiful and calming, but I would skip the caverns next time. There were a couple of other caverns sprinkled near and around Shenandoah that I didn’t know were there. That just means I’ll have to go back and do some more exploring ;-)

I got to ride shotgun on the way home and I kept the camera going. I love red barns, cows grazing in green valleys, blue skies and white puffy clouds. It was the perfect day and we were on the perfect highway to combine such loves !

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If you look closely, there is a huge house up there!

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We stopped at a rest stop to enjoy the view.

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Peace out!

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Sunday Afternoons

What an afternoon for photo ops! It started casually taking pictures in my parent’s backyard, to parking on the side of the road for wild wisteria, to running across the street for donkeys & cows, to hot air balloons floating right above my head!

But that’s the best kind of afternoon, unexpected, unplanned and full of surprises.

A wild redbud tree decided to sprout up and bloom in my parent’s backyard. I will be keeping my eye on this one over the years ;-)

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Found this wisteria growing like crazy on Mountain road

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I didn’t notice this until I was editing these photos, but check out all the loops the vines are making. Almost looks like the wisteria started growing over warped metal or something, but those are the vines.

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There are a few farms on Mountain and the donkeys and cows just happened to be grazing close enough to the street for me to run over and take a few shots.

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I happened to catch the hot air balloon while driving home. Thought catching the bird too was a nice touch ;-) And yes, it is as close as it looks, I hope it managed to pull up before reaching the freeway!

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Ok, this is cheating, I shot this Caddy last weekend, but I had to include it somewhere!

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Tulip tracking

I mentioned these tulips already in Spring…around town, but I’m having fun tracking the growth of them so I’m starting a separate post. I’ll update and add photos each day to this one, so please check back each day!

Monday

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Tuesday

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Wednesday

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This is a close up of the first tulip that opened

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Second one that opened

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The purple one finally fully opened!

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I think the last one is yellow, but I don’t really remember. It’ll be a surprise, can’t wait!

Thursday – not much has changed since yesterday. Still no movement on bud #4.

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There was absolutely no change on Friday. But I did have to change the vase as they were started to droop a little too much for the mason jar.

Saturday – the last bud finally started to open up a little bit!

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Spring…around town

I didn’t make it to Lewis Ginter last week as I had planned, so I went tonight after work, only to discover they close at 5:00! Their extended hours don’t start until June. Oh well, it was getting a little too overcast to get good floral shots anyway.

I still needed to get my fix of flowers last week, where I could, while I waited to make my way over to the Gardens, so here they are.

These red tulips were taken at Montgomery’s first birthday party, my honorary nephew ;-)

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I always have my camera with me now. These cherry blossom trees were in the parking lot at my local grocery store.

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This red bud was in front of the elementary school down the street from me. I would have stayed longer and tried more angles, but I’m a wee bit terrified of bees. Was proud of myself for getting as many shots as I did!

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My loving parents came over on Sunday to pick me up for a Sunday drive (I desperately needed to get out of the house after being trapped in it for five days). We spotted a bright neon green sign that read “pick your own tulips!” So we stopped and did just that!

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These are the four I picked, one day later on Monday.

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Here they are two days later on Tuesday.

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I love flowers. If I haven’t said it already, I usually can’t have fresh flowers in the house because of the cats. They just love chewing, and then subsequently vomiting up, the leaves. So I tend to err on the side of caution and not bring them in the house too often. Therefore, I take pictures of them so I always have a blossom to look at on my screen.