So last week I went back to Skyline Drive just in time for peak foliage. This blog post won't be as long as last year's, because this time I only stayed for one night, but it was still an adventure all the same! And if you prefer watching as opposed to reading, then here is a vlog of my adventure:
So it began on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 1, 2016. I left my house around 3pm or so. I had wanted to leave a couple of days earlier, but I had a meeting to attend on the previous Sunday, and on Monday I had to stay to celebrate Halloween, and to announce the winner of my Cosplay Battle contest. I also meant to leave earlier in the day, but I got lazy.
Anyway, I got there right around 4:30pm or so and knew I wanted to catch the sunset on Little Stony Man cliffs. The parking for Little Stony Man was about 8 miles from where I entered the park (Thornton Gap entrance), so I got there as fast as the 35mph speed limit would allow me. This time around I knew carrying a ton of camping supplies wasn't necessary, and it wasn't as cold this year, so I got to travel much more lightly.
I got the the top of Little Stony Man just as the sun was setting. It was a bit overcast so I didn't actually get much sun action, but I got some decent photos nevertheless.
While I was at the top of the mountain I ended up getting a phone call (coincidental, because I didn't have cell service until I got to the top), where I was interviewed for a waiting position. Guy's gotta eat, right? After the phone call, I video called my mom so I could show her the view. A treat which she appreciated.
It started to rain, so I took a selfie, and started to head back down.
And this is where the adventures really begin...
The rain started really coming down (I'm glad my camera is weather sealed) as I started to head back down the mountain. I was trying to get down quickly before it got dark, and so I ended up slipping, and fell a couple of yards down the mountain. Thankfully, it was more of a slide than a face-planting fall. And AS I was falling, I noticed a bear walking by. I thought, "COOL."
It was a baby bear, but I had no desire to stick around for momma to come. I wasn't equipped properly to photograph bears (always carry bear mace), so I wanted to get out of there. It started to get dark, so I used my phone's flash as a flash light.
Things were going well until I realized.... I've been hiking down for way too long. It only took me about 20 minutes to get up there, and here I was having been walking for 30 minutes with the end nowhere in sight. I was hopeful, but it began to sink in that I was lost. At some point I think I had missed a turn and actually wrapped around to the other side of the mountain. And then my phone died.
So it was raining, it was dark, my phone was dead, there were bears walking around, and I was lost. This is where I began to pray. Lord, please get me out of here alive. I kept walking figuring I'd get somewhere eventually, and then I began to hear cars driving by above me. So somehow I had gotten below the road and on the opposite side. At this point, I was just desperate to get back to civilization and so I said screw it, used my tripod as a hiking pole, and scaled up the side of the mountain to get back to the road. It wasn't like a 90 degree hike, but it was pretty steep.
Finally, I got to the road and just chilled, recollecting my composure until a car came by. I waved him down and asked for directions. I freaked the guy out by standing out in the middle of the road, but it was my only option. Turns out I went about a mile past and below my car on the opposite side of the mountain. So I walked back up the road and finally got back to my car, and boy was I relieved. I got into my car and relaxed for a bit before licking my wounds - I scratched my hand up pretty bad in the fall.
After I was cleaned up, I drove to Skyland Resort, and (like last year) got a hot chocolate (and shared my story with the cashier) and relaxed in the lodge for a bit, editing photos. After awhile I got back to my car to find a spot to take star photos. I found an overlook which worked and took a couple.
The next day, I planned on getting up at dawn and taking photos at Big Meadows, because someone had recommended to me last year that Big Meadows is a good place to see the deer at dawn. So I wanted to find a place to crash for the night, close to Big Meadows. I drove around for a bit till I found a parking lot, and enjoyed a bruise inducing night of sleep in my car.
I got up around 6am to get ready for photos in Big Meadows. I got out there early while it was still dark and looked for good compositions. I didn't get anything to exciting until the sun started to actually rise, and then I got some decent ones.