ROAD TRIP DAY 41: SHENANDOAH VALLEY, ABOVE AND BELOW

When given the choice of driving to a destination, we would much rather take the scenic route and enjoy the journey along the way. Today was a great case in point. Trudy (our GPS) would have preferred we travel south along Interstate 81; however, if we had done so, we would have missed one of the most beautiful National Scenic Byways, Skyline Drive.

At 105 miles long, we only traveled on a portion of the drive before exiting Shenandoah National Park to see Luray Caverns. The drive runs north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is the only public road through the park. Its a beautiful way to take in the scenic views of the Shenandoah Valley by utilizing the numerous lookout vantage points along the way.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t ideal for scenic photography, and the visibility was limited, so we mostly pulled off the road at overlooks to just enjoy what we could see. Take a look at this panoramic shot, and just imagine what this would look like on a clear spring day or during the fall when the leaves are changing colors:

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Luray was our next (and final) destination after descending the mountain ridges to explore the caverns below.

Best known for its Great Stalacpipe Organ, created there by Leland Sprinkle in 1957, the Luray Caverns are incredibly beautiful, and far more photogenic than Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

Towards the end of our one-hour tour (uh, make that 1:20, because we hung back and joined the tour behind ours), we got to hear a hymn from the organ.

An entry in Wikipedia describes the organ as, “…a lithophone made from solenoid fired strikers that tap stalactites of various sizes to produce tones similar to those of xylophones, tuning forks, or bells.”

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Look carefully for the organ.  You can see it up close in the next photo.

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This is one of the strikers that produces just one note of the organ

The tone sounded ethereal and unlike anything I had ever heard. Bruce and I both thought of our friends at Griffin Choral Arts– especially Steve Mulder, Bill Pasch, Cathy Willis, and Richard Chewning. We know they would have flipped over the worlds largest instrument that spans over 3 acres, including all its strikers.

Here are more scenes from inside Luray Caverns:

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Just look at how large these formations are compared to the people touring the caverns!

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The formations in the top half of the photo are reflected in the water below.

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