SKYLINE DRIVE, VIRGINIA
— Each autumn, a wooded stretch of highway high in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia attracts crowds of tourists who come to admire the colorful fall foliage on the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.
This couple from Maryland is enjoying the array of colors from one of the nearly 75 overlooks on Skyline Drive. The view reminds Sandra Andrade of a palette of watercolors.
“Different colored trees, it’s just like everyone is having a party. So colorful!," said Andrade.
Apart from passing cars, Bob Bryant enjoys the serenity.
“What you see and what you hear, which a lot of it is nothing, which is just a wonderful thing to hear when you live in the city," said Bryant.
Park ranger Sally Hurlbert says visitors come from all over the United States and around the world.
“They’re from China, from India, they’re from all over. South Africa. I’ve had people from the Ivory Coast," said Hurlbert.
Mihuie Lee is from South Korea.
“Here is very calm and very beautiful," said Lee.
Skyline Drive stretches 169 kilometers through the national park. New Yorker Pardees Goshtasb is awestruck by the spectacular views.
“It really makes you realize how little we are compared to the greater scheme of things. But at the same time, you know, we’re so connected with all of this," said Goshtasb.
She’s hoping to spot some wildlife. Hurlbert says she might catch a glimpse of deer or other animals as they prepare for winter.
“The deer are really fun to see at this time of year. Their colors are blending in with the background and they’re losing their summer coats and getting their winter coats.”
The highest peak in the park is 1,200 meters. Rick Steinberg lives by the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, which are much higher.
“Such a different vista than the Colorado mountains. All the different colors and the greenery, the shadows, just the overlooks are very different," said Steinberg.
He was surprised to learn that the Blue Ridge Mountains are older than mountain ranges with higher elevations. Hurlbert explains that’s because the Blue Ridge range has eroded over time.
"These mountains are about 250 million-years-old, and when they were first formed they were much higher than they are today. Some people compare their original size to the Alps or the Himalayas. Since then they have been eroding away," she said.
While the leaves on the higher elevations are mostly gone, those in the middle are at peak. On the lower level, Hurlbert says, the leaves haven’t changed but will soon.
“Fall lasts a lot longer because you can see it in different places at different times," said Hurlbert.
By mid-November, she says, the color will be gone and so will many of the tourists.