Sunday, November 20, 2011

Luray for my Birthday

We were supposed to go to Luray Caverns last Saturday (on my actual birthday), but the afternoon winds were forecast to be at 14 knots, gusting to 23. So, we decided to go hike the Great Falls instead. Yesterday morning when I checked the winds, they were forecast to be at 12 knots, gusting to 20. I went down to breakfast more than a little disappointed. Sensing this, Rich was quick to suggest alternate options. As the plane wasn't booked until Sunday at noon, we decided to turn our day trip into an overnight adventure. It was just too pretty a day not to fly.

We took off runway 14 and hit immediate turbulence. I'd gotten a standard weather briefing a half hour before take-off and and no turbulence had been mentioned, so it was a bit of a surprise. I assured Rich that although it felt pretty rough, it was actually only moderate turbulence, and nothing the plane couldn't handle.

We followed my favorite flight route Northwest from Gaithersburg - out past the cement factory, along the Potomac River, and over Harper's ferry.

As we crossed through the cut in the mountains, the turbulence eased up and I snapped a quick pic of my backseat passengers. Although the turbulence was minimal, we decided to leave Isabelle buckled into her car seat out of an abundance of caution, as you never know when the next good jolt of turbulence may strike.

Rich, Isabelle and I had been to Harper's Ferry for a weekend earlier in October, so it was fun to see it from the air and try to identify where we had been on foot. The railroad tracks with the foot traffic bridge running parallel to it we the easiest landmarks to recognize. I did not see Jefferson Rock or the old church on the hill, but I think Rich might have. (A good pilot always gives her passengers the best view?)

The Potomac does a wonderful meander down through this part of Virginia, so we hugged the water for the stunning views as we made our way Southwards towards Luray.

Rich took pictures from the backseat and I took pictures from the front seat. We laughed on the car ride home as we realized that we both had purposefully included small snippets of the plane in most of our shots. It must be something about being in a small plane while taking photographs. Unless everyone knows you are in a small plane taking the picture, it wouldn't be as cool. Or something!

Once we landed at Luray, we were greeted by Doug, who kindly offered to drive us over to our hotel, The Mimslyn Inn. I had been expecting a "country quaint inn." Instead we were greeted by a three story colonial mansion built in 1914 with Jefferson style pillars out front. Although Doug kindly offered to come back and drive us to the caverns once we'd had lunch and gotten settled, we decided to set out on foot after partaking in the wonderful lunch buffet served at the Mimslyn. The caverns were every bit as cool as I'd remembered.

I had last been to the caverns with Tamlyn when she was visiting a few summers ago. We also had a great flight over, with Tamlyn practicing her hand at flying, and doing a great job, as I recall.

Rich had been to limestone caverns in Wisconsin, but was impressed with the size of the caverns at Luray. The stalactites, stalagmites, columns and fans were amazing. Although a 23$ entrance fee feels a little steep, the sting is eased by the impressiveness of the rock formations.

National Geographic apparently photographed the very same fans picture above, declaring them to be the most impressive in the world (at least according to our tour guide, anyhow).

Rich did a great job pushing Isabelle up and down some rather steep pathways, and she seemed to like both the sensation of having things hanging from the ceiling as well as watching (and flirting with) the various other children on our tour.

The last time I was at Luray, I don't think I'd quite figured out how to capture the caverns with my camera, so I apologize for the abundance of caverns photographs in a flying blog. It really is quite a sight to behold, though.

The above was the last pillar to have fallen in the caves. A soft landing on mud and water (at the time) kept it from breaking into small pieces. As it is, it looks like a tree that has fallen and pulled up all the surrounding dirt with the magnitude of its roots.

The color variation among the rocks is also fascinating. I particularly liked the white ones, made so by the presence of calcite.

One of the last stops on the tour is at the wishing well, which begs comparison to the wishing well discovered in the movie "The Goonies." I couldn't help but recite a few lines from the scene (as Rich groaned) and Isabelle marvelled at all the people tossing coins into the well.

After the caverns, we made our way over to the antique carriage and car museum that is nearby. Although Rich took almost as many pictures of cars as I took of the caverns, this is my blog, so I'm only putting in one token car photo.

Isabelle crashed out in her stroller on our walk back to the hotel and proceeded to sleep from about 4 until 6. When she woke up, we made our way down to a different restaurant in the Mimslyn and enjoyed a nice dinner before heading back to our rooms and calling it an early night. Early to bed, early to rise, so we were packed and waiting for our courtesy van back to the airport by 8AM.

Although there was a weather advisory in effect for moderate turbulence, our ride home was smooth. We decided to let Isabelle get out of her car seat for a better view, and also so she could see what Mum was doing up front.

The last time she'd worn a headset, she was four months old on a helicopter ride in Hawaii, and she hated it. This time, however, with her Mummy chattering away to her, she listened intently. As you'll see in the below video, she seemed to understand that the microphone was supposed to be near your mouth. Of course, she also licked it, but she licks everything.

I eventually had to ask Rich to take the headset back off her, however, as I needed to call Potomac approach for my SFRA clearance and didn't want to risk Isabelle letting loose with some loud baby chatter at an inopportune moment.

With my discrete code squawking, we continued to make our way Northwards towards Harper's ferry. I rarely miss an opportunity to fly over it, as most people who have flown with me know.

We passed the island from the opposite side this time, and Rich caught another nice picture of the train and foot bridges.

Isabelle checked out the passing scenery until we were about eight minutes out from Gaithersburg, at which point I asked Rich to get her buckled back in. She was not a happy camper at first, but was eventually distracted with a rattle and settled down. We were on the ground shortly after 10AM, and had the plane tied down and unpacked and the car re-packed by 10:30. Without a doubt, it was a very successful weekend (birthday) adventure!


At November 20, 2011 at 6:04 PM , Blogger The Curvy Girl said...

Great pictures!


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