Shenandoah National Park | Winter 2017

How many of our common phrases, words, and idioms do we learn and use without asking where they came from? "Trailblazer" and the phrase "blazing a trail" are words I've known and used to express setting precedents, but it took a trip to Shenandoah in 2013 to connect the sayings with their origin. I recognized the paint on trees along hiking trails were called blazes...and, well, I put it together. These literal "blazes" along the trail guide you not only tell you which direction to continue, but they reveal that some pioneer, surveyor, or ranger took on the challenge of exploring and marking the area. Incidentally, I don't think the phrase "what in the blue blazes" is in any way related.

My friends Elizabeth and Emily planned on driving out to Shenandoah over MLK weekend, and I eagerly joined them - the park has been one of my favorite "escapes" while living in DC. We entered at Thornton Gap, drove a few miles south to the Byrd Visitor Center and then hiked the ~4 mile Rose River trail (with a detour to Dark Hollow Falls), followed by the Stony Man overlook. Autumn is my favorite season in Shenandoah, but I love the green moss and ferns which survive through the Winter and give the landscape a different, beautiful character. Of course, Skyline Drive, the main route running North to South through the park, is always incredible. It winds and bends, and on days like this one, it is often covered in rolling fog and clouds, only to reveal magnificent views unexpectedly as the clouds drop.

Shenandoah National Park became the 18th National Park on May 22, 1926, and is located in Virginia, 75 miles west of Washington DC.

Pictures by Karl Magnuson, Emily Bryant
Canon 60D
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L