Virginia and North Carolina

After we left the cherry blossoms in DC, we headed north on the George Washington Memorial Parkway to the Great Falls of the Potomac.

_DSC1597 Great Falls of Potomac.JPG

There were several observation points that gave us different views -

_DSC1606.JPG

I almost liked the granite in the river more than the actual falls.

_DSC1605.JPG

We decided to head home via the Blue Ridge Parkway. Shenandoah National Park has Skyline Drive, which blends into the Parkway’s northern end. As you could see from the previous pictures, it was barely spring in this area. We thought that as we drove south, we’d encounter more and more spring.

_DSC1608.JPG

Unfortunately, the day was very cloudy, and this was the first hint of sun that we saw. You can also see the Shenandoah Valley spread out way below us. We quickly discovered the importance of altitude on temperature and season arrival. We saw only bare trees, and then got enveloped in clouds that closed us in, until we were going only 30 mph and barely able to see 10 feet in front of us.

_DSC1610.JPG

So we gave up on that episode of exploration.

About 3 weeks later, we headed east again, this time to explore both western and eastern NC. First, we came upon some neat waterfalls and rivers in the Cherokee National Forest -

_DSC1619.JPG

The sudden outcroppings of rock were a neat punctuation to the newly green trees and rushing water -

_DSC1624.JPG

I discovered how much I enjoyed the warmer air, greener trees and flowers of lower elevations.

_DSC1631.JPG

Linville Falls from above:

_DSC1625.JPG

…and after a rugged hike to the base -

_DSC1629.JPG

OK. now on to the Outer Banks. I had been interested in seeing them, after hearing the term for years, wondering just what all the hype was about. It mostly was a narrow strip of sand dunes, with a fair amount of different migrating bird species.

_DSC1665.JPG
_DSC1675 Cape Hatteras.JPG

At the southern end, after driving about 100 miles, we came to Cape Hatteras lighthouse. Of course we had to climb all 257 steps. After the bell towers in Italy, this felt like a breeze. Looking back north -

_DSC1685.JPG

…and coming back down:

_DSC1690.JPG

On the way back, we enjoyed watching kite surfers in a shallow bay:

_DSC1669.JPG

and walking along the beach.

_DSC1710.JPG

Bodie Island lighthouse was actually several miles inland, and had a different paint job.

_DSC1718.JPG

Much to my delight, we got up early one morning and drove the “auto nature trail” through Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, just east of Roanoke Island.

_DSC1731.JPG

Irises were blooming in the still, dark reflecting waters right next to the road. We were thrilled to meet several of the area’s inhabitants.

Red-bellied turtle

Red-bellied turtle

Great Egret

Great Egret

_DSC1765.JPG

I didn’t think that one needed a caption! We never could see its head.

Stand off -

_DSC1774.JPG

We’re off to central Africa in a few weeks. See you then!

Eastern box turtle

Eastern box turtle

A quick word from the cherry blossoms

I’m still working on finishing up even the first week from the Galapagos, but since we’re briefly in Washington D.C. to enjoy the cherry blossoms, I wanted to share.

_DSC1502.JPG

We arrived in mid-afternoon to gorgeous weather, but unbelievable crowds.

_DSC1497.JPG

I loved the really gnarly old trees,

_DSC1496.JPG

as well as the contrast of the branches to the flowers.

_DSC1492.JPG

Compared to all the Instagrammers and selfie hounds, Steve and I don’t quite have that down yet…

_DSC1510.JPG

Close ups just make me smile -

_DSC1511.JPG

in either white or pink.

_DSC1530.JPG

We went on around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial,

_DSC1509.JPG

…and while walking up the steps, overheard a young boy saying, “yeah, you CAN see “X” from here.”

_DSC1543.JPG

This was the picture I was taking, so I switched lenses:

_DSC1538.JPG

Cool!

As we walked back across the Mall, I wanted a picture of the Capitol

_DSC1546.JPG

that was then in quite a different light when we went out the next morning for sunrise pictures.

_DSC1547.JPG

Even with Steve grumbling about the early hour, we both greatly appreciated the lack of crowds.

_DSC1553.JPG

Both the lack of wind,

_DSC1548.JPG

and the lighting, made for some gorgeous shots.

_DSC1556.JPG

I was waiting around to see how things might look in a different light.

_DSC1561.JPG

About 5 minutes later, the sun came up and changed everything.

_DSC1562.JPG

Only a few more -

_DSC1583.JPG

It was a good morning!

_DSC1592.JPG