Washington D.C.

Taking off from Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington is quite an experience. First, the airport itself feels more like a bus station than an international airport. Second, the aircraft have to climb quickly and bank sharply away from the city. One thing strikes you looking down on the nation’s capital is how short it is. Unlike most capitals, there are no tall buildings. The Washington Monument, which is not technically a building, is the tallest structure in the city. Click on the image for a larger view.

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The Streets of D.C.

Washington is really clean, at least near the mall. It is also not very colorful. It is certainly not new. But strangely it does not feel very lived in. Click on the image for a larger view.

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Road Closed

on_the_road_road_closedThe journey along the Blue Ridge Parkway is not always predictable—what journey ever is? Sections of the parkway can be closed because of landslides. But when one road closes, another opens. This closure was just after the entrance to Mt. Mitchell, the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River.

The ride up Mt. Mitchell is very different from Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. While Mt. Washington is 400 ft lower at 6,289 ft—compared to Mt. Mitchell’s 6,684 ft—the summit is an alpine zone. The tree line extends to Mt. Mitchell’s summit. on_the_road_mt_mitchellThis December, it was a windy 37°F at the summit lookout. A park ranger walked up with us and explained this weather was unusual. Normally, he explained, there would be a snow pack of several feet and freezing weather. He is a member of a troop of rangers that man the summit year round. We ended the day at Green Knob Overlook on the way down. Click on the images for larger views.

Green Knob Overlook, Elev 4,760 ft

on_the_road_green_knob_overlookFrom the Blue Ridge Parkway. At dusk, light seems to be sucked up out of the valleys and into the sky. Anyone below would probably feel the day has ended. But high on a ridge, the light seems to linger just a little longer. And quietly, the landscape yields to the inevitable darkness. Click in the image for a larger view.

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Crossing the Chesapeake

on_the_road_crossing_the_chesapeakeBetween Norfolk, and Cape Charles, Virginia is a series of bridges and tunnels that take you across the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the US. The 17.6 mi. or 28.3 km route, known as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, opened in 1964. Click on the image for a larger view.

Devil’s Toenail

devils_toenail_001This “toenail” was found in a field in East Anglia in the United Kingdom. It was thought carrying one in your pocket could ease the pain of rheumatism. Since this is about 3 inches or 7.5 cm long, it would be a rather large charm.

However, it really is not a toenail, one from the devil or any other creature. It is an extinct animal related to the oyster, known as Gryphaea. They lived in shallow waters during the Mesozoic period, about 250–65 million years ago. Click on the image for a larger view.