Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

The Limberlost and Skyland

Wednesday Afternoon June 24,2015                                                                        Previous Post:
Big Meadows Campground                                                                                        Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia




So after the morning scramble, we head back to Winnona for some lunch and then set off to the north to hike the Limberlost Trail.  Pretty sure this is one of the easiest trails in the park if not THE easiest.  It’s a relatively short loop through a once spectacular hemlock forest.  I’d say it’s actually more of a walk than a hike.  Much of it is a wide gravel or boardwalk path.



The trail has some history to it.  Addie Pollack, the very independent wife of Skyland founder George Pollack, bought 100 of the large hemlock trees in this area for $1000 to help preserve them from the 1920’s logging.  George named it the Limberlost Forest after the novel A Girl of the Limberlost which was apparently quite the rage at the time even though it was set Indiana.  Sadly the hemlocks were killed by the the hemlock wooly adelgid, another of the wonderful benefits of global trade, but I had read that there are still some large spruce trees in the area which David of course wants to see.




Here is the trail we thought we’d walk.  We plan start off to the left and soon cross the Old Rag Road and then the White Oak Canyon Trail, which is another I’d like to hike.



The signboard at the trail head shows us the map but also informs us that a section of the trail is closed.  So we won’t get to see any of the water on the trail.  They are rebuilding both bridges.  In order to walk the maximum amount of the trail in search of the spruce trees we will have to walk up one side and back to the trail head and then up the other side and back rather than walking the loop.  Looking at the map, it appears that 1/3 of the trail is closed.






We set off on the wide graveled path anyway. 



There are 18 benches placed all along the loop.  It seems they are about every 400 feet.  These can’t be for rest on a difficult trail so I suppose it’s for contemplation or…….





There are also these little cut outs all  along the trail but the benches aren’t there.  What could they be for if not for benches?  David brings his hiking pole.  Not sure why.  It certainly isn’t a path for which you need it.




I hiked this trail many years ago before the death of the hemlocks.  It was very dark and mysterious then.  Not so much now.




There are a few interesting things along the way though.







We find many downed hemlocks or what appear to be hemlocks.   Such a shame. 




Big stumps.




Just before we start toward the bridge we come to what turns out to be the most interesting thing on the trail.  It’s a terrific example of columnar joining.  Jutting from the Earth like a giant crystal, it is the remains of an ancient lava flow that cooled, contracted and solidified into an array of columns.  Erosion claimed the rocks that used to surround it.   I can hardly imagine the forces it took to create this.










From the back.




So far we’ve been the only ones on the trail today until we come upon this guy.  Luckily with no cars to bother him, we can just admire him and let him move on his way across the trail.






And here’s where we have to turn around.  They are redoing the bridge which was built by some Dominion Power workers less than 17 years ago.  Sure glad all our bridges weren’t built by those guys.  We’re having trouble replacing infastructure that is 100 years old or more.




We aren’t actually supposed to get this close to the workmen but one of them apparently forgot to move the sawhorse blocking the trail back across it.    When we turn around to go back, it has been moved into place.




We decide the trail hasn’t so wonderful that we want to retrace our steps the entire way so we cut across the middle on the White Oak Canyon Trail shown here in yellow.  With its natural rather than gravel path, it seems more like a “real trail” to me rather than a walk in a very nice urban park.

We take it back to our starting point at “You are Here” and then head off to the right until we again are stopped by yellow tape this time.  It is strung too far from the workers to have any idea if they are even there working on the second bridge across the stream in blue.





Now these are amazing.  Look at them just stuck on the tree.








We see the Great Spangled Fritillary again.  Last time I showed it, folks liked its name.  It’s common in the park.




We don’t see any of what we would call BIG spruce but we do see some.  Perhaps the large ones are in the section we aren’t able to see today.  One of the workmen guessed the entire trail might be walkable again by late July.




It’s a great trail for young children and those with trouble hiking.  Time for us to head for Skyland not too far away.



We’ve come to Skyland to see the Lodge. Well to see the entire complex really.  The Visitor Center at Big Meadows has an absolutely excellent history of the creation of the park.  George Freeman Pollock is a big part of that. 

He was the creator of a wilderness camp of sorts called Skyland.  It became a resort destination which at the turn of the 20th century was a two day trip from Washington DC.

It seems as though Pollock wasn’t much of a businessman but he was quite charismatic and turned what had been his father’s copper mine property into a wilderness get away for city dwellers.  Who wouldn’t want to leave the lowlands without air conditioning during the hot months of summer in the south.  We did, that’s why we’re here.

Pollard developed rustic cabins on some 50 lots, built dining and recreation halls and made Skyland the center of a social swirl, all while running about wearing a sombrero and buckskin fringe and blowing a trademark bugle that signaled the start of each new adventure or "tramping" hike.

And adventures there were. The current Skyland dining hall has several information boards which show that Pollock planned and engineered "elaborate balls, costume parties, teas, jousts and tournaments, musicales, pageants, and bonfires."

We have been to Skyland for their rightfully famed Thanksgiving buffet.  We would come up for the dinner and spend the night.  One year we drove up and found the drive was closed due to an ice storm that hadn’t hit the foot hills.  We had a pretty sad Thanksgiving dinner in a little diner on the way back down the mountain.   We always wondered what they did with all the food since no one could get to Skyland.






We arrive today between lunch and dinner times.



Both the 1929 menu from just before the park was created and the 1915 program of events from George Pollock’s Skyland were quite interesting.  If you can’t read them try clicking the picture to enlarge it.



What began as a rustic camp in 1894 evolved into the Skyland Resort, a vacation community of nearly 50 cottages and cabins where Pollock produced “a constant succession of events sufficient to satisfy even those who find it necessary for their happiness to be amused all the time.”   From the dining area we head out to see the cabins and one in particular.

The facility is now run by a concessionaire and the cabins can be rented out.  For prices check this website.








One of the many visitors who would come and stay for weeks at a time was Addie Nairn, an accomplished, independent divorcee from Washington. Not long after meeting, George and Addie married. She provided the first solid financial advice, backing and direction that her trumpet-blaring husband had ever seen.

Addie would bail George out many times before the two would eventually split. An independent woman in every way, she built her own cottage, the Massanutten Lodge.   We had been told by the curator at the Brown House, President Hoover’s summer white house, that we should see the Lodge which is why we are here.

Finding it is another matter all together.  Skyland has many different areas.  There are absolutely no signs for Massanutten Lodge anywhere except on the house itself.  I meant to ask why that is but haven’t yet.  However, find it we did.








Though the couple were estranged longer than they were happy as husband and wife, Addie remained a business presence at Skyland. She was the only woman to take part in the negotiations that brought about the creation of Shenandoah National Park in 1935.

One side of the dwelling has been restored and outfitted with period furnishings.  No pictures were allowed here either due to “security”.  I suppose it is the same curator.   There are extensive bookcases in the cottage built and decorated in the "arts and crafts" style.  Sure wish I could have taken pictures of them and the books.  A statue of Buddha is on a display shelf on the wall.  The picture below is the only one I could find on the web.  This was Addie Pollock’s house.  She designed it, had it built and furnished it.




On the other side of the lodge,  in what was the bedroom, there is  display space that explains more about Addie’s part in the park's history and about several other women who were drawn to Skyland by Addie Pollock's presence. .

From the Bahai faith to the notion of women being successful in professions previously dominated by men, this little enclave at Skyland was a place where new ideas were discussed in the early 1900s.  I would really have loved to come here then and meet these interesting people.







We leave the house through the front door. and walk around and down to the back which is the side in all the photographs taken of the lodge.  The screen doors in the interior picture above lead out to the balcony pictured from the back.






This historic picture and the one I take today show the house to be nearly the same except for the plantings.  Although today the house needs a bit of work on its raw bark siding.








As we are walking back to where we have parked Ruby while we hunted on foot for the lodge, I see the half moon rising in the sky.







The trip back south to Big Meadows is lovely with its views of the mountain chains as the day comes to a close.  They are definitely the Blue Ridge today.



We stop along the way to enjoy the sunset.





A beautiful sight at the end of a lovely day in the mountains!


  1. I love seeing the old houses and hearing the stories of the people who once lived in them.Stone women through difficult times make stories That I gain from. Even places I have been to before have something different every time as nothing stays the same.

  2. What a shame about the hemlocks. You certainly had a full day even though you didn't get to finish the hike as you planned. The picture of the Blue Ridge mountains is so beautiful. We should be seeing that view very shortly.

  3. Loved the old houses also ....loved learning something new about the columnar joining!

  4. Isn't it wonderful to see that some trails that are made for everyone. I love that those with disabilities can also enjoy a "hike" within nature. With so many benches along the way, someone with a breathing problem or bad legs can get out and still rest frequently. There seemed to be lots to keep your camera busy:) I love that you found the columnar...very cool!! Beautiful sunset!

  5. Pretty neat place to visit. Will put on our to do list. Thanks for the tour and info.

  6. This "trail" sure is a contrast to the last scramble. Maybe someone figured the easy walkers needed more benches but does seem a little excessive. The columnar basalt is very cool and really stands out in the forest. Love Mary's house and those beautiful blue ridges.

  7. What another cool area to explore. Hike seems a bit easier, maybe good for David too. Nice sunset pictures :)

  8. What a nice day you had. One day we will spend the summer in that area!

  9. I wonder how many tree and plant diseases are shipped abroad by the US. Would imagine that this goes both ways...or do they now have preventative measures?

  10. Maybe those spaces on the side of the trail are turnouts for us very slow walkers :-) Wonderful columnar and handsome tortoise. How great would it be to spend some time with Addie and her friend the author - I love her lodge! Sad that the hemlocks were just not meant to be there......but they have an optimistic history that's wonderful to learn. Beautiful sunset.

  11. Have stayed at Skyland quite a few times, but never went for T'giving ... perhaps when we return east someday. Never saw the lodge ... huh! Proves there's always more to explore no matter where you visit.

  12. Not only have I learned about all kinds of flora and fauna from you but now I'm learning geology! You're quite a teacher! :c) :c) :c)

  13. Stunning shots! The turtle's a colourful looking one.

    Limberlost must be a common enough name- there's a place up here in Ontario bearing the name.

  14. Love that picture of the Blue Ridge! Easy hike, but a nice one...no doubt nicer without the bridge construction. Neat fungi and rock remains of a lava flow! Skyland is a neat place to visit. I definitely remember that that thanksgiving. I had no idea there was so much there to see! I like Addie's cabin. Sounds like she was quite a woman.

  15. I was sad to see the effects of the wooly adelgid along the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway this year. The rocks in the columnar look a bit like tombstones!

  16. WOW, you two sure pack a lot into one day:o)) Thanks for the photo and explanation of columnar joining. Never seen anything like that before!! Absolutely stunning photos of the Blue Ridge and the Sunset:o))

  17. When you are chasing your dreams, you will often encounter signals along your journey that will guide you in the right direction. Learn how to read some of the directional signs that can lead you to your goal finish line.

  18. That path with benches every 400 feet would be helpful to me. Some of us can no longer do much scrambling. :(

  19. When I saw the columnar joints I thought you were at Compton Peak Trail which we hiked two years ago. The trail we followed led to an extensive columnar joints hidden among the trees.
    I missed those sunsets by the mountains. You got a pretty good shot there.

  20. Looks like a lovely day -- a walk along a pretty trail (I've never seen columnar joints -- very cool!) and Skyland has such an interesting history. Love the arts and crafts architecture and furnishings. I'm thinking the pullouts along the trail are for wheelchairs.


Your comments are the best part of this blog for me.
I LOVE hearing from you!