Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Shenandoah’s Spectacular Loft Mountain Campground


Early morning walk in fog from Airstream in campground at Loft Mountain.

©Bert Gildart: Loft Mountain Campground, located at Mile 80 along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, has more stories than you can throw leaves at. First inhabited by farm families, evidence of their past is everywhere, particularly if you go out looking for it, which we did. But there are other features as well. The Appalachian Trial skirts the campground, which in turn seems to provide access to many other trails, many of which were created by the park service to help interpret this beautiful setting.

As well, the weather is a story, and right now it’s providing a big one. Fog has moved in and we are totally engulfed, limiting travel. But we have an option, and that is to examine our surroundings a little bit closer; and what we are finding is there are subtle stories that span the generations.

Stepping outside and almost immediately adjacent to our campsite is a number of apple trees and they are of several varieties. One is a dark red, perhaps a crab apple; the other a bright yellow, and is one neither Janie nor I feel we can venture a guess. What I do know, however, is a little something about the way natural vegetation has reasserted itself.


Outside our camper is witch hazel and the low-growing coral berry  berry — but most significantly – are the stands of black locust. Locust is a sun-loving species and is first to return to a disturbed area, for it can tolerate intense sun. In turn the species provides shade for the succession of trees considered to be climax in this area, notably, the hickory – and several species of oak.


L to R: Outcropping of Greenstone and the overlook which also provides view from Frazier Discovery Trail; AT, as accessed from Loft Campground; passing more Greenstone along Frazier Trail.

We can see all these species by making a short hike from our Airstream to a world-famous trail, for the AT is perhaps 100 yards away from our campsite. “Fog hikes” provide incredible opportunities for photography, so we strike out along the AT which we follow for about a mile to the Loft Mountain Amphitheater. Along the way, we see the familiar AT logo and the white slash marks on trees, which are unique to the AT. We also see the buildup of “mast,” consisting of a thick accumulation of acorns mostly produced up here at Loft by the white and scarlet oaks. The food is a favorite of squirrels and jays. Because I wanted to dramatize the “mass of mast” I used a single strobe, which Janie positioned off to the left to help emphasize the extreme buildup of acorns, which must number in the thousands.


Area trails also tell other stories and while we’ve been here at Loft, we hiked other trails (with my nephew, his wife and young baby!), most notably the Frazier Discovery Trail. According to a park brochure, historically, the Frazier family occupied the area for generations, growing various types of produce and grazing cattle near the summit of Loft Mountain. Again, natural vegetation has reasserted itself and a beautiful 1.3-mile-long trail interprets the family’s tenure in the area.


“Mast, a term used to describe buildup of acorns appropriate as food for wildlife; coral berry, as seen most everywhere at Loft Mountain Campground.

One feature the trail used to interpret was the way in which Frazier eliminated native vegetation. Twelve years ago when Janie and I were here producing our first edition of Hiking Shenandoah (see below), we could still find evidence of the family’s technique for killing trees by girdling them.


At the time, park interpreters called portions of the trail the Deadening Nature Trail, and then the term was appropriate, as girdling will certainly kill trees. But such trees have been replaced and we were amazed to see all the new growth.

Frazier also referred to rocks at the summit of our hike as the Raven Rocks, probably so named for the ravens which tended to congregate on the beautiful outcroppings. From these “Raven Rocks” hikers are offered incredible views, and as always we take them in. As well, we take in the wonderful outcroppings of Green Stone, referred to by the park in their brochure as the Overhanging Rock Cliff. Greenstone is a form of granite formed almost 500 million years ago. The park’s other form of granite, Old Rag Granite, was created almost one billion years ago.


PATC maintenance cabin


Loft Mountain tells yet other stories, but we’ll save them for other posts. For one thing, the fog is still heavy here, and we want to explore the beauty of the setting as it now exists. It’s unique and as several of the images reveal, interprets the area’s beauty in a way other types of lighting simply can’t do.

Note: This blog was written two days ago at Loft Mountain where we had absolutely no internet access. Now, we’re back at Big Meadow, where we’ll be for a few more days.



*Pure Photography in Many Glacier Valley


One Response to “Shenandoah’s Spectacular Loft Mountain Campground”

  1. Adam & Susan Says:

    We knew you had lofty goals and of course you met them. We miss you two very much! Life goes well here in Alfriston. It’s been a whirlwind getting our friends shop together with them. Quite fun really.


    We’ll get them to stock your upcoming release.

    Stay safe and enjoy these last few days in Big Meadow.

    All the best!