Probably the greatest disappointment of my October road trip was driving through the Shenandoah Valley. I expected a lot more of the Lee-Jackson Highway, although I probably shouldn’t have because it’s US Route 11, and is historically quite built up from the time before Interstate 81 bypassed it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some definitely scenic sections of the Lee-Jackson Highway, but much of it is the same used car dealerships, Walmart’s, big boxes and same small towns that you see across America. There are some truly wonderful sections but in many cases housing distracts from the otherwise scenic rolling farm country.

nycmap $id

It was probably my fault for taking US 11. I was originally planning a route in the the western, more remote part of the valley, but I miss placed my Virigina map, so I ended up taking US 250 all the way to Stauton. I guess I didn’t realize what a big city Stauton really is — it’s big enough to warrant a ring road expressway around it — and endless residential sprawl seems to extend in all directions from it. The chicken barns and turkey farms aren’t nearly as scenic as the dairy farms that more common in Upstate NY. There are some cattle farms, and I passed at least one dairy farm, but the land has a distinctively different character then what I had previously experienced in Upstate NY.

The Blue Ridge between Stauton and Buchanan is less impressive then Imagined. Looking up the ridges look more like hills then mountains. I think the ridges in the high country of West Virginia are much higher and more pronounced then Virginia. Certainly the Shenandoah Valley is much wider then most of the valleys in northern West Virginia.

nycmap $id

I guess I really didn’t know what to expect from driving through the Shenadoah Valley. I just hated how trapped I felt when I was in Shendoah National Park — there are only limited exits from the park due to the need to have paybooths at every entrance. Even the Blue Ridge Parkway seems disconnected from the lands below.

Maybe I should have instead gone to Shenandoah National Park for a few days so I could have been spending my time looking down, rather then up from the valley. Or better yet spent more time in West Virginia. There is a lot of the Monongahela National Forest that I have yet to see. Maybe I should have drove up Spruce Mountain again, so I could say I was at the top of the Mountain State. But I did that already.

nycmap $id

At any rate, I don’t think I will be visiting the Shenandoah Valley anytime soon again. It’s pretty to look down at from the mountains, but it hardly inspires me looking up at the surrounding ridge lines.