2023-06-13 Sky Meadows – VA

Red-Headed Woodpecker - Melanerpes erythrocephalus
I spent the day meeting birds at Sky Meadows State Park in Virginia. It is a 1,862-acre park about an hour outside of the Washington, D.C. metro region, where there are meadows and forests stretching up to the ridge of the mountain and the Appalachian Trail.

Grasshopper Sparrow - Ammodramus savannarum

2023-06-13 Tuesday

My drive away from Harrisburg Monday morning was hindered by a rainstorm. With a forecast of bad weather for the day, there was no reason to push hard for my next birding venue at Sky Meadows State Park in Virginia. Later, I learned that Sky Meadows is a “dark sky” reserve, where monthly gatherings of star gazers gather to enjoy heavenly wonders. So at mid-morning and a few miles outside of Maryland, I abandoned my white knuckle drive, and stopped at a West Virginia rest area to settle in for the night. I used the time to grind away on my blogs. It seems I’m always two or three stories behind the telling.

Tuesday morning I drove south from the West Virginia Welcome Center and rest stop. I looked at my options for breakfast along my route and I found a Penny’s Diner outside of Brunswick Maryland. Penny’s houses their cafes in shiny replicas of street cars. They are a 24-Hour chain that I have seen in a few places during my travels. I have stopped a couple of times at their cafes to break my fast. Alpine Texas was one such stop where I camped in the lot behind their building.

I left the diner and drove for about an hour into Virginia through Wheatland, Bluemont, and Paris, before reaching Sky Meadows, 38 miles south. After several mid-day hours at Sky Meadows State Park, I finally connected with the Red-Headed Woodpeckers I had longed to meet. I’d been trying to capture images since my stay in Kansas. But they were not the only birds I met. There were Eastern Bluebirds, Field Sparrows, Gray Catbirds, Northern Flickers, and a surprise Grasshopper Sparrow that showed up for me. One bird I saw, but failed to get an image of, was an Eastern Meadowlark. That would have been nice, but the Red-Headed Woodpecker made my day.

I left Sky Meadows and ended my day in Strasburg, Virginia. I was headed for a Truck Parking Area off US-66, but I’d not studied my route carefully enough. I didn’t know there was no crossover route from the west-bound lanes I was on, and the rest area that was on the east-bound side of the freeway. I was left with no option but to continue moving west. When I reached the Strasburg exit, rather than backtrack, I spotted a parking lot a half block from the Strasburg Diner. It was 3pm when I backed into an open spot. I walked over to the diner and ordered a Grilled Cheese. I planned to come back at 7am and get an omelet. This place is the spitting’ image of a Denny’s inside. I later learned the building was built by Denny’s.

Given I still had three stories on the docket to tell this morning, it comes as no surprise that the Sky Meadows tale made FOUR! Because of my ever-growing backlog, I took a few days off from traveling. I camped in Strasburg Virginia for two nights, then I drove six miles south to the trucker’s rest area I was looking for when I left Sky Meadows. I found a spot off to the side of the paved area near the big-rig lanes. I had to use my leveling blocks under the driver’s side wheels to get level, but then I settled in and began working on the images and stories from my backlog. I spent two more nights at the rest area, and most of the work on the images and the stories got done. 

My goal going forward is to slow down my traveling and not let myself get so backed up on the story-telling. I believe this will be a sound strategy in preventing this expedition from becoming a stressful grind. I would have only myself to blame if that would become the case.

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