We left the Outer Banks headed north and west, and before lunch we were off the coastal plain and up into the Appalachians. I seized an opportunity to get off the I-95 rat race and headed west on US 17, around Washington DC and up into the foothills. We were immediately rewarded with a display of pink and white dogwoods, plus some other taller flowering trees with white blossoms. They looked like natives – I don't know enough about the northern spring woods to identify them, but they were very beautiful.
The nice thing about changing altitude is the change in vegetation this time of year. As I wrote last week, it was well on toward summer weather in Florida, 80ish and humid when we left, and as we got back up into the Carolinas we saw dogwoods and spring leaves on the deciduous trees. Going up into western Virginia, we were transported further back into spring, and redbuds lining the road. The solid spring green ground cover down on the coastal plain was getting patchy – here it's definitely earlier in the season.
Around Winchester, Virginia, we accidentally attended the Gold Cup, a steeplechase event run on the same day as the Kentucky Derby, which I now know about thanks to sitting in traffic for most of an hour chatting with a lot of very happy people in big colorful hats. It's a big social event for the horsey set, and is held at The Great Meadow, a 250 acre natural clearing in the otherwise hilly countryside. This beautiful setting was saved from development and is now managed by the Great Meadow Foundation.
On up into the skinny bits of western Maryland and West Virginia, across the Potomac, and into the Alleghenies and it's early, early, spring. The trees are all bare and there's just hint of greenery on the ground as we climb up to 2500 feet. As if on cue, clouds roll in and it's down into the 40s as we pass over the mountains, down into western Pennsylvania, where we rejoin spring as we descend. We're further north now, so tulips and daffodils start to make their appearance in yards and rest areas. On across Ohio, and the farmers are busy getting ready for another growing season.
We plan on extending spring for as long as we can by continuing to travel north and uphill – one year we stretched it out to July by ending up in the mountains around Silverton, CO. Spring is my favorite season now – growing up in the South, I've had way too much familiarity with summer to be very fond of it anymore.