virginia

Arlington House | Travel (85/556)

Arlington House | Travel (85/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Arlington National Cemetery is on my annual list of places to visit. Walking the grounds is a somber and often quiet experience.

The Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, is located in Arlington National Cemetery. Even though renovations were underway, walking around the house and through the gardens was a lovely experience. As you will see, the sunflowers were a bit past prime :)

Arlington House | Travel (85/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Fort Monroe National Monument | Travel (75/556)

Fort Monroe National Monument | Travel (75/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) A day before Easter arrived, I found myself exploring Fort Monroe National Monument on the Virginia Peninsula. The morning was quiet with few people out and about. Walking along the beach in solitude was my favorite part. And a perfect activity before hopping in my car for several hours, heading home.

Fort Monroe National Monument | Travel (75/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Batteries - there are three battery structures while driving through the North Beach Area; Battery DeRussy, Battery Church and Battery Anderson-Ruggles.
  2. Chapel of Centurion - this 1858 chapel has unique architectural details and beautiful stained glass windows.
  3. North Beach Area - enjoy a walk along the Chesapeake Bay.
  4. Old Point Comfort Lighthouse - the oldest operating lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay.
  5. Parade Ground - walking around the national monument grounds of this large stone fort is quite the experience. Please do keep in mind many of the buildings are occupied by private residents.

Tell me all about your favorite spots to visit at Fort Monroe National Monument in the comments below!

Fort Monroe National Monument | Travel (75/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Colonial National Historical Park | Travel (74/556)

Colonial National Historical Park | Travel (74/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) As far as I can recall, this we my first visit to Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia. Seems a bit far fetched given my proximity to the park growing up. However, most family vacations when I was a littler lady bypassed Virginia, heading further south or west.

Options abound for places and areas to explore, within the park. My time was spent in both Historic Jamestowne and Yorktown Battlefield.

Colonial National Historical Park | Travel (74/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Colonial Parkway - a 23 mile scenic highway connecting Yorktown Battlefield, Historic Jamestowne and Williamsburg.
  2. French Trench Overlook - by the Yorktown Victory Center, offering a view of the York River.
  3. Island Parkway - this loops takes you around Jamestown Island, with swamps, creeks and rivers nearby. Multiple pullouts provide opportunities for short hikes to explore away from your car.
  4. Yorktown Battlefield Tour Roads - 16 miles of roadway takes you through Yorktown Battlefield by foot, car or bicycle.
  5. Yorktown National Cemetery - a somber place to reflect on the battle.

Tell me all about your favorite spots in the comments below!

Colonial National Historical Park | Travel (74/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Lotus Flower | Photograph Story

Lotus Flower | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Lotus flowers are magnificent. The bright colors and how the light seems to soak in perfectly is well worth all the dragonfly kisses.

Thinking back on previous botanical moments, last summer turned out to be my first experience with lotus flowers. I have meant to see and photograph these pink beauties before, but never managed to make the time or trip.

I am certain these blooms will be part of every summer, so long as the flowers are within driving distance. And let's face it, this little lady will drive anywhere ;)

My morning visit was dew filled, quickly turning into a standard humid scene for the area. Dragonflies were fluttering around, landing on me, my camera, the flowers and anything else available. A bird may have done a little business on my foot.

So much summer goodness!

Aside from this gorgeous flower, another highlight from my visit was a chance meeting with a new photography friend. He was kind enough to tell me locations where lotus flowers will bloom this coming summer (I was a tad late in the season). And we have kept in touch, sharing recent travel stories, and getting together with our cameras when time allows.

Photography mornings are always a delight. The light is perfection in my mind and I always seems to meet the most kind people.

Photographing lotus flowers for the first time was the perfect mix of both.

Blue Heron on the Potomac | Photograph Story

Blue Heron on the Potomac | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography The Potomac River has a way of becoming familiar. This river has been part of my life for many years, making it easy to overlook all the splendid goodness.

And so begins my attempt to fall in love with familiar surroundings, as a photographer :)

Walking along the river with my camera in tow was a nice little afternoon trip with a local photographer friend. We chatted about local spots we want to photograph and compared our Nikon vs. Canon choices.

Blue herons love visiting the Potomac River and the C&O Canal. To be honest, I can't think of a time I walked along each without seeing at least one. How lucky to have such close encounters with this amazing bird, almost anytime I wish.

Photographing this blue heron helped me fall in love with the familiar again. Looking at this image, I see the natural beauty of a river I cross on the ferry every other week, without taking a second look beyond my car windows.

No more! My eyes are wide open and I'm excited to SEE everything.

Blue Ridge Parkway | Travel (30/556)

Blue Ridge Parkway | Travel (30/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) The Blue Ridge Parkway is a magical, scenic road. The road travels 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina.

Favorite Stops
  • Crabtree Falls - mile post 339
  • Falling Water Cascades - mile post 83
  • Graveyard Falls - mile post 419
  • Humpback Rocks - mile post 6
  • Linville Falls - mile post 360
  • Mt. Pisgah - between mile post 407 and 408
  • Otter Lake - mile post 63
  • Rocky Knob - mile post 168

Clearly I enjoy waterfalls :) One day I'd like to drive the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, from top to bottom, camping along the way. Maybe in 2016 before I move west.

Blue Ridge Parkway | Travel (30/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

Resources

Visitor Centers Virginia Hiking Trails North Carolina Hiking Trails

What are some of your favorite stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway?

George Washington Memorial Parkway | Travel (25/556)

Great Falls Park | Alaina Ann Photography Once upon a time, I drove on the George Washington Memorial Parkway daily, traveling to and from work. Although an obvious scenic road, it was years before I realized it was a national park unit, designed to connect and link sites throughout the area, commemorating important events in history.

Hiking Recommendations
  • Haul Road Trail - located in the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, this trail follows an old mining road for 3/4 of a mile.
  • Interpretive Trail - located in Jones Point Park, this gravel trail takes you through the fresh water marsh area.
  • Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail - a national park unit of its own, this trail offers diverse routes through Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

Glen Echo Park | Alaina Ann Photography

Resources

Glen Echo Park and Great Falls Park are my most frequented stops along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Have you been on the parkway or visited any of the local sites? I would love to hear about your experience and tips in the comments below!

Shenandoah National Park | Travel (21/556)

Shenandoah National Park | Travel (21/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) Shenandoah National Park is a quick getaway to the mountains from my house. Waking up early and heading to the mountains for sunrise is a new favorite activity.

I made my way to the Front Royal entrance of the park in late July, after waking at 3:00 am. The park was quiet and peaceful.

Shenandoah National Park | Travel (21/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

Recommended Hikes
  • Appalachian Trail - 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail goes through the park.
  • Doyles River - a 3.2 mile hike to both the upper and lower falls.
  • Old Rag Mountain - Shenandoah's most popular and dangerous hike. It's 9 miles and takes anywhere from six to nine hours to complete.
  • Snead Farm Trail - a three mile hike, combining the Dickey Ridge Trail and the Snead Farm Loop.
  • Story of the Forest Trail - an easy 1.8 mile hike through the forest with a paved walking trail.
  • Rose River Loop trail - a 4 mile hike under the trees with a stream, waterfall and cascades.

Shenandoah National Park | Travel (21/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

Beautiful Overlooks

Driving Skyline Drive is spectacular any time of year. Running 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are 75 overlooks to choose from. Below are a few of my favorites.

  • Shenandoah Valley
  • Signal Knob
  • Hogwallow Flats
  • Hogback
  • Pass Mountain
  • Hemlock Springs
  • Timber Hollow
  • Fishers Gap
  • Loft Mountain
  • Big Run
  • Sawmill Run

Have you made your way to Shenandoah National Park? I would love to hear your recommendations in the comments below!

Petersburg National Battlefield Park | Travel (12/556)

Petersburg National Battlefield Park | Travel (12/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Petersburg National Battlefield Park was my second national park stop while traveling to and from North Carolina in June. I arrived during the late afternoon and storm clouds were rolling in and out of the area. I decided to keep my DSLR camera tucked away in the car while I explored on foot with my iPhone 4s.

Petersburg National Battlefield Park | Travel (12/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Hiking Options

There are two distinct trail areas in the park: Eastern Front and Five Forks. Given the multiple options for hiking trails, I recommend taking a look at each respective map and planning your path based on the sights you wish to see. Most of the trails are relatively short with easy to moderate endurance required.

Whether you are looking to visit the park on foot, horse, bicycle or in your car, there are options for each!

Petersburg National Battlefield Park | Travel (12/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Have you made your way to Petersburg National Battlefield Park? If so, I would love to hear about your visit in the comments below.

Great Falls Park | Travel

Great Falls Horizontal | Alaina Ann Photography Great Falls Park is an 800-acre park just outside of Washington, D.C. The Maryland entrance, in Potomac, Maryland, is only a twenty minute drive from my home and is part of the C&O Canal National Historic Park.

Many people visit the park to take in the rushing water in the Potomac River, as it barrels through the Mather Gorge. The water flowing over the jagged rocks is quite the sight to see!

There are also many opportunities for hiking and exploring within the park and along the Patowmack Canal.

Overlooks

Each overlook is a five to ten minute walk from the Visitor Center. Overlooks 2 and 3 are handicap and stroller accessible.

  1. Overlook 1 - located to the left of the south end of the visitor center and offers the closest view of the falls. A short trail is available to a dirt viewing platform. Because this overlook allows a close view of the falls, extreme caution is necessary. Getting too close may turn into a very dangerous situation.
  2. Overlook 2 - this handicap accessible overlook is located further down the trail. Take a left on the small wooden footbridge by the Patowmack Canal. Most of the waterfall may be seen after reaching the overlook platform using the stairs or ramp.
  3. Overlook 3 - also handicap accessible, this overlook is past Overlook 2, over a second wooden footbridge. There are two viewing platforms available, offering a complete view of the falls.

Great Falls | Alaina Ann Photography

Bicycle Trails

Five miles of trails are available for bicycling, including the Old Carriage Road, Ridge and the Difficult Run Trails.

Climbing

Climbing in this area is extremely popular and the setting is quite beautiful. Sites begin downstream of Overlook 2, ending near the emergency boat ramp at Sandy Landing. Routes range from 25 to 75 feet with difficulty levels of 5.0 to 5.14.

Hiking

Great Falls Park has fifteen miles of hiking trails. Trail maps may be picked up at the entrance station and Visitor Center.

For a full list of outdoor activities available in Great Falls Park, click here. If you live in the D.C. area or are visiting, Great Falls Park is a lovely getaway to nature :)

Country Roads

Country Roads | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography I grew up in rural Maryland, surrounded by rolling green hills, endless farmland, large beautiful trees and country roads. I loved the natural beauty of my hometown and neighboring areas!

Country Roads | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

While I was home visiting last fall, a high school friend provided me with directions for a country route that she loves in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. I truly enjoyed this scenic drive and captured a handful of photographs along the way.

Country Roads | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

I plan to explore this loop a few more times over the years to photograph new areas that catch my eye, depending on the time of day and season.

Country Roads | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

I must admit, my favorite stops were viewing farmland from the road. I am always looking for opportunities to explore and photograph farms. I am drawn to the open land, animals and textures of the barns. If you know anyone with a farm that might enjoy a few photographs of their land, please let me know!

Country Roads | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography