Meadowlark Botanical Gardens and Catoctin Mountain Park

We started out this morning by heading out to the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Virginia, arriving a bit after they opened for the day. We saw the full variety of fall colors, including many species that had completely dropped their leaves already and others that were still completely green. After having lunch nearby at Mama Chang and dessert at Matcha Cafe Maiko in Centreville, we briefly stopped by the Leesburg Premium Outlets on our way to Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland. We saw a variety of colors there as well, though it wasn’t quite at peak fall colors yet.

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

As we drove to the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, we saw that overall, the trees in the area have just started to change color. Upon arriving, it seemed that the trees were further along than most in the region.

There were, of course, pretty flowers to look at, though not as many as in the spring and summer seasons.

We saw the full range of colors. Everything from yellow to orange to red as well as green.

We noticed berries on some trees.

There were a variety of colors around the Korean Bell Garden as well.

This particular tree was extremely red! Though it looked different depending on the light. The sky was partly cloudy and often transitioned from shade to sunlight.

We saw this bird approaching from afar. At first, when it was extremely far away, we wondered if it could be a hawk. Once it got closer though, we could tell it was a Black Vulture, a common species to find in the region. We also saw Turkey Vultures, also very common.

Earlier, while driving in, we saw a hawk that was pursued by three smaller birds, perhaps crows. Unfortunately, it was much too far away to identify.

We saw many of these flowers. They seem to be a pinkish variety of Chrysanthemum. Google thinks they may be, more specifically, Argyranthemum.

There’s that very red tree again!

We also spotted similar looking purple flowers.

And then, we passed by this huge cluster of the pink ones!

The tree with the very red leaves looks good from up close and afar!

The Korean bell pavilion from the front.

This other bell was surrounded by some kind of plant that seemed to have just a few white flowers left.

The dark reddish things seem like they might be flower parts that remain? Structurally, they seem different from the white flower petals.

Some more colorful trees from afar.

These purple flowers were in bloom, but everything else in the immediate area was done for the year.

A bit of nice color around the eastern pond.

A Great Blue Heron! We actually first spotted it earlier flying at very low altitude on the far side of the middle pond. It flew out of sight but was headed for the pond to the east. We figured it might be going there as it stayed low. And indeed, we found it stalking there!

We watched it for awhile as it slowly walked in the pond. It eventually went fairly deep into the water.

Herons can strike pretty quickly. We missed this attack, but, we could see it caught a very tiny fish!

Easily swallowed in one gulp!

It soon attacked something again! We caught it this time!

Another very tiny fish. It’s going to need to catch many more…

We decided to continue on.

These tall grasses assuming they are grasses, looked quite nice blowing in the gusty wind.

We tried to keep track of the Great Blue Heron as we continued to walk around the pond. We didn’t see it catch anything again though.

A large field to the east of the eastern pond was filled with these tall grasses.

We heard many birds today but the smaller ones were pretty elusive. We briefly saw this Song Sparrow.

We also spotted two Blue Jays in a tree! This is the same tree that we’ve found Baltimore Oriole nests in.

A pretty tree with orange leaves!

We didn’t really photograph any of the trees that had already dropped their leaves. All the cherry trees, which have beautiful cherry blossoms in early spring, were already done for the year!

They are setting up for the Winter Walk of Lights, which begins on November 10th. We passed by Santa Claus being pulled by what seems to be a horse? Or is it just some random dude on a sleigh?

These fake trees have rather pretty fake blue leaves! It seems like they will light up?

Some more decorations behind a park bench.

There were some nice colors visible from the parking lot as well! Overall, it was a great visit as usual. Not quite peak colors yet but it will be soon!

Lunch and Dessert

We decided to visit Mama Chang, a restaurant by local Chinese chef Peter Chang. No relation to that chain with a similar sounding name. This is our second time at Mama Chang.

The lamb and fish ball soup was excellent, particularly the fish balls. The fried pork belly, basically bacon, probably would have been better if it wasn’t overpowered by the spicy flavor. The fried duck spring rolls were pretty good with a good amount of duck inside each.

Overall, the cooking was very good even if everything wasn’t exactly to our liking. There is still plenty more on their menu that we need to try!

After lunch, we drove over to Centreville for dessert. It has been awhile since we last visited Matcha Cafe Maiko! This is still our favorite matcha chain in the US, even if none of the other locations are as good as the original in Hawaii. They’re still much better than any of the competition anywhere that we’ve been in the US.

Leesburg Premium Outlets

We briefly visited the Leesburg Premium Outlets on our way out of Virginia. We only visited a few stores and didn’t buy anything as there isn’t too much that we need right now.

Catoctin Mountain Park

We drove about an hour to reach Catoctin Mountain Park, north of Frederick in Maryland. We’ve been here a few times, particularly during the fall. It was already pretty late so we decided to just do a short hike up to the Thurmont Vista, just a half mile away from the nearby parking lot.

We saw a variety of colors as we hiked uphill. The colors were definitely further along than at the lower elevations. Even a few hundred feet makes quite a difference! It still isn’t at peak colors though but probably will be very soon. Few trees have completely dropped their leaves yet, and its likely that some of the ones that are in that state are actually dead.

There was some good color when we reached Thurmont Vista.

But, the view isn’t quite there yet. Quite a mix of colors down below with a significant amount of green.

We only stayed briefly. The weather didn’t really cooperate as the sky was overcast.

We switched to the wide angle lens for most of the walk back down. This forest is full of trees and often has a kind of very busy appearance with a variety of trees everywhere. The wide angle photos turned out better than expected and do show a good amount of color! Of course, we selected areas where there was good color to see.

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