Nature's 4th of July fireworks initially led park rangers at the Blue Ridge Parkway to cancel the annual sunset/fireworks hike up Sharp Top Mountain.
Clearing skies reversed that decision and about 60 hikers of all ages headed up to 3,800 feet for the combination of a brilliant sunset and Bedford fireworks.
The 4th of July affair was not only fun and active, but included an educational aspect, as Ranger Greg Baltad used a food analogy to detail the long-ago geological forces that uplifted the Appalachian Mountains.
"How many of you like Hershey's kisses? How many of you like Hershey's kisses with almonds inside? Well you're sitting on the almond, the chocolate is down there. The chocolate's over here in the great valley. The chocolate is the Piedmont, the chocolate is the Shenandoah. These mountains, at one time, were the size of the Himalayas. Sierra Nevada? Baby Mountains," said Ranger Greg.
For the hikers, this was a trip with the reward of superlative views: the sunset, vistas stretching to the horizon and beyond, the twinkling lights of the Peaks of Otter Lodge, a sliver of a moon and the faraway lights of towns big and small.
And by nightfall, with temperatures in the 50s, the first hint of fireworks and then the payoff: Bedford's fireworks show.