1st Day Hike – Jan. 1, 2019 – James River State Park

Each New Year’s Day since 2014, we’ve visited one of Virginia’s beautiful state parks for their “1st Day Hike” event.  (We DID miss last year, however, since the day started out at 7 degrees and only got up in the teens!)

Our outing started with a drive down Rt. 29 South.  When we stopped for gas in Lovingston, it was still overcast, but already over 60 degrees!

  

Impulsively, we turned on Rt. 655 just after Colleen in order to follow the sign towards Lake Nelson.   We’ve been curious about this lake, and there was also a camping sign, so it seemed like a good opportunity to check them out.

We discovered that Lake Nelson is just past the community of Arrington.  It’s a nice-sized lake, and aside from some ducks, we were the only visitors.

  

The campground–or former campground–was on the shore of Lake Nelson.  I have no idea when it closed, but at one point there were at least 30 campsites, with water and electric hookups.  So sad to see it all abandoned and in poor shape!

  

After stopping by the lake, I thought we’d go back to Rt. 29, but the GPS suggested that we continue driving on Variety Mills Rd.  Always open to the exploration of new back roads, off we went.

And apparently this is what the road was named for: an old mill! I don’t know anything about this wonderful old stone structure, but it must have been magnificent in its day!

  

Further down the road, we crossed the Tye River just before its confluence with the James River.

  

I call this picture “Winter Colors.”  I kept seeing the bare trees as almost a lavender color against the deep greens. Beautiful!

The road we were driving on came out on Rt. 60, and we followed it a couple of miles east to Gladstone, VA and the turnoff for James River State Park.  The river was very high after all of the rain we’ve had!

  

The park is 7 miles from Rt. 60, and we always enjoy driving along the winding country road that leads to the park entrance.  We spotted a kestrel on top of a telephone pole, and right as I’d zoomed in to take a picture, it flew off.  It landed further away, so that really pushed the capabilities of the zoom lens on my new camera.

  

When we got to the park, we were surprised (and delighted!) to see all the cars at the visitors center!  It makes me happy to know that so many families enjoy Virginia State Parks on New Year’s Day. 🙂

Before going inside, I took some pictures of thistles and more of the “winter colors” trees.

 

When we were at James River State Park last spring, Wayne bought me a windbreaker in the visitors center.  Today I returned the favor and bought him one. 🙂  While the sun was warm, the breeze along the river was cool, so he put it to use right away.

  

Time for a quick “selfie” on the banks of the James River….

Time, also, to “bless the James River….”

  

….And then wonderful, unstructured time to simply sit, relax, and savor the multi-sensory sights and sounds around us.

  

  

I mentioned that the river was running high, and these pictures give an idea of just how high it was recently; the picnic area was probably under water!

  

With other park patrons on the trails, we had this section to ourselves….

  

  

When we left James River State Park late in the afternoon, we turned west on Rt. 60, then made a right on scenic Rt. 657 (Tye River Road).  And yes, those are the BLUE Ridge Mountains!

  

  

This area has been extensively logged, and we’ve frequently see birds of prey perched on tall, bare trees in the clear-cut fields.  Maxing out my zoom lens again, I took a very distant picture of a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk.

After making our way back to Rt. 29 north, we turned left on Rt. 6 at Woods Mill, then right on Rt. 151 so we could stop by the cemetery to pick up the wreaths we’d put on family members’ graves for Christmas.

As they say, this was “Page 1 of a New 365-Page Book.”  We enjoyed today’s story. 🙂

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Merry Christmas to Us! VA Beach, December 2018

Instead of buying each other gifts this Christmas, Wayne and I decided to treat ourselves to a night at Virginia Beach.  Off-season rates made an oceanfront hotel pretty affordable, so we left the house on the morning of Saturday, December 22nd and headed east.

Usually we’ve tried to make this trip a couple of times a year, but I realized that our last stay at the beach had been in June 2017.  We were long overdue!

We stopped just west of Richmond to visit with one of Wayne’s brothers for a while.  Then, after going around Richmond on I-64 and 295, we continued our eastward trek on scenic Rt. 5.

While it’s a much slower way to get to the ocean, we’ve always enjoyed how the road closely parallels the James River.  As usual when we take this route, we stopped at Lawrence Lewis, Jr. Park near Charles City, VA.

After days and days of heavy rain, the river was high, fast-flowing and muddy.

  

The temperature was in the upper 40s with a steady breeze, so we spent a few minute scanning the sky and surrounding trees for Bald Eagles (which we’ve seen there several times), then hopped back in the car.

On the way back to the main road, a Bald Eagle flew over the car and we were able to snap a quick picture.  Nice!

We arrived at the Jamestown-Scotland ferry a little after 1:00 pm and had to wait 10-15 minutes on the bridge for the ferry to arrive.  Crossing the James this way is another favorite thing about taking this route!

  

  

While it was a little warmer, it was really windy!

  

After crossing the James, this route takes us through Surry, Smithfield, and other small towns before we finally arrive in Virginia Beach.  Check-in time at the hotel was 4 pm, and since we were there a little early we decided to go directly to First Landing State Park–the part that you enter from 64th Street in Virginia Beach.  It’s absolutely one of my favorite places, and as the sun dropped lower the sky, the light became magical…

  

Such a beautiful evening!

  

Sometimes we see dozens and dozens of large birds, but this time there were very few.  I spotted a hawk in a tree, but the camera we were using didn’t have a zoom powerful enough to get a good picture.

We then saw some sort of heron in a tree.  It appeared darker in color than a Great Blue Heron, but it’s possible it was a juvenile.

  

  

  

It was almost dark by the time we left the park, and we decided to go get dinner before checking in at the hotel.  While we did miss seeing the full moon rise over the ocean, eating at Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant is always a special treat!

  

It was one of those nights that we completely skipped the salads and vegetables and went straight for the seafood–especially the crab legs!  Absolutely delicious!

We finally went to the hotel, checked in, then bundled up and walked along the boardwalk.  The moon over the ocean was still beautiful, and the next morning was beyond beautiful….

  

  

  

When we went to Maine in 2013, Wayne wrote the word “TIME” in the sand and let the waves wash it away.  It’s become somewhat of a tradition now whenever we’re near an ocean:

  

I decided that we also needed to let the ocean wash away “STRESS”–but I found that wasn’t quite as easy…. 😉

We stayed on the beach until it was nearly time to check out of the hotel, and even then it was hard to leave–such a gorgeous day!

We went back to First Landing to walk along part of the Cape Henry Trail.  Brilliant, clear blue skies were above the moss-draped pathway.

  

  

  

Indeed, Merry Christmas to us!

Until next time, VA Beach, much love!

 

 

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Fall Colors – November 2018

When we left the house at 10:30 AM on Sunday, November 4, it was simply with the intention of picking up a sewing-related item I’d purchased on Craigslist earlier that morning.  We both had a lot of things to do around the house, but Fall had finally arrived in all her splendor, and we enjoyed the colorful drive on Craig’s Store Road in Albemarle County.

  

It was such a pretty day that we decided to drive through Albemarle into Nelson County, where we turned on Ennis Mountain Road.

  

This took us by our much-loved and greatly-missed former “home place.” We’re so thankful that the people who bought this special place in the early 1990s have cared for so lovingly over the years.

  

Again we had the option to head towards home, but instead we turned south on Rt. 151.

  

As we passed through the community of Nellysford (which newcomers pronounce sort of like Nelliesferd), I thought of the postcards I’d seen addressed to my grandmother when it was spelled Nelly’s Ford.  Locals still call it that: Nelly’s FORD.  From stories I heard as a child, a woman–named Nelly (imagine that)–lost her life when trying to ford a stream.  Is it a true story?  I don’t know, probably, but I doubt if there’s anyone left in the community who would know….

  

  

We stopped briefly at the Rockfish Trail parking area.  While we weren’t wearing shoes suitable for walking along a muddy path, we enjoyed the views and being by the south branch of the Rockfish River.

  

  

Such a pretty place–and pretty day!  With the Blue Ridge so close, it made me think of the John Muir quote: “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

Continuing south, our next stop was at Devils Backbone.

  

  

There’s a new campground near the brew pub, and a section at one end of the campground looks like it might be developed into more campsites in the future.

We drove up the mountain past Wintergreen Resort, and when we reached the Blue Ridge Parkway, there were lots of cars full of “leaf peepers” who were out enjoying the day.  We could have turned north on the Parkway (towards home), but we opted to cross over it to follow Reid’s Gap Road down the mountain towards Sherando.

  

  

  

Sherando Lake is one of our favorite places.  While we didn’t have the opportunity to camp there this summer, it’s beautiful all year long.

  

  

Wayne enjoyed shooting pictures of the amazing colors and patterns in the water, and while he was doing that, my cousin called to return a message I’d left for her earlier.

  

  

  

Since she’s not too far from Sherando, when we left the lake we stopped by my cousin’s house.  One of my other cousins was there, too, so we had a nice visit.

  

Finally it was time to head towards home–for real this time–and we got home shortly after 5:00 PM.

  

While being out all day certainly wasn’t what we’d intended, I think it’s what we both needed.  We’re always thankful to have opportunities to explore beautiful back roads, and this was, indeed, a picture-perfect autumn day. 🙂

  

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Camping Trip with the Clipper – August 25-26, 2018

The summer of 2018 has been one of the wettest I can remember here on the East Coast. We’d hoped to do a lot of camping in the new-to-us 2015 Coachmen Clipper that we bought towards the end of July, but many times when we had the opportunity to go, the weather just didn’t cooperative.

I gambled on a promising weather forecast and made reservations for Saturday, August 25th at Misty Mountain.   Fortunately, the gamble paid off with clear skies, temperatures in the 80s, low humidity–and no rain!

After getting the car and trailer loaded on Saturday morning, we encountered the same weird, frustrating issue with the marker/tail lights not coming on when we plugged in the trailer’s 7-pin electric cord to the car.  This started happening occasionally last spring when we’d connect our Scamp trailer, and since it’s happened a couple of times with the Clipper, too, it’s definitely a problem with the car.  Intermittent problems are SO hard to diagnose, and when I had the car in the shop earlier in the summer, everything worked perfectly–go figure….

For a short drive on a sunny day, however, the lack of tail lights wasn’t a significant problem, and certainly not a reason to cancel the trip.   Just after 1:00 p.m. we finally pulled out of the driveway.

When we got to the campground, Wayne went to the office to check us in while I stayed in the car and waited.  And waited some more….  When he finally came out, he said that they had changed our site.  Instead of the one I’d specifically reserved, they put us in a different site to accommodate a camper who wanted to stay an extra day.

We were told they would refund our money if we wanted to cancel, but after the hassle of getting ready to go–and not knowing when our busy schedules (and the weather) would allow us to get out again–we decided that site #56 would work just fine.

  

  

We opted to have the “driver’s side” of the trailer next to the road to give us more privacy, but that meant that the pedestal for electric, water, and cable hookups was on the “wrong” side of the trailer.  Alrighty….

Our electric cord reached the pedestal with no problem, and we were also able to connect to the cable (woo-hoo!) When we tried to connect our hose to the spigot on the pedestal, however, we found it wasn’t long enough due to the way we were situated in the campsite. Well, darn!

To backtrack a moment, on our first trip out with the Clipper, the pedestal was on the “correct” side of the trailer, and we were easily able to connect our brand new hose to the outside spigot.  All excited to finally have a sink with water, I turned on the faucet in the trailer–and nothing happened!  After way too much troubleshooting, we finally discovered that the aerator on the faucet in the trailer was clogged.  After we replaced it, it worked like it was supposed to.  Yay!

This time we could have moved the trailer to be able to reach the water spigot on the pedestal, but quickly decided that it would be much, much easier (and possibly helpful in the future) to simply buy another hose.  Wayne bought one at the camp store, and when we connected it to the first hose, we were in business.

Having a kitchen sink is really nice, and it’s also nice (like REALLY nice) to have a bathroom with a flushable toilet! Definitely a step up from the porta-potty we had in our Scamp.   And while I’m not sure if we’ll ever use it, having the option to take a shower in the trailer is a plus, too.

There’s a lot to do at Misty Mountain, and we’d brought our bathing suits in case we wanted to go to swimming.  Instead, we both dozed off in our camp chairs in the shade of the trailer’s awning.  After a somewhat frenzied morning, it felt so nice to simply relax!

Later, we took a walk around the upper campground, checking out all the different trailers.  We’re a bit partial to this one.

While Wayne went home to check the house, pick up the mail, and feed our kitty, I started dinner.  Usually we bring homemade soup that we heat up on a camp stove, but this trip I wanted to try cooking inside–since I could.

We’d bought chicken that morning and put it in the fridge in the trailer.  When I got it out, I was surprised and quite pleased to find that the package of frozen vegetables I’d put in the freezer compartment that morning was still frozen!  Definitely better than bringing food in a cooler, and yes, I could get very used to this style of “camping”! 😉

While the chicken was cooking on the counter in an electric skillet, I turned on the TV (since I could!) and discovered far more channels on the cable connection at the campground than we get at home.  So many conveniences and creature comforts packed into this little 16 ft. trailer!

  

It was such a pleasant evening, and we enjoyed eating outside on the picnic table.

Of course THAT said, we’re using the dinette in the Clipper as a permanent bed, so we don’t have a particularly easy way to eat inside, anyhow. 😉

  

On our first trip with the Clipper, we used the dinette cushions with a 1″ foam topper that my cousin let me borrow.  This time we took the 4″ memory foam topper off our bed in the house to see if that would be more comfortable, and it was.  At some point, we’ll invest in a similar topper for the camper.

In the meantime, we’ve already started sketching out plans for some modifications that will allow us to have both a bed and a dinette.  After all of the renovations we did on our Scamp trailer, what we have in mind for the Clipper seems quite do-able.

Sometimes when we stay at Misty Mountain, we go down the hill to the community building in the evening to play pool or to check out the scheduled activities, such as live music or karaoke.  This time we opted to just stay at our campsite to learn more about our trailer.  As a case in point, we used the propane stove for the first time to make some after dinner tea.

  

And once the fire was burning nicely in the fire pit outside, it was time for S’mores.  This time–going on a recommendation of a camping friend–we tried chocolate graham crackers.  🙂

  

  

The bright porch light on a cabin across the road made for some interesting shadows on the front of our camper.  It also provided a perfect opportunity to “capture the moment” and count our blessings.

After sitting outside until the fire burned down, we went in the trailer and watched some more TV (since we could!), and fell asleep listening to crickets and katydids through the open windows.  We slept well, and actually overslept by an hour and a half!

While Wayne made another trip home, I got a pot of coffee brewing.   Sitting outside at the picnic table while sipping on my first cup of the morning (and before our quick breakfast of blueberry bagels and cream cheese), I wondered what my parents would think of our new little trailer.  I think they would love it!

Our first family camper was a 13 ft. Carolina trailer that we got in 1966.  It followed us all through New England, eastern Canada, and parts of the Midwest on summer vacations.

  

My parents bought a small Scotty trailer after the Carolina, but so far I haven’t been able to find any pictures of it.  My dad took hundreds and hundreds of slides back in the day, and I’ve been slowly converting the slides to digital images.  It’s quite possible that I simply haven’t found the right box of vacation pictures from those years.

In 1970 (or perhaps the year before) we got a small Shasta trailer.

  

I can’t remember how long we had it, but I was still traveling with my parents well into my college years.  Thinking back on those special times–memories made in campgrounds in the mountains of Vermont, on the rocky coast of Maine and in Nova Scotia, on the beaches of South Carolina, on the scenic Skyline Drive, on a lake in North Carolina, by a river in Wisconsin, and in so many other places–always makes me smile. 🙂

Will Wayne and I be able to travel with our Clipper?  I hope so, but for now I’m thankful that we’re able to make new camping memories, even when we’re close to home. 🙂

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Blue Ridge Parkway – August 13, 2018

It was a pretty day for a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and all the rain we’ve had this summer has kept the mountains lush and green.

Starting at Milepost 0 at the north end of the Parkway, here are a few of our pictures from the day.

MP 10.7:  Looking west from the BRP to the Shenandoah Valley at Raven’s Roost overlook.

  

East view & billowing clouds to the west:

  

At MP 34.4, we stopped to check out a reconstruction of an old logging railroad and to walk up a short trail to Wigwam Falls:

  

  

After walking back down the trail, we continued driving south, stopping at various overlooks along the way.  This is the view at MP 49.3:

  

We drove through the Bluff Mountain Tunnel at MP 53.1,

  

and stopped at Otter Creek Flats at MP 58.2.

The water was incredibly clear and full of tiny fish….

  

  

Wayne enjoyed photographing the changing patterns in the water.

  

Just further south, we stopped again at Otter Lake (MP 63.1), which features a small dam and spillway.

  

Our next stop was at the James River Visitor Center (MP 63.6).  We made our way down a short trail to the pedestrian bridge that’s built under the regular bridge that crosses the James.  At just 650 feet above sea level, this is the lowest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Such pretty views, both upstream and down!

  

  

Dozens and dozens of swallows nest under the bridge, and it’s not uncommon to see turtles sunning themselves on logs in the James River.

  

After getting back on the Parkway and crossing the James River, we turned onto Rt. 501 towards Lynchburg, VA to start the drive home.  The clouds we’d watched all day were becoming more ominous, and radar confirmed that strong storms were moving into the area.

  

Just south of Lovingston on Rt. 29–when we couldn’t see the road or mountains ahead due to heavy rain to our north–we decided to stop and wait it out.  Fortunately, we were able to avoid the worst of the storm, and there was just light rain on the rest of the drive home.

  

  

We always enjoy our visits to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we’re thankful that we could take/make the time for one more little adventure before the start of the school year!

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