Old Friends, New Friends; Changing Seasons – October 7, 2017

Our Saturday outing started with a drive down I-64 East, where the first hints of fall color were on display.

On this beautiful October morning as we drove past previously green fields where combines were now harvesting dusty brown cornstalks, I reflected on how our lives are like seasons, too.  Blessed to have reached our metaphoric “Autumn” years, Wayne and I–like most people our age–have experienced love and losses, joys and sorrows, health and illness, and many of the other beautiful/terrible things that life has to offer.  Who we were in our early years (which we didn’t share), has allowed us to become who we are now, and one can hope that we’ve gained a bit more compassion, wisdom, and peace along the way. Perhaps we’ve en-lightened up some, too. 🙂

So with these thoughts in mind, we reached our designated meeting place.  A few minutes later, Kate arrived.

Sweethearts in the late 60s, their lives had ultimately taken them in different directions.  They met again in the 1980s, when Kate (with her husband and young children) and Wayne (with a girlfriend, who would later become his wife) got together for dinner.  Their relationship–and the “season” of their lives–had changed, but their underlying friendship remained.

 

And so after nearly 35 years–in a relationship spanning close to 50 years!–here they were again, and the smiles tell it all!  As we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at a gourmet market, there was so much laughter, so many memories shared, and so many stories told–both old and new.  And just as old friendships were reaffirmed, new ones were made; it was a truly delightful morning. 🙂

With hugs and kisses all around, we finally said our fond goodbyes–“until the next time.” Still smiling from this sweet reunion, Wayne and I decided to make a day of it by visiting another old “friend,” the James River.

  

Due to the late summer/early fall drought, the water level was extremely low.  We could see so much more of the river banks, and rocks that were usually hidden below the surface were in plain view.

  

  

The nearby Hardware River was even lower….

  

  

We drove further west on Rt. 6 to see how the James looked in the town of Scottsville.

  

Wow, we knew it was low, but seeing someone actually wading across it was just crazy!

  

We can always find things to photograph:

  

  

That said, I’m not quite sure what this was about….

Finally it was time to head home, after a day well spent.

  

Thankful for the friends and experiences that continue to enrich and shape our lives, we know the truth of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

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Westmoreland State Park – September 30, 2017

It had been almost exactly four years since we’d visited Westmoreland State Park on the Potomac River.  It’s one of the longer day trips that we’ve done (it’s close to 3 hours, one way), but as we knew after the first visit, it’s well worth the drive!

We took I-64 East to Louisa, VA, and then back roads the rest of the way.

  

First view of the wide Potomac River once we were in the park:

It was in the mid-60s and incredibly windy.  This made our picnic by the river a bit of a challenge, but it was so amazing to see whitecaps and big waves on the Potomac!

  

View to our left, and view to our right….

  

 

Two things we love about this park: the cliffs that rise up from the river, and the Bald Eagles!

  

After our lunch of deli sandwiches, chips and dip, we drove back up towards the visitors center to take the trail down to Fossil Beach.

The trail is just a little over a half mile long.  The first part is fairly level, then there’s a long downhill stretch towards the beach.  (Strange how it’s ALL uphill on the way back!  😉 )  Alrighty…. With our walking sticks in hand, off we went.

  

An uprooted tree was beside the trail…

And it’s been so dry here recently that some parts of the path were actually cracking.  We really need a few days of rain….

Towards the bottom of the trail–still in the forest–there’s a marshy area where tall, green spikes and fronds grow in brackish water.  Wayne said it was easy to imagine seeing a Stegosaurus or some other prehistoric creature in this primeval part of the park!  A short distance later, however, the trail opens into a large, sunlit marsh.  A boardwalk leads to an elevated observation platform.

  

  

 

Our next stop was Fossil Beach.  Aptly named, visitors frequently find fossilized sharks’ teeth and other treasures that have been washed up.  There were several people on the beach using screens and colanders to sift through the sand.

Before our first visit here, I had no idea that this type of scenery could be found in Virginia!   And given the wild wind and the crashing waves, I had to keep reminding myself that I was on the banks of a large river, and not at the ocean!

  

 

“Oh, look!  More Bald Eagles!

  

  

If First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach is our favorite state park, Westmoreland is easily our second favorite park….

  

  

  

  

  

We stayed much longer than we’d originally intended, but finally, reluctantly, we started back up the trail.  I mentioned that it’s a steady uphill climb? Alrighty….

  

We took our time and paused often to take pictures.

  

Just after starting the climb, a couple passed us as they headed up the trail.  We all said hello and exchanged a few pleasantries, but they were definitely moving faster than we were!  A little while later, the man came back down the trail because he wanted to make sure we were okay!  Ah, the kindness of strangers, found even in the woods on the banks of the Potomac River. <3

As we huffed and puffed our way up the hill, I said it would be nice if our little travel trailer was set up and waiting for us in the Westmoreland campground instead of having a 3-hour drive home to look forward to.   Oh well, maybe some day!

Once we reached the top of the hill, we took advantage of a conveniently-placed bench to catch our breath for a few minutes.  The rest of the trail really is an easy walk. 🙂

  

The late afternoon sun was filtering through the trees, and Wayne said he could almost imagine we were nearing the “Emerald City.”

  

There were very few fall colors in the leaves, and the rich, lush green tones were all around us.  Some say that the color green is associated with the heart chakra, and with that thought in mind, we paused, joined hands and said a quick prayer of healing for my cousin’s husband who’d had quintuple bypass surgery the day before.  <3

When we arrived back at the visitors center, we again marveled at the view, watched more Bald Eagles riding the wind currents, and photographed a display of fossils that have been found at Westmoreland State Park.

  

We drove through the campground before leaving the park (nope, darn–our trailer wasn’t there!), then started the long drive home.

  

  

When we stopped at a convenience store north of Mineral, VA for coffee and water, I noticed that the moon was rising in the too-dark too-early Autumn sky.

Beautiful traveler….

About 10 hours and 266 miles later, we pulled back in the driveway.  As always, we were thankful–sincerely thankful–for a safe journey, and for having the strength, ability, and resources to be able to visit these wondrous places around our state.

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Blue Ridge Parkway – September 17, 2017

John Muir’s best-known quote is, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”  Living in close proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains–and with easy access to both the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway–we answer that call frequently!

We left late in the afternoon and didn’t really have time to do a long drive, so we opted to go on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Reids Gap, then come back home via the Rockfish Valley.  It’s a very familiar route, but one we always enjoy!  (Link to an interactive map is here.)

Some people go to the mountains to see wildlife, but this is what we saw on the other side of our driveway as we were leaving. 😉

Once we got on the Parkway, we stopped at the Rockfish Valley overlook.  The clouds were pretty impressive, especially the big one in the center.  We didn’t know it at the time, but it was going to be a cloud kind of day. 🙂

  

Zooming in with our cameras, we could see the Sentara Afton Family Medicine building on Rt. 151, and a bit of the Hebron Baptist Church Cemetery.

 

There were lots of milkweed plants and pods at the overlook.  The pods weren’t quite ready to burst open to release their seeds and fluff, but a number of milkweed bugs were feasting on the juices.

We continued driving south on the Parkway, enjoying the views of the Shenandoah Valley, along with glimpses of changing leaves.  Summer is certainly winding down….

  

  

  

  

We stopped at the Humpback Rocks Picnic Area (milepost 8.5), and feeling somewhat adventurous, we decided to walk up the short trail to the overlook. Unlike the long, steep climb up to Humpback Rocks, this is an easy trail, only about 1/4 of a mile long.

  

  

At the overlook:

  

  

An Eastern Wood Pewee paused long enough for me to get a quick picture.

On the far side of the Shenandoah Valley are the Allegheny Mountains.

Starting back down the trail, we saw asters and tree spirits. 🙂

  

  

A section of the 2190-mile long Appalachian Trail crosses through this area, and we paused to take a quick picture on one of the trail markers when we got back to the parking area.  Running from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, with over 3 million visitors each year.

As we continued south on the Parkway, beams of light were shining through the clouds into the Shenandoah Valley to our west.

  

Equally pretty were views to the east. These pictures were taken at the Three Ridges overlook.

  

Just before turning off the Parkway at Reids Gap, we saw another cluster of asters by the side of the road….

  

Route 664 (Beech Grove Road) twists and turns its way down the mountain into the Rockfish Valley.  This picture was taken near the entrance to the Wintergreen Resort.

Once we reached the valley–and really for the rest of the trip home–we marveled at the clouds, and at the interplay of light, shadows, and colors.  Such a beautiful day….

  

  

  

I started this post with the quote by John Muir (1838-1913).  Muir’s work is as urgently relevant today as it was during his lifetime.  He was an advocate for the preservation and protection of wilderness areas, and among his many accomplishments, he and his supporters founded the Sierra Club.  Its mission?

“To explore, enjoy and protect the planet. To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out those objectives.”

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Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch & Shenandoah Valley Back Roads – September 9, 2017

We had a lot to do around the house, but it was one of those beautiful, sharp-focused, low-humidity late summer days when it was simply too pretty to be inside.  I was interested in checking out a fabric warehouse just south of Harrisonburg, Virginia (with the idea of possibly finding fabric for some upcoming projects at school), but as with most of our day trips, the journey is as important (and as much fun) as the destination.

Before we set out on this impromptu adventure, I learned that an open house associated with the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch on Afton Mountain was happening.   Members of the Wildlife Center were going to be there with some of their resident hawks, plus there would be exhibits by various wildlife and birding groups.  It sounded like a good first stop–and it was!

The Wildlife Center had brought a Kestrel and a Broad-Winged Hawk.  What gorgeous birds!!

  

  

  

Wayne isn’t holding the Kestrel (with a short little arm), but from this angle it almost looks like he is. 😉

  

If you go to this page of the Wildlife Center’s website, you can read about Edie (the Kestrel) and Grayson (the Broad-winged Hawk) and learn how they came to be education animals for the Center.

  

The exhibits were interesting, too.

  

  

When we drove down the mountain to Waynesboro, we turned north on Rt. 340 towards Grottoes.

  

And once we reached Grottoes, we turned west on Rt. 256.

  

The expression, “Make hay while the sun shines” was being played out in many, many fields in the Shenandoah Valley.

  

When Rt. 256 intersected with “The Valley Road” (Route 11), we turned north and drove through Mount Crawford.

  

Next, we went took 257 West towards Bridgewater College.  Things change–a lot!–in 35+ years, but it was nice to pull into the parking lot behind Dillon Hall.  I spent 4 years at Bridgewater, the last couple of them in the corner room on the first floor. 🙂

From Bridgewater, we turned north again, this time on Rt. 42.  And yes, that’s a sign that cautions drivers to be on the lookout for horses and buggies.

While we didn’t see any horses on this trip, Dayton, VA is still home to a number of Amish and Mennonite families.

Whenever we’re in this part of the Shenandoah Valley, we always stop by the Dayton Market–and on previous trips we have seen buggies parked in a special area in the parking lot!

  

I’d venture to say that some of the Amish/Mennonite families were shopping here earlier in the day. 😉

After stocking up on some herbs and spices–and lunch at Hanks–we made our way back to Rt. 11 via another scenic cross-through (Huffman Drive).

We found the fabric warehouse across from the Rockingham County Fairgrounds, but unfortunately I didn’t find the types of material I was looking for.  The store is a super resource for people doing upholstery and draperies, but there aren’t as many choices for apparel or purse fabrics.

After visiting Shenandoah Heritage Market (another collection of shops, similar to the Dayton Market), we started for home.  We drove back down Route 11–through Mount Crawford and also through Mount Sidney.  Ah, if these old homes and businesses could talk, given all the history they’ve witnessed….

  

Just before Verona, we chose another “road less traveled” and went east on Rt. 612.  Driving east or west, it’s one of our favorites.

  

  

  

We stopped at the Crimora Park, just to spend a little time by the South River on this delightful day.

  

As always, Wayne enjoyed photographing the colors, reflections, and patterns in the water–capturing and documenting a brief moment in time and space….

  

And as we often do, we paused to “bless the waters” of the river…

  

Ripples of peace, love, and healing.

  

Like most of the rivers in Virginia, the South River has been contaminated by industrial and/or agricultural pollutants.

  

While the DuPont company will pay $50 million in a settlement (news article from 2016 here), residents of Waynesboro question what–if any–help will be offered to their community (news article from 2017 here).

The environmental impact of this (and other) damage to Virginia’s waterways is an ongoing concern.  In addition to changing the songs of birds and in some cases even their color (click here to read an article in National Geographic), the effects of mercury contamination are moving up in the food chain.

Why do I mention this?  Well, partly because we consciously choose to honor, affirm, enjoy, and share the everyday wonders that we see, despite–and sometimes because of–the ugly truths that sometime lie just below the surface. (And on this particular day, we were also well aware of the fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, solar flares, and health challenges that so very many people around the world are facing.)

Through purposeful, focused intent–as well as through our actions–we try to contribute, at least in some small way, to positive change.

The need for clean air, clean water, viable seeds, and healthy soil is something we have in common with every other person on the planet–regardless of nationality, ethnicity, politics, or geography.   If everyone were to get outside, get involved, and genuinely care about the natural world, perhaps by working together we could ensure that the scenario portrayed in the cartoon below by Tom Toro would never become our reality…. (You can click on the picture for a larger view.)

With all of these thoughts on our minds, we left Crimora Park, drove back down Rt. 340 to Waynesboro, and then east on Rt. 250.  Instead of following it all the way down to the flat land, we detoured on Rt. 6 and twisted and turned our way down Afton Mountain on another favorite back road.

  

  

After driving through the little community of Avon, we made the turn onto Batesville Road, enjoying an even slower pace through forests and fields on the unpaved road.

  

  

Yes, there were still things on the “to-do” list when we got home, but hey, things do (eventually) get done.  We are always, always thankful for opportunities to explore, experience, and celebrate a beautiful day.

You can follow our route through this interactive map.

 

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Simple Wonders are Everywhere…. September 3, 2017

I only told a couple of people, but I hadn’t seen the “Mama Cat” for nearly 3 weeks.  After happily greeting me every morning, one day she wasn’t there.  And she wasn’t there the next day or the next; she’d simply disappeared.  I tried not to go to “worst case” scenarios, but I know her world as a feral (or at least as a semi-feral) is a dangerous one….

So the first wonderful wonder of the day was when this special kitty girl came running to me this morning when we drove over to feed the cats!  She was purring and kneading and twining around my legs, just as she done before her disappearance.  I have NO idea where she’d been the last 3 weeks, but I was so very relieved to see her!

Wayne grabbed the camera and tried to take some pictures, but she was moving around too quickly to get a clear shot. 😉  But it was a good “feral” morning because we also saw the long-haired black kitty, as well as Orange Girl and Cali-1–four of the six I trapped and had neutered/spayed between December 2016 and March 2017.

As we were leaving, we noticed how the raindrops–that were still clinging to electric wires following yesterday’s rain–were sparkling and glistening in the early morning sunlight.  Behind them, mist was rising from a field.  Simple wonders, perhaps, but we always try to stay open to beauty, wherever its found.

After we got home, I sent yet another email to a woman I’d been trying to get in touch with  on Craigslist regarding some fabric she wanted to sell.  Since early August when the ad first appeared, I’d been emailing her, hoping to get some of it to use in my art classroom at school.  This morning she finally replied.  She apologized for the delayed response and said she was packing and getting ready to move.  As to the fabric, she said if I wanted it, I could just HAVE it, as long as I could pick it up today!  Yes, please!

After getting her address, we drove over the mountain to Waynesboro.  It was a stunningly gorgeous day–especially appreciated after a couple of days of rain–and we enjoyed the familiar drive.

  

  

We navigated to the address the woman had given me, and I was surprised to find not one, not two, but THREE big boxes of fabric on her porch!  She’d left a note on one of the boxes, saying she hoped I’d enjoy it.  I just peeked into two of the boxes, and WOW!  So much pretty fabric–can’t wait to look through it all. 🙂

We stopped by Wal-Mart so I could pick up some thread, zippers, and lining fabric, and this happened.  It wasn’t exactly a dare, but Wayne urged me to try on one of the special masks so he could take a picture.  I guess the “wonder” here is that I actually DID it. 😉

I don’t think I would have bought the tuxedo kitty mask (that was pictured on the large bin of masks), but they only had panthers, tigers, sharks, and raccoons.  Ah, well….

After beheading myself (!) and paying for the things we’d purchased, we drove to a local park.  We visited with a friend and his family that we saw there, and I tried to photograph a spider web that was glistening in the sun, almost the same way as the raindrops on the wires earlier in the day.  I couldn’t get the camera to capture exactly what we saw, but it was nice to see this “prism” effect for the second time in one day.

We went to another park that has a paved path along the river, and we were delighted to see this guy:

  

It flew downstream a ways, but we saw it again as we walked further along the path.

  

Such a beautiful day–not quite 80 degrees.  And bonus wildlife shot; there was a Cedar Waxwing in a tree beside the river.  I rarely see Cedar Waxwings, so it’s always a treat when I can see–and photograph–them.

  

On the way home, we drove up to a parking lot at a visitors center on Afton Mountain.  The center was closed, but-hey-we were there for the views.  And we got them! 🙂

The Rockfish Valley and the Charlottesville area were to the southeast, and the Shenandoah Valley and the Waynesboro area were to the northwest.

  

This panorama shot was taken from left (west) to right (east).  If you click on the picture, you should be able to see a much larger image.

So all in all, it was a day of simple–but beautiful–wonders. 🙂

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