First Camping Trip of the Year – April 20-21, 2019

After strong storms and heavy rain on Friday, Saturday morning, April 20th, dawned clear and spectacularly beautiful!

We didn’t have any specific plans for the day, but after visiting a local campground and finding that there was one site open, we decided to do a one-night camping trip. By staying close, we could take care of things on the homefront, but also enjoy a mini-vacation.

We had few opportunities to use our new-to-us Clipper trailer after we bought it late last summer, so we were excited to get it out. Knowing we’d be coming back to the house a couple of times, we packed lightly, and soon we were in our site getting everything set up and connected.

The Scamp trailer we’d owned previously didn’t have water, propane, or too much of anything else in it, so there’s been a bit of a learning curve with the Clipper, which is well appointed. As we were putting up the awning, I turned one of the knobs too far, and–oops! Try as we might, we couldn’t get the knob to connect back through the small square metal piece inside the frame in order to raise the awning. Not good.

Wayne and I tried everything we could think of to fix it, but then a man from the next campsite walked over with a tool bag and asked if he could help. Yes, thank you, yes! Soon his wife came over, too, and before too long they had the awning working properly! Yay, for helpful neighbors!

As we officially introduced ourselves, we discovered some very cool common ground and connections! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you meet the nicest people in campgrounds! I’m so thankful that we had the opportunity to meet our new friends from New England, Carol and George, and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing them again in the future. 🙂

So with all of the set-up done, it was time to get down to some serious camping. For us, that means some serious relaxing. Ah, bliss……

Around 5 pm, we made a quick trip home and also picked up some food for dinner. We talked about going to the campground’s karaoke event in the community building that evening–or playing some pool–but we opted to stay put. Wayne got a fire going, and we sat outside until late that night….

Despite inching closer to the campfire, we kept adding layers–sweatshirts over shirts; jackets over sweatshirts–as the night became cooler and cooler. We knew the temperature was supposed to drop to the low 40s, and so we turned on the furnace in the trailer to see how it would work. (Quite well, we discovered!) We’d also brought a small ceramic heater with us, and when we went to bed we turned the propane and furnace off and used the electric heater instead.

Early the next (chilly!) morning, we left the campground to feed the feral kitties at my school and to feed my old kitty, Kian. When we got back to our campsite, the temperature had climbed to the 50s and it was a phenomenally beautiful Easter morning.

We visited again with our neighbors, and after they left for a family gathering, we started packing up and getting ready to come home.

As we pulled into the driveway, we could hear a shrill alarm going off inside the trailer! What on earth?!! I knew I’d turned off the propane at the tank the previous night when I’d turned off the furnace, and I’d doubled-checked it (and everything else) before we left the campground.

Cautiously entering the trailer, I saw an orange light on the refrigerator control panel next to the word CHECK. Well, check I did, and I saw that instead of pushing the button to turn the refrigerator OFF, I’d accidentally pushed the button that toggles between “automatic” and “gas.” Perhaps by having some propane gas in the lines from running the furnace, it was actually trying to pull propane in to run the fridge. And perhaps that was enough to set off the detector. Yikes!

Wayne was able to silence the alarm while I quickly opened windows and turned on the bathroom exhaust fan. We left the door, windows, and vent open for over an hour just to be on the safe side.

Finally convinced that all was well, we drove over the mountain for a late lunch/early dinner and to pick up a few more things to use on our next camping trip. Coming back over the mountain on the way home, we were both struck by the amazing clouds over the Rockfish Valley. The beautiful day was turning into a beautiful evening.

We talk (often) about the feasibility of an extended road trip with the trailer–some day. Maybe for a month? For a year? Would our Clipper trailer (with modifications) suit our needs for something like that, or would we need to go a little larger? So much to consider…

While cross-country travel is certainly a dream, we are so thankful–and so richly blessed–to be able to enjoy the simple wonders that are all around us, right here, right now.

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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Virginia Beach, April 2019

Beach-bound, we left home the morning of Friday, April 5th and decided to try another alternate route to Virginia Beach by traveling east on Rt. 60. Slower than the interstate–but more scenic–we got to the motel in Town Center around 2:30 pm.

Early forecasts had called for rain starting that evening, but it was already raining. Oh well, that didn’t stop us! We drove to the oceanfront, found a parking spot, and got our first look at the ocean behind the 34-foot tall statue of Neptune.


We took a quick selfie under a gazebo (where it was relatively dry) before walking over to the statue.

I was surprised when Wayne went down the stairs off the boardwalk and started heading for the water across the wet sand. I was even more surprised when I followed along behind him. (I did mention that it was raining, right?) 😉

Despite the rain–or maybe because of it!–it was so beautiful! The sound of the rain and the surf, combined with the smell of the salty air coming in off the ocean, created a very primal (and wonderful) sensory experience. I sincerely think we need to visit the ocean from time to time….

We tried to take another selfie with the ocean behind us, but if we angled the umbrella one way, rain came in on my phone. If we angled it the other way, rain poured down our backs. 😉

We walked back to the car and put our (soaked) jackets and umbrellas in the back. We drove north on Atlantic Avenue, then went to Captain George’s Restaurant for a delicious seafood dinner. No pics were taken this time, but if you look back at the post from December, it was basically a repeat!

We got a late start on Saturday. While flipping through channels on the T.V. at the motel that morning, we saw that the movie “Field of Dreams” was coming on, and we watched–and enjoyed–all of it! After that, we got it together and went to Nick’s Restaurant at 508 Laskin Road. When the waitress said they had Soft-Shell Crab Benedict for breakfast, Wayne was one happy guy. 🙂

My simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and grits was quite good, too, and each time we go to Nick’s, I enjoy looking at all of the painted tiles on the ceiling!

Wayne asked the waitress if they had any muffins or sweet rolls, thinking we’d share one as “dessert.” Nope, no muffins or sweet rolls, but they did have this!

So after this huge and rather decadent breakfast, we drove up to 64th Street to First Landing State Park. We usually see ospreys and other large birds there, and this time was no exception! Driving into the park, we spotted the first osprey on a tree having an early lunch of fresh fish.

There were nests and ospreys (and the occasional egret) everywhere!

After exploring First Landing for a couple of hours, it started to rain a little harder. Perfect time, we thought, to drive to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This is another one of our favorite places in the Virginia Beach area.

It is so rare and so fascinating to be the only people on an Atlantic coast beach. Bay Back National Wildlife Refuge is natural, wild, desolate, and simply amazing….

We left Back Bay and made our way to Laskin Road again where we met our friends, Lisa and Steve, at No Frill Bar and Grill for dinner. These were the folks that we met last summer when they bought our Scamp travel trailer, and we’ve kept in touch since then!

We enjoyed an evening of non-stop talking, delicious food, and even MORE talking! So nice when “chance” encounters lead to genuine friendships. 🙂

As the day started at Nick’s restaurant, so it ended at No Frill Bar and Grill:

LOL, no, Wayne and I didn’t EACH have a piece of incredibly rich and delicious chocolate turtle cake, but Lisa thought it would be funny to get a picture of their cake beside the piece that we were sharing. 😉

Yes, it was as good as it looks! Such a nice evening!

The next morning we were up early and on the west side of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel on I-64 by 9:00 am. After stopping for a quick breakfast in Lightfoot, VA–and due to an accident with traffic backups on the interstate–we decided to take scenic Rt. 5 the rest of the way home.

We stopped at the Chickahominy Riverfront Park (at the confluence of the Chickahominy and James Rivers) and spotted ospreys (imagine that!) in the marshy area near the campground.

We’d never seen an osprey nest so close to the ground!

We stopped again 17 miles later at the Lawrence Lewis, Jr. Park hoping to see Bald eagles there. Over the years we’ve seen them at the park several times, and we weren’t disappointed on this visit!

I know that I lose quality when I go from optical to digital zoom on my camera, but it’s always tempting to get as “close” as possible to these magnificent birds !

I am SO glad we were able to do a quick beach trip! While we didn’t have “perfect” weather, the sights, sounds, wonderful meals, and spontaneous get-together with friends made it all quite perfect! 🙂

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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Late Winter 2019: February 17 – March 17

Red-shouldered hawk

Wild turkeys

Turkey vulture on a foggy, snowy morning – March 9, 2019

Snow-covered trees in the fog – March 9, 2019

Signs of Spring – Budding/flowering trees, March 16, 2019

Bluebird at Mint Springs Valley Park – March 16, 2019

Sherando Lake: March 17, 2019

Canada Geese along the South River Greenway in Waynesboro, VA – March 17, 2019

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Local Lakes & Birds – February 2, 2019

Wayne spotted the first hawk of the day–a very puffed-up Red-shouldered hawk–shortly after 9:00 am as we were heading out to run some errands in town.

A few minutes later, I saw another bird on a distant tree, and when I zoomed waaaaay in, I could see it was a Belted Kingfisher. Cool!

Since it seemed like it was going to be a “bird” day (we saw two more Red-shouldered hawks and a Kestrel as we started towards town on back roads), we decided to detour to Sugar Hollow. Sometimes we’ve seen Bald Eagles at the reservoir, but just the pleasure of seeing the frozen lake made it worth the trip! The Skyline Drive runs along the crest of the mountain above lake.

Look at that amazing color!

While we didn’t see any eagles on this trip, a juvenile female Pileated Woodpecker made an appearance. 🙂

After leaving Sugar Hollow, we continued on our way, took care of things in town, and then decided to take backroads again for the drive home. This route allowed us to visit another local lake.

Beaver Creek reservoir was also frozen, and it was so, so pretty! Unfortunately, when I started taking pictures, I accidentally pushed a “mystery” button on top of the camera (which I’m still learning how to use) and my pictures didn’t turn out. I was finally able to undo whatever it was that I had done, so we took a quick “selfie.” While it’s not a great picture, hey, it shows we were there, and you can see the second frozen lake of the day behind us.

We decided to go for the trifecta and visit Mint Springs, too. By this time, the temperature had climbed to the upper 40s, and after such cold temperatures earlier in the week, it felt wonderful to be outside!

A female Bluebird posed for several shots while we were at the upper lake at Mint Springs.

I got a few distant pictures of a male Bluebird and a Downy Woodpecker, too.

On our way out of the park, we stopped at the lower lake to take some pictures of geese who were resting in the warm sunshine.

I know it’s early in February and winter isn’t done with us yet, but having the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful day, beautiful scenery, and beautiful birds triggered a serious case of “Spring Fever”!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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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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