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”!
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. 🙂
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!
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.”
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. 🙂