January 27, 2018

Interactive Map of our day trip: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1XPvkkjzQw4PWIE3AimgDzhCdrz2EFkxZ&usp=sharing

A warm day in January provided a good opportunity to go for a drive.  We started with a plan to head towards Lynchburg on Rt. 29 South, and perhaps get together with some friends there. (You can enlarge each picture by clicking on it. 🙂 )

  

  

As we got close to Lynchburg, Wayne gave our friends a call.  When they said they had other plans, we altered ours.  We turned on a new-to-us road, Rt. 130 West.  Lots of pretty views on this scenic highway.

  

  

  

  

Oh–Glasgow!  This was the first time we’d come here from this direction. 🙂

  

Blessing the waters of the Maury River.

  

The Maury joins the James River near the town of Glasgow….

  

Bluebird right above the rivers.

  

There’s a nice little park at the confluence. Indeed–it’s a treasure!

  

  

Wayne spotted some interesting patterns in the water and started shooting some pictures.  Really love these!

  

  

We drove on to Natural Bridge, and it was our first time visiting since it became a state park.  Unfortunately, it was too late in the day to walk the trail to the bridge, so we’ll do that another time.

  

  

Driving towards home on I-81 North, I was reminded of the song, “These Old Dark Hills” by Robin and Linda Williams.

Fitting soundtrack for the end of a nice day. 🙂

These Old Dark Hills, Robin and Linda Williams
When day is done and work is through
I seek the old familiar view
Those faithful confidants of stone
Truer friends I’ve never known
Chorus:
These Old Dark Hills
On which sore eyes can rest
These Old Dark Hills
Ridge after ridge to the west
I hear the wind from a distant time
Blowing lonesome through the pines
From when the ancient wilderness
Was free of uninvited guests
Chorus:
Father of the timber and the coal
Mother to the music of my soul
Sister of the quiet and serene
Brother to the land of broken dreams
Chorus:
Oh, their grace and the majesty
Speak silently to me
And hold my gaze lovingly
How I ever long to see
Chorus:

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January 1, 2018

For the last several years, Wayne and I have visited a Virginia state park on New Year’s Day.  This year–with the bitterly cold temperatures and by getting a late start–we decided to stay a bit closer to home.

We drove into Nelson County, on through the communities of Afton, Nellysford, and Beech Grove, past Wintergreen Resort, and then up, up the mountain to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  This is one of our favorite drives no matter the season.

  

  

I mentioned it was cold, right?

  

Cold, but incredibly beautiful….

  

It was even colder when we reached the Raven’s Roost overlook, and it was windy, too.  Brrrr!

  

  

We took a quick “selfie” with the wide Shenandoah Valley as our backdrop, then scurried back to the warmth of the car.

  

  

The Blue Ridge Parkway curves along the mountain’s crest, sometimes through forests, and sometimes to the top of the world….

  

While it’s not uncommon to see ice on the rocks during the winter, we were surprised to see what appeared to be a frozen waterfall on the side of a hill.  Usually this area is hidden by leaves.

  

  

One of the notable landmarks along this section of the Parkway is Humpback Rocks.  The trail that leads to the top of the outcropping is advertised as a “40 minute walk,” but it’s really a long, hard climb.  I haven’t been up there for years, and yet as cold as it was, some hale and hearty souls were enjoying the view from the summit!

  

As you near the northern end of the Parkway, there are views to the east of the Rockfish Valley. (The Shenandoah Valley is on the western side of the mountain.)

  

  

When we were almost back to “civilization,” Wayne took a last, random shot of the trees.  As I was editing the pictures, I zoomed in and it appears that there were two hawks in the trees.  See the two small spots of orange against the right side of the pine tree?

  

Before heading home, we made a quick stop in the Shenandoah Valley to drop off some soup bowl “cozies” that I’d made for my cousin, Mary.  Since she enjoys camping, I figured she’d like the fabric!  (If time permits, I’ll try to make some other cozies for our Etsy shop.)

  

Heading east again, we stopped–as we often do–at the overlook on Afton Mountain.  This view of the Rockfish Valley always reminds me of family, the genealogy research that’s intrigued me for nearly 20 years, and how blessed I’ve been to spend most of my life with these old mountains as companions….

  

I have to admit that my favorite things about winter are flannel, sweatpants, lots of blankets on the bed, the warmth from our wood stove–and staying inside!–but I’m glad that we spent part of this cold winter day–the first day of 2018–appreciating the beauty that’s all around us.

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Tennessee – November 2017

Whenever we make the 500+ mile trek to Tennessee, we always take advantage of opportunities to explore natural areas.  On a previous trip we visited Percy Priest Lake, and this time we wanted to see Old Hickory Lake, which is northeast of Nashville.

We left home on Saturday, November 18th and started the long drive down I-81 South.

  

  

Near Knoxville, TN we turned west on I-40.

  

  

We knew the weather was going to take a turn for the worse (indeed–there were tornado warnings that night!), but aside from some rain and mist, we made it safely to our destination by late afternoon.

  

On Sunday afternoon, we made a quick return visit to Papa Turney’s BBQ at Nashville Shores on Percy Priest Lake.  As “Papa” was telling Wayne about a guitar he’d had made, they were both surprised when Wayne told him that he knew the guy who’d made the pickups for it.  Small (musical) world!

View of the marina from the restaurant:

  

On Monday, we took the “scenic” route (avoiding the interstate) towards Old Hickory Lake.  Our first stop was at the visitor center at the Rockland Recreation Area on the northwest side of the lake, just west of the town of Hendersonville.

  

  

  

Continuing east, we next went to Henderson Memory Gardens cemetery.

Unlike other mini-vacations that involve cemetery visits, this time it wasn’t for the purpose of doing genealogy research. 🙂

  

Instead, Wayne left a guitar pick on the grave of John R. Cash, better known as Johnny Cash.  He and June Carter Cash–as well as their other family members and friends–are buried in the Hendersonville Memory Gardens.

  

  

  

After paying our respects to “the man in black” and his family, we drove a little further east to the Avondale Recreation area.  What a pretty place for a picnic lunch!

We’d seen several Great Blue Herons already, but this one was close enough to get better pictures.

  

  

  

After leaving Avondale, we went through the town of Gallatin toward Bledsoe Creek State Park.  There are so many state parks in TN, but this was the first time we’d had a chance to go to one.  We were very impressed with the campground, scenery, and wildlife!

  

  

  

  

  

  

Hundreds of birds were flying back and forth, back and forth across the water, from one group of trees to another.  I’m not sure what the point was, but they seemed to be enjoying it!

As we drove back to our hotel on the south side of I-40, we again noticed mountains in the distance.  I haven’t been able to figure out exactly where these are or what they’re called.  They remind me of our Blue Ridge Mountains.

The map below shows the route we took and the stops we made around Old Hickory Lake.  As you can tell, we really just saw a fraction of it!  (To view an interactive map, click here.)

All too quickly, though, it was time to head back up the road to Virginia.  We left early on Tuesday morning, hoping to get home before dark.

  

  

  

  

During the last 20 miles or so of the trip, the late afternoon sunlight set the hillsides ablaze with beautiful fall colors.  I always think of my mother when the leaves turn orange, ochre, gold, and rust. Most of my mom’s clothing choices were similar in color to the mountain’s autumn palette, and these tones certainly complimented her dark auburn hair and green eyes….

  

  

Both of my parents loved fall–it was their favorite season–and they would have truly enjoyed the things we saw and the places we went on this trip.   Most importantly, they would have loved seeing their absolutely adorable great-grandchild!

Having the opportunity to spend some time with this beautiful little boy, my oldest son, and my daughter-in-law was the real reason for our trek to Tennessee, and the very best part of the time we spent there!

 

  

While I certainly wish we lived closer and could visit more often, on this Thanksgiving Day I’m very thankful that we’ve been able to see them as often as we have over the last several months.  And until our next long drive to and from Tennessee, I’ll remain thankful for pictures, videos, and FaceTime! 🙂

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Augusta County, Virginia – October 28, 2017

With rain in the forecast for Sunday, we decided to take advantage of a pretty Saturday to check out the fall colors in the Shenandoah Valley.  An interactive map that shows our route is here, and you can click on any of the pictures for a larger view.

First, west on Rt. 250 to Waynesboro, VA….

  

We could have stayed on 250, but opted to take Rt. 254 towards Staunton because it’s such a pretty, rural drive.

  

  

We got back on Rt. 250 in Staunton, and continued driving west.

  

We planned to go to Elkhorn Lake, a 54-acre reservoir in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.   Based on some of the pictures we’d checked out before we left home, it looked like it would be an interesting place to visit.  (A blogger and kayaker shared this post in 2009: http://www.virginiapaddler.com/2009/05/elkhorn-lake-may-2009.html)

We turned on Braley Pond Road, and a sign said that Elkhorn Lake was 7 miles.   I neglected to note the odometer reading when we made the turn, but we drove past a few homes, hunting cabins–and hunters–and then passed a sign that said, “End State Maintenance.”

The paved road soon turned to gravel, and it got steeper and more rugged.  While we generally like back roads, we’ve come to learn our limits.  Perhaps we were close to the lake, or perhaps we still had a mile or two to go, but ultimately we decided it would be best to play it safe and turn around.

As we headed back down Braley Pond Road, we decided to stop AT Braley Pond.  It was just a tiny blip of blue on the GPS, so we were surprised by the number of cars in the parking lot.

  

Stocked with trout, apparently it’s a favorite fishing spot for the locals.  Pretty place!

  

  

  

  

When we got back on Rt. 250, I was ready to turn east toward home, but Wayne wanted to stop by Mountain View General Store, which was less than a half mile west.  (We’ve stopped there before.)

Well, I guess it was meant to be, because just as we walked into the store, I heard someone say, “Hi, Wayne!” What?!

It turned out to be a friend of Wayne’s who used to live in Richmond, but now lives in Augusta County.  He’d just stopped in to put gas in his car before heading home, and we would have missed him if we’d been a few minutes later.  What a coincidence!

While Wayne was talking to him, two more people we knew walked in the door!  These were friends from our side of the mountain, and they were coming back from a drive to Monterey, VA.  Too funny–50 miles from home in rural western Augusta County, and yet there we all were. 🙂

When we got back to Staunton, we drove through Gypsy Hill Park, and then stopped at Wright’s Dairy-Rite for a milkshake.

Across the road from Wright’s is the former Western State Hospital.  The buildings–many of which were built in the 1820s and 1830s–are being converted into condominiums, and towards the back of the property is the Western State Hospital cemetery.

Access to the cemetery is restricted, but somewhere on this lonely hillside–among the nearly 3000 lost souls who are buried there–is the grave of my great-great-great grandmother….

  

At the time of each burial, a code number was painted onto the grave marker to identify the deceased while protecting his or her identity.  Unfortunately, the numbers have washed off or faded away over the years, and most of the markers now carry no information at all.

From state records, I know that my ancestor, Mary “Polly” Anderson Fox, was buried in “Row 9, #27” but I’m not sure that I would ever be able to find out–with any certainty–exactly where she is buried.  Sadly, markers have fallen over or crumbled, trees have grown up and pushed over the markers, and time has not been kind to this cemetery on the hill….

As we got closer to home, we stopped at the overlook on Afton Mountain and were treated to these late afternoon views.  I think our Rockfish Valley–home to so many of my ancestors–is beautiful in every season!

  

  

  

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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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