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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Augusta Springs Wetland Park & Goshen Pass – August 27, 2017

A couple of years ago we discovered Augusta Springs Wetlands Park, but with ice and snow on the ground at the time, we knew we’d have to come back another time.  On Sunday morning, August 27th, we decided to visit again.

We got on Rt. 254 in Waynesboro since it offered an alternate, new-to-us route to Staunton, and ultimately to the park.  Any time we can stay off of main roads and interstates–and have pretty, rural views–is a plus. 🙂


As we drove through Staunton, I realized we were going right by Anne Hathaway Cottage Tea Room, and I impulsively turned into the driveway.  Why, you might wonder?  Because this property–950 West Beverley Street in Staunton, VA–used to belong to my great-great grandfather, John P. Koontz.

I knew the cottage wasn’t original, but I wondered if the owners had any information about the history of the land and former buildings.  We were told that the cottage had been built about 10 years ago on a site that had become sort of a city dump (!), and they let us wander around a bit on the site.  At first I thought one of these houses (at the back of the property beyond a gate) might have been my great-grandfather’s house, but then I realized they were on Anderson Street and not on West Beverley.

This building, however, which is directly behind the tea house, was intriguing.  Perhaps it’s original, as it’s at the very back of the property against a steep hill.

According to a deed that I found in the Staunton courthouse, the Koontz property (a house and several buildings) was sold out of the family in 1907, two years after John P. Koontz’s death.  I’ll have to see if I can find plats, tax records, and other information about 950 West Beverley Street the next time I go to the courthouse.

We bought some scones at the tea house and thanked the owner for his time and information.   We then continued on towards the park, which is about 20 miles south of Staunton on Rt. 42.



Before exploring the park, we decided to sample the scones–which were delicious! We also enjoyed the messages that were printed on the underside of the jam lids. 🙂


After cleaning up, we looked at a map at the beginning of the walk.

The trail is an easy 2/3 of a mile loop that passes through a variety of habitats.  There were so many flowers and so many colors!




We were in a small meadow at first, and then the trail led through some woods before crossing into a much larger and somewhat marshy meadow.


As we walked on the boardwalk over the meadow, we could see the most amazing tree to our right.  Wayne said it looked exactly like something Bob Ross would have painted!


When we re-entered the woods on the other side of the meadow, Wayne noticed some odd scratch marks on a bridge.  Made by a raccoon, maybe?


Soon we could see the “Bob Ross Tree” again, and we realized it was on sort of an island in the middle of a pond. Interesting that all of the bushes around the base of the tree were the same color!  Does anyone know what type of tree this is?


We were delighted to see some wildlife at the pond.  In addition to the ducks, goldfinches, and other birds, a buck was at the far edge, eating some sort of vegetation that he was pulling up out of the water.



What a pretty place! We opted to just do the “wetlands” trail, but there’s a shorter upland trail that leads to the spring house.  Maybe next time. 🙂



It was still early in the afternoon, so we decided to extend our day trip by driving further south down Rt. 42 to Goshen, VA.  There we turned east on Rt. 39, which runs along the Maury River.



The river was about as low as we’d ever seen it in Goshen Pass.


Blessing the waters of the Maury River:




After sitting by the river for a while, we drove another mile or so down the road to the overlook above the Maury River.  Sometimes we’ve seen kayakers coming through the rapids here, but with the water level so low, I’m sure it would be hard to navigate now due to all the rocks.


As we started for home, we opted to head north on Rt. 252, which is also called the Brownsburg Turnpike.  This scenic byway goes through the little towns of Brownsburg, Newport, and Middlebrook, and while we’ve never stopped in the towns, this is one incredibly beautiful drive!










Below is a link to an interactive map that shows our route.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day, and we hope you’ve enjoyed coming along with us through our pictures. 🙂

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The Beautiful Ferals – August 8-9, 2017

These cats–basically wild, though they may be–are so pretty!  These are pics from the past couple of days.

Orange Girl:




Post-breakfast bathing:



Still so shy….

Beautiful Mama Cat:

Oh, how I’d love to be able to brush out all of the dull, dead hair from this kitty’s coat:

I didn’t see anyone this morning when I went over to feed them, but after using my standard sing-songy call–“Kitties!  Where are the kitties?”–Mama Cat came running over to me and started rubbing around my legs. (In this pic I have the trail cam in my left hand. I set it up before I left to monitor activity today and tonight around the feeding station.)

There was another new “first” today with the Mama Cat: I picked her up while I was standing and held her for a moment–twice–and then gently put her down.  She didn’t really like it, but even some of my personal cats haven’t liked to be picked up and held.

Wayne got some nice shots of the Orange Girl this morning:


She comes closer than she used to, but she is still very, very cautious.

Such sweet girls…. <3

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A Taste of Nashville, Tennessee – August 3-6, 2017

On the road again!  On Thursday, August 3, 2017, Wayne and I set out for Tennessee. The early morning views as we crossed Afton Mountain were beautiful….



It was a wonderfully clear day, but by the time we reached the Lexington area in the Shenandoah Valley things were a bit different….

A heavy, dense fog came out of nowhere, and it continued for miles along I-81 South! Once it dissipated, somewhere north of Roanoke, an accident on the interstate bought traffic to a standstill.   When we finally crept to an exit (30-45 minutes later), we opted to take secondary roads, and detoured through Salem, Virginia.

Fortunately, we had blue skies and no significant delays (other than construction and lots of traffic) on the rest of the drive into Tennessee.


After 9-1/2 hours and 521 miles, we arrived at our hotel.  Whew….

On Friday, we ventured into Nashville and parked in the Music City Center parking garage across from the Bridgestone Arena (home of the Predators).  The parking fee was $15, and we considered this to be pretty reasonable, given that we were only about a block and a half away from Nashville’s “entertainment district.”  Our goal was to spend a couple of hours on lower Broadway, and then leave early enough to avoid Nashville’s rush hour traffic.


The first place we stopped was Rippy’s Bar and Grill on the corner of Broadway and 5th Avenue South.  The beer was cold, and the band was hot, so win/win. 🙂


There’s a fascinating blend of old and new in Nashville.  The city was founded in the late 1700s, and named for Francis Nash, a Revolutionary War hero.  Most of the buildings along Broadway were built in the 1800s, but looming just behind them are very sleek and modern hi-rises.  Whoops, I cut off the “ears” of the “Batman” building (AT&T) in the picture on the right.


When we left Rippy’s, we walked northeast along Broadway, surprised by the number of “party barges” and other unusual tour vehicles on the street.  In addition to wagons pulled by tractors and double-decker buses, we saw several “pedal taverns,” including two that were apparently bridal shower events.  These folks–drinking and pedaling their way up the street–were making very slow progress due to a problem that became obvious as they came closer….


There were lots of tourists, lots of neon signs, and lots and lots of music pouring out from every bar and open door on Broadway!




After several more stops in bars and boot shops, we went to Jack’s Bar-B-Que  for lunch. The 2nd floor dining room gave us a good view of all the activity on the busy street below.



After lunch, we stopped by Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge for a second time.  There’s a lot of country music history associated with this place, and it’s advertised as “the world’s best honky tonk.”  🙂

We browsed through Legends Gifts (where we bought t-shirts), and then–sucked in by the music–we went into Legends Corner.


The band, fronted by a left-handed guitarist, was impressive, and after a few minutes, Wayne and I joined the other patrons out on the dance floor.  While I can’t say that dancing in a Nashville honky tonk has been something on my “bucket list,” I can say it was fun–and I’d do it again.  😉

There was so very much to see, but we’d only covered a couple of blocks by the time we needed to leave.  We put several places on the “next time” list (Ryman Auditorium, the river front, etc.) and started walking toward the parking garage.

It started to lightly sprinkle as we waited to cross Broadway, and a few seconds later when we were barely halfway down 5th Avenue South, the skies opened up and it POURED!!  We ducked into the stairwell entrance to a fancy restaurant just as the thunder and lightning started. (Google Map’s pic on the left, my pic–and view–on the right.)


The storm cracked and boomed around us, and the torrential rain created rivers on the street.  (Had we known that it would rain this hard and storm so severely–and for so long–we would have stayed at Legends Corner instead of hanging out in a stairwell!) When the rain finally slacked off to sprinkles again, we continued on to the parking garage.

Uncertain as to how quickly the storm was moving east–and since we were going in that direction, too–we decided take secondary roads back to the hotel instead of getting on I-40.  Perhaps it took a bit longer, but it kept us out of traffic and it let us see some of the smaller communities (Donelson, Hermitage, and Mt. Juliet) in the Nashville area.

You can click here for an interactive map of our route.

By that night, the almost-full moon was hanging in a crystal clear sky, and the storm had washed away all of the heat and humidity.  Saturday promised to be gorgeous.

After spending a day (well, a few hours) in the city, we were ready for some back-to-nature time at Percy Priest Lake.  This 42-mile long lake/reservoir was completed in the late 1960s, and while we didn’t anticipate having time to drive all the way around it, there were certain places we wanted to see.

We drove south on Rt. 171, and our first stop was the boat ramp at Long Hunter State Park.  We visited this park two years ago just before a storm came up, and this was the only part of it we’d seen during that trip!


Awww… heart-shaped leaf in the parking lot:

Still within the park, we went to Couch Lake.  Barn Swallows had taken up residence in the covered fishing pier, and while I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture of Mama Barn Swallow delivering food, her four babies were still in the nest.


After leaving Long Hunter, we continued driving on Rt. 171 South, crossing another part of Percy Priest Lake.


We took a long, convoluted route to get to our next stop, on Anderson Road.  Even now, looking at Google Maps, I’m still not exactly sure how we got there.  I DO know we were on Anderson Road for what seemed like forever!

Since there’s a possibility that we’d someday take our travel trailer with us on a trek to Tennessee, I wanted to check out Anderson Road Campground.  Unfortunately, when we finally got there a sign said that the campground was full, AND another sign said “No Weekend Drive-Thru’s.”  Well, darn.  I didn’t push, and the woman at the gate didn’t make an exception.

The long trip down Anderson Road wasn’t wasted, however, because we continued on to Anderson Beach.


The beach offered a broad view of the lake, and there were all sorts of boats on the water; sailboats, speed boats, jet skis, and pontoon boats.  Looking way to the left of the beach and using the zoom on my camera, I could see travel trailers perched on a cliff, high above the lake.  Interesting.

We came back down Anderson Road to Smith Springs Road, and then turned north on Bell Road to drive along the western side of the lake.  When we got to the place where we’d seen the RVs on the cliff, we drove in.  We didn’t see anyone around, and given the closed gate, we didn’t pursue it further.

We next headed towards the dam at the far northwest end of the lake, but as we approached it, a police car was partially blocking the road.  The officer didn’t stop us, so we continued on for another couple of blocks.  There we encountered two police cars, and the officers were blocking the road and making everyone turn around.

If you’re a local and you have to detour, it’s usually an inconvenience, but not a problem.  For out-of-towners like us, it proved to be a bit more of a challenge.  Even with maps and a GPS, we probably detoured much farther than we needed to, but ultimately we made it back to a small park near the dam.



Again using the zoom on my camera, I could see what appeared to be a water park across the lake.  I later learned this was Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort.

We drove across the dam on Bell Road…

…then stopped for a delicious lunch at “Papa Turney’s BBQ.”


Again using the zoom on my camera to look across the lake, I was able to see the park where we’d stopped near the dam.

Our last planned stop was Seven Points Campground. Oh, no–at the gate there were signs saying no weekend drive-thru’s and that the campground was full. 🙁

This time I asked if it would be possible to quickly tour the campground since we were from out of state, and I was given a temporary pass, good for 15 minutes.  I’m sorry we didn’t take any pictures of the campground (you can view ones on Google by clicking here), but what an awesome place!  Most of the campsites are directly on the lake, and all are large, most are wooded, and the fees are extremely reasonable ($26 per night).  This campground is definitely somewhere we’d love to stay if we ever do bring our trailer to Tennessee….

We were running late (the detour was partially to blame) and we needed to get back to the hotel.  Using maps, I tried to plot a course that would take us back to Rt. 171 a few miles south of the hotel, but we were absolutely flabbergasted when we started seeing rural intersections with no road names or route numbers!  (In retrospect, I could have just plugged in the address of the hotel in the GPS–but I didn’t think of it at the time!)

But how rural were we?  Rural enough to have a family of wild turkeys run across the road in front of the car. 😉

We were kind of surprised when we finally saw I-40, but at the next intersection when I thought we should turn right, Wayne said he thought we should continue straight–which we did.

I didn’t take this picture (it’s from Google maps), but my jaw literally dropped when we crested a hill on this country road and could see the sign for our hotel–RIGHT THERE!  We’d actually turned left onto Adams Lane each time we’d left the hotel (to get to a stoplight on Rt. 171), but I’d had no idea where the road went if you turned right.  At least we know now! 😉

This is the route we took around the lake (best that we can remember!)

You can click here for an interactive map of our route.

On Sunday, August 6th, we got up early, packed our stuff, and started the long trek back to Virginia.








We got home 9-1/2 hours later (traffic was just generally slow on I-81 north of Lexington) and after 518 miles of driving….  Whew, again.

Now you might be thinking that this was an awfully long way to go just to spend a few hours on Broadway in Nashville, and a few more hours driving around a big lake–and you’d be right!

While those were enjoyable “extra” things we did while we were there, the main reason for the trip–and the very, very best part of it–was getting to visit with my oldest son, daughter-in-law, and three-month old grandson who live in the area!


Seeing this beautiful little boy (along with his mommy and daddy) made the long drives completely worth it!   I can’t wait to go back! 🙂



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