Saturday, September 12 – Monday, September 14
The rain that had been dogging us since Sept. 7 stayed with us at Lackawanna. We walked along the lake for a small bit on Saturday, but then had to retreat for a while. At least it was decent enough to fall straight down, so we were able to sit and listen to the rain on the awning for a long time, reading and playing card games on our devices. I pulled out my stylus and chose one of our recent trip photos and had a go at sketching it. Turned out okay.
Our white-tailed neighbor had returned during the night, but didn’t stay long. Jack had cooked a pork loin on the grill, accompanied by zucchini, and I cooked up a packet of Thai lime and coconut rice inside. It was delicious. We saw the skunk padding around outside the door as we ate dinner inside at the nook.
Sunday we spent hitching and driving to Shenandoah River State Park near Front Royal, VA. More rain and decidedly more interstate traffic than we had expected on a Sunday in September. Began listening to Carl Hiassen’s Chomp so the drive was pretty mindless. Saw some pretty farmland and farms before we left Pennsylvania. And a strange critter peering over the grate of a truck.
It was a carnival ride of some sort being transported to a new location.
Arrived at Shenandoah River about 3:30 to find zero wi-fi and zero Verizon signal. No worries. The facilities are excellent, the pads are the nearest to level we’ve seen, and it’s a nice, quiet place. Not much in the way of privacy trees, but there aren’t many folks here, so that’s not a problem — I bet these sites get hot in the summer, though. The river is just down the way and the sites are enormous.
There’s one group with about 7 children of varying ages, and they all have scooters. They’re big on pushing up the hill in front of our site, and rolling fast back down. But they’re relatively quiet kids, and the girls always wave to us as they go past.
Off-loaded the bikes because the last forecast we got was for splendid weather (for a change). Opened the front window wide, and sat out by the picnic table for a long time. We gave a tour to a pair of families camping together down the way from us, and the younger wife was totally smitten with our Alto.
Re-heated the pork and the leftover au gratin potatoes for chow. The Skyguide ap that Jack has on his phone doesn’t need internet, so we looked at the stars for a long time, enjoying our Port and Morbier to cap the evening. A cold front moved in after the clouds blew away without raining on us.
Monday: A change in the weather was signaled by the drop in temperatures overnight. It was in the neighborhood of 48 when we hit the hay, and we slept cool with windows and vents closed, and the exhaust fan off. Heard crickets instead of the fan blowing, and it was very peaceful.
Awoke Monday AM to an interior temp of 48 and exterior of 43. A squirrel was checking out our picnic table when I awoke. A much more welcome visitor than a skunk, for sure.
I bundled up and went for a shower, then returned to make tea/coffee and croissants in the Omnia oven. We had picked them up frozen back in Quebec (or New Brunswick?) to try in the oven, but never got around to it until the penultimate day of our vacation. We’d also picked up some whipped honey along the way, so we baked the croissants and had them with “honey butter,” reminding me of my days as a kid — the “honey butter” part.
The sun rose in an ever-bluer sky, but we didn’t get any morning sun until about 10:30-11, and Roomba was cold and wet, so we cranked up the heater for about 10-15 minutes, to help take off the chill and maybe get some of the moisture out.
This place is totally lousy with birds. Bluebirds & sparrows flit around, pileated woodpeckers chat to one another and make their singular loping flight from one wood to another, redtail hawks soar and “skee” at one another — there seems to be a bird everywhere I look. From the Visitor Center:
We finally got some strong AM sun on us around 11:30, so we hung out all of our wet things — my shower towel and washcloth, some of our kitchen towels, etc. The breeze picked up and, since we hadn’t unpacked any of our bike gear since stowing it all in our panniers for travel, we got all those bits and pieces out to sun a bit. The crystal day was just crying for a bit of a cycle to see what’s where. I wanted to see the river — if we could get to it without tromping through poison ivy.
The cicadas (or whatever) began singing their end of season songs, buzzing to one another as soon as the sun warmed them. The breeze was magnificent, and I was reminded again of how spectacular fall days can be, especially after some drab, rainy, cloudy times.
We got on the cycles about 11:30, after speaking with the camp host about finding wi-fi. Up at the Visitor Center we could access the staff/host system, and he gave us the password. We wanted to check to see if our house-sitter had emailed any news. For a riverside campground/park this place is extremely hilly. But after North Mountain, I figured we could do any climbing we set our minds to.
Between the RV camping area (there is a separate tent camping area, and a further separate cabin rental area, like those at Occoneechee near Clarksville) and the Visitor Center is the Cullers Overlook. We stopped there for a look and a photo or two. We found a map of the extensive trail system. Most are designated for hiking and bicycling; and some are even marked for equestrian use. Difficulty levels are marked like snow ski slopes: black triangles = difficult; blue squares = moderate; green circles = easy. We only considered the green circles.
The Visitor Center was quite nice and we tapped into their internet for our email messages (none of consequence). It has many displays and outside landscaping that is truly engaging.
And then we embarked on the first of our trails. The one leading from the VC to the Bluebell trail, which we’d already noted linked to our loop of the campground, was marked “easy,” but in fact turned out to be a “cross training” experience. Lots of roots, rocks, wash-outs, and quite steep areas required me to walk the bike. My bike is great, but it’s not a hybrid of a road and a mountain bike.
Jack took the road route and met me at the flats, along Bluebell, which trails along the riverbank. It was a nice, level, flat “easy” track, with few roots and rocks, although we still had to be careful.
We popped back to our campsite and had lunch (Lebanon bologna sandwiches — another throwback to my childhood), then set off again to do the “River Trail” — another flat-ish shoreline/floodplain trail. We connected to that one via the full-service rental cabins (there are “camping cabins” in our RV area, and while they have electricity, bunk beds and a roof/door/windows, there is no water inside, nor any showers, so the users are bathhousers like us). The full-service cabins have all amenities inside, including kitchens, private showers, living room furniture, etc.
The River Trail was a splendid track, with either gravel or cinders, depending on the section, and we had a great good time. Total cycling mileage for the day was around 10 miles.
So our final non-travel day of the trip proved to be an excellent one. When we had gotten settled, and I was just going inside Roomba to grab a beer and some wine for Jack, another person wanting to see an Alto stopped to get a tour. He lives in the area and hikes these trails frequently. He’d seen us drive in yesterday, took note of the manufacturer, and looked up the Safari Condo website. Intrigued, he came back to the campground to see if we were still here, and since we were, he stopped. He has already emailed SC and has been referred to Denis Messier, so with our endorsement, maybe he’ll be ordering one soon, for pickup after January 2017. The wait didn’t seem to bother him at all. So we might have helped make another convert to our cult.
Even though we miss the puppy dogs, and even though we really need to get home to work on our normal lives again, it’s days like this that are perfect enough and special enough — especially when they come late in a trip — that make you want to keep going. To see around the next corner; find the next trail; see the elusive moose; watch more soaring redtailed hawks; and eat more excellent meals made with local staples.
So, I guess today will help us think about and plan our next trip. Tomorrow we drive home and we’re really looking forward to seeing doggies and friends, and planning the next adventure.