As we get ready to leave on our next set of adventures, I thought I’d post a few pix from home, to remind us of what we’re leaving behind in July. Among the things I think we’ll miss greatly (besides our dogs) is the elevation’s temperatures that have not matched the heat wave crushing the rest of the country. Our highs over the past few days have been in the high 80s. Like much of the country, we’ve had high humidity due to afternoon thunderstorms, but we’re certainly not suffering like we might be suffering in a couple of days.
We arrived at Crabtree Falls Campground around 3 in the afternoon, Monday, July 18. This was a quickie excursion for me to participate on behalf of Blue Ridge Heritage, Inc., in an event put on by the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association. BRHI’s Master Pan for our future facility won an award, and the presentation was scheduled to be during the Chapter’s annual conference in Wintergreen, VA.
Just as the road (Rt. 56) began winding and twisting uphill toward the mountain range we could see surrounding us from a decidedly and surprisingly flat section of the road, we approached a nondescript left turn with the campground sign.
Narrow gravel roads and narrow gravel sites, defined by boulders and trees pretty much describe the entire place. The owners live above the registration office. Off the primary set of sites is a lovely creek whispering over falls and around more boulders—along a very pronounced cut in the mountains—ever-falling to parts unknown. I learned later that this was, in fact, the Tye River (or Creek?). The narrow sites are separated only barely by a few trees and rocks. At the time we were there, the place was virtually empty, but I’d hate to see it if it were full. It looks like a tent camping only spot that has only partially been converted over to RVs.
We had been assigned site #14, which, by web-view looked fine. We backed in every which way from Sunday to try to get her level and maybe allow enough room for the awning to be erected.
In the end, we gave up. No amount of Anderson leveling, or pyramids made with the plastic blocks would do the job. So we moved to #16. After all, the owner had said, when I spoke to him about reserving a site, that we could pretty much choose where we wanted to be when we got here as he did not expect to be busy in the middle of the week.
In Site 16, there was no hope of getting an arrangement that might include an awning, but at least we got ‘er level.
Shortly, we had the power and water hooked up, and especially, turned on the AC. When we were in the Lynchburg area (we drove up the BRParkway and got onto 460 at Blue Ridge, then took 29 toward Charlottesville for a while, then exited onto 151/56) it was in the mid-90s, on this, the hottest day so far this summer. By the time we turned into Crabtree Falls CG, it was 87. Not too shabby temperature-wise, but set-up had made us both steamy with the humidity. And inside Roomba, it was quite toasty from the sunny haul.
I checked the dinner rolls rising in the Omnia Oven, and found them to be too poofy to sit for another couple of hours until dinner, so I popped the air pockets so they’d collapse a little, and then let them rise another couple of hours. Our main dish was still hot in the Billy Boil: chili with beans that Jack had put together right before we left the house, and had continued cooking during the drive.
We put our feet up for the evening, and realized there was a total absence of cell service—not just a little, not a half-bar—zilch. So we read our books as the sun crept along to hide behind the western ridgeline.
Dinner was quite good, if a bit warm for the weather. The plan was to have the rolls and chili again for lunch the next day, but the rolls straight out of the Omnia were so good we almost ate them all.
Hit the hay early, and turned off the AC in favor of the vent fan and the cool air coming in through the windows and across our bed. Lovely to hear the babble of the creek nearby as we fell into slumber.
The Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association award event was not due to begin until the evening of Tuesday, July 19. So we figured a nice morning hike up to the falls for which the campground (and possibly, state park?) was named was in order. As we were hiking across the campground to pick up the trail to Crabtree Falls, Jack checked into the office (which had been closed by the time we discovered we could not level Roomba in #14, and we moved to #16 last night) to let them know we’d chosen a different site.
Unfortunately, the owner had promised site 16 to a return user who had requested that site specifically, so we had to move. The party was due to arrive in the early afternoon, so we had to scratch our hike.
The good news in this was that we selected a site that allowed us to erect the awning (#18). The bad news is that we had to re-hitch, stow a bunch of stuff inside, lower the roof, yadda, to move two sites along, and then try to level everything again, set everything back up, get everything back out from stowage, etc. And miss our hoped-for hike. And miss our lunch, which turned into a snack of yogurt and a banana. And run the water hose and the electric cord across the opening of the site, the pedestal being on the wrong side of #18 to accommodate both 18 & 19.
Along with being able to deploy the awning, more good news resulted when we discovered a path from site 18 down to the water, where there were excellent places to sit and dangle one’s feet in the cool river, observe critters, and just become immersed in the lovely audio of the rushing water.
We left the relaxing remoteness of the spot to head into Wintergreen Resort slightly early, as our Design Team Leader, David, had said he’d send some details about the place and timing of our meet-up for the event via email. It wasn’t long down the road before we began to see cell bars lining up on our devices.
As it turned out, we were about 40 minutes early, but we found a parking place, and were ready to just sit in the car checking the news, etc., until an enormous thunderstorm threatened to dump on the area. We high-tailed it into the Mountain Inn from the parking lot, and then just had to hang around for a while until David, who was attending the larger conference of which the awards event was just a small part, got free from his schedule to meet us in the lobby.
We learned when we spoke with him that another individual involved in the project for which the award was being given, Kevin, was also a participant in the conference. I was at the award event because I’ve been involved in the Blue Ridge Heritage, Inc. process of acquiring land, planning, and designing a facility that is intended to become an economic development asset to Floyd and Patrick Counties, in southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains. Here’s a link if you would like to know more: brheritage.org
We had a nice time, and there were several types of awards being given that evening, for various students, professors, regional planning groups, and projects like ours. This was somewhat of a big deal, and I was proud to be a part of the team to receive the Chapter’s 2016 Outstanding Design for a Nonprofit Organization Award.
After the ceremony, the group held a reception with heavy appetizers and a cash bar. We met quite a few folks that David and Kevin know, and were congratulated by several of the conference participants.
The food was good, but didn’t quite fill the hole left by the light lunch we’d eaten, so when we got back to the campsite, we heated the leftover chili and ate the remaining rolls with it. While the rain had obviously hit the campground, our awning kept most of the important stuff dry, but the forest duff had splashed up on all the leveling blocks and some of it had run through the “footprint” we place on the ground to help keep the dirt out of the camper, running along the inevitable slope of the site.
It was a lovely night, although the passing thunderstorms had left things quite wet and humid. So after sitting outside for a while (and as more thunder rumbled beyond the opposite ridge), we returned to Roomba and this time, we left the AC running.
We had enjoyed a passing thought that we might hike to the falls before heading back home, but both of us felt it was simply time to go. We ate some breakfast, broke camp at a leisurely pace, and headed southwest.
It has been fun to return from our recent travels to a nip in the air, the leaves just beginning to turn colors, and all the things I love about our home during autumn. Here’s a small image gallery of the natural beauty that surrounds us and makes us content to be home after a trip.
And no walk around the ponds would be complete without carrying the Chuckit, a ball (that floats) and the dog that chases until she drops.
While it seems sad to reach the end of an adventure like our recent trip, it is also very good to be home. During our travels, we missed nine-tenths of our asparagus, but upon our return home, were greeted by other beauties that I’m sincerely grateful we did not miss.
While Tour de Floyd participants were pumping their way up Franklin Pike to the first rest stop at the intersection with the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then were traversing the 30+ miles of the BRP that links the borders of Floyd, Franklin, Patrick, and Carroll counties, I drove my bike to Round Meadow and took my solo ride.
From Round Meadow, Groundhog Mountain is almost 10 miles. It is a very nice ride, with the mile up the north face of GM as the only significant climb. Although it was cold and windy today, it was a beautiful morning for a bicycle ride in the mountains.
I am (possibly) inordinately proud of myself for climbing Groundhog in my 23 gear. For those of you not familiar with mountain bike gearing, “23” means I was in the middle chain ring (of 3) at the front, and the third gear (of 9) on the rear cassette. Where “11” is what I call Super Granny (easiest to pedal and thus used for climbing); “39” is the top gear, used heading downhill.
Anyway, I think the most recent time before today that I climbed Groundhog I used the 13 or 14 gear. So using 23 today (and not dying) is an indicator of some training progress. Yay!
More good news: the Groundhog “Hill” picnic area is open. I pedaled in and up to the lookout tower (but didn’t go up the stairs) and took some pix, then stopped by the facilities to leave behind some of the water I was drinking, and then headed back to my car.
Where the stalwart Tour de Floyd riders did a Metric Century (100K, which is about 63 miles), I did a fast-run 20 and felt I had a great workout. And it didn’t take me 4-6 hours to finish.
Now I feel I can go to a special friend’s dinner party tonight and not fall asleep in my first beer.
To me, now is the most spectacular time of year. I don’t mean simply “early May.”
What I mean is the time when the tulip poplar trees swell at the ends of their branches and shove aside the remnants of the dried brown seed pods of the former year with pale green cones: leaves-to-be. When the maple trees’ leaves are shining, translucent stars of red and pale orange tipping each twig. When the beech tree in the back yard erupts with tiny hands raised, palm-out, to show me how the sun illuminates their dark red veins inside pink flesh.
Sure, the daffodils and anemones are great – as are the apple and dogwood blossoms, and the buds swelling on the blueberries. But the leaves of the trees re-emerging after a long absence – that’s what I love to see. And it can happen in my part of Virginia at any point along a rather wide span of time, within latitudinal limits, of course.
I was riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway this past sunny Friday (yesterday). In training for an upcoming bicycle tour, I didn’t take the time to stop for photos – and in any case, the photos could not possibly show the wonder of this: the fragile green of leaves on mighty deciduous trees far below the road I traveled, all in various stages of emergence, marching higher and higher up the slopes of the mountains opposite. We are still a week or more away from the flanks of our mountains having completely covered themselves in variations on the wondrous color green. Toward the lowlands, leaves are darkening to strong leather; growth still delicate and newborn higher toward the tops. Right now, the harsh and twiggy, brown and gray of the wintertime forest still inhabits the upper slopes, through which I can see the lichen-covered rock outcroppings, brown leaf-fall, and naked dirt beneath. It is a spectacle of earthly delight; of contrasts; of life and death; of past and future – of which I never tire, and that I always consider new and amazing.
Took a bike ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway this morning. Overcast skies, but warm. The longest of our National Parks has taken a beating over the past few months, and the resurgence of spring growth has not yet covered the lost treasures, which the recently-melted snow disclosed.
Met a man and his dog along the way. As I rested and ate my breakfast bar at Round Meadow overlook, he emerged from the deep cut of Round Meadow Creek, which the bridge I sat near spans. As we talked I realized he was a great good friend of my late mother-in-law, and that we had actually met several times in the distant past. Billy Cruze and his dog, Sam, walk every day along Round Meadow Creek and hike up to the Parkway and along the road, making a circuit back to his house.
Stopping to take photos of curiosities along my way added significant time to the ride, but I just couldn’t keep pedaling past some of these astonishments. And once you begin taking pix, we’ll, it’s difficult to stop, even if you face starting to pedal again in the “granny-gear” headed up a steep hill.
So here is my photo essay of April Cycling Along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
But today, an obligation was taken off my calendar because of it. I just couldn’t get there from here. At least, not on time. Had it been an afternoon meeting, I could certainly have gone.
Since it wasn’t and I didn’t, I decided to declare today a “found time” day. Sure, I could have caught up on the “to do” list. I could have cleaned the house or done the laundry. I could have gotten just a wee bit more of a handle on several upcoming deadlines I’m going to have to really hammer soon. (Noticeably not among the options = shoveling snow. No way.)
I could have taken one more step toward finishing out the last week of falconry season in style by flying the birds. Not really too smart, after all, though — the wind was such that they would have been blown into Franklin County, I expect.
I could have done any of those things. But I didn’t.
I decided to have a day to myself, with no gotta do’s, only wanna do’s.
So I sat down with a new toy and played.
It’s a digital pen and USB tablet, gifted to me from a very generous friend, Leigh Rainey (thanks, Leigh!). I was wondering how to get used to it. I’ve never been much for creating something out of thin air, preferring instead to use a model, so to speak. So I checked out some of my fave printed B&W photographs. I stumbled upon one that I’d taken a long time ago, on another day when late March dumped a layer of snow on us in Meadows of Dan, and thought to myself, “How appropriate.” So I photocopied it with the setting on “light” and studied it. The image really took me back.
Back to when I was working at a horse farm in Floyd. We used the photo’s subject trailer to haul manure and sawdust to our garden, after I’d hauled each horse cookie out of the stalls. Many days, we’d park the trailer at the barn so the horse s**t could be wheelbarrowed straight from the stalls to the trailer (instead of having to pitchfork it from the steaming manure pile into the trailer, to then haul to our garden/compost pile at home).
It took me back to that March snow, sometime in the 90s, before I had a digital camera. That was a warm snow; heavy and wet. It lasted only a few hours (as opposed to this, which fell yesterday, 7 fluffy inches, with another inch overnight and drifts along the driveway of 18 inches or so; and looking forward to continued sub-freezing temps for another day and night “they” say).
And when I sat down with the pen-and-tablet, it took me back to when I was high school age, and had loved pen-and-ink drawing. I haven’t done much of that since — tried a couple of things on the iPad, but you gotta keep your hand floating above the surface with my generation of iPad in drawing mode. That’s not only imprecise and fiddly — it’s tiring.
This wonderful thingie Leigh gave me is truly fun and almost-but-not-quite-exactly like a pen and pad of paper. It is pressure sensitive, just like real life. It does, however, make much more noise than the scratching of a thin nib on paper.
I’ve spent all day experimenting; creating and discarding layers; mapping out how the “paper” will be arranged with which grays/layers/nib widths would go where. After quite a few false starts and do-overs (I love being able to use layers and to save the bits I like rather than tossing the entire piece of paper out), I finished what I think is my first digital pen-and-ink artwork.
I hope you like what I finally came up with — gotta say, it was fun. Now I’m all inspired to get back to pen-and-ink — only at the digital level, though (I’m such a techno-dweeb). I just don’t want to go back to those frustrating high school days using ink, pens with thousands of expensive nibs (that need cleaning every time you’re done, and sometimes fail altogether), and paper with no do-overs.
Not sure how I’ll find the time, though.
Thanks again, Leigh, for the inspiration and the tools.
And okay — thanks, universe, for the snow. Really ready for spring, but the Found Time has been glorious.