On the Cusp

Today, as we squired our house sitters around Floyd and ate excellent “pig” from Bootleg BBQ, we tried to think if there was anything additional that we needed to get done before our departure to the airport tomorrow and flight Sunday.

One last thing, not knowing what kind of wifi we might have over there, was to refresh my FB page photos. I chose a pic of CJ from a couple of years ago, because as the leaves turn on the early trees (dogwood, maple) I’ve been reminded of falconry season, which will begin before I return. And seeing posts and inklings of friends near and far beginning to be ready for their own falconry seasons, I’m a bit jealous, but I know I will start the hunting as soon as possible after I get back.

And I chose a photo of sunset over Occoneechee State Park’s Buggs Island Lake (or Kerr Lake, depending on whether you’re standing on the VA or the NC shore) for a couple of reasons. We will be missing the activities and freedoms of traveling in Roomba for this trip (Occoneechee and North Bend campgrounds being among our favorite spots); and down in Clarksville, our upcoming tour leaders have a “family” farm they are able to occupy as much as possible between stints at their places of work, and we went to visit them last year, staying at Occoneechee. Soon, we shall meet up with them and our cycling tour friends for a new adventure.

We are heartily looking forward to our trip—not only the cycling but also the longish visit with family—and have heard from friends old and new with best wishes and “bon voyages.” We know that our critters are in the best possible hands, and those hands are supported by lots of big-hearted friends who have assured their assistance should any be required. It is lovely to feel confident in getting away when there are so many people standing beside those we hold dear.

More later, folks. And into the blue we go.

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Douthat State Park, Virginia

Most of us did a lot of lazing around on Wednesday, October 5. JB and Martha got into camp from their adventures in RV Repairland at about 11:30A. Ken and Diane wanted to spend a lot of time with Barley hiking some of the many, many trails around the park, and I think in the end they made some 6 miles.

They highly recommended a portion of their hike that went past a waterfall and up a ridge to the Tuscarora Overlook. They said the best way to get there was to traverse Blue Suck Falls Trail, and some of it is challenging and steep, but well worth the effort, they said. There’s a shelter and bench and resting/picnicking area at the overlook, and if you start at the dam end of Douthat Lake, it would be somewhere in the 4 mile range. We might think about carrying a few snacks when we go up there. Next Time.

We did hop in the car and run up to the park store and restaurant to grab some ice, and at the same time, we got a trail map. There’s apparently another waterfall to see along a different trail, and the waterfall is maybe a mile and three-quarters before the path begins climbing and switch-backing. The trail is called Stony Run, and there’s a parking area at the trailhead near the road. Jack and I wanted to do some biking this time (we hadn’t even brought our cycles last year when we made this trip) and we noticed another trail, part of the Allegheny Highlands Multiuse Equestrian State Trail. Its trailhead is tucked in the woods right at the very beginning of the Whispering Pines campground loop, near the (narrow) main road. We were lamenting the fact that the main road carries big rigs, and is actually a commuter road through the middle of the park, even though the speed limits are quite low (35 and 25 MPH). It has zero shoulder, and so we were worried about riding along it for 3 miles just to get to the Park Office, not to mention adding another half-mile of curvy uphill to get up to the restaurant and lakeside.

So we asked the person in the Office if the Equestrian trail (called Flat Run Trail, sounding more positive for us) was appropriate for bicycles, and she said sure. It ends at the day-use Horse Trailer parking area, but that’s only a few hundred yards from the Office. Sounded good to us for an exploration next day.

Wednesday evening, we wanted to grill a pork roast for everyone, and each couple volunteered to bring a go-with. I’d thought I’d boil up some potatoes to accompany the meal, but a pasta/pesto side, a salad, a sweet potato casserole, and some fresh tomatoes all ended up being tossed into the hopper, so I didn’t have to do anything except start and mind the fire.


We had a lovely meal that night around a beautiful fire (even if I do say so myself). The wind was still, and the temps mild, so it was simply a perfect evening with friends.


We began our last full day of this camping adventure (Thursday, October 6) by saying an early goodbye to Ken and Diane. They live in eastern North Carolina, and with hurricane Matthew bearing down on FL and SC, they felt that it might be wise to get home and see if they can batten down any hatches. Frankly, they might have to turn right around and meet Kerry & Gloria back up in VA, to seek refuge from the storm.

The day dawned with a blue sky, and Jack reported that he’d seen the constellation Orion when he got up in the night. It was, however, 44 degrees inside and 43 outside at our site, so we had to run the heat pump for a little just to get the chill off.

With our coffee and tea, we heated some frozen spanakopita (spinach and cheese) filo dough triangles, and I must say, they turned out pretty darn good in the Omnia oven. I used the rack, could get only 7 in the one layer, and heated them up on medium-low for 15 minutes, and at medium for another 15; then I turned them back down to medium-low for the third 15 (in my experience, nothing cooks quickly in the Omnia, which is fine with us). Yum.


The temperature was still in the mid-50s when we hopped on our bikes, and I elected to leave my jacket behind, so I had to ride a fast loop around the paved campground to warm up. Then we headed to the Flat Run Trail origin.


We were fine for the first section – rocky but pretty manageable. Then we got to a deep ditch that we had to walk through, and things went quickly pear-shaped from there. Jack let some air out of his tires so he could keep the fillings in his teeth. I soldiered on, but it was tricky going. The path more-or-less paralleled the road, so all of the drainage culverts carrying water off and under the road intersected the trail, and dried debris carried by the stormwater made parts of the trail unnavigable.


As a trail, it’s a great horse path. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone on a bike without fat tires and some suspension on their machines.

There are, however, two excellent bridges. One is a suspension bridge that I would not have touched with a ten-foot pole (vertigo), but I asked Jack to give it a walk so I could take some photos. This one is in place to cross a shallow but wide creek to carry hikers along an intersecting trail.


The other is a part of the Flat Run Trail itself, and is sturdy and an interesting color blue. We crossed it and soldiered on, though the trail’s footing was quickly deteriorating even more. Large stones, both well-set but sticking above the trail surface; and those kicked loose by hooves and feet made the cycling very unsteady. Several additional ditches were not ride-able with our cycles, so we had to watch the path carefully and dismount on many occasions.


At last we made it the 2.58 miles to the parking area for the horse trailers, and we scurried onto the main road for the last bit to the Park Office. We really didn’t need to stop there for anything, so we carried on along the road to the Lakeside Restaurant (open only weekends this time of year).


Jack felt his tires might be rolling on their rims (well, not really, but they were very soft) so we stopped and he got out a cartridge to refill to something nearer pavement PSI (80 for his tires). We went on to the end of the park where the horse camping is (Beaver Dam Campground), and took our Site Tour Boogie through there; then headed back toward home with a long stop at our fave camping area discovered last year, which is the Lakeside Campground, a no-hookups area that is quiet, beautiful, and as the name implies, right beside the Lake. While the sites are not reservable, they do allow pets, so Next Time, we will check them out to see if we might boondock there.

After visiting the last camping area (White Oak), we returned to Whispering Pines along the road, and made one stop to see the trail head for the Stony Run Trail, and our intention was to have lunch, then drive back with appropriate foot gear and hike up to the waterfall.

Our cyclometers indicated it had been a 13 miler, and we raced back along the road to beat the traffic (not one vehicle came up behind us), and Jack’s computer said his top speed along the road was 29 MPH.

Leftovers for lunch, and we got sleepy in the sun. Jack wanted to do some packing that afternoon, so we decided to ditch the hike and take our showers and tidy the campsite. Next Time.

As the afternoon segued into evening, JB built a fire at his site, and we all gathered there for the cocktail hour.


Still emptying out the refrigerator and cupboards, we had leftovers again and I got to make the potatoes I’d intended to make the night before, and we used up the fresh veggies in a big salad. The evening was clear and relatively warm, but the forecast was for rain beginning overnight, and everyone said they were going to try to beat the damp by breaking camp early the next AM.

Jack and I finally pulled out around 10A, and had a totally uneventful but quite wet drive home; about 3 hours, plus a stop for lunch and fuel along the way. We followed a full dump truck the entire length of Rt. 8 from Christiansburg’s Floyd exit off I-81, so the speed along there was only about 45 MPH.


In the pouring rain, we off-loaded most of the stuff in the car and in Roomba, then (after the Subie engine had cooled down) backed Roomba to stand the week in front of the garage.
Next adventure is the one we’ll take right before winterizing everything for a winter’s sleep.

Let falconry season begin!

Virginia Falconers Association Picnic

It was so fun to see falconers new and old at the VA Falconers’ Assn picnic yesterday. We saw Brian who came up from South Carolina, and the great news is that he’s moving back to VA. Lud and Lisa were there, Tony and Tony Jr. were there, Bill and Claire, and Kent — all of whom I’ve not seen for at least a year, and some I haven’t seen in far longer than that.
On the “new” side, all of my 3 apprentices showed up, and there were so many curious nonfalconer but “interested enough in knowing more” guests that we held a brief “Hawk Talk” to help inform them about how to get started, and to answer some of their questions. While we often hold “Hawk Talks” at our Open Field Meets, doing one yesterday was a first for the picnic.
  
My longtime friends, Julia and Pam, came to the picnic to see us and we haven’t seen them for a very long time. It was excellent fun to catch up, although I had official duties to perform for the business meeting portion of the event, so I had less time to play with good friends than I’d expected.

We had begun our bylaw-permitted election process to get licensed falconer/member input on nominations for the Association president back in June, and so I was pleased to make the announcement yesterday that Andrew was elected by acclimation to succeed me as president of the VFA.
Jack and I had also arranged to meet a total stranger, whom we’d “conversed with” only virtually, from our online group of Alto trailer enthusiasts. Scott and his family are Alto “wanna-bees” as they are doing their research on teardrop trailer options, and haven’t decided yet what type will suit their needs the best.
They were there as we drove up, and so Jack was able to show them the roof opening procedure while I started doing my presidential best to greet friends old and new. I didn’t see Jack again until lunch was almost over and all the forks were gone.
It was a good venue for our event, and Ken and Jen did a great job of making all the arrangements for the event. Last I’d heard, they had 40 reservations for lunch, and I spoke to at least 10 additional folks who had either eaten en route or brought their own instead of participating in the catered meal — so it was a very big turn-out at Massanutten. The only drawback was that there were few places to perch the birds that were brought along, so they’d be accessible to both handlers and guests. I saw three or four birds only, and every time I saw them, they were perched on their falconers’ fists.
  
And it was hotter all day than I’d expected, being at a ski lodge. But I guess we weren’t all that high up the mountain. In the shade it was okay, but it was better to be inside the air conditioned “nature center” where we held our fundraising auction. Gene did a fantastic job as our auctioneer, and kept the audience laughing and spending their money. There was some great stuff on the table and I think the Association made a goodly amount of $ to offset annual expenses. Overall it was a great event and I’m so glad we were able to go.
After things wound down, Jack and I took Roomba to Shenandoah River State Park near Luray, VA. En route, we took a quick grocery stop for provisions and dinner, and still found a very nice spot (#20) at 6:30 on a Saturday, with a tad of afternoon shade. Since we didn’t have to unhitch, we quickly set up without having to do very much leveling at all. We turned on the air conditioning because outside it was 88 degrees. 
Friday night, before we left for the picnic, we’d picked up the bike cover we’d commissioned our local yurt business to make for our bikes while mounted on the Roomba. Early Saturday, we’d had to remove it as there was too much “flap” in the material, and the Velcro had let loose. So one of the things we did before settling down for a chicken salad dinner Saturday night was to re-attach the cover, and with a couple of packing straps, we secured it better for tomorrow’s drive (we hope). 
  
Tomorrow, we’re on to World’s End State Park in PA.

Copenhagen sights

Arrived late afternoon Monday and linked up with Ini and Lee right as we cleared customs. Puzzled about the metro system for a while, then puzzled some more about the self-serve kiosks for buying tickets. Just as our flight landed, it had begun to rain. As we got on the train, it began to pour.

We were quickly in our new neighborhood, and a very short trudge through the rain from the station landed us in our new apartment building. Our hostess, Lene and her daughter Sonya, arrived with the keys and instructions. What a spectacular apartment!

We wandered out for a coffee by the nearby lake, and wound our way back to the apartment through an ethnic neighborhood with wonderful vege markets on the street. We purchased some stuff for dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast, ate well, shared wine, and hit the sack early.

I’d tried to get a call through to Bertel, with whom we’ve arranged to meet on our second day, so he might steer us to the best “gotta-do’s” for which we have time, but something went awry and he didn’t get my messages. Last emails of the night were exchanged between us to set up a meet for the following AM at Mikael’s gallery (Galerie Mikael Andersen).

Here are some sights and sounds of our Copenhagen adventure so far (no pix from our short, rainy walks).

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