Shenandoah NP & Blue Ridge Parkway - 2001

7/15 - Hagerstown to Mathew's Arm, Shenandoah NP

Mvc-202f.jpg (111181 bytes)

The trip was preceded by the Bannigan Family Weekend at the Breslins in Hagerstown MD.  We left Alice & Hughie's around 11:00 and headed to the Outlet Mall. Yeah, that's right - a mall ... an OUTLET MALL. We went directly to the Nike Outlet and bought two pair of running shoes ... and we saved a bundle, so there. We did a couple of other shops, got gas, and headed for Front Royal at the North end of Shenandoah NP (SNP). Most people would take I-81 directly to Front Royal, but not us. Instead of the 75 mile, 1.5 hour direct route, we opted for a more circuitous 110 mile 3 hour back road route. Ah, and we are so much the better for it ... except our gas mileage, which suffered mightily on the narrow, twisty back roads of VA. Do you know that there are no grocery stores in Front Royal? Well, at least we didn't see any, and we drove right through the place. We were forced to stop at a 7-11 practically at the entrance to SNP to get bread. It was late Sunday afternoon, so we passed on the "fresh" fruit. Once in SNP, we drove - leisurely - to Mathew's Arm CG and set up camp (picture).

We had a very relaxed evening, which included a 2.2 mile bike ride around the camping area. I was hoping to use the new cell phone to call Mom, but "No Service" is all that appeared on the screen. We turned in around 9:30 -- we were pooped for some reason. Oh, we saw Mars in the Southwestern sky through the skylight in RVan -- yay!

7/16 - Mathew's Arm SNP to Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway

Mvc-203f.jpg (57136 bytes)

We had turned in early, so we rose early ... around 3 AM. It sounded for all the world like a cell phone was ringing somewhere nearby, but ours wasn't turned on. And why should it work at 3 AM when it said "No Service" at 6 PM. A drink of water, a pee, and we were back to sleep until 6. We made coffee water and headed down the road looking for a turnout facing West. When we found it, we pulled over, made coffee and tea, and had a bagel, which we "borrowed" from the bag at Alice's. Thanks to Therese for bringing them.

On down the road at Big Meadows, we saw a fire road with a bike sign on it. We turned around and headed for the Visitor Center to see if we were really allowed to bike "off the highway" and how far. The rangerette pulled out a map, highlighted the fire road, and then said it may not go that far, there is a sign telling you bikes are not permitted beyond this point. How far is it; is it worth unracking the bikes? No, it was only 1.5 miles from the rangerette's counter. So we took the bike path to the campground and discovered that it cost $17 per night. We had paid $14 at Mathew's Arm, and tonight at Peaks of Otter we paid $12. Go figure. Soooo, we got in a 5.7 mile bike ride when we didn't expect to get any. Oh, we saw a blue bird and a whole bunch of galax in bloom among other less notable things. 

We (wee-wee all the way down and all the way home) left SNP around noon and headed down the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). When we stopped for lunch (milepost 10), I took the cell phone in hand, stood on a picnic table, and called Mom. She said it was as clear as if we were calling from home. There, I am no longer a cell phone virgin. We shall see how much it will cost to call Geneseo from Humpback Rocks Picnic Ground.

After lunch, we continued to Peaks of Otter. Janie read to me about the history, geology, and other wonders of the region as we putzed along. There are so many interesting stories. For example, in the mountains there are two kinds of cattle: this-a-way and that-a-way. Because they live on steep slopes, their legs are longer on one side. The this-a-way's have longer right-side legs, and the that-a-way's have longer left-side legs. If you have a this-a-way cow and a that-a-way bull ... well, you will never have any calves. 

We arrived at the Peaks of Otter CG around 6. Sure enough, the cell phone screen read "No Service". Apparently, cell phones are not designed to work in camp grounds. We wanted to use the phone to call Don Geddes. We hope to meet tomorrow, but he needs to know that we are here. Guess we will head for a mountain-top turn-out and call him in the morning. Later, dudes and dudettes ..

Oh, happy birthday Dad, my boy Ken, fidgety Bridget, my niece Casey, Ruth, Christine, Anne and all those other folks born on/about July 16.

7/17 - Peaks of Otter, BRP - Doughton Park BRP

Mvc-207f.jpg (126893 bytes)
Don Geddes
again and again and again

Mvc-208f.jpg (46221 bytes) A Brewhaha!

As Uncle Newt would say, we lazied along heading toward a possible rendezvous with Don Geddes around Fancy Gap where US52 crosses the Parkway. Not knowing exactly when a gummit worker would get to work, I decided to call after 9 am. We stopped at an overlook with a strong signal, and called his office - he was out, so I left a message. If I'd'a known my own phone number, he could'a callt me back, but I din't. So, half a hour later I tried again - go-o-o-lly, that new-fangled phone really does work! We decided to meet at Cumberland Knob, which is about 20 miles South of Fancy Gap. We arrived around 12:45 and Don showed up shortly thereafter. Let's see, when was the last time we saw Don? We've talked on the phone and by email fairly recently, but I can't recall the last time we actually met in person. It has been too long!

Don is a special person in our collective histories. He graduated '88 (before Brian & Amy), worked for the USGS, and then decided to do graduate school. He attended Tennessee at the time Brian & Amy were finishing. Connections, they are marvelous things. Don is now working for the NC Department of Resources and lives in Winston-Salem. Soooo, Don, wonderful person that he is, decided to drive over to the Parkway and spend the afternoon with us sitting under a large pine tree that occasionally dropped some sort of liquid on us. We chatted about former majors, and, yes, some of you all were topics of discussion also. Don has been faithfully reading Saturday AM, which makes it difficult to "embellish" too much ;-), or perhaps I should say too much more.

Did I mention that Don is a wonderful person? Did I mention that he has been reading Saturday Am? Well, because he is, and because he has, he felt the need to present us with the now traditional Alumni gift, meaning he, like the tree, dropped some liquid on us. You can see Don & Janie making the exchange right there in front of RVan. The beer is now in the frig cooling and will be tested tomorrow evening -- trust me, I am a Dr. I don't make house calls, but I might just call you at the office!

Thanks, Don for the gifts of your company and the beer. We are blessed to have such fine students who grow up to be even finer adults. Yes, Don is a bonified adult. He has a wife, Mary Ellen, and a two-and-a-half-year-old son, Logan. No, I don't think his middle name is Berry, but I may be wrong. 

We parted company with Don around 4 pm. He was headed to Ashville for a meeting, and we were headed to Galax to check out a bike trail. I hope Don's trip was more pleasant than ours. After spending so much time on the BRP, the reality of the real world is difficult to handle. That reality was accentuated by the evening rush of the work-a-day people trying to get home to do whatever it is that they do. We found the bike trail only after stopping at a filling station and asking a rather burly man who had not one, but two chaws of tobacco in his mouth. I had to ask him to repeat the instruction three times before I learned he was saying, "go strait down this street to the end and take a right on 58." Whew, I was just glad he didn't spit on me.

We found the bike trail, but we could not find a place to camp, so we headed back to the tranquil confines of the BRP and, eventually, Doughton Park CG. Ah, rhododendrons in bloom, quiet desolate campground, mac n cheese with tuna and peas, a shelter from the inevitable Appalachian rainstorm, and thou -- it is pleasant.

7/18 - Doughton Park BRP to Crabtree Meadows BRP

Mvc-209f.jpg (42725 bytes) Carolina Lily

Mvc-212f.jpg (98423 bytes) Pinesap

This was a "flower" of a day. No, not the weather, but the actual flowers. The weather was, well, not the best: cloudy, humid, and rather dark & dank. However, we saw lots of flowers along the road. Yay, us! We left Doughton Park with every intention of finding a bike path and riding the damned thing. It turns out that there is a detour where you have to leave the BRP and drive local roads. The detour took us very near the bike path, so we decided to give it a try. Just about when we were ready to give up on the whole thing, we saw a small post office. Janie had some cards to mail, so we stopped. She went inside and asked the lady there if she knew where the bike path was. "Well, they ride up and down it all the time." She was referring to the road we and the post office were on. Sure enough, a bit further down the road narrowed and had a sign with a bike and "Share The Road". We saw a biker and we saw a couple pickups on the road. There was only one place to park: a used car-tractor-implement-whatever lot. We looked at each other and said "Naw" and headed back to the BRP. 

This was not only a flower day, it was also a shopping day. The first stop was the Northwest Trading Post. They had bunches of stuff created by local craftspersons. The wares ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. The sublime would be a country ham & biscuit sandwich for a buck. The ridiculous would be the Hillbilly Bubble Bath, which was a bag of beans and the instructions: boil beans and eat 'em 'bout a hour before gettin' in the tub. 

The next stop was Cone Mansion built by Moses H. Cone, the denim king, on the ridge the BRP now traverses. Hmmm, Moses H. Cone, sounds rather like the expletive *Jesus H. Christ*, but much less sacrilegious. Try it next time you feel the need to swear. The house has been turned into a gift shop that features higher-quality work of local artisans (no Hillbilly Bubble Bath anywhere!). This is where Janie bought my Tequila Mockingbird print the last time we were here. We saw more prints with the same theme: Purple Martini, and Cockatiels for Two, but it seems to be stretching the point a bit. The Cones had a very nice flower garden with a figure eight path, and, if you believe the sign, they walked it most every evening. See pictures above and below. 

We learned that there are three types of rhododendron: Catawba, which blooms in June; Rosebay, which blooms in July, and Carolina, which we have yet to see (knowingly). This being July, the blooms below belong to the Rosebay variety. We also saw a Carolina Lily, which looks for all the world like our Canada Lilies. We also found some Pinesap, which isn't really a flower, but rather a non-chlorophyll plant. We also saw Butterfly weed, Fire Pinks, Tall Phlox, Jewel Weed (yellow only), Bergamot, Bugbane, Columbine, and -- drum roll -- Goldenrod. I have learned to hate Goldenrod because it signals the beginning of another school year. This emotional response goes way back to my grade school years. Maybe next year, I can finally appreciate the beauty of goldenrod, because I won't be going back to school for the first time in, *Moses H. Cone*, 52 years!

On down the road, we happened on The Orchard at Altapass. The story is long, but I will summarize it for you. They wanted a railroad linking the valleys to the West with those to the East, so they hired a bunch of Italians who had just gotten off the boat. Of course, it was an extremely difficult task and it took a few years to complete what became known as the Clinchfield RR. The laborers planted an apple orchard so they would have fresh apples. Smart, eh? The BRP later split the orchard, and the upper half was left to return to nature. The lower half, which is still on very steep terrain, remains in production and is the oldest continuously cultivated orchard in NC. We had stopped at this little gift shop before and spoke with the couple who owned it. They were retired Easterners who loved the mountain country and mountain music and used the apple orchard as an excuse to be in the first and do the second. Well, I am pleased to learn that they are still in business, and, from the looks of the much larger stage, still having their Saturday night music shows. Brian would be very happy here. 

While I was ambling through the wares at The Orchard, I found a small caned stool. It was like one Mom bought at Cone Mansion several years ago when we took Mom & Dad down the BRP. I don't recall how much she paid, but this one was only $35. The only difference is that mine is unfinished. I immediately put the stool under my arm and looked for a second one. No luck. The sales lady told us that this is about the last stool Zelma Woody, who used to work at The Orchard, made before arthritis put an end to her caning. She also told us we could visit Zelma who lives down by the hot springs or Zelma's brother, who runs Footer's Chairs in Spruce Pine. We didn't go, but should have. Someday, our heirs will need to know the provenance of our antique stool.

After all that, it was too late to get to the Folk Art Center in Asheville, do more hunting and gathering, and then find a campsite. We had camped late last night and didn't want to repeat the process tonight, so we stopped at Crabtree Meadows and are now happily ensconced in site 38 while the intermittent rain passes us by.

Oh, I'm drinking a Low Down Brown from Cottonwood Brewing of Moresville NC. This is one of the selection Don was gracious enough to donate to the cause. What cause? Well, the cause of my delight, that's what cause. Thanks, Don. Here's to ya.

Mvc-213f.jpg (102167 bytes)  Janie in a Rhododendron Bower. Mvc-215f.jpg (72572 bytes)

Mvc-218f.jpg (48958 bytes)  Rhododendron is a pink flower.

 7/19 - Crabtree Meadows BRP to Pisgah BRP

Mvc-219f.jpg (30608 bytes)

Mvc-230f.jpg (113191 bytes)  RVan has great power.

Well now, here I sit in Pisgah CG drinking Indica, an IPA from Lost Coast Brewery & Cafe by way of my really, really, really good friend, Don. Thanks again, Don - I'm blessed. Today was a continuation of the hunting and gathering we started yesterday. It was cloudy with occasional fog punctuated by short but intense rains. This is the Appalachians, folks. It rains. The very atmospheric conditions that prevented us from getting clear views of the surrounding scenery provided Turner-like images of en echelon mountain peaks dappled with fog and morning sunshine. We arrived at the Folk Art Center in Asheville shortly after nine. Wow! They have a lot of really neat stuff. We found a cherry lazy Susan that cost as much as our new table. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we didn't find a companion for the caned stool I got yesterday. We ended up buying just one thing: a book entitled Our Southern Highlanders, which was originally printed back in the 1922. 

We first heard of Our Southern Highlanders from Brian. He brought us a CD of music inspired by the book. That is, someone was so impressed by the stories in the book that he wrote a bunch of songs to go with it. We had tried to get a copy locally, but Sundance told us it was out of print. Janie went to the out-of-print web site and found some copies, but feared for their condition, so she didn't order any. Well, here it was: a paperback brand new and shrink-wrapped in cellophane. Brian thought the music was so good that the book must be even better. Well, Brian, we now have the book, so we expect you to come visit, sit on the deck, read the book, and drink Storm King (while I mow the yard or whatever). 

We stopped at several pullouts while Janie read stories about local history of the region and how certain places got their names. If any one ever goes down the BRP without this book ... well, it would be a big mistake, let me tell you. Oh, the book is Blue Ridge Parkway Guide by William G. Lord (we just call him The Lord) who was park naturalist for several years. The book is twenty years old, so some of the details have changed, but the stories are just grand. Get one and read it even if you don't do the BRP.

We got to Pisgah around noon. They have a gift shop and a little restaurant, so we did some hunting there. We had a look at bill of fare at the eating part. Ah ha, country ham dinner for $9, mountain trout, which they fillet at your table (yuck), for $12 and several pretentious-sounding dishes for a bunch more money. Guess what? We are are coming back for dinner, and we are BOTH getting country ham. But first, we drove on to Richland Balsam, the highest elevation on the BRP (6053 feet). When we turned around and headed back to Pisgah, we are officially on the way home now. I guess that deserves a celebration -- dinner at the Pisgah Lodge. Yay, us!

7/20 - Pisgah BRP to Doughton Park BRP

Mvc-231f.jpg (110857 bytes)

Mvc-234f.jpg (50755 bytes)  View from the voting booth.

Ho-boy, this was another shopping day. I guess if we don't have NWFs to bike and ducks to watch, we shop. Anyway, we are back at Doughton Park in good ol' #16, the same site we used on the way down. I'm having another of Don's fine brews: Belhaven Scottish Ale -- from Scotland! Hey Don, I didn't realize this was an import - I should have taken more ;-) It is a fine, sturdy ale, and I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

Most of the day, we were sheathed in fog with occasional rain. We made our way to Oteen NC, on the outskirts of Asheville, where we stopped at a Texaco/Krispy Kreme for gas and, well, you know. I delighted in the blueberry with icing, but Janie thought the icing made it too sweet. This from the woman who can eat her weight in chocolate. However, she does prefer dark, bittersweet chocolate, in case any of you were wondering. We were reminded of the blueberry flavor all morning - burp. After "provisions" were procured, we parked ourselves in the parking lot of the Folk Art Center. Why were we back at the Folk Art Center? Remember that book, Our Southern Highlanders? We decided we should get Brian his very own copy. While we were having our Krispy Kremes and waiting for the Folk Art Center to open, two couples of retired persons ambled our way. I noticed they were all wearing binoculars, which, at this hour, is a sure sign of a birding outing. "Looking for birds?", I asked. "No, we are just waiting for a group to go look at wildflowers." One of the wives started asking pointed questions about RVan. Well, go in and have a look. "Oh my", she responded from inside RVan. The dealer had given us several brochures, so I dug one out and gave it to her. We had a pleasant conversation about traveling, birding, and trying to identify flowers. They seemed like good people. Wonder what they thought of us. I'm sure they thought we were "young'ins", although I am probably older than any of them. 

Janie had read about an outlet center and possible BBQ place just off the parkway in Blowing Rock, so we headed toward that. The outlet was small potatoes compared to the one in Hagerstown, but we did score a couple things that we neglected to purchase before. Friday afternoon in a crowded mall was enough to send us scurrying back to the BRP - without any Carolina-Q. Hey, we have country ham from last night and grits from Mabry Mill. I called Mom in the early afternoon -- this cell phone thing could get addicting -- and she told us how to cook 'em up. Soooo, tonight we are having country ham and grits. 

Oh, I neglected to tell you about our dining experience last night. We sat in RVan and had a beer before we headed for the lodge. Maybe that's what clouded our thinking. Anyway, we just couldn't decide whether to walk or bike the half mile to the lodge. We finally decided to walk and actually started out when the sky dropped some liquid on us. We looked at each other and decided driving would be the thing to do. I let Janie out at the door, while I parked RVan. I threw my rain parka on and ran for the lodge. I was pretty soaked from the mid thigh down, but, hey, we are in the wilderness, right? The dining room had three glass walls with the front overlooking the valley below. Did I tell you it was raining? Did I tell you it was foggy? All we could see was rain trickling down the window pane and nothing but white beyond. Our "server" was a lad named Timothy who appropriately asked if we would like a drink. Why, yes we would, Timothy. We'll have us a bottle of that there Biltmore Estates Merlot (Mare-Lote). Tim brought it out, uncorked it, and poured me a taste. No, I didn't gargle it as usual. Rather, I took a sip, thoughtfully considered its merits, and told Tim it's okay for the slut, but I'll need something a little better. Tim was already in the motion of filling the glasses when the words sunk in. I told him I was just kidding. 

We started pounding down the wine between gastronomic interludes of salad, main course, and dessert. The dinner was two slabs of country ham with broccoli and a baked potato. Yep, we both got exactly the same thing ... and for only $9 each. Hell, the merlot was $18. Dessert? When Timothy asked if we wanted dessert, Janie asked if they had anything that would qualify as death by chocolate. Why, yes they do, a slab of dark chocolate propped up against a scoop of strawberry ice cream, surrounded by randomly placed strawberries and dollops of whipped cream. We finished the wine and the dessert, asked for a container for two left over slabs of ham, and bid farewell to our fog-encased glass dining room. That brings us right back to tonight's dinner: ham and grits. I'll let you know how it went ;-)

Before we left camp, I took a picture out our kitchen window, which is what we look out while we "vote". It's the right hand picture in the first row of this narrative. RVan's back windows are standard conversion-van which means they have a darkish tint. Things tend to look better when viewed through those windows. Wonder why all windows aren't tinted thusly? 

7/21 - Doughton Park BRP to Roanoke Mountain BRP

Mvc-235f.jpg (78779 bytes)

Mvc-239f.jpg (118384 bytes)

Well, I can now tell you that grits is good ... if you have a pat of butter, which we did. And the ham was good, too. It was a glorious meal befittin' a couple of mountaineers such as us. Right! 

We lazied down the road all morning, stopping at pullouts for toast and apple butter, coffee, and tea. I thought our shopping days were over. Man, was I wrong. Janie had penciled in stops at Mabry Mill (corn meal & grits), Mayberry Trading Post (no, not THAT Mayberry, but close), and Chateau Morrisette (hoity toity, hunh). We arrived at Mabry Mill around noon; it was a zoo. We had had a few days to decide what to buy, so all we had to do was duck in, bob and weave around other shoppers, pay and head on down the road. 

The Mayberry TP was a trip - to the past. I bought a bag of horehound candy, which I remember my Grandmother, my Mom's Mom, liking. Hope she likes it, too, because I'm not sure I do. There were some very odd things in this store; much like my Aunt Grace's store in Sinking Springs, Ahia. Yeah, it's a carbonate terrain. Words cannot do justice. It was a blast from the past; a bag of homemade lye soap for $1, anyone? The proprietress was playing solitaire on a computer, but they don't have a cash register, just an adding machine, and they don't take credit cards.

We almost skipped the jewelry/knick-knack shop next to the trading post, but it proved even more interesting. The jewelry was arrayed according to the type of stone, with examples of the raw material and finished product. For example, half a table was tiger eye; the other half, unakite (the NC or VA state stone, a mixture of K-spar and Epidote; we later learned the Alleghenies were formally called the Unakas, hence unakite, I suppose). The strangest thing about this little shop with its original plank floors were the prices. Janie bought five pair of earrings (red shell, brown tiger eye, black tiger eye, snowflake obsidian, metallic hematite) for $26. As before, the proprietress wasn't prepared to do credit cards, but she would accept a personal check. Gee, a piece of paper with our name on it.

At Chateau Morrisette Winery, we had one of those "Small World" experiences. It was the normal tour-taste-buy place - pretentious but interesting. We skipped the tour and went straight to the tasting of their twelve wines. Janie didn't care for the drier ones, so I got to double dip. We were both just a bit tipsy after that experience; just tipsy enough to buy a mixed case of Vidal Blanc, Blushing Dog, and  Our Dog Blue, which we are sampling at this very moment. The "dog" theme turned an ordinary VA winery into a happening thing. It seems their black lab Hans, liked to lap up the spillage. When Hans died (age 17), the owner renamed a wine to honor the dog. The wine, formerly named Trilogy, became Black Dog and sales shot up 400%. With the added income, they built a new building, of cedar from the St. Lawrence. These are 100-year-old cedar logs washed downstream in a storm and buried in mud. The burial resulted in a strong suction, making extraction impossible at the time. It turns out that it is cheaper to get 100-year-old once-buried logs than recently felled trees large enough to produce a 36 inch beam. Go figure. They now have five varieties of "dog" wines, all selling very well. Ah, marketing! 

Oh, the ""Small World" experience came at the end of the wine tasting. I was actually behaving myself for a change. We were in a small group of three couples. The other couples were asking questions like, "Does 'Blanc' mean whaayht?" Anyway, at the end, when I was just a tad lit, the nice, young serving-wench asked us where we were from. We said Western NY, just south of Rochester. Her face lit up, and she said, "Where? I went to Geneseo for two years." To which we replied, "We teach at Geneseo. Did you take Geology?" The exchange was getting very animated by this time. She said, "No, but Barb Blohm was my roommate. I went to her wedding to Brian Henderberg. Did you know them?" Hell yes, we know Barb & Brian. This was an even "Smaller World" experience than yesterday when the Talented Staff lady at The Orchard said she used to manage the World of Science store in Rochester! If anyone out there knows where Brian & Barb are, tell them Chris Pavel Fox says HI.

Did I tell you about the doormat? The doormat said (no, it didn't actually talk, you have to be careful with wording in these days of talking fish and such), "We serve only the finest vintage wines. Did you bring any?" I liked that sentiment, but it wasn't worth the $16, so we just wrote it down on a piece of paper. Hey, we bought $100 of wine, that should be enough to feed the dog, don't you think?

The parkway was very busy. It was Saturday afternoon, and we were afraid we would not be able to find a campsite; a fear heightened by the mob scene at Rocky Knob Picnic Area. We decided to check out Roanoke Mountain CG. We have never stayed here. It is just outside the city, so we assumed it would be crowded and overused (abused). Au contraire. It was not crowded and had a nice relaxed, peaceful feel. We decided to set down roots even though it was only around four. I put up a hammock and proceeded to read from Our Southern Highlanders. Brian, this book may change your life. My new, retired life has begun: reading in a hammock -- send me your reading suggestions.

I'm thinking there are four basic parts to a complete life. There is the growing up and learning part. Do it respectfully. That is followed by the working part. Do this part with honor and distinction. Then comes the living part. I suggest we are too busy during our working life to be aware of the living of our lives. This part has to be studied and done deliberately. Yes, approach the living part of your life very deliberately and treat it with great respect. This is the part where you reflect on the growing up, learning, and working parts of your life. This is the part I am about to embark upon. Oh, the last part is the dying part. This must be done with great dignity. When it is our time to die, we should do it quietly and with satisfaction. It represents the time when we turn things over to the next generation and hope they live their lives as thoroughly as we have. I agree with whomever said "The unexamined life is not worth living".

A couple of observations I had been meaning to make are: there are about as many motorcycles as cars on the BRP and every pullout has the requisite Towhee (T-Wee). In addition to motorcycles, there are many more bicyclists than I remember. I think it would be nice if eventually the BRP could be made into a bikes only road (after we are finished driving RVan, or whatever successor there may be, down it). Maybe in my next lifetime I can bike the BRP.

7/22 - Roanoke Mountain BRP - Seneca Shadows NF CG WV

Mvc-242f.jpg (132414 bytes) Janie does the AT - about 1/2 mile of it.

Today we bid adieu to the BRP. The closer we got to the end, the slower we went. It took us a good five hours to cover 100 miles. Of course there were stops, and not for shopping. We stopped for a second cup'a on a narrow ridge where we could look both East & West. The AT also crosses here, so Janie took the opportunity to "do the AT" and pick a few blueberries. I decided once and forever that I am a forenoon person. I greatly enjoy my mornings, especially on this trip. Our fellow travelers are late risers - and they must have their breakfast. That leaves the road pretty much to us. During these morning hours we see most of the wildlife: deer, turkey, and today, something that looked like a fox with short legs. We surmise it was of the weasel family, maybe a martin. Yep, the forenoon is time to be on the road. We exited the Parkway around milepost 30, where we picked up a small road heading for West -By-God-Virginia. Our intention was to find a new Canaan Valley NWR near Seneca Rocks. It isn't on any of our maps (except the NWR map), so we'll have to ask someone whar 'tis. 

The afternoon is a time to laze around in camp and read Our Southern Highlanders. Kephart has the best description of the Appalachians I've ever seen. See if you agree.

Characteristic is the dreamy blue haze, like that of Indian Summer intensified, that ever hovers over the mountains. Both the Blue Ridge and the Smokey Mountains owe their names to this tenuous mist. It softens all outlines, and lends a mirage-like effect of great distance to objects that are but a few miles off, while those farther removed grow more and more intangible until finally the skyline blends with the sky itself.

Yep, I am learning a lot from this book. I must constantly remind myself that it was written in 1913. I would have to say that, in terms of what an educated person knows, we may have lost more than we have gained. Kephart argues convincingly that the Appalachians are the equal of any better known mountain range. He supports these arguments with facts and figures that only a research librarian would know. This is 1913, and he has me bested on nearly every detail. He would like to know the Plate Tectonics interpretation, but I wouldn't want to be the one to explain it -- he would ask way too many penetrating questions. Kephart was instrumental in establishing Great Smokey Mountains NP, although he died before the legislation was finalized. He wanted it preserved because "I owe my life to these mountains and I want them preserved that others may profit by them as I have." I wonder how Horace would feel about the Smokeys today ... especially Dollywood. 

More facts gleaned from Kephart: 

In this region nearly all trees attain their fullest development. On the north faces of hills the oaks reach a diameter of five to six feet. In cool, rich coves, chestnut trees grow from six to nine feet across the stump; and tulip poplars up to ten or eleven feet, their straight trunks towering like gigantic columns, with scarcely a noticeable taper, seventy or eighty feet to the nearest limb.

I have named only a few of the prevailing growths. Nowhere else in the temperate zone is there such a variety of merchantable timber as in western Carolina and the Tennessee front of the Unaka system. About a hundred and twenty species of native trees grow in the Smokey forest itself. When Asa Gray visited the North Carolina mountains he identified, in a thirty-mile trip, a greater variety of indigenous trees than could be observed in crossing Europe from England to Turkey, or in a trip from Boston to the Rocky Mountain plateau.

We had been dreading the drive through Western VA and Eastern WV. Our few experiences with the world outside the parkway were less than pleasant. Maybe it was the power of negative thinking, but this afternoon's drive was pretty good. 

During the whole trip, we've been amazed at the absolute lack of mosquitoes and other biting bugs. I read the explanation in Kephart last night. "The reason is that in the mountains there is almost no standing water where they can breed." He also mentioned no-see-ums, which I assumed was a modern term. However, the common house-fly is extraordinarily numerous and persistent according to Kephart. 

Well, that's it for the Blue Ridge. Tomorrow we will complete our traverse of the Alleghenies and Appalachian Plateau and descend into the lowlands of the Finger Lakes.

7/23 - Seneca Shadows NF CG WV to Naweedna Mvc-243f.jpg (156083 bytes)  Wintergreen amidst club moss 

 Mvc-244f.jpg (99071 bytes)  Wintergreen flowers 

We departed Seneca Shadows fairly early and headed Northward toward Canaan Valley WV. The drive was pleasant, and when we popped into Canaan Valley, it was spectacular. I don't know the geologic reason for the valley, but it looks very much like a caldera, which I'm sure it isn't. We had not been able to find the Canaan Valley NWR in any of our literature; it was just marked on the US map of refuges. As luck would have it, we drove right by it. It was around 9:30 on Monday and the Visitor Center didn't open until 10:00 on Wednesday. However, the door was not latched, so Janie just went right in. I didn't see her go in, so I was wondering what happened to her. I had a couple of cookies to console myself. Eventually, I figured out what happened. Knowing how NWR employees like to talk, I thought maybe I should go in and rescue her. Sure enough, she was talking with, or listening to, a very nice gray-haired (prematurely) lady ranger. The refuge is only a couple years old, so it is not fully developed just yet. We heard about all their plans and a whole lot more. We asked if she knew where The Nature Conservancy Cranesville Swamp nature preserve was located. Well, she had heard of it, but hadn't been there. Maybe so-and-so will know. Out came so-and-so, maps and all. Of course she knew about it; she had just been there. After looking at the caddis-fly earrings, we thanked them and departed. Yep, you read that correctly, caddis-fly earrings. A local couple of aquatic ecologist/artists has an artificial stream in which they put caddis-fly larvae and different polished stones. The caddis-fly does its thing, the artist harvests the result, mounts it, and sells 'em for $30 a pair. Since Janie had just bought five pairs of earrings for a total of $26, we passed 'em by. Now we wish we had picked up at least one pair. 

The Nature Conservancy place was a trip -- to get to, get into, and get out of. After we finally found it, we discovered the road to the parking area was less than a car wide with myriad overhanging trees and shrubs. I managed to get through without too much scratching, only to find a school bus trying to get out. A school bus? Yep, a big ol' yellow school bus. I backed up and pulled into a little opening and let the bus go by. It was around noon (not a good time to do wildlife), VERY HOT and HUMID and the deer flies covered the windows when we stopped. But we plunged into the bush anyway and were rewarded with a pleasant walk. The description for this place says it is extremely user friendly. For a Nature Conservancy place, it was. There was a sign at the entrance (but just a small sign), there were established color-coded trails, and there were lots of signposts to describe important features. Unfortunately, many of the signs were missing from the posts. I don't think they had been vandalized. I think they had just fallen off and blown away. To give you an idea of how thorough they were, one of them identified and described a power line. It was an interesting place with a mix of local and Canadian plants, which were remnants of the last glacial epoch. No, I'm not talking about the power line. We also saw our last Rhododendron in bloom; barely. 

We had a little trouble getting out of the Nature Conversancy place. There were plenty of roads, but they differed greatly in quality. Unfortunately, our GPS system doesn't differentiate well between nice paved roads and really bad gravel roads. After a few false starts and U-turns we got behind this big ol' gravel truck and followed him out to a bigger highway. Hey, if a gravel truck can negotiate the road, why not RVan? We got dusted, but, as you might expect, the gravel truck was headed for open terrain. 

Our next stop was Ohiopyle, or is it Ohio Pyle? There is a rails-to-trails bike route there that follows the Youghiogheny River (the Yock) from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD (204 miles), then to Washington, DC by the C&O Canal (another 184 miles). At the visitor center, we found a woman who had just come back from lunch. She must have lunched on coffee because this woman was WIRED. She was very helpful, but you better take notes because each question is answered in excruciating detail with pictures and maps. She must be a frustrated/retired teacher. Maybe there's a future for me in Geneseo's Visitor Center. Of course, Janie (my brain) will have to work there with me. We were very tempted to stay the night at the nearby state park and bike some of the trail tomorrow morning. However, it was too early (and too hot) to stop for the day. I had already got it in my head that we were headed home, so I made a quick calculation and decided we could make it to Naweedna by eight. We got a milkshake at a little place run by degenerate teenagers and headed on down the road. That road was pretty crowded because we were just east of Pittsburgh. Eventually, we got to Potter County and things got much better. Hey, Potter County is God's country don't you know. 

It was late evening by the time we crossed the PA/NY line. The air was very heavy and the sun was just a big orange ball in the West. We've seen atmosphere like this many times before, but not in NY. We arrived home at nine. Janie made us a pizza which we washed down with beer while watching a 1939 movie with Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck. The trip was good, but home is nice too.

Oh, happy birthday Terri. Sorry we weren't here to help you find some land for your new home!