October 25, 2018 [LINK / comment]
"Innings" and outings in October
In contrast to September, the weather this month has mostly been very nice, providing several opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Baseball consumes a great deal of my attention this time of year (hence "innings" in the title above), but I also make a point to enrich our lives by visiting various nearby places of special interest.
On October 4, Jacqueline expressed interest in a day trip, but wasn't sure exactly what she wanted to see. The weather was perfect, and we just had to go somewhere! After doing a Google (or Yahoo?) search, I came across the White Oak Lavender Farm, which sounded interesting, and it turned out to be exactly the kind of thing that she enjoys. It is located near the village of Cross Keys in Rockingham County, a few miles east of Mount Crawford, home of the famous Green Valley Book Fair. On our way there, we stopped at Leonard's Pond, a noted local birding hot spot; it was unusually full that day, due to the recent heavy rains. Upon arriving at our destination, we were immediately enchanted by the purple buildings, the big willow tree, and the gazebo out front. You can stroll through the scent-filled gardens and see the horse stables, and sample wine at an adjacent pavilion. Inside the gift shop are an assortment of soaps, lotions, and other products made with lavender oil. Jacqueline just loved it. I hit a home run!
On our way back to Staunton, we bought vegetables at a farm north of Weyer's Cave, and I stopped to take a photo of the famous "Turkey Monument" at the Rockingham County line.
Maury River canoe trip
On October 6 I went along on a canoe trip along the Maury River that was organized by Stan Heatwole, and it was quite an adventure! It was the first such outing in the Augusta Bird Club, but the weather forecast was uncertain, and only two other members attended: Ann Cline and Caroline [Ford]. I wasn't even sure I was up for it, since I have been having pain in my right heel since the latter part of the summer, but I was told it wouldn't be strenuous. Aware of the risks, I couldn't decide whether to bring my Canon PowerShot camera, and ended up flipping a coin, which yielded a positive choice. Ann lent me a special waterproof bag to keep my camera sealed, which turned out to be extremely lucky! As I found out, it's not easy to hold a camera steady while floating along in a canoe, and I only got a few mediocre photos [of birds] while on the river. But the weather turned out to be just fine, and I got several nice scenic shots along the way.
At about 11:25 we "put in" about six miles upstream from Lexington, where one of the vehicles had been left. I shared a canoe with Stan, while Ann and Caroline (who are more experienced) each had a kayak. I learned (or re-learned) how to navigate rapids, which for the most part were fairly mild. But about shortly after noon, at the end of a set of rapids, our canoe suddenly collided with a boulder and instantly capsized! After recovering my bearings (and getting my glasses back on straight) I had to rescue Stan's dog (a very small breed), and then retrieved the various boxes and bags that were floating away. My cell phone was inside my pants pocket, sealed with a sandwich baggie, and thank goodness, that was enough waterproofing! We were both thoroughly drenched, of course, but aside from a few scrapes there were no injuries. We gathered our things to get semi-dry for about 20 minutes, and then resumed the trip. To my immense relief, my camera, my iPhone, and my binoculars all survived without any damage. Later on I realized that I had lost my Augusta Bird Club hat, but it was kind of beat up anyway, so no big loss.
The scenery was spectacular, with steep forested banks on one or both sides for most of the trip. It reminded me of John Wesley Powell's exploration of the Colorado River in 1869, when he and his group made it through the rapids of the Grand Canyon. On the botanical side, we found some Paw Paw trees, and I retrieved one of the fruits that was floating in the river. It has a creamy color and consistency, like a mashed banana or custard. I don't think I had ever seen one before. We passed under the I-64 twin-span bridge just before 2:00 and reached the end in Lexington at about 3:15. It was exhilarating to have made the trip successfully with no damage. The club will probably have another trip like this one next year.
Blue Ridge day trip
For the next two weeks, there wasn't much travel activity other than a couple visits to the Swoope area, where I was focused mainly on birding. But last Sunday, October 21, it was bright and sunny, so Jacqueline and I took a leisurely drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were hoping for a fall foliage display, but the leaves had barely begun to turn color, so the sights weren't as spectacular as we had hoped. I was likewise disappointed that hardly any birds were to be seen; it was probably due to the windy conditions, when birds tend to hunker down in the underbrush. We came across a Box Turtle crossing the road, and did a U-turn, but never found it, so it must have gotten to the other side safely. After spending a while soaking in the beauty at Twenty Minute Cliff, we turned back north on the parkway. We stopped in the village of Love, intrigued by a sign advertising Brunswick stew, but they were closed until 3:00 and we were too hungry to wait. So, we kept going and ended up having a sumptious late lunch / early dinner at one of my favorite places: the Blue Mountain Brewery on Route 151 in Afton. I even bought a six pack of their signature IPA, "Full Nelson." Delicious!
Other recent photos can be seen on the Chronological (2018) photo gallery page.