28 December, 2014 What a present!
Ev went to spend Christmas week with her family in NJ so I was here by myself! My friend Pat and his family invited me to have dinner with them here in Richmond and I gladly accepted. And was well-rewarded – it was remarkable. The company was the best part but the food was out of this world. Including but not limited to a childhood favorite called Yorkshire Pudding. I think the last time I ate it was around 1974 or so and it was as great as I remembered it.
But Christmas Day I had to myself and it was gorgeous and Turner and Mackey and I drove up to the Appalachian Trail just west of Charlottesville, VA. From here specifically we drove west on Interstate 64 and got off at Exit 99, where Skyline Drive ends and the Blue Ridge Parkway begins. If you’re driving west on 64 from Richmond, VA, when you get to Exit 99, the Shenandoah National Park is on your right and the George Washington National Forest is on your left.
We headed south on the Blue Ridge Parkway about six miles to the Humpback Rocks parking area. A high pressure system was blowing in and clearing the clouds away. Humpback Rocks is in a notch on the ridge and the wind was blowing a gale through there. I asked a woman to take our picture before we set out on our hike. Here are a few in quick succession (keep your eye on my hat):
As soon as we hiked over the ridge the wind disappeared – and so did all the people. For the entire hike. I let Mackey and Turner run the entire time. We hiked out of the parking lot around 10:30 and got back up there around 2:30. If I live to be a hundred and hike every day I will never get tired of being in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In any season. Christmas Day was clear and crisp and blue and every moment was a treat. Best Christmas “present” I ever had.
Since I’ve spent so much time on my “Every living thing” project, I haven’t paid as much attention to what’s inorganic. At this time of year on the Blue Ridge, there is granite in view in every direction. I’ve loved looking at it since we first bought the cabin in 1974. Here’s Mackey and Turner taking a breather in front of a large formation:
Mackey even found this naturally formed and naturally filled granite water bowl. Ivory and Nicky used to drink out of the same bowl every time we took this hike. Which was twenty times or more:
In a couple of spots I found streaks of quartz in the granite:
Wait – a fact I just learned. I love facts. You can never know too many. Until I began researching the last picture – on 28 December, 2014 – I thought quartz was a rock. But quartz is a mineral. Fifty three years old and until today I thought granite and quartz were both rocks. Now I know granite is a rock and quartz is a mineral. I wonder what else I don’t know? I’ll find out in 2015 and get back to you.
I know this is some lovely green moss – although I don’t (yet) know what kind:
Here is another moss. There is so much to know:
Look how much different stuff is in the next picture. It looks boring (to me) at first glance. But there’s moss and lichen and granite and trees and leaves and sunlight and sky and dirt and even Turner’s in the background there, just above the rock, to the right. At least in my own case, I have to spend a couple of hours outdoors alone before this stuff begins to drift into my awareness:
I got lucky and walked around a bend in the trail just as the sun was shining on the back of this fern:
Of all the places I enjoyed seeing granite, my favorite (perhaps unsurprisingly) was in the creek:
Ivory and Nicky and I camped in and around that area for years and years and years. When you’re hiking with dogs (or when you’re not), it is a huge plus to have reliable year round running water. You still have to filter it. But if you’ve ever gone on a long hike, see how much a filter weighs compared to water.
There’s another significant benefit at that creek – the Paul C. Wolfe Shelter:
If you’re just day hiking like we were, it’s a great stop. There’s a picnic table inside (you can just see it in the picture) and plenty of room to sit down. If it’s pouring rain it’s the perfect stop. Just up the hill is an outhouse with the most scenic view I’ve ever seen from an outhouse – now that I think about it, it’s the only time I’ve been in an outhouse with a view.
This is another benefit of being there – notice the two beautiful words in the upper left hand corner:
You can turn your phone off while you’re there or better yet not bring it with you. But I use it so much to take pictures and take notes, I like to bring it. But I love for no one to be able to call. And to not be able to call anyone.
We saw lots of attractive shelf fungus on our hike:
And no shortage of graceful mountain laurel. Which I am also learning about:
The more I learn about all this, the more I learn how much there still is to learn. But it doesn’t get boring.
I’ll close with a picture (another picture, I know) of Mackey and Turner. They are very fond of one another. And I of them. Have a great week,