Sunday, February 10, 2019

More Brambles and Frozen Waterfalls

In my last post, I wrote about unsuccessfully going out to find the grave of my ancestor who was buried in what is now Shenandoah National Park. We went out again last weekend and, with a bit more (only a bit) information and some luck, we found it!* Now I have to say, I find it all sort of remarkable. I only live out here by chance. I grew up in rural Missouri, where most of my family still lives. I moved out here, by way of Oregon and a number of other places, for a job after graduate school. Other than my cousin, who I mentioned in my last post, I don't really have any family out here. Michael and I spend a lot of time in Shenandoah National Park, both volunteering and for fun, so it is pretty amazing to me that I have this kind of tie to the land in the park.

After my last post, a few people asked me about the history of the park and why there are cemeteries, many unmaintained there. The National Park Service has a bit of the history of the park here (link). Basically, the area was settled for well over 100 years before it became a national park. Also, the excellent podcast, Backstory, did a bit on the history of the park a few years ago (link) that I would highly recommend. It is only a few minutes.

Aaaanyway, after successfully finding the grave, we hiked up the Overall Run Trail, eventually to Overall Run Falls, but we also bushwhacked to another frozen waterfall. The weather was amazing - probably 60 degrees and sunny, which is more than you can ask for in early February. It was one of my more amazing days of hiking.

*Unfortunately, due to the threat of vandalism and theft, I am not posting any pictures of the grave nor the location. If anyone in our family wants more information, I'm happy to talk offline.
 Overall Run. By the afternoon, most of the snow was melted.
 Two cones of ice on the bank of Overall Run.
 Winter Orchid leaves. Likely a Putty Root Orchid. The leaves will die off in the spring and it will send up a stalk of flowers in the summer.
 An interesting fungus on a log.
 A frozen waterfall on a branch above Overall Run. It was hard to get in and get a good picture because the banks were so steep.
Overall Run Falls.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Birds and Brambles

I've been furloughed for more than a month, along with 800,000 other federal employees. On Friday, I believe a friend and I were responsible for reopening the government. We went out to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge to take photographs of birds and started idly talking about plans for photography excursions next week. When we got back in the car and to where I had cell service, I had a text from another friend saying, "It's Over!" Apparently, we should have started photography trips earlier in the shutdown!

Anyway, Friday was a lovely day. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It has more nesting Bald Eagles that almost anywhere else in the country. I believe it. I saw more of them, adult and juvenile, than I've ever seen in one place. We also saw swans, geese, ducks, hawks, and many other birds.
Tundra swans and Canada Geese
 A Bald Eagle perched on a dead tree.
 Another view of the bald eagle.
 Dry grasses.
 Looking out over the bay
 Ducks
We watched this heron hunting for several minutes.
 Mallards
 We took a short walk on one of the little trails in the refuge. This pine tree had interesting lichens on the bark.
 The remains of what was once a steam powered sawmill
 Fungus on a tree.
 Juvenile Bald Eagle
A Bald Eagle with a fish in its talons (click to enlarge).

Yesterday, we explored the Overall Run area of Shenandoah National Park with my cousin, her husband, their oldest, and a friend of ours. A few weeks ago, my cousin contacted me and said that we have an ancestor buried inside Shenandoah NP. The grave is listed in Lambert's, "The Undying Past of Shenandoah National Park." With a very rough, three-sentence description from the book, we set out yesterday hoping to find the grave. We fought our way through lots of greenbriar and blackberry bushes. We weren't successful, but we had a really nice walk in the woods (no day outside is wasted) and we found some interesting ruins. We also have some ideas for further searching.
 Ice in a puddle on the trail.
 An old gear
 An old pot on the ground.
Overall Run

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Seventh Annual Canaan Valley Weekend

We spent this past weekend with our friends in the Canaan Valley in West Virginia. This is our seventh (!) year doing this. I can't believe it has been that long. Time flies. We rent a lovely house close to a bunch of outdoor activities and cross our fingers that there might be snow. This year, we got a lot of rain and a little snow, and a whole lot of cold. Not to mention great food, board games, and a wonderful weekend spent with friends.

On Saturday, Michael and I went for a long walk in Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This bridge was perched oddly on a hillside, about 200 yards above the nearest creek.
 Michael pausing to take pictures on a hillside.
 Birch leaves.
Clouds descending over Canaan Valley. At this point it was starting to snow a little bit. That would pick up and then change to rain later in the afternoon. It finally changed back to snow Sunday morning.
 Trees on the edge of the meadow.
 The trail crosses the stream at this point. A beaver decided the trail crossing was a great place to build its home.
 The beaver dam near its den.
 We surprised a grouse alongside the trail. It left wing prints in the snow when it flew off.
 On Sunday, Michael and I and three friends went over to Blackwater Falls State Park. Since it rained all night, the falls were running hard. The red color is from tanins in the soil.
 Icicles near Blackwater Falls.
 Another view of the falls.
 We also walked down to Elkala Falls.
 Rhododendron leaves curled up in the cold (it was about 15 degrees).
 Our final stop was Lindy Point. Normally, this is a really nice view of Blackwater Canyon. On Sunday, it was a view of the cloud!
 Michael and I at Lindy Point.
There was a lunar eclipse on Sunday night. It kept clouding up, but right near the end of totality, we got a clear view. It was _cold_. It was around -8 and pretty windy. It was so cold that the trees popped and cracked around us. There were many things I could have done to get sharper pictures, but in the cold and at that late hour, I didn't think things through clearly. I'm just happy we got to see it!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

End of the Year

It has been a while. 2018 wasn't the easiest year, but we ended it on a lovely note with a weekend spent with another couple in Jones Mountain Cabin in Shenandoah National Park. We hiked the four miles to the cabin under gray skies after yet another in a long series of downpours in the wettest year on record in the mid-Atlantic. I was glad that we didn't have to cross the two rivers we hiked along - the Rapidan, which was running bank to bank, and the Staunton, which was also running high. We made it to the cabin in time to see the skies clear at dusk. Jones Mountain Cabin doesn't have any electricity or running water. Heat is from the wood stove and water is from the spring outside. We spent a lovely weekend eating good food, hiking a little and relaxing on a lovely porch. It was a great way to send off 2018 and welcome the new year.
 A tributary of the Staunton River.
 Club moss carpeting the forest floor.
 Near sunset, the valleys filled with clouds, which can seen through the trees. This is from the porch of the cabin.
 Sunrise from the cabin.
 Jones Mountain Cabin at sunrise.
 The overlook near Bear Church Rock. We hiked up here on Saturday morning.
 Ferns and moss.
 Bear Church Rock.
 Bright green moss.
 Taking a break at Bear Church Rock.
 Michael and I took a walk up the hill near the cabin near sunset.
 Turkey Fan fungus on a tree on our hike out.
 One of the many waterfalls on the Staunton River on the hike back to the car.
Orchid leaves. This species of orchid sends up its leaves in the winter when there is less undergrowth to compete with. They die off in the spring and the plant blooms in mid-late summer.