Ramble On

Saturday, February 28, 2009

As seen on "the Valley Pike"

Last weekend we took a drive up to Edinburg for lunch. One of the treats of that drive was finding Meem’s Bottom Covered Bridge – highlighted here. Besides the photos, this discover set me off on research about why covered bridges were built, what other bridges there are in Virginia, and other tourist trivia like that…here’s some of what I found.

From the Virginia is for Lovers site…there were more than 100 covered bridges in Virginia in the early 1900’s. Today, only eight authentic, timber covered, bridges survive and there are six you can drive on. Besides the Meem’s Bottom Bridge in Shenandoah County, the others are in Giles County (1), Patrick County (3), and Alleghany County (1).

About the Shenandoah River Bridge: “One of the best-known covered bridges is the 204-foot single-span Burr arch truss known as Meem's Bottom Covered Bridge in Mount Jackson. The Meem's Bottom Bridge was constructed in 1892-93 from materials cut and quarried nearby for the massive arch supports and stone abutments, which extended 10 feet below the riverbed. It was deeded to the Highway Department in the 1930's in return for assuming its maintenance.

This long span over the North Fork of the river carried traffic for more than 80 years before being burned by vandals on Halloween 1976. After salvaging the original timbers, the bridge was reconstructed and eventually undergirded with steel beams and concrete piers. The bridge was reopened to traffic in 1979 and is still in operation to date.” (http://www.virginia.org/site/description.asp?AttrID=40588)

Finally, from Ask.com, they were covered because wooden bridges with exposed superstructures are vulnerable to rot, so covering and roofing them protects them from the weather and they last longer.

Also of interest is the apparent prevalence of them in the hilly areas of the east coast. This was not only because the population was growing in these areas during the mid to late 1800’s, but also because mills were built in these areas to take advantage of hydropower…and of course bridges were needed for commercial transport to and from them.
The Meem’s Bottom bridge is an easy stop off of US 11, less than a half mile from the road. It’s not well marked from the south so keep an eye out!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Presgraves Trial to Begin Next Week

It’s been a while since I posted on the Sherriff Presgraves saga. There has been news from time to time, but this week has seen a number of updates. In this post I’m summarizing three recent reports from Harrisonburg News Station WHSV. Presgraves is charged with 22 federal counts ranging from racketeering to sexual assault to taking bribes, and if guilty may face imprisonment and fines.

(If you are finding this from a search engine, click on the Sherriff Presgraves label to read previous posts.)

1. Presgraves resigned this week as Page County Sherriff – effective February 28. The trial begins next week in Harrisonburg, Presgraves only asked that he and his wife be covered for the remainder of the year on health insurance as a severance package – a request that was granted.
2. This puts the wheels in motion for a special election to choose who will serve the remainder of his term…the election will be held in November. It also makes the petition issue moot – a petition was developed and submitted, but rejected on technical grounds. A revised version was in the works, but not much progress has been reported on this.
3. The senior deputy is filling in for now. He told the reporters that he has no intention of running for sherriff.

Following the developments of this case has been interesting. Page County is fairly close to evenly divided in their opinions about what should happen. Many are very loyal to the Sherriff, while others want to see this over with. And quite a few were angry that he was in a suspended with pay status while waiting for the trial.

Progress on all fronts this week. Keeping an eye on this.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Culture Night in Luray

We try to take in some cultural activities in the area around Hawksbill Cabin whenever we can. Big City readers may scoff at the idea that there is a genuinely good time to be had in Luray and its environs, but read on and see what you're missing.

On a tip from Howard at Evergreen Outfitters, we learned about a one act play festival planned for last Saturday at the performing arts center downtown - read about it at: http://performingartsluray.org/oneact.html. Five presentations were planned, although eventually the school group who was going to do Spoon River Anthology couldn't make it.

We went to dinner at Artisans (web: http://www.artisansgrill.com/), a place that we more often go to for lunch, but have enjoyed in the evenings for special occasions - we were there on July 4 as a matter of fact. After a nice time at the restaraunt we went over to the One Act Festival.

We arrived for the final three plays, which were, The Open Road, by the Randolph-Macon Academy Theatre Troupe, Mother Figure, by the PAL Players, and Splitting Issues, also by the PAL Players. Turns out that Howard was a cast member in Splitting Issues, an adult-themed comedy - very funny!

We really had a nice time at the event. We're starting to know and recognize friends here, so that contributed to a fun night out. And we'll be keeping an eye out for more things like this in the future.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Book Review: Getting Green Done

Frequent readers know that this blog started when we found extensive termite damage to the cabin after we bought it (click on the "big projects" label for the complete history of posts on this topic). We had to take the roof off to repair everything. Once we realized what we were in for, we'd hoped to do it as sustainably as possible, but, at the time, the materials weren't readily available to us.

We eventually did a few feeble things, like installing compact flourescent bulbs, improving some of the windows, and adding insulation, but we were frustrated we couldn't do more.

I wondered why it just seemed like we couldn't do a better job of greening that repair and this book - Getting Green Done, by Auden Schendler, helps answer why. I caught a review of it in Outside magazine - and I haven't been able to put it down.

There's a great deal of easy-to-read details about why the leap from good ideas and products to actually having the biggest and best kind of impact on the environment is hard. As Schendler says, "Green is tough, even for the motivated." Everyone wants to make a contribution to getting more sustainable - there are simply still a lot of societal and industry hurdles to clear. Schendler's closing quote shows the way ahead - "You are not expected to complete the task, neither are you allowed to put it down" - it's a call to action.

Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution

What is a Rat Rod, you ask?

Even though the last few visits to the Eden area have brought family together over the loss of a loved one, the trips have been a blessing because they’ve allowed some time to get back in touch with folks we just don’t see enough. There is one more aspect of those visits that I want to write about before getting back to some news about Luray tomorrow – my uncle’s custom cars.

Uncle Tim is my dad’s brother, and he and his family have a farm near Stoneville. This time, he and his wife, Aunt Dawn, opened his home to the family as a gathering place between the wake and funeral service for grandma.

During our trip down in 2001, Tim took Mary and me to a little garage where he and some friends worked on car restorations and customizations. It was quite an operation, with eight or so stalls for projects, three of which were filled with ongoing efforts.

Then in 2006, he showed me this old Chevy that he had taken on as a new project. He found the car in the Midwest on eBay and brought home to do some work on it himself. Most of the body and interior work had already been done, so his efforts focused on the engine and some performance improvements. These photos show off the finished product.

He also had this truck that was a recently completed job. It is a jewel – very nice. These vehicles are mainly for having fun driving around, and they’ll often take them to shows and meets where other enthusiasts get together and show off their projects.

Now, after the wake, Tim told me about his latest effort – he was very excited about this one, and since I’m already gaga about the old Chevy and the “new” truck, I didn’t know what to expect. He called it his “rat rod” – a new term for me, which I’ve Googled:
“What is a rat rod? Many people have asked me, what is a rat rod? A rat rod is simply a custom car that is made for driving and hanging out with friends. Rat rods aren't ultra glossy show cars. Instead a rat rod is a "unfinished" street rod that is intentionally left a bit rough around the edges. (From: http://ratrodstuff.com/what-is-a-rat-rod)

So after the funeral, as everyone was hanging about visiting, Tim walked a bunch of us back to an old garage at the edge of one of his fields. He’d relocated his projects there, to a 2-stall work area that now houses the Chevy and the rat rod. Here are some highlight photos.

These cars are really awesome. I have no mechanical talent and that might be part of why I am so impressed. But it’s more likely that I’m impressed with the achievement I see here – a big project that takes talent, commitment and focus to bring it off – especially when those things are required in your hobby and past time. I can’t wait to see what the next one will be.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Cousin the Elvis Impersonator

So, I mentioned the visits to Eden, NC. During the 2001 visit for my grandfather, I learned that one of my dad's cousins had taken up a new line of work since his retirement - he'd become an Elvis Impersonator. Here's a poor quality scan of his "promo photo," taken at a Fourth of July event somewhere down there.

(Real name) Gregory used to pass through on travels, and I remember one summer he came through Georgia for a visit. He sang for us then, a big voice that could carry any of the pop songs of the day.

So we're down on our visit this time, and Greg is talking about the gigs and the other part of this work, hosting karoake nights at local bars and restaurants. Not bad work if you are so inclined and have some talent.

And as usual, he broke into a song - here's the original:

Road Trip: Eden, NC

Two weeks ago, my family members and I received the call that my grandmother on my dad’s had passed away. With that news, I prepared for my fifth trip in the last ten years to Eden, NC, on the border of North Carolina and Virginia, near Danville and Martinsville. Of the five trips, four have been for funerals – one every couple of years – enough so that the funeral director at Fairs, the local funeral home, probably recognizes me for a family member of those who’ve passed.

The trip to Eden is one that brings back mixed emotions, especially recently because of the past funerals, but also because we went there frequently during the summers when I was a kid, so we got to know our cousins and learned about what they did in their more stable lifestyle while our Navy family moved around from Maryland to Memphis to Florida to Georgia – wash, rinse, repeat. Mostly I’d rate those summers as a wonderful time, especially as dusk came and we stayed out late in the warm nights, catching fireflies and telling ghost stories.

There’s a bit of family lore – first about the town itself, which is the product of a merger of three smaller towns in the late ‘60’s – Leaksville, Spray, and Draper. This is textile mill country – there was an abundance of fresh water from two rivers, the Dan (this mural in the town center is a tribute to river commerce on the Dan) and the Smith that flowed through here. There was a Karastan carpet factory, where my grandmother on my mother’s side was a designer, and then the grandmother who just passed worked in a Fieldcrest mill. But all of this industry is gone now, and even the mill stores that lingered afterwards are gone.

The little house in the photo is where my great grandmother lived when she and her family moved down from Roanoake in the ‘30’s. My mother grew up here, and my aunt was born in the house next door. We usually stayed here on vacation – the whole neighborhood looks tiny now whenever we pass through. This is where my sister drank furniture polish when she was a toddler, and we rushed her off to the hospital for treatment…

The hotels are near the hospital, which is still characterized by the main building where she was treated. It gives us great pleasure, whenever we are in town, to remind her of the significance of the place.

A last couple of family lore thoughts, for now. My grandmother was a charter member of this church in Stoneville. And my step grandfather, who passed in 2001, joined that church with her when they moved back to the area from Florida in the late ‘80’s. He oversaw the construction of this picnic area using skills he learned as a Seabee in WW2.

I have a couple of posts yet about the trip. Like I said, the recent visits to Eden have usually been because of a sad event, but when we get there, there’s an impromptu reunion with relatives. And just like the old days, they’ve always got a surprise for us in terms of what they’ve been doing with their lives in the meantime between our visits.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dropping YouTube Vids

Over the weekend, I decided to drop the vid feeds. I like them and may still use them from time to time, but I suspect that they impacted load times on occasion.

I mainly introduced them during the holiday season and I can promise they'll be back then, if not sooner. Comments and thoughts welcome.

Spring is near

“This beautiful bird is the favorite of many people and is eagerly awaited in the spring after a long cold winter” says the Audubon guide. This weekend among the sounds that awakened us at the Hawksbill Cabin was the musical call of “queedle-queedle-queedle” – a song I hadn’t heard before – so I was looking forward to watching out the window in hopes of spotting what bird had arrived.

Earlier in the week, my friend Bob from Pensacola, who sent the Google Earth Blue Tarp image, told me that he’d had a flock of robins show up in his yard. I figure that normally would put us about three weeks from their arrival here in Virginia, but Mary tells me we’ve already had a flock at the house in Alexandria.

And over the weekend, we ran into the folks from Uncle D’s – who reassured us it won’t be long before we’re opening the pool. Plus, Mickey had been out for some early lawn work, and in the process uncovered the little dewdrops that bloom earliest of all of the bulb plants here.
So I didn’t need much convincing, since the signs were all showing up one by one. I posted myself at the big windows in the living room of the cabin as the sun came up over the ridge and rose above the trees. Soon as there were sunlit patches in the front yard, the birds came – our usual flock of titmice, chickadees, juncos, and downy woodpeckers. Then out came the house wren that lives under the pool.
Flashes of red across the road by the pond indicated some cardinals were around – and I saw both the male and female. Finally, from down the hill, a bright blue flash – it turns out that our visitor is an Eastern Bluebird, and a careful watch of the rest of the yard allowed me to spot his mate. They’ve been uncommon in the last few years, partly because they have to compete with starlings and sparrows for nesting places, but it looks like we may be lucky this spring, with a nesting pair nearby.
By the way, the photo above comes from the Wikipedia article on the Eastern Bluebird. The article there goes into further detail about the conservation status of the birds.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Blue Roof Town

Continuing with the guest contributor theme this week, my friend Bob from Pensacola sent along this Google Earth image of his neighborhood, taken not long after September 2004’s Hurricane Ivan. It shows all the temporary roofs installed in that area by FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers under the “Blue Roofs” program. As a native Floridian with childhood memories of the family taking shelter overnight in the bathroom – and as a fan of Google Earth, I found this quite interesting.

Bob said his roof didn’t need a tarp, although he had to do an extensive repair…he also said there are some roofs in the neighborhood where there are still traces of those original blue tarps. Not many though, and he speculates that the damage wasn’t so significant after all, or the repair just wasn’t addressed for some reason.

The stunning image sent me off on a research track – I vaguely remembered reading about the program back in the 2003-2005 timeframe, when it seemed like every hurricane was hitting a densely populated area like this. Here are some details.

From the FEMA site, a description of the program -
The recent hurricanes have left many homeowners with damaged roofs. Repairs to these roofs can take time. In order to mitigate additional damage that could result from rain, homeowners can have plastic sheeting installed over the damaged area by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors, in a program provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

To qualify for BLUE ROOF services, damage to the roof must be less than 50 percent and the area to be covered must be structurally sound for a crew to work on.

In order to have plastic sheeting placed on their roofs, homeowners must complete a right of entry form to allow government and contractor employees on their property. Right of Entry (ROE) centers for affected counties are manned by Corps of Engineers employees. For the center location in your county call toll free 1-888-766-3258.

  • The Corps is covering roofs in the hardest hit counties first. Be patient. The Corps will respond to every person who has completed a ROE as rapidly as possible.
  • Homeowners who had plastic sheeting damaged or blown off during Hurricane Jeanne must complete a new ROE form. The damaged or missing plastic sheeting will be reinstalled as rapidly as possible.
  • In some instances, there may be a slowdown in installing plastic sheeting because of a national shortage.
  • Homeowners can also cover their roof with free tarps provided by FEMA and issued through their local governments. Residents need to monitor the media for information on where to pick up the tarps.
And then I found this report about Jasper, Texas, following Hurricane Rita’s hit there in September 2005:
[Jasper] suffered considerable damage. The town was also left without power or drinkable water for about three and half weeks. Many residents of Jasper felt then, and still feel, that FEMA overlooked them and the situation that Jasper and Jasper County were in. Even as late as mid-2007 there are still blue FEMA tarps in evidence on area roofs as some people continue to await funding to make repairs.

…and a 2008 update:
…If you drive though in a year and still see the tarps that’s pretty bad. If three years after the hurricane you still see the blue tarps (which is the case in Port Arthur today, three years after Hurricane Rita) then the rebuilding effort is seriously flawed.

Finally, some details of the program implemented in Louisiana, post Katrina:
The tarps are to keep out rain until more permanent roof repairs can be made. Thousands of blue tarps can be seen throughout the city, since even areas without flooding suffered wind damage. A number of official restrictions, however, mean some residents are unable to benefit from this recovery program. Likewise, a number of subcontractors paid by the Corps only do "easy" low-pitch one-story roofs, choosing not to return to do more difficult roofs. Some New Orleanians have been living for months in homes with sizable holes in their roofs, still unsuccessful in getting either a blue tarp or a contractor to put up a permanent roof. Among the popular handouts at Red Cross relief stations were 5-gallon buckets, many of which are put to use whenever it rains. Six months after the storm, many of the hastily-placed blue roof tarps are in tatters, and the Corps will only allow one tarp to be placed on a roof, leaving these homes vulnerable again. Many people have still not succeeded in getting permanent roof repairs from such reasons as long waiting lists for reliable contractors and waits for insurance payment.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wildlife. Ewww.

On the coldest, hardest winter nights, the ones where there is no cloud cover to retain the sun’s warmth during the darkness, an eerie event sometimes happens in our part of the Valley.
Apparently there is a huge flock of turkey buzzards in the area, and on these cold nights they gather and roost together in trees that neighbor on open farmlands like what surrounds the Hawksbill Cabin neighborhood. I would guess there are several hundred at times during this gathering – I’ve seen them elsewhere on cold and bright mornings, but on at least three occasions I have seen them gathered in our area.
There are so many that they spread out over more than a square mile, so that you can see them all over, hear their rustling in the night, watch them turn their backs to the sun as it rises, and eventually, thankfully, fly off when the daylight is full. Sometimes they are pretty close by in the woods, close enough that I have scared them off when I take the dogs out at night.

From our bird book, the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds Eastern Edition – Knopf, I’ve decided these are definitely turkey vultures, not black vultures. I’ve drawn this conclusion because, although we see both types in flight, the large flocks are a key characteristic of the turkey vultures.
They are known to soar for hours over woodlands and neighboring open farmland – which describes the Beaver Run hollow area very well. They also, interestingly, locate carrion through sense of smell in addition to sight.
This differs from black vultures, which are smaller and more aggressive. They are identified by a conspicuous white patch at the tip of the wings while in flight, and locate their carrion by sight. Black vultures are more aggressive, loudly hissing and grunting. They will even chase away turkey vultures from a carcass, and have been known to take live young, weak, and small mammals or birds – all according to the Audubon guide. I’ve even seen black vultures nesting on office buildings in Arlington.
Back in the cabin neighborhood, since both species perch in trees and on fences, it is very likely that we see mixed flocks. Fortunately, it’s only a few nights per year.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cantor vs. Aerosmith

Just happened on this post at "WTF is it now" - I try to avoid politics on the blog, but can't resist this one about a Valley politician who's in over his head, and a band that's a long-time favorite. There is a language and topic warning I have to give.

"GOP: "Back in the Saddle" Aerosmith: "Dream On"

Aerosmith won't let the repukes use "Back in the Saddle" to promote their stimulus obstruction efforts.

House Republican Eric Cantor's clip that used the Aerosmith hit to declare that "The House GOP is back" has been pulled from YouTube for copyright infringement."Aerosmith did not approve of its use and expressed their desire to kick the living shit out of Mr Cantor," said their director of copyright and licensing, who said they also took issue with the bizarro statement that the "GOP is back."

Fun fact: the song is about having sex with a whore. So in that respect it would have been perfect for the GOP... ... ... Except for the fact that they're singing about female prostitutes. "

Phew. This last comment makes a reference to Larry Craig I suppose.

More at: http://maruthecrankpot.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Guest Blog from Dave G., Seven Summitter

Today, thought I'd share my friend Dave G.'s recent post about the Mt. Vinson summit in Antarctica last month. Dave has completed five of the seven summits.

Dear Friends,I am writing to thank you again for your support and to let you know that we just returned from a successful expedition to the summit of the coldest and most remote continental high point: Mt. Vinson.

On January 19th, after eight days of travel and five days of strong climbing in chilly Antarctic weather, my team and I were able to carry the Climb for Cancer banner to the summit of the tallest mountain in Antarctica and, once again, pay tribute to those who have been touched by cancer. Unlike the Denali expedition, we had relatively good weather for most of the Vinson climb. Relative is the operative word as temperatures ranged from -20 to -40 degrees but winds were light and we had plenty of sun for most of the climb.

One of the critical points during the climb was a decision to move up aggressively. With the forecast calling for threatening weather, we decided to skip our scheduled rest day at low camp and, instead, hauled heavy loads up the fixed lines to high camp where we hunkered down for our summit bid. Sure enough, the bad weather hit us shortly after we arrived at high camp so we used our rest day to wait it out.

When the weather window opened, we were in striking distance and ready to go for the top. If we hadn’t moved up quickly, the weather would have forced us to remain at low camp and it would have put us at increased risk of missing the summit.

These climbs are special for so many reasons. Many of the relationships formed will last a lifetime. The physical challenges teach us that we can do so much more than we ever thought possible. And the stories of strength and courage exhibited by those battling cancer continue to inspire us all.

Thanks again for your support and for your inspiration. May your life be filled with love, laughter and plenty of new adventures. All the best,Dave

By the way, there is a reason Dave has taken on the challenge:

Live to Give is dedicated to the memory of Patrick Brandt, who lost a courageous battle with brain cancer on March 2, 2008. Pat’s motto: “live, love life, give love” is the inspiration for our name and for our mission. During his 37 years on earth, Pat lived life to the fullest and gave of himself every day—to his family, to his friends and to the causes he held dear. Throughout his decade-long battle with cancer, Pat never stopped setting goals and taking action to achieve them. The day he died, he was one of the top salespeople in his company and an inspirational supporter of the Relay for Life (American Cancer Society).

More at: http://livetogive.ning.com/

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mt. Vinson, highest continental point in Antarctica

Tomorrow, I will publish a guest blog post from my friend Dave G., who has set out to summit the highest continental points on all seven continents. Dave has completed five of the seven to date, most recently Mt. Vinson, just last month. I borrowed the photo from his Facebook page.
Here's some background that a friend of his provided on the Antarctica trek.

Vinson Massif is the highest mountain on the Antarctic Continent at16.057ft. The only transport is a Cold War era Russian militarytransport that lands on a field of blue ice. The plane cannot usebrakes (for obvious reasons) and must use reverse thrusters for about a mile to stop on the ice. The landing strip is as slick as a skatingrink and I suffered a severely bruised ego by falling on my ass twice.The warmest day was maybe 0 degrees but mostly was minus 10 to 20degrees. Summit day was minus 50 degrees. The bathroom, cooking areas,etc are carved out of ice blocks. You must sleep with anything liquid(water, pee bottle) or anything important in your sleeping bag or itwill freeze and you cannot thaw it out. It was a physically demandingclimb that included a fully loaded backpack and towing a fully loadedsled.

WALL-E, or Fred Sanford, was here

On our recent day trip to Harrisonburg, we had a tip that Hess Furniture was an antique store. So we thought we might stop by. Little did we know what we were in for - it looked like that warehouse in Wall-E, only less organized (and more dangerous).

When you enter the place, you do see a lot of furniture here and there. Pretty much, any open space has been taken up by all kinds of storage units, old coffee tables, dining room sets, etc. It's really the eclectic source for furniture. I understand that there is more upstairs...

As you venture further back in, there are all sorts of "collectibles" - old records, shown here in the "flat" storage mode...there were even 8-track tapes. One title I noted was Supertramp. Then you get into this silverware department.

Finally, way back in the back, there were 20 bags of old golf clubs...I happened to be interested in a persimmon 3-wood, but really couldn't get close to these golf bags because of all the other items stacked up in front of them.
So we have this photo of stuff that is just out of reach.

We did find a couple of items of interest there, and we bought an item. We bartered, but even though the owner encouraged it, he really didn't give very much. I think we've made our one and only visit.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

More Winter Scenes

Here are a couple of leftover photos from my walk in the snow last weekend - the ubiquitous beaver pond and a second view of the stream as it flows off to the south.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Virginia Quilt Museum in H-burg

On Saturday, Mary and I visited the Virginia Quilt Museum in H-burg. We had driven down for lunch at Clementines and saw the museum nearby, so we took it in too. Here’s an official blurb from the web page:

“Located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the Historic Shenandoah Valley, the Virginia Quilt Museum opened in 1995. In the year 2000, the museum was designated "the official quilt museum of the Commonwealth" by the Virginia General Assembly and the building was given to the museum by the City of Harrisonburg.”

Mary was a curator at the National Building Museum and now teaches historic preservation at U of Md, so we are always interested in craftwork and history in the places we visit. What we found when we went inside the wonderful house the museum is in was a large sampling of quilts and antique sewing machines, many featured in the photos here.
The last photo shows a few little novelty quilts - they were designed and made to be used at craft shows - all featuring the message - "don't touch."

We chatted a bit with the staff member there and learned that the museum has nearly 300 quilts in their collection. We got a look at the archives and saw the work that goes into maintenance of these delicate items – very impressive. And about the history of the museum, and the challenges of operating such an important resource outside of a capital city.
It was well worth the stop – have to recommend this one to everybody. Link is http://www.vaquiltmuseum.org/

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Burnshire Dam near Woodstock

As we drove down the switchbacks from the Woodstock Tower, we approached the North Fork of the Shenandoah. One of the seven bends was frozen over with ice, despite two days of temperatures in the '50's.
I figured this was caused by slow moving water, but as we got closer, we found this dam, the Burnshire Dam, which actually slowed the flow enough to allow the river to freeze over.
I was curious and did some further web research on this dam, and learned it is one of several in this area, as you can read below.
I also found a reference to a 1974 status of dams report done by DoD, which said at the time this dam was in good condition and did not pose a danger to people or property.
That one might be due for an update...seems like a good stimulus package proposal.
From: http://www.verrill.com/FlyFishing/flyfish.shtml
Burnshire Dam, Woodstock, Virginia, the north fork. About five minutes east of Woodstock on State Road 665/758. Head out Route 66 to Route 81 south. After only a few miles take the exit to Woodstock. Turn left onto Route 11, and then east on SR-665 (next to a Safeway). After a mile or two SR-665 merges to the left onto SR-758, and after another mile you will see the bridge below Burnshire Dam. There is plenty of parking directly before the bridge. I've caught more fish below Burnshire Dam than I've ever caught anywhere else. You will want to walk down to the river on the upstream part of the bridge. After entering the river, fish each of the pools till you reach the opposite side, then try directly below the dam. Below the dam the river opens up to long ledges and makes for a great afternoon. Make sure to stop in and see Harry Murray in Edinburgh, the town below Woodstock, at Murray's Fl y Shop (703-984-4212). He knows more about fly-fishing in Virginia than anyone you are likely ever to meet and oversees a flyshop where you can buy any of his several books, replenish your fly supply, or have a very filling lunch.
From: http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/waterbodies/display.asp?id=172
The North Fork Shenandoah River is a fifth order stream that drains 2,675 square miles of northeastern Virginia. The river flows north 116 miles from Northern Rockingham County to the Town of Front royal where it joins the South Fork Shenandoah to form the Shenandoah River. As the North Fork cuts through the karst geology of the Shenandoah Valley many bedrock ledges cross the channel perpendicular to the flow of the river. These features are very common in the "seven bends" section of the river between Woodstock and Edinburg. Bedrock ledges create unique fish habitat and angling can be very productive in these areas. The North Fork is a relatively small, shallow river and is very accessible to wade angling. Excessive nutrients in the watershed promote the growth of algae and aquatic plants. This vegetation can become very dense during the summer/fall months and impede fishing and boating.
The North Fork is an ideal river to float by canoe. Clear water, pleasant scenery, abundant wildlife, and mild whitewater make the North Fork a paddler's dream. However, low flows during the summer months often require canoeists to walk their boats through shallow areas. The primary navigational hazards on the river are six dams and several low-water bridges. The first dam is upstream of Timberville; three dams are located between Edinburg and the Route 758 bridge east of Woodstock; and two small dams are found between Strasburg and Riverton.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Woodstock Tower - part 2

One of the highlights of the Woodstock Tower is its view over the seven bends area of the Shenandoah River North Fork. This section of the river features a series of 180-degree direction changes, with resulting long fingers of land extending to the west or east.
Here are photos from the tower looking to the west, roughly scanning from south to north, showing this part of the River. Just to the south is the town of Woodstock, the county seat of Shenandoah County. Just over the ridge line shown here is West Virginia - with better clarity, you might see it in these photos.

A little history - Page County was carved out of Shenandoah County in 1812. Residents of what is now Page County complained to the Virginia Legislature about the multi-day trip from the east side of Massanutten to do state and county business. So Page County was formed (a small bite of Rockingham County was added to the Shenandoah County grant. Luray was formed as the County Seat of the new county.

To the east, the tower view looks back into Fort Valley, and Page County. Maasanutten Mountain is unique in that it has this valley inside of it - the mountain forms something of a ring, and the valley is a bowl inside of there. In the US west (where the mountains are much higher), they call these "basins" - but for some reason we don't call Fort Valley a basin.
That is the SNP ridgeline in the distance.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Woodstock Tower - a CCC Landmark

As I was drinking my coffee on Sunday morning, I was reviewing a few of my PATC Section maps. Although I wanted to check out the Massanutten and Tuscarora Trails, I started looking for a short hike we might take, this time over into the George Washington National Forest. I settled on the Woodstock Tower, a Civilian Conservation Corps edifice dating from the 1930's - this will be a two part post on our little trip.

To get to the Woodstock Tower from Luray, we drove up over the front ridge of Massanutten Mountain, then down into Fort Valley. Fort Valley is so named because George Washington apparently planned to fall back for a winter camp over there after Yorktown, but the war ended before that was necessary.

The road through the valley continues north past a couple of campgrounds, an all terrain vehicle trail, and other recreational facilities - not to mention some wonderful farms. We stopped briefly at Camp Roosevelt, which was the first CCC training camp. The gates were closed, but we were able to see some of the old foundations of the CCC buildings.

The tower is reached via a short, pink-blazed trail from a parking area for about 10 cars. The trail is only 1/2 mile long or so, and it has a gentle climb up the ridge to the tower. Total trail time might be 20 minutes if that. We encountered a couple of families coming down from the tower, so the rating on this would be "very easy."

These are photos of the sign marking the traihead, the stone steps on part of the trail, where there seems to be an abandoned fire road crossing. Finally, the tower itself...and the view from underneath the platform.
A "part 2" post on February 12 includes photos of the views from the platform.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hawksbill Cabin: In Winter

Finally, there was snow on the ground at the cabin during a weekend we were visiting. Although the temperatures on Saturday eventually were unseasonably warm, in the morning there was leftover snow from earlier in the week.

Here are some highlight photos of the cabin. Interestingly, the snow accumulated on the side of the hill - the sunniest patch of the yard. The one with the yellow light was taken first, as I started my walk.

Also, I took the walk around the road down to the pastures - here the fields were snow white. You could see patches of snow in the woods up in the Shenandoah National Park, but phone cam quality doesn't show it...

Snow on the ground also makes it easier to see what kinds of critters there are around the place. Here are some squirrel tracks I found up on the brick terrace.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Poutin' Grace

On Sunday afternoon it was pleasant enough to sit out on the brick terrace and read. I had the dogs out with me, but they kept wandering off in opposite directions, so I put them back inside.

About 20 minutes later, I looked over at the windows and caught site of Gracie in pout mode. She actually had fallen asleep with this disgruntled look on her face.

The border collie seems to be coming around. Mary has found the secret for getting her to eat the special diet, and Gracie has gained back the pounds she lost. We haven't been to the vet in a few weeks, but things seem to be going well just now.