Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
For two years Mary and I have been passing by the old bridge at Overall Run, which was made into a sort of park – I heard somewhere that there is historical interest, but I am not sure where I heard that or why it would be so – maybe a regular reader could shed some light on this?
The highway bridge is paralleled by a rail span at this point, and Overall Run passes underneath from the east, joining the South Fork of the Shenandoah very close by – the river is visible from the bridge here. (I don't know what the blue tarp is in the picture, but you can see that it is set up right on the river bank there).
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
This trail includes a short part of the AT, and while I rate it as easy, it does include a climb of more than 800 feet.
According to the Heatwole guide (URL is http://ajheatwole.com/guide/log1/log12.htm) the exposed rock on this hike are Catoctin lava, which can be seen throughout the Park.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Yesterday my buddy Chris told me he was looking into a "Spot" GPS tool yesterday – these are the devices that can journalize your location on a map, and also send out a 9-1-1 call if you run into an emergency. Coincidentally, I came across this interesting news story about using the locators on Sunday.
“FRESNO, Calif. - Last month two men and their teenage sons tackled one of the world's most unforgiving summertime hikes: the Grand Canyon's parched and searing Royal Arch Loop. Along with bedrolls and freeze-dried food, the inexperienced backpackers carried a personal locator beacon — just in case.
In the span of three days, the group pushed the panic button three times, mobilizing helicopters for dangerous, lifesaving rescues inside the steep canyon walls.
What was that emergency? The water they had found to quench their thirst "tasted salty."
If they had not been toting the device that works like “Onstar” hikers, "we would have never attempted this hike," one of them said after the third rescue crew forced them to board their chopper. It's a growing problem facing the men and women who risk their lives when they believe others are in danger of losing theirs.”
By the way, from the NPS Grand Canyon website, here are the warnings about the Royal Arch Loop trail: “…The Royal Arch Loop is appropriate for experienced canyon hikers only, walkers who have paid their dues and acquired the appropriate wilderness skills, whose experience allows proper rigging of rappel anchors, and who can easily and safely rope down vertical cliffs. For such people the Royal Arch Loop offers a top drawer canyon adventure, replete with more natural beauty than humans can absorb. For those lacking the required skill and judgment this hike offers about a million ways to get into serious trouble in a remote part of the Grand Canyon.”
I’ve actually been thinking about these products to add to my gear while I continue exploring the hikes of Shenandoah National Park. I’ve enjoyed posting hike reviews on the Hawksbill Cabin site and have even considered compiling them into some sort of a guide, recognizing that they need a bit of technical enhancement information that gear like this could provide.
In my research I checked the Outside magazine gear guide to see if any of these accessories were reviewed or recommended there – none were. Chris had read a number of reviews, most of which indicated that there was trouble with the devices – not in the emergency call mode, but because the map tracking element failed to transmit – something you wouldn’t find out about until you returned from your adventure. Imagine returning from your once in a lifetime trip (one that you were well prepared for, not like our hikers above) only to find the GPS marker from where you saw the grizzly on Denali hadn’t been recorded, or your swordfish mark off Saipan was not to be found?
Maybe it’s a gene pool thing, heading out unprepared like this, trusting in one’s own resourcefulness to stay safe, but it’s just common sense to realize that these devices aren’t going to replace good preparation for a rigorous hike. That’s coming from someone who won’t even do Old Rag without a shakedown hike to prepare – and it is patrolled by qualified volunteers (see http://oldragpatrolsbyrsl-blook.blogspot.com/ for more information about what these folks do). It can't be underestimated, how important it is to know your own limits and limitations.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Once in Paris, I got hold of some year old bocks that were deep in the bar's cooler. Those gave me some miserable hiccups that lasted all night. I can hardly remember where else I might have gone in Paris after those. We started in the Latin Quarter and there was a taxi ride or two and I remember a disco. And I remember we had to wake the doorman up to get back into the hotel. So much for that adventure.
My usual beer store in Alexandria is the Total Beverage, you can get just about anything there, but traffic to it is bad and would add about 45 minutes of unpleasantness to what is already a very challenging task. I decided to go to Shoppers instead, they share distributors and they have one of those big frigerated rooms for all the beers.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Here they are, carefully positioned on the couch. I bought these two, hologram-certified, Coleman camo thermal pillows to use around the Hawksbill Cabin during the winter for warmth. Apparently the foam filling is designed to retain body heat and they are useful in hunting blinds, ice fishing camps, and the like. I’ll mainly use them sitting in my folding chair out on the brick terrace on cold mornings and evenings. But they do fit right in with the living room color scheme, don’t they?
The second purchase was these two bar stools that Mary found at an antique store in Alexandria. They fit the era of our other furnishings, although they are later in the Mid-Century time frame. We replaced two cheap stools that we had gotten at Wal-Mart with these. They are quite a bit more comfortable even though they are an inch or two lower than the others.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
My coffee stop in the morning is actually a book store chain. Recently I noticed David Byrne's new book, "Bicycle Diaries" on the new releases table - the image here will link you to the Amazon page. I'd heard about this book and enjoyed leafing through the pages - and it's on my reading list.
Mary and I have known about Byrne's passion for bike riding since the 2004 show we took in at the Birchmere here in Alexandria. She was coming out of the restroom when David arrived from biking to the show - the doorman wasn't letting him in because of how he was dressed and because of his general appearance, clearly in "warm down" mode. Here's a quote from the journal entry about that show, and a link to the post: "...I ride my bike to the venue in Alexandria...it's a nice ride along the river, leading past the Ronald Reagan Airport and then out to tree-lined residential neighborhoods..." http://journal.davidbyrne.com/2004/06/6104_washington.html
Bike rides are a common thread in David's blog so I am not surprised that he had accumulated enough material there to be the foundation of a book. It turns out that bike riding is also his primary mode of transportation in Manhattan, where he lives - he's been a rider for 30 years. He has a number of recent projects centered on the theme, including those new bike racks in NYC.
I also caught a couple of book reviews in Outside magazine and National Geographic Adventure magazine this month, following the release. Besides the typical interviews about the book and bike riding experiences, there is some insight into how Byrne thinks about the cities he has been to as a bike riding experience, and for general "bikability:"
- Classic urban centers: New York and San Francisco
- Emerging, few bike paths but good possibilities: Rochester and Pittsburgh
- Chaotic, challenging old world cities: Rome and London
- Memorable, great rides where least expected: Detroit and Istanbul
I'm looking forward to picking up the book for a read soon. I have a couple on the list ahead of it just yet.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
One of my favorite stops in there is Passage Creek, which is how the stream that drains the north half of the mountain is known. I've posted some photos of this stream before - it is a Virginia stocked trout stream from October 15 to March 15. Here are a few more, including one of Chris perched up on a rock.
We expected a bit more water in the stream due to the steady rain that had fallen, but there wasn't much to speak of. However, the stream had enough of a flow to produce a happy little burble in the area we visited.
Friday, October 16, 2009
October 14, 2009
James H. A. ,
USDA Rural Development Office1934 Deyerle Ave Suite DHarrisonburg, VA 22801
Dear Mr. A.:
I am writing in response to the request for comments advertised in the Harrisonburg Daily News Record on September 16, 2009, regarding the USDA loan request for Project Clover in Page County, Virginia. There are several land use, environmental, alternative locations, and due diligence reasons that this loan should be denied.
Land Use: The location and character of the project is not a use that fits the nature of the agricultural setting where it is now planned. Converting prime farmland to industrial use is in conflict with the mission statement of the USDA, especially when there are alternative sites available for this purpose.
As far as transportation access goes to this site, it has no road frontage to a major highway and is separated from the US interstate highway system by a mountain range. The parcel is accessed by a steep two-lane road that exits off of the US 340 South Business bypass. To the north, US 340 is not expandable to four lanes due to the terrain it passes through; to the south, the road passes through a town before joining US 340 or access to US 211. It is very difficult to see how the transportation of any industrial output from potential industrial operations could be economically transported to market; it is equally doubtful that input/component goods could be delivered economically to this location.
Finally, the needed utilities for development on this scale are not in place, and are not planned to be built in the near future. The neighboring town of Stanley is known to have function and capacity problems with its utilities, especially sewer, and this site’s location within the Shenandoah River watershed make this an even more important consideration.
Environmental: The Project Clover parcel is located in an area identified as Karst geology. To the public’s knowledge, no investigation of this condition has been made to assess potential impact of industrial development and use on this type of geology. At the minimum, an assessment of potential aquifer impacts and future impacts to the Shenandoah watershed should be conducted to determine whether there are existing underground problems, to identify potential undesirable impacts, and mitigating steps that should be taken in case this development is pursued in the end.
Alternative Locations: Within the central part of Page County, there are several other large parcels on the market that offer better access to transportation networks and utility infrastructure, and there are existing industrial/brown field sites that can be reprogrammed for these purposes, likely at a much lower cost and risk than this parcel.
I agree with the insight offered by long-term residents that the selection of a location closer to the town of Luray is more suitable. Utility infrastructure, including water and sewer, are in place and there is access to US Route 211, a four- lane highway that links to Interstate 81. Rail access is available there as well, with an existing spur for potential businesses. This capacity sits unused. Additional land along the Rte 211 corridor is available, and land along the juncture of Rte 211 and Rte 340 is available.
Due Diligence: The petition of nearly 2,000 local citizens and their attendance at so many public hearings on this matter demonstrate that there is a broad consensus disapproving this purchase and the idea of developing this site for this purpose. There is general agreement that something should be done to encourage industrial development, but there is general recognition that this site is not a good choice.
Other than the reasons land use and environmental issues listed above, this concern boils down to financial and fiscal issues: simply that county’s involvement in this loan is not justified due to the lack of a business case, no appraisal of the land’s value to secure the loan, and no alternative sources of funds to repay the loan. By Page County EDAs own assessment, there have only been five or six inquiries about relocating to the County in the last three years, and Page County was not selected in any of those cases. In my opinion, these decisions are driven by basic economics of the location here rather than the lack of developable sites; to purchase this land for future development seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse, especially when no known relocation prospects are currently in the pipeline.
For additional background, I am enclosing a letter to the editor of the Page County News and Courier that was recently published. In this letter, I reviewed and analyzed the County’s strategic plan for development, and found that this rushed decision to purchase Project Clover actually conflicts with the findings and recommendations of that plan.
Please consider these factors and deny this loan. Failing that, I ask that you recognize that meaningful public comment requires public access to information, which has been lacking in this case. While non-disclosure agreements are frequently an element of business negotiations, there must be a limit to their purview and application when it comes to committing public funds for a use such as this, and Page County and the EDA have made access to relevant public documents such as the following difficult:
1. Lists and analyses of other sites, evaluation criteria and site evaluations.
2. Documents relied upon to establish a price for the relevant property and comparisons to other potential sites.
3. All purchase documents and amendments.
4. RDA loan application documents
5. The fiscal impact statement and analysis of total project costs over its lifetime, if any.
6. Traffic studies
7. Cultural resource study
This documentation should be made readily available to the concerned citizens of Page County, and once that step has been taken, the RDA 30 day comment period should be reset to begin after the last document is posted.
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to your consideration of this loan request. If you would like to discuss the content of this letter further, please contact me by email at jt@.com.
- local crafts and homemade goodies
- antique tractor, steam and gas engine show
- exhibitions of wheat thrashing, log sawing, large steam engine, corn chopper, corn husker, and feed grinding
- antique cars
- spinning wheel
- white oak baskets
- garden club
- cider, apples, and apple butter
- pottery making
- Shenandoah National Park history
The antique tractors are always placed right at the entrance to the fairground, so you see them on the way in and out. This year some of the exhibits were rearranged and so there was a continuous driving display on a circuit throughout the grounds - a few of these photos are of tractors taken when they were on the loop.
Two distinctive brands that I always see well represented at this festival are Allis-Chalmers and Deere, so I looked them up on Wikipedia. Here’s a summary of their stories:
Allis-Chalmers first entered the manufacturing business in Milwaukee as E.P. Allis in the 1840s. They made waterwheel, sawmill and grindstones. While originally incorporated in Delaware, the company soon became a major manufacturer of steam engines and industrial equipment in the Milwaukee area after merging with other firms—Fraser & Chalmers were a large steel and mining retort manufacturer. Allis-Chalmers entered into the farm equipment business in 1914 at about the time of WWI, and played a role in WWII with equipment for uranium separation for the Manhattan Project, submarine motors, and steam engines for the Liberty ships.
There was a man in Luray who had a large collection of bright orange A-C tractors that he built up over 30 years of collecting and restoring. Among his prized vehicles was a road grader, one of only six or seven known to have survived. He recently retired from collecting and auctioned off a number of his vehicles, you can now see them all over the Valley as the sudden access via the auction was very popular. So there were a few of them at the fest this year too.
Everybody knows about Deere & Company, brand name John Deere. It is a leading manufacturer of agricultural machinery, a Fortune 500 company, and there are always a number of the distinctive green and yellow tractors on display at the fest. They also make construction equipment, but I didn’t see any at the fest this year.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
With two unanswered goals in the first half, it looked like the Ticos, as they are called, would do just that. Late in the second half, the US team began to respond. They scored the second goal in "injury time" - after the official 90 minutes have clicked off of the clock.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
On Sunday we had a wonderful fall day so Mary and I decided to head over to the Page County Heritage Festival. We haven't missed this event since we started coming out to the Hawksbill Cabin - this festival is a celebration of the traditional rural lifestyle that has made up the county since its founding.
The festival is one fundraising activity of the Page County Heritage Association (http://www.pagecountyheritage.com/), which oversees the preservation of Calendine, a local historic residence of William Randolph Barbee - a notable classic sculptor, the Mauck Meeting House , originally Union Church - built of pine logs and chestnut shingles, and the Massanutten School, which dates to the Civil War era.
We divided our time at the fest between searching out lunch and watching the sawmills at work. For lunch, we had carolina-style barbeque pork sandwiches and peach cobbler, finishing it off with some kettle corn. Then we settled in to watch the antique sawmills working on a large oak log, as shown in the highlight photos here.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
We actually walked down to the trailhead from the Skyland dining rooom, adding negligible distance to the hike but retracing the route we took on the weekend we stayed here when we first got to know about Luray. Here's Mary on that portion of the trail (hat, jacket, and hiking pants - all from Evergreen Outfitters. Hi Howard!)
This is a short trail, less than 2 miles found trip, leading along a ridgeline to an observation platform that overlooks Page Valley. Along the way, there are the typical forested jumbles of greenstone, which is usually covered with a patina of green lichen in this part of the Park.