Ramble On

Friday, July 29, 2011

Clarendon Construction - Likely Final

It's been a tradition to use the final post of the month to update the status of the three construction projects that have been going on around my Clarendon office, but after more than three years of blogging the projects, this will be my last post on the topic.  I am taking the month of August of from work, and learned yesterday that during my hiatus my group is moving to the Alexandria location - so I won't have access to the goings on anymore...

The two main projects that I've written about the most - the Clarendon Center buildings - have been completed for a while now, and the posts have been focused on the Clarendon Commons development that is going up adjoined to the big church.  Demolition for those previous projects was going on when I first came to work at this office, and the posts tracked the buildings all the way through construction. 

I haven't been shy about my feelings on this church development.  It's an interesting concept to join residential with institutional...but it is pretty heinous.  Maybe I should be glad I won't see it through to completion!

So the two photos today are a detailed view taken from the 7th floor of my building.  The masonry elevators are up and they make really good process with the veneer wall everyday - no doubt due to the additional productivity of having a porta-john up there with them.  There is another one installed symmetrically on the other side of the building, by the way. 

The final photo in the series is a street view from near the entrance to Clarendon Metro.  The building structure has been topped out, and the exterior details are in progress, say 75 percent complete.  They'll move inside fairly soon, and I expect the last part of the job will be the renovation of the piece of the church that remains.

If you want to view the entire three plus years on the projects, just click the Clarendon Construction label at the end of this post.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Biber Lauf" Braurerei?

On Sunday I stopped by to check in with Dan, who had told me he would be out harvesting some more hops.  This time he already gathered three pounds of Cascade, but he was only 2/3 of the way through the hopyard.  He figured that after drying these he would have another pound of hops.

We took a closer look at the product and this is really good looking material - he plans to use it in the aromatic stage of brewing the now famous Flat Tale IPA. 

Why do I say "now famous"? Because last week, a Bundestag (the German Parlaiment - in Berlin) representative sent him a letter that said after an extensive web search, some people in Berlin had found the Beaver Run Brewery website, and they were very excited about this.

Turns out, these folks are organizing a running event that will be called "Biber Lauf" - roughly translated, Beaver Run...the same name as the stream that runs along the edge of both of our properties!

So, I've just Googled it.  I found this YouTube promotional video...there is quite a bit more to have a look at, I guess there's a Facebook page too. Also, I've embedded the "Beaver Dance" I found on their web page as the headline video on the blog.

This is all great.  The trouble is - Dan's a small batch brewery...and the German Parlaiment wants a sample!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

As Seen On...the Appalachian Trail

Yesterday I posted on the short hike I took to the summit of Hazeltop Mountain, heading north from Bootens Gap. As I began to descend, I was halted in my tracks by the site of a young buck - maybe a six-pointer, max, in velvet - emerged from the woods and grazed at trailside.

The wind favored me, and he didn't catch my scent. He took note of me but went back to grazing.

Then, as he headed on into the woods, just a few feet further back, a second buck - this one a magnificent 8-pointer, emerged from the woods. You can see his shadowy figure in some of the photos.

Like the other, he didn't catch my scent and was not afraid of me. He bided his time and then ducked into the woods, and I started on my way back down the trail.

At times, I was maybe 20 feet from them. It was a remarkable encounter for me, that's for sure...everything working in my favor for it to be something to remember.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Plan B Weekend: Hazeltop Summit

With the onslaught of 100-degree plus days, hiking partner Tom and I decided it was best not to take on one of the “75@75” hikes this weekend. We had planned to do the hike that combines Pocosin Cabin and South River Falls, which would be convenient for him and me. He had a campsite reservation at Big Meadows and wanted to do something to take advantage of that, and of course, I am anxious to make the miles, so we came up with something that would meet the criteria for 75@75, but allow us to take frequent breaks.

That “Plan B” was to summit the three tallest peaks in the park: Hawksbill, at 4,049 feet; Stonyman, at 4,010; and Hazeltop, at 3,850. We could do each of the three day hikes to these, around 2-miles each, and also manage to ascend about 1,500 feet in elevation. We would car shuttle between trail heads, allowing some air conditioned cooling off and ensuring that we had plenty of fluids. Even so, the mileage and elevation gain would qualify this effort as a 75@75 day for me.

In the end, the temperatures were just too high to take on this effort. Tom ended up canceling his campsite, and I went out to Hawksbill Cabin to check in on things – and sit in the pool for an hour. By Saturday afternoon, I started getting news that the temperatures up on the mountains were at least 10 degrees cooler than in the valley, and I really still wanted to get up there for a leg stretcher.

On Sunday, I decided I would head on up to do the Hazeltop portion of that segmented hike – from the Bootens Gap Trailhead, estimated at about 2.2 miles round trip. I had been to the summit of Hazeltop with Chris when we did the first of the 75@75 hikes, the big loop down to Camp Rapidan. That was a foggy day, with rain at times, so there was no view, and I had planned to come back to check out the views.

With the canopy up, I didn’t expect much of a view on this day, especially through the sultry haze. In reality, I was just looking for a cool breeze, and a complementary view would have been nice.

From the trailhead – this entire route was on the AT, by the way – both the south and north directions look inviting. But I was headed north and uphill, first passing the intersection with the Laurel Prong trail, which leads down to Camp Rapidan, and then on up to the summit.

There are beautiful summer wildflowers all along Skyline Drive right now, mainly Black-eyed Susan. However, I had noticed a few Turk’s cap Lillies – also known as Carolina Lillies – as bright orange highlights, and had been tempted to stop and take a photo of some. I kept my fingers crossed that I might see some along the hike, and I did – I’ve got a photo of a pair here as the opening image.

(Note, something's up with the Blogger interface today and I can only upload one image, so I'll come back to post the others later.)The other photos are some views of the trail, and a few of the rock outcroppings and boulders along the way. The last of these is the one that I took my summit altimeter reading from, although it probably wasn’t the actual high point of the mountain. I remember that it was pretty close from the last hike, when I approached from the other direction; walking ahead a few dozen more yards revealed that you began a descent from this point onward.

By the Pathfinder’s altimeter, I climbed about 530 feet on this short hike, although by official altitude readings, it may have been more than 600 feet. In any case, I found my cool breeze at an AT switchback, where a little canyon tapered down of the hill. A storm was rolling in, and it sent some brisk cool air up my way from down in some stream bed below.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vernal Falls Video

Today a quick post with a YouTube clip of Vernal Falls, scene of the tragic accident earlier this week, when three people climbed over the protective railing to the water's edge, and then were swept over the falls (See yesterday's post for more information about the accident). 

From this clip, you can see how close you are actually able to get to the stream and the falls themselves, while still within the relative safety of the guardrails.  I like the narration here - it gives you a sense of the exhilaration you feel at the top.  Water flow at this time of year - July - is still brisk, though maybe not quite as much as this, which is in April.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fatal Accident at Yosemite's Vernal Falls

View of the Giant Staircase at Yosemite National Park.  Vernal Falls is visible in the lower center of the photo, with the mist trail folloing the stream below the falls.
I've been following the story about a church group's outing to hike to the top of Vernal Falls that ended in tragedy all week.  There's a link to a story in the NY Times at the end of the post. 

Apparently, the group, which included parents and kids, climbed the Mist Trail to the top of the falls.  When they got there, three of the adults ignored the guard rail that provides a barrier between some of the viewing areas and the river itself, which this year is running high from a heavy snow melt.  They were posing for photographs, and according to some articles they invited their kids over, before one or more of them lost their footing and were swept over the 317-foot waterfall. 

Here's the Times link:

And a second link to an AP story:

It is certainly a tragedy, and it could have been much worse if the kids had gotten over the rail and been part of the accident - as it was, they will have to live with the horrific images of their loved ones being swept away right in front of their eyes.  An interesting background fact appears in the AP story:  there have been six water accident deaths in Yosemite so far this year.  While we don't know all the facts about those deaths, we do know that in the Vernal Falls case, the individuals ignored warning signs and also the verbal warnings of other hikers at the top of the falls.

The story reminded me of the time I was at the top of the falls, in September 2005, when Chris and I climbed the Half Dome - the Mist Trail and the falls is on the route.  As we climbed the granite stairs on the Mist Trail, and then at the top of the falls, there were a number of emergency workers around, and several areas were marked off with police tape.  Apparently, there had been another case of someone being swept away in July 2005, and the water levels had finally receded enough that the body could be removed from the pool at the base of the falls.

The AP is reporting that this is likely the case here, these bodies may not be recovered until later in the year.  In fact, they haven't even been discovered yet.

My takeaway from all this?  I know it's a tragedy, and I know there are families who are hurting after this event.  But warning signs like those at the top of Vernal Falls - and like so many of them at Shenandoah National Park, as well - must be observed.  Don't overestimate your abilities at these natural sites, no matter how envigorating you find the experience of being there.  And the popularity, and crowds, at many of these locations only make the risks of breaking the rules more dangerous.  So respect the warnings.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tech-Watch Geek: New Entry by Wenger

It's been a while since I did a post on multi-function "adventure watches" - a favorite topic.  This month's Outside has a little spread that includes a Timex Expedition (although technically not a geek watch in my book because it's not a multi-function watch) and, of course, a new Suunto Elementum model; however, the one catching my attention in the article is the Wenger Nomad LED.  It's a very stylish black and red job, with a stated retail price of $375.

Now, the photo above was downloaded from the Wenger web site ( http://www.wengerna.com/ ), it is a partial shot that shows the watch in the compass mode, where the LED indicator lights up with the azimuth reading.  The company's posting says this:

"Designed for the modern nomad, the active outdoor enthusiast who’s always on the move. The Nomad Compass 70430 is a multi-functional timepiece with an attractive analog dial, and a stealthy red LED digital readout which features a compass, date, day and time, to always keep you on course."

I've also linked to an Amazon page at the end of this post, where it is offered for quite a bit less than the stated retail.

It is a very sporty watch, and looks to me like it could cross over easily from outdoor activities to casual wear.  This is confirmed by the reviews on Amazon, which give it an average of four stars - there are 3 5-star ratings, 4 4-star ratings, and 2 3-star ratings.  The most succinct review is a 3-star rating by "MMA Guy:"


-It is heavy, durable, and has a quality feel to it. It's a Wenger of course
-The compass feature is awesome and it works fairly accurately
-Easy to follow instructions
-Very weak illumination on the numbers even when charged by external light sources.
-No illumination on the hands at all, then why would you illuminate the numbers?
-No way to tell time in the dark aside from pressing the digital time. "

From this and the other reviews, the most frequently mentioned positive feature are the good looks and quality feel, but from my summary look it doesn't appear to stand up well to my Casio Pathfinder or to the Suunto Elementum on the geek factor.  Both of those offer an altimeter and thermometer in addition to the compass.  And the reviews for those brands often include one or two from users who put their watches through true-hardship (I chose the Casio because of a review from a soldier in Iraq, who said half his unit had the same watch and the other half had the Suunto!).

As for the negatives, there is a mention of some difficulty with the packaging, but this is not an inconvenience that lasts too long.  The other note is that the stock strap may not fit everybody, addressed by buying an alternative one from Wenger or elsewhere.  And there are a couple of complaints about the illumination of the analog timekeeping function - hands and digits.

So bottom line, it is a good looking watch with some functionality.  But if your looking for a harder core watch, maybe one of the other brands is for you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Road Trip" Brisket

With all the posts lately about truck patches, hopyards, vineyards, and Page County Grown produce and beef, I found myself in the mood to work on a craft of my own, so I picked up a brisket from Skyline Premium Meats at the Farmers Market last Saturday.  This would be my second time working with the smoker, I figured on building on the experience of the last one, with one more try after this to perfect my process.

Although I have a wonderful section of seasoned white oak that I broke down over the weekend, I decided to use hickory, since I still have some left over.  The trunk section of that oak was about 16 inches long and two feet in diameter - plenty for a couple of years, given how often I do this.  (A shout out to Bill D. in Tampa, thanks for the oak - and the encouragement!) I still have quite a bit of apple, too, waiting for some pork loin this fall.  Even with those plans, I've got plenty of supply for smoking.

This brisket was a bit larger than the one I tried before - that was one of the lessons from last time, not to be afraid of leftovers.  As before, I marinaded it for 4 hours in beer, then seasoned it with salt, pepper and garlic.  Salt first, as I've learned that it is very important for cooking - more on that some time in the future.

I stoked the smoker with coals and finally got it going well enough to put the brisket on.  After the meat had seared for about 20 minutes, I started with the smoke, adding hickory every half hour or so while the meat basted in indirect heat.  My temperature gauge is at the top of the barrel and read 200 for most of the afternoon, that may be a little higher than you want but my results were still pretty good.

The coals lasted four hours, but a meat thermometer showed that the brisket had only gotten to 120 - so it was cooking slow like I wanted.  But as the coals had gone out the clock was ticking for my drive back to Alexandria, so I had to shut her down - I took the meat off the stove, let it rest, then wrapped it in foil to finish on the gas grill back home.

Last night, I set it up again for an hour on indirect heat.  The brisket heated back up quickly, faster than with the charcoal grill, and was soon at 140 internal, when I decided to take it off.  There were some well done parts, but it was tender and very tasty - in the final photo you can see the red ring from the smoke, the juices, etc.  And even Mary liked it this time.

So I figure there's one more practice round on brisket and I'll have it mastered.  Then I'll move on to pork loin.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Everest Season

This is one of a couple of posts I'll be making highlighting some articles out of this month's Outside magazine.  In particular, a little graphic feature there on page 36 caught my eye - it summarizes the expedition activity and summiting records for Mount Everest this year, where evidently, the season has already ended - it's "in the books," as the graphic reads.

News from Everest started catching my eye a few years ago when my friend Dave started working on the "Seven Summits," a challenge that is designed to scale and summit the highest points on the seven continents.  For a couple of years there, Dave took in four of them: Erebus (Europe), Denali (North America), Kilimanjaro (Africa), and Vinson (Antarctica).  He did these in honor of a friend who had died of cancer in 2008 - I was very impressed with the effort and thought it was a fitting tribute to Dave's friend.

While he is on hiatus from the quest - if it ever was one for him (he never actually told me he had set a goal of all seven summits) - he shared some great adventure stories that I put up on the blog, and also Mary and I got to take a look at photographs from a couple of the climbs.

Back when I wrote this post:  http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2009/01/7-summiters-its-small-world.html, Dave had encountered a young person and his family on one of the climbs.  This youth had set a goal, with the support of his family, of summiting all seven peaks by the time he was 14.  Well, in this month's Outside, I finally get some closure on that one - apparently George Atkinson, a 16-year-old from England, is the youngest person to complete the seven summits.  The moral...if there is one...I won't make a guess.

Another bit of news includes the report that Apa Sherpa, the man who was honored by the special edition Suunto Core Everest watch I reviewed under the Tech-watch Geek label, summited with an expedition this year - for the 21st time.  Even for people who live in the region, and climb those mountains as an avocation, that summit is challenging, and can probably only be completed once a year.  To do it again and again 21 years is really saying something. 

I read that Apa Sherpa has established a trust, and proceeds from the watch roylaties will form part of the establishment funds.  He has given the money to benefit his home town, to increase literacy there, among other goals. 

That's a far better effort that the other five or six summiting escapades that the rest of the graphic features.  Some of them are truly just adventure for adventure's sake - showing off.  I'll write about Apa Sherpa any day over them.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wisteria's Music Under the Arbor

On Saturdays during the summer, our friends at Wisteria host a little outdoor concert with local musicians out behind the tasting room.  There's plenty of space to pull up a chair and enjoy a glass of wine while listening to the local talent, which was the band Eklektix, last weekend.  I've posted on it quite a few times in the past and will probably do so again, but Mousa and Sue have created a wonderful place there at the farm, and it's a perfect venue for an event like this one.

Mary and I joined neighbor Dan (after the hops drying and Beaver Run Flat Tale IPA product sampling) for the evening, since this was a band that is comprised of some of Dan's coworkers - they knew quite a few folks in the crowd, as a matter of fact.  We were joined by other friends when we got there - planned and unplanned, so it was an evening of pleasant surprises.

Some highlights were the sparkling Traminette, a new vintage this year that is perfect for the summer, a walk through the farm back to Hawksbill Creek, and then the music, which ended up getting a few people up to dance.  After the little party there, a bunch of us went back over to Hawksbill Cabin for some pizza and more wine - the evening had cooled and it was a welcome break for the heat that had been building all week.

Wisteria has five more Music Under the Arbor events planned:
  • July 23 – Music Under the Arbor from 5 - 7 p.m. – FrikNFrak
  • August 6 – Music Under the Arbor from 5 - 7 p.m. – Acoustic Thunder
  • August 13 – Music Under the Arbor from 5 - 7 p.m. – Pops Walker
  • August 20 – Birthday Party! 5 – 7 p.m. Music and food - Eklektix
  • August 27 – Music Under the Arbor from 5 – 7 p.m. Acoustic Thunder
Of course there's more info - and more photos of this Saturday's events - on their web page.  http://www.wisteriavineyard.com/

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Now that my summer favorite - the bee balm - is blooming, it seems like this week is the time for the annual summer flowers post.  This particular planting is by the little shed in the backyard, hanging in there tight under the overhang.  It was in full bloom during our first visit to Hawksbill Cabin, so I mark it as something to celebrate.

It's very popular with the butterflies and hummingbirds, and I've seen some great photos that people worked all summer getting.  Me, I'll just aprreciate it for what it is, something very pretty with a fond connotation.

Now, over by the drive, this year we've had a strong showing from this white hydrangea.  This is in a triangular piece of the front west lot that we don't even mow - we keep it naturalized for privacy with the neighbors on that side.  There's probably a quarter acre over there, enlarged a few years back when we bought back an unneeded easement.

And next to the hydrangea, which never bloomed like this before - maxing out with a single flower in most years, we have one of the remaining hostas that the deer haven't found.  They've done their damage to the rest of these plants over by the apple tree, that's for sure, but the good thing is the hostas keep coming back.  It also seems to be thriving up there in its place, getting all the rain and sun it needs, unmolested by any attention to the landscaping.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Caution, Dude Crossing

Note:  The video is an ad piece from the iRobot web site.  It is quite loud, so you'll probably rush to turn down the volume like I did.  But there is sweet action footage of the 'bot in action - one of Dude's kin.

"I'm The Dude. So that's what you call me, you know.  That, or, ahhhh....."

The pool at Hawksbill Cabin was the one thing that gave us second thoughts about buying the place. Relatives of ours have had pools, and they always reported mixed feelings about them – about the amount of work that it took to keep them up, about how much money it costs to have them, etc. And then I worried about the risk of trespassers, and the challenges with chemicals, etc. All of that, and it was clear that the previous owners, in their charming “do it yourself, on the cheap, and without really knowing what you’re doing” way might have actually damaged the pool beyond repair.

That’s a long story I’ve written about before. Eventually we met up with the folks at Uncle D’s Pools and Spas, and we’ve had a great experience with the pool – so that pool season is, indeed, something to look forward to every year. One thing about our set up that Uncle D, himself, commented on was the pool robot we discovered buried under some clutter in the cabana.

It’s an iRobot 300 – it vacuums and jets water around that pool like a professional. And after watching it a few times, I remembered that Uncle D told me that my ‘bot was going to need a name. And then we had the poll, and the people spoke, choosing the name, “Dude.” Our new pool guy, the Dude.

Dude is part of the opening and closing ritual every year – and I guess he probably saves me about 10 hours of cleaning after opening. Then each weekend, he’s there to pitch in on Saturday mornings to get things going for us. Many is the morning I have sat and watched the machine at work from the brick terrace, enjoying my coffee, only to be interrupted by a pileated woodpecker or a hummingbird flying over.

We’re really lucky to have Dude. And with all of that, they had bought him new and just buried him away in the cabana. For myself, I don’t know what I’d do without him. Except for maybe, fill in the dang pool.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Drying the Hops

Neighbor Dan sent a note last week that he was going to be harvesting some hops this weekend, and that he also would beging drying them so he could store them for use in future batches Beaver Run Brewery Flat Tale Ale.  He invited me up to take a look at this process.

I posted a couple of photos of the Hopyard last week, showing how there were flowers on the Cascade and Centennial vines.  He hasn't seen any production from the Williamettes, which he is tyring to figure out.  His hypothesis is that they are shaded by a neighboring black walnut tree, or that the soil around that tree is contaminated in a way that affects the hops, which may be happening from the fruit that falls off of that tree every year.

I have two photos of the hop drying process - first, a plastic tray of Cascade drying in the dehumidifier.  Dan had about  trays of these going, and he was alternating them from top to bottom every 15 minutes or so during the process.  The second photo shows the output of the Centinnials that he was able to collect on Saturday, they had already been dried by the time I came to visit.

I've been putting together some background research for myself about hops production, but Dan filled me in on an item I was curious about - his estimates of how much "wet hops" it takes to get the amount of "dry hops" you need for a batch.  On Saturday, he was estimating the weight ratio as about 8 to 1...I'll be looking into this further soon.

So, after the science and consulting aspects of the visit were through, he invited me for a sample...he'd found two bottles of a batch he made last fall hiding away in one of the storage cabinets downstairs.  It was tasty.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Superintendent Bogle's Speech at the SNP 75th Ceremony

Karen Beck-Herzog, who handles community relations at Shenandoah National Park, was kind enough to send along a copy of Park Superintendent Martha C. Bogle's remarks at the recent 75th Anniversary observation at Big Meadows.  I've copied in the full speech, less some of the ceremonial parts, below.  The full remarks give a lot of recognition to the people and organizations that we can thank and should honor for founding the park - but the passage she gave at the very end of the ceremony were most inspirational:

"And now, my friends, in the year 2011, WE seek to pass on to OUR children a richer land and a stronger nation. Let us join together for the future, as we have so well in the past. Let us renew the promise of preservation and in it, the rich and boundless promise of Shenandoah. Let us all take pleasure in rededicating Shenandoah National Park, rededicating it to this and to succeeding generations of Americans for the recreation and for the re-creation which they shall find here."

The last part harkens back to FDR's dedication speech.  I guess Mary and I are some of those recreators - and re-creators...we really appreciate having the park so close by, and understand what it does for the little community in Page County where the Hawksbill Cabin stands.  So, without further ado, here is the full speech that Martha Bogle had given earlier:

This year is an exciting one for Shenandoah National Park, the Commonwealth, our nearby communities, our neighbors, and our partners. Your National Park is 75 years old this year. Your National Park -- and today’s rededication -- wouldn’t have happened without the vision, sacrifices, and hard work of many people. I would like to take a moment to recognize some of those people. In the 1920s, the Commonwealth of VA was successful in lobbying for a National Park to be created in these Blue Ridge Mountains. At the time, several Virginia businessmen and state officials believed a National Park could play a key role in improving the dire economic situation facing the region and at the same time preserve the natural beauty of the area. Today that vision has become a reality – tourism is a big business in many of the park’s gateway communities.

Several hundred families had to move to make way for the vision to become a reality – some willingly sold their land to the Commonwealth of Virginia; others didn’t. Today, people from all over the world come to spend a few days or weeks in these same mountains they called home. What a gift those landowners gave to America. If you owned land in what is now Shenandoah National Park or your family did, PLEASE stand now so we can recognize you and thank you for this great gift to our country, the Commonwealth, and our communities.

Your National Park was a gift from the Commonwealth of Virginia to all Americans. Today Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources Maureen Matson is here representing the Governor’s office. I know she’s busy this year because the Virginia Park Service is also celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Thank you for being here with us today.

We have other special guests as well, including Senator Hanger, Delegate Scott and Delegate Landes, several Chairmen and members of our County Boards of Supervisors, and more than a dozen mayors and town council members from our gateway communities. Shenandoah’s visitors and employees depend on our communities for all kinds of services, and we couldn’t survive without their support.

The Park also couldn’t survive without our wonderful non-profit partners, including the Shenandoah National Park Trust – the park’s fundraising partner; the Shenandoah National Park Association (affectionately called SNPA) are the ones that sell the books and other educational materials in our visitor centers – 100% of the profits go to support the park’s educational and interpretive programs; and last but not least, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club whose volunteers maintain more than 300 miles of Shenandoah’s trails. We couldn’t operate this park without their support. Many of you may have noticed PATC’s volunteers helping park cars today. The Trust and Association also have provided financial support to help celebrate Shenandoah National Park’s 75th anniversary.

A team of more than 30 people from our adjacent counties and communities began meeting two years ago to help plan a yearlong celebration to recognize Shenandoah’s anniversary. 75th Anniversary Coordinator Donna Bedwell headed up a team made up of park staff and county government and tourism officials from all the counties adjacent to the park. The Shenandoah staff and the other committee members have worked hard for two years to plan ways to recognize and celebrate Shenandoah’s 75th anniversary.

In addition to the three signature events planned by the park, our nearby counties and towns have planned more than fifty community sponsored 75th anniversary sanctioned events. Please stop by the Community Partnership tent to learn more about the park’s neighboring communities, its partners, and the events.

Wonderful friends from our communities and counties keep stepping up to recognize Shenandoah’s 75th in very special ways. Local artist Kevin Adams painted a beautiful work of art for the park. One of the park’s most famous mountains -- Old Rag -- was his subject. He donated 500 signed and numbered prints to the park with 100% of the proceeds going to support the park. Please be sure to stop by and visit with him after today’s ceremony. He will be available to talk with you outside the Community/ Partnership tent.

Also, the Blue Ridge Chorale from Culpeper commissioned a musical composition called Shenandoah in honor of the park’s 75th. I had the pleasure of hearing it performed by the group at Culpeper’s Remembrance Days where I was a speaker. The piece was so beautiful and was so beautifully performed that it brought tears to my eyes. You will have the opportunity to hear the choral group this afternoon at 3:45 on the mainstage.

The next generation of the park’s caretakers, Park Rangers, and scientists also got into the act. Luray, VA students have written a one act play in honor of the park’s 75th birthday. They will perform it at 4:30 today on the mainstage.

Also, seated to my left on the ground are K – 12 students from Rappahannock Public Schools and Hearthstone and Belle Meade schools. These students, along with their teacher, came together to design and paint an 8’ high by 15’ long mural to celebrate nature and to commit to protecting our natural world, including Shenandoah. You will not believe their incredible work – stop by the Family Fun tent to see the mural and to hear the students talk about what they learned as part of the experience. We also have many other talented local artists performing on the main stage during the day. Check your program for details about today’s activities and plan to stick around for lots of music and fun.

After working for more than 30 years for the National Park Service in 12 different National Parks, I am convinced that the National Park Service cannot protect National Parks . . . that is without the help of our partners, neighbors, and communities, of course. The health of Shenandoah National Park’s natural and cultural resources and the economic health and quality of life in our communities is connected. If we continue to take care of the resources and values that bring people to visit Shenandoah, those values and resources will also be here for us to enjoy . . . and our visitors will continue to seek services and support the economies of our local communities. I firmly believe that if we can find more ways for the park and the communities to connect and to partner with each other that we all will be stronger.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mary's Container Garden Update

On Tuesday, Mary went out into the truck patch and came back laden with yellow squash.  Now, she's been getting squash out of there already this season, but these big fellas were something else.  They must have been ready last Friday and then plumped up over the weekend while we were out at Hawksbill Cabin.

Also, there are the first pepper and tomatoes - she has three vines going, and they have absolutely taken over.  Dwarfed here is an eggplant...we've enjoyed about a dozen of these already too.

Still to come is the okra, Mary inherited six plants from our neighbor Herb. 

More to come, I'm sure!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hop Yard Progress Report - 2011

It's summertime, and what kind of summer would it be if I didn't conspire a visit over to Dan's hop yard to check on how things are going?  I looked back at past posts on the topic (see the Beaver Run Brewery label, which dates back to 2008, at least) and saw that my last visit during growing season was in August 2010, followed by a visit during Alpha Blond sampling season in February 2011.  All of which led me to conclude that it was indeed time for a visit before the summer gets much further along.

Now, before I get into the technical part of this post, there is a little story to tell about about last Saturday's Luray-Page Farmers Market.  I was visiting the Skyline Premium Meats booth, and then the Public House Produce booth - standing between the two to conserve walking back and forth - and David came around from behind the produce with a cooler.  He said, "I've got to show you something.  Now this isn't for you, I just want you to see it.  Jared, come over here a sec."

He pulled out a six pack from the cooler.  It was obviously home brew, in recycled bottles with the labels still on, and recycled crowns.  The work of a serious home brewer, no doubt, as you could tell from the packaging (I mean, these bottles were individually crowned!)  David explained that the six was barter for an armload of sweet corn.  Then, as he finished the tale, he said again, "It's not for you guys."

We talked for a minute about this home brew crowd that is around and thriving in Page County.  Seems a number of the folks work in the park, and they have a robust network.  Then I mentioned Dan's hop garden, and David said, "Oh yeah, Dan's a legend!" 

I smiled to myself about Dan's fame.  Seriously, I knew him back when the vines were just rhizomes, and now look at him.

I mentioned I have a technical portion to the post.  While I was in the hop yard I finally took a minute to make a note of the varieties here - although I can't tell which is which in the photos.  Dan's growing Centennial, Cascade, and Willamette hops, although he tells me the Willamettes don't do as well for him, possibly because their portion of the hop yard is shaded by a large black walnut tree.  He's thinking about moving them. 

He also has some agronomic research planned for later in the summer, with a vacation coming up to Yakima, WA - a prime hop growing region of the US.  He told me he hopes to take in some hop yard tours to look at how it's done on a large scale.  I can't wait to hear about that - possibly, well, preferably - with a Beaver Run Flat Tale Ale in arm's reach.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ways to Celebrate the Fourth, #52

I'm told that many, many Page County residents were at the fireworks last night along the Hawksbill Greenway.  So many in fact, I see a Facebook post that said, "Is everybody who lives in Page County here?"  Mary and I didn't join them, but we drove past at 6pm and the area around the Farmers Market downtown was definitely filling up.

Earlier in the day, I had taken Tessie for a walk along a part of the Greenway - we saw a lot of folks out enjoying this wonderful resource.  It even inspired me to do a little web search this morning, and I found the link to the Hawksbill Greenway Foundation, which supports the enhancement and long-term care of the park.  http://www.hawksbillgreenway.org/

Now, I've opened the post with a photo by O. Winston Link - it's a famous shot of some folks out for a summer swim in Hawksbill Creek, along with some other notable landmarks, such as the Bus 211 overpass and the (now) Norfolk Southern bridge with an engine there.  (No copyright infringement is intended.  I have a copy of this photo on my office wall, procured from the Link Museum in Roanoke:  http://www.linkmuseum.org/ .)

This year, all summer long, so far, I've been seeing a similar scene in the creek.  But the swimming hole has now been moved upstream and slightly around the bend, although the trestle is still visible from the new spot.  They've got a rope swing there, and as we walked by a bunch of kids were having a good time.

There are a couple of other attractions in this area of the pathway, basically Phase III of the project (there were four so far, and the trail was completed in 2009).  There is a bridge that crosses the stream here, with a park that features an old millstone; there are also quite a few little stone ledges that create cascades and eddies in the stream.

And that's what makes the stream attractive for another reason:  fishing.  It's a stocked trout stream, a program that takes pace from October to June every year.  Those summer flows get low, however, so when the stream is warm, I guess the trout are gone.  Other game fish are bluegill and small mouth bass.  This mural under the Bus 211 overpass highlights some of the species; I saw a family doing some casting nearby, I'm guessing for bluegill or some sunfish...the young girls were bored though and wanted to move on, maybe to the river.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Local Coverage of the SNP 75th

Almost as soon as I posted yesterday, the Page News and Courier website went up with a front page article about the 75th Anniversary celebration up in Shenandoah National Park.  The PNC's website refreshes late after the weekly is published on Wednesday, it was because of this tardiness I came to the conclusion they weren't covering it.  After reading the article, reporter Rebecca Armstrong has done a good job on the story, which is important after all to Page County, since park headquarters is located in Luray.

Rebecca's article, linked below, includes a photo of the Roosevelt reenactor, and then there is a great story about local connections to the forming of the park.  She features quotes from local realtor Al Lam, whose grandfather sat next to Roosevelt during the dedication ceremony, and whose family was part of the relocations as the park began forming from land acquisitions.

Armstrong reports something Lam's grandfather said about the park and the relocations:

"I ain't so crazy about leaving these hills, but I never believed in being against the government," said Hezekiah at the age of 85, according to the Virginia Historical Society. "I signed everything they asked me."

I guess that gets to the bottom of what I am trying to learn about the park myself this year.  While to encounter those woods and mountains these days, you wouldn't know how developed they were, and how actively that land was being worked up until the 1930's.  But there remain traces of all that - and of what came before, when this was Native American land. 

There's a lot to enjoy in the solitude and natural beauty about the place, but there is a lot to remember about the human experience here.

The PNC article is here:  http://www.dailynews-record.com/pnc_details.php?AID=58693&CHID=42