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Sunday, April 26, 2009  

Springtime Tours of Virginia

I can't believe it's been so long since I've posted, since I can't blame lack of time for the silence. It's mostly been figuring out how much I want to say and how to say it as interestingly as possible. Everyone knows TheQueen can be excessively wordy. MissLoquacity, one might call her. Also – this post will have photos and in this case I have over 100 to pick through, and while it can be fun, it can also be tedious.

(It's proving to be particularly tedious - my satellite link keeps breaking. I'll come back later and post the rest of the photos)

Last week was a confusing, stupid complicated week, impossible to organize and on a course aimed at a collision with frustration. That it ended on such a happy note is one of life's sweet treats. BD was supposed to have surgery on Tuesday. Suffice it to say, due to mix-ups, screw-ups, and bad secretarial procedures ( If you are Tiffany from Surgery, and you leave a phone message encouraging us to call if we have any questions, please leave a call back number) – it got canceled at the last minute. And here was TheQueen with all these days off, and believe me, she wasn't about to give them back. Besides, I'd been through the time sheets and realized I had almost 4 weeks of vacation accumulated. I was at the use 'em or lose 'em stage.


I took the time off – and had a splendid time of it too. Tuesday I met with my sister and the guy who handles our parents' finances. They are okay, in spite of this dreadful economy – largely because beyond housing and the most basic personal needs, they spend nothing. I was able to visit both parents too and I even got an art lesson from Mama.

And on Wednesday, BD and I headed off on a jaunt to visit Montpelier – the home of the Fall Fiber Festival, but also of James & Dolly Madison.

I've been to the grounds a lot, but I've never visited the house. In fact, I was surprised to find that the house is across the highway from the fairgrounds. It has been undergoing tremendous restoration activity. The already large house was more than doubled when it was bought about 100 years ago by the DuPont family. When the last descendant died it was willed to the National Trust along with bow-koo bucks to turn it back into a Madison museum, beginning with tearing off all the DuPont additions. Wisely, they left the beautiful walled garden pretty much alone.

This was a perfect time to be visiting the Virginia piedmont. Soft green is just filling out all across the landscape, still thin enough to peep through forest cover, but colorful with the gold of nature's first green, the vivid whites of dogwood and sarvice berry and the first of the azaleas. Most of the daffodils are gone but the tulips are beginning to leaf out and of course, in a museum type garden, there is also the lush rich green of grass.

But as interesting as all the man made vistas are, BD was really interested in seeing the old growth forest.

There is about a mile of snaky path through the woods and we thoroughly enjoyed scrambling over the wooded hillsides, imagining the fun a little boy might have had growing up in such a setting. The tour is very well done and the entrance fee is reasonable. We didn't have time to visit any of the visitor center displays because we had a dinner date with friends, but that only means we have reason to go back.
But we did have dinner plans, so off we zipped down 20 to Charlottesville and then south into Nelson County where we met up with both old and new friends. M&C and their two boys we were expecting, but CK was a complete surprise. She's an on-line knitting buddy whom I had never met. Just that morning we were chatting on facebook and she asked me if I knew C. I shot back that not only did I know her, but was having dinner with her that very evening. What a surprise to see her coming out of M&C's house! And what a doofus I was to not get a picture of the three of us.
It was so special to catch up with M&C. The boys are almost men now – a senior and junior in high school. We usually get together in the summertime, but this year slipped by without a visit. What a change 2 years makes.

Thursday we drove deeper into the county, down St. Rt. 56 to Crabtree Falls, another of those surprises you discover if you're a map lover like BD. He's always finding interesting places to visit, expanding my knowledge and deepening my love of the Virginia landscape.

It was fairly early in the day when we parked the car at the foot of the mountain. There was a chill wind blowing, though the sky was brightly clear so I bundled up in both jacket and sweater and in spite of the vigor of the climb and the strong sunshine, I wore my jacket the whole time.
You hear the waterfall before you see it, that hissing gushing sound of water over rock. It drops about 1500 feet in three rather distinct phases. There is an easy path, full of switchbacks that takes you up to viewing platforms all along the falls. Something about the power and energy of all that falling water, its music, its movement, makes me excited and energetic myself. We took our time, stopping for anything that interested us; wild flowers especially,
but also interesting rocks, caves and always, the magnificent view of the falls, so we never got tired, though it's Sunday now and I can still feel a bit of tightness in my calves and hamstrings.

We made it to the top, where sheets of water cascaded off the rock face, and a little beyond, to where the stream smoothed out into a gentle little watercourse. The whole climb took about 4 hours. It was a stunning experience, views to thrill you, spring flowers to delight. A big thank you goes to the kindly engineer who kept the slopes on the path at an angle gentle enough for any reasonably fit person to enjoy.

And we were hungry! Oh how hungry we were when we got down. That deep into the county there are no restaurants and we hadn't packed anything so we headed off to Charlottesville for food and drink and then took the interstate home because by then, I was missing the dogs. Besides, I didn't want to sightsee anything else – I wanted to keep the thrill of that mountain climb along the tumbling water pure and undiluted by other beauties.

We were home before dark, ready for hot baths, snack dinners and lots of doggy love.

A perfect Virginia tour in the gentle green lace of springtime.

posted by Bess | 7:06 AM