Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Virginia Visit

New England Asters blooming by the roadsides
in Rockbridge County, Va. 

Virginia Visit--Back to See the Family

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Thursday Oct.2 -Sunday Oct. 5, 2014

   We had been trying for some time to get back to Virginia which is our home state to visit
our family.   We finally got the time to go and while neither of us is a fan of the five hour drive it is
always worth it.  The drive was very pretty and Autumn color is coming to the Old Dominion.   
The beautiful Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains were living up to their name.  Ribbons of
winding deep blue to either side of I-81 were hard to take your eyes off.  

      We pulled into Lexington, VA and coming off the ramp onto Route 11 --The Valley Pike--
I was overwhelmed at the sight of House Mountain.  I got a lump in my throat and just whispered
how good it looked. Kenny reassured me "We'll hike it one day."  I was pleased just to see that 
dear landmark.    We grabbed a quick dinner in Lexington before we headed out to the farm.
We did not want to wait too late to eat and did not want Ma to have to fix dinner tonight.
She is getting over pneumonia.  

     We got out to the farm and visited a little bit and then went to bed at 9:30 pm.  
I slept well.  We enjoyed breakfast with Ma Koogler and lingered over coffee.   We finally decided we'd all go out to dinner that evening. Today we'd take a ride on some old country roads. It was a scouting mission
to see if Kenny could find a shorter access route for hiking to the Jump Mountain Summit.  I was
ok with hiking the 9 miles, but he believed he could find an easier way.  Turns out I was right and the way is to simply hike.    I doubt he will go with me, but he might.

     The backroads were beautiful and quiet.  Autumn color is creeping in and we saw some pretty leaf color.
The sky was overcast and Jump Mountain's summit was in a black thunderhead the entire time.
I saw something I did not even know existed. We passed Hayes Mill.  It is yet another old grist mill in our area. I may have been past it before, but if so I do not recall.    It is quite scenic.  I got out and walked around. The mill was dated 1901 on its corner stone. 
Corn fields out in K├╝glerville.  Its kinda like Hooterville on Green Acres only its even more rural than that!
Corn. Cows. Trees. And a whole lotta nuthin.

 Hays Creek Mill
 Mill Wheel at Hays Creek Mill
 Hays Creek behind the mill itself. Very pretty spot.
Hays Creek Mill founded 1901 according to this stone. 

Maury River in Rockbridge Baths, Va.  
 Driving down dirt roads.
Beautiful rolling hills of Rockbridge County Va and Jump Mountain with its head stuck in the clouds.

    Back at the farm we were treated to Ma Koogler's wonderful cooking for lunch.  Virginia is heavily influenced by German immigrants cooking.  Out here we are in mainly Presbyterian country. 
We decided to all go out to eat at the Mill Street Grill.  I had oysters that night for the first time in a long time.
Delicious!   Ma had a list of things she needed help with that Kenny and Chris were going to help her with.
They finally convinced me to take Pops truck and head down to see my mother.   My sister Val Graham works at Shear Dimensions Day Spa . Mom went and got a hair cut and I got a massage from my sister.
It was much needed. I'd been suffering with a shoulder injury since March and she fixed it!  Why did I wait so long to get it looked after?

       I went shopping a little while with Mom.   We hurried home to get ready to meet everyone for dinner at Mill Street.  While we were waiting to be seated we ran into Dale and Michelle Gregory! More family!  We had a good time catching up with them.  It was date night for them so we tried not to monopolize their time.
We had good food, a warm, relaxed atmosphere, and good conversation for our meal.

       Saturday we took Pop's truck back to the farm and visited with Ma a little. Emily, my niece rode along.
We went out to Wades Mill and bought flour and products.   This is grist mill country I'm telling you!
That mill is only about five miles from my old house as the crow flies.   Pretty countryside out there.
Saturday night Mom fixed lasagna for dinner and it was perfect!   We attended a concert by Terra Voce at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.   Here is a video clip of my favorite tune they performed.
Two encores!  They are really something. Not at all the regular orchestra music, but very lively.

 Terra Voce performs Arrasta Pe.  "Drag the foot". A Brazilian choro composition.

   Sunday we all went out to breakfast together at Cracker Barrel in Staunton.  It was good to see Jim
and Debbie my in laws and my nephews and nieces.  Matthew Koogler my 17 yr old nephew is cancer free and he was there. I told him I was proud of him and hugged him. I also told him next time I saw him I wanted him to weigh three hundred pounds!  He laughed.

     We hated to go, but it was back to Tennessee that afternoon.   The drive back was uneventful for us
which was good. The air was growing cooler and the mountains were pretty again today.
I thought on the difference in my life between the time I lived in Virginia and the time I lived in Tennessee.
We don't really want to move back.  We've made a life for ourselves and a home in Tennessee now.
I do miss our crazy, wonderful family sometimes though.   My brother in law Jim is still out of his mind.
No one does inappropriate comments better or sneaks them in more unexpectedly than him.  He will have you in fits of laughter. 

     Its always good to go. Its good to come back.

Grapeyard Ridge to Injune Creek Through Hike -- Another Go Smokies Hike!

Asters were the flower of the day along Grapeyard Ridge

Grapeyard Ridge to Injune Creek Through Hike -- Another Go Smokies Hike! 

Dana Koogler
Marlene Denton
David Ledbetter
Duane Pierce
Mitch & Rhonda Reagan
*Cameo Appearance by Mike Maples*

Sunday Sept. 28, 2014

Shuttle Hike from Roaring Fork the Greenbrier
Total miles hiked 7.5 

    I had a bleak and dismal attempt at a backpacking trip to Big Creek the previous day. 
I got invited to go hiking Sunday by the GoSmokies bunch and I jumped at the chance.   I was 
all about it.   Just thinking of it made me feel better.   We met up Sunday morning at the Greenbrier
Ranger Station at 8:15 am.    Mike Maples was there with us, but our excitement at thinking he was going
with us was short lived.  He had to work, but just came by to say hello and visit for a bit.  I was tickled
I finally got to meet him. I also was pleased to finally meet David Ledbetter.   It was so good to see 
everyone again.   GW Denton was missed as were Mike Gourley, Jeff Cole, Curtis, Cheryl, Betsy, David
and all the rest. 
     We visited a little while then once everyone was there who planned to go we left some vehicles there
and headed to Roaring Fork to set our shuttle vehicle at the end of Grapeyard Ridge Trail. The plan
was to hike from the Roaring Fork end of Grapeyard and split off onto the Injune Creek Manway thus
eliminating the last part of the Grapeyard Ridge Trail that has creek crossings.   It was new miles for me
so I was pleased.   I had been up Injune Creek before as far as the big rock walls, but had never finished it.
Today I hoped I would finally finish it.  
       We started off at the buildings there along Roaring Fork.  I have been by there so many times, but never
stopped to figure where the trail actually was.  It goes back past the buildings and uphill.   It is worth mentioning that Duane said the trail had been re-routed in the past.  I know that I looked back to the 1973 
hiking guide map to check some things we saw.  When the 1973 map was printed Grapeyard Ridge trail 
was not even an official park trail.   It was a mere manway then so it seems.  It ran the spine of the ridge very
similar to what we did today with our chosen route.  Upon first starting the trail veers left and uphill while 
it seems a tail end goes straight along the creek.   The little tail end hanging out there is part of an old access 
to the manway.  It ran from down near the gate on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and paralleled the creek, passed the buildings and went out to the "tail" and dead ended.   Veering off that track to the left was another section of manway that veered left and went up to join with the Grapeyard Ridge Manway about a mile and a half into the hike.   We saw an old official park sign there with the bottom edge damaged.
By the sign was a track leading off, but it was very overgrown with rhodo and I was not even sure it was
ever a path. We had some discussion as to whether it was the end of an old manway or a water bar. 
Other access points that we encountered along the main trail were a manway that runs off to the left of it
and ends down along Dudley Creek at Highway 321 in Gatlinburg.   
        We hiked along at a leisurely pace. I enjoyed everyone's company and we had time to catch up.
It had been too  long.   I was in a totally different frame of mind today than Saturday. I did not care much about how long it took, taking pictures, or any of that. I was just glad to be with my friends and in the woods.  The day was a nice temperature and a little overcast.   I saw lots of gentians along the trail.
I also saw evidence this trail would be a good place to hunt orchids in other seasons.   We spied the 
remnants of YFO's along the edges of the trail near its beginning. I remembered to whine about the uphill since Curtis was not there to do it.  I made sure to take up the slack on the bellyaching.  

     We checked out old home sites, fences, etc. Marlene found an old medicine bottle in great condition.
It was Dr. Thachers Liver & Blood Syrup.  It had only one crack in its bottom edge, but was whole. 
I continued to be surprised and delighted at the mossy stone walls and rock cribbing we encountered
at multiple points along the trip.   We passed one spot where stone walls were built along the creek 
making us wonder if there had been a grist mill there?  It was beautiful.  The woods were waning to Fall.
Leaves were just beginning to come down.  We mainly saw asters, gentian and goldenrod along the trail
for Fall wildflowers. We did see some lingering orange jewelweed and pale yellow jewelweed.  

     Grapeyard Ridge Trail is very pretty and not real hard.  Injune Creek trail is very pretty.
It looks like something out of a Fairy Tale at one foot log we crossed.  I can easily see why so
many repeat trips are made up there.   We stopped and ate lunch along the trail.  
We continued on and saw about ten people total besides us all day.    Most were along the Grapeyard
Ridge Trail, but we did encounter a family of four down on Injune Creek manway.  


Top: Grapeyard Ridge Trail
Bottom: Mitch is explaining something 

       We were amazed at the huge amount of acorns littering the ground on the trail.  It was a bumper crop!
The bears will eat good this year for sure.   We were amazed one of us didn't get beaned in the head by
the acorns continuing to fall off the trees!   We had a pool going. We voted Rhonda most likely to get bonked in the head by an acorn, but I tried to cheat and throw one at her to ensure I'd win. We joked 
that it was like trying to hike on ball bearings or marbles!  One of us finally did get thrown down by 
the little buggers, but I won't say who. :-) 

     We had some partial views along the ridgeline. We saw big trees.   I got to see and learn about
Twisted Sister, a very gnarly tree at the junction of a manway with Grapeyard Ridge Trail.   I had never
heard of some of the places much less seen them.  Duane was who I needed to chat with today.I'd had 
some things bothering me and he shrunk my head for me.   It is a valuable thing to have good friends
to bounce ideas off and to help get things back in their proper perspective.  I left there at the days end
feeling content and like I left the worries behind me as I hiked.  

      I was the only one in the group who had not visited the wrecked "train". Mitch explained it was not
a train, but a steam tractor.  Marlene explained the reason for it ending up wrecked in the creek was that
the operator was drunk as testified to by his own mama!  That would be enough to do it.  It was really neat
and would be worth the hike to see that alone.  

Rhonda checking out the old steam tractor wreck. She is videotaping it with her Go Pro cam.

     We got to see CS 32 which is a lovely spot.  Duane is familiar enough with it he pointed out to me
the recent modifications to the site. The bear cables were relocated as was the fire ring.  He seemed unsure
why they did some of the changes to it, but it got done just the same.    

     We turned aside to see the McCarter Cemetery on the way out.   I had hiked Injune Creek many years ago with different friends, and I was not sure if I had visited the cemetery or not? Turned out I had NOT 
seen it before.  They bury the dead up on a hill.  So it was more uphill to get there, but it was short.
It added about 1/2 mile extra to the trip so it was not bad.   

      We eased along toward the vehicles and the trailhead.  Most of the crossings on Injune Creek have foot logs.   It was so pretty.  I had forgotten just how nice it was. 
Other remnants of the old steam tractor. 

        Back at the vehicles we did some quick figuring who wanted to go grab a barbecue dinner and who was wanting to go home?  Dave, Marlene and Duane went ahead to retrieve vehicles from off Roaring Fork before the gate was closed.  Mitch, Rhonda and myself headed to the little BBQ place at the end of the road. I had a nice relaxing dinner with them. It was the perfect end to the day.   I hugged them good bye
and parted company. I hope it wont be long til we meet up again to hike or do something fun.