Tuesday, May 25, 2010

DAY 9 – THE LIGHT SHINES ON THE MOTHER!

Monday arrived right on schedule and our second week of travel began amidst the tall trees and rhododendron covered banks of Hungry Mother State Park. After enjoying a restful night of sleep, we enjoyed our morning coffee while sitting alongside the banks of Hungry Mother Creek. A small stream that moves at a slow pace, the creek is nevertheless chock full of life. Birds of numerous persuasions are constantly in and out of the water bathing themselves and seemingly enjoying a frolic in the water.

As we finished our morning breakfast of yogurt, banana, and coffee, the sun topped the mountain ridge and bathed the campsite in light bringing greater clarity to the clear waters of the creek. Our companion pair of Mallards made their morning visit and then moved on down the creek to the lake proper.

I had to telecommute to work for a couple of hours as I had done last week. This time, however, the Verizon 3G network was readily available at our campsite and I was able to connect to the company servers and do my duties while sitting by the creek. Let’s talk about a great view out of the office window!

Following completion of my work requirements, it was time to pay for an additional night’s stay and this was my opportunity to get in a ride. I headed down to the campground office and made it official that we would be staying at least another night. After some wrangling with the computer, we were checked in again and I headed out on my morning ride.

I pedaled out of the park back toward Marion, VA. and the bike lanes that we had encountered upon our arrival. The park itself doesn’t include that many miles of roads so leaving the park was the best alternative to get in some miles. The first couple of miles were along the shore of the lake and was an easy warm-up.

Hungry Mother Lake(The placid waters of the lake at Hungry Mother State Park) 

After exiting the park boundary, I came upon my first climb of the day. It turned out to be approximately 1 mile in length with a peak grade of 11%. The bike lane was much appreciated as this turned out to be a fairly busy state road. The drivers passing me by were courteous and gave me some additional space even though I was in the bike lane. I rode for 4 miles out to the local hospital before turning around and heading back to the campsite.

Once back in the park, I planned to explore some of the park’s roads but my keen navigation sense only ended up retracing my steps to our campsite. I did however keep going beyond the campground and found that I could ride to the end of the state maintained portion of the road for approximately 1.5 more miles. The road here is alongside banks full of ferns and rhododendron on the eastern side with open fields and meadows to the west. Some private housing exists here and it varied from relatively poverty appearing to high-dollar homes.

While I was riding…

The Navigator had stayed behind at the campsite in order to read. She thought she heard me returning from my ride but was quite surprised when a warm snout appeared on her left arm. She was warmly greeted by A.J., a Golden Retriever.

AJ the Golden Retriever stops by for a visit(AJ, the Golden Retriever, gets a rub down from the Navigator) 

As it turns out, AJ is a well-known, not always appreciated, visitor to the campground. His home is up the road from the campground and he has been making his visits to Campground B for years according to one of our fellow campers. AJ enjoyed a good nap, a snack, and another nap with the Navigator before moving downstream to some more campers. He made a return visit later in the evening but was spotted under our picnic table by the camp hosts and shooed home. They reported that AJ has been known to spend a day or so at a given campsite if not sent packing. While his presence with us was in no way an irritant, the hosts indicated that other campers often feel less than accommodating to AJ and register their complaints about him frequently. It’s hard to imagine anyone complaining about this laid back dog…

A nice hike was in order… 

Hiking trails and mountain biking trails are plentiful in this park. The Navigator and I headed out for a short trip along Lakeshore Trail with a return to the camp office and store along the way. The trail is well maintained and quite wide so there appears to be ample room for both hikers and cyclists. Horses are not allowed on these trails. Tire tracks in the low lying wet parts of the trail attested to the recent presence of mountain bikers. The broken bits and pieces of shale covering the trail would not work well with my skinny tired Fuji.

Hungry Mother has a very nice beach area. Most of the park’s amenities don’t seem to be open yet as their season is not officially here as yet. However, we did get a feel for what is available and this clearly would be a destination park rather than a stop-over location.

The beach area at Hungry Mother(The beach is ready for some customers…) 

While at the campground offices, we were treated to a former employee getting to tear down his former offices! The old check-in and camp offices have been replaced by a newer much larger facility so the old one had to go…

Office reduced to rubble(Memories reduced to rubble in a matter of minutes) 

I proffered my help to the dozer operator but he just grinned at me and kept going! It was a similar rejection as the one that I received in Douthat State Park by the employee, who was grooming the sand at the beach area of Watoga Lake with his Ford tractor. Some guys get all the great jobs!

Just prior to a supper of baked potato, salad, and steak grilled by the campfire, I tried to do my best Jim Artis impression and put “finger to keyboard” in order to get a blog posted. Jim is very dedicated to his readers and, while staying with us recently, made sure to keep fresh material available. So, here’s to you Jim!

Zeke updating blog by campfire!(Updating gr8smokieszeke by campfire!) 

Our night ended after some roasted marshmallows, watching a young small mouth bass in the creek feed, enjoying the drumming of a Pileated Woodpecker, and enjoying the sounds of other birds as night fell. I believe that we have found our premier campsite on this trip.

Until later,

- Zeke

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