Wednesday, May 26, 2010

DAYS 10/11 – TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE…

Day 10 (Tuesday) – What can I say? Just another day in the paradise that is Hungry Mother State Park. I should report that we were up early, that I completed a 30 mile ride in and around the park climbing every mountain I could find and that we then polished off the day with a 10 mile hike.

If I reported any of that, it would be a lie… Tuesday was apparently intended for being laid back. We did muster up the energy to enjoy a fine campfire breakfast of biscuits, scrambled eggs, and sausage preceded by coffee by the stream. Uh, I think I recall taking a nap. But wait, the Navigator and I pooled our energy and managed to leave the campground long enough to drive into nearby Marion, VA to explore the town. We also needed ice in order to keep our cool libations cool.

The town of Marion is quaint and, as seems typical of our mountain towns, has the central downtown area (always referred to as historic) and the strip malls where you can find the big box stores. For a small town, Marion sure has a lot of banks! Unfortunately, none of them are the one we use.

The most exciting moment of the ride came when I made a bad call on a left hand turn and we ended up on I-81 going south and out of town. 7 miles later we found a turnaround and proceeded back to pick up that ice and a little something for supper.

Next, we were forced to take a nap…

(Relevant cycling note for this post: Marion has a bike shop. Sorry, I didn’t stop and go in or check it out. I just know that it exists and it is named Dean’s Bikes  and Locksmith. I did note a Fuji sign in the window.)

It became apparent along about dusk that doing nothing is pretty energy exhausting and I realized that I had not moved myself from creek side long enough to eat a power bar. I became concerned about reaching my lactate thresholds through muscular inactivity. Before I could crash and burn from not doing enough, we took a short stroll along the lakeside and watched a young bride getting her picture made for her upcoming nuptials.

I was reminded of the “circle of life” on this little foray along the paths of Hungry Mother. On the edge of the woods, was this young bride to be with so much of her life and expectations in front of her and walking, not 75’ away, was an elderly woman, who was obviously cognitively and physically impaired being led slow step by slow step along the path by her care-giver. Who knows what life this elder woman has led and if it met expectations held by her when she was the young bride to be’s age.

Following a supper of rubbed and grilled pork chops, grilled fresh asparagus, and rice, I think we took another nap followed by getting up and going to bed…

Day 11 (Wednesday) – The day started early when a friend called to make a camper inquiry. Actually, the day had started much earlier when I kept hearing a car driving around the area at 3:30 a.m. Knowing that this shouldn’t be happening, my curious brain wouldn’t let me sleep so I climbed from the comfort and warmth of the bed to glance outside. Sure enough, a car pulled in beside us with its parking lights on and I could see a flashlight making its way through the trees to the next campsite. If something untoward was going on, I couldn’t discover what it was so I turned back in with hopes of getting back to sleep.

During our early morning stroll we discovered that the young mother of the group near us had become sick during the night and the car beside us was being used to transport her to get some relief. Fortunately, it was nothing serious we were told by her husband.

Being somewhat disgusted with our lack of activity yesterday, the Navigator determined that we would be more proactive in meeting the day today. So, breakfast behind us, we headed out for a hike and to pay for our final night’s stay in Hungry Mother.

We chose the Lake Shore Trail as our beginning point and began moving. This trail is 5.7 miles long and is very aptly named. The first 40% of the trail, as we took it, is relatively flat and runs alongside the lake. After crossing below the dam, we headed into the woods and began climbing above the lake. The Navigator took lots of photos of differing plants that we observed along the trail. We enjoyed seeing how many we could name.

The trail is wide and mostly packed. It is used by hikers, runners, and cyclists although we saw only 2 runners and 1 mountain biker on our circle around the lake. We heard but did not see a Pileated Woodpecker drumming in the woods. Several Canadian Geese and Mallards were out feeding and sunning as we traversed the trail.

The trail makes several turns away from the lake and back into typical Appalachian wooded coves. The Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron are still in bloom and made for some pretty sights. We also noted a least 4 different types of ferns including a Bear Claw fern.

Bear Claw Fern(Bear Claw Fern) 

After 2 hours of hiking, we returned to our campsite to find that two more of our neighbors have moved on. As I write, there are only 3 sets of campers in this campground although this is likely to change as the end of day comes upon us. It will certainly change tomorrow as the Memorial Day weekend crowd gets an early start.

6:00 p.m. EDT update:

The weekend crowd is arriving early. Young families with pre-school children are finding their way into the park getting ready for the weekend. The sites alongside us and the creek are now filled.

After lunch and some recovery time from the morning hike, I headed out on the Fuji to get in a few more miles before we pack it in for this trip. My warm-up consisted of a short ride up the valley beyond the park as described in yesterday’s post.

Field along Hungry Mother Highway(One of the fields along my warm up ride) 

The Camp Host had encouraged me to climb the hill to Campground C saying it was pretty steep. So, I checked it out and, in fact, it was steep but short. For the effort, I did get to view the tent campground. All of the sites in this campground are up in the air on pedestals.

Camping above the ground! 

(Campground C lets campers experience the highs of camping!)

High Water Camping!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(High water camping just outside of the campground. Notes blocks under wheels!)

My main interest in riding today was to go beyond the Park boundaries up the mountain. I did so for approximately 3 miles at an average grade around 11%. Throughout the climb, road signs warned truckers to turn around! I did so at, according to the sign, the last possible turnaround. I hate to think what was beyond that next curve!

A quick descent down the mountain brought me back to the Park offices and beyond. I extended my ride an additional 3 miles out into a country road I had spotted earlier. This turned out to be a connector to the road going up the next valley.

My return trip to the Park was punctuated with the most traffic I’ve seen this week. I stopped just above the spillway to grab a couple of images of the lake from that perspective.

Fuji at Hungry Mother Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(My trusty Fuji CCR3 overlooking the spillway)

Spillway at Hungry Mother Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Sun setting on the spillway)

My final ride in Hungry Mother was pleasant and about the right length given the hike this morning. We’ve been blessed with good weather while here and, as is hopefully clear in my posts, this is an excellent place to visit and rest. We have a final campfire in us and a few more moments of quiet by the creek side before this part of the trip is over.

We’ve heard the calling of home the last two days. Actually, we’ve missed our dogs and cats more than having a great desire to return home. It’s time to make the short journey south to home. This will give us some time to ease back into the normal routine before having to return to work next week.

While this wasn’t the trip we planned, it has turned out to be enjoyable and relaxing, which is something both of us needed. The Navigator and I continue to enjoy each other’s company more than that of other situations and living together full time in a 26’ x 8’ camper can either highlight your strengths or highlight your weaknesses. Fortunately, after 27.5 years, we’re still working with the strengths!

So, tomorrow’s daybreak will have us packing and doing those things necessary to load up and head home. In all likelihood, there will be no post tomorrow as we travel home and resettle. For those of you that have read this “travelogue” of our adventure, I thank you and hope that you’ve found it interesting! Your visits are deeply appreciated!

Until later,

Zeke

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