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Monday, November 23, 2015

The Great Smoky Mountains & Asheville

I left Staunton/Walnut Hills KOA at 10:30 AM. I traveled 81 to 40 to 74 to 441 and arrived at Smokemont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains at 6:30PM. The drive was very pleasant with very little traffic and no delays. I stopped often. I don’t push it. It was a long day in the car, but I’ll be here for six days enjoying the park and the AT as well as drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway and of course all the breweries in and around Asheville. One of my favorite breweries, Innovation, is in Sylva, which is 20 minutes away. It is at least 10 degrees warmer here. I’m comfortable in a t-shirt.
I didn’t have a fire, because instead I crashed. Eight hours in the saddle demands sleep. First I ate, drank and was merry. I didn’t unhook the trailer from the car, because tomorrow I will find a better site. This one is in direct site line of the lights in the bathhouse. The sites here are backwards. The fire pit and table are on the driver side of the camp, which means they are on the backside of campers, whose p-doors open on the passenger side. At daybreak, I made some tea and walked the campgrounds. I found a perfect site, which would allow me to use the Scamp to block the bathhouse. I did the switcher-ohh and set up on B-29 for the next five nights. Done! After setting camp, I drove up to Clingmans Dome. Halfway up I was in the clouds. I turned around and saved this for another day, I have five more. I set off on a brewery tour. I first stopped at Food Lion to do some shopping. My first stop would be The Lazy Hiker Brewing Company in Franklin, NC. It was a nice drive on familiar roads, then new ones to Lazy Hiker, a neat setup with a food truck, an outside band shell, ample parking, and outside seating. I had a flight. I took a growler of their Amber Ale.  I drove this far distance so now my trip is home and I have another stop, Innovation Brewery, one of my faves. I found it easily as I came in from another direction, but immediately recognized where I was. I had come out this way once before on my way to Atlanta. Parking and walking into Innovation was like walking into Burley Oak. I was home. I immediately asked if they had any smoked beers. “No” was the barkeeps reply and “sorry about that” he added. “I have missed it too,” he added. I got a flight and took the un-smoked rye home. Their midnight rye is to die for. While at Innovation the other bar patrons provided great conversation and the name of a new brewery down the road, The Sneak E Squirrel Brewery came up. I remember driving by it and chuckling about the name. I didn’t get to the part of brewery and pub below. I saw this on my second passing and looking for it, since I had just heard about a new brewery in the Asheville area, surprise, not. I got a flight. Yes, I’m flying. I’m having a great conversation with the barkeep when the two of the guys from Innovation come in. We acknowledge our mutual surprise at seeing each other again. They are opening a new brewery soon, a year or two, and are doing research. They had been to OC and had missed the whole RT 50 brewery collection.  One of the things I live about touring is visiting breweries along the way. By the time I got home it was 6:30, twenty-four hours later. I set my trophies, the three growlers, on the picnic table.  Yes, three growlers. I know I came with two. At Lazy Hiker, they wouldn’t fill my growler, so I had to buy one of theirs. I have to remember to carry the growlers of the places I will be visiting. Or not. It was dark when I got home. Since I forgot to get something out of the freezer for dinner, I made a chopped salad. It’s time for a fire and a growler.
Since I’m in the western part of the Eastern Time zone, my sun in the morning appears later and sets later. I’m quite a distance from Berlin. I woke at 6:30, it was dark and very lightly sprinkling, barely noticeable. I went back to sleep. I woke to harder rain at 10:45. I guess everything is catching up to me.  Went back to bed and stayed there in the warmth till 12:30. The rain had stopped and I needed breakfast. I put on water for tea and went to put up the awning so I could sit outside. It is balmy and comfortable, except the light misty rain or heavy mist. I have breakfast clean up in the breaks of rain. Accompanying the rain has been at times heavy winds that swirl around driving the leavers this way and that way. A pile of leaves over there in a few minutes is now in another location. Tree twigs are everywhere, so I walk around a gather them and fill the fire pit.   I eventually have more than can fit so I make a pile next to the pit. As I’m sitting under the awning reading, the rain gets heavier. I cover the wood and fire pit with a tarp and repair to the Scamp. I get back into my PJ’s and get into bed to read. I read, I nap, I read, I nap. This is a very civilized day in spite of the rain and wind.  I grill a trout and have some asparagus and potatoes to accompany the fish. No fire as it is pouring now. I can hear the stream even more and the rivulets by the Scamp and off the Scamp provide a jazzy percussion. In bed I read and turn out the lights and lay there. Maybe I sleep, maybe not. It is dark. The sound of the stream is melodic and hypnotizing; and oh so soothing. Since I’ve left the curtain open the sun wakes me at 6:45. It’s not up but it light is present and the sky is clear. I bound out of bed and go outside. WOW!  Wet but warm and the sky is clear. This is going to be a good day. I clean last night’s dishes, clean the Scamp, hang the rugs on the line, hang the tarp, and the rope mat in front of the Scamp. I put the awning away and have breakfast outside. After cleaning up, I take off on a pretty little hike behind the campgrounds along the Oconaluftee River. I feel as if I’m walking on the set of The Last of the Mohicans, which was filmed here in the Smoky Mountains. The melody of the river, newly swollen from the heavy rains that started at 4 and ended at midnight. The birds skittering about and the ubiquitous rhododendron played beautifully with the music of the river. After this invigorating 2 hour sojourn, I came back replenished the water and then took a shower. It was early as I headed up Newfound Gap Road, the road that goes through the Smokies from Cherokee to Gatlinburg. I stopped along the way. I had abandoned this trip on Tuesday because of the fog. No fog today. The vistas were spectacular. The road was a good NP road like all of them. Logging was a blight on the Smokies until they became a NP, just like out west. We may be getting better about commerce and the environment, or least more aware. Today I was headed to Clingmans Dome. The seven-mile ride from the main road was a roller coaster ride. The hike and I mean hike up to the Dome from the parking lot was killer. It had to be ¾ of a mile at an 8% grade. There were many benches along the way for the wayfarer to rest weary legs. I enjoyed the task as I had already had a good hike, so I was warmed up. I kept a steady pace all the way to the top and to my surprise the Dome, which looked very much like the platform at Shark Valley in the Everglades. I walked the circular ramp to the ultimate goal, the Dome and the 360 view of the Great Smoky Mountains NP. I picked the perfect day to be up here. I could see forever. Since it was getting crowded with all the folks I passed on the way up, I descended. I continued on the Newfound Gap Road until I came upon a gaggle of cars whose occupants were pointing and oohing and aahing about something, so I stopped. A bear was foraging in the woods. I chuckled as I had stopped to see a bear as people in Assateague stop to see the ponies. I drove to Sugarlands, which is the Tennessee side of this road. I turned around and drove home.
The night sky was full and the fire warm as I killed the three growlers. Friday was another glorious day. I did some chores in the morning and then headed down the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Smokies to Asheville, 87 miles away. It took me 2 ¼ hours to get to 12 Bones, which was my first stop for lunch and their great ribs and sides. I love the ambiance, too and the crowds always out the door. I headed to Wedge, just across the river and again the place was closed. Their hours suck, for me anyway. I’ve only been to Wedge once and like the whole atmosphere, but it is on the outskirts of town and not walkable. I drove into town and found a 24 hour parking lot for three dollars across from the bus station. First I went to Cucina24 to make dinner reservations for 7:30 at the Chef bar. From there I walked to Wicked Weed and sampled a few new brews and grabbed a four pack of Tyranny. From there I found the bookstore and got George Ted Koppel’s new book, Lights Out for his birthday. After that I headed to Lab, one of Cait’s favorite spots and enjoyed a flight there. Nothing to take with me from there. After that I was heading to the car when I saw that Thirsty Monk was open, so I went in. Downstairs was a Belgium tasting room, while the ground floor was NC and American brews, and upstairs a specialty cocktail lounge where the bartender made her on tonics and sodas and wild drinks, a true mixologist. I enjoyed an excellent flight and found the Rye on Rye dynamite. Unfortunately for me, they did not allow growlers and didn’t have what was on tap in bottles. The Thirsty Monk is an all day kind of place with the three floors of distinct beverage offerings. It was my first time there. It was across the street from Jack in the Woods a bar with good music I was going to after dinner at Cucina 24. I dropped my goodies off in the car and watched the dramas unfold at the bus station. Asheville is an interesting town with an obvious gulf between the haves and the have-nots. With all the breweries and restaurants and fancy shops, it is bizarre seeing so many homeless and down and out in the streets too rubbing elbows with the musicians who are everywhere. The whole inner town reminds me of Times Square, but with hills. It is action filled, busy, at times loud, but always going. The other thing I will never get used to about Asheville, is that when you immediately leave the town you are on a two or three lane highway going 70 MPH. I can only reiterate I’m glad I didn’t retire here, I couldn’t have stood the NYC atmosphere. It is certainly a great place to visit. After a quick rest, I walked the block to Hi-Wire and walked away with a couple of 750’s of the Russian Imperial Stout and a six-pack of the Rye IPA. Instead of walking with them, I took them back to the car and grabbed a bag to carry my loot from the next four breweries I was heading towards. My first stop was Twin Leaf Brewing, which I had visited just after it had opened. I got a growler of their Old Gaffer, English style ale, which is very good. From there, I walked down the block to a new brewery for me, Catawba. It was quite the place, huge and packed. The only thing I could get there was a six-pack of White Zombie, a satisfying white ale. I walked around the corner and there was Green Man, a real hippies kind of place with International soccer on the televisions screens. Slim pickings in the carry out area, so I just got a three-pack of their Leaf Blower. My last stop before dinner was Burial, another new brewery for me. This visit was a total leap of faith in that I couldn’t taste a beer that looked intriguing, Scythe, Rye IPA, while I did have a taste of the Hermit Saints Saison. One note was the labeling at Burial was brilliant and worthy to show the gang at Burley. It was seven and I walked back to the car, deposited my loot and changed for dinner and the music club afterwards. Cucina24 is a lovely restaurant and I was seated at the Chef bar by the open fire pit, warm and cozy. I could see the whole operation from my seat and that was fun. I saw a head chef, a sous-chef, a salad and cold plate chef, and a pizza and brick oven chef. The coordination was superb. A waiter took my order and I had a Tyranny from Wicked Weed. I started with a local duck country pate, followed by a local beet salad, and finally a rabbit for dinner. Dinner was fabulous. I walked around the corner to the Jack in the Woods and got a seat at the bar at 9. I ordered a Rye Girl, one always needs a Rye girl. A female singer was warming us up for the band. She had a guitar that looked as if she should be playing Bonnie Raitt music, but instead she was wailing and moaning through songs like a weak Joni Mitchell. Not the stuff you need to hear, unless you want to slit your wrists. Disappointment was further met by the main group that took forever to get ready and then get their beers. I left, knowing this was not going to be good, especially from what I was hearing as they warmed up. Since I had a long drive home, about 1 ¼ hours, so instead of one more, I left and got home at midnight and had a fire and enjoyed the last of my Bunker C from Burley and then headed to bed as the moon descended behind the mountain on another clear sky filled with stars.
It has been so nice returning to the Smokies every night. The cars on the road can’t be heard because of the roaring stream and they look like fairies with the white lights passing along and broken by the trees and adds to the magic. Saturday was another glorious start. The sun cleared the eastern mountain at 9AM. Being in the valley provides protection but not full light since it goes down the western mountain at 4PM. Not much sun during the day, like Yosemite. I had decided to tour breweries west of Asheville. I drove to the furthest destination, Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City. I liked the brown ale and Spearfinger, which I took with me. I had a good conversation with the brewer and we discussed their expansion and plans. I have loved the positive attitude these small businesses have.  I still have a bottle or two of their Trail Magic Belgium ales, so I just tasted them this trip. Potent beers these Trail Magic Belgiums.  I headed back to Sylva to get a couple of growlers of Innovation’s Rye and an elk burger and another growler of Prison Shank from Sneak E Squirrel. I drove to Waynesville and started my tour at Frog Level Brewing, which has a beautiful location on a river and they use the backyard fantastically. I took Nutty Brown Ale and Salamander Ale with me. From there I headed into town to visit Tipping Point and Boojum. At Tipping Point I had a flight and left with their Rye IPA. I walked down the pretty Main Street to Boojum, a new brewery for me. They had lots of experimental beers and stouts. All were good. I took the Imperial Pumpkin Ale and the Dark Zone Milk Stout. My last stop was BearWaters Brewing where I had a lovely Sunburst beer and took a growler of it home. Beer touring was done and it was time to go home. I decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway back to camp, thus avoiding Cherokee. I love driving this road as I feel as if I’m in a low flying plane as I look down into the valley. I got home in the dark, made a fire and sat and had a beer, Innovation’s Rye. That’s why I got two growlers. I prepared dinner and did some clean to start my departure for Cait and George’s house Sunday morning. It was cold and even colder when I woke up Sunday morning. I quick and easy pack up and sorting of beers and I left camp at 9:30. I took a road that had me drive through Nantahala National Forest and a gorgeous white water rafting river. The drive the Marietta was easy and I was at Cait’s house by 1:30. My daughter looks so beautiful and pregnant. It was good to be with them and share our stories of their trip to Thailand and with the elephants and me and my trips to the Great Lakes and this current one.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A weekend in Staunton, VA

I arrived at the Staunton KOA in Walnuts Hills just before noon on Friday the 13th. Four Shakespeare plays in three days, Yippee! So far on this trip I haven’t had the door of the Scamp facing south, which would be very advantageous this time of the year. In fact both sites had be facing due north. Advantage is sun rises on bedside of Scamp and it sets on tableside. This is a very nice campground. I have easy access to Staunton, which is what I wanted and easy access to road to next destination, the Smokies. After setting camp and taking a shower, I headed to Staunton, easy peasy, 15-20 minute ride. Got reacquainted and on way to the brewery I knew was across from the Black Dog Bike Shop, I found another brewery, that had a parking spot available in front of it. Shenandoah Valley Brewing was across from the railroad station and the Depot, a fun restaurant. I had a flight and took a growler of their Valley Rye IPA. I do love rye beers. There was a hint of smokiness to it. The owner was an old Navy guy who retired here to brew beer. Refreshed, I went to the glass blowing studio and perused their floor stock that was for sale. I walked next door to the brewery and it was closed. They open at 4PM. I didn’t want to wait. Tomorrow they open at 1PM, so I’ll wait till then. I drove home and had a glass of Rye IPA and some Taramosalata on rosemary crackers while sitting outside in the brilliance and warmth of the sun as it set. Then without warning the chill descended and drove me indoors to enjoy the western sky from the cocoon I call home. All in all, the Scamp is very comfortable in these conditions. The hi’s are mid 60’s while the low’s are low 30’s. Again glad I’m going south and out of the mountains. I will be returning back through the mountains in mid December though.
I drove into town about 5PM, little to no traffic. I get into town and onto East Beverley and find a parking spot. I decide to go to the Redbeard Brewing Company, the one I missed earlier and have waited for since I heard it was going to be a brewery, two years ago. The place was packed. It turned out they were introducing a trio of Moriarty beers, all at 10.0% abv, YIKES! I had three small glasses of their normal beers and loved all three. I had a tasty English Brown Ale, A Black Rye IPA, and a sweet potato IPA. I will go back for the Rye and taste the deadly trio. One of them got great reviews from those around me. I left there, reluctantly, and headed to Zynodoa for dinner. I sat at the bar as I had last time I was here. I sat on the corner next to a very lovely couple from Washington and had a house here. Zynodoa was their favorite eatery and they knew everyone. Ironically they always ate the same food, so when the oysters they normally had were replaced by scallops he was flummoxed. I had the duck pate to start and a Covina prepared with local veggies. We had a grand conversation and the time flew. At 7:20 I headed to The Blackfriars Playhouse to enjoy a performance of Antony and Cleopatra. I know the play, but have never seen it performed. The playhouse is magnificent. It is a bit different from the two theaters in England. The stage has a flat back with two big grand wooden doors on either side of a large opening in the middle draped with large velvet curtains. Above, three balconies from which musicians are playing as entertainment and accompaniment for the pre show buffoonery that usually mark a Shakespeare play. A man and a woman on stage and she is trying to clean up his act, his mouth as it were, so he promises to keep it clean and of course she takes over as a bawdy wench. He of course must bite his tongue. This serves as a great segue for them to remind us that we are about to see an adult love story, not a childish churlish romance like Romeo and Juliet, but an adult love story. When the play opens A&C are frolicking in a tame Plato’s retreat environment, with a eunuch fanning the pair as they roll around on a large fluffy rug and lots of pillows speaking of politics as they enjoy each other, sex and politics, strange bedfellows. Around them watching and partaking themselves are aides from both A&C entourages. It is quite the hook to capture the audience. The story we all know all too well unfolds and concludes, as we know it must and will, and always has. The production was first rate and the cast obviously enjoyed itself as they interacted well with the audience. Their wasn’t a groundling area per se, but they did have 6-7 chairs onstage on either side. It was to these audience members the cast interacted. After the play, I came home; I was exhausted so I fell right into bed. I sleep better on the road it seems. I woke twice to my own heater going on, though I was snug as a bug in a rug. I didn’t wake to hear campers leaving. I crawled, not hopped, out of bed, it was 8:30. I made tea and oatmeal, which always warms the camper instantly. I stepped outside, it was very cool, but not as windy, but still windy. I’m in a valley now so there is more protection. The sun is bright and warm in a cloudless sky. I take a walk bundled up. I forgot my scarf, damn!!! I just forgot to pack it. I have to put a scarf in the Scamp and leave it here! I walked by the playground, the pond, to the bathhouse and spoke to one of the owners. He and his wife had worked a KOA in Delaware Water Gap before coming down here to run this one. I knew the area, not the KOA, well since I used to canoe from Milford to the Gap and beyond once to Washington Crossing. I strolled back to my site and noticed the fire of the campers who had just left was still going. I grabbed my shovel, gloves, and fire tongs and went over to collect all the burning and none burned wood in the shovel and brought it back to my pit which was filled with twigs I had gathered. What a treat to have a little fire, because I wasn’t planning on making a fire until Sunday, since I was doing these plays all night. I got my chair and tea and sat facing the fire with my back to the sun, delightful.
Big day today, two plays, a matinee and an evening show. I didn’t plan on coming back between shows so I packed clothes for the evening performance. I started the day at noon at the Shenandoah Brewery and a glass of the Rye to start the day. I had a nice chat with the owner and his wife. A dream comes true for both of them. They have a great brewery in a fabulous location. I strolled the back streets of Staunton and arrived at the Bistro for lunch. Satiated, I ambled to the theater and enjoyed the pre show entertainment and prepared for another viewing of The Winter’s Tale. The staging was fine, Time was hilarious, and Autolycus was brilliant. Having seen Jeremy Irons do this in Stratford in 1986, I have a high bar for this play. The performance was very satisfying. After the show I went to the car for a growler and walked to the Redbeard Brewing Co to get a growler of their Black Rye IPA. I tasted the deadly Moriarty trio of a Jim Beam Aged, Hillcrest Aged, and Beam aged with coffee. All three are out of my league as for taste. Burley would love it. I had good conversation with fellow travelers enjoying a flight and some locals hankering after the deadly trio. I went back to the car to drop off my bounty and to change for the evening.  I found my way to Aioli, a tapas restaurant and sat at the bar. Soon after I arrived the place filled and more than half the folks were going to the theater. I’m glad I got here a bit early so I can eat leisurely. I liked this place when I was here before and it was even better this time. It isn’t easy finding good tapas, but I’m lucky here. I have plenty of time to stroll to the theater and enjoy more of the preshow and the assembly of the audience. Saturday night at The Blackfriars, what an event. Tonight’s show is Henry VI, Part 1.  I saw this as part of four plays, All three parts of Henry VI and Henry VIII, in London a number of years back. This cast had fun with it and all the swordplay and use of entire stage. A beautifully action packed and sensitive play all at the same time. A tricky job well done. Rather than hang in Staunton, I drove home to have a fire and enjoy some good beer calmly. I slept through the night again except for one time when the heater came on. I woke and jumped out of bed at 8:30 to start the tea and make my oatmeal. It is another cloudless sky and warmer day than yesterday.  It’s Sunday morning and the campers are scurrying out and heading home of to next destination. I love sitting in my cabin enjoying tea or a book or the computer and watching the rigs exit and the morning activity that wanes at about mid morning when the camp settles in for some calm before the afternoon influx of new campers.
Two observations: airplanes and railroads. The highways are ubiquitous, thanks Ike.
Wherever I camp I hear the railroad horns over and over and over again.  All through the night as I sit by the fire or lie in bed, I hear the freight train passing through. Also The nighty skies are filled with airplanes, not like at home in Berlin. The airplane traffic makes the night sky different.
I woke at 8:15 very refreshed and ready to head to the Smokies. My last day in Staunton was glorious. I visited the glass blower again and then proceeded to the Depot for brunch before the show. I then stopped across the street at the Shenandoah Valley Brewery for a glass of Valley Rye IPA and a growler of same said beer. I deposited my booty in the car and walked up to the theater. Today’s performance was going to be packed as the bus unloading students from a local high school. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was on stage for today. The perfect way to end this culturally delightful weekend. I love this play for so many reasons, the biggest being the year we performed it at MBHS. There was a good audience and Bottom did not disappoint the demanding crowd. After the show I drove home and spent the night at home, having a salmon and zuke dinner followed by a roaring fire and the Big Broadcast as I enjoyed my Black Rye IPA. Now it’s off to the Smokies.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015 Trip

The packing for these trips is getting easier and I’m developing a system to make the packing more efficient. Now when I look at a place in the car or Scamp, I know what I need to pack to fill that space. One thing is certain, I’ve packed less. Trying to make it simpler.  This trip is going to take me out to the Virginia mountains, let me enjoy some Shakespeare, drink some beer in Asheville while residing in the Smokies. From there to my daughter’s house, in Marietta, GA, to enjoy Thanksgiving with her, her husband, and my son. I haven’t seen her since she told me she is having a baby boy at the end of March. After that I’m going south through Tallahassee to the Gulf Coast via Panacea. I’ll be following the coast to New Orleans and then follow the Mississippi to Memphis and on through Nashville and home by December 19. That’s the plan any way, let’s see what happens.
After I had considered the car and Scamp packed, it started to rain. It rained all night and very hard at times. I still had to put the bikes on the roof and last minute stuff, always. The rain let up enough so doing the last chores was easy peasy. I took a shower and hit the road at 8:30 AM. I had to stop at the Labs to give blood, but it was on the way. The trip was foggy and misty and heavy at times. One thing I’m not used to is almost seeing the gas gauge move down. It is like I have a gas leak or something. I realize as I get gas and watch the mileage, I’m fine. I’ve been driving the other car for so long I’m used to better gas mileage.
The Skyline Drive is shrouded in fog with a trace of rain. Every once and a while a clear patch happens and then back under the shroud. The view to either side is like looking into a steaming cauldron. The trees are pretty striped of leaves, especially after this rain. The leaves abandoned the trees around my house, so I knew it was time to go south. The rain helped out here at Shenandoah NP’s Big Meadows campground.  The section that is open is a third full and I find a sweet spot with access to walking trails. The rain has stopped. It is very foggy, but not cold. I’m in a t-shirt and long pants. A sweatshirt makes it more comfortable, but not necessary. I’ve set camp, turned on the heater, and made lunch.
At 4:20 the clouds cleared and I saw blue skies. Since it is getting darker earlier, I started dinner: succotash, grilled trout and asparagus. The sky was so clear, every star was visible. Fall camping requires that one be vigilant about the fire. I would have slept through the night had it not been for the wind rocking the awning. I debated putting it away and nixed the idea. In the morning, I relocated the clothesline and dispatched the awning. May need it tomorrow as I hear it may rain in the afternoon. 
I packed lunch and snacks for my hike to Rapidan Camp, Hoover’s retreat. I packed a banana, a PBJ on raisin bread, a YooHoo, a hard-boiled egg, two Nature Valley bars, and water. Hoover created this place so he and his cronies and other political leaders could discuss matters in a relaxing atmosphere that included fishing. One of the cabins on the camp is called The Prime Minister’s. Streams were created to provide the president and his guests access to fishing spots.  It is a unique camp and a precursor to Camp David. The hike took me along the AT, Appalachian Trail. I left the AT to follow another trail to Rapidan Camp. I found a silver lining in that rain from yesterday. The Rapidan River was running violently and loudly, lucky me. When I hike I have a pair of ski poles. When I hike I am concentrating on making each limb do twenty-five percent. Once upon a time I’d end a hike and my legs ached. After a time, I started using ski poles and found my legs didn’t ache. Now I feel like a hike is a full body workout. When I arrived at the Camp, I was alone. I walked around surveying ‘my’ grounds. I decided to lunch on the Prime Minister’s Porch because it overlooked the President’s cabin and most of the camp. When I went to see what time it was, I saw it was Wednesday November 11. I was doing Vet’s Day at Hoover’s Camp, Cool.  I have always loved this camp. I was introduced to it twenty years ago. Since then I have gained a whole bunch more respect for Hoover after reading the President’s Club. After the hike, I drove back to the store for supplies. I picked up more postcards, stamps, and wood; and then after getting water from dump station; I finally returned to camp. I only had a couple of hours of daylight left. I set my outside kitchen with the water, split more wood, and prepared the table for cocktails. I started a fire. I assembled some wild boar pate, rosemary crackers, and a Burley Oak beer. As I sat by the fire I wrote postcards and enjoyed happy hour. As the sun was setting the sky was gentle, not ravishing I was reminded of my recent trip to NYC where I went to a soup and salad place I used to go to when I lived in NYC. I got a chopped salad and it reminded me about how I loved them, how I was not eating as much salad as I should, so I decided then and there to eat more salad, chopped salads. So in the past week, I have been eating salad. Tonight was to be a salad. I made a monster salad of spring lettuce, spinach, tomato, celery, carrot, onion, mushroom, hard-boiled egg (from lunch), tuna, herbs, oil and balsamic vinegar. I didn’t finish dinner.  After dinner I spend some time gazing upwards, but even with a good fire and good music, I must go inside for it is getting cold out and I’m glad I’m going south. I am in the mountains so that adds to the chill, too. Being inside the Scamp is so luxurious. Read myself to sleep. The harsh winds woke me at around 2AM. I’m glad I put everything away and kept the awning down. The Scamp was rocking a bit as the wind howled and I could hear the tree limbs swaying and rubbing. I left the curtains open facing east and the sun woke me me, the wind was still howling and blowing and the morning was rough. I went out to watch the sun rise and the sky was a glorious pink and absolutely beautiful, which told me the day was going to be a challenge, but I knew that already. After enjoying the sunrise, I went back to comfort of my bed and slept till 9:15. It was grey and windy as I made breakfast. After breakfast I washed last night’s dishes and this morning’s too. I took a walk around to see the hearty souls, especially those in tents. Some young children were running around chasing leaves and laughing and frolicking as their grandparents looked on.  Since it started to rain, I decided to take a drive into the Shenandoah Valley. I went back north on the Skyline Drive to 211 and into Luray, when the rain stopped. I followed 340 South eventually to Eakins, though Stanley and Shenandoah. I passed over many creeks and the Shenandoah River until I got to 33 East and to the Park entrance. The sky had cleared and bright blue skies were finally overhead and it was filled with wispy white feathers of clouds. The passage on the Drive today was clear and those vistas were visible and I enjoyed them on my drive along the Drive.
It’s 6:23 PM. I have just finished cleaning up the dinner dishes. Everything is done from dinner. It feels like it should be 9 PM. Fall camping is different. What I like about camping is the fact that I have to be vigilant always. I have to be aware of the weather. I live outdoors; the weather is crucial. I may have the Scamp, but most of my living is outside. I have to be aware of everything from water to propane to groceries, to wood, to gas, etc. It is being constantly on. The result means that because I’m so on, I’m also on with my senses like sight and the beauty around me, sound when I hear a hawk or waterfalls or the owl, the smell of a fire or fresh rain, the touch of setting camp and the wood, the taste of food cooked outside. Since my return, I’ve read some, I’ve chatted with the camp host and his wife, I’ve puttered about, cooked and cleaned up dinner. Now it is time for a fire and to gaze at the stars. It is a brilliant evening and it is only 6:42 PM. Had a great fire and retired early. Did some reading and slept through the windstorm. When I woke people’s stuff was all over the place from the wind. Still windy and more for the rest of the day. Packed up and hit the road by 9AM. Had a lovely scenic drive down Skyline Drive to Waynesboro and a short hop to my next campground. I chose a KOA because it is close to Staunton and none of the SP’s were open. This KOA isn’t bad and I have a sweet spot pretty much alone as the big rigs go for the bigger sites. I can go where tenters would go. It’s noon and camp is about set. Off to take a shower and prepare for this big Shakespeare weekend in Staunton.