Fall Foliage

The fall foliage in Ohio has been disappointing so far this year. Experts say our peak will be a little later than normal but I suspect it won’t be grand. It has been hot and dry this fall and the leaves seem to be turning brown and dropping before they have a chance to turn pretty.

The best color I have seen in Ohio so far is at this lovely country church in the Hocking Hills.

I’ll swing by again next week to see how the colors progress. Meanwhile I keep thinking back on the foliage I saw in the mountains in West Virginia earlier this month. It wasn’t nearly as vibrant as it was last year but still quite pretty.

In fact, it was so pretty I hated to leave.

Blackwater Falls State Park

The highest state park in West Virginia is Blackwater Falls State Park. It’s situated between Thomas and Davis and is worth the drive. In fact, I have found a new favorite place.

With miles of trails for hiking, there’s much opportunity to get your boots muddy. There are year round activities including boating, geocaching , fishing and plenty of snow sports. Plus there are cabins and lodge rooms to extend your stay.

The lodge is being renovated now and I am dying to go stay there. It appears to be a massive overhaul of the mid century facility. They call it “The Lodge In The Sky” because of the elevation and I think that’s the best name for it.

I spent an afternoon wandering around on foot and in the car, exploring the park. The views are stupendous, the trails are in great condition and the place is easy to navigate. While there is picturesque beauty everywhere you go, the star of the show here is a 57 foot waterfall.

It reminded me a little of the Hocking Hills State Park near my home. The rock outcroppings, foliage and trails attracts large crowds of sightseers every year as well.

At Blackwater, the amount of visitors caused them to build a system of wooden steps and landings, presumably to protect the ecosystem from so much foot traffic and to make it easier for people who don’t really hike to access the views.

It isn’t exactly a hike but it would be challenging if you aren’t typically active or in good shape. Round trip it isn’t even a half mile but it’s important to remember that what goes down must come up in this instance. You’ll walk down a wide trail and a bunch of steps on the way to the view. Then you have to walk back up.

It’s a gorgeous view but there are many other pretty views in the park and I would like to see more of them.

Want to learn more? Visit their website here!

Thomas, West Virginia and Wind Turbines

Last Columbus Day weekend took me to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. On the way home, I arrived at an intersection with a sign pointing toward Thomas, West Virginia. My friend Mike had advised me many times that I needed to visit Thomas and since I had no schedule, I took the exit and went in search of this place.

I didn’t even look at the map. I just followed the signs and had a great time doing it. You can read some about that visit here.

One of the beautiful things about traveling alone is that there was no one freaking out in the passenger seat because you don’t know how long it will take to get there, what there is to do once you arrive or the minor detail that you don’t even know how you’ll get to your actual destination from this mountain village.

I really liked it there but many businesses were closed either because of the holiday, the fact that some small tourist businesses are simply closed on Mondays, or because of Covid. So I swore I would go back some day.

I considered spending last weekend down there until I realized there was nowhere to stay. Every cabin and Airbnb was booked and probably had been for months. With literally no room at the inn, I made it a whirlwind day trip.

First of all, town was busy and every establishment seemed to be hopping. Truth be told, it was too busy for my tastes but I still enjoyed the atmosphere and the hippy vibes that emanate from this place. People are friendly, there’s a terrific historic walking tour and you feel welcome everywhere you go. I was also glad to see them bouncing back after the pandemic had been so damaging to their economy.

Luckily, I had a couple of other things on my radar that took me out of town. This is another benefit of traveling alone. No one was disappointed because we had to switch to Plan B because the original destination was crawling with people.

One place I visited was Blackwater State Park. The other activity involved a closer look at some of those giant wind turbines that are popping up in wind farms across the country.

I saw these last year but didn’t stop for a closer look or for pictures and have kicked myself ever since. My pictures aren’t great but you get the gist. You’re really high up on a mountain and close to some of these monstrosities.

To be perfectly honest, these things give me the creeps. The sheer size and design remind me of some kind of futuristic end of the world movie plot. They are oddly quiet with just a gentle whirring noise and a gearbox the size of a compact car. The blades are about a hundred feet long and I can’t help but wonder what might happen to them in a tornado.

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale comes to mind.

Anyway, when you leave Thomas and start heading north, you find yourself climbing a mountain and almost at eye level with one of these bad boys. There are places where you can pull over for pictures.

Tomorrow we visit Blackwater State Park where the foliage is changing and the views are stunning.

Hello, September!

“Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul…but I must confess that I love you only because you are a prelude to my beloved October.”

Peggy Toney Horton

Fall is my favorite season.

Warm but not hot days followed by cool evenings. Blue skies punctuated by fluffy white clouds. Fall showers and colorful umbrellas. Leaves of yellow, orange, red and brown drifting aimlessly through the air. Pumpkin goodies and tasty soups. Hot chocolate and cold apple cider. The smell of smoke and the feel of a soft sweater on your skin. Jaunty hats, plaid scarves, boots that click when you walk and jackets that pull together an outfit. Pumpkins in a field and apple crisp in the oven.

Fall doesn’t officially begin for a few more weeks but I’m busy preparing. There are adventures to be planned and recipes to try.

Right now, my focus is on prioritizing all the many things I want to do and the many places the Nerd Mobile and I will go. I want to go to fall festivals, pick pumpkins and buy mums for the porches. I want to visit Jack Pine’s exquisite glass pumpkin patch again this year and spend a day and an evening wandering through the Franklin Park Conservatory’s Pumpkins Aglow Exhibit.

There’s so much to see and do in this big world of ours and fall is an excruciatingly short season.

The above picture was taken near Thomas, West Virginia while I was coming home from the Shenandoah Valley area of Virginia. It was the single most beautiful drive of my life through mountains and fall leaves with very few cars around to disturb the peacefulness of it all.

This is the day that I passed up a fantastic photo op just a few miles up the mountain. I will always regret that decision but it has taught me to embrace all the pictures, all the pumpkin stuff, all the fun of the season. The opportunity may never come again!

So, Hello September! Let’s get ready for the most exciting season of them all!

Thomas Stairs

I want to climb them just to see where they lead. This is one of many colorful, offbeat things you’ll see in Thomas, West Virginia if you park the car and go looking.

Thomas is a special town with a lot of history and heart that celebrates diversity. I was there last fall when the pandemic was hampering what should have been a busy fall weekend. The colors were glorious and, according to the locals I met, the best they had seen in years.

This area is on my list of places to return to another day. That list has become stunningly long.

What’s on your post pandemic to visit list? Because I need more ideas, you know…..

Thomas, West Virginia

I went to Virginia hoping to see some pretty fall leaves. The colors there were muted and the leaves were just starting to turn. However, coming home through the country roads of West Virginia I found some of the most stunning fall colors I’ve seen in years.

This picture was taken just a few miles outside the tiny town of Thomas, West Virginia. I had driven through rain that morning and experienced the fade and resurgence of the sun off and on for another hour or so as I made my way north through some West Virginia country towns.

I stopped briefly to explore Thomas and chatted with a shopkeeper who sold me local pure maple syrup. I’m at that stage in life where I want to support small businesses without dragging home too much clutter. So whenever I find myself in a position with nothing else to buy I reach for food items that I might view as a luxury later – local maple syrup or honey, fudge, jams, pancake mixes and other things that I can enjoy but won’t be around forever like a shirt or a coaster.

The shopkeeper said this was the best fall foliage they’ve seen in a few years. Sadly, many businesses remain Covid closed and tourists are mostly staying away. Consequently, the rest of the world is missing out on the spectacular colors currently dressing the mountainsides.

Come back tomorrow for more about Thomas. I think you’ll like their story.

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