Boyce United Methodist Church

This Methodist Church in Boyce, Virginia was so charming I had to stop for a picture. Old churches always catch my eye but this one seemed special for the details in the windows and steeple. I like how shapes are repeated throughout the design without seeming at all fussy.

Boyce isn’t far from Winchester and that area is brimming with history, old barns, churches and other interesting landmarks. It’s close to Shenandoah National Park as well. There is plenty to do and I have written a lot about this area in case you’re looking for a getaway this spring.

In addition to the tour guide quality attractions, there’s plenty of off the beaten path stuff to see along the way.

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!

Jeep At Twilight

It’s like the driver parked it here just for me. How fun would it be to go exploring in a Jeep?

The driver was a man with an enormous camera and monopod who was capturing the golden light of sunset over the mountains from a perch in Shenandoah National Park.

I was grateful for the nice light and the chance encounter with camera in hand but perhaps a little jealous of his Jeep and big camera!

Humpback Bridge

The best kind of road trip is one where the journey is the destination. Often times you locate things along the way that you didn’t even know existed.

Last weekend’s road trip destination was the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia but I built in time going to and from that would allow for some tangents.

The first was on the way down when a highway sign pointed me to a secondary road to go chasing a covered bridge.

This isn’t just any covered bridge. It is a humpback bridge which is designed with a slight arch in the middle.

I pause from this story to tell you another story.

The county where I live has four surviving covered bridges. It used to be five but the fifth was destroyed by arson a few years ago. That bridge was a humpback bridge and thought to be one of the rarest in the nation.

It was a common target for vandals but a spectacular sight to behold on the country road where it was located.

So when a sign pointed me toward another humpback bridge, I had no choice but to go find it.

Built in 1857, this bridge spans Dunlap Creek in Allegheny County, Virginia. It was closed to traffic in 1929, replaced by a modern bridge and left to be used by a farmer for hay storage for some time.

Luckily, it has been repaired to accommodate foot traffic. At a hundred feet long, it’s an impressive bridge and picturesque.

There’s a tidy little park here with room to picnic. If you’re so inclined you can scurry down the bank to skip stones through the stream.

If you go, the Humpback Bridge can be reached from Interstate 64 by taking exit 10 to Route 60. Just follow the signs from there.

Shenandoah National Park

One goal of this road trip was to cruise along the famed Skyline Drive and take in the majesty of fall. Another was to hike in the Shenandoah National Park, stretching my legs along trails with beautiful vistas and access to old farms whose inhabitants have long abandoned them.

None of this went as planned.

I did drive much of Skyline Drive, the 105 mile byway that begins at Royal, Virginia and stretches the length of the park before ending at the famed Blue Ridge Parkway.

This twisty mountain road can be accessed by a few different entrances to the park. On Friday afternoon, I arrived at the Swift Run Gap entrance and waited in a short line to pay for my entry and begin exploring.

The sky was grey but not discouraging motorists from taking advantage of the many pull offs from which you have a view that seems to go on forever.

I arrived too late to feel good about hiking so I stuck to the drive, traveling about 80 miles of the 105 mile road.

Being a holiday weekend in fall, the visitors centers, roads, restrooms, trailheads and lodges were all quite busy.

The next day, I arrived early to beat the crowds and get in a hike but quickly abandoned my plans. I intended to hike a couple of different trails before rain moved in later that day but mountain weather can be unpredictable, a lesson hard learned on other occasions. With high winds that literally took the hat off my head and storm clouds forming in the distance, I abandoned my original plans in favor of some shorter hikes that kept me near the car.

The best of these was a section of the Appalachian trail that features large boulders, a host of trees and colors, and a mixture of living and dead ferns.

I never thought I would use the word magical to describe dead ferns but this forest floor of fading ferns was like something from a fairy tale.

I only hiked a couple of miles that day, a far cry from the plan but I have learned it best to exercise caution when storms threaten the mountains and that plans are made to be changed.

I enjoyed my beautiful hike and headed down the mountain. Turns out, a storm threatened off and on all day everywhere I went but I never saw actual rain until later that night. I don’t know what happened in the park but I was at peace with my decision to cut my losses and go find something else to do.

This is the day that I found the working gristmill and had time to tour a plantation. It’s also the day that I found a wonderful used bookstore and went back to the hotel for a delightful bubble bath.

Truth be told, that park feels like it’s designed for tourists who want to drive, look at stuff from the safety of their car and get pizza afterward. The trailheads lack adequate parking and one of the trails I wanted to do, a moderate two mile loop, had no parking at all. Each scenic overlook has mostly the same view as the last. I don’t mean to insult anyone’s favorite park because I had a fine time but don’t feel a draw to go back again soon.

If I had stayed at one of the park’s three lodges or had better hiking weather I may have a different assessment. All the same, there was a ton to do in the area and I don’t at all regret my decision to visit.

Adventure Weekend!

There is no better food for my soul than a good road trip. That’s why I took a long weekend and went down to the Shenandoah Valley for some history, hiking, sightseeing and airplanes.

I’m sad to say the weather didn’t cooperate and actually interfered with most of what I had planned but created opportunity to do some other stuff. The thing I most looked forward to was the Flying Circus Air Show and a biplane ride over the Virginia countryside.

It was rained out.

The day I wanted to hike turned wicked cold with wind so strong it threatened to blow me off the mountain. Even when it was not raining, the sky was a flat white, making poor conditions for landscape photography most of the time.

Luckily, I’m good at improvising and was so happy to be away from home that I was thrilled to embrace the unplanned in the name of adventure.

Boring skies make for great black and white landscapes and rainy days are perfect for roaming museums and bookshops. And again, at least it was a change of scenery.

It wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for but it was better in some ways….. except for the plane ride, of course. I’m still stinging over that loss but there’s always next year.

Stay tuned as I start sorting through pictures and begin telling some of the stories from the weekend which featured a lot of interesting sights and history themes.

Meanwhile, the top photo is from a drive through rural West Virginia where the foliage was gorgeous as well as the second photo from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.