Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 2: Luray

This is the view from the back deck of our cabin in Rileyville. This particular porch is entirely enclosed (no access to ground), so it is safe to let Merlin (left) and Scarlett (right) off leash.
We spent this morning in Luray, again catching the weather just right. The National Weather Service forecast rain after 12 PM. It hit Luray around 12:15 PM as we were finishing our lunch at the Luray Hawksbill Greenway.
We hiked the Greenway earlier from end to end with the dogs. We met many friendly and pleasant people along the way who were also enjoying the beautiful weather in this magnificent park. At one point near the rail trestle, Merlin sniffed closely at something on the grass by the walkway. I walked over and realized that it was a snake's tail. I quickly backed him away, and we warned several passersby. One confirmed that it was a copperhead, a common poisonous snake in Virginia. Another later confirmed that just last week two copperheads had been curled up together near the same spot. We came very close to ending our vacation if Merlin had been bitten.
We stopped in the visitor's center located in the old train station. They have not completed filling the building with historical displays, but the older gentleman who was at the visitor desk was very kind and helpful. I did receive directions to Lake Arrowhead in the country format (a string of "go right at the intersection past the" ...), which mostly confused me, but such is what you will find in a historic and still small town like Luray. Folks like me need a map. I can do it without the GPS, thank my Boy Scout training.
We'll have more rain this evening, but we have another, harder puzzle to put together and other games to play. That should keep us vacated and yet not bored.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rain in the Shenandoah Valley

The rain is lightly falling this afternoon in the Shenandoah Valley near Rileyville, Virginia. We interpreted the weather forecast hopefully this morning and got out early to Shenandoah State Park. We were prepared to pay the $4 entrance fee at the gate when we were handed a bundle of papers and told "Welcome to Parkfest!" and "No charge today."

We spent nearly three hours hiking trails west of the park. We ended up out of our reckoning two hours in, before "correctly" orienting ourselves to return to the parking lot. I quote "correctly" because the trail map was not in synch with the trails. One could argue that we were not in synch with the maps and the trails, but this would run counter to the best efforts of two intelligent and experienced hikers. We normally go to the YMCA for exercise, but this hike covered us nicely.

Did I mention ticks? After we exited the grasslands, with twenty minutes to go in the hike, we pulled aside and examined our dogs and selves for ticks. Nearly a dozen each were on the dogs--the strangest location was on Merlin's lower lip--and nearly a dozen more were clinging to Kathy and myself. Upon our return to the car, we went through this again, pulling off a dozen more from the dogs. Running through the tall grass is a great pleasure for the dogs, but just walking through it is sufficient to become infested. Ticks are very good at hiding, so it is difficult to detect them. Kathy has the most experience, being a veterinarian, so she did the second, more thorough examination, while I did the first, more cursory examination.

Afterwards, we drove across the park to where the South Warren County Fire & Rescue Company was selling food to raise money for a new pumper truck. We were pleasantly surprised by the prices, which were a quarter of what typical event vendors would charge back home. The people representing WCFR were extremely cordial, and it was a pleasure to be a part of their event. While we ate, a local group called "Loose Strings" played acoustic melodies that sounded as if from long, long ago.

As we drove back from Front Royal following a quick trip to the grocery store, the rain began falling in this picturesque valley. It is easy to see how the Blue Ridge Mountains got their name.