Monday, April 28, 2014

Wilderness Vacation: Day Three - After Dawn

The real morning is finally here as announced by the coffee makers performance of exasperated expulsion of its dark elixir of eye opening requirement. We set the timer to an hour later than normal so we can honestly call it a vacation. Again fine discussion as we sit in bed and drink the coffee brew determining what our agenda should be for the day.....oh yeah....we don't have to have a schedule. Too strange.

Most of the campers have left for home except the two little boys and their father next door to us whose noise seems to break through the calm peacefulness of the fresh mountain air like clanging cymbals. We decide to go and bathe and prepare ourselves for the day full of relaxing. 

So we did it.

After a simple lite breakfast, I decide I want to try out a run. Not really anywhere to really run except for on the road. A twisting winding route through the mountains with little room on the edge to walk much less run. One side is an upward hill that is mostly a wall of dirt, rocks and vegetation while the other side is a downward cliff into the tumbling rocks and river rapids below. 

So I did it.

I ran it anyway....or at least I tried......upward climb is an understatement. I don't really get far. Up in one direction and downwards on the return. It made for a good workout.

The rest of the day was for doing nothing. Really....nothing! So hard to do. I really worked hard at doing nothing. Sitting in our chairs and watched the water flow many gallons do you suppose? We both really wanted to take a nap. All this relaxing was exhausting. After all a nap was just what the doctor ordered.

So we did it.

What a couple of lazy bums we are. But it felt good. We intended on cooking a dinner type dish but I had this craving for a ham and cheese sandwich on a bagel.

So we did it.

We also cooked cinnamon apples over the open campfire for dessert......absolutely yummy. What a great idea. They hit the spot.....but we still needed a SMOREGASM or two before heading inside the cabin for the evening playing a Word game on the ipad.

What a great relaxing day.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Vacation Wilderness: Day One

So we have been planning a getaway back to Crabtree Falls for a long time. Somehow we just never get ourselves together to make it happen. A while back we made the decision that we were going to lay out a well organized plan and reserve our cabin in the trees beside the flowing river far in advance. We looked at our schedules (a digital matrix of colors, circle and arrows of to-dos and appointments strewn across the calendar) and found one small opening.....this weekend.

Well it wasn't until about two weeks ago that I found out why this particular weekend was SO OPEN......Easter weekend. Oops! Oh well, we will commune with our Lord in peace and quiet.

Of course the first thing will be to get out of town. My wife knows how hard that will be. I resist relaxation! Crabtree Falls is also very phone Wi-Fi.....I twitch a bit thinking about being disconnected from the world. So a four day week......if I can pry myself away from the office on Friday. Well I do need to sign a few checks......a new client called yesterday about a retail store in Towncenter.....I do need to check on the floor plan layout for the new restaurant so we can send it to the client for review....and the contractor for early budget pricing.

Yes, my wife knows me quite well......we will be lucky to get out of town by noon.

As predicted by my wife, a quick meeting at the office for a new client, signing some checks, looking over a floor plan......yep longer than I always. We got out of town 5 minutes until 1:00. So much for the entire day off. She had everything packed, I loaded everything up.....I think we have the entire house stuck in the car! Oh well, just get it in there and get on the road.

Leaving Hampton Roads has it's hurdles. First hurdle: Need food, drive thru Wendy's. ACCOMPLISHED. Need cash, drive thru bank. ACCOMPLISHED. Unexpected, Some how we bumped the gear differential button and could it turned off. After fifteen minutes of tinkering and reading the manual we got it turned off. ACCOMPLISHED...FINALLY

Now on the road. Second hurdle: Tunnel accident, backed up 8 and a half miles. Accident after tunnel, backed up 5 miles. Accident at Williamsburg, other side of the highway but everyone on our sides wants to slow down and watch. It took three hours to go twenty five miles. Yeah stupid traffic. ACCOMPLISHED ....FINALLY.

Easy drive afterwards and we both try to take a deep breath and exhale with the full intentions of complete and total relaxation.....away from everything. Crabtree Falls has no phone service or WI-FI connections.....or at least the last time they didn't. Hope things haven't changed....even if I will go thru internet withdraws.

A few last minute phone calls and to send emails before we are cut off......and then it happened......20 minutes from the camp grounds.......the phone said, "NO SERVICE". Not just weak connection or no bars......NO SERVICE. It felt like we were entering the lost forbidden jungle or cuckoo mandoo.....or somewhere like that. 


Checked in got the cabin, later than planned but that is okay. Unloaded the car. Unpacked all the food and gear. Made the bed......yes a bed! I know it's cheating a little bit. Everything is in order and ready to TV......nothing!

We decide to skip the campfire tonight as we are already tired. It is also a bit chilly still in the evenings up here so a quick dinner of simple sausage dogs and potatoes salad on the electric grill......yes electric grill! I know it's cheating a little bit.

The sun goes down so we head inside the cabin and sit in bed chatting for a bit. When it's dark out here it is really dark. The cabin has an inside screen door and an outside solid door. We had closed them both. At one point my wife got up to look outside to see if the switch on the wall turned on the porch light. She was looking through the screen door.....into the closed outside door.....saying, "it is really dark outside. I don't think that switch turns on the outside porch light." SERIOUSLY! You're looking into the closed door! We had a great laugh and she played it off as she was just tired. I know better. She is always that silly!

We all climb in bed.....yes Mavrick does too. Like always, even though we brought his bed. We are done......turn off the lights......climb under the covers.....turn on the electric heat.......yes electric heat! I know, it's cheating a little bit.

Good night my friends.
In the morning we will see what the day affords. And can I sleep in?

Wilderness Vacation: Day Three - Before Dawn

Somewhere before the crack of dawn, as it occurs each night, but with camping add the difficult factor x10. And that is waking up to go to the bathroom. 1st: You got to try and wake up enough to rise up out of bed, always a troublesome task because THIS Mother Nature always calls when you're in your best slumber. Mine was in the middle of a crazy ridiculous dream....but I have those always. Some are worth waking up enough to jot down. This was one of them...but before that.. 

2nd: You dig around on the unfamiliar floor for the location of where you last placed your flip flops.
3rd: You stumble your way across the floor bumping into stuff in the dark until you make it to the squeaky screen door and then to the stubbornly stuck outside wooden door. PUSH PUSH SHOVE SHOVE and it finally gives way as you tumble outside into the cold brisk night air.

4th: You stagger down the few wooden steps onto the uneven rocky terrain that leads uphill towards the potties. The ground undulates like you might imagine the surface of the moon. You can't really open your eyes yet because the contacts in your eyes are dried out. AHHHHH,  BLINK BLINK. You think your contact is about to jump out of your left eye. You pause in the middle of the path trying to adjust this familiar piece of plastic in your eye to settling down and not jump out. Your head is tilted upward towards the dark sky and you shiver hoping that everyone else is asleep and cannot see you. The urge to go pee has now hit the red alert stage because you had waited too long in your nice warm bed.

5th: After some adjustment to your lens all seems fine and you continue your journey up the rocky incline with flip flops barely staying on your feet. Walking pigeon toed, or at least the right half of you does to keep your shoe from falling off while the rest of you wobbles like a drunken sailor from the platypus brigade. You finally reach the bathroom door.....AHHHHHH BRIGHT LIGHT!

6th: The bright light blinds you but even more startling is the strange individual from four or five tents down the path had the same dilemma as you. Without shrieking out in a blood curdling scream we both jump a bit startled by each other's appearance from the darkness. We both acknowledge each other's presence by a grunt or two as men of fine upbringing might do whom are thrown into the darkened wilderness retreat on seldom forced occasions. We navigate around each other and continue about our intended business.

7th: With relief in hand (no pun intended) you make your way back out into the dark......and it is really DARK! Your eyes have adjusted to the light of the communal commode and now the pitch darkness is ever more PITCH! Slowly pacing yourself down the hill not to lose your shoe and more importantly not to tumble. This would not be good. A stray cat starts following you and even though you have nothing against cats your allergic wife does and most probably your slumbering pooch still slumbering in your vacated spot in the bed will certainly protest. Go away cat!

8th: Finally back inside with tragedy averted you return to the warmth your covers provide. Mavrick kindly returns to the foot of the bed allowing you to reclaim your side of the bed. Just as you close your eyes you remember the dream that started it all......yep you got to write it down!

Vacation Wilderness: Day Two

As the dawn breaks through the trees on the mountain tops around the site, we hear the continuous rushing waters of the river/brook/creek/stream below our cabin.......and then the smell......of nature......not's the smell of fresh brewed coffee! Yes we cheated big time here. We brought the automatic coffee maker that woke us up like a revelry bugle player. There are some things that are just a necessity when camping. Coffee is one of them.....fresh coffee makes it even better! Toilet paper is another but that's for another story.

My wife and I sat in bed, nestled inside the warm electric heated cabin and drank two pots of coffee only to be interrupted by Mother Nature calling...... The kind of Mother Nature that requires you to throw on some flip flops and trek up the rocky path to the communal outhouse. The sound of the running water assists in that subliminal thought.

Climbing back under the covers, we continued chatting about stuff. All the things we were up here for to get away from. It's just in our nature (human nature that is instead of mother).  Mavrick had slept right in the middle of us just like at home (just a smaller bed). Did we really think he was going to use his bed?

With no real schedule or calendar of events to follow  we did finally decide that we should go get our showers so we could cook some breakfast. The crowds had finally subsided at the bathing hole and we practically had it to ourselves. Being Easter weekend right after spring break, most people were here all week before and had begun packing up to head home. No doubted they intended on making it back for Sunday services. We brought our Sunday services with us.

I cooked up some English muffins with eggs, bacon and cheese along with some fresh fruit. A hardy breakfast to energize us for our walk up the Falls. The dishes we done, cabin cleaned up so off we went.

The trail is only a half a mile up the road from the campgrounds so we walk that way trying to stay on the edge of the road with Mavrick and not fall off but not get ran over either. There are a few for sale signs of property right on the road that makes me even more want to pursue my "treehouse" getaway some day. Maybe we afford one of these and make it our retreat. That would be really awesome.

What maverick thinks about this mile marker!

Ok, enough daydreaming we begin our hike up the trail. There really isn't a plan to get to a certain height on the Falls, we are just here. Up the trail we go. Climbing the steps are a little more difficult than running. A completely different workout. A fun hike that gave us some fun selfie moments to remember the trip by.

Once we got back to the site, we made up some turkey ham and cheese wraps for lunch and then laid down for a nap.....this is a vacation after all. Even Mavrick joined us for the nap of course. He never passes up an opportunity to sleep. Neither does my wife!

After our slumber we walked down by the stream to stroll with Mavrick and climb on the rocks like a little kid. We gathered a few loose sticks for kindling to start a fire before dinner with the thought of s'mores later on. Everything is so peaceful here. Just sitting without internet or phone or texting does take a little practice. I pile some sticks together in the fire pit and lite up a nice little blaze to set off the evening while my wife heads back up the hill to the store to get some more ice.

When she gets back she tells me that she ran into a friend of ours from First Light. They were just checking in. Her husband and son had just did a long 58 mile bike ride from The exit on Blue Ridge Parkway to Devils Backbone Brewery. Now that make me feel like I need to run in the morning! What a small world it is running into someone we know.

We had a nice chat listening to their adventures from earlier that day and telling them about our day on the hike up the Falls. Afterwards, I began cooking up a nice feast for the evening. Sliced potatoes, peppers and mushrooms grilled up with steak. The smell of it cooking is so intoxicating. I served it up on our decade plus old stainless steel plates with melted cheddar cheese. Yummy!

The plates are cleaned, my wife and I have a deal when camping, I do all the cooking and she does the cleaning. It works quite well. After all, I like making messes better than cleaning up after them. Meanwhile, I stoke up the fire. Sitting relaxing (so challenging) I venture and sketching the fire pit. I realize I don't have my standard black felt tip flair pen........AHHHHHHH! Ballpoint pen doesn't do quite as it is a pile of rocks and burning wood with a bit of flickering do you sketch that anyway? Another lesson in futility.

"Hey honey, get out the s'more stuff! It time for dessert."

Roasting marshmallows over an open campfire is always a standard of camping. If you don't do it, it isn't really camping. I'm not sure we really did this as much with the kids when they were little, but thus will certainly serve as our evening treat. Getting the marshmallows just right, not burnt but lightly brown and ready for smooshiness. Squeeze it between two wafers of gram cracker with a slab of chocolate in between. You should have seen my wife's face as she bit into one. SMOREGASM! (I'm going to get in trouble for saying that one on the blog) My wife loves chocolate like nothing else. This was some good stuff.

After a good laugh about our new dessert name and a tasty treat, we head for bed. It's been a good day. The campfire has died down a bit and there is a chill in the air.

It's the end if the first full day at Crabtree Falls.
Good Night my friends.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wilderness Vacation: Day Five -The Return

We slept last night with just the screen door and no heat. Sounded good when we went to bed. In the middle of the night it was a bit chilly. I got up and threw another blanket on. Now it really felt like we were camping. I remember those mornings where we would wake up in the tent almost freezing. Huddled up in our sleeping bags with sweat clothes on. Fondly I remember. Actually I don't really want to do that again so much.

Our new quiet coffee maker awoke us to fresh brewed delight. Two pots worth! Might as well, it's the last morning. We discuss life again and each other's dreams and goals. What we need to do along with what we want to do. That is always a careful woven task. We talked about our next visit, when and who will join. How can we make this our second home? Is it even possible?

With that said we reserved two cabins and a tent site for Fourth of July weekend. We will see who can come. Packing up the car was a bit easier with less stuff....mostly less food. We are so much more organized these days. I remember when we used to be finished with a trip we really wanted to just toss the stuff in the back and deal with it when we got home......unfortunately we never really dealt with it when we got home. The next time we dragged stuff out of the closet it was a mess!

On the drive back we made a quick stop at Devil's Backbone Brewery and grabbed a bite to eat and a couple of groggs of beer. A tasty treat for later on.

The drive is so much longer going back. Mavrick sits and watches the road for me. What a silly dog.

We get back and drive by Elite motors construction site. Get to quickly see what progress has been made. No stopping! Just home to unpack and rest for the evening.

Home is always so much nicer.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Deserted Island

Sometimes I feel like I live on a deserted island. In my dreams! For the most part I am a hermit. I prefer to be by myself. Oh sure, I try to be social. But then there's a point time where I really just need to get away from it all. This is probably why many times I feel so isolated. Not really a lot of friends, not really a lot of associates, not really a lot of family around me. I'm not sure why Gilligan and his friends ever tried to leave that little island.

I think the big issue is that so many people really don't "get" me. I don't always "get" myself either. So it's pretty hard ask others to figure me out. I am also a moody individual. It could be the diabetes or could be old-age, who knows for sure. Or let's just hit the nail right on the head: maybe I'm just difficult to get along with. I won't deny that.

Robinson Caruso, my hero. Swiss family Robinson, at least they had family stuck around them. Gilligans Island, there was always an adventure to be had. I thought about it before if I was ever stuck on an island, like Tom Hanks in "Castaway". Would I sing songs to myself? Maybe, if I could remember the words to the songs. I would probably get that wrong. I never really listen to the words of the song, just the tune.

Would I build myself a treehouse? Or find my lodging in a cave? Or maybe it's just a little lean-to shack with a few palm leaves covering the top for protection out of the rain? Not sure. How about food? Cannot figure out how to hunt possibly wild game on the island? Or what I have to fish with sharp stick in the coral reefs surrounding the island? Or figure out a way to make banana cream pie coconut cream pies like they did on Gilligans Island? Probably just regular old fruit if I'm lucky. I'd be lucky if I didn't starve. 

What I want company on the island with me? More than likely after a while I would get pretty lonely. I do now when I'm by myself too much. Maybe my best friend would be "Wilson" a soft spoken mostly silent volleyball? Maybe my wife, but she would probably always get irritated at me. She does now. With reason. Like I said, I'm not easy to live with.

Never seeing any friends or family would probably get quite old after a period of time. Sometimes being in different places by myself even though there's a crowd around me, I'm still alone. Running in a race with several thousands of people unknown to me, I am pretty isolated. Conversations usually do not strike up. I should just do my thing.

Don't be LOST on an island my friends, find your comrades.

ET This I Believe
Eugene Thompson