February 28, 2010

Farewell to February!

I'm usually glad to see February end and even more so this year. We had way too much snow, with unrelenting cold weather that made it hard to get around for weeks on end.

The ski resort benefits from the wintry weather though, for it encourages folks to come out from the city and try their skills on the slopes. Now the ski season is winding down but there were still crowds at the core of the Bryce Resort this week.

Community Store

Funkhouser's Store, Basye, VA

general storeThis general store serves Basye, Orkney Springs, Bryce Resort and sportsmen enjoying the nearby National Forest. The variety of merchandise is impressive.

I added poster edges in Photoshop to increase the contrast of the picture and give it a slight painterly quality.

February 27, 2010


This is part one of an article written by Basye artist Nancy Meyer.

view of Orkney Springs and mountainsYou have to look very closely at a detailed map of the Commonwealth of Virginia to find little dots with the names “Basye” and “Orkney Springs”. The two villages are situated in a small valley between Great North Mountain in the Allegheny Mountain Range and Supinlick Ridge to the east. Both villages are unincorporated, very old and very small rural communities set at the eastern edge of the George Washington National Forest in Shenandoah County

The entire area is one of the best-kept secrets and most beautiful places in the Commonwealth of Virginia to live and play. Here you will find the pure forests, crystal streams, clean mountain air, roaming wildlife, and decades-old family names very well-known in the Shenandoah Valley.

Over a century ago, Basye was just a settlement along the road to Orkney Springs…named after a long-gone family. Orkney Springs’ name dates back to families who originally came from Scotland.

What of the ghosts of the valley families that once lived, worked and died in this very place? Fifty years ago the land along Stoney Creek where Bryce Resort now sits was home to a number of farmsteads with structures, large vegetable gardens, fields of corn, wheat and barley; livestock included chickens, cattle and hogs.

Orkney Springs

Orkney Springs is located at an elevation of 1400 feet and Basye at an elevation of 1350 feet at the foot of Great North Mountain and the George Washington National Forest in Shenandoah County, Virginia. There are seven springs south of Shrine Mont which allowed the development of 3 spring resorts before the turn of the century. These springs are the head waters of this particular branch of Stoney Creek. Stoney Creek runs through Orkney Springs, Basye, and the Bryce Resort valley. It empties into the north fork of the Shenandoah River, which makes its confluence with the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and on to the Chesapeake Bay.

hotelThe lands surrounding Orkney Springs were provided by a land grant in 1774. The area was filled with medicinal waters containing mineral salts that create a bright yellow mossy fringe to accumulate on the rocks they touch. The community began to grow in the 1830's with commercial development evolving in the 1850's. Surviving from that great development period is Virginia House, a hotel with 3 stories of porches around the front and sides constructed between 1873 and 1876.

The oldest building in the complex is the 1853 Maryland House, also a structure with porches and a court yard in the center. It was used as a hospital during the Civil War. Other hotels, specifically the Orkney Springs Hotel, built before the Civil War, are prime examples of early architecture and are listed in the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

Shrine Mont and the Orkney Springs Hotel complex with two youth camps are owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. In addition to church families conducting retreats and cultural mini-conferences, it is home to the Shenandoah Music Festival’s annual summertime concerts.

The George Washington National Forest has 47 blazed and named hiking trails, old logging roads and some homesteads. Great North Mountain is 2,600 feet elevation and has an extensive orange blazed trail on the top. It is just 8 miles on State Route 720, Crooked Run Road, from Basye to the top. This is a hunting ground in the fall for deer, bear, and birds and was the source of iron ore for Liberty, Van Buren, and Henrietta [Alum Springs] furnaces. It is laced with old trails and wagon roads and is a hunting paradise.

The area is conveniently about 2 hours away from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area and parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Many residents move here from large cities and high-pressure jobs to find an active but less stressful environment. Some move from the north seeking warmer weather and some purchase a second home here planning eventually to become permanent residents.

The Valley has a rich history going back to the 1700’s and provides Civil War buffs a field day with its history, details of the war, and the war’s impact on all of Shenandoah County and surrounding counties. Many just like it because it is a true mountain and farm community with people interested in helping each other.
Next: About Bryce and the Surrounding Communities

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February 26, 2010

About Bryce Resort and the Surrounding Area


A major focal point of Basye/Orkney Springs and Bryce Mountain is Bryce Resort. A family named Whitacre owned and lived on 156 acres next to the Basye settlement. They sold their farm in 1904 to the Brice family who developed the land as a small, old fashion family vacation spot. The resort was in the Basye village. It had cabins, dining hall and an out door recreation park next to Stoney Creek. During the 1960- 70’s, Pete Bryce and others developed a large mountainous forested area adjacent to Basye into what is now the Sky Bryce Homeowners Association, Inc. Fifty miles of roads were paved and water, sewer and underground electrical and telephone service was developed. . For flood control purposes the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers built a dam which formed the 45 acre Lake Laura. In 1971 and was paid for by the department of Agriculture.

The Bryce Resort lodge and ski/golf facilities were built and time share companies followed in the 70’s . Today inhabitants include:
  • Permanent full-time homeowners
  • Families of the people who settled the area
  • Families who work in the surrounding communities, towns and cities
  • Weekenders and vacationers who maintain second homes
  • “Snow birds” who come in the winter for ski season
  • Time share owners.
The make up of the communities include:
  • Sky Bryce Property Owners Association, Inc. with 2,776 lots
  • 13 other independent smaller homeowners associations
  • 3 Time share companies
  • Vacation rentals through 2 property management offices
  • Historical structures and traditional family homesteads
  • The village of Orkney Springs
  • Shrine Mont, a retreat owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
  • Bryce Resort, a member-owned resort of 350 to 400 members. The resort owns the golf course, ski slopes, outdoor private sports complex, the lodge complex, the roads, and property around the lake with the public beach. For membership information call 856 2121, ext. 220. Contact the ski and golf offices for info about these sports.
Bryce Restaurant offers a grill and dining room open to the public. It caters many private parties and weddings. During ski season the Fireside Grill is open and during the summer the Grill at the sports complex is open.

Basye is an unincorporated village with a fully stocked general store, It also serves as gas station, hunter check-in point, and is an invaluable source of information to new visitors. There are also two restaurants, a post office, a car wash, and two real estate offices. Several active churches are nearby: Brethren, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, and United Church of Christ.

The Basye-Orkney Springs Volunteer Rescue Squad fights fires and offers quick ambulance service in emergencies taking people to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital in Woodstock, a part of the Valley Health System.

Most of the activities and events featured at Basye/Bryce are open to the general public, including:tubing
  • Skiing; snowboarding; tubing; competitive ski races; ski lessons
  • Tennis
  • Swimming
  • Golf
  • Basye Community Library featuring adult and children’s book groups
  • Various Church activities and Bible study groups
  • Bridge, sewing, quilting and knitting groups
  • “Take A Hike” group
  • Art classes
  • Sky Bryce Flying Club
  • Creekside Fitness Center
  • Seasonal activities and summer camps for children.
Next: Nearby Shenandoah Valley Activities.

Northern Shenandoah Valley Activities

Note: This is the last part of a piece that Nancy Meyer wrote about the Basye-Orkney Springs Community.

The Shenandoah Valley as a whole offers a wide variety of activities, events and opportunities for enjoyment by the whole family. Many of these are listed in the local, weekly and monthly newspapers and Virginia tourist booklets. Numerous volunteer organizations offer opportunities to help others and to meet new people and neighbors, including:
  • Orkney Springs Basye Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad
  • SEARCH Thrift Store in Mt. Jackson supporting a group home for mentally challenged adults
  • Mt. Jackson Food Pantry
  • Lion’s Club; Mt. Jackson Lioness Club; Ruritans; Masons; Elks; Moose Club
  • Shenandoah County Memorial Hospital, member of the Valley Health System
  • “Friends of the North Fork Shenandoah River”
  • Shenandoah County Public Schools
  • Music Guild supporting the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival in Orkney Springs
  • Masterworks Chorus
  • “Art Group” in Mt. Jackson
  • VECCA; Valley Education for the Creative Arts
  • Active art workshops and Gallery 7 East in Woodstock
  • Mount Jackson Garden Club
  • Basye Orkney Springs Library: Part of the Shenandoah County Library system
  • Shenandoah County School System
The Shenandoah Valley Economic Tourist web site offers a comprehensive list of Valley activities such as numerous wineries, several caverns, Civil War battlefields and museums, historic homes, Cultural Frontier Museum and it’s proximity to Shenandoah National Park. Throughout Shenandoah County from Strasburg to New Market and beyond there are dozens of antique shops and shopping complexes.

belle grove manorPlaces to visit include wineries, caverns, battlefields, historic homes, Shenandoah National Park, Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Belle Grove Plantation, and art galleries. Winchester to the north and Harrisonburg to the south offer dozens of attractions, activities, and shopping areas. Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University; Winchester is home to Shenandoah University. Middletown is home to Lord Fairfax Community College and the Wayside Theater. There are many other small colleges.

The Basye/Orkney Springs/ Bryce Mountain Community is a very special multi-faceted place with a variety of cultural groups. It is a very beautiful environment with outdoor activities and spectacular scenery. For those leaving large urban areas, it offers the amenities of an old fashioned caring community.

There are now quite a few web sites that provide additional information, including local builders, time share companies, churches, and many local businesses.

Lake House Still Available

The house near Strasburg is still up for lease. Frank just lowered the monthly rent to $1295 -- a bargain considering the size and amenities!

Activity on the house has been slow because of the harsh winter weather. We hope that the right people will look at the house soon. Good credit is required.

February 25, 2010

Suburban Geese

These geese visit Tony's yard every day but also spend time on the lake and on the opposite shore.

February 24, 2010

A Gaggle in the Snow

Snowy Field and a Hill

Winter Scene in Shenandoah County

Here they call that hill a knob, but in other places it's a hillock, a hummock, or even a hammock.

February 23, 2010

Mountain View in Jerome

Here we are looking toward Great North Mountain from Jerome. Through the trees on the left you can glimpse the old schoolhouse, now restored as a residence.

Winter in Jerome

I spotted this charming farmhouse from the church in Jerome, Virginia. I like the pattern the fence makes on the snow.

I added a Photoshop filter in a duplicated layer to bring out the edges of the branches and the buildings, then softened it a bit by adjusting the transparency of the layer.

February 22, 2010

Winter Afternoon in the Country

Farm near Mount Jackson, VA

snowy landscape
Today we saw rain instead of snow and much of the white stuff that has made getting around so difficult is finally starting to go away.

I still have a few pretty snow scenes that I haven't shared yet so I better get them sized and posted. This one is near Mount Jackson in Shenandoah County.

Winter at Bear Wallow Springs

Pond at Orkney Springs, VA

pond with snow

February 21, 2010

Sunset Seen from Strasburg

Seen this evening in Strasburg, Virginia

Some Bryce Mountain Homes in Winter

These are actually houses that Frank has listed for sale in Bryce Resort. I wanted to get photos in the snow so that skiers might be attracted to them. (Many skiers seem to be infatuated with snow.) I took these before the big snow.Above: A ranch style home on Supinlick Ridge.
Next: Condo with loft on "The Hill" in Basye.
Below: Large home in the woods, Strudel Court.

A Path to a Bird Feeder

snow pathThe snow is finally starting to melt. I'm glad to see there is less ice to slip on.

On Thursday I finally finished shoveling a path to this bird feeder. It had been empty for over a week but since the snow was deep, I ignored this one and instead put up a new feeder close to the path that I had already shoveled to the basement door. Now I have four birdseed feeders in use plus two suet feeders! There's still a squirrel feeder that's empty because it's an additional ten feet out in the snow.

Don't worry, the squirrels aren't going hungry -- they manage to get seed and suet out of the bird feeders. They aren't bothered by that plastic "squirrel baffle" over the feeder because they can easily jump to the feeder from a nearby branch.

birds at feeder

February 20, 2010

Junco on a Branch

The most common visitors to our bird feeders are juncos. Gray and white in color, they have a cute round shape and are enthusiastic about eating. They travel in flocks and hop around in a lively way.

Sometimes one of them peers in the window as if summoning me to bring more seed to the feeder.

February 19, 2010

My 1031 Exchange

I finally purchased an investment property to replace the rental house I sold in Dale City. I had it handled as a Section 1031 Exchange for tax purposes, which basically means that taxes on the profits of the first property are deferred, transferred to the new property.

It took months to find the house and go to settlement, mostly because I tried to purchase a townhouse in Stephens City which did not work out. (Dealing with bank-owned property can be frustrating!) Finally I gave up on that one and made an offer on this one which is in Woodstock. The picture on the left shows the rear view of the home and the ones adjoining it. As you can see the first picture (above), the front of the house is brick.

A foreclosure, the house needs some improvements, the most serious being repair to the furnace. It also needs painting and some carpeting. Once those items are completed, we'll put it up for rent. It's a nice house and has two master suites.

It isn't a dream house like the one we found for Frank's 1031 exchange but it was a lot cheaper and should be a good investment long-term. I feel this is a good time to buy property for investment because prices are very low.

Drooping Roses

dying rosesIf you place your valentine roses on the mantle and someone makes a hot fire in the fireplace, your roses just might bend down and die. Well, we live and learn!

I wanted to salvage something from our error, so I took several pictures of the poor sad flowers. Below is one I altered in Photoshop, using several steps including a filter to bring out the edges, inverting the colors in a duplicate layer, and experimenting with layer blending modes to get an effect that I like.

February 18, 2010

Playing with Picture Tubes

In Paint Shop Pro, a Picture Tube is a collection of images packaged with software that distributes them on your virtual canvas. You request them and choose the group but the order that they appear is not controlled by you. This makes them amusing by adding an element of surprise. (Sometimes however, I "undo" the last action if the picture doesn't look right.)
Above: I started by spraying pebbles across the bottom, then layered on some other tubes including wild animals.

Below: In order to make a winter-themed image I selected picture tubes that sounded like something we associate with cold weather and applied them at various sizes.

February 17, 2010

Updating the Bryce Homes Site

Frank moved his real estate site to a different web host and he's been trying to straighten out the redesign. Finally I got involved and fixed the broken links to the Contact page and the Recent Listings page. On the latter page, I directed the frame code to import his Postlets realty page.

While I was it, I changed a link on his Walcroft page to also bring up the Postlets listings. Now I need to careful to keep his Postlets from expiring. We also use them as a basis for listing Bryce Resort homes on Craigslist.

February 16, 2010

Neighbor's House in Snow

Only two houses on our street are occupied full-time: ours and this one. There are two other houses here but they are used as vacation homes and they are unoccupied 90% of the time.

February 15, 2010

A View from Supinlick Ridge Road

Great North Mountain from the Gas Line Clearing

The natural gas pipeline makes a jarring interruption to the forested landscape but it does provide a clearing from which you can see views in both directions. This viewpoint is from the section of Supinlick Ridge Road (611) that heads southwest toward Broadway.

February 14, 2010

Another View of Great North Mountain

mountain view in winterYou can see Great North Mountain from Orkney Grade (Route 263) as you travel down Supinlick Ridge toward Basye. This view is near The Pines Rental Office. A really pretty viewpoint is at nearby Sky Chalet, and a number of homes in Bryce Resort have spectacular views.

Valentine Card-inal

Crafted in Photoshop

February 13, 2010

Road Closed Due to Ice

This was not a sign we wanted to see on our way home earlier this week. We had been on the road most of that day, having driven to Charlottesville and back for my medical appointments.

Until we reached the resort, all the roads had been pretty much clear (although we passed a couple of trucks that had gotten stuck in the snow next to I-81). Unfortunately, the road that was closed was the one that our little cul-de-sac sprouts from. There is another entrance to the road, but what if it were also marked closed?

"Call security and ask them if we can get through to our road," I suggested. We did, and the man on duty said that the really severe ice patch was farther down near the bottom of the ridge so we should be able to make it home.

Frank drove cautiously and we made it home safely.

February 12, 2010

Studel Court in February

snow covered country roadI don't know why the resort named this road after a pastry! Perhaps it's because it's a tasty apr├Ęs-ski snack and Bryce is a ski resort (among other things).

February 11, 2010

Icicles are Pretty

Unfortunately, icicles weigh down the gutter. They also drip on the deck and form treacherous icy pools, so we knock them down every couple of days.

February 10, 2010

Conquerors of the Snow

snow blowersThe guys from Macanie Trucking show up the day after a snowstorm and clear out our driveway. I am always glad to see them! Our drive is fairly long and a bit steep so snow that's more than a few inches deep makes it hard to navigate.

Below: A tire came loose from one of their snow blowers but they got it fixed quickly.
men working on equipment

Snowed-In Phone Booths

Seen Near Fishersville, VA

February 9, 2010

Shenandoah Snow

Near Mount Jackson, VA

We stopped for a moment yesterday west of Mt. Jackson to grab a picture of this scene of a pond covered with snow. It's more recognizable in this photo I took on a snowy day a year ago.

The location is along Mount Jackson Road near exit 273 of Interstate 81. Although all the signs lead tourists through the town on their way to Basye or Orkney Springs, locals use Mt. Jackson Road (CR 703) and South Middle Road as a shortcut to Orkney Grade. I suppose the directional signs were suggested by the town in order to lead visitors past the stores instead of out into the country.

Pine Boughs Loaded with Snow

Trees and Great North Mountain in February

I filtered this image in Photoshop in order to outline the snow-laden trees.

I don't recall any winter in Virginia that was so snowy. With the heavy coats of two snow storms already covering the ground about 2 feet deep, another shipment of white flakes has arrived and will continue unloading on us through tomorrow. Enough already!

February 8, 2010

Snow-Swamped Fox

There's a figure of a fox dressed in a gentleman's hunting outfit that has kept watch near our front door since we bought the house. Saturday's snow transformed him into an even stranger apparition.

If you are curious about what he looks like sans snow, click here.

February 7, 2010

How Much Snow?

We measured 21 inches of snow in the driveway yesterday. My sister got more than that in Loudoun County but I'm not jealous. In 2003 we had about 30 inches up here, and we got snowed in for 5 days. (Maybe it was 4 days and just seemed longer.) We weren't permanent residents then; we had a chalet on the other side of the resort and had come up for a long weekend.

Snow removal equipment kept breaking down and the crews did not get to our little court because it was all they could do to clear the more-traveled roads. Finally Frank located a neighbor who had a small backhoe. He came over and plowed a lane from the corner to our car so that we could get out.

Now we have an ongoing contract for snow removal and two men showed up this morning and cleared our driveway. It doesn't look as pretty as it did when I took the photo but it looks a lot better in a way.

February 6, 2010

Snow on a Bird Feeder

Saturday: The snowstorm that started Friday morning finally swirled away and headed southeast around 4:30 this afternoon. I took this picture around 5 PM. (Yes, the days are getting longer!)

The valleys you see on the rail next to the feeder were made by birds, who kick away a bit of snow every time they land or hop closer to the feeder. They visited our feeders constantly as the snow fell. I fill the feeders on the deck with Nyjer seed because it does not draw squirrels to the deck. Don't get me wrong, I like squirrels. I just don't want them leaping onto the deck from the roof because the sudden boom when they crash-land upsets the dogs and can't be good for the squirrels either. Our deck is about 8 feet from the ground and there are no steps to it so the squirrels just about fly to get on it.

We have other bird feeders in the yard and I fill them with mixes of seed that the squirrels enjoy as much as the birds do. However, the squirrels usually take shelter when the snow is coming down, leaving those feeders to their feathered friends.

Lady Cardinal in Snowy Tree

Getting Ready for the Snow Storm

In addition to buying groceries, there are things we do to prepare for a heavy snow. Here you see Frank bringing in some firewood and me filling the bird feeders.

February 5, 2010

Another Snow Storm

As if we needed more snow...

Another snow storm reached Basye this morning. It began as a wet snow, pelting down almost like rain. In order to drive to the post office, we had to clear snow off the car windows but once the interior warmed up, the snow melted as it hit the windshield.

Still, it piled up outside on top of the snow that was already there from the 5 inches we had a few days ago. And by evening, we had about 7 inches of brand new snow on our driveway. More is in the forecast, probably a lot more.

I hope the prediction of a snow storm of "historical proportions" is just hype. I like the clean white look of fresh snow but I don't like getting snowed in.