August 31, 2013

At the "Grand Canyon of the South"

The 5-mile long gorge at Breaks Interstate Park is called the Grand Canyon of the South. It doesn't really look like the Grand Canyon because it's covered with trees except for occasional rock outcroppings. I'll bet it's spectacular in autumn!

Both the canyon and the park are in two states: Virginia and Kentucky. The lodging is in Virginia.
Puddle on a Rock
Frank and our Nissan

Another Look at the View, Tower Tunnel Overlook

Breaks Interstate Park, Virginia

Once the morning mists burned off we saw some beautiful clouds! This will be my Skywatch post for the week.

After we left the overlook I heard a train chugging through the canyon. I wished it had come through while I was shooting a brief video. Since the trail was somewhat washed out, I did not turn around to rush back to the overlook to get a shot of the train, although I did consider it.

August 30, 2013

Blog Post #4000

Time goes by so quickly! I've been blogging for eight years and this is my four thousandth post. And here it is Labor Day Weekend although it seems like Summer is just getting started!

In 2005 I did not blog every day, especially during the months when we were living in Glebe Harbor. High speed internet was not available there at that time, so we used dial-up. But the phone lines had not been upgraded so speed was unbearably slow. I kept graphics turned off but pages still loaded so slowly that I could click on a link, go to the kitchen and pour a cup of coffee and come back to find the page had not finished loading!

Now they have cable internet there via Metrocast. We just visited there to inspect our house there because the tenants have moved on and it's available to rent. I'll share photos later but for now I want to finish posting pictures from our trip to Breaks and the Ohio River Valley.

August 29, 2013

The View is the Reward

Our reward for making our way to the Tower-Tunnel Overlook was a magnificent view of Breaks Canyon.

Frank noticed that the blaze for the trail looked like a fried egg!

The "tower" is a rock formation. The "tunnel" is a railroad tunnel through the mountains.
If you look closely you can see the railroad.

Posing at Breaks Interstate Park

August 28, 2013

Slippery Slope

The Tower Tunnel Trail sounded easy! It was a short walk out to an overlook to view the Breaks canyon. However, recent heavy rains had coated parts of the trail with mud and washed out a few places. Obviously the trail bed had become a creek bed during the rain!

We did make it to the overlook but I wished I had a walking stick.

August 27, 2013

Technology in the Wilderness

Outside the visitor center at Breaks Interstate Park stand some large artifacts from Southwestern Virginia. The huge iron kettle mounted in stone is a salt kettle.
A plaque tells us that:
This cast iron kettle unearthed in 1961 at Saltville, Virginia, was one of those used for evaporating water from brine in the manufacture of salt. It was probably cast at Marion, Virginia about 1860 and buried to conceal it from the Federal troops who captured Saltville in 1864.
And then there's the moonshining exhibit!
Now if you should come across a real moonshine still while walking in the woods, it won't be labeled like this one is! And you should probably react just as you would if you came across a rattlesnake: slip away quickly and quietly!

August 26, 2013

At Redbud Lodge

We spent two nights in one of the lodges at Breaks Interstate Park. It was nice and quiet. They have cabins too, and if I'd seen the cabin discount on Facebook before I reserved a room, I probably would have gone for that offer.

The park is on the Virginia-Kentucky border in a gap in the Appalachians once explored by Daniel Boone.

A Westward Circle Tour

On our 5-day road trip last week I managed to visit three places on my bucket list! The most significant was the home of my g-g-g-grandfather in Ohio; the others were Breaks Interstate Park and the Jackson Mill.
Our first destination was Breaks in southwestern Virginia. It was the farthest distance from home and we spent two nights in that beautiful park. My ancestor's home was about 3 hours north of there, and I had reserved a hotel room across the Ohio River from it in Barboursville, WV. ( I'll post photos of all the trip highlights later.) We spent one night in Barboursville/Huntington, which I was slightly familiar with from a history tour we took in 2006.
The third destination was the historic mill and village where Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson grew up near Weston, West Virginia. It was about half-way between Barboursville and home, and a reasonable 3-hour drive from each. Of course, three hours always takes us longer because we stop for lunch and gas. 

The map gives you a rough idea of our route, which I drew on a map I clipped from National Atlas

August 25, 2013

A Long Drive to Breaks

I've wanted to see Breaks Interstate Park for years. I'd heard from family members that it was beautiful, and it's in my home state of Virginia. However, it's at the Kentucky border and about as far as we can go from home without leaving the state. Online directions vary but they estimate it takes about seven hours to get there. Originally I planned to spend a night at Claytor Lake, but they were booked up so I let Frank talk me into making the trip in one day.

We failed to get an early start because the alarm did not go off, plus we took an extra hour doing last-minute things. Then we made a stop to leave the dogs at the kennel, another stop for lunch, plus some brief stops, but it was the detour on Walker Mountain that cost us extra unplanned time. We did not reach the park until 9 PM! The desk clerk was just leaving and the restaurant was closing. Fortunately we had  some food in our picnic cooler. In the morning I learned that deep fog often settles in the park at night, so I'm glad we got there before that happened, as driving mountain roads at night is hard enough without the added challenge of fog.

The park was almost empty of tourists because school in that area had already started for the year. The park is fairly remote and most of the guests don't travel from as far away as we did.
Foggy Morning View

Afternoon View from the Restaurant

August 24, 2013

Deer at the Edge of the Woods

The deer in Virginia favor the edge of the forest as a place to feed because enough sun shines there to grow grass and other yummy things. Yet the nearby woods offer a place to hide quickly if if seems prudent.

We got these photos from the car. Deer are usually shy unless they are acclimated to people by the easy access to food we offer. However, human food is unhealthy for deer so most parks warn against feeding them.

August 23, 2013

Views from Walker Mountain

Here are some more pictures I took on the crest of the Appalachians in southwest Virginia. As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, we wound up there accidentally when we found ourselves on a detour instead of going through Big Walker tunnel. The tunnel would have saved us 30 miles but we would have missed some lovely views and a history lesson.
Looking toward Wythe County

Looking Toward Bland County
Earlier Posts:

Big Walker Lookout

Today's Skywatch Photo
We did not attempt to climb the lookout tower. Neither of us could have made it since we were stiff from riding in the car for hours and my knees had been bothering me for a couple of days. The charge for adult tickets is now $6 and there was no point in paying that just to go up part of the way.

I recall being there as a child and I don't know if we even climbed it then. I think the charge was more like a quarter fifty-plus years ago but that was worth enough to hesitate over, especially for a family.

There's a store there where you can buy tickets or snacks.
On Walker Mtn. North of Wytheville, VA

August 22, 2013

History High on a Mountain

 At the top of Walker Mountain are these historical markers. There is also a highway marker for the county line separating Wythe County and Bland County. As you can see there is a magnificent view here! This view was seen by Federal soldiers when they crossed here in 1863.

The Civil War Trails sign deals with the Battle of Wytheville (also mentioned in yesterday's post).  The Toland's Raid marker beside Route 52 (shown below) gives us a short version of the story:
Col. John T. Toland of the 34th Regiment Mounted Ohio Volunteer Infantry leading Federal cavalrymen, marched from Tazewell County, and raided Wytheville during the evening of 18 July 1863. Confederate troops under Maj. Thomas M. Bowyer and local citizens fortified in buildings at first withstood the attack, killing Toland. After the Confederates withdrew, Federal forces burned several buildings. After learning that Confederate troops were situated at present day Rural Retreat, the federals left Wytheville early the next morning initially headed north towards Walker Mountain.
Local legend has it that a young woman rode her horse 40 miles to warn the Confederates that the Yankees were coming. You can read her story on the Big Walker Lookout website.

 We parked at the Big Walker Lookout to take these pictures.

August 21, 2013

Between Wytheville and Walker Mountain

On Monday, North of Wytheville, VA:
When I realized we were on a detour that would not take us back to I-77 anytime soon, I wanted to look at the map. I pulled off by a Civil War Trails marker near the intersection of Krenning Road and Stoney Fork Road. The sign dealt with the Battle of Wytheville in 1863. I was not familiar with this battle, although I did write a report on the city of Wytheville back in grade school. 

The story on the marker starts out like this:
On July 13, 1863, Union Col. John T. Toland led 872 officers and men of the 34th Regiment Mounted Ohio Volunteer Infantry from Camp Piatt, West Virginia, into Southwest Virginia to attack the railroads, telegraphs, and salt and lead mines essential to the Confederate cause. At Tug Ridge in Abb’s Valley, on July 17, Toland surprised and captured a small company of Confederate pickets commanded by Capt. J.E. Stallings of the 45th Virginia Infantry. As Toland’s raiders descended to the foot of Walker Mountain, Confederate Maj. Andrew J. May followed close behind with about 250 cavalry men.
You can read the rest of this marker on Historical Markers Database.

August 20, 2013

Looking for Suiter

My maiden name is Suiter. It's not a common name, so when I accidentally found myself near the town of Suiter, I just had to take some pictures.

The accidental part was finding ourselves on a detour. I had seen the town on a map but decided we did not have time to seek it out because we were already behind schedule. We were heading north on I-77, hours from home and with a couple more hours to go to reach our destination, Breaks Interstate Park. Wanting to reach the park before darkness fell, I did not think it prudent to detour off the interstate and take a winding road over the mountain instead of going through Big Walker Tunnel.

Fate intervened. Frank needed a break from driving and took the first available exit so I could take the wheel. But after I started the car up I saw a sign: Detour to I-77 North. I followed the arrows and soon realized we would not get back on the interstate until after crossing Big Walker Mountain!

Well, okay. Maybe I'd see Suiter after all. My map book showed two towns with similar names in that area. Suitor (with an "O") was shown on the way up the mountain, but we never saw it. I don't think it exists anymore and my map is pretty old. Suiter (with an "E") is on the other side of the mountain, and sure enough we found a sign to it before rejoining the interstate.

Strangely, the town name on the directional sign uses the "O" spelling but the road name uses the "E" spelling. We drove down the road as far as a crossroads but did not have time to continue deep into the forest where the map shows "Suiter" to be. Some folks on a genealogy site say the town is just a couple of houses anyway.
A Community on Suiter Road
The following day I found a book in the park store called Southwest Virginia Crossroads: An Almanac of Place Names and Places to See by Joe Tennis. He gave this history of Suiter:
In 1836, Alex Suiter (Suitor) acquired 1,100 acres of land in the Suiter vicinity along Hunting Camp Creek. Western: VA- 615 at VA-618.
Another source gives the date as 1844 and states that the land grant was for 100 acres. Perhaps that was an addition to his earlier holdings — I don't know.
View from Big Walker Mountain in the direction of Suiter

August 19, 2013

Bunny in the Grass

This photo was sent via Adobe Photoshop Express

August 18, 2013

Sunset Tour, The Lost Generation

Belle Grove MansionOn Friday evening I went to another History at Sunset tour at Cedar Creek Battlefield. It started at the beautiful Belle Grove plantation in Middletown, which is across the Valley Pike from the place where we began the recent Heater Farm tour.

Ranger Shannon of the National Park Service conducted this tour. She focused on two casualties of the Battle of Cedar Creek, Stephen Dodson Ramseur, CSA, and Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., USA. Both were outstanding young men See the park service's page, Lost Generation, for their bios and a description of the battle.

Shannon was a fellow student on some of the tours we took with Professor Noyalas of LFCC.

August 17, 2013

Afternoon at Cullers Overlook

I've posted views from this overlook before but they are pretty enough to repeat, plus they change according to the time of year and time of day. This is in the Shenandoah River State Park which is south of Front Royal, Virginia. In the distance is the Massanutten Range.

A sign that was here before is missing now. Perhaps it is being repaired. It told us that this part of the park was once a farm owned by the Cullers family.

Zooming In on the South Fork of the Shenandoah

August 16, 2013

picture of m javinsMy younger daughter is finishing up a trip to Mexico. Be sure to check out Marie's stories on her blog. She has some fascinating photos!

Zinnias on the Rocks

I hope my readers are not getting tired of seeing zinnias! They are such good summer bloomers!

I'm posting one of these pictures to the linky page Orange You Glad It's Friday and also Today's Flowers.

August 15, 2013

For Lease in Glebe Harbor

The tenants are moving out of the house we own near Montross in just a couple of weeks. The subdivision is quiet and attracts vacationers and retirees, plus folks who have employment in or near Westmoreland County. Summer is ending soon so we have reduced the rent to $985 a month. We need someone with good credit who will take care of the home and lease it for a year or more.

The house overlooks Wetherall Creek which flows into the lower Potomac.

It's the home on the right.