Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shining with the Daughter of the Stars

Saturday was a beautiful morning but a bit chilly. I was going kayaking all day on the Shenandoah with a group, stopping for lunch which would be prepared for us, and then later for dinner, which would also be prepared for us. We were renting the boats so I had nothing to think about, only to remember to bring some water with me and a fleece in case I got cold. The river had a wispy mist swirling over it when I arrived and the temperature was a little lower than I would have liked but that was soon forgotten as we stood chatting while we waited for the kayaks to be loaded.
All the old school buses had names and Bob, our leader, wasn't too impressed with the name of ours. If we heard any banjos, we were to keep paddling.
We all piled into the water and it took me a few minutes to get used to my much shorter boat and short clumpy paddle. Despite these boats being wider than Big Red I still felt unbalanced but soon got the hang of it. We all bobbed and wobbled around as we waited for everyone to put in.
And then we were off, with nothing in front, we set off leisurely and I just knew it was going to be a mighty fine day.
The Ancient Legend behind this amazing river come to us long ago from Native Americans who gave it its name. It translates to Daughter of the Stars. After the Great Spirit had made the world, the morning stars came together on the shores of a quiet silver lake bordered with blue mountains, the most beautiful place they could see. Hovering above the quiet waters and lighting the mountain tops with their robes of fire, the stars sang their songs of joy and pledged to gather here every thousand years. One time when the stars were singing, there came a mighty crashing!! A great rock in the mountain wall tore asunder, and through the deep opening the lake waters began to pour out and rush to the sea. As time passed, the stars looked over the earth for another place to meet. They finally agreed upon a lovely lush valley through which a winding river ran. Suddenly the stars realized that this valley had been the bed of their beautiful lake, and the blue mountains around it were the same ones upon which they had cast their robes of light in ages past. The stars were so joyous they placed the brightest jewels from their crowns in the river where they still lie and sparkle. And ever since that day, the river and its valley have been called.... Shenandoah, or Daughter Of The Stars.
Damn, we forgot the matching hats!
Bob walking on water as he directed traffic in the river.
And then he stopped to take photos of us as we passed by.
We all found time for photographs along the route. Nobody was in any rush and we often stopped and just enjoyed the scenery as we waited for others to catch up.
One of the many rapids and rills that we had to contend with. The first ones were a little scary but we soon got used to them. The problem was the underlying rocks because as much as you thought you could read the water there would always be a hidden boulder that would catch you underneath. We all spent a lot of time rocking ourselves off of rocks.A couple of times I was teetering on top of a rock wall that was under a couple of inches of water, having to be very careful as I worked my way free. One false move, and I'd be out of my boat, possibly cracking my head on the rocks around me. I was very glad that it was the bottom of a rental boat getting scraped up and not my boat.
But it was fun!
The water is so beautifully clear on this river, the weeds waved slowly in the current and fishes darted back and forth. Pure white clam shells glistened on the sandy bottom or from cracks in the rocks.
About halfway down we stopped for lunch. This was prepared for us by the outfitters and we could smell it as we clambered hungrily from our kayaks.
Someone thought a spot of yoga would be beneficial before lunch.
I was very impressed with the spread. There were burgers and onions sizzling on a saw blade, and on a table was fresh salad, tomatoes, pasta, potato salad, cheese, chips and cookies. A veritable feast but I didn't load up too much as I knew we still had a few miles to go and didn't want to feel drowsy or get cramps.
A little Painted Lady landed on my arm and sat with me throughout the whole time I was on the riverbank, even letting me look it in the eye close up. So cute. Bob called me the Butterfly Whisperer.
Then it was time to let my little friend find another lunch companion and for us to get back on board our vessels and start paddling once again.
We heard a few cows lowing in the shallows...
...and then a more raucous clamoring could be heard in the distance as we neared a huge gathering of kids in tubes, mostly in large groups, and barely moving at all.
They seemed to be having a lot fun but today we weren't looking for our thrills in that way, so we paddled by quickly and soon again found our tranquility.
We could see a gorge ahead and knew there were rapids before it. Some got out to drag their boats along a path and meet us below, but most of us couldn't wait to get going.
Sam got a shot of me heading through the rapids. There were some hefty rocks under this water and a few waves crashed into my cockpit. What immense fun, we all wanted to do it again.
The pretty lagoon area at the bottom where we waited for everyone before paddling the final stretch to the last post. It was about 5pm when we all clambered up the ramp to the buses waiting to take us back to camp.
A few of us manged to grab the last sets on a bus that was just leaving, and we shared it with this group of lads who been tubing, celebrating the upcoming marriage of the guy on the left by the window, who had the most amazingly gorgeous voice I've ever heard, (after Alan Rickman). We had a lot of laughs with them while the bus driver had his foot to the floor in an effort to knock everyone's fillings out as the vehicle rattled over every bump in the dirt road.
Back at camp we had time to grab a shower and change before trotting over to a pavilion because we were all starving once more.
Mame found a four leaved clover which seemed to be very fitting on such a perfect day as today.
And dinner was being served. Humungous steaks along with chicken portions were cooking on a huge grill. Piles of baked potatoes wrapped in foil were on a table with salad, corn, pasta dishes and I can't remember what else. Everybody loaded their plates and tucked in. A fantastic meal, and that was not my plate above, but it was hard to get smaller steaks. Everything was cooked to perfection with plenty of seconds or thirds if folks wanted. Nobody went hungry. There was even carrot cake, marshmallows with drinking chocolate and coffee afterwards. A sumptuous spread, with everyone looking at each other, patting fat tummies, and beaming.
And the day ended perfectly for me because I had such an easy drive home afterwards.
A cool abandoned farm house that I may return to explore further one day, but for now I was happy enough to just take a photo of that lovely yellow roof.
 And look at that road on the way home. No traffic jams and sucking up exhaust fumes for me, just a fresh grass filled breeze blowing gently through my windows as I made my way back to Meadow House.
My plans on Sunday were scuppered as I awoke to pouring rain. So there would be no hot air balloons or bike ride today. But after such a perfect day before I didn't really care.It was lovely to turn the alarm off and snooze for a few more hours with the steady drum on the roof from the raindrops beating down.
Eventually I got up and decided to just go for a drive and maybe find a few geocaches. There's a few in my area so I didn't have to go too far but the first two I looked for got me stumped. The first was in a graveyard and after a few people saw me, probably looking quite suspicious with my searching, I decided to give up. The second was in a parking lot and again I received some odd looks and with this one I did actually wonder if it was missing since it should have been very easy to find. The third was in a local park and again there were a few Muggles around but I found the cache easily enough, and managed to sign the scroll and replace it without being seen.
You can see it was pretty easy to spot, it was a pen.
The next was down a country lane and I had to spend a few minutes pulling out loose rocks from a wall before finding the box. I signed my name and carefully placed it back in it's hiding place. I had to put that stone sitting on top of the wall back in the hole to hide the box.
Some gooses had been watching me the whole time and I noticed the sky was darkening. As I drove away the rain started to fall but I didn't mind. I grabbed a chocolate ice cream from our new ice cream stall in Marshall and went home to spend a lazy evening with Kota Kat and Rosie Lee.

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