Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chromatic Colors of Fall

After I had worked out what was causing my lack of camera power, I managed to charge all my batteries fully and on Sunday went for a drive to capture some of the glorious colors in the countryside near home, and just simply enjoy this glorious season. Too quickly the colors start to fade and the beautiful warm hues darken and turn brown.. It was another brisk and blowy day but inside the car that didn't matter, and the sun was shining brightly. Armed with a large coffee from my local bakery I set off.
We have a very pretty park near to Marshall, which I'm not going to identify because it's relatively unknown, and certainly hasn't been discovered by any Meetup hiking groups yet, and that's the way I want it to stay. These groups are getting bigger and bigger, frequenting beautiful hiking trails on a very regular basis, so that now there's little chance of taking a quite walk in the countryside anymore as you're more than likely to bump into a horde of chatting, marching trail blazers. I've nothing against these groups as I belong to some myself, but I wish they'd at least reduce the numbers of the groups. Earlier this year a local mountain closed its trail due to the local animals being overly disturbed. They are now wondering whether to let hikers back in, and if they do, whether to regulate how many go in at a time. I think this is a superb idea and should be applied to many other trails which are now looking overworked and losing their initial charm.
So this little park is one I don't talk about, and today there was hardly anyone else there, just 2 cars, belonging to a couple walking their dogs and a guy fishing. And then just a half hour later it was just me walking around, listening to the birds who were very obviously enjoying this fresh autumnal day.
I spent a good couple of hours enjoying the solitude, the sun warming my back as I bent over to take photos. Plenty of rustling was going on in the undergrowth as little creatures got ready for winter, and I helped a baby turtle cross the track to the pond, not wanting him to suffer if another visitor drove in to join us. But I left the park later having not seen another soul, and wondered how long this place would remain a hidden gem.
I drove down a few country lanes before going home, just to enjoy the colors in the trees, so many yellows, golds, rusts, burnt oranges, flaming reds and maroons, blending in with the greens and browns. I knew bad weather was coming during the week so this could be the last weekend of seeing this beautiful palette of color. Maybe next weekend will see many trees bare after the winds that are blowing their way towards us. But for now I intended to enjoy every moment and savor every sight!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Corn Maze and a Zombie Town

On Friday after work, I joined a Facebook friend and her crew to visit a corn maze at night. I've never been in one of these before so I was pretty excited, and the fact it was at night time just added icing to the cake. I got there early to stroll around the farm and snap a few shots.It was at a farm in Winchester and I managed to get there just before dusk.
Looking down on to the corn maze where later we'd be trying to find our way out. Tammy turned up and withing 20 minutes the whole crew had arrived. I was extremely glad that I'd brought a jacket. As the light left the sky the temperature plummeted and we all huddled inside our coats, hands thrust deep into pockets.
We walked over to the entrance of the maze and met a gentleman who explained the rules. Each team was given a card on which there were 6 markers. All had to be found within the maze and stamped using the relevant hole punches that were attached to each place, and then we could exit. He wished us luck on completing our task, and mentioned that those who couldn't find their way out would be allowed one ear of corn to last them until the morning light. Then someone would arrive about 9am if help was needed in exiting the maze. We would be walking in the region of about 3 miles and armed with our flashlights we set off. The corn was high and very dense. There were times when we could hear other voices but it really was impossible to see any other folks unless they were in the same walkway.
I think we were inside the maze for about an hour and a half. We definitely walked our 3 miles and maybe more as we somehow missed points 2 and 3, so had to go back and find them. We all managed to exit the field safely with no casualties, and nicely warmed up from all the walking. I have to admit that I wouldn't want to negotiate the maze on my own, it was a little creepy with all the walkways looking the same. The corn looked like something from a horror movie when lit up by our flashlights, and we were always on our guard just in case something jumped out.
It was a great way to end the week, we'd had a lot of fun, and it was satisfying to have something else crossed off my 'Things I Want To Do' list. The other Halloween 'must do' is a decent haunted house, but I'm not sure I can fit that in this year.
Saturday morning was actually warmer outside than inside the house when I got up, so I opened doors and windows and let the breeze flow through the rooms, leaving a wonderful earthy and nutty fragrance behind that no candle can replicate.
I was going to Front Royal to watch a zombie parade so I grabbed my camera and set off. A few zombies were already shuffling around when I pulled into the parking lot and above us was a drone hovering and sounding just like a bluebottle fly. I so wanted to swat it, it became pretty annoying after a while. The locals had made a lot of effort with their make up and outfits, and I studied them closely as I think I'd like to take part in the next one.
It did seem a little odd though to see them all smiling. There were only a random few who were taking their roles seriously, trying to take a bite out of me if I got too close, reaching out groping arms or shambling with a leg dragging. I watched these ones with avid interest. A couple that I spoke to said their make up had taken over 2 hours to complete.A dude wearing coveralls and holding a huge soaker gun turned up. Good luck with that, mate, I've never seen a zombie brought down with a water gun. But he seemed pretty pumped up and I had to smile.
But my photo taking came to an abrupt stop. One battery ran out and when I replaced it with another, that too ran out within a couple of minutes. I was pissed. I later found out it was a fault with the charger and now have the issue resolved. So I only had my cell phone and I really didn't want to thrust that in peoples' faces just so I could get close ups. So I stood back and watched as the group of about 150 skin shedding, blood dripping zombies walked jauntily past and headed towards town. I hoped they would move a little more realistically once among the general public, but I'm afraid I didn't stop to find out. I had a camera power problem to rectify and that was on my mind. The event was for a superb cause, to raise money and food for the Humane Society of Warren County, and they did pretty well. This was only the second year of doing this so apparently it's become very popular. A lot more photos are on the Zombie Walk Facebook page, Guess I'll have another go next year!

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Piercing Cold Peak on a Windy Weekend

Sunday morning was cold and very windy again. I was meeting a small group to hike up Seneca Rocks, a spectacular outcrop I'd looked up at admiringly but never scaled. I was driving out to West Virginia and left early so I could take the more scenic route.
This mural was on the side of a bank building. It's made solely of plastic bottle tops. Pretty clever and certainly an eye catcher.
I stopped for this barn too, a slowly disappearing advertisement that was once a common sighting. This started back in 1925 when 6 guys, in 3 trucks,  from New York, started painting the sides of barns with this logo. The full story as told by the last survivor, who passed away in 1993, is here.
It was pretty chilly every time I stepped out of the car and I was soon scuttling back to the warm interior as soon as I'd taken my shot.
But again I was stepping out from Stuart when I came across this house, awesomely decorated for Halloween. There must have been a small fortune in decorations here and I had to just stand and take it all in before I snapped any photos. 
The theme was a wedding, aptly titled, "Just Buried", very clever and the owners had a real sense of humor. I adored the skeleton peeking round the gate and the mummified cat. No one came out of the warm house to chat, not that I blamed them in this cold, and I'm sure they've had many people stopping to admire their yard.
These old vehicles had been placed thoughtfully to sit atop the horizon and I'm sure I wasn't the first or last person to stop and take photos of the great scene.
And then I was at Seneca Rocks.
I looked up at the grey jagged peaks and wondered, did I really want to hike all the way up there in this cold wind? On the internet it says the peak is inaccessible except by technical rock-climbing techniques, and if I squinted I could just about make out a couple of people scaling up the sheer rock face. Composed of white and grey Tuscarora quartzite, it is the only true 'peak' on the East Coast of the United States and has an elevation of 2402ft.
I met up with Gary and his wife Wendy in the visitor center and 2 of their friends, noting that everyone was bundled up warmly. We waited a few minutes to see if any stragglers would appear to join us and then set off.
The start of the trail and the bridge leading to the beginning of the uphill climb.
Because of my recent hikes, I didn't struggle too much with this. The climb was relatively gentle and we stopped a few times to stretch overworked calf muscles but I didn't even bother with a drink until I'd reached the very top.
The place where visitors are supposed to finish, the viewing observatory, but we wanted to go all the way up!
We all read this sign, but along with other hikers, walked past it.
And then because of the exposure, with no trees to offer shelter, the wind hit us, or I should say, belted us hard. It was difficult to talk as sudden gusts of about 30mph would whip the words away before they could be heard, and we all held on tightly to the rock face as we scrambled up even higher, bracing against the force of the wind.
And then we were there!
The views were absolutely stunning, a 360° panorama of beautiful natural surroundings, with very few man made structures to mar the landscape. Mountains and valleys, with trees turning into fiery colors, and the clouds overhead creating a patchwork effect. We just sat and admired, taking photos of each other, and then sitting admiring again, gushing at the beauty of the earth. Although we didn't actually say too much because the wind was so cold, so we wanted to keep our mouths shut. My hands were getting numb too so after about 10 minutes we reluctantly agreed that we needed to start descending.  I did notice that the ridge line seemed to be passable to the east of where we had perched, and Lucy said she was sure that a trail went through that way. I will come back in the spring to see for sure and explore that.
We scrambled back down lower and sat for a while behind the rocks where there was no wind at all, to chat and munch on snacks. There were a couple of rock climbers there but they told us they'd had to admit defeat due to the strong cold winds. We felt quite proud of ourselves that we hadn't let it beat us. Those views will stay in my mind a long time.
It seemed like a short descent. Once again, I had no pains in my legs or knees, and was very pleased that my fitness regime was paying off. At the visitors center the others wanted to watch a movie featuring the peak but I declined, wanting to use the rest of the daylight for my home journey and photos.
Across the road were 2 old stores with souvenirs and food, and tucked behind them was a wonderful abandoned motor shop that I took photos of, and another shot of the peak. We were sitting atop of the peak on the left in the above photo.
And then it was back in the car to start my drive home.
Driving back I noticed more wonderful rocky outcrops and even a cave.
I loved these old abandoned caravans in a wood.
And my last photo of the day, an abandoned mechanic shop. I managed to get home while it was still light, snuggling up on the sofa with Kota and Miss Rosie Lee as we watched the trees bend across the meadow in the last of the day's light.