Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sunday Sunset on Skyline

On Sunday the rain had stopped but heavy winds had been building up since the previous evening and raged without relent through the night. These were the remnants of hurricane Matthew which had devastated the southern east coast only a day before. But it wasn't too chilly so I was meeting up with Bill, Nick and Janice to have a hike and shoot some photos on the Skyline Drive. I drove back down the hill where the turkeys were still hanging out, pecking furiously across the road and down the verges. A tree had fallen which one of the neighbors had cleared but I assumed plenty of bugs were on the ground when the tree was chopped up, so the turkeys were enjoying a veritable smorgasbord.
It took a while to get past without disrupting their furious gobbling, and then I was free. On the way to Front Royal I took the country route, stopping to take photos that heralded the beginning of autumn.
The black walnut trees had been hit hard by the heavy winds and had scattered a multitude of nuts across the narrow roads. I shall have to get out soon and collect a hoard for Sebastian to dole out in portions through the cold months.
 I spotted these sweet chestnuts at the start of someone's driveway and scurried back and forth picking up as many as I could stuff in my pockets for Sebastian, fully expecting to hear a bang and feel a round of pellets in my backside. But I hadn't seen these for a few years and I just couldn't help but pick up, and grab a couple of photos, of these lovely shiny brown nuts.
I met with the others and we all and bundled into Bill's car, heading up to the mountains, where plenty of other folk had apparently thought of the same plan as us. But it was so windy, bringing the temperatures down low enough that we were chilly as soon as we stepped from the car. We hiked through a small poplar glade which was protected from the gales.
Polypores fungi growing up a tree. With all the rain we've had recently there has been an abundant growth of fungi in woodlands and wet fields.
The green mantle on the mountains was gradually being broken up with intermittent splashes of gold and yellow, the recent drought causing some leaves to change color early, and meaning we may not have the vibrancy of last year's foliage. I took a short video of the gales that blew us about on the ridge. We were nervous about hiking to the edge of some of the rock faces because the gusts of wind were about 45mph and tried to thrust us, lift us, push us, or blow us off balance. People held on to cars, walls and trees or each other as the cold air blasted against them.
We drove to Skyland where we enjoyed a late lunch and beers, the delicious scent of wood burning in a fireplace drifting across to us in the parking lot, and enticing us inside a little quicker. It also reminded me that I need to order my own firewood soon and clear the patio so I can stack it.
Later we drove further down the ridge, looking for sunlit glades with golden ferns, hoping to catch the foliage in that 'golden hour' lighting, but unfortunately we'd spent too long inside enjoying the warmth and our beers. The sun was dipping towards the horizon rapidly, leaving most of the mountain in a cold darkness. We found a couple of small spots where I struggled to grab some photos but the wind was harsh, biting down our backs and necks and hurling the vegetation back and forth so we couldn't focus, so we gave up, scuttling back to the warm car. We weren't yet used to this chilly weather, it was too much of a contrast from our recent hot and humid days.
On the way back to Front Royal we stopped briefly for a couple of sunset shots, each time only spending a minute or too outside before we clambered back in our seats, fighting with the strong gales each time we opened or closed a door.
As we left the park, our last sighting was of a deer chowing down enthusiastically on a large clump of fungi growing out of a tree stump. We slowed to a stop as did a couple of other vehicles and attempted to get photos in the dusk without disturbing him. He eyed us all curiously, and seemingly without fear, and then dismissed our attention to bend back down and resume his munching. We left him in peace, appreciating his need to relish a good meal.

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