You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
5-10 November 2021 in some pretty astonishing weather
The Augusta Springs Wetlands
We inaugurate November with a walk round the Augusta Springs Wetlands, ca. 20 miles west of Staunton, a favorite short scenic walking place for us (5 November 2021).
The Augusta Springs Wetlands are in the Washington & Jefferson National Forests and maintained by the USDA Forest Service.
The loop trail is a bit less than a mile all the way round, but there is an 'uplands trail' that doubles the distance and time and provides a bit more healthful exercise.
Here's a ca. 150m boardwalk to assist us over some of the squishiest parts of the wetlands.
The contours of the boardwalk can seem beautiful when you pause to notice them.
And here's another 100m boardwalk for the same purpose, lest we squish catastrophically.
A very bad squish waiting to happen -- probably sink without a trace
Maybe waiting for something wildlife-related to happen (but since we're never here in the summer, it never does)
Having come to the end of the loop, we vote and resolve to do it again, backwards.
That is to say, walk the trail in the opposite direction, not walk backwards around the trail.
That's one of only two benches out on the scenic trail itself, not a sufficiently reliable reading opportunity for half an hour's drive. There are a few picnic tables back near the entrance, but sometimes families bring their dogs.
That's the spring, or the last surviving spring, or something, for what was once a major spring-fed health resort in the mid-19th century.
Vestiges of the old waterworks. (We've already summarized some of the story of the old hotel resort here.)
More or less, the starting off place -- aside from a few picnic tables off left, that basic public bathroom is the only amenity. Not counting the boardwalks.
The arboreal avenue back out to the carpark on the Little Calf Pasture Highway.
The road home
Not altogether a terribly prosperous part of the world
Once you make the turn at Buffalo Gap, it's a straight shot to Staunton, and . . .
. . . to the Old YMCA condo building across N. Augusta St. That ceremonial entrance is no longer that at all -- it's part of a ground floor flat. Our present front door is round the corner, on E. Frederick St., labeled Boys' Entrance over the door.
This is a little downtown jamboree, 6 November 2021, in charitable aid of the Arcadia Project, a multi-year and architecturally, legally, and financially ambitious programme to revivify the old disused film theatre and (apparently, an adjacent building) into a proper community arts centre.
People coming and going on a chilly morning; a few of the old-timers got to dancing in the street. Like in the old days.
The sponsors and volunteers were taking covidly-small groups in for explanations of the progress and goals of their worthy efforts.
A reading opportunity at Sherando Lake
7 November 2021, we're heading off to read our improving books at Sherando Lake, and this is our preferred carpark just behind the Old Y -- it was a town pay parking lot until the pay-machine broke, more than a year ago, and it's been free ever since. Nice fall colors, finally, we note -- that's a Presbyterian Church behind (Woodrow Wilson's dad was a pastor [or whatever they call them there] there in the late 19th century), and a vine-covered reception annex of the Frederick House 'small hotel'.
And pretty attractive autumn colors at Sherando Lake, too, at last. (Note just left of dead centre, that's a huge hornets' nest on the tree branch. Vile creatures. But they must be in God's Plan somewhere.)
That's quite satisfactory, for a fall-colored tree. Somebody could probably tell us what kind of tree that is.
That's the very cute island in the lake.
A little sheltered dock on the far side
The Visitors' Centre
We've just noticed someone else here, sitting on that bench at the far side of the beach . . .
. . . with a book, and saving a space for us.
That's the trailhead of the lakeside loop trail, but no walks today, today's just for reading in the glorious sunlight.
A beautiful little island. It appears to be off-limits to humans, probably for a good reason.
A quick trip to Charlottesville
Welcome to the national IQ test.
We've just had our elegant Volvo S90 in for its annual service in northern Charlottesville, and as we're heading home down US29 towards the Interstate, we notice something very odd about the roadside foliage.
This is disgusting. What on earth's come over those trees?
That's the Blue Ridge -- once over that, through the 'Rockfish Gap', it's a quick bounce past Waynesboro to home.
The Montgomery Hall Park 'Yulee Trail Loop'
Speaking of horrible vines coating all the trees, what's going on here, then?
This little forest is not at its best.
Why hasn't one noticed this before? The inattention that comes with age, probably.
There seems to be one school of thought that all of this creepy creeping vine devastation is because of 'kudzu' (Pueraria montana), an East Asian invasive vine that, in the USA, is known as 'the vine that ate the South'. It is, however, according to Wikipedia, now heading for Illinois and Indiana as well. If it's keeping up with Climate Change, before long it will be in Manitoba.
Not only that, but 'during World War II, kudzu was introduced to Vanuatu and Fiji by United States Armed Forces to serve as camouflage for equipment. It is now a major weed there'.
Maybe if some chefs could come up with recipes for stews and what not, and hold contests for the best ones, the problem would take care of itself. The Free Market always takes care of its own.
We seem to be getting round to a farther part of the trail, where . . .
. . . a lot of things seem to be pretty dead already.
No 'kudzu' around here thank you.
The summit sign on Black Dog Mountain is probably a bit of a local joke.
Descending Black Dog mountain, inappropriate vines beginning to appear again.
Fall colors at the end of the trail
Nice fall colors. All those pretty dead leaves.
The road round the main part of Montgomery Hall Park is a one-way trajet, so we need to exit this part of the park and go back in at the front door, so to speak.
That's the front door. The park lands were purchased by the town when they were part of the 19th century Montgomery Hall plantation and established as a municipal recreational park for 'the African American community' in 1947, to be managed by 'a committee of African American citizens appointed by City Council'. According to the information plaque at the entrance, 'Staunton's park system was desegregated late in the 1960s' (i.e., 1969).
Amazing, and very tempting. But we're sure to get wedged in up there somewhere, and maybe never get out again.
That's the old Montgomery plantation hall, presently used by the staff of the city's Recreation Dept., and there's a solitary lady planted on the solitary bench, reading a presumably solitary book. We'll join her.
There's a swimming pool, tennis courts, and what not, roundabout here somewhere, but today we're on a focused mission: reading our books for an hour or so.
A picnic facility suitable for a National Guard regimental outing
Our reader reads on, even with our zoom lens on
That's the lobby of the Old Y -- congenial, and we all gather there cheerily about twice a year.
What's next, then? The last of the fall colors, and some 'antiques'