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.
A hustle through the Montgomery Hall jungle and a bunch of etc's.
A hasty walk though a big burst of greenery. Here's the entrance from the carpark at the southern end of Staunton's 148-acre Montgomery Hall Park, a kilometer-long assemblage of recreational stuff, like a swimming pool, tennis courts, playgrounds, basketball, softball & soccer fields, 'pickleball', picnic tables & BBQ, a 'disc golf' course, and most notably for us, a 800m by 700m jungle of parasitic vines winding round mostly dead or dying trees. A endlessly fascinating scene.
There are three walking and mountain bike trails through the jungle -- the brief Yulee loop from here, the Expressway which follows a hideously convoluted route all over the eastern side of the forest, and the Scout trail, only slightly more straightforward, down the western side to the north end. The Expressway also begins here, so here we go.
This is meant to be a relatively 'speedy walk', casually athletic rather than casually casual, a timetrial as it were after nearly a full year of various incapacitations. The time has come to test our progress.
The trails are extremely well maintained by the staff, brilliant paths for running on, if that were still in the cards for us, but speedy walking will have to do.
We're enjoying a hot, sunny day, perfect for our purposes, 12 April 2023.
There's a kind of Disneyland effect in the trail-planning, where you can be galloping along a stretch of path going east whilst, invisible to you, another part of the same path is going west not 10 meters away. Hundreds of hairpin turns.
The first of the disc golf 'holes' alongside the route (it's an 18-hole course sponsored by the Kiwanis) -- the idea, as unlikely as it sounds, is to fling your frisbee into that basket, lowest number of total throws wins.
A touch of pink beauty amongst the vegetative carnage
We've heard speculations that a lot (or all) of this stuff is 'kudzu'. Curse of the South, apparently.
As goofy as this terrain looks now, it's just spooky in the winter, especially on dark days.
This is halfway along the whole Expressway experience, the southern half, where we usually take advantage of a liaison with the shorter Yulee trail . . .
. . . here, circling back on the Yulee a bit and then liaising onto a section of the Scout trail for the last part of our jungly adventure. (Sometimes we begin at the northern end, liaise here, and follow the Scout trail back to the car by the Montgomery Hall.)
The Yulee Trail begins to thin out after a while.
A classic landmark
A high point along the Scout Trail [there is a Black Dog Bikes shop in downtown Staunton]
Nearly done for today
That's 48:41 well spent, not counting a few seconds here and there to photograph the murderous vines. We're pleased. It's time to rush home and feed the cats.
-- Forgot our dinner did you?!
-- Do you mind? This is a private conversation.
The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport
We're back to the fine symmetries of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport to fetch Grandma Kristin returning from her new familial duties.
The United schoolbus-with-wings is just now arriving from Chicago. So far, so good.
Slipping past the strafing plane again -- now for 1½ hours up the I-81 'Highway of Death' to home.
Dinner's over, Melvin's waiting for the television evening to begin.
Melvin's asleep long before the film is over.
Whereas Choupette is occupied with finishing off the last of the Greenie cat-treats.
This is our premier downtown hotel -- until recently the 'Stonewall Jackson' but now, less imaginatively but politically more suitable, the '24 South' (its address on S. Market St). The American Shakespeare Center's wonderful Blackfriars Theatre is just alongside.
An impressive lobby. We didn't inquire about the room rates.
It's Friday eve before the weekend -- it's Bollard Time.
The main street gets bollarded for restaurants on the weekends, a welcome covid heritage. It's mid-April, the outdoor dining season is just getting under way.
Even on a grey day, Staunton probably has one of the most evocative main streets anywhere.
Our other main park in Staunton, with . . .
. . . the Gum Spring Branch burbling past the old pump-stations that once sent the spring waters up the hill to the reservoir, for distribution round town by gravity. A photogenic watercourse it is, here, but it spends most of its 1.3km trajet tunneled under the downtown buildings, joining the Lewis Creek under the Wharf Parking Lot. It's been known to do some nasty damage out of its banks in times of heavy rains.
One of the smaller tributaries around the Gypsy Hill Park. In mid-April, the trees are just budding.
A quiet spot, with a bench, for afternoon reading undisturbed
Staunton does not abound with public benches, besides those in the two parks, so normally we gravitate to the Trinity Church grounds, the Mary Baldwin University campus, and from time to time here . . .
. . . under the watchful eye of the BVM. Who never seems to mind as long as we behave ourselves.
Spring is seriously starting to spring now.
We're enjoying the grounds of the 1895 'Gothic Revival' church of St Francis of Assisi, designed by the prolific Staunton architect T. J. Collins.
Naturally, in this charming spot, we don't mix too much with the locals.
Once more, back to the Augusta Springs Wetlands
We just can't stay away (especially now that the fallen tree across the entrance has been cleared out).
Another scenic walk through the Augusta Springs Wetlands, in Augusta Springs VA (pop. 257) on the Little Calf Pasture Highway, about 17mi west of Staunton through Buffalo Gap. It's part of the George Washington National Forest administered by the Forest Service of the US Department of Agriculture, site of a 19th century take-the-waters sort of spa, of which there are few remains now.
Not all of the local trees have received the springtime memo.
The pondside trail is too short for achieving our '10,000 steps per day', or whatever we're told to try for, so we're normally rambling about on one of the Uplands Trails these days.
From the main uplands loop, this leads us onto a crossover path to the other side of the ridge . . .
. . . from which we will shortly divert to a path up the centre of the ridge to the ensemble's high point.
Today, however, we're delaying our reading time by the pond with a solo exploration a bit farther out, and with . . .
. . . a festive return down off the ridge by way a formerly well-marked 'Horse Trail'.
Which brings us down to the creeks and the main trail again, but in some awkward territory.
That's a government road, strictly off limits, probably with . . .
. . . snipers in the trees.
We're following the main Uplands Trail back out now, alongside the creek, which is, however . . .
. . . normally distressingly muddy in places from the creek's proximity, but today . . . it's just fine. In fact, given our recent weather . . .
. . . even the creek itself has mostly given up.
Back to the pond, to our favorite bench
The pondside trail, but . . .
. . . there's someone already on our favorite bench. We'll need to sort this out!
Whoever it is, she looks familiar. Oh ...........
It's not that popular a place for reading, normally, but here comes another earnest reader who can't miss a paragraph, even in this fine weather (photo by Kristin).
Our view from our reading bench (the fallen tree has blocked the access path to the pond shore)
So . . . night night.
Next up: Jefferson's Monticello & the Montgomery Hall jungle with the Ottawa gang