Dwight Peck's personal website

Winter 2023-2024

A photographic record of whatever leapt out at us

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.

Back in Staunton, late September 2023

Careering down the Interstates over 4½ days, we've made it to the Old Y in Staunton, 21 September 2023, and the cats are resuming their acquaintance with their favorite catnapping accessories.

Appalling bad weather outside, Saturday, 23 September, and a city truck is blocking our street.

It's beginning to look serious, but there are people in rain hats and umbrellas marching down from carparks up the hill into the town centre.

Here's the answer: even in the drizzle, this is the first day of Staunton's annual Queen City: Mischief and Magic festival. It originated as a Harry Potter Festival until copyright issues intervened, so now the title has changed but the spirit lives on in the costumes and exhibits.

Not well attended on its first day, as it's light-raining off and on -- it was doing better the next day.

Nevertheless, in attendance, preparations, festive enthusiasm, and organized adult participation, it seems to have declined noticeably since the 2019 edition, which we attended camera in hand.

Fun for all ages

Staunton calls itself the Queen City of the Valley 'because at one time it was the county seat of the largest county in the world, larger than Germany or France' (i.e., to the Mississippi or to the Pacific coast, in various tellings). That would have been in the mid-18th century, and the county got carved up pretty convincingly when all the territories past the Alleghenies decided to go their own ways.

We've sort of done the tour of this year's event and can go home now and read about the latest Supreme Court scandals on the Internet. (Don't want to miss a grisly detail.)

We had no idea that the city owns so many trucks for blocking all the downtown intersections with.

As the parents in garish costumes and their happy children, dressed up as ghouls etc., return to their cars, this lot is standing on the corner belting out awful hymns ('Jesus loves me, this I know / 'coz he just told me so'), with their kids approaching passersby to solicit donations. Possibly they're taking advantage of the festive theme of magic and wizards to make an indignant point about modern society.

Melvin's adopting a new favorite hideout.

We're testing out the iPhone 8 camera's flash (deciding whether to upgrade; version 8 has no zoom).

Choupette is constantly seeking new ways to frighten the old dad.

The Augusta Springs Wetlands

We're back to one of our favorites, 28 September 2023, to find it nearly unrecognizable.

The entire spectacle of knee-high shrubs and trees has been convincingly plowed up.

Somebody's certainly very serious about something.

But why? And now what?

We're withholding judgment, but this part of the wetlands sure does look like vegetative carnage. Maybe a new mall, or a bowling alley?

The boardwalk is still looking good; in fact . . .

. . . these two young chaps with yellow helmets on were able to explain that this whole wetland reserve is infested (as seen here) by the Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), a high-ranking invasive weed, and that they will be clearing this whole meadowy area. (These fellows hadn't been told what was going to be done next to revive the diverse local vegetation.)

Money well spent, we can assume, given the project sponsors

Our walk continues on the Uplands Trail, here cutting across the trail loop over the ridge, in order to . . .

. . . turn onto the unmarked trail up the spine of the ridge (currently our preferred itinerary).

We've never seen any other walkers on this particular trail, and indeed, no one's come through here to break the spider webs hanging across the path.

So we'll let Kristin lead.

The ridge levels out with some attractive curves and (in season) views.

The solution to the spider web problem . . .

. . . it turns out, is to wave a stick in front of one's face.

We've reached the apogee of the normal 'Uplands Trail', where it comes over the ridge and starts down the other side. Our unmarked trail crosses it here and continues northward indefinitely, as far as we know (we've only explored farther for half an hour or so)(and won't today).

This is the marked Uplands Trail, now downlanding.

Aging knees sometimes evoke indelicate words on this long downhill.

We're passing our favorite wrecked car alongside the trail. There are about five of these old wrecks clustered in this little valley near the stream.

A few hundred meters back along the flat, basic trail for a vegetation-shrouded view of the wonderful pond.

And the landmark tree limb hovering over our occasional reading bench.

We're leaving now, and so are . . .

. . . the mowing crew.

It's usually Choupette who begins these frequent bagarres with a speedy ambush . . .

. . . which usually ends in a standoff after a few minutes.

We've slipped out for an hour or so's walk along the southern portion of the Montgomery Hall Expressway's longer trail, 29 September 2023.

We've got so many photos of this trail over the past few years that we'll exempt ourselves from adding to the collection every time out.

We usually go out by the convoluted Expressway Trail, but we cut it short by transferring halfway along to the shorter Yulee trail back to the car. (The other half of the Expressway jiggles all over, generally northward, and ends near the baseball fields behind the Montgomery Hall itself.)

But recently we've come across a little unmarked spur path near the end that deposits us right at our trusty Volvo.

It's not easy to tell, but Choupette is happy to be home and contentedly up in her perch.

Or grabbing a quick snooze on the side of the bathtub.

Next up: Kim's visit to Staunton, early October 2023.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 6 October 2023.

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