Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Aristophanes: A tale of big adventures deffered and little adventures multiplying

Shuttling down 1000 miles of highway to visit our Grand Boy has been a regular pattern in our retirement.  It has been a JOY --  never the task that Al opines with rolling eyes..."Every SIX Weeks!".  He looks forward to watching the non-stop giggling as much as Granny Patty.  Through the years we have found many amusements along I-81 corridor -- hiking and fishing in the Shenandoah , sightseeing, and making every effort to enjoy all the bike trails nearby.  But this Spring we have been too long tethered in the Deep South.  It was clear we would appear in Jersey as soon as said Grand Boy was released from school; what was in question  was whether there would be adequate "play time" en route.  Al has taken to printing full page calendars, printing out West Virginia maps and quoting Aristophanes.

"Why, I'd like nothing better than to achieve some bold adventure, worthy of our trip."


   Really, Aristophanes said that; actually both of them did -- repeatedly -- until Patty agreed to "return to those thrilling days of yesteryear"  and maybe ride an end-to-end on the beautiful Greenbrier River Trail in West Virginia.

Alas, time and West Virginia geography was against us, but we made the best of it with lesser adventures. 

 Towing 400 mile days is an adventure isn't it?

First night found us in a favorite campground -- Wilderness Road CG in Cumberland Gap National Park.  This is "Five Star" for a National Park with hot showers, electricity and the expected world class visitor center, hiking trails, and an bike trail connecting it with Wilderness Road State Park links here to our earlier visit to Cumberland Gap NP.  Look around there are several posts.

We biked in the early morning through a cool leafy tunnel.  The views to the North are the ramparts of Cumberland Mountain, which makes the Blue Ridge feel like a stroll in the Park.  No wonder the path of westward expansion held here for a long while! 

 The movies at both the National Park and State park are excellent.  We watched all three again in awe. 

 The recreation of Martin's Station was one of the most meticulously accurate of any in the country.  This is just one of the outlying cabins; the fortified Station is a real treat.  Go in cool weather and take time to talk to all the costumed staff  at length.  It's an education.

And, of course, we visited the Bison, remnants of the great herds that first traversed the Cumberland Gap to the Bluegrass of Kentucky beyond. 

Next morning we launched early with no clear destination in mind, but late afternoon found us at Mathews Arm CG in Shenandoah NP.  We are first timers here.  The sites are paved, branching from a long oval that extends well up the "Arm." We are off the crest here, so it was windless and a tad "gnaty" at set up time, but only a bother when you are bent over fiddling with something iron.  Otherwise, you have an arm free and other campers think that's a friendly wave... The long traffic free drive along the Skyline Drive in late afternoon was worth the price.

We had never seen the Overall Falls which is nearby and flowing well after the Spring rains. Ranger Chancey demystified the directions which variously claim 3.1 miles round trip to 5.1.   It was mid-morning as we headed down. (Oh Yes, nearly all the hiking and fishing in Shenandoah starts DOWNHILL.) 

Al with his usual question. Wonder what happened here?


The trail threads through gaps in downed Chestnut logs, still sound after a century, to an overlook at the 39 foot falls.  Lots of cascades follow until the breeze from the Shenandoah Valley below cools us and we watch as the slender thread of water falls 90 feet and continues on to the River far out in the valley below. 


We lingered quite a while chatting with the only other hiker we met.  We gave him a head start back, hoping to get a glimpse at the Black Bear he sighted on the way in.  Then the drizzle began. We expected it and reveled in it.  Besides, Patty always picks up the pace in the rain. (I once watched her pull a long grade at 16MPH with full panniers when the lightning was popping around our heads.)  And of course the hike out is always quicker.  We sealed up the camera gear when the thunder in the distance became the downpour down our necks.  I chatted about early signs of Hypothermia, and what steps we would take to achieve temperature stability once back at the Airstream.  We marveled that in nearly 700 nights of Airstreaming this would be the First time we returned like Drowned Rats. 

 "It is going to be SO much better than returning to a mountain tent." 

 "..So, So much better than trying to put one up in the rain..."

"... and the water heater... and a shower...."

Thus, totally bliss-ed out, we ignored the squall, continued the hike,  executed the plan and emerged from the Airstream an hour or so later to hang out our sodden gear in the emerging sunlight.  We basked and read a little and wondered where we might be along the Greenbrier...


Next morning, our final leg to Grandson land at "Gingerport" in New Jersey started with 25 miles of Foggy Skyline Drive.  Marvels were reveled and quickly disappeared. Wildlife and Kamakasi bikers and a young Mennonite brother sprinting uphill away from a motor home in full Old Order clothing.  There was a story there, but better left in the mist.  The rest of the day on I-81 and the Penn Turnpike was an adventure of a wholly different kind.

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