Douthat State Park Weekend Retreat / Hiking In Winter

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This past weekend the Central Va Trailblazers went up to the mountains to do a little wine tasting and hiking. We also ate out a couple of times. And the weather was nice. There’s still some snow in the upper elevations and a nice, cool breeze to help with the climbing agenda.

We played this game on Saturday night that was pretty funny at times. You had to say some phrases that not everyone was comfortable saying. I was asked to say a few of those. But I didn’t care because after drinking a few beers I don’t comprehend the English language.

No, actually that’s not right. We just lose a few of our inhibitions, thankfully, after a few. They are such a pain in the ass to have hanging over your head most of the time. I suppose they are necessary. And you don’t want to lose all of them, I guess. So apparently there are a lot of these games floating around and I’m trying to remember the name of this one.

Maybe you have played it. Anyway, it kept us up until almost midnight and then it was lights out in about two minutes. A day of walking around the mountains and doing a lot of other stuff (like drinking and playing party games) will do that to you.

It may have been my favorite CVT event so far. Douthat State Park has won an award (Outdoor Recreation Award for: Romantic Spots, Biking Trails, Educational & Historical Facilities, Fishing, Hiking) and it’s easy to see why after walking the trails. There were also many stream crossings which were a lot of fun and good practice for those of us who would like to learn the best way to do such things. They mostly seem to dry up in the summer. But they are raging now with all the snow melting and the rain we have been having.

We have some really good cooks in this group, as well. The food was excellent.

So the name of the game we played was Cards Against Humanity. I tried to Google but it wasn’t on any of their card game lists. It should be.
It was hilarious . . . but don’t plan on bringing it to the church group picnic.




We Go To DC/ Andrea Bocelli In Concert

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It has been cold and rainy here in Virginia for awhile now and Betsy was sick with a stomach virus that laid her up in bed for a few days. So as the day approached for the Andrea Bocelli concert in Washington DC I was not sure if we would even be able to go. But my lovely wife rallied and the skies cleared up, although it remained cold. We drove two hours up to the southern reach of the Metro system and glided the rest of the way to the Verizon Center.
And so it turned out to be one of the loveliest experiences we have had in quite a long time. Emerging from the subway there were tents and vendors with many, many Christmas items next to the National Portrait Gallery.
This made someone happy. Can you tell? Then we went inside to view an exhibit entitled, A Democracy of Images Photographs. Truly fascinating photos by photographers in America from the time the art first emerged in the early 1800’s until today.
  Then we went to dinner at Corduroy with a good friend of ours, Kurt, who has worked at the Library of Congress for over thirty years. And then we said goodbye and headed for the concert. Andrea was amazing as usual. There were five encores ending with his amazing rendition of Nessun Dorma. I never really expected to see Andrea Bocelli in concert so this was an amazing treat, a Christmas experience I will never forget. Betsy had a great time, too, and we enjoyed the adventure together. Back to the Metro we went and down I-95 where construction is ever present. We got home well after one in the morning and I was asleep about two minutes after my head hit the pillow. Daily walking has its rewards. Here are some photos.

Friday the 13th Incident A Day Early

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So today is Friday the 13th. What does that mean, exactly? I’m not sure. I do know that I’ve had issues, this week, and I’m hoping, maybe, that they were not some sort of warning about today. Like warning signs on the highway. Slow, slower. Maybe you should park under your bed when it gets here . . . Last night (Thursday, the 12th) we had a nice hike over at the University of Richmond. Back in the days when I started walking and losing a lot of weight I used to walk the paths at U of R. So I felt confident about leading a hike with a group from the Central Virginia Trailblazers. The University of Richmond is an important part of the Richmond landscape and it has been voted, at least on one occasion, as the most attractive campus in the nation.

But I was worried about the weather. It was hot and humid yesterday and T-storms were in the offing. But then the weather took a turn for the better and we headed out on our walk around the campus. All was well until ominous, dark clouds headed in from the west and I took a sharp turn to the east, back through the wonderful International Center building and down the road to our cars.


Everyone was returned safely to their cars and I headed home when the heavens opened up and delivered a deluge to our area. It was dark. The rain came down in sheets and I was relieved to reach my neighborhood and make the final turn to safety. Warmth, comfort and cheery lights in a dry house with two, slightly on edge, doggies was just a few feet away.

Except that when I made that final turn, seeing dimly our corner the street sign, I forgot that it is on the right side of the street, not the left, and I turned into a ditch that frames the property of our next door “neighbor”.


It was at this point that things got a little odd. I called AAA and they assured me someone would come around in 15 minutes to back my car out of the ditch. But it took about an hour for him to show up because, he said, he had to pull 3 or 4 other folks out of ditches because they also had problems with this torrential storm. Not a problem, really, except that my “neighbor” showed up a few minutes before he got there and wanted “my information”. I told her I lived across the street! Then she wanted the police. So when the AAA guy showed up he called the police and they came. A young man, clearly endowed with innate wisdom, arrived and walked over to us for a short conversation. I told him what happened. My “neighbor” suggested that I had hurt her driveway. But the car was several feet from her driveway. It was in the ditch. It had not touched her driveway. She suggested that she couldn’t see the situation very well because it was very dark. He suggested she could come out in the morning and sweep the dirt and pebbles around. She retired from the scene. The AAA guy backed up my car in about 30 seconds. We all went on our separate ways. The young policeman told me on his way out that he hoped the rest of my evening would be “better”.

I don’t know my neighbor. Our other neighbors have had issues with her but I don’t really worry about that. I do know that she planted many plastic Flamingos in her yard as, I guess, some sort of protest, awhile back. A flock of plastic Flamingos in this neighborhood is not, generally, well received. People who are like this depress me. They obviously have issues. They have been abused in some way and feel it is necessary to strike back at every opportunity.

While I was waiting for the AAA guy a lot of our neighbors drove by and stopped. They wanted to know if everyone was alright. When I think about this incident I prefer to remember them. I prefer to think we want to help each other when an accident occurs.

Blue Moon August 20 Not Two Full Moons In A Month

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I was hiking downtown last evening and admiring the full moon. It’s called a Blue Moon and not because there are two full moons in August. There will be only one full moon this month. But there will be four full moons this summer, an unusual occurence. And the third is called a Blue Moon so that the last can still be called the Late Moon.

NPR and StarDate led us down the wrong celestial path in 1980 according to the article I just read by suggesting that the term meant there were two full moons in a month.

In any case, it was a beautiful moon with wispy clouds framing it and a cool breeze to make watching it more enjoyable.

Walking with the Central Virginia Trailblazers is always fun and I look forward to being with them and sometimes meeting new people. Last night I walked with a lady who has recently joined our group. Her name is Chris and she and I share several things in common. We both have degrees in English Literature and we both have worked in the field of social work.

Last night we also spend time viewing a painting on a rock adjoining Belle Isle of a skull about 8 or 10 feet in circumference that commemorates the Grateful Dead band. Apparently they used to party here after concerts back in the 1980’s. Here is a FB page about it.

Thanks to Jim Dimmette for this photo of me and the gang.
So it was a fun evening and thanks to Jim Dimmette, our group leader, for organizing the 4 mile hike and sharing some local lore with us.

Stabbed In The Foot! / Tempers Rise

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Yesterday I was running in the hood and doing pretty well in the 90 degree heat.  I was almost to the eight mile mark when I stepped on a two inch nail that was somehow standing straight up next to a car.  I could feel it go through my running shoe and up into the ball of my foot.

Bummer!!  I leaned against the car and pulled it out.  What was happening here?  This is what it feels like to be stabbed!  This is perhaps what Jesus felt when they nailed him to that piece of wood  (Well, maybe in a small way).

So I hobbled home and took a look at it.  There was just a tiny hole and no bleeding.  And today I went to my MD and got a tetanus shot.  So no big deal.  I did duck into the club today and use the treadmill however.  Because it’s hot out!

I can deal with the heat and humidity.  But nails in the road?  That’s too much for my yuppy sensibilities.

So the treadmill was a fun alternative.  It’s cool in there and you don’t have to worry about cars.  Afterwards, I went out to the pool and lazed around there for awhile.  I tried (unsuccessfully) to get someone’s attention to order a drink.  There were kids running around and moms working on their tans.  This is the alternate universe, people, where no one is worried about their boss and time is held in suspension.

I may have to return in the days to come.  At least until the weather cools off.

The summer doldrums are here.  People are backing out of hikes because it’s “too hot”.   Tempers are rising because of events in the news.  Chances that cities will go up in flames have increased.  But I’ve got to say that I’m proud of my fellow citizens at this point.  We are dealing with our issues in a peaceful way.  Let’s all go to the pool and toast our injuries in the cool waters.  Open the hydrants.  Go to the beach.  Chill.

Put the blades away.  It will only make things worse.  There is no injury that will not be addressed in time.  You don’t need to be the one who makes it happen.




Seven Mile Hike Downtown Richmond

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This past weekend we had a seven or eight mile hike downtown and it covered some historic areas of the city. There is a path along the James River that is part of the Slave Trail. One hundred fifty years ago slaves walked where we were last weekend. While I was walking along it I tried to feel what it must have been like to be a slave, walking along in the dark. Probably cold and hungry. Frightened.

It was not pleasant. But we had a good hike and ended up in an area overlooking the city. There were lots of puffy clouds so I got some landscape photos with good sky. In cold weather it really is important to wear clothing that will block the wind and move the sweat away from the body. I could see that some of our hikers did not have this and they seemed to get cold when we stopped for a picnic lunch.

It’s good to think these things out before you do them.

And that’s all I’ve got tonight. I’m not feeling like a writer or even somebody who knows the alphabet. Today I decided on a new theme for this blog in an attempt to spur some sort of enthusiasm for the sport of blogging. This lack of motivation happens every once in awhile, perhaps once or twice a year. But it’s not important. Blogging is not a job. Nobody cares if you don’t show up for work. It’s an attempt to be creative and communicate with other folks. It’s also like a diary in a way.

Anyway, I have to go. It’s almost midnight. The day is almost done.

Oregon Hill / Richmond Photography Meetup Group

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Yesterday our local photography group, RPMG, Richmond Photography Meetup Group, met at [[wiki:Oregon Hill]] (in Richmond, Va.) to wander around and take some photos.

Some of these photographers are truly amazing. They can walk down a street and take photos that are wonderful. Mine, on the other hand, not so much.

Below Freezing In Richmond / The Blogger Turns Back

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Today I decided to go downtown (Richmond, Va.) to take a four mile hike starting at Brown’s Island and heading along the James River to take photos of Blue Herons nesting. But it is very cold today and I cut it short because the tips of my fingers started to burn with cold. Apparently these gloves I purchases at REI are not as helpful as I thought and will require some chemical hand warmer packs tucked inside when the temperature dips below freezing.

Better this was discovered here than on the trail! So after a short loop it was back to the warmth of the car and some cool jazz. Mission aborted! Since I started hiking 8 or 9 months ago I’ve had many situations that have not gone as planned. Equipment doesn’t perform. Or I don’t have the right equipment. At some point, hopefully, I will have enough experience to do these things with predictable results! And I will be able to share notes on products that actually do a great job!

I’ve actually had a great time experimenting with hiking gear and clothing. REI is my partner in this effort. They treat their customers very well and I never have a problem bringing something back or exchanging it. If I had to keep everything I bought in the first few months my new hobby would have run aground by now. I could not afford to keep buying sleeping bags, for example, until finding one that was comfortable enough to allow me to sleep. Too expensive! Here’s a photo from the point where things went south and I decided to turn back.

Next time, boys and girls. And sometime soon.



My aborted adventure actually fits in well with the WordPress Daily Prompt today which is Ready, Set, Go . . .write a post in ten minutes. There’s not much to say about getting out of the car, walking around in a circle, snapping a few shots and then returned to the vehicle!

Beyond The Church Structure / Martin Buber / Frederick The Great / Dalai Lama

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u of r chapel


God made so many different kinds of people. Why would he allow only one way to serve him? ~Martin Buber

All religions must be tolerated… for… every man must get to heaven his own way. ~Frederick the Great

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~Dalai Lama

Weekly Photo Challenge / WordPress / Beyond

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This week’s photo challenge is to write about a photo that presumably takes the viewer beyond the main subject to “hidden depths”. And while I was out walking with my camera this morning I took this shot of an art gallery at the University of Richmond. I don’t want to speak for other viewers but it takes me to a couple of places. The reflections in the upper windows suggest a sunny morning in winter with trees that have shed their leaves. The lower windows seem to bring us into the gallery where (perhaps) there is a large work of art. I love art galleries so this makes me curious. What have the artists at U of R been doing here? I need to go over there again, soon, and investigate!
I was mainly taking photos this morning of the snow which fell briefly here in Richmond last night. Most of it will probably be gone by 5 pm. So here is a slide show of snow on the University of Richmond campus and the surrounding neighborhood.

Being Alone In The Woods And This World Rock Scrambles Great Falls National Park

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Last Saturday we went up to the Great Falls National Park near Washington DC and did some hiking as well as rock [[wiki:Scrambling]]. I was reading about the latter on the wiki page and noticed they categorize this activity into three parts. We were doing the the easy to moderate scramble, it seems to me, along with some rock hopping! And it was a lot of fun! I enjoyed looking for the best way forward and never lost an opportunity to use a small tree or branch for balance and security. You use your arms and feet together in a coordinated way, unlike hiking, and it reminded me a great deal of the high school wrestling we did many years ago. I’m not very good at sports but there is something about both these activities that resonates with me. There is the possibility of landing on your back, in both cases. And in neither do you require great balance, which is my problem. Just hold on and stay low! Look for the next advantage and go for it!

At one point during this adventure I was waiting for most of the group to catch up and started looking at the trees. They seemed so full of energy and life even though their leaves have all gone. Their branches reached for the sky as the sun made an appearance for a short time. And I thought, “I am out here, listening to the Potomac River, looking at the trees, and waiting for a group of people but I am essentially alone in this world. My children are grown. I’m retired. I could stay out here for days and it would hardly be noticed”. It’s a feeling I’ve had all of my life but now all the daily chores are gone. And thanks to the love of friends, family and my wife, it’s no longer a feeling of loneliness. It’s not painful! It’s a feeling of solitude.

Walking nearly every day for the past 18 months has probably intensified this feeling. It’s difficult to hold on to things when you walk. And letting go of bad habits is not the only thing. It’s also an opportunity to let go of anxiety about being alone. When you walk you are away from your life and the things you “need” to be doing. You are creating a space. A peaceful place. And, based on what I was feeling last weekend, my space must be getting larger! I feel like a space traveler who is here for a visit and will be hopping a ride on a spaceship shortly, leaving all behind.

My diet has changed too. Giving up sugar was not so difficult. Giving up manufactured bread was a little more challenging. There are so many things we eat that are not good for us! Or drink! So, probably, this has made a difference in my perceptions.

Creating a new lifestyle is not very difficult to do and there are surprises along the way. We have spiritual guardians who will help us but we must think and not be discouraged. Every day brings an opportunity to make an effort. Mine, today, was not great. I felt weak and only hiked 4 and a half miles in the rain. But why even think about that? Look at the big picture. I’ve “walked across the US” in the last 18 months if you add up the miles. And then look at the bigger picture. We are here a short while and then we go. We leave our possessions and our bodies behind! I watched my dear mother-in-law, Betsy’s mom, draw her last breath in December. And it made a deep impression on me. I can’t describe it here but one result is that I see the limitations of our earthly loves. Bema is still with us in spirit. She is in a better place, for sure. But she is gone as well. We tend to feel anxiety about this part of the equation. We tend to avoid thinking about it. We spend our hours and energy looking in the other direction with all the family or group activities we can imagine. We think about our “soul mate” who will, supposedly, resolve this feeling of separateness (not for long!).

It’s a little bit easier to deal with this issue as an introvert, perhaps. You have many more opportunities to practice!! But all the practice in the world will not help if you don’t deal with the challenge. Love your friends. Love your family. But take that love to a place where you are alone with nature in the woods. Or go to the library. Wherever. Be somewhere that includes voices you cannot hear and visions you have not shared. And then, listen.

I am never alone in my heart. But we are human beings made of earth, separate and alone, who struggle along the path as we discover our way home. Here are some photos from our hike on Saturday taken with a little Canon point and shoot.

Backpacking To Calf Mountain In Winter

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This past weekend we went up to Skyline Drive here in Virginia to backpack in the snow and ice. It was an adventure. I would go into more detail but I’m still too sore to type. It was a good learning experience and we are all blessed to have returned home in one piece. Just about every one of the ten hikers on this trip took a fall at some point. Fortunately nobody landed on a rock or tumbled down the side of a mountain. Would I do this again? Yes, but not without micro-spikes. I have learned some important things on each camping trip and this one was no exception. Have the proper gear. Stay as safe as possible.

I took these with my little Canon Powershot. I have to hand it to Canon. This is a nice, little point and shoot. And it doesn’t seem to mind if you drop it on its head every once in awhile. It’s difficult keeping the lens clean while you are dragging a pack around in all kinds of weather. But once all this other stuff becomes second-nature perhaps I will take time to clean the little sucker every few minutes.

It’s beautiful in the woods when snow covers the ground. The views are incredible. Here are some photos. Have some coffee. Be happy you are warm.