Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Social Gathering

Birthday Weekend, 2006.

I'm not a terribly social person. In fact, I have to admit that I don't generally like people. The result of a lifetime of experience regarding cheats, thieves, backstabbing assholes, etc.

However, I do have a few friends. Since I don't care for most of my blood relations, my few friends are very important to me. It's a special time when we can gather together and enjoy the company of one another and to have fun.

One such time was the last weekend of June, 2006, which corresponded with my birthday. Carole and I headed for Beartree Recreation Area inside the greater Mount Rogers Recreation Area in southwestern Virginia. This corner of Virginia is among the most beautiful places I've ever been. There's so much to see and do in this compact geography that you could literally spend years there and never repeat yourself. Mile-high mountains to climb. Amazing trails to hike. Swimming holes to enjoy. Waterfalls to discover. Forests to explore. There are even towns that are not only lots of fun to see, but populated with friendly people.

I was lucky enough to spend my 49th birthday in this place, and among friends.

Soon after arriving, we set up camp, just beating the setting sun, on June 28th, my birthday.

Next morning we find rhododendron in full bloom here and there around the campground and lake.

A field of wildflowers where we'd driven to get cell phone service.

This friendly hound introduced himself while I was crouching down trying to take closeup photos of flower blossoms. Absorbed in framing a shot, I was not prepared for a hairy face and warm breath on my neck. He scared the crap out of me. But what a sweet puppy dog. A fellow parked and admiring the overlook told us that the dog had been abandoned there. He'd seen it for three days and was coming up to bring it some food. We were, of course, in no position to take the big puppy home with us.

Scene near the overlook where we met the abandoned puppy-dog.

Later that day, Carole and I took the canoe out on Beartree Lake.

I can't recall the name of this waterfall. It's just off the main road near Beartree.

Returning to camp, we got the campfire roaring. By then, we had the tent set up for the Aiken family.

After the Aikens arrived, we went for a hike. Here are Cindi, Emily, and James on the trail.

Carole and Bob resting along the way.

Me, James, Emily, and Roy take off for a turn around Beartree Lake.

Backbone Rock, often called "the World's Shortest Tunnel". Originally a rail line, the engineers decided to chop through the rocky fin rather than demolish it. Making for a very thin "tunnel". Very close to Damascus, VA, it's actually just across the border in Tennessee.

A trail takes you across the top of the World's Shortest Tunnel.

The following day, we begin our all-downhill bike ride on the Virginia Creeper Trail. Part of the extensive rail-to-trails program, this was once a rail line that is now a hiking/biking trail. If you start here (at the Whitetop Station), you can pretty much coast all the way downhill to Damascus Virginia. A 17-mile trip, it's a leisurely ride and easy to do. Here's our entire group (sans me), at the old Whitetop Station, preserved as a visitor's center.

On one of the old railroad trestles converted for biking and hiking.

This old house is now a bed and breakfast, located at one of the other converted railroad stations.

Roy, Emily, James, Cindi, and Carole sit for a photo before we head on down the trail.


Postscript: Saucony, the dog I hiked with several times, companion of Andy Kunkle, has died after a long battle with cancer. She was quite the sweet puppy-dog. I'll miss hiking with her.


dogboy443 said...

I would have whipped out a collar and leash and given that gorgeous red a new home.

James Robert Smith said...

I would have loved to have found him a home. I'm in no position to own a dog, but if I'd found him locally, I would have taken him to an animal shelter and made sure he was adopted. But we were on the road, hundreds of miles from home, with no way to keep him.

The guy who'd gone up to feed him said that he was going make some phone calls.

Very sad. I wonder about him every time I look at those photos.