Saturday, June 30, 2012

An Art Walk Through Luray

It was a beautiful day for an art walk.

Downtown Luray, VA, has both vehicular and pedestrian traffic that reflects a busy, active life. It has also established an art walk that acquaints residents and visitors with the work of local artists who have painted a number of murals.

Our walk began at the railroad depot on "Railroad Days." Inside the depot was a model railroad display with members of the local club to talk about their display and answer questions about model railroading.

Other members had set up tracks and trains through the landscaping around the depot.

Lewis Ramey’s Blacksmith Shop
Sheffield Kagy

This mural is found in the Post Office and is one of 28 public paintings done in Virginia between 1937 & 1941 to celebrate, in art, the best of American Culture.

As you walk into Ruffner Plaza, to your right is Four Seasons in the Countryside by Jennifer Bradt

and to the left is Picnic Times at the Ruffner Plaza (above and below) by Merle Hilscher behind the stage used by performers in the summer series “Evenings on Main.”

Singing Tower
John Graves

Already showing signs of weathering.

Weldon Bagwell

On the corner of E. Main St. and Tannery Rd. is a tiny park--Slye Pocket Park. Tucked inside one shady corner is this mural.

Jennifer Bradt

A short walk up Tannery Road will bring Turner's Auto Body into view. On the side of this building is this un-named mural, looking a bit unusual due to the corrugated exterior of the Shop.

The Whitehouse Ferry
Merle Hilscher.

Of the murals we saw on our walk around town, these two (above and below) were the most impressive--both in size and artistic quality.

Story Hour at the Old One Room Massanutten School
Jennifer Bradt

Nature’s Tribute to 911 (left) Willow Grove Mill (right)
Janet Scott (left) Jennifer Bradt (right)

The reflection of these two murals in the waters of the south fork of the Shenandoah River (shown also in the next photo) seemed to add another artistic dimension to the photograph of the murals.

The art walk ended on a sad note. We had hoped to stop at the soda fountain of the McKim & Huffman Pharmacy, est. 1868 and the oldest continuing business in Luray, but signs indicated the store was closed.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dark Hollow Falls

We returned to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, this time heading south from the Thornton Gap Entrance east of Luray (VA).

Before heading out for the drive, we had checked the Shenandoah NP guide for information on the history of the Park.

By 1790, there were about 67,000 people in the area, most of whom lived in the lower Shenandoah Valley. Over the next 100 years,
tanneries, mills, and other businesses combined to exploit the timber, mineral, and game in the Park. Then came the Chestnut blight, which began in 1904, and over the next 30 years, the chestnut died off in much of the East. By this time (1925), over half of the population had moved off the ridge.

Severe drought, a wide-spread hog cholera epdemic, and the Great Depression furthered the economic plight of the region.

In 1926, work began on establishing the National Park. Deeds for the land, purchased from private donations and state monies, were given to the federal government, and Shenandoah NP was established in 1935.

The Park was being physically created by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and because it was near Washington, DC, the Park was used as a demonstration of President Roosevelt's Depression cures.

Construction of Skyline Drive, which runs the 105-mile length of the Park, began in 1931. Contractors hired local farmers (who needed work due to crop failures) to build the Drive, which was completed in 1939.

The seven photos above were taken from Skyline Drive and its overlooks.

I had wanted to take the 1.4-mile roundtrip hike to Dark Hollow Falls after seeing photos of the falls in the Byrd Visitor Center. References to the trail ranged from "an easy hike starting near Big Meadows" to "a little steep in places," but was described as being "well worth the trip."

Now when I read about a trail to waterfalls, I invariably think that I will start the hike at an elevation identical to the base of the falls. A nice walk to the falls will lead me to an open glen where I can view the falls by looking heavenward.

Also invariably, this expectation is incorrect.

The trail began with a wide, paved, inviting path. As it wound through forested areas, still wide and clearly marked, I began to notice that I was walking at a relatively quick pace.

Surprised, I congratulated myself at being in better condition than I realized.

But..., I also noticed that I was feeling discomfort in my toes. It seems that there was a 440' drop in the elevation of the trail in its three-quarter-mile course, and my toes were being pushed to the front of my shoes as I descended the trail.

When I reached the base of the falls, I was treated to a view of the Dark Hollow Falls cascading down some 70 feet over four major sets of cascades.

My eyes moved from scene to scene within the length of the falls.

While I was at the foot of the falls, there were 6-10 people at any one time either looking for just the right angle for a photograph or lining up family members for a photo.

The view of the falls was well worth the effort that was going to be required to make the return hike.

Finally, I had to begin the return hike.

I noticed that I walked with my eyes focused on my feet, mainly to avoid tripping over exposed tree roots, but also to avoid staring upward and realizing the climb that lay ahead.

I also took the opportunity on the return to photograph flowers. Photographing these subjects was more challenging that I expected because of the movement of the subject. After a bit, I realized that the flower was not moving on this still afternoon.

I was breathing a faster rate than I realized.

When I returned to the trailhead, I asked Kate, "Do I look as frazzled as I think?"

Kindly, she answered, "You look just like everyone else returning from the hike."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

“Do You Know What I'm Looking For?”

…my Favorite Traveling Companion asked as we exited the northernmost section of Skyline Drive at Front Royal, VA, in search of lunch. “I am looking for a diner with lots of cars in the parking lot.

We arrived with no plan and began an aimless drive through this small Virginia City. (You can’t be a true Wanderer without at times being aimless.) After a number of turns, we espied a sign reading “Now Open.” This was Aunt Sandy’s Diner, and, yes, there were a lot of cars parked in the lot.

We walked into this small (fourteen tables) café and only two tables were empty. Using a formula of three occupants per table plus two
servers, that totaled thirty-eight pairs of eyes following our movement from door to table. I know what they were thinking: “Who is that tall, handsome, silver-haired stranger?”

The diner’s newness means that its décor hasn’t achieved that timeworn
“funkiness” that makes so many diners charming. Here, the atmosphere was more “country warmth” with beige checked café curtains coordinating with beige checked tablecloths,

a clock whose starburst pattern was achieved through cutlery,

and walls hung with antique implements of some kind.

On one wall hung a framed Safeway ad with ground beef selling for 23¢ a pound and chicken fryer parts for 39¢ a pound.

And in true diner spirit, the servers flung endearments around with abandon.

“Hi, baby,” said one to a customer.

“Give me a moment, sweetheart,” said another.

The menu was not extensive and included such favorites as hamburger steak, honey dipped chicken, vegetable soup, chile, and a long list of sandwiches.
Listed among the sides was cottage cheese. I must admit that never in my dining out history have I said to myself, “Boy, cottage cheese sounds good to me.” The day’s specials were a cold cut sub and a pork bbq sandwich with macaroni salad or fries.

Since the menu broke no culinary boundaries, neither did our menu selections. Chuck ordered the regular hamburger with onion only. (Servers look at him in disbelief when he declines the lettuce, tomato, catsup, mustard, and pickles.) To this he added one chile dog and an order of fries.

While his burger was a good diner-version burger with a nice crust from frying on a hot flattop, it was a bit dry. Neither of us remembers to ask for medium so we always get a burger that is cooked medium-well to well done. The chile dog was not so good.
We debated whether the chile tasted burned or whether the off flavor came from the taste of raw chile powder. And the fries, standard from a bag crinkle fries, were crisp, but a bit dry.

I ordered what the menu described as the diner’s “special burger”—the Onion Burger. If you are not fond of sautéed onions—and I mean lots of sautéed onions—then this would not be the sandwich for you.
(Chuck counts himself among those who do not.) But I do, so this to me was a delicious sandwich. Add to the mountain of onions, two slices of melted American cheese, and you have one juicy and very messy sandwich. A multi-napkin sandwich.

I added a side of good chopped cabbage slaw, and like most restaurants in this part of Virginia, the kitchen resisted the urge to add vinegar to the dressing.

This was a satisfying if not great lunch and earns 3.0 Addies.

On our return to Luray, we made a brief stop at Fairview Market for a spot of dessert and shared a two-scoop dish of ice cream with blackberry and peach from Garber Ice Cream—a Virginia, family-owned company that has been making ice cream since 1912.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Shenandoah's Skyline Drive

Stretching 105 miles from its northern entrance at Front Royal to its southern entrance near Waynesboro is Shenandoah National Park.

Recently, we covered 30 miles of Skyline Drive, which extends the length of the Park. Shortly after connecting with Skyline Drive at the Thornton Gap Entrance, we stopped at one of the nearly 75 overlooks where we were greeted with the view shown in the three photos below (from south to north).

The overlooks provided the opportunity for studying both grand vistas and the small signs of beauty throughout the Park.

Shenandoah was established in 1935 "to provide the 'traditional western national park experience' to the urban east."

In 1914, conservationist John Muir described that experience as follows:
"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that
mountainparks are useful, not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life" (Park Visitor Guide).

Some of the small scenes were striking, such as this tree and its dying branches,

while others conjure up thoughts of adventure, such as this trail, which we believe was part of the Appalachian Trail.

With a speed limit of 35 mph and frequent stops at overlooks, we were treated to
a number of the parts that make up the whole of what is Shenandoah National Park.

Although a haze--due more to air pollution than to low clouds or moisture--impaired visibility,

there is an eerie beauty to the outline of the ridges that, along with the valleys, make up this part of Virginia.