Tag Archives: the Blue Ridge Mountains

Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons. ~Jim Bishop


(The Alleghenies)

Autumn blew in last night. Friday and Saturday, the Shenandoah Valley got some much-needed rain out of the hurricane that wreaked havoc on so many. I am deeply sorry for those caught in Hurricane Matthew’s path, and almost feel guilty that it did our dry valley some good. Living this far inland, we often escape the wrath and reap the benefits from a fearsome storm. But not always. Sometimes the valley and mountains are deluged with rain, wind, and flooding. It can get very bad here. Fortunately, this wasn’t one of those times. The valley is green again, and with cooler temps, fall is settling in and leaves beginning to turn. I had feared with all the drought and heat of August and September that we would have poor color this year, but maybe it’s not too late.  I hope so, because I love autumn and am posting some favorite pics from past falls.


No spring nor summer’s beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face….
~John Donne, “Elegy IX: The Autumnal”

I can smell autumn dancing in the breeze.
The sweet chill of pumpkin and crisp sunburnt leaves.
~Ann Drake, 2013

falling leaves
hide the path
so quietly
~John Bailey, “Autumn,” a haiku year, 2001, as posted on oldgreypoet.com

A glorious crown the year puts on… ~Phebe A. Holder, “A Song of October,” in The Queries Magazine, October 1890


Pale amber sunlight falls across
The reddening October trees….
Are we not better and at home
In dreamful Autumn, we who deem
No harvest joy is worth a dream?
A little while and night shall come,
A little while, then, let us dream…
~Ernest Dowson (1867–1900), “Autumnal”


(Behind our farm)

Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees. ~Faith Baldwin, American Family

The softened light, the veiling haze,
The calm repose of autumn days,
Steal gently o’er the troubled breast,
Soothing life’s weary cares to rest.
~Phebe A. Holder, “A Song of October,” in The Queries Magazine, October 1890

A beauty lights the fading year… ~Phebe A. Holder, “A Song of October,” in The Queries Magazine, October 1890

"Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower."~Fall Quotes and Images--Beth Trissel

Of all the seasons, autumn offers the most to man and requires the least of him. ~Hal Borland

Catch a vista of maples in that long light and you see Autumn glowing through the leaves…. The promise of gold and crimson is there among the branches, though as yet it is achieved on only a stray branch, an impatient limb or an occasional small tree which has not yet learned to time its changes. ~Hal Borland

There is a harmony
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky…
~Percy Bysshe Shelley

O’ pumpkin pie, your time has come ’round again and I am autumnrifically happy! ~Terri Guillemets


“Autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which has drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling. She occupied her mind as much as possible in such like musings and quotations…” ~Jane Austen

“green-veined leaves suddenly blushing copper
bronze-edged trees swaying in autumn breezes
gold foliage drifting past pewter branches baring all
brass-hued leaflets dying in beauty, falling in grace”
~Terri Guillemets, “In the Autumn Wood,” 2016

autumn in the Alleghenies

Mom took the pic of the chipmunk on the pumpkin and the one toward Reddish Knob in the Alleghenies above. Daughter Elise took the others of the leaves, trees, grandbaby Chloe with our pumpkins, and the mountains. Grandson Colin is the baby reaching for the leaves taken by his mom, my daughter Alison. Autumn is a family time.

“You Can’t be Suspicious of a Tree, or Accuse a Bird or a Squirrel of Subversion…”

Some lovely thoughts and images on this fine spring day~
“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”  ~Henry David Thoreau
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kind.”  William Shakespeare
“I remember a hundred lovely lakes, and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees.  The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk, opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets.
It has given me blessed release from care and worry and the troubled thinking of our modern day.  It has been a return to the primitive and the peaceful.  Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and benumbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me – I am happy.”  ~Hamlin GarlandMcClure’s, February 1899

“You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.”

~Hal BorlandSundial of the Seasons, 1964

“Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,
I keep it staying at Home –
With a bobolink for a Chorister,
And an Orchard, for a Dome.”
~Emily Dickinson

“Joy all creatures drink
At nature’s bosoms…”
~Friedrich von Schiller, “Ode to Joy,” 1785, translated from German

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.
Aristotle –

“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.”  ~Jane Austen

“I am not bound for any public place, but for ground of my own where I have planted vines and orchard trees, and in the heat of the day climbed up into the healing shadow of the woods.  Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.”  ~Wendell Berry

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.”
~George Gordon, Lord ByronChilde Harold’s Pilgrimage

“Great things are done when men and mountains meet.  This is not done by jostling in the street.”  ~William Blake

“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.”  ~Helen Keller

“To one who has been long in city pent,
‘Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven, – to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.”
~John Keats, Sonnet XIV

“Fieldes have eies and woods have eares.”  ~John Heywood, 1565

“You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness – perhaps ignorance, credulity – helps your enjoyment of these things…”  ~Walt WhitmanSpecimen Days, “Birds – And a Caution”  (Thanks, Corinne)

“Butterflies are self propelled flowers.”  ~R.H. Heinlein

“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”  ~Author Unknown

*Images of the green-gold trees, the baby goose and kitten, the Shenandoah Valley in early spring and the nesting duck are by my mom.  The black swallowtail butterfly is by daughter Elise.  Dark Hollow Falls in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a royalty free pic.

***For gardeners, nature lovers, anyone who thinks fondly of country life, or is just plain human…you might enjoy my nonfiction book out in kindle now, in nookbook by April, and soon out in print with beautiful pics, a 2012 EPIC eBOOK FINALIST, Shenandoah Watercolors.

The Glorious Month of June

And since all this loveliness can not be Heaven,
I know in my heart it is June.
~Abba Goold Woolson (1838–1921)
Ah June, among the fairest of all months.  Here in the valley, June came in like July with hot humid temps and we await thunderstorms for needed rain.  Yesterday, Memorial Day, my home-from-college daughter Elise and I worked far too hard in the vegetable garden, but we’d gotten behind and were under a flash flood watch.  Not a drop fell from the searing sky, OK, maybe one or two.  Not even enough to dampen my nose.
If I predicted the weather with such reckless abandon as the weather people do, I would lose all credibility, but still they go on prognosticating.  And we listen. I prefer to read the signs in nature and often do so with accurate results.  Last winter was a hard one which I foretold after observing several entirely black woolly bears–those fuzzy little caterpillars are more accurate in telling the weather than anyone.  Normally woolly bears are ringed with reddish-brown and black bands, the brown denoting milder winter weather and the black harder.  And in late summer I noted the unusually high assembly of swifts gathering at our farm pond earlier in the season than usual.  Then they all flew away.  Getting the H—out of Dodge.  It wondered me why, as the Pennsylvania Dutch say.  Bad winter coming, I concluded.  And I was right.
Another indication of winter snows are the number of foggy mornings in August.  Each one signifies a snowfall.  We had a number of those misty mornings when the white haze hangs over the pond, and I can just see the blue heron at the edge.  The hills up above the meadow are veiled and the Alleghenies shrouded in white.  Then the sun comes out, the fog lifts, all sparkles in the dew, and I chalk up another snowfall.
But I digress,  back to June.  On the Sunday before Memorial Day, our family took a drive up into the breathtakingly beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains along the Parkway and had lunch at the Big Meadows Lodge.  Glorious.  Mountain laurel was in in bloom and many other wildflowers.  Butterflies fluttered about, though not nearly as many as you see later in the season.  It feels as though you’re on top of the world up there.  That knob is the epicenter of the universe.
If you’ve never visited the Blue Ridge Mountains and toured the Parkway, you’ve missed out on an amazing experience.   The Park maintains trails varying from short walks to arduous hikes for the more athletic, many with ferny streams tumbling along.  I adore the sound of a mountain stream.   There are lovely places to dine like the splendid lodge.  Rustic in a welcoming, homey way with an enormous stone fireplace. The windows look out over spectacular vistas.    An ideal vacation spot for families or simply stop by for an excellent meal.
For more on the Big Meadows Lodge click here:
Big Meadows also has a fascinating museum depicting the life of the mountain people and nature displays, plus a wonderful nature based gift shop, perfect for families.  On a nice day, a stroll through the grassy meadows is enjoyable without being overly wearing.  Deer sightings are common.  Bear much less frequent, but it happens.  We once saw a mother with two cubs and spotted others from time to time.  These are the normally docile black bears.  Caution is to be observed, but attacks from black bear are rare.  One time, a bobcat sprang across the road and paused momentarily.  Shy creatures, it fled.   We’ve spotted wild turkey.  The abundance of birds in the Park makes it a haven for bird lovers.  I’ve never seen so many varieties.  The woods resound with their calls.  If you’re a horseback rider, the Park maintains idyllic trails, and the same for bikers…
Some areas of the park are home to living history exhibits of life from the past that include a preserved old log cabin, craftsmen at their looms, farm animals in log pens, a mountain garden…hands on stuff for children.  If you’re up for a dip in an icy stream, or swimming hole, they have those too.  I’ve opted to dabble my toes.  And there are waterfalls of all sizes.  I love the smaller one called Dark Hollow Falls at Milam’s Gap.  It’s small enough that the more adventurous, including kids, slide down into the pool beneath.  You can even tickle trout, should that appeal to you.  It holds no charm for me, but some of the men in our family have braved frigid pools and done just that.

When I’m in the mountains my spirit soars.  The beauty of the valley and surrounding mountains, my absorption in nature and passion for the past, has an enormous influence on my writing.

“After a debauch of thundershower, the weather takes the pledge and signs it with a rainbow.”
~Thomas Bailey Aldrich
“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments – there are consequences.”
~ Robert G. Ingersoll
“Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee.”
~The Bible

“Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men or animals. Some seem to smile, some have a sad expression, some are pensive and diffident, others again are plain, honest and upright.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

*I totally agree with this poetic observation about flowers.

“When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with its fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.” ~ Thomas Carlyle

“By nature’s kindly disposition, most questions which it is beyond man’s power to answer do not occur to him at all.” ~ George Santayana

“The bluebird carries the sky on his back.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

*I absolutely love blue birds.  The Shenandoah Valley is blessed with an abundance of them.  They flash blue in the sunlight and are quite busy little birds.

“There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before. “~ Robert Lynd  *To this I add, so could Native Americans.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

~John Muir

*Several of these pics were taken by my mother and husband. The rest are royalty free images from i-stock of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Milam’s Gap in The Blue Ridge Mountains (Along Skyline Drive)

The sun was low in the sky and the woods dusky as my husband and I hiked the Milam’s Gap trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains one summer evening. How green and still it was among the hay-scented fern, and the twilight mild and sweet, like a melody softly played. Few birds called. The flutelike trill of a thrush sounded overheard and a robin flew into the ancient apple trees that mark the beginning of the walk. Gnarled, lichen-encrusted, branches thrust high above us.

Milam’s Gap apple trees are far removed from the modern day dwarfs. These relics from the past were planted by the mountain people who once lived here and were coveted as the apples for cider and apple butter making. An old mountain woman told me. The ridges and hollows still bear the names of these stalwart souls, like Lewis and Dean Mountain, Hensley, Kemp and Corbin Hollow, Hannah Run Trail, and Mary’s Rock.

More menacing names, Rattlesnake Point, Dark Hollow and Ghost Forest also remain. The invisible presence of these people seemed to linger in these woods where their log homes once nestled, smoke rising from the old stone hearths, corn cakes sizzling on the griddle. What must life have been like for those hardy folks? Cold much of the time, and hard, I should think.

I envisioned the women and girls in calico dresses, the men and boys in worn pants and overalls, gathering chestnuts, hazelnuts and wild berries, clearing patches of ground to grow corn and vegetable gardens, sorghum for molasses, struggling to keep a few pigs, chickens, and cows alive. A bear snatching the pig the family had been fattening to supplement their winter diet must have been quite a loss. Trips to town would have been arduous and rare, the supplies purchased slim: perhaps flour, sugar, salt and cornflakes for a special treat, cloth, gun powder and shot for hunting. Timber, orchards, livestock and the lucrative moonshine trade helped to supplement what was quite a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Doctors were hard to come by and the people often doctored themselves. Anyone who was a healer, whether with plants, charms or incantations, would have been highly sought after. Some healers specialized in one thing, like wart removal, or in the stopping of blood from a gushing wound. Others claimed to have special stones called mad stones to cure the dreaded bite of a rabid animal. We can only imagine this long gone time.

The elderly woman who once lived near Milam’s Gap (referred to above) gave me an exceedingly fragrant herb she called the vicks vapor rub plant.  It’s scent is very like that of Vicks.  She also gave me a rose-scented geranium, both of which I still have.  The geranium fragrance is appealingly rosy and the little mauve-colored flowers last in water forever.

*Pic is of Dark Hollow Falls at Milam’s Gap.