Golden Autumn at Middle Ridge

After visiting our #1 Son and enjoying Great Falls together as a family, we dropped him off at GMU with cookies, clothes and supplies.  The remaining Garners headed west toward the Skyline Drive, to drive along the mountain ridges and see the progress of the turning of the leaves!  There were still some green leaves, but there was plenty of gold and red and orange!

Mr. Garner had selected a light to moderate (Hmmm) hike just off the Skyline Drive to Dark Hollow Falls (Yes! Another waterfall!)

Here’s the thing about waterfalls – usually the hike takes you down to the plunge pool of the waterfall, with lovely sites along the way –  The catch is, you have to go back up

We loved the hike, following a small brook down, watching it grow and spill over several different sets of falls before the final lower falls.  What started out as a light descent with a relatively mild incline, slowly got steeper and steeper.  The hike was crowded and a large family group gathered at the most picturesque spots along the falls for long lengthy visits  with each other (Ahem) so, unfortunately,  a good photo of the falls was not happening.  And, the trip back up was tough.

That said, I laughed to myself as I noticed a pair of Mennonite girls pass me as they hiked down, and then pass me again later as they quickly skipped back up without breaking a sweat.  Similarly, a very elderly grandmother from China exhibited no sign of strain heading back up the path.  After arriving at the top, red-faced and breathless,  I determined an incline needs to be introduced to our morning walking routine!

After our workout, we thoroughly enjoyed an early dinner at Big Meadows Lodge in their rustic dining room.  Getting back on the Skyline Drive, we caught a spectacular sunset with Massanutten Mountain in the foreground.   Then, as the sun finally dropped behind dusky purple mountains, we watched porch lights and street lights begin to twinkle and glow in the Shenandoah Valley, just as the stars began to twinkle and glow in the sky.  We woke to rain and fog the next morning, so we opted for the fast lane to the farm, a little sad to leave the mountain ridge, but knowing we wouldn’t be able to see much.

At the farm during our Autumn break we woke to golden mornings, with golden leaves, and golden fields.  We’ve found a unique golden moth and we’ve been visited each afternoon by swarms of red and orange lady bugs!  We’ve watched youthful deer cavorting across the meadow, we’ve seen and heard a flock of wild turkeys, we’ve caught a glimpse of Mountain Bluebirds, Red-tailed Hawks, yellow-shafted Northern Flickers, along with familiar favorites like Robins and Blue Jays, and a very, very fat groundhog!  We’ve sketched several varieties of Oak acorns and leaves, and enjoyed collecting Pecan, Black Walnut and Chinese Chestnut nuts and leaves for Nature Study!

The sky is always gorgeous at the farm.  In the country, there are no city street lights to contend with.  We can easily see the Milky Way stretched out across the sky, and layers of stars beyond what we can usually see at home in Hampton Roads.  Jupiter, and its four moons, were discernible through our binoculars.  Venus rises just before the sun this time of year, so morning sunrises have an added sparkle beyond the beauty of watching the sun rise over tree covered hills rather than my neighbor’s roof!

A Saturday morning trip to the Roanoke Farmers Market yielded hand-beaded necklaces, handmade Shea butter and olive oil soap, fresh crunchy Stayman apples, and a jar each of Catawba Mountain wildflower and clover honey.  Sunday was a day of rest, and Monday, on the way home to Hampton Roads we stopped to ride bikes on the High Bridge.

All in all our Autumn Break – was golden!

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