31 Days of October, Day 14

It’s apple season in Virginia….

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posed at BearingDrift.com

31 Days of October, Day 13

The redbud leaves are beginning to turn….

Today was the perfect Virginia October day. After an overnight low in the 40s, temps topped out during the day in the low 60s with bright sunshine, low humidity, and deep blue skies. That meant we could finish the yard work we had begun the day before. My goal: finish the flower garden.

What a jumbled, overgrown mess it was after a season of rain rain rain. It was time to cut back the spent flowers and put them to bed for the winter with a layer of mulch, so that was my task.

A layer of mulch and it was done.

One down … several more to do.

I worked in the shadow of Albert, our huge spruce tree that is dying from a fungal disease that is affecting many spruces across the country. He was only about four feet tall when we moved here over 20 years ago, and I would decorate him for Christmas, share pictures of him, and even wrote about him.

His lower branches began to die a few years ago so I went looking for cures, checking to see what could be done to make him well. Sadly, I was told there was no cure, and so we have watched as his branches have slowly died from the bottom up. This winter will be hard on him and I think we’ll end up taking him down next spring. For someone who grew up in Richmond where cooler weather trees such as spruce could not survive, Albert was my mountain tree living at 1,300 feet in the Shenandoah Valley.

For now, fall has definitely set in with cold nights and we’re on leaf alert for surrounding areas. It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley….

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

Why a Domestic Violence Awareness Month?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. How ironic … one of the most beautiful months of the year is used to promote awareness of one of the most aggressive and oppressive acts between two people.

Forty years ago domestic violence was rarely mentioned. Today there are places to go and people to talk with about physical, mental, and emotional abuse, but many still keep it hidden away … tamped down, but never forgotten.

One in four women and one in seven men have been the victims of severe physical violence from a partner in their lifetime and even more shockingly, one in five children are exposed to domestic violence each year with 90% of these children witnessing the violence themselves, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Those who experience abuse may suffer from a loss of self esteem, depression, inability to trust, questioning spiritual faith, hopelessness, lack of motivation. Some turn to drugs and alcohol. In severe cases those who are abused may contemplate suicide.

Some may walk away. Leave. Find a new life.

The video above is of a 62-year-old woman who endured 23 years of abuse married to a pastor.  She discovered there was life after that abusive marriage.

For help: 800-799-SAFE / thehotline.org

31 Days of October, Day 12

Today felt like fall. Low, cool temps, low humidity, breezy … sweater weather. It was perfect for outdoor yard work preparing for winter. Until our first frost, the garden will continue to produce but cold weather is on tap for the next week with overnight temps in the 30s.


A renegade limb on the maple tree beside the deck is turning burgundy while everything else is still green.


Leafless aspen tree

“Gentle Heat”

Herbs, chives

Late season bloom … it will never make a pumpkin.

Fall tomatoes

The autumn garden, played out and ready to be put to bed for winter

Almost the last of the jalapenos

This afternoon I tackled this flower garden while Mr. Mitchell mowed….

… and got it halfway finished before we stopped for the day.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

31 Days of October, Day 11

West of Staunton we had rain today so I dug into the archives and pulled out more pics from Highland County, the nearest thing we have to New England with its bright reds and burgundies and golds. It doesn’t look like this yet but temps in the 30s this weekend should help speed up the process.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com


Rain 5 (2)

Dark is coming earlier and earlier these days. Tonight it’s even sooner because of the clouds and rain, presumably outer bands from Hurricane Michael. The outdoors lights are on and I’m sitting on the front porch rocking with my laptop, feet propped on the railing, and listening as raindrops fall on tree leaves and shrubs and splat onto the fallen leaves on the ground.

It’s even a little chilly as the slight wind whooshes across the porch. It’s dusky, not quite dark yet, and quiet.

Ever since I was a little girl rainy days have been a favorite, something I’ve written about in the past, and I’m not really sure why but there’s something cozy about listening to the sound. As I look out the leaves on the redbuds and ash trees are beginning to turn golden. Some are already on the ground. Beside them the maples are still green, waiting their turn to show off with reds and burgundies.

The crickets are humming, their sound mixed in with the rain and the slight sound of wind. Bullfrogs in the nearby pond are calling with their deep-sounding croaks … the bark of a far-off dog can be heard in the distance. If I stay here much longer there will also be the sound of my teeth chattering since I’m barefooted and have no sweater.

This weekend promises to finally usher in the cooler weather we’ve been waiting for to help the fall colors pop. Forecasts hint that we may even see some temps in the 30s, the first of the season. Cold weather is late this year … no first frost yet, no hard freeze.

Think I’ll go grab my jacket and some shoes and then just sit and listen for a while. It’s peaceful, and that’s something I’d like to hang on to a bit longer.

It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley….

31 Days of October, Day 10

It’s autumn and the spiders have been extra busy. The past two mornings we’ve noticed their half-moon webs in the coreopsis and on shrubs.

We left in the morning to take a drive to Highland County to check on how the fall leaves were coming along (slowly), and then continued on into West Virginia to check our some other favorite leaf peeping areas (no big changes yet). Taking the back roads that made a big block from Staunton, we ended up at Green Bank, Cass Railroad, and Snowshoe Mountain.

Highland County west of Monterey.

A high valley bog in western Highland County.

Rt. 250 entering West Virginia.

A favorite leaf peeping spot along Rt. 28 north of Thornwood in West Virginia.

Deep in the West Virginia mountains off a gravel road on the edge of a forest with a roof covered in moss and sprouting trees, do you think we found a troll’s house? #MonongahelaNationalForest

Green Bank … the whispering place … home of the huge satellite dishes that listen to the universe, plainly visible against the West Virginia mountains.

“The trailblazers of American radio astronomy called Green Bank Observatory home over 60 years ago. Today, their legacy is alive and well. Nestled in the mountain ranges and farmland of West Virginia, within the National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ), radio astronomers are listening to the remote whispers of the universe, in order to discover answers to our most astounding astronomical questions.”

Wonder if anyone is out there listening back….? 🙂


Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a reminder of West Virginia’s logging days. In addition to the town’s lumber history, in 1955 the Cass General Store was the largest in the U.S.

“Take a trip back to an era when steam-driven locomotives were an essential part of every day life. Trips to Cass Scenic Railroad State Park are filled with rich history, unparalleled views and the sights and sounds of an original lumbering town.

“The town of Cass remains relatively unchanged since its founding in 1901 by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company. Cass was built as a company town for the loggers who worked in the nearby mountains. Construction of the railroad started in 1901. It was used to haul lumber to the mill at Cass.

“The railroad track was eventually extended to the top of Bald Knob, the third highest mountain peak in West Virginia. In June 1942, the Cass operation was sold to Mower Lumber Company, which operated the town until July 1960, when the mill and railroad were shut down due to rapid decline of the timber industry in the region.

“In 1961, Cass was brought into the state parks system. In 1977, the company town also was made part of the parks system. Over the years, the railroad was turned into a tourist line and the town was repaired and restored. Today, the railroad is still in full operation, but is managed by the Durbin and Greenbrier Railroad.”


Sorry about the raindrops on the windshield as I took a pic of the historic sign. Rain and fog moved in while we were there.

One of the snow ski resorts Mr. Mitchell and I skied in our younger days, I hadn’t been to Snowshoe Mountain since having kids.

Since we were meandering the back roads in that area today, we drove up the mountain but, sadly, rain and thick fog moved in. Unfortunately, from a mountain where the views are outstanding, we saw … nothing. Guess we’ll just have to go back.

P.S. Opening day is November 21.


Back in Highland County where sheep outnumber people.

This goat cracked me up. I don’t know what he was doing … he seemed to be communing with the building.

Route 84 in Highland heading toward Vanderpool.

I found love in Monterey with their colorful “Virginia Is For Lovers” sign that celebrates the rural landscape and heritage of the scenic community. Each location’s love sign is individual to the area.

In recognition of the many barn quilts located throughout the county, the LOVE letters used traditional quilt block patterns to highlight the many special features in Highland.

“L” uses Maple Block to celebrate the maple products and popular festival in March, “O” uses the Double Wedding Ring to recognize family heritage and sense of community, “V” is painted in Flying Geese to show a love of wildlife and farm animals, and the “E” uses the Log Cabin block to represent a country style and love of home.

#HighlandCountyVA #LOVEworks #VirginiaIsForLovers

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com


31 Days of October, Day 9

About six years ago while visiting Blacksburg, we took a drive to Mountain Lake located in Giles County, west of Blacksburg. The leaves were at peak as we drove up the mountain with lots of bright golds and splashes of red. It was gorgeous.

In another week or two the mountain will again look like these pictures. Enjoy!

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

31 Days of October, Day 8

Trees decked out for fall: a few of the tree pics I’ve taken over the years. It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley….

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

31 Days of October, Day 7

Here are some pics I took in Botetourt County several years ago of early autumn. The view overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoy!

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

31 Days of October, Day 6

We definitely embraced October Saturday when we spent the day with our kids and their spouses at Peaks of Otter near Bedford. The mountains were foggy until early afternoon so we set up in the fog along a creek in the picnic area. The day was spent grilling, hanging out, wading in the creek (for one intrepid member of our troupe), and playing board games.

For the first time in my life, I saw an otter at Peaks of Otter. It was making its way along the other side of the creek at our picnic site, moving through tall grass, so I trained my iPhone on him to try and get a good photo when he came out. However, he caught sight of someone on the bridge and made a beeline for the creek. I was able to catch a pic of him as he made a dive into the water and disappeared.

Peaks of Otter Lodge.

A great October day spent with family. #Win

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

31 Days of October, Day 5

No opportunity today to play so again I had to enjoy this favorite month through favored photos, this time pics of previous autumns in neighboring Highland County. It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley….

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

31 Days of October, Day 4

Today my nose was to the grindstone after yesterday’s leaf-chasing trip to West Virginia so I enjoyed the touches of fall around the house. It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley….

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

31 Days of October, Day 3


Today we soared with windmills and danced with the mountains. Well, almost.

In my effort to enjoy every possible minute during my favorite month of the year, we took off on this third day of October and headed to West Virginia’s ski country. I had heard the fall leaf color at the highest elevations was at peak last weekend so it was our mission to see if we could find it.

We did. Kind of. Our destination was the Canaan Valley area, a place we first visited in our youth for skiing and camping.

Packing our cooler and a picnic lunch, we left Staunton to begin “the loop,” a route we’ve taken throughout the years: north up Rt. 42 (a scenic Virginia highway that winds its way through western Augusta County) …

… through Harrisonburg and north to Broadway (with a quick stop at our favorite pumpkin stand) …

… and past Blue Ribbon Nursery with their always-colorful autumn display.

In Broadway where the road comes to an intersection that goes right and left, we turned west toward West Virginia. Rt. 259 is a two-lane road through rural Virginia that blends into West Virginia. From Broadway, it’s about a 15-minute drive toward the mountains to our western neighbor. It’s not called the Mountain State for nothing.

It’s a busy road so paving has to take place at some point. Today was the day for the section at the state line, and so we were stopped for about 20 minutes as we waited for the flagman to wave us through …

… and when we were moving again, we passed the parking lot of traffic in the other lane backed up and waiting to enter Virginia. We crossed the state line into West Virginia and sailed along on our way.

Along the way we passed the entrance to Lost River State Park, a scenic and well-kept vacation spot with log cabins, a popular pool during warmer months, picnic tables, horseback riding, hiking, and more. Near Mathias, it covers over 3,700 acres and borrows its name from the nearby Lost River (named because it disappears underground).

Lost River State Park includes land that was owned by Virginia’s Lee family, a hunting camp and mountain escape from the heat and humidity of Stratford Hall on the Commonwealth’s Northern Neck. The historic 1804 Lee Cabin, owned by Revolutionary War patriot “Lighthorse” Harry Lee (Robert E. Lee’s father), remained in the Lee family until 1879. Today it is maintained by the park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974, and is a reminder of a time when West Virginia was still part of Virginia.

The road into the park continues past the entrance, climbing up and over the mountain on a scenic drive with vistas in all directions, and descends into Moorefield. But today we didn’t turn in because our destination was points further west by way of U.S. Route 48.

Past the park there is actually an unincorporated settlement called Lost City complete with a tiny little post office.

When we reached U.S. 48, we turned west … and this was the view. An engineering marvel, West Virginia’s U.S. 48 — known as Corridor H to West Virginians and as “Robert Byrd’s Road to Nowhere” to some conservatives and environmentalists — is an east-west four-lane highway that, when completed, will extend for 148 miles and connect I-79 in central West Virginia to I-81 in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley at Strasburg. The Virginia portion has not been started but in West Virginia it is open from Moorefield to Davis, and construction continues on the unfinished portions. The far-reaching views are spectacular as the ribbon of roadway slices through mountains along the ridge tops and crosses rivers and valleys through the rugged Alleghany Mountains of Appalachia.

With a quick stop in Moorefield …

… we hopped back on and a few miles down the road we pulled in to tailgate at the scenic overlook.

This rest area for travelers and tourists showcased not only the highway disappearing into the distance but the surrounding mountains and a big, cloud-filled sky. It’s easy to travel a road with views like that.

While continuing west on U.S. 48, another engineering marvel came into view along the ridge tops of Backbone Mountain. Looming over the highway were 132 giant wind turbines that stretched along the mountains for 12 miles to the south and to the north … new-tech windmills with blades slowly turning in the wind. Each turbine is 345 feet tall, an overwhelming addition to the landscape … part of the Mount Storm Wind Farm that supplies electricity for the mid-Atlantic power grid.


Mount Storm was somewhere I had wanted to visit for years. A neighbor had traveled from Augusta to Mount Storm in the early 2000s for his job with Dominion Power, and I would listen as he talked about the winter weather at what sounded like a desolate site. At that time there was no Corridor H so he drove the back roads through Highland County and into West Virginia to the high country. I think I expected something akin to the far north … desolate and lonely on the top of a bare, wind-swept mountain.

Today we stopped at Mount Storm. It’s surrounded by the wind turbines build in the early 2000s, and is located a couple of miles from the coal power plant built in the mid-1960s. One uses the wind as its source; the other uses coal. It’s not far off U.S. 48. Drive past the Liberty gas station to the wide spot in the road that has a post office, two motels (that looked as if they may now be closed), some houses, closed businesses. And windmills (video IMG_8728).

It was not windswept and barren; there were trees and a nice breeze on a warm autumn day. But it was a place time had left behind, not so much desolate as isolated. The clerk in the post office said it was a bustling burg until about 10 years ago when Dominion Power automated the wind turbines and decreased the work force. Even she lived down the road in nearby Davis, not in Mount Storm.

We didn’t stay long because there really wasn’t anything to keep us there.

The road through town continues to Maryland so we turned around and made our way back out to U.S. 48 where the coal-fired power plant was visible across the way, it’s white steam belching into the sky.

As we passed, coal trains were waiting for their loads.

The electricity generated from this plant provides power for millions.

A nearby coal mine.

It was west of Mount Storm that we finally saw a number of leaves that had already peaked so their color was fading. They were pretty and the first of this season but we had missed the big show.

The completed section of Corridor H ends at Davis where it returns to a two-lane road.

Turning left, we drove into the sleepy little town of Davis (elevation 3,100), the highest elevation of any town in West Virginia. It marks the northern end of the scenic Canaan Valley with ski areas and outdoor recreation, and borders the Monongahela National Forest. Blackwater Falls State Park is five minutes away.

It was almost 4:00 by then and we still had miles to go. After a brief stop, we decided not to linger … no trip to the Falls on this road trip or any of the other side trips … so we made a change to our plans.

It was late in the afternoon, and continuing the usual route for our loop would involve two-lane mountainous back roads on our trip to Augusta County, so we turned around and returned to Corridor H. We would backtrack to Moorefield, then hop off on Rt. 220, following it all the way to Monterey in Highland County, Virginia. Where it intersected Rt. 250, we would turn east and back over the four mountain ranges home to Augusta County.

It was delightfully cool in the high country, unlike lower elevations where hot temps seemed out of step with the date (and the bank temperature in Moorefield on our return trip was 90 degrees).

We had never driven east on Corridor H. The views of the wind turbines showed larger concentrations of windmills along the Appalachian Front, this high plateau, before we began dropping back down into the valley.

Backtracking on the Corridor, we left the turbines behind and pointed south toward home along rural Rt. 220 that crossed and followed the South Branch of the Potomac River along the mountain range, and past small towns, country stores, Little League ballfields …

… past farmers working the fall harvest …

… with an occasional glimpse of the color show to come.

Climbing Shenandoah Mountain that sits on the border between Highland and Augusta counties, I snapped a pic of the sun as it set behind the Alleghanies.

What a great day embracing October on an unusually warm autumn day and, though we hadn’t found much leaf color, we had enjoyed yet another of our adventures, retracing some familiar trails and experiencing new ones with my favorite travel partner.

It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley….

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

A Little Girl Named Katy


Wearing Pappaw’s hat – age 3.

Happy Birthday to our sweet girl!

In 1987, October 3rd was a Saturday, and just as it does every year, today has opened a flood gate of memories that take me back thirty-one years.

It had been warm in Iredell County, NC, that fall — typical for our western Carolina location — but a cold front was expected to pass through on Friday night, October 2, that would significantly cool down our area located at the Brushy Mountains, the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Even though I was nine months pregnant, we were preparing to attend the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival on Saturday just as we did every year, located thirty minutes up the road in North Wilkesboro.

The expected cold front came through that Friday night, and Saturday was overcast and cool but instead of attending the festival, we began the day with the newest member of our little family.


Three-year-old Matt was at the hospital with us, sleeping on my bed and watching Saturday morning cartoons as he waited to find out if he had a baby brother or sister.

We had two names picked out: Katelyn for a girl, and Andrew for a boy. We got our Katelyn and her dad promptly wrote “Katy” on the name card located in her nursery bassinet. And Katy it’s been ever since.

Katy & Colin at Millie's wedding 2011
Katy and ColinKaty & Matt Braves 9-10Katy and Matt at Atlanta Braves game | Washington, D.C.


Katy and Colin on their wedding day | House Mountain Inn, Lexington, Va.

Katy & sheepBonding with a Highland County sheep.

Katy and Colin 1 year anniversaryAt the beach house in Florida

Katy and Colin at VaTechVirginia Tech

Katy at Nags HeadOBX

Katy and Emily

Toes in the James River, RVA.

Katy MBC photo 2011My sweet Mary Baldwin College girl.

Beach 2 Katy, Emily 063Cousins at the beach house on the Gulf.


From that day on, our family was complete. Katy and Matt formed a sibling friendship that continues to this day. Ever the big brother, he was helpful with her from the beginning, and she gravitated to him before she could walk.

Homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade, she graduated from Mary Baldwin with honors, and then married in a beautiful ceremony overlooking the mountains of western Virginia, bringing a young man into our family who was loved not just by her but by us.

Today my fun-loving child is a bubbly, organized, and adventuresome young woman who loves the beach and hiking and baking and flowers and autumn, and sheep and cats … and so much more.

Happy birthday, Katy Bee!

IMG_8295 (2)

At Mammaw and Pappaw’s house, 2018.

IMG_8320 (2)

With Mammaw and Pappaw, September 2018.

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