Category Archives: Virginia

Icy Shenandoah Valley

It was the first wintry precipitation this year in the Shenandoah Valley as snow, freezing rain, and sleet moved in overnight and continued throughout Thursday.

Temperatures have hovered between 30 and 32 all day so nothing is melting … yet.

The forecast says temps will begin rising overnight and continue to the mid-40s on Friday so everything will melt. Not that I like ice but there really isn’t anything we can do about it so we’re enjoying the wintry scene out the windows while we can. Our Shenandoah autumn continues…

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
November 15, 2018

Cross-posted at

Saying Goodbye to Augusta County’s Bob Dickerman

“Did you know someone named Bob Dickerman?” my husband called up the steps this morning. His question came out of the blue and made me stop what I was doing.

“Why?” I asked. “Did he die?”

Indeed, Mr. Mitchell had seen the obituary in the Staunton News Leader. I quickly pulled it up on my laptop to be sure it was the Bob Dickerman I knew from politics in Augusta County.

Sure enough, it was him. As I read of his amazingly versatile and far-reaching life, it again struck me how we don’t really know most people until they die. That is when their life’s achievements and accomplishments come to light in a brief end-of-life wrap-up known as an obituary.

How sad.

And how enlightening.

When I was very active in Augusta County Republican Committee leadership in the George W. Bush years, Bob and I crossed paths a number of times — he with the Augusta County Democrats, I with the local GOP. He was a bit crusty, and I am certain he made more of an impression on me than I on him. Too bad I was such an activist in those days and didn’t take the time to get to know him a little better.

He had a mountainside farm in Buffalo Gap on the Old Parkersburg Turnpike, a gravel road that traverses the national forest through the Appalachian Mountains to Deerfield Valley in western Augusta. Born in Staunton, after his many years of foreign service, he came home and spent his final years here.

Bottom line: this is why I have grown to dislike extreme partisanship and the fact that we often see people only through a one-dimensional political lens. Everyone is so much more than that, and reading about Bob’s life showed all of him that I did not know. And didn’t take time to know. It’s my loss.

Charles Robert (“Bob”) Dickerman

Staunton – Charles Robert (“Bob”) Dickerman, a Staunton native who served the United States for 30 years as a Foreign Service Officer, died on November 8th, 2018 on his farm in Buffalo Gap. He was 81 years old and had suffered from a rare neurological disorder: Multiple Systems Atrophy with Parkinson’s.

Bob was born in Staunton on November 29, 1936, the son of the late Staunton physician, Dr. Charles Pingrey Dickerman and his first wife, Stella Irene Mallory. Bob received his BA from Antioch College, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University‘s Kennedy School of Government.

During this time, he was also a faculty level research fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs. In addition, he graduated from the State Department’s prestigious year-long Senior Seminar on US Foreign and Domestic Policies.

Prior to joining the United States Information Service in 1962, Bob was a journalist on three Midwestern newspapers, including THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE. As a career diplomat in the Foreign Service he specialized in cultural affairs and media relations.

During his more than 30-year career, he served in Finland, Somalia, South Vietnam, Norway, Iceland, West Germany, the Eastern Caribbean, and Denmark. He worked in several languages including Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, German, Vietnamese, and Italian.

After his retirement from federal service in 1992, Bob continued to be engaged in politics and his interest never ceased in how our country is viewed by many people overseas. He followed the news in many countries, and maintained many friendships with former colleagues and friends.

In his conversations and writings, he discussed and addressed some of our most significant problems: racism and other forms of intolerance and prejudice, our lack of universal health care, and social inequalities. He was intensely concerned about the decline in American prestige and respect and was active in the Democratic parties of Arlington, Staunton, and Augusta County.

Bob Dickerman is survived by his daughters Julia Torres and Anneke Braisted of Cary, NC, their husbands Nehemiah and Timothy, his grandchildren Liam and Kaia, and his former wife (and best friend) Gerhild Sachs Dickerman of Durham, NC. In addition, he is survived by his brother, Dr. William Dickerman, his half-sister, Anne Reid, and his half-brother, Dr. Will Dickerman. A Celebration of Life will be held with family and friends at his beloved farm. Contributions in his memory may be made to Planned Parenthood.

My condolences to Bob’s family and friends.

Cross-posted at

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
Shenandoah Valley looking west to North Mountain Range
Appalachian Mountains | Augusta County, Virginia

I’m Sick of It All

Yesterday was Election Day 2018, and today I’m sick of it all. I’m tired of hearing conspiracy theories and defenses of immoral behavior and excuses because of who is currently in the White House.

If you thought it was wrong when the Democrats did it, but now think it’s okay when the Republicans do it, then you are part of the reason the GOP is drowning in hypocrisy.

I thought we were better than this.

I grew up in the church. The teachings of moral character came directly from the Bible with guidance from our Sunday School teachers. We strived then, and now, to live a life that included integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, patience, faithfulness, respect, responsibility, humility, compassion, loyalty, perseverance, optimism, generosity, politeness, kindness, lovingness, and reliability … traits that are goals to practice every day.

President Abraham Lincoln was a role model for integrity and honesty. His examples of good character traits are legendary, qualities that stayed with him through his life. They were instrumental as he led the country through the dark days of war. It was a time when a person’s character was a highly-regarded quality.

Before Lincoln, President George Washington was known for his character and leadership, and believed highly in the importance of civility which meant basic respect for everyone. As a Virginia school boy, he wrote his Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior, a list of 110 commonsense directives to guide him in life and in the company of others. Many still adhere to his rules to this day.

The good traits of character, if we believe some, are irrelevant in today’s world. I disagree. They are perhaps more important now than at any time in the past. Light the path for others and be an example. And keep in mind the words of C. S. Lewis: “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

Tonight I’m tired of it all, and sincerely hope we do not lose our moral compass.

“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” -James 1:22


31 Days of October, Day 30

We made the journey to Richmond today. That’s where I grew up and where most of my family lives.

Yes, the autumn leaves made the drive beautiful on a sunny, 60-something degree day in central Virginia. But today we weren’t out specifically to leaf peep.

Family is everything. Since my mom was the youngest of 10 children, there are cousins galore who have been friends and known each other since we were little kids. We gather for family weddings, funerals, and get-togethers. Our ages span 40 years from the oldest to the youngest.

It wasn’t expected that when October began we would close out the month by laying to rest one of the cousins. Her death was sudden. She wasn’t a blood relative but she had been married to one of my older cousins for so long that she was one of us. She left behind her husband, their children, and their children’s children.

She also left behind her beloved flowers that she spent hours cultivating in the yard. Gardening seems to run like a winding vine through our family.

Most of the cousins showed up to pay their respects. From the service of remembrance to the laughter afterward as we gathered in the church hall for a late lunch, it was vintage family for us, a time to catch up and visit, and to share memories, hugs, and tears. But mostly we shared laughter.

Family. It’s everything.

It was a sad occasion but it was a good day. And on our way home, as the sun dipped low in the sky as we approached the Blue Ridge Mountains, we looked at colorful autumn leaves along I-64 from Richmond to Afton. When we crossed Afton and began descending into the Valley, we could see fall color in the twilight.

It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley….

James River High School Crew teams on the James River, Richmond, Virginia

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

31 Days of October, Day 29

It’s hard to believe October is almost over. Around the yard these button mums with their bright yellow faces are beginning to bloom in the flower garden. A gift from my Aunt Ruth’s garden, they are prolific and always bloom late in the season when most of the other mums are finished.

Cheerful little flowers on a cloudy day.


The maple beside the deck has finally begun to show color. It will be a deep red by the time it finishes.

The button mums

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at

31 Days of October, Day 27

The pics don’t do justice to just how beautiful it was.

Entering Paint Bank on Rt. 311 from the east.

Paint Bank is merely an intersection at Rt. 18 and Rt. 311 with a general store, service station, and several lodging facilities. Continuing west on Rt. 311, we were on our way to Crows, Virginia … but first we had to cross through a corner of West Virginia that projected into the Commonwealth.

Rt. 194 took us to Covington where we hooked up on Rt. 60 east on our way to Rt. 220 north to Highland. Tomorrow I’ll share more photos of autumn colors in western Virginia along our journey from Covington through Bath County, Highland County, and home to Augusta County.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at

31 Days of October, Day 26

It was a bitterly cold and rainy day in Blacksburg — a raw day, as my mom would say — with downpours throughout the day. By sunset the temperature had dropped to 39 degrees as we made our way through the downtown area. Most of my iPhone pics didn’t turn out but here are a few that did.

Sadly, as happens each fall, rain beat the colorful leaves off the trees.

Also today was the opening of Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movie season with the first movie kicking off at 2:00 this afternoon and running through New Year’s Day. Fa la la la la!

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at

31 Days of October, Day 25

Under overcast skies with cool temperatures, it was a good day to check out the Blue Ridge Parkway from Floyd south to Mabry Mill. There were autumn colors but still lots of green, and a good number of bare trees that have already lost their leaves.

Unfortunately I had my Nikon on the wrong setting, making the colors subdued and bland. I was able to save a few, enough to get the idea of how beautiful it was in Virginia’s Blue Ride Mountains.

Mabry Mill is a watermill located at milepost 176.2 of Blue Ridge Parkway. The historic structure includes a trail with exhibit demonstrations of rural life in the Virginia mountains at the turn of the 20th century.

From the website: “Mabry Mill is one of the most photographed sites on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Several hundred thousand travelers visit the Mill each year, a turn of events Ed Mabry probably could not have predicted when he built the Mill more than a century ago.

“Around 1905 Ed and his wife Lizzie Mabry set in motion actions to realize the dream of their own gristmill. With the help of a neighbor, Newton Hylton, they built the gristmill, waterwheel, and water supply flume system with hard work and hand tools.

“By 1908 the gristmill was in operation and people from as far away as eight miles were bringing their corn to be ground. Also by this time Ed Mabry was ready to move on to his next project which was to build a sawmill on the left side of the gristmill. While Ed was busy building the sawmill, Lizzie took over the milling duties at the gristmill. Many said Lizzie was the better miller of the two.

“There was a problem though. Because the streams used to supply water to the mills were small, there was not enough needed water power. Due to the lack of water power, the process of grinding the corn at the Mabrys’ mill took longer than at some of the other nearby mills. Mills with plenty of water power would at times grind too fast. The resulting friction turned to heat which would then burn and scorch the corn meal leaving it tasting bitter.

“Because of the low water power problem at the Mabrys’ mill, it was known as a slow grinder. Due to this problem the Mabrys could not grind the corn fast, but they also never burned or scorched the corn meal which resulted in some of the best tasting corn meal around. This news spread fast which brought many loyal customers to the Mabrys’ little mill.

“Soon the sawmill was finished and Ed began to build a woodworking shop on the right side of the grist mill. This shop had a double-bladed jigsaw, a wood lathe and a tongue and groover all run by the water-powered waterwheel. This completed the gristmill complex with the sawmill, gristmill and woodworking shop all attached.

“For convenience sake, the Mabrys now decided to build a new blacksmith/wheelwright shop beside the gristmill complex. This was around 1913-1914. Later, after many years of hard work building up their business at the mill site, Ed and Lizzie decided to build a new house for themselves. Sometime around 1918-1920 the Mabrys built by their own hands and skill a two-story white farmhouse. The approximate site of that house is where the Matthews’ cabin is located at Mabry Mill today.

“The National Park Service acquired the Mabry Mill property in 1938 after Ed died and Lizzie moved away. The gristmill complex and the blacksmith/wheelwright shop were deemed historically significant by the Park Service as representing the rich cultural past of the Blue Ridge Mountain region.

“In 1942 those structures were completely restored, giving the Blue Ridge Parkway yet another gem along its beautiful winding 469 miles through the heart of Appalachia. Every year Mabry Mill, the legacy which Ed and Lizzie left us, is visited by people from all over the world.” –Michael Ryan, author, “Ed and Lizzie, the Mabrys and Their Mill”

Vintage water fountain at Rocky Knob Recreation Area

Rocky Knob at Milepost 167 is a vintage area of the BRP with a picnic area, campground, visitor center, tables, a shelter, backcountry camping, and lots of hiking trails. The topography of the area features vertical rocks protruding out of the ground.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Buffalo Mountain, a landmark that can be seen for miles around, anchors the Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve is a 1,140-acre Natural Area Preserve in Floyd County.

As we celebrate cooler days and autumn colors, it’s a little startling to realize two months from today will be Christmas Day. It’s hard to believe a week from today will be November. Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy the remaining color of fall leaves before cold rains strip them from the trees.

It’s autumn in western Virginia.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

31 Days of October, Day 24

It’s October 24, the full Hunter’s Moon, and we finally found the colors of fall in Blacksburg where maple trees in maroon, red, and gold are showing off all around town. The colors are spectacular!

Fall leaf colors line Route 460 west of Blacksburg.

A girl and her dad looking for sunning turtles at Pandapas Pond west of Blacksburg.

Lane Stadium one day before a big Thursday night football game.

It’s hay season in Montgomery County.

At 3,875 elevation high over Giles County, Mountain Lake’s burning bushes are bright scarlet.

A black cat and a pumpkin patch … Halloween must be right around the corner.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

31 Days of October, Day 23

October’s full moon, this year on Wednesday, October 24, is commonly known as the Hunter’s Moon, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. This year the full moon will be visible from Tuesday through Thursday, October 23-25.

The Hunter’s Moon is always the first full moon after the Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to the autumn equinox, and is usually seen in October but once every four years it falls in November. It will be in the sky all night, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise.

As the full moon rose from the ridge behind our house, it began with an orange glow caused by rising near the horizon at sunset.

The Almanac gave background on the name:

The Algonquin Native American tribes referred to October’s Moon as the Full Hunter’s Moonbecause time to go hunting in preparation for winter. Since the harvesters have reaped the fields, hunters can easily see the fattened deer and other animals that have come out to glean (and the foxes that have come out to prey on them).

The earliest use of the term “Hunter’s Moon” cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1710. Some sources suggest that other names for the Hunter’s Moon are the Sanguine or Blood Moon, either associated with the blood from with hunting or the turning of the leaves in autumn. Other Native American tribes, who tied the full Moon names to the season’s activities, called the full Moon the “Travel Moon” and the “Dying Grass Moon.”

It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Full moon appears to rise through the trees on the ridge behind our house

31 Days of October, Day 22

President George W. Bush picked through a patch of pumpkins at a roadside stand with owner Bill Gaulmyer in Richmond, Virginia | October 2006

White House photo by Paul Morse

31 Days of October, Day 21

On top of the world…. Several years ago my favorite travel partner and I were roaming the back roads of Highland County enjoying the fall leaves when we came across cattle grazing in one of the high pastures. The view behind them was stunning. I’ve shared this pic in the past but it never gets old.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at

31 Days of October, Day 20

“The road to a friend’s house is never long.” –Danish Proverb (Blue Ridge Parkway, October 20, 2018)

Today was what makes us enjoy this time of year. With cool temps and overcast skies that turned partly sunny in late afternoon, along with a robust breeze, Mr. Mitchell and I traveled the Blue Ridge Parkway on our way to visit friends.

The overcast skies made for some muted photos but there was a little fall color along the Parkway. Last year color was late because it had been so dry so, because we had so much rain this year, we all thought the fall colors would be spectacular and possibly early. Nope. It’s been an odd autumn.

Warm temps continued until a few days ago when we had our first frost and overnight temps in the 20s. Views of House Mountain west of Lexington were clear from the Parkway. The crisp air of the past few days made the mountains sharp against the sky.

We were curious to see what the fall color was doing at higher elevations but, whatever time of year, the backroads of Virginia are always beautiful.

Americana on rural roads.

Colors are muted and many leaves have turned brown and fallen.

The clouds….

Sharp Top Mountain at Peaks of Otter.

The “Golf Ball” high atop Apple Orchard Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway. For six decades it has been a landmark for folks on both sides of the mountain.

The James River, looking west from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The James River looking east from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the lowest elevation of the scenic drive. On the north bank is the James River Visitor Center with interactive walking trail along the locks once used in river navigation. On the south bank Route 501 will take you to Lynchburg or Buena Vista.

Dusk was falling as we returned home at the end of another glorious day. It’s autumn in Virginia….

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at

31 Days of October, Day 19

We had the first fire of the season in the woodstove yesterday even as Mr. Mitchell continued to split firewood. Today he finished the entire two cords of seasoned hardwood, split and stacked and ready for winter. Once a large dump of wood (above) …

… by today the pile was finished.

With temps in the mid-60s (after an overnight low of 33 degrees) and a blustery wind, it was comfortable working in the yard this afternoon as we dug and separated plants to share with a friend. Tonight will be mild, tomorrow will be low 60s over 30s, and Sunday will be the coldest day with daytime highs in the 40s and overnight lows possibly in the upper 20s.

It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley….

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at

31 Days of October, Day 18

Brrr. We woke this morning to a brisk 38 degrees in the Shenandoah Valley, the coldest morning so far which led to the first fire of the season in the woodstove. What a cheerful sight! What is it about woodstoves that makes the house extra cozy?

As of today, the leaves around Staunton are still pretty green. There are a few splashes of color here and there, and the dogwoods have a burgundy blush.

There are cold overnight temps coming up during the next week so perhaps another week will get the full autumn show going for those of us who live here, and for the many tourists who come to the mountains looking for the leaf show.

It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley….

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at

SBC Voices

Southern Baptist News & Opinion

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

Virginia politics and more