Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Ruby’s New Lenses and Mother’s Day

Sunday May 10, 2015
Charlottesville, Virginia, Greenfield Mountain Farm and the Blue Ridge Parkway



During the week after Carrie’s shower we both get some well deserved rest.  Not that we do nothing of course but not much.   One thing we accomplish during the week is to install Ruby’s new lenses.  Poor Ruby has had serious cataracts for a long time.  She’s had the clean up surgery several times and it just never lasts.  So it is time for lens transplants.

I order her new lenses from Amazon and of course they come during the shower clean up week.  So this Wednesday the installation begins. 

Stupid us, we do not bother to watch a youtube video on it.  How hard can it be right?  Unscrew one and pop in the other.  I’d read someone’s blog sometime during the past couple of years and they said it was a snap but I couldn’t remember who said it or what model car they were doing it on. 




Getting the hidden screws out proved to be an exercise in frustration for David.  Finally I go inside and watch a video.  Duh – for this year Honda Accord you have to take the bumper off.  Once we figure that out, it is much easier to do but it still takes at least twice as long as it should have because of the initial difficulty. 

Learn as you go.  Now we know everything about doing it but it may well be another 10 years before she needs surgery again and of course by then we will have forgotten everything we now know. But we’ll still own her since we don’t believe in buying new cars or RVs for that matter or in putting them out to pasture before they can’t take another breath.


I don’t have any pictures of the original frustrating hour or so trying to get the passenger’s light out.  But once things are going better, I do think to get the camera so you can see some of it after the bumper is off and especially the difference between the fogged lenses and the new lenses. 

Our advice is, forget trying to clean them with any of those “sure to work” products.  They do work and they last a few months and you are right back where you started.  Just suck it up and replace the lights.  I think the two of them were less than $125.  After today,we can  say it’s not that hard to do.

Now if we could just give her a bath and get all the mud off and not get anymore on, she could bat her pretty eyes.



Sunday, the week after the shower, is Mother’s Day.  Carrie isn’t here of course.  She has just driven down last week-end and we’ll be driving up in two more for the wedding in just under 2 weeks.  But David and I go out for the afternoon and drive up to Otter Creek on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We want to check out the camping relatively near the farm where Winnona has actually never been.  We’re not sure yet whether we will be able to leave Virginia this summer but there is a lot we haven’t seen here even if we can’t.  And many places we’ve not been in a long time and where Winnona has never been.


The drive up is through Nelson County which is the area we have lived in for over 30 years.  It’s absolutely beautiful and today is no exception.  We leave the farm, go two miles and take US 151 to County Road 778 and then to US 60 to the Parkway.  Those in the know, realize that you don’t have to get on and off the Parkway only at the beginning and the end.  But you do have to be able to go up on some pretty small and pretty steep roads. 

Definitely not for Winnona or probably for any RV or trailer.   But fun for us.   Winnona will have to start at mile zero at the Rockfish gap, also fairly close to the farm, if she wants to go down the Parkway.   Today we came in at mile 45. 

Along the way through the valley, it looks like it might rain but by the time we get to the top, the skies have cleared.

We visit the campground where we find at least two spots right on Otter Creek that would suit Winnona.  Fairly level but totally shaded which would mean we would have minimal solar in this no hook up campground.  Most National Parks have no hook ups and we don’t mind that at all as long as there is enough light for the solar panels.  The other problem with Otter Creek this time of year is that its elevation is only 694 feet.   When it’s 86 degrees in the foothills like it is today, it isn’t much better up here although that’s where the shade from the trees does help.  What to do……what to do.



There is a 3.5 mile trail one way from the campground to the visitor’s center but at our hiking pace, we don't think we have enough time to do 7 miles round trip and spend some time doing the short trails at the VC as well.   Wish we’d started out sooner but we just were playing everything by ear and that didn’t happen.

So instead of the hike (darn), we drive to the VC and enjoy our lunch on a picnic table overlooking the mighty James River which cut a gap through the mountains in this “low spot”.  This River Gap was used by Native Americans, buffalo (yes buffalo in Virginia), settlers moving west over the Blue Ridge, and the rail road. 

The James River is the largest river in Virginia and flows across the entire state from its beginnings at the headwaters of the Cowpasture and and Jackson Rivers in Bath and Highland Counties in the western part of the state.  It flows through its gap and from here to Lynchburg,  Richmond and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay.  It is the largest tributary to the Chesapeake Bay and at 340 miles is one of the longest rivers in America that begins and ends in the same state.   We love our James and before buying the farm looked very hard for property along its banks.  Sadly, not in our budget at the time. 






The visitor center and the picnic area are located where Otter Creek flows into the James.  So after lunch, we take a short stroll along the creek.  We could have walked along the creek up to Otter Lake.  I meant to ask the ranger in the VC if it is a man made lake which is what I’m suspecting but I forgot to ask.

It is wonderful to be in the cool shade of the trees next to the water and out of the hot summer like sun.   The early ephemerals are all past but we do see some Solomon’s Seal with its cute little bells hiding underneath.  




Large rock formations on the other side of creek reflect in the water.  The beauty is hard for the camera to capture.



Although I could have walked on and on along this path, we want to be sure to see the other two attractions here so we reluctantly turn back.   The Blue Ridge Parkway bridge over the James is quite a structure.  The upper level is for the cars and the lower for pedestrians walking over to the historic James River/Kanawha Canal.



We head over there but take the Trail of Trees path before crossing the bridge.  You know we’re big tree people so first things first.  History will have to wait.  Natural history first.




The amazing thing about the Blue Ridge is its seemingly never ending diversity.  On this half mile walk there are over 2 dozen trees identified.  It’s impossible to know them all. 

But today the big stars are the giant chestnut oaks which seem to be everywhere and the smaller understory Fringe tree which perfumes the air all around us.  The size of the chestnut oak leaves is amazing.  They dwarf my hand.




Each tree has a plaque, like this one about the fringe tree, so you can easily identify them if you don’t recognize them yourself.  Fringe is a great name for this tree which we see everywhere around us in glorious bloom in the understory.






Also in bloom is the fire pink.







Along the way we enjoy great views of the beautiful James and the mountains it cuts through along its way.




Looking upstream.  What a glorious day it has turned into.



Looking downstream toward the bridge.



A smaller flowering tree is the Deerberry with its little white bells which in July will turn into purple berries too sour for us but enjoyed by grouse, fox and turkey although interestingly enough not so much by deer we are told on the plaque.





I love these little flowers of one of many variety of viburnum.  Too many varieties for me to identify this one and no sign but I really like it.




We have to be careful not to pay all our attention to the trees, flowers and plants right at the edge of the path.  Back a bit further the rhododendron and mountain laurel are just beginning to flower.  In my mind, they are the spring crown jewels of the Blue Ridge.  The Parkway is a great place to follow their blooming for weeks.  Some Rhododendron are bright purple.  This one is more pale and subtle.





The path crosses an unnamed stream before we head up and away from the river to circle back on this loop trail.


Our last river views from here.






Looks like Solomon’s Seal but it’s not. This is the False Solomon’s Seal. Rather than bells underneath, it has a plume at the tip of its leaves which look the same as the real Solomon’s Seal. I love that we see them both today.





Again back off the trail is the quiet and beautiful Mountain Laurel.  It’s just beginning its bloom.  These woods will be alive with it and the Rhododendron in a week or two.





As we switch back up the hill we cross the little creek again higher up and continue our tree identification hike.




Here’s my personal favorite of all my home state trees – the majestic white oak.  If Oaks are the king of trees here then the White Oak is the king of kings.  Most of the antique furniture in our farmhouse, tables, rockers, hoosiers, cupboards, chairs, are made of white oak.  Early settlers learned it was the all purpose tree, great for building homes, fences, furniture, baskets, weapons, shingles or shakes, tool handles and of course great for SHADE.  I’ve made several white oak egg baskets myself.  Love this tree!!






At the “top” of our hike we see a fenced off area with headstones.  It is the Putt’s Cemetery.  Apparently they were the settlers on this land before the parkway.  There are 3 graves here.  Two Putts from the 19th century and one Peters from the early 20th century.  The stones were actually easier to read in the pictures I took with my camera than they were in real life.  I wonder what their life was like here on this land beside the James.










We come to the end of the trail and head across the nicest pedestrian bridge we’ve ever been on.  David laughs at the size of the hand rails which dwarf his hands.  The James is pretty famous around here for spectacular flooding as towns down stream can attest, particularly those devastated by the 1969 Hurricane Camille some of whose worst damage occurred around 10 miles from the farm.  It is clear the engineers were taking no chances with the height and size of this bridge.







I can’t get enough of the views – up the river.


Down the river.



Across the bridge to the other side we find the canal.




I catch a glimpse of the VC from this other side of the river.  It looks cute tucked away on the hillside.





An easy path along the river leads to the Battery Creek Lock of the James River/Kanawha Canal.




The lock was built in 1848.  It is 15 feet wide, 21 feet deep top to bottom and 100 feet between the gates.  It lowered or lifted boats 13 feet allowing them passage to and from the river.  The bottom is covered with original pine planking and the walls are of local stone.   This becomes pretty amazing when you see them up close.




In these pictures you can see, at a distance and then more closely, the original pine planking atop the spillway.




The size of the stones and the curving design of the lock amaze us. 














The train which put the canal out of business by 1880 runs by as we watch.  You can see how close it is to the canal path there through the trees in the middle of the picture.  The trains have been replaced by trucks and cars now but I admit to wishing we would go back to this mode of transporting our goods.  Trains, not the canal.






Originally the gates would have been opened and closed by large beams which are missing from this exhibit.  We did see them and a demonstration of their opening and closing of a lock at Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio last spring.   You can see the metal parts where they would go in the picture below along with an even better view of the curved design of the lock stones.







The lock water flows back into the James.



Time for us to head back to the bridge and Ruby.









Along the way we notice a huge red maple which, in our focus on seeing the lock, we missed as we walked by.  What a great spot along the river he has.  Today the current is calm enough that you just might be able to get in the river here and float down to the end of the lock and get out.  It’s hot enough that I might have tried it had I seen this earlier.  I always have a swim suit in the car just in case there is swimmable or floatable water..  But we have more than an hour drive back and it’s less than that until dark.   Next time!





One last look at the Blue Ridge over the fields of wildflowers next to the James River.





Last looks at the James and the beautiful skies reflected in its waters.






Before we leave I take some pictures of the information on the kiosks at the Visitor Center to give a sense of where we are.   This is a map of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.  About 215 miles of the total 469 miles of the parkway are in Virginia.

Our farm is just east of Humpback Rocks which we can see to the west from our back yard.  We often watch the sun set over those rocks.

If Winnona were to come here, she’d have to start there at the top of the map at Afton Mountain and drive down the parkway 60 miles.   Afton Mountain is the South end of the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park and the Northern beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway.



Here is a closer look at the elevation in Virginia.  You can see that the river has truly worn a gap in our mountains.  They may not be as tall and rugged as the Rockies but their age and diversity can’t be topped.  Many scientists believe they are the oldest mountains on Earth. 



It’s another beautiful drive home through a parkway tunnel and down down off the mountains.



We stop to get this shot of the sun being squeezed between the returning rainclouds and the mountains.





It has been a lovely Mother’s Day and my favorite way to spend it, out in the natural world.
I only wish Carrie and Matthew had been here to enjoy it with us.


  1. What beautiful country. A few years ago, we became lost there in the mountains. Oh those narrow, winding roads! Then suddenly, we found the Parkway! It was such fun for me, a white knuckle drive for John.

  2. Beautiful hike- anywhere near water is always wonderful! We had a great time tubing on the James last summer.

  3. love those mountains... will probably spend some time in them this summer...

  4. I don't think Virginia can be beat for serene beauty. Love the picture of rocks reflected in the water. The last time I drove through Virginia I came down Skyline Drive and continued on to the B.R. Parkway to drive it to the southern terminus. Unfortunately I had heavy fog the entire stretch of the Pkwy!

  5. Thanks for the tips on replacing headlights. Ours are still okay, but when the time comes, we will just replace them. Remember the good old days when headlight lens were made of glass and didn't get cloudy?

    I hope you will be able to travel this summer, but if not you certainly have a beautiful place to explore. We have explored the other end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but not up that far. It looks about the same.

    Thanks for all the pictures. We are preparing to leave the Keys and are kind of sad to have to go, but your pictures remind me so much of Georgia and we'll be up there before too much longer. I do love those mountains! Glad you had a nice Mothers Day even if Carrie couldn't be with you.

  6. Told our dentist that if Bill needed stitches after his oral surgery our last week here, I'd just watch a YouTube on how to remove them two weeks later. I swear there's nothing you can't learn on there :-) I'm sure Ruby appreciated the better sight on your Sunday drive. That area is so beautiful with the water and the trees and especially the delicate flowers. I love the Mountain Laurel. Aren't those locks amazing? Thanks for all the great pics! I'm sure Carrie would have loved sharing the day with you as well, but you chose a pretty perfect place to spend it -))))))

  7. So much beauty in your own back yard, which is often what we visit last and instead travel far. Hope you get to do more exploring in the area if you can't go too far away. Love all the flowering things. Used to have wild Rhodies in OR. Canal looks like possibilities for kayaking.

  8. Well, it sure is good to hear from you two. Ruby looks beautiful:o))

    We loved the tour of The BRP and James River. I felt like we were on the hike with you and you were teaching more about the flowers and trees!!! It really is lovely and right in your backyard!! We are now so excited to do some BRP hiking at the Reunion Rally!!! Hope we still have some wildflowers blooming;o)

    What a wonderful way to spend your Mother's Day:o))

  9. Such a lovely area. Here, in Colorado, we are a bit early for very many flowers. I'm enjoying your flowers...especially since they are quite different than what I'd find here!

  10. Well, you've given me a new hike. I'm definitely going to give it a go. I love the river!

  11. Nice job on Ruby's eyes! I bet you'll be amazed at all the things you'll now see at night... :cD

    Beautiful Mother's Day excursion, the Blue Ridge Parkway is another wonderful treasure!

  12. A beautiful area for hiking. The canal's style reminds me of our Rideau Canal, from a few years earlier, but also that general era. There are similarities in the locks.

  13. Somehow I have been missing your blog...so I searched and caught up. I'M glad you are getting out a bit for some back yard viewing. Isn't it amazing what we drive by and leave for someday? We will be in Virginia this summer so We'll have to track you down for a visit. Loved seeing the pics of the wedding shower. It looked like a beautiful day.

  14. Always good when the car can see where it is going:) Nice countryside.

  15. What beautiful eyes you have, Ruby! Beautiful hike - so green along the James. Beautiful flowers, leaves and water!! There really is so much to see close to home - I am sorry I missed out on that mother's day fun. xoxo

  16. I'm sure Ruby is happy to be able to see better :) Lovely hike in a lovely place, thanks for sharing!

  17. What a gorgeous park! I love the serene river and all of the wildflowers. Temps of 86 degrees sound mighty hot for this early in the year. I'm assuming that's not typical, but apparently there is no typical anymore. I'm glad that you're finding such beautiful places to explore in your own backyard. It looks like a place we would enjoy.

  18. A great find for the day!! Thank you Sherry - I loved it and needed to get out again into the woods, Particularly loved the Trail of Trees with their Fringe trees, Rhododendron & Mountain Laurel Still in search of the flame azalea- I like them too!. All reminded me of our first trip to the BRP and the Fabulous time we had a Craggy Gardens if full bloom in NC. ;)

  19. Starry false Solomon 's seal here today.

  20. 40+ years in Charlottesville and we never did this route. Great descriptions, beautiful pictures; thanks for sharing. Best wishes for the wedding and for your summer - wherever it may be.

  21. So beautiful!! I love that fringe tree! Hoping you can go on farther adventures but seeing more of VA might be a fun summer too!! Happy belated Mother's Day!

  22. Nice that David was able to smile after the head lamp change. I made a post about changing mine last Winter. It sure beats trying to polish the old ones. My swap was easy on the Sebring.
    Beautiful warm day you had there, thanks for the pics & story.

  23. what a beautiful venue for a wedding. . .you all look stunning and radiant. . .best wishes to all. . .


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