Saturday, October 14, 2017

Far Above the Clouds

The view from Lover's Leap on the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 7:00 AM
Almost exactly five years ago, Ms. B. and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Blue Ridge Parkway, for breakfast at Mabry Mill, wine at Villa Appalaccia, and hiking/geocaching — at nearby Buffalo Mountain, to be precise ("Pilgrimage," October 27, 2012). This morning, we roused our asses well before the crack of dawn to do basically the same thing, for such good things awaited us there. On the way — even before I'd had any coffee — we stopped in Stuart, VA, that I might pick up a relatively new geocache at the library there (BRRL: Hilltop Hub, GC777D2), which was a damned happy thing for me because I've had a bloody long dry spell in the caching department (I seem to have found way too many, according to Kimberly).

On the way up into the mountains, we passed through some very dense fog, and when we reached the top, we made a stop at Lover's Leap, from which we could see the valley below smothered by a massive cloud layer (see photo above). Spectacular indeed, and from the number of photos posted on Facebook showing the same view this morning, we weren't the only ones stopping to take photos.

You never know what kind of crowd you're going to encounter at the restaurant at Mabry Mill, which is fairly small, so we like to arrive early to ensure we get in around their 8:00 AM opening time. This morning, we pulled in just before 7:30 and found a relatively small crowd, much to our relief. Best of all, the restaurant staff was kind enough to let us in almost immediately. COFFEE AT LAST! I drank lots. (I had to pee lots, too.) For Ms. B., scrambled eggs, sausage, and biscuits; for me, three pancakes — buckwheat, sweet potato, and traditional — and sausage. All so good I about couldn't stand it, but I tell you, when we got to hiking up Buffalo Mountain shortly after breakfast, between the backpack and the pancakes, it felt like I was hauling an extra 20 pounds or so.
Ms. B. on the rocks

And that hike. What a beauty! Last time we were there, the mountain was fogbound, the temperature chilly, and we were the only living souls in evidence during our entire time there. Agreeably eerie, that was. Today was somewhat different. At the trailhead, we were once again alone, though the sun was coming out, and by the time we hiked a few hundred yards we were sweating profusely. As the crow flies, it's less than a mile to the summit, but the snaking turns and switchbacks make it over a three-mile round trip, with several hundred feet of elevation change. A good workout, it is.

What really turned out to be a workout was going for the cache up there. Now, this was a somewhat odd situation: the cache had been recently archived because the Virginia Department Parks & Recreation indicated they had removed a cache from the summit, for whatever reason they felt compelled to do so. However, I was almost certain the one they had removed was the older cache at the summit, the one I found there five years ago (Buffalo Mountain Preserve Cache, GCNNZP), and that the newer one (Buffalo Mountain Cache, GC73HPY) would still be there. And happily, as it turns out, it was. Now, getting to this little fellow proved physically challenging, as one must traverse a steep, treacherous wall of rock from which a bad step will send one plunging many hundreds of feet into the valley below, and this morning, the rocks were extra slippery from the recent rains. I'm quite glad Kimberly stayed behind to doodle in her sketch pad because 1) I would have been paralyzed with worry about her, and 2) had I suffered a fatal mishap, she would have never spoken to me again. Of course, all turned out well, and above and beyond claiming that cache, I found the much-needed physical challenge altogether invigorating.
Tired, wind-blown hikers
About the time we started back down the mountain, most of the world, it would appear, was coming up the mountain. Holy cow, it was an endless stream of people ascending the trail — young, old, and all ages between. I suppose it's good to see so many people getting out and hiking, but it's also irritating to run into veritable traffic jams of humanity on a trail through such serene and lovely forestland. The parking area was now full to overflowing, and I'll tell you, that little access road from the trailhead to the main road is windy, steep, and too narrow at most places for two cars to pass. Fortunately, we made it down without meeting very many, and where we did, we had just enough room to pull off to the side.
I feel that someone is watching me.

Our next stop was Villa Appalaccia, which is easily our favorite winery. We enjoyed the obligatory wine tasting in the wine tasting room and then shared a bottle of Toscanella in the terrace area, some distance down from the main building, which we've always been fortunate enough to have to ourselves, as we did today. We had brought picnic goodies with us, but after such a huge breakfast, even after that hike, neither of us were hungry. So what we did was eventually hie ourselves over to Chateau Morrisette, just a couple of miles down the road, have another nice tasting, and set up our picnic over there. Oh yeah, good.

The day turned out to be a true stress-reliever for the both of us, and the timing couldn't have been better, as we've both been dealing with our share of stressors lately — each very different, but equally... stressful. And I've got to say, having done so little geocaching these past few weeks hasn't helped. Somebody needs to get out there and take care of some of that local open space. I kid you not.

And that was this year's Pilgrimage, and our return to Buffalo Mountain. I sleep now.

LOVE in the dark—"BRRL: Hilltop Hub" in Stuart, VA
Going up the trail at Buffalo Mountain
View near the summit
The signed logsheet at Buffalo Mountain Cache
Looking into the valley from GZ
The wine makes the shine

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