Headed back to the ranch-Part 1
We didn’t want to leave quite yet, had planned to stay for the Fall colours and maybe even Thanksgiving but it was not to be. The problem with owning a ranch, things change and our house sitters suddenly had to leave a month early for reasons unexplained..c’est la vie my old French friend Michel would say, or usually la vie est dur, but I can’t complain as we’d had the best summer possible.
We crossed South into the US at Ogdensburg, NY, a lovely small border with a curious but friendly Customs agent, they ask the oddest questions at times but one must smile, answer and hopefully move on without much commotion which we did. No papers asked for for either cat so at least we have them for the future, NY state parks were such sticklers for rabies certificates we wanted to make sure we had them, official or not;)
We were headed SE on a winding set of back roads past lakes and the mighty Hudson to visit a family friend from my childhood days of sailing around the world. Jim was like a big brother to my younger brother and me and I really wanted to touch base with this wonderful past we had shared. He lived on Lake George and it looked like a beautiful spot, room in his driveway with power and water as well, could not refuse!
…and a boat to sail on!:) Jim treated us like royalty and it was a wonderful few days of reminiscing of the past, meeting his lovely wife and their cat, Charlotte and of course sailing on Lake George in this beautiful area. I don’t get the chance often to run into friends from my youth as it was scattered around the globe and I have to say I truly enjoyed this! We’ll be back Jim, and thank you Laverne for putting up with all our tales of old:) the food and company was amazing as well as the views!
We left South down US 87 and then made a turn Westward on the 84 to the 80 ending up in the boonies of PA, beside a nuclear power plant, wasn’t my objective but we wanted a quiet place off of the main highway, hate that noise, didn’t realize what those stacks were as we took a wrong back road in, single lane twisty turny drive but arrived in one piece at a rather old RV park. The reviews were mixed but it was quiet, I’m calling it the Jurassic trailer park, very old with an air of decay to it. Perhaps busy in summer it was now very still. It had a couple of lovely lakes and a stream as well as many gnomes to sit and talk to and a herd of geese.
It was beautiful farm country, with apple orchards and hay fields dotting the countryside. As we headed South on the 81 we left Pennsylvania behind as well as Maryland. We ended up at a nice KOA just far enough off the 81 nestled between huge pine trees. Here in the heart of the Shenandoah valley I’d read about Natural Bridge and the Caverns and it sounded intriguing enough for a two night stay in Virginia. KOA’s we usually avoid as they seem overpriced one night stopovers but there was not a whole lot to choose from in the area.
We did a shopping trip up to Lexington for fresh food as farm country in PA left us little choice other than a feed store. Beautiful old architecture and expansive horse farms. Can’t say I am a fan of the Colonial style but I did like those fences:)
We made a day of the Caverns and Natural Bridge. It was a stinking 98° and the idea of a cool cavern was quite inviting. Our walk up the Natural Bridge took longer than we thought and we missed our tour but sat in the AC of the truck and waited for the last one. I did not realize these were private caverns, the park we were informed was about to become a National Monument. Skip the historic Rockbridge visitor center and the gruesome cafe, I won’t go into details but the smell of mold was so overwhelming that trying to eat what passed for a salad, after I returned it twice was horrific, fresh did not come into mind.
Note to self..pack lunch more often:) but the walk, was delightful. A paved path leads under the arch, or bridge, the remnants of a collapsed cave. Staying to hear the Story of creation…0_0…at sunset was right out of the question, you know you are in the Bible belt when…yup..it even had a light show to go with it’s tale of 6 day creation.
You walk along the Cedar River after the arch and following the path you come to a mock Native Monacan Village, complete with actors going about the daily chores they would have done many many decades ago, quite interesting . At the end of the path Lace Falls cascades over the rocks. It is an interesting limestone structure, with the rocks forming small damns the stream has worn down over time. Side rivers flow in from unknown sources and history has many tales to tell of the area, once owned by Thomas Jefferson who purchased it from King George the III of England for 20 shillings in 1774 it is said. I can see why he did, a truly beautiful geological formation.
The caverns were interesting, not to go back to but glad we saw them. The Tour guide didn’t seem to know much about them but we had a geologist on our tour, the last of the day and he was a wealth of information. They are quite deep, going down 34 stories, it was a wonderful change from the heat above ground. I was surprised to find they actually flood each spring and water could be seen trickling in from many different sources, really quite beautiful, and quite a clean-up each spring it seems before the caverns re-open.
The heat was getting to us as well as the humidity, we didn’t think it would be this warm in September or we may have taken the Northern route. Even in the shade the small AC on the trailer has a difficult time keeping it under 90° at times so we decided to head West quickly, in hopes of finding some cooler temperatures.
Our next stop was to be Sieverville, TN. Had I known this was the Las Vegas of Tennessee I may have looked for something else but the RV park there had excellent reviews and it was on a river so maybe cooler I thought perhaps, and the weekend was coming up when sometimes it is hard to get a spot so we booked two nights before hand. Trying to go prepared instead of off the cuff:)
Leaving Virginia and heading into Tennessee we started to notice the billboards, guns, moonshine and God..it seemed a rather appropriate mix if you got them in the right order;) Tennessee is a long long state and it took us several days to come out the other side, but we found good BBQ walking distance from the river, Thank you Buddy’s (and yes, there is some good food in America Diane;) and some amazing sunsets to thoroughly enjoy in Sieverville as well as the signs for “Dollywood” and “Hillbilly Theater”…maybe next time, I think a trip into the Smoky Mountains might be more our style;)
Our 2nd stop in Tennessee was Natchez Trace State Park, running low on diesel was fraying some nerves so we had to drive by to refill and then back to this park which was a lot further off the US40 than we’d thought, or maybe, when you are getting tired sometimes it just seems so very very long, especially when the signage is poor and practically unreadable. We pulled into this small park, no one on duty and into our reserved spot, stinking hot and humid again without a breath of breeze. The lake was lovely and mostly suited to fishing, we couldn’t find any hiking paths and at the unmanned booth there was no information or maps, and no wifi, so….it was an overnighter and we left early in the fog. There seems to be these vines in this part of the South that simply cover everything, it makes you feels as if you soon will be assimilated by these plants, they cling and climb onto everything in both a beautiful and rather horrific way…creepy but cool;)
We said goodbye to Tennessee and onto Arkansas. I’d picked out a couple of one night stops as we tried to make up time to do a side trip down to Fort Davis that Mike had been pining for. Lake Catherine State Park was the next stop. We were keeping our jumps around 300 miles for the old kitty and ourselves as well. It gave us time to arrive, hook up, go for a walk at least before dark and dinner. Lake Catherine was beautiful, met some wonderful Canadians, Geese;) that is and enjoyed the view out onto the lake as our spot backed right up onto it.
I was thrilled to have wildlife at our doorstep again, it seemed forever since we’d left Otty Lake. Finally something for the cats, and me to marvel at outside the window and door. Heaven and even a short hike to a small waterfall with the most amazing Blue Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies I think. This was looking up, beautiful lake, birds, butterflies…all was wonderful until the wind died off completely and then you heard the noise, a dull roar of a hydro-electric plant across the lake…sigh, it was perfect. For people to pay to come to the wilderness and have this monstrosity of man churning away all night long…it was not a good nights sleep to say the least but once again, early we were on our way West.
There was a thick fog again in the morning leaving, Lake Catherine is quite far North of the US 30 so we made our way South out of Hot Springs County. We were headed out of the forests and onto the plains. The heavy rain fronts we’d experienced getting to Lake Catherine, and the day before to Natchez Trace State Park left us feeling a yearning for somewhere drier and hopefully better weather. We hadn’t counted on the severe rainstorms but Hagrid hauled Myrtle along with no incidents other than crawling through torrential thunderstorms at a snails pace with our 4 way flasher going as visibility was next to nothing. Mike was starting to feel frayed at the edges after days of travel and we were both weary of the heat and humidity. I was starting to miss those expansive horizons where you could see the sun go down and we were approaching them quickly, though not fast enough it seemed.
But that will be Part 2-Stay tuned amigos and saludos all around.