The warmth of family, and the hot Virginia summer

The days when we did everything together don’t seem that long ago. And yet, they are, and somehow it has been six months since I’ve seen my children. They’ve nested and started careers and then they haven’t changed at all. It’s been so good to be here, staying in Megan and Jacob’s log cabin, sampling a bit of their everyday lives.

On Belle Isle, in the James River, at the site of a factory that recycled scrap iron into nails, wire, and horseshoes in the 1800’s

Megan and I visited Belle Isle, site of a former Civil War POW camp, where she told me the story of “Crazy Bet,” the Union spy who hid beneath the cloak of mental illness to pass along crucial information. After freeing her family’s own slaves, she used her inheritance to buy and free their relatives.
  

The falls on the James River that now draw swimmers and rafters, once attracted native tribes, who agreed to short-term peace when the fish were running in the spring. A sign on Belle Isle described the bravado of the teenage boys, who rode the backs of pregnant 8-foot sturgeon here, to impress the girls.

Mom wanted all the details of Taylor’s firefighter’s life at his new station in Goochland County.

   
 

Taylor treated me to an hour-long walk at Charlottesville’s Riverview Park along the Rivanna River. Another day, we all went swimmimg and had a picnic along the same river.
    

  
Jacob’s family included me in their July 4th celebrations, including plenty of great southern home cooking and lots of little girls and bubbles. We also went with Jacob’s mom, Janet, to see fireflies with an entomologist in one of Richmond’s wetland parks. Who knew there were many species, each with its distinctive color, flight, and blinking pattern? Seeing the pitch-black meadow alight with a myriad of twinkling insects was well worth staying up late.  And saying farewell was not too hard, as Megan, Jacob, and Taylor will all be coming to Maine in August.

  

Through it all, her way

Without a doubt, there is a mystique about the Appalachian Trail, a romance that calls disciples from all walks of life. It whispers a song of misty valleys, delicate wildflowers, rushing streams, and coal-black bear – and a narrow, winding footpath across 14 states.

Taylor on Bethel hike 2012
My son, Taylor, on a short AT hike near Bethel, Maine years ago

 

About the thru-hiker, too, there is a mystique. Why would a person pare life down to the essentials of bare bed, utilitarian calories, unchanging garments, and set out to walk-like-a-job for many months? Thru-journeys, be they on land or water, thrill the soul – during the planning months. Later, they test the depths of commitment, tenacity, self-content, and resourcefulness. Not everyone is cut out to finish.

McAfee Knob, the most photographed spot on the AT, is still special when your friend stands there, so close to the finish

Most of you know Katina Daanen well from the integral role that she played in my Northern Forest Canoe Trail thru-paddle. Caring friend, author of The Northern Forest Canoe Trail Through-Paddler’s Companion, and insightful reader of Upwards from the start, Katina has always been there for me.

Last summer, Katina gave me a taste of thru-hiker life for a few days near the Vermont-New Hanpshire border.

 

Today my good friend will become one of a handful of people who have completed both the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and the Appalachian Trail. Hers has been a flip-flop hike, completed over two years. Avoiding the crowds, tempering the weather extremes, more and more thru-hikers are choosing to start in the middle of the trail, as she did in Shenandoah National Park.

Very special to me is the fact that I happened to be visiting Virginia when “Arachne” (her trail name) started in April 2016 and I’m here now, too! Tomorrow, Megan and I will breakfast with Katina and her husband Sam at their inn, and celebrate her accomplishment. We’ll also get to talk book details, as Katina is designing the book’s trail map. Tomorrow is sure to be a highlight of my week here in Virginia!

interlude

031615 capitol in Richmond 031615 megan 031615 tiffany lamps              Found my green grass on Richmond’s capitol lawn, found Megan in her new cubicle, found beauty at the VMFA

Loving RVA (Richmond, Virginia) more with each visit.  Megan was tickled with my excitement over the public buses, particularly the app on my phone that would send me walking two blocks ahead, then 500 feet left until I met the proper bus at exactly 2:14 p.m.  Thanks to Jacob for treating us to an IMAX film on prehistoric monsters of the sea and to Megan for some awesome Thai food.  Also enjoyed the First Freedom Center, a tribute to our nation’s history of religious freedom, a historical treasure right across from the Randall Branding office.  I promise more news later when the box arrives from our shopping excursion at REI!