Friday, July 15, 2016
Another day, another dead animal in the backyard, another haiku (or six). What luck that decapitation has five syllables!
More backyard drama:
Banjo has a bloody beard.
A headless squirrel.
Just another day
in the Smoellke backyard. The
body count is high.
Two dogs, one body.
At least it wasn't a fox.
Stop killing things, jerks!
And what happened to its head?
"The head is torn off!"
"Want to see a pic?"
Yummy squirrel brains.
A backyard delicacy.
Banjo licks his chops.
Friday, July 8, 2016
Larry and I have been trying to hike as much as possible in 2016. We've always been good about hitting the trail whenever we have a nice weekend, and we hike a lot when we travel, but this year I've been trying to plan out some hikes ahead of time and be a little more intentional about it.
After our short walk on the A.T. in February, and reading about the National Park Service's A.T. Hike 100 Challenge, I set a goal of hiking 100 miles in 2016. I realize this isn't very far, and that a seasoned thru-hiker can complete 100 miles in three or four days. But I am not a thru-hiker - I am a weekend hiker who is just trying to get outside and get some exercise whenever I can. Our typical weekend hikes are about 5-6 miles, which means we'll need to hike 15-20 times this year to hit our goal. Considering that the only months that generally have acceptable hiking weather in Virginia are March through June and September through November, that means we need to hike 2-3 times per month. And since we work during the day and live in the suburbs, we only have a few weekend days per month available for hiking, and that all depends on weather, and if we don't have house projects to do on the weekends. Anyway, that's the long-winded backstory to our little goal for the year.
With spring approaching, I created a trail log and started researching hikes in VA/WV/MD, to avoid the dreaded Saturday morning "Where should we hike?" discussion. I think Larry and I had both been getting a little bored with local hiking because we felt like we'd done every trail in the area. Obviously, this is not true, but we were definitely stuck in a rut and needed to discover some new trails, branch out a bit, and challenge ourselves. We've mostly hiked in Northern Virginia and the northern part of Shenandoah National Park. Virginia is a big state and there are many other regions that we need to explore. It would just take a bit of planning ahead. I found Virginia Trail Guide to be a great resource, and came up with a long list of potential hikes, which I taped to the wall in my office. They ranged from easy local trails for when we only have a few hours or want to bring the dogs, to trails in Shenandoah that we've missed (we still haven't hiked Old Rag, but it's on the list for this year!), to hikes in the southwestern part of the sate that will require a road trip and weekend cabin accommodations, to more ambitious hikes with steep climbs that I feel like we need to train a bit for first. I was pretty amazed at some of the incredible hikes that Virginia has to offer - Devil's Marbleyard, Mount Rogers, Brumley Mountain Trail in Great Channels, Cascade Falls, Devil's Bathtub, McAfee Knob, to name a few - and it got me excited about exploring our state again. Who knew there were boulder fields, slot canyons, and wild ponies on the trails in Virginia?
This post is going to be a bit of a let-down after that introduction, as we didn't try any of the ambitious hikes on my list, and instead opted for a 4-mile loop in good ol' Shenandoah. I'd actually been wanting to hike Rose River Loop for years since I'd seen it described as one of Shenandoah's best trails for streams and waterfalls. We headed out to Shenandoah the day after we visited Hillwood Gardens. It's always surprising how far behind the seasons are in the mountains. With spring in full bloom in DC, it was a bit disappointing to get out to Shenandoah and see that everything was still brown. I lugged my camera up and down the trail (which seemed to go on forever, and felt like much longer than 4 miles!) and took very few photos, because brown-on-brown just isn't that photogenic. It was still a pretty trail along a stream with lots of waterfalls, but I imagine it being a lot prettier in late spring/early summer.
Anyway, here are a few photos of Larry's back hiking through the brown:
Spotted in the wild: Two dorks, inadvertently matching
I'd love to go back to Rose River Loop when there are leaves on the trees and we could take a dip in the pools, but that probably won't happen any time soon, because there are lots more trails on my list and lots more mountains to climb...
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Spring is always such a beautiful, yet fleeting, season in DC. It seemed to disappear even more quickly than usual this year, I think because we were traveling and because horrible weather (a month of rain) kept us from enjoying our usual outdoorsy activities. But in the middle of April, we had a weekend of perfect weather, so we took my mother to explore Hillwood Gardens for her birthday. The gardens were in full bloom, the sun was shining, and the sky was vivid blue.
Hillwood Gardens is an estate purchased by Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1955. Marjorie was the owner of Post Cereal, the founder of General Foods, and the richest woman in America. We toured the mansion, and it was ridiculous what money could buy - she collected Fabergé eggs, French and Russian art, and jewelry, had multiple estates, and a huge staff that kept everything running smoothly. I much preferred the gardens to the interior of the house (which was filled to the brim with all the expensive useless things that money could buy). But despite her tastes in decorating (so many portraits of herself!), Marjorie was a philanthropist, an excellent employer, a skilled businesswoman, and an animal lover.
But back to the gardens! I think of DC as such an urban space, and always find it surprising to stumble on gardens and wooded areas within the city. From the mansion's portico, there was actually a view across the lawn to the Washington Monument in the distance. Just imagine the garden parties you could have here. Someone get me a cocktail!
Most of my photos were taken in the Japanese garden because that was my favorite. But there was also a pet cemetery, a cutting garden, a French parterre, a putting green, a rose garden where Marjorie's ashes are located, and the lunar lawn which is watched over by Leo the stone lion and which offers that billion dollar view towards the Washington Monument. While I enjoy the gardens at the National Arboretum more, what's remarkable to me about Hillwood is that it was a privately owned residence. It's a lifestyle I just can't imagine living, though it was fun to pretend for a day.