The day of our safari park adventures, we also visited the deepest caverns east of the Mississippi. As you can imagine, pictures were a bit tough, but I will post about both the Natural Bridge Caverns and Luray Caverns in another post. We had a very big day between the cool caves and more animals and ways to see them than you can imagine.
The Virginia Safari entrance was right with the KOA where we stayed and was only a couple of miles down the road from the zoo we visited the day before. I am a bit link happy today. Of course, for proximity alone, we had to go. We safaried in the morning, caved at midday then safaried in the afternoon.
This post is morning only. I really did choose judiciously from the over 500 photos I took that day. Promise. It was HAARD! Okay?
I am not overwhelming you with these like the llamas overwhelmed our vehicle when we tried to drive in….
There were many wondrous horned creatures from around the world.
I could have played around with the shots in the computer and enhanced color and contrast, but choosing was challenging enough…all of my vacation posts’ photos are straight out of the camera and cell camera.
Excerpts from our day at Panther Falls:
I know, I know, a lot of photos and I promised I wouldn’t, but Panther Falls was my favorite adventure of the trip.
And Honey and Toots.
An old school playground
This was a giant slide with the old metal steps made of the letters: AMERICAN, like the slide in my old neighborhood as a little kid. It took her about the whole week for Toots to actually descend the giant slide without my climbing up the ladder and walk her back down in my arms.
Toots and Captain Comic playing together and having fun.
And the Natural Bridge itself, carved out of the mountains by glaciers.
That’s not dirt on the photo, it’s a hawk that swooped under the bridge.
Captain Comic takes a cue from Mr. Cynic.
At the end of the trail, we found a nice cascades area that was quite calm and relaxing. We actually didn’t make it to the end where The Lost Springs are. We decided our end was here.
We were surrounded by butterflies, lots of kinds, but mostly various Swallowtails. This was a Red-spotted Purple Admiral, even though it was black with blue like a Black Swallowtail. I looked it up at the gift shop in a book of butterflies after our hike.
Toots was so happy to have her big brothers back, and she wanted to keep up with them. But she fell on her way to this little cave tunnel in the mountain side that Mr. Cynic found.
More adventures next week, I’ll keep the shots to a minimum. Panther Falls and Crabtree Falls were big ones that almost did in poor Bertha.
We are rearranging the boys’ room again this weekend, taking the giant shelf beds out and moving in some bunks. A lot of furniture disassembly and assembly to ensue, right after I take a landscaping class at our local garden center.
The boys have grown. Captain Comic may have surpassed me or is about to, but we are not telling him. Please don’t tell him. I will ne’er hear the end of it.
We took a spontaneous approach to this vacation, and the following day as we head toward the Natural Bridge area of Virginia, our campsite destination, we made another detour to Luray Caverns. I’ll post about about those sites later.
After the caverns, we traveled the rest of the way and made it by evening to the campsite at the KOA. I have mentioned before that I like the KOAs. This one was more modest than the Super KOA where we stayed with just Toots and Lucy about six weeks ago, in Harper’s Ferry, WV. Anyway, we set up camp, and basically collapsed after campfire.
The first morning we decided to go to the Natural Bridge Zoo. They had a lot of exotics there: baby tigers, lemurs, DeBrazza monkeys, etc, but mostly we enjoyed feeding the animals we could feed. All the kids really got a kick out of it. So did Honey and I.
I have a lot of photos. A Lot.
I have a foggy head, an achy back and a lot of laundry to do. A Lot.
I have my boys back, and my memories of jampacked days of hiking, swimming holes, zoos, safaris, caves and old diners and a drive-in movie under a nearly full golden moon. I hear crickets, peepers and cicadas all the time. I see mountain vistas, stone stair cases and rocky trails up and down to waterfalls. I see a natural bridge carved by glaciers through a mountain, and lots of cascades.
I see Toots twirling ballet in the middle of camp, at the edge of a waterfall and wiggling her hips to oldies pumped from 61 year old speakers and finding perfect marshmallow sticks. I see Captain Comic building first fires, begging to just go home please, between swimming and hiking and caving that wasn’t quite spelunking. I see Mr. Cynic pretending to not be interested in anything, while secretly enjoying the facts of long ago Monacan people, weird geological things and bizarre animals. I see Honey setting up camp, grilling, breaking down camp loving the kids, laughing and finally saying, “I love an adventure!” in other words, relaxing.
I still smell of campfires.
I promise I will not inundate you with a family travel slide show over the course of the week, but I will share highlights of the past week over the coming week or so.
And somehow finish my book in a two day Writing Camp that my writing group is holding tomorrow and Thursday.
Across the street and up the bend of the mountain side a bit was the ruins of the old Episcopal Church. I guess the Catholics lasted a bit better in Lower Town.
Here’s what to see along that lower road way above. What angles up in front of the ruins along the wall is more of a little foot path that has been paved for tourists.
We had lunch and more ice cream then headed back to KOA for the afternoon. Toots wanted to bounce and a while later Honey took her to the pool while I stayed at camp with Lucy.
Close to dinner, Toots was tired, it was a big day.
Camping is serious business.
”Aah, I can’t do this.” She wanted to help me build the campfire.
I am amazed at what kids find to do when there is apparently nothing to occupy their minds. Toots made a game of holding a specific rock between the bottoms of her feet.
A college friend I had not seen in twenty odd years lives near Harpers Ferry in Maryland, and she stopped by camp bearing fresh grown veggies and loads of fun conversation about things long ago and what’s going on now. Great to see her.
Later in the evening, Toots was positively melting into her little blue seat by the campfire. She had asked me before what my favorite part of camping was, and I reminded her of it as I answered her again, that this, sitting by the campfire under the stars is my favorite part of camping. I asked her what her favorite part was. “Camping.” She said with finality. I eeked out of her that that meant sleeping in the tent in sleeping bags with Mommy and Daddy and Lucy.
Toots also had tons of fun with kids around the campground. These two were our neighbors in a popup trailer. Toots loved running around, especially with the girl who is not quite a year younger than her, and taller.
This rock was a major part of their play, situated between our camps. No, Toots is not dead below. She is “westing on da wock.”
We had many adventures and loads of fun. Some of it was ambitious, but mostly we relaxed and enjoyed being us together in nature and away from home and the TV and all other screens. Even though there was a promise of wifi access, it was spotty at best. We were better for the inconvenience regardless. It was the most refreshing thing to my spirit I have done in a long long time, though, three days later, I am still exhausted, but it’s the best kind of exhausted, similar to postpartum euphoria. I am elated, though I’ve been through a very hard physical task, in heat and storms, and little sleep on the ground. I loved it all.
We’re doing it again near the Natural Bridge area of Virginia next month with the boys. Life is good. Bring natural bug spray.
Adventures in family fun Thursday through Friday:
First we drove the boys to the parental switch drop off with their dad in Wilmington DE. It’s always mixed feelings, goodbyes to the boys for a solid month, a quiet month, a month without their squabbles or their laughs and hugs. Then we headed to Harpers Ferry, WV and so did a storm. Here’s its approach as well as ours.
We managed to set up camp, cook eat and clean up dinner before the rain came.
Appalachian Trail, Virginius Island, Lower Town, Ice Cream, Train & Rivers
Virginius Island Ruins, The old Pulp Factory.
Here we are at the confluence of the Shenandoah River into the Potomac. Lewis & Clark supplied themselves and headed west from here into a new world, as far as the European Americans were concerned. I found the historical note “They bought tomahawks and other supplies” amusing.
John Brown’s Slave Revolt didn’t work out so well in 1859. But I bet it served to plant the seeds of hope and fight into the slaves for what followed. This little building of his has a long and odd history because of its association with him. He was hanged nearby, too.
This place is so full of nineteenth century history I can’t even write about all of it here, even the railroad to west. They still run regular freight trains through the mountain of Maryland Heights. (look at the map above)
We pulled into camp. Thunder and rain was so heavy, there was zero visibility and Lucy shook on my lap til I thought she’d shake herself out of her skin.
We sat there for quite some time while our tent got drenched after making through the night before’s storm pretty well.
I arrived home with West Virginia mountain soil ground into my skin, everything smelling slightly musky and very smokey from rain and campfire and feeling more alive than I’ve felt in a long time. Hot, sore, soaked, dirty, smelly and utterly alive.
Honey and I have this little thing. When we’re in sync about something, any little thing, we have kind of a slide-five, confirmation of everything right between us. We did that a lot more this trip than we have for a long time.
I had dreams, amazing dreams of people far away but near to my heart, as I slept with my head in a Civil War trench on a hilltop, in a damp tent, surrounded by RV city. One friend currently working, far from his family and friends, in Argentina. Others in a far off land…I think it’s called Wisconsin.
This is who I am. I am of the land, mountains, rivers, sea and sky and night fires. This is where I am happiest, most content, completely myself.
And I haven’t been camping in over 20 years. Now, I know why I feel such discontent. It’s not the suburbs. It’s not my family circumstances, or other minute aggravations of the day in day out or the lack of writing time to myself.
It’s that I haven’t fed my soul the way it loves to be fed most in such a long long time. A lifetime. A roasted marshmallow soul under the moon and stars soul. A sun on my skin, rain on my hat, kid in a backpack on my back soul. A dog leash carabiner’ed to the backpack soul.
This is the seven year old Cathy, who when my family couldn’t call me in from dinner so easily, my mother sent my brothers out to look up the nearest tree for me.
But I seem to be starting at the end here, rather than the beginning. and this is probably going to be a very long blog with lots of pictures. So maybe I will leave the end here, at the beginning, and give you the beginning to the end tomorrow, and maybe the day after, and again, after that.
I am happy, my family is safe. I love my spouse, and my daughter camped for the first time. Her favorite part was ‘camping’. Parental translation: sleeping in the tent with Mommy and Daddy and Lucy.
Warning: not so mild language.
It’s that time – short family vacation, camping, after we drop the boys off to their father. See outside the walnut grained vinyl veneer station wagon? That’s our camping reservations forecast for the duration. Lucy is not a fan of thunderstorms when in the house. I wonder how she’ll fair in a tent?
We should be back in four days. Glub glub.
And then we’ll do it again with the boys when we get them back in August.