musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the category “photography”

pardon me

……while I realign, please.

Thank you. 


Hurricane Irene came and went, and left a lot of damage in her wake. My family hunkered down, battened down the hatches, took naps, did puzzles, read by candlelight for just a little while. Overall, though the house sounded threateningly battered and buffeted, in the end we really had no damage. Just had to clean up a lot of little branches in the yard. some not so little, but still we could carry them.

I wish I could say the same for everyone. A mother lost her child in Newport News, near us. Old college friends’ family in upstate New York had to evacuate their house by rescue boat. Within twenty-four hours prior, they had an epic battle to remove a squirrel from their house. It has not been a good weekend for them. They are okay, but their driveway and basement are awash.

Many others had it much worse. A fabric artist’s studio in Shelburne Falls, MA, picked up from its foundation and took a ride down a raging river that had formerly been the street. There is impressive video of that pink brick building before and after its journey floating around the internet. My apologies for the wordplay.

Back in our vicinity, Southside, at Sandbridge Beach area of Virginia Beach, again, there is impressive video and photography of houses ripped apart there around the internet.. It’s my family’s favorite beach to day trip to. The little low lying town next to me was under mandatory evacuation, but a friends of mine stayed while the husband volunteered for Community Emergency Services.

In the meantime, here, I am amazed that Mother Nature can go from this:

The night before Hurricane Irene

To this on the day of:

Taken early on. Later those birches were bending in half like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat. I did not want to be that close to the windows when she was at full strength.
To this the following day:
Solid blue, grace of an egret.
My hopes and wishes are that you and yours are all well, and survived to pick up the pieces as we did. 

safari morning

I am trying to cull from the many things we did on our first true family vacation all together, all others involved shooting all over to visit people. I have made a few posts about this one already.

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.

Eland, from China

Zebras were on the no feed list, but this guy bullied away a fallow deer and stuck his head into the vehicle, past my lap and stole the bucket of feed from between my feet! Later, a guide chuckled when I told her, and said the only reason zebras are on the list is because they’ll bite, not because they are grass fed only like the Bison and Watusi. Well, I’m happy I didn’t feed him something bad. *slight eyeroll*

Rules forbid people from more than opening windows to feed. This was very clearly stated when we entered, and in the packet they gave us. These dummies had kids hanging out of the open doors. They were the same loud mouthed gaggle of tourists that made the Luray Caverns less pleasurable for the rest of us when we were there a couple of days earlier. They were a bit zealous and I will give them linguistically challenged, maybe they couldn’t read or hear the rules in English.

Rocky Mountain Elk really bonded with Honey and me. Or our feed buckets.
Honey quit shaving before we left for our camping adventure. When we got home, he swore off shaving until his coworkers and boss asked if he was going for the homeless look. Then his mother and I threw our two cents worth in and he even shaved off his precious goatee.
Hello Emu. 
I admit I was a bit creeped out when the Ostriches, Rheas and these guys pecked in the bucket in my hands. Later when Captain Comic sat in front in the afternoon…well, I’ll tell you in a later post.
Stunning. Impressive. Getaloada those antlers!

And then I fed him.

I will love him and feed him and call him George!
(please tell me you remember Warner Bros cartoons)

Bactrian Camel, not from the Middle East, like Dromedary (one hump) cousin, 
from Mongolia and China.

Bison roaming free! (inside a really big park)

Actually, this was taken just prior to his ripping the feed bucket from my hands.
Later the guide said, “Nobody wins again Omar!” 
Really big bird. Ostrich. 

Scimitar Horned Oryx, North Africa (closer shot next post)
Correction: these are Arabian Oryx! or Oryxes, both are plural forms are correct
Oh wait, third try: Some of both – the whiter ones with straight horns are the Arabian kind

Do the Watusi! (I had to, okay?!) Those are some mighty big horns. 

Near the exit and (entrance) were Vietnamese potbellied pig mama and her babies, and a wholotta Llamas.
I found the Llamas particularly pushy and opportunistic, positioning themselves at the gates, and crowding every vehicle as they entered.

By the exit, they stuck to the shade, my guess is after stuffing their faces.


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.

panther falls

Poor Big Bertha barely made it down the winding switchback steep downgrade dirt road to the falls, but she did. Her brakes got rather worn out, and I clung mightily to the passenger door, staring down into beautifully wooded pits of death for my entire family. Apparently, the concept of guardrails has not reached the lesser roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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.

Just pretty country on a beautiful day.
 The path to the falls was as treacherous as the road.
This part was about as wide as Toots’s tootsies and very slippery dirt.
 Beware of hazards and falling trees.
 Then we reached the top of the falls.
 Captain Comic was in his element. I can’t keep Godzilla boy from water.

Jumpers, though they are forbidden. See my Captain below?
 Below these falls, what looks like two tidal pools is connected, a water-bored tunnel below the surface. Some kids were all over it, Captain Comic said , “No way! I’m not taking any chances!” The rope is a guide line to swim through the tunnel.

Meanwhile…Mr. Cynic just wanted to go home that day. We had swimsuits back up the mountain in Bertha, and he did not want to change. Thankfully this one has mastered suffering in silence.
 Slippery when wet
Oh no, he’s not taking any chances…Even if he was all over these rocks and water far from his parents.
Treacherous but beautiful. I admitted defeat.
I’m just too unstable on my bad ankle for any sudden slippery corrections.

But Captain Comic was all over the glacial anomalies.

I was happy to stick my toes in, and watch fishies swim between them.
Honey and Toots also did not have their suits, but they went in, too. 
Toots hung onto her daddy for dear life, and went in in her undies.
She loved it. I loved these legs and shadows.

Captain Comic may not have gone through the tunnel, but he assisted others with the rope lead.

Meanwhile….Nope, still not going in. 
 Bathing Beauty after her swim.
 Another jumper. 

This young man talking my Honey’s ear off has been coming to the falls since his daddy threw him in when he was two! He helped guide other jumpers to the deepest parts, where they wouldn’t slam into rocks and die. “The sign up at the road is false advertising, saying last death was in 1998. Four people died here last year. But don’t worry, it mostly happens when the water is higher and has a stronger undertow than it does today.” I was grateful for the info, but I was scared for his life as he did back flips from high up.

We stopped here to get some drinks and the people were very helpful,
even if they do make “HOMEMAOE BBQ EVERYOAY”

natural bridge, va

Sorry for delays. I am pooped and I have been having a busy week since our return, blogging fell down the priority list. 
Fun things to do at the modest KOA:
Pool, always a favorite for Captain Comic

 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.

Meanwhile, back at camp, Mr. Cynic being so very very Mr. Cynic, plugged in and all. That’s my old van, Big Bertha behind him.

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.

I love him even if Mr. Cynic does not want his picture taken.

 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.

Finally, the Natural Bridge on the way back…

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.

feeding beasties

Our Grand Family Adventure started with picking up the boys at the halfway point between their father’s home in Rhode Island and ours in Virginia  – Wilmington, Delaware. Hugs were given, things were stuffed in the already packed to the gills van. Then we made a last minute decision to side trip to the DC area to visit Honey’s cousin who just moved back into the house he grew up in after living on the west coast and other parts of our country for most of his life. He bought the house from his mother and plans to tear it down and rebuild a new one. He told some stories of he and his brother growing up there, and I think Honey had fun visiting where he used to visit as a kid. It was nice to have one more night in a bed before my family slept in tents on the ground for the rest of last week. He and his long time girl friend were lovely hosts and it was good to see them.

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.

This is Abigail. She is a five week old dromedary camel. She loved us. 
Toots later got to hold her baby bottle for her to feed. 
She loved when I scratched her neck and behind her ears, like a cat.
Mr. Cynic feeding pygmy goats.

This little guy was pushy.

Captain Comic and Mr. Cynic feeding fallow deer, they are indigenous to Eurasia. 
A lot have been introduced to Texas for hunting, apparently. Sad.

Feeding giraffes is fun. Their tongues are very long and… adept.

Mr. Cynic took this one of a giraffe and me.

We rode an elephant! Her name was Beautiful, and she was. 
Honey opted to take pictures of the rest of us riding.

I think Toots wanted to ride the fallow deer after her ride on Beautiful.
This was probably the hottest day of the trip, and we largely spent it walking around in the sun and looking at a lot of different monkeys. I’ll spare you more the pics, but for the baby tigers.
And this guy – we think this cage was full of a type of black spider monkeys. 
They were fun, like a greeting committee.

Okay, one more of a DeBrazza monkey. These guys seemed very forlorn.

But that’s it, today, I swear.

time out

I have a lot to do.

I have a lot on my mind.

So this morning, Toots and I took a breather, and just played in the sunshine. I think it helped me to not obsess quite so much, sort things out a bit.

It’s also our last day of Toots only. Tomorrow, we retrieve Mr. Cynic and Captain Comic. Mayhem will return to its usual full capacity.

“Don’t take my picture, Mommy!”

“I said, stop taking my picture.”

So for now, some quiet girl time.

walkin the dog

It’s hot.
I walked the dog.

What’s that?

Get in for a closer look, but not too close. Sorry, only had the cell phone, again.


Yesterday, on my fence, a lizard skittered. By the time I got the yes, cell phone, out of my pocket, he was replaced by this dragonfly.
And then I found these Kentucky Wonder Beans under the tangle of vines covering my posts. I found quite a bit more than those. I think I’ll cook them tonight. If Toots hasn’t eaten them all in refrigerator drive-by snacking.
Today, I spent a few hours at the library, editing another chapter and a half. I hope to make more good headway tomorrow. I am making good, if slow, progress. 
Kinda like walking the dog in muggy Virginia mid-July.

harpers ferry wv, final round

Friday night’s excitement was mostly roasting marshmallows. 

Toots was very sticky.
We had more showers overnight then I took Lucy for a dawn walk to the dog park at the KOA. I wish these pictures showed the misty gold dawn better than they do.
Sunlit mist over a golden meadow, Civil War battlefield, through the trees that bordered the dog park.
 A couple of hours later, after KOA’s free pancake breakfast, we embarked on the day’s adventures, mostly in an attempt to find Thomas Jefferson Rock, an Appalachian Trail site I’ve been curious about seeing since I was a kid. 
But first we found Bolivar battlefield, Robert E. Lee’s first battle foray into Northern territory. It was the first of a many of the bloodiest battles of the whole Civil War. Antietam is in the vicinity, but our focus this trip was more on the natural beauty of the area than the Civil War. As terrible a history as this rolling hill has, it is beautiful. 
At Bolivar, we finally got a good set of directions to Jefferson Rock from a bus tour guide.
Remember the stone stair case in my prior post? This is a pretty accurate example of what all of the stairs look like. I swear I felt I was stepping in thousands of people’s footsteps over centuries. 

We were hot and feeling that stair case when we reached the church. And then we discovered that was only about a quarter or less of the trip up to Jefferson Rock.

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.

Another third or so the way up we caught sight of the famous rock. This smidge of the trail was paved rather than the old stone stairs.
We made it.

“This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic” – Thomas Jefferson
And you know what? Thomas Jefferson was right. The vistas were stunning, even if the rock itself looked like a toy version of what I had imagined from pictures I’d seen of it since I was a kid. It was definitely worth the hour plus climb up a winding steep stone staircase worn down from a couple of centuries’ worth of visitors.
Down was harder on my ankle, especially while holding the leash of a little dog who wanted to go with the momentum gravity tried to give her.
Episcopal Ruins

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.

People live among the historical tourist places from the Civil War Museum to the Black History Museum, Lewis & Clark Museum, John Brown, etc, etc. Historical figures from George Washington to W.E.B. Dubois have set foot and established major US historical events here. 

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.

Toot and this kid giggled and giggled when Honey bounced them. 

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.

harpers ferry wv

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.

“We’re camping!!!” 
The potty seat was only used once. 
She got the hang of a big toilet in the KOA restrooms.

Honey being a man, sparking the grill. Lucy wonders what is going on.

 Friday morning:

Appalachian Trail, Virginius Island, Lower Town, Ice Cream, Train & Rivers 

Virginius Island Ruins, The old Pulp Factory.

Before Toots decided she didn’t want to walk anymore.

She got tired, then scared Honey would drop her into the canal which was quite a drop behind that rock. 

And then everyone just wanted Mommy. It made me happy, then my hips got mad.

Tired Toots.

Loads of amazing old stone work

Then we stopped and picnicked on the little Island that had an old habit of being flooded really badly. Last flood resulted in complete ruins and permanent evacuation of residence and business in 1936. 

The gnats were quite fond of Honey everywhere we went.
More incredible stonework.
Then we ‘hiked’ back to the van and drove into Lower Town. Just prior to the shot below, we met a young man covered in sweat and tattoos. He had footed the Appalachian Trail to where we crossed back over the bridge above. He had been alone on foot since Georgia. He was doing the whole trail. When I was younger, it was among my ambitions, so I let him know what an incredible thing he was doing. 
In Lower Town we found the most delicious (and bluest) ice cream I have had in over a decade. I love Mom & Pop places. They take great pride in their product. This is at Scoops, if you are ever in Lower Town, Harpers Ferry National Park. 

Thank goodness that blue matched Toots’s blue flowers on that white shirt. 
It didn’t look as messy as it was.
Honey got the orange sherbet.
I rhapsodized about this black raspberry. The last time I had black raspberry so full and rich in berry creamy goodness was in Maine, in the mid-90s. The boys’ father’s family had a cottage on Lake Pemaquid, and there was an ice cream place on the way into Damariscotta with black raspberry of the gods.

 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.

 A nice family offered to take our picture all together after I took the one above. 
I took theirs in exchange. 
Row row row your boat.
More stone work.
An ancient sign carved into the side of the mountain where the rivers came together
 I need new glasses, couldn’t make it out except ‘powder’ at the bottom.

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.

 Click to zoom and read about this little fort moving all over the place over a century.
Toots rang the bell inside.

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)

Sorry it’s blurry, I ran to snap the train coming out of the tunnel.

Beyond that brick building is a stone staircase that goes up to the Catholic church on the mountainside. Little did we know how far past that church it continued up the mountain or how prominently it would figure in our lives the next day.

Toots sitting on stonework. This whole town is hewn from and built up the mountain. 

There are houses built up above that train car restaurant.

Looking down the other direction into the main part of town.

 Zoom in for a good look at the stonework. This is the next street up the hill from the main one. 
I was enamored with the little town in a mountain in the middle of a national park, and the fact that people lived there! There was a funky little town quality to it that reminded me of Provincetown, MA. An interesting mix of Civil War buff tourists, hippie Appalachian hikers, and locals populated the streets.
Don’t mind my lucky three legged frog. He keeps Big Bertha on the road. 
She had a rough time of it getting up this incline.

Just trying to show the house on the approach in the prior shot is sitting on top of the ravine, likely above that red train car restaurant.

Lower Town’s Old Town district. Poor folks working as costumed characters have to walk around in civil war attire and antebellum gowns made from wool. It was a very hot couple of days between the downpours.

Lucky snap of more stone work as we drove away.

Some of the mountainside that had been cut to build the town.
After our morning hike and trotting around town, Toots was pooped. 
As soon as we buckled her in, she was out.

What’s this?
 Oh, it’s our campground! 

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.

Toots awoke to lightning and thunder very surprised.

 We sat there for quite some time while our tent got drenched after making through the night before’s storm pretty well.

Honey stayed at camp, cleaning up and getting dinner together while Toots and I took the sleeping bags and pillows to the laundromat. I watched a unicorn wrestle with sleeping bags in the big dryers.
Another post to come soon, in which I conquer a mountain with a bad ankle, a hot and tired three year old, little determined dog and an even hotter man. and some other adventures and beautiful vistas and one famous rock.

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