Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Amy must have been a little jealous of my camping weekend with the guys (more on that later), so she requested a fire for Halloween.  So I lit a fire in the driveway and we spent a few hours hanging out together around the fire, cooking hot dogs, and handing out Halloween Candy to the Trick-or-Treaters!

Amy by our Halloween driveway campfire

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


It is getting to that time of year when I don't have time to update my blog on a regular basis.  However, I did pull out the camera this past weekend to photograph one of the last Bees of the season!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Back Country Ranch Alpaca Farm
Pearisburg, VA
Saturday, October 1st, 2011

After my hike to Cascade Falls, Amy and I still had a few hours before heading to Blacksburg for the 6:00pm kick-off Virginia Tech Football game.

Carol at the Huffman House Bed and Breakfast suggested a visit to the Back Country Ranch Alpaca Farm.  Up until then, I had no idea what an Alpaca was, but since I love animals it sounded like something worth checking out.

It was good fortune that this just happened to be one of the few days of the year when they have an open house at the farm and allow the general public to "Get up close and personal with the Alpacas".  You can check the calendar on their website to see what days they are open to the public and find directions.

The farm has a Pearisburg, VA address, but it is really a good bit outside of Pearisburg in "Middle of Nowhere, VA".  We took the back roads which took us even further out into the middle of nowhere on a very scenic drive.

What is an Alpaca?  They are members of the Camilid (Camel) family and indigenous to South America.  The Back Country Ranch is one of the few places in the United States where these lovable animals are raised mostly for their soft fleece.

Amy mentioned that they look like something that Jim Henson could have created for the Muppets and I think her description hit the nail on the head!

Amy feeding an Alpaca

We had a great time, feeding, petting, and spending some time with these adorable creatures.  They currently have about (40) Alpacas on the farm.  In addition to the Alpacas they also have a few Llamas which are in the same Camilid Family, but a bit larger (and not quite as cute) as the Alpaca.

One of the Llamas

It was a very enjoyable visit and one of the highlights of our weekend.  Here are a few more photos:

Yours Truly feeding the Alpacas.
This was right before that black one behind me tried to mount me!

An Alpaca peeking through the window!

Baby Alpacas

The complete set of photos from our visit to the Back Country Alpaca Farm is posted here:

The Virginia Tech Football game that followed certainly was not a highlight!

This was the most difficult time I ever had finding tickets to a Virginia Tech Football Game.  Sure there were plenty available on eBay and Stub Hub if you are willing to pay $150 a piece for lousy seat or $300-$500 a piece for good seats.  After several weeks of trying to find tickets somewhere closer to the $48 face value I eventually gave up and decided to just try out luck finding tickets on gameday outside the stadium.

On the drive to Blacksburg, the light rain that was falling on and off throughout the day had turned into a steady shower and the outside temperature was reading 38-degrees.  I knew Amy would be absolutely miserable spending three and a half house sitting in this kind of weather, so we went with Plan B!

We scrapped the idea of finding parking and tickets and instead went to a restaurant called Bull and Bones.  Half of the restaurant is set up as a sports bar with two huge television screens and about 20 smaller (but still plenty large) TVs.  They also brew their own beer on site.

Freezing our butts off in a cold rain, or drinking excellent beer, eating good food, and watching the game in High Definition of the big screen?  I think we made the right choice!  And I can drink a lot of beer with the money we saved on game tickets!

The nice thing about Blacksburg is you know the Virginia Tech game will be the featured game at any Sports bar and the first half was quite enjoyable.  Unfortunately the Hokie offense never showed up and by the middle of the second half things seemed hopeless for the Hokies. 

Virginia Tech ended up losing to Clemson by a score of 23-3.  I don't like seeing my Hokies lose to any team, but living in South Carolina, losing to Clemson is even harder to take.  Fortunately that was the only downside to an otherwise wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cascade Falls
Cascades Recreation Area
Jefferson National Forest
Giles County, VA
Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Cascade Falls

After a great breakfast at the Huffman House Bed and Breakfast, I knew I wanted to go hiking.  There are several excellent hiking options available nearby.  I decided to revisit one of my favorite waterfalls.

Since it was cold, cloudy, and rainy Amy decided to hang back at the Bed and Breakfast.  But for me, these are perfect conditions for waterfall photography!

Its about a 2-mile hike to Cascade Falls making for 4-mile round trip hike.  You can do it as an out and back along the more scenic creekside trail, or use the easier but less scenic "Upper Trail" to make a loop.  I decided to head up the creekside trail which follows Stony Creek all the way, crossing it twice on a couple of well constructed bridges.

The Cascades Creekside Trail

There are many spots along the creek to stop and take in the beautiful scenery and photograph a virtually endless series of cascades.

Cascades along Stony Creek

The trail gains about 800-feet of elevation making for a good little workout, but it is a gradual gain making it not overly difficult.  The reward at the end is what I consider to be the nicest waterfall in Virginia, the 70-foot high Cascade Falls.

Cascade Falls

There is an awesome swimming hole at the base of the falls which during nice summer days fills up with beautiful Virginia Tech Bikini Babes.  However with the rain and the cold, there were no babes in Bikinis out today.  However, photo conditions were just about perfect.  The rain had mostly stopped, but the cloudy skys still offered that perfect diffused light.

Cascade Falls

The water flow was lower than I have ever seen it, but that did not effect the beauty of this waterfall.  And it enabled me to position myself in places which would be much more difficult to get to during high flow!

Cascade Falls from Downstream

It was a bit early for peak fall color, but there were still plenty of colorful leaves to add a bit of character to the photos.

Fall Leaves at Cascade Falls

After my hike, I still had a little bit of time before I told Amy I would be back, so I stopped to check out a couple of nearby Covered Bridges.

This first one is on private property and since there were some locals out and about I didn't want to press my luck and spend too much time.  So I just snapped off a couple of hand held shots and headed on my way to the next one.
1st Covered Bridge - Mountain Lake Road / Covered Bridge Lane

This next Covered Bridge is located in a little park which I assume is open to the public, so I spent a little more time photographing this one utilizing some nearby flowers to make a nice foreground.

2nd Covered Bridge - Clover Hollow Road

The complete set of photos is posted here:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Huffman House at Creekside Farm
Bed and Breakfast
Newport, VA  (near Blacksburg)
Friday, September 30th  through  Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

The Huffman House Bed and Breakfast

For the third year in a row, Amy and I booked a room at the Huffman House Bed and Breakfast for our annual Virginia Tech Football weekend.  Located only about 15 minutes from Blacksburg and in the opposite direction of the majority of the game day traffic, it makes for a convenient location during Virginia Tech Football Weekends.  It also offers a unique charm that you just don't get at the Holiday Inn!

Amy and I really enjoy staying at Bed and Breakfast's and the Huffman House is one of our favorites! 

Owners Carol and Ron Baker are excellent hosts, make you feel at home, and serve an excellent breakfast each morning (included in the room rate).  The rates are a little higher than your typical hotel room, but like I said before, you don't get this type of lodging experience at the Holiday Inn!

One of my favorite things about the Huffman House is that it is also a working farm.  I just love roaming around the property photographing the farm animals.

There are at least two cats that roam around the property:

Three Dogs

Amy with one of the Dogs

About a dozen beautiful horses.

A pair of pigs

And a heard of Cattle!  This year my favorite farm animal was Lily, a three month old calf. 

Jack and Lily

On rare occasions, Mommy Cows sometimes reject their young calves.  If left on their own these baby calves will die of starvation.  Lily was one of these calves.  As a result, Lily gets bottle fed twice a day and stays close to the house. 

Ron feeding Lily

Lily with Milk Mouth

Lily is very friendly and acts more like a pet dog, than a cow!

Lily in front of the Huffman House

Here are a few more photos from around the farm:


The backyard of the Huffman House about an hour after sunset

A flock of Ducks and Geese hangs out in the creek that runs alongside the property

Red Barn and Horses at the Huffman House

The Old Huffman Store that sits at the front of the property

I didn't even realize when I snapped this shot that the black cat is hopping across the yard

It was a wonderful stay as always and we will be back next year!

The complete set of Huffman House Photos is posted here:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stone Mountain State Park
Wilkes / Alleghany County, NC
Friday, September 30th, 2011

Amy and I both took Friday off from work for a little weekend getaway to Virginia this past weekend.  On the way, we stopped off at Stone Mountain State park.

First up was the short stroll to Widow's Creek Falls.  This one is short enough that you can't even call it a hike.  It is a nice little waterfall, but it is probably one that is much more impressive after a good bit of rain.

Jack and Amy at Widow's Creek Falls

Widow's Creek Falls

After that, we hiked over to the Hutchinson Homestead. 

The Hutchinson Homestead at the base of Stone Mountain

Tractor at the Hutchinson Homestead

I decided to continue on and do the entire 4.5 mile Stone Mountain Loop Trail.  Amy elected to sit back and relax with her book.

The trail takes you right past Stone Mountain Falls, which again is one that would be more impressive after a good rain.

Stone Mountain Falls

The trail climbs steeply alongside the waterfall before leveling out a bit past the brink of the falls.  It then starts to climb again to the summit of Stone Mountain. 

The Stone Mountain Summit

Several nice viewpoints along the way make for good stopping points, and a series of switchbacks make the climb fairly easy.
View from Stone Mountain

View from Stone Mountain

Past the summit the trail descends very steeply back down to the parking area.

There are several other trails inside the park which I will save for another time!

From there we took a short stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping at a couple of overlooks back to I-77 into Virginia.
Amy at one of the Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks

The complete set of photos from Stone Mountain State Park is posted here:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Back from Virginia

Amy and I just got back from wonderful weekend getaway to Blacksburg, VA.  The only thing that would have made it any better would have been if my Virginia Tech Hokies would have played better.

As usual, I took lots of photos.  Here is a sample.

Out of all the B and Bs Amy and I have stayed at over the years,
this one is our favorite!

Amy makes a new friend
Does anyone know what type of animal this is?

The Cascades
One of my all time favorite waterfalls

Jack and Lily

Covered Bridge

Many more photos to come!