Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Just a quickie


The most impressive picture above shows the one and only tomato I managed to grow to maturity this year from the 8 plants that I put in various pots, suspended planters, and the ground.  I invested a total of $100 in this adventure so I am thinking this tomato has possibly broken a record for the most expensive one in history.  It rained so much here from late June until now that virtually every plant in Asheville got tomato blight and all the fruit turned black and rotted on the pathetic looking vines.  This is most demoralizing.  I haven't eaten this Van Cleef and Arpels of tomatoes to see if it even tastes like anything decent but I am confident it won't taste like it is worth $100.

Below is a quick shot I took of the walled garden at Biltmore the other day.  Unlike my tomatoes, it is thriving and looks fantastic.  Anyone who has a chance to go see this soon should.  Some of the azaleas that bloom twice per season are also in bloom and looking quite beautiful.  I guess at Biltmore they have planted things that can tolerate monsoon weather.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

And this one is for Carolyn because I think she will like it.  In fairness, Rob hates photos like this that are posed and where he is looking into the camera. . . Sorry Rob.
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I actually forgot to post this picture which I think is very cool.  This is an Indian's Pipe.  I have forgotten what this type of plan is called technically but it will only grow above a very specific type of root that produces the nutrients it needs. . . similar to the way a Lady's Slipper orchid must be above oak roots.
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Friday, August 16, 2013

The time has come for me to consider getting another dog.  I don't think I will ever really get over losing Abner but it has been almost 11 months and I am beginning to think waiting for something that might never happen isn't the best idea.  After much soul searching and a few phone calls and emails with Pyrenees breeders I decided to schedule a trip to go meet a couple of breeders who live a little more than three hours away in Radford Virginia.

Since this is almost exactly the halfway point between Asheville and Seneca Rocks, WV where my friend Rob Rives is working for the season, I decided to combine a trip to see Rob with the excitement of going to visit a bunch of Great Pyrenees, a couple of whom may someday produce a puppy I will adopt.

So I drove up to Seneca Rocks for the second summer in a row.  This time I followed the directions from both Google Maps and my GPS and not only had a much easier and more beautiful drive, but I got there in about 2-1/2 hours less time than last year.  I also didn't have a dog with me who was getting used to getting around on three legs so I didn't have the need to stop as often but all in all this was a much easier and more pleasant drive.

I had good weather on the way up and arrive at around 3:30 which was considerably earlier than planned so the people from whom I was renting a cabin weren't there to let me in.  I drove to Rob's apartment in nearby Riverton and encountered a very quiet place.  Rob had gotten back from a training run and was sleeping deeply.  Not for long though.  He got up, greeted me and tried to wake up enough for us to figure out what we would do next.

I headed to the cabin and met the owners and about a half hour later after I was partially settled in Rob arrived showered and in clean clothes, and ready to play host for a couple days.

That night we ate at a local spot since I had been driving all day and was not in the mood to cook.  The cabin was really quite comfortable and in a beautiful and convenient spot on the road to Spruce Knob, which we would be hiking on the following day.

We sat around and talked on the balcony for awhile after dinner but Rob had to head back to his place for a planned call from Carolyn Loeb and I really was ready for a comparatively early night.

Tuesday we started with coffee at the cabin and then headed up to Spruce Knob to take a small hike to the summit and take in the view.  We did a little bouldering (Rob did more than I but I did end up with a few nice abrasions on my arm to show that I had been on the rock), headed to the summit, and then hiked back to the car.

After a short drive into a valley to the west of the Knob, we stopped at a pullout where there was a trailhead we planned to use for our main hike of the day.  We gobbled a couple sandwiches and headed up through the blindingly green forest. The trails were quite beautiful and just enough of a workout that I felt good but not beaten up.  Rob has gotten quite good at gauging what other people can handle.  The whole loop was somewhere in the 7 to 7-1/2 mile range and appeared to climb and drop around 1,400 feet or so.  For anyone who has been there or is planning to go, the route we took up was on the Spring Ridge trail which is alleged to be 3.3 miles long.  At the top you go a short distance on the ridge, which is a section of the Allegheny Mountain Trail, and then you cut off to the left and descend along the Horton Trail.    When you get to the bottom of the Horton Trail there is a short section. . .less than a mile I think, along route 29 to get back to the Spring Ridge Trailhead where we had parked and started.

The only real problem was that in the last 1/4 or so of the Horton trail there were so many stinging nettles overhanging the very narrow trail that there was really no way to avoid them.  Unlike the experiences I had had here though, the irritation went away rather rapidly so it was all good.

When we finished we drove into Elkins to have an early dinner before heading back to Riverton.  Rob had a party to attend that night so at about 9:00 he dropped me back at my cabin and headed off for a night of potential drunken partying. . .turned out not to be but the possibility was there.

In the morning we had coffee together again and planned the day's activities including a tour of Seneca Caverns which was only a few miles away.  It turned out to be a pretty kitschy experience so even though parts of the cave system were fairly beautiful, it is not something I would be in a hurry to repeat.

A quick lunch followed and then we headed off to the very attractive little town of Davis, WV to get a jolt from some excellent coffee and then do some hiking at Blackwater Falls State Park.

The hiking was pretty much bushwhacking but really wasn't that bad and the rewards at the bottom of the canyon of the Blackwater River can be seen in the accompanying photos.  It is really beautiful and it all would have been perfect were it not for the thunderstorm that blew in as we were walking back to where we had left the car.  Drenched but content, we made it back and drove to the cabin for a home cooked (albeit quite simple) dinner and what ended up being something of a Darren Aronofsky film festival.  After two somewhat strange films and the much needed discussion that followed, we both crashed at the cabin.

A big restaurant breakfast is not something I normally do but since I was facing a 3+ hour drive to Radford and then another to get home after visiting dogs and breeders, I decided to eat well.  After that I said goodbye to Rob, who as it turned out, had to drive to Asheville that morning.  I closed up the cabin and jumped in the car for the very pretty drive to Radford.

Janet and Joan, the two women whose dogs I was going to meet, live on acreage quite close to Interstate 81 in Radford VA, which as it turns out, is very convenient.  I found there place with no problem and was almost immediately buried under hundreds of pounds of gregarious white dogs.  I have been without Abner's company for almost 11 months but have been around Pyrs since 1993 so this was almost like a homecoming.  Janet and Joan have 14 Pyrs at their place and it is clearly set up for the dogs.  Many of them were in the house when I was there and I had lots of heads in my lap, paws on my shoulders and my face got licked a lot.  I was in heaven.

These two women have been very active in Pyrenees circles for 20-some years and make frequent trips to France from which they have gotten a lot of their dogs.  They don't breed on a regular basis but are planning a breeding of two of their dogs relatively soon so I particularly wanted to meet the two who might end up being parents to a puppy for me.  The experience with the dogs was really gratifying and was a reminder of how much I like this breed.  We talked about my feelings of loss that persist and Janet told me about a Pyr she lost in the late 90s whom she still misses. The conversation made me realize that it is probably a good idea to get another dog even if I can't recreate the magic I had with Abner.  It is better than doing without.

I had planned to post photos of the potential parents but that will have to wait until Janet can send me some recent shots.  I was having too much fun to take pictures myself.

Anyway, I got home a week ago, got to visit with Rob a couple times before he headed back up to West Virginia and am not on the three week run leading up to my next trip. . .this time to California and Colorado.

If I get dog pix I will post them but otherwise I should have new tales to tell when I get back from the West.

Early August trip

This shot is actually out of sequence but was in Asheville.  Rob coincidentally had a guiding job for a couple of days near Brevard so he came to town the day I left WV to go see the dogs in Virginia.  We got together for coffee and a goodbye chat late in the afternoon the day before his departure.  It was really nice getting to spend a few days with him.

While I was in West Virginia visiting Rob, the first hike we did was to the Shoulder and then the Summit of Spruce Knob, the highest point it West Virginia.  It was a mild beautiful day and the scenery was well worth the easy walk to the top.


At a certain point in the hike Rob felt the need to do a little bouldering.  I managed a bit myself although hiking boots are not, in fact, ideal footwear for this activity.

On day two we made a questionable decision to go on a cavern tour at Seneca Caverns.  While the cave itself would be pretty interesting to see, the tour was a bit much.

After surviving the cavern tour we stopped for a quick lunch and then headed to Davis, WV and Blackwater Falls State Park.

The setup here is normally for people to walk along easy paths to boardwalk overlooks but Rob is not one for this kind of experience and I was perfectly willing to go along.  So we climbed down through the woods that line the canyon walls down to the river.  After a brief stay at the bottom to get some good pictures (way better than what you could see from the overlooks) We headed up the other side.  You could mostly cross the river on boulders although there was a little bit of "boots in the water".

In the thicket we had to scramble through to get up the far side of the river we came across these beautiful brilliant flowers that looked a bit like snapdragons.

Near the end of the hike down to Blackwater Falls, across the river, and up the other side, we ended up back on one of the viewing platforms with this wonderful sign telling us not to do what we had just done.