Revisiting my Happy Place

As many know, Hungry Mother State Park is my favorite place in Southwest Virginia.  I’m pretty sure I have been on every trail there, as well as kayaked across the entire lake, and on occasion have rented their cabins.  Not to mention the many times I’ve written about it and shared pictures.

When it is 75 degrees, sunny with a cool breeze and low humidity – it seems pretty natural that a hike is in order, especially since my body is in pretty good shape (at the moment).  And, since it is only an hour away. . .

 

We hiked about 8 miles – including going to Molly’s Knob which I have only done once before because it is kind of steep.

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But we made it. . .

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And there were some very nice people up there who offered to take our picture.

We ended up walking much further than we had planned, mostly because it was a beautiful day and we had nothing to do that couldn’t wait until tomorrow.

While uphill takes the wind out of me, downhill can be downright painful, so I slipped on my knee brace before heading down to the lake level.

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As we were about to cross the dam on the way back to our parking lot, we were treated to this lovely site of a mother duck and her babies.

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Such a great park!  Do you have a favorite place that you like to visit frequently?

 

 

 

Germany

Finally, the last installment of our trip abroad.  Sometimes it is a challenge to find new adventures in a place you have visited so often, but we managed to find a few, along with new angles on some favorite spots.

People may not think of food when they think of Germany, but I have to say, it is awesome!

and picture worthy

 

especially dessert

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One of my favorite spots on the Rhine River is the Loreley Rock.  I’ve seen it from the water, been on top of it, and this year I saw it from the other side of the river.  It continues to fascinate me.

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The legend behind it is also intriguing.

“The rock produces an echo and is associated with the legend of a beautiful maiden who threw herself into the Rhine in despair over a faithless lover and was transformed into a siren who lured fishermen to destruction.” (from Britannica)

Rather than ramble on about our trip, I’m just going to leave you with my favorite scenes from little towns, lakes, rivers and general landscapes.  Enjoy!

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I love that even a small town soccer club knows the importance of having beer!

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If you’ve ever considered taking a river cruise – this could be your boat.

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This is Riesling Country

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Unfortunately, wine festivals are wasted on me, but we did go to this wine presentation and JG did the family tasting.  Standing on top of the wine mountains, we had this incredible view of town.

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As many times as I have been to Germany, it still impresses me.  Their technology is top notch, they are very concerned about the environment, they love children, they are more uptight about guns than sex, and their health care and retirement benefits are far superior to ours.  We could learn from them.

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Thanks for stopping by, I hope I inspired you to visit if you haven’t already.

Norway

The second part of our trip was 6 nights in Norway.  Our host was a cousin of my husband.  She was not only an excellent host, but guided us through some fun outdoor adventures that we probably would not have discovered on our own.

The first stop was a sculpture park for women called Ekebergparken.

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This was called Anatomy of an Angel

 

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From a distance, it looks like an approaching hiker, but. . .

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This one was hanging in the trees. So cool!

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It was a beautiful park and there are many more sculptures, but these were my favorites.  The park is on a hill overlooking downtown Oslo.

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Of course we had to go on a hike.  Even though the trails are a little more like roads, we got in a full day’s hike and saw snow on the ground while it was in the upper 70’s.

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We toured Blaafarveværket a cobalt mine, which was a little traumatic for this claustrophobic hiker who is way more comfortable on TOP of a mountain than INSIDE a mountain.

But I survived it, and learned a lot about mining and came away wondering how people worked there on a daily basis.

Of course Norway has waterfalls too.

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Even downtown Oslo

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Finally, here are a few scenes from downtown. . .

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An absolutely beautiful place!  I have been there 3 times now, and each time I come away with new memories.  Summers here are wonderful, I highly recommend moving this up on your “must visit” list.

Iceland – Waterfalls, Geysers, Craters

After being away from home for a month, I finally feel like things are settling down. I finished unpacking, paying bills, reinstated the email that I got blocked out of on day 2 of the trip due to forgetting a digit on my PW, got my sunglasses fixed (they broke early on), and had a little dental work on a tooth that got chipped somewhere along the way.  You know, the usual.

Anyway, it is time for me to get back into the blogging world.  I’ve missed reading about your adventures and will hopefully get caught up with you soon.  In the meantime, let me share a little of my trip with you, one country at a time.

It seems like everyone you talk with these days has either been to Iceland or is planning a trip soon.  For us, it was a less expensive trip to Europe that allowed a stopover – we spent 4 nights and enjoyed every minute.  What a place!!!

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First of all, Iceland is a fairly new country (by European standards) started in 874 A.D. by Norwegian settlers.  Their language evolved from Norwegian, but today it is quite different.  We had a tour guide (on day 2) who was getting a Master’s in Icelandic history, he was a wealth of knowledge.

Even though it is touristy, we took the 8 hour bus tour of the “Golden Circle” and it was well worth it.   We were well layered, but it was very windy and cold – we even saw snow flurries as we stepped out of the bus on our first stop.  But as the day went on, the sun came out and even though the wind continued, it became more pleasant.

 

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Þingvellir National Park  This wall is the backdrop for Game of Thrones.

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Geysir This is the original that is no longer active.

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Gullfoss After Niagara Falls, this is the most impressive waterfall I’ve seen.DSCN5027

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Kerið  Note the steps leading into the crater.

The next day we rented a car and drove to the Middle Peninsula which was recommended by our tour guide.  Also, when we mentioned where we were going, the agents at the car rental said that was their favorite place.  I can see why.  These are pictures I took from the car with my cell phone while JG was driving.

 

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These two pictures made me fell like we were on the moon.

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 Snæfellsjökull the volcano that inspired Jules Verne to write “Journey to the Center of the Earth.

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Renting a car, even for a day, was well worth it.  We visited little villages, got away from the tour buses and enjoyed a relaxing day exploring the island on our own.

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The rest of the time was spent in Reykjavik.

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With it’s colorful buildings. . .

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and murals.

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It never got dark.  We had to catch a bus at 4 a.m. to go to the airport and this is how light it was.

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I can definitely understand why so many tourists are flocking to this amazing island.  It is well worth a few days stopover – or as a destination.

 

 

 

 

 

Know Your Limits

Ever since my daughter got engaged at the top of Dragon’s Tooth, it has been my desire to hike to the top.  My husband tried it once but did not make it to the very top as the last leg of the hike has you scaling rocks.

After a successful hike with my friends this week, I was determined that I could do this hike today.  Kids, dogs, parents with babies strapped to their backs, and people older than me have all managed to make this climb.

However, after I decided to do this, I read on a website that this hike makes McAfee’s Knob seem like a cakewalk (it isn’t).  This gave me pause, but I was mildly optimistic.

It was a gorgeous day and the nature along the way was worth stopping for photos.

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We had 6 or more creek crossings, some a little challenging after all the rain we’ve had recently.

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The first part of the trail, while challenging, is certainly doable.  It’s when you reach the Appalachian Trail (the last .7 miles) that it becomes quite a bit more difficult.

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This is an understatement!

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It was at this point that I was ready to give up, but after a short rest, we decided to go a little further.  We didn’t want to get this far and return without at least getting a good view.  So we soldiered on until I finally made the executive decision that I would not be able to get to the top.  By now my knee is aching, my hips are burning and all I could think of, was how bad it would be if I injured myself a week before we leave for Europe (where we plan to do a lot of hiking).  JG agreed, knowing that his previous attempt failed and he had serious doubts as to whether I should be trying it.  So this was our stopping point:

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Marked by this tree:

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Part of me wanted to cry, I did not want to admit my limitations.  But the smarter side of me was quick to recognize that I’m not 20 anymore.  It was still a very good hike – about 4 miles, and we made it through over half of the challenging part, so it wasn’t a total bust.

Have you ever found you couldn’t make it to the end of this hike, or any hike? Please share with me so I won’t feel so alone.

P.S. – who brings a boom box on a trail (blasting country music no less) – it was rude and obnoxious – next time get some headphones!!

Long Overdue

After a very lengthy healing process, I’m happy to report that today I got back out on the trail!  It was a perfect day for hiking – sunny and cool.  My hiking women have been patiently waiting for me to get back in shape.  Even though only two women were able to join me today – others are waiting in the wings for the next hike.

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It had been so long since we hiked, that we were all smiles and enthusiasm.

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The 4 mile (round trip) hike today was a good way to ease back into hiking.  Yes, there were inclines, (some were steep enough to give us pause) but mostly it was easy terrain, well marked, and just the right distance for us to feel happily exhausted, but not overly stressed.

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We found a little picnic area by the lake, so we stopped for a quick snack.

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What a gorgeous view.

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I hope this means I’m back, because it felt so natural being out there – almost as if it hadn’t been over 6 months – this hike was long overdue!

Buddy Holly and Northern Iowa

Having just recently seen the play of The Buddy Holly Story, it was fresh in my mind as I went to visit family in Northern Iowa.  It is such a tragic tale and could have been avoided with a more experienced pilot, or just a little less storm.  The memorial in Clear Lake near the Surf Ballroom where he performed his last concert, has grown over the years.

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There is now a restaurant called Surf District Rock and Roll Grill016.jpg

which hosts some rock and roll artifacts, along with this fun image.

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While dining at this nostalgic cafe, my sister asked if I would like to go to the crash site.  Of course I said yes.  It’s not far from Clear Lake, IA on a couple of country roads and if you have proper directions, you can’t miss the trail head. . .

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marked by the signature glasses.  There is no admission fee, just the risk of muddying up your shoes from the 1/2 mile walk on a path that can present some challenges this time of year when the ground is soaked.

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If you are/were a fan of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, or Richie Valens, it does offer a touching tribute.

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Fans leave behind tokens (even a full beer) to show their love of these rock ‘n rollers.

But if you don’t have an old pair of shoes handy, you may just want to stick to the tribute in the Surf District of Clear Lake.

My two favorite things about Iowa are: the tenderloin sandwich

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and the sunsets.

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Cellphone photography doesn’t do it justice, but don’t you love the clouds?

Special thanks to my sister and brother for hosting me while my bathroom was being remodeled.  It’s always fun to hang out in my home state.