Monday, January 31, 2011

Mt. Pleasant

     A good weekend indeed. Saturday morning, Peyton and I woke up and hit the road headed towards Mt. Pleasant. Mt. Pleasant is located about 2.5 hours south west of Richmond, toward Buena Vista. As we got closer to the mountains, we could see from a distance that there was significant snow accumulated where we would be hiking. The final three miles to the trail head was windy with close to a 1.5' accumulated. Luckily we were not the first to arrive that morning as a truck had paved the way for us up the mountain. The Subaru preformed well on the snowy roads. We ended up parking about half a mile from the trailhead and hikedthe rest of the way to the trailhead parking lot.

      When we arrived at the trailhead, there was another car parked and we could hear some guys in the distance. They ended up starting the section of the trail that we would return on, so we figured we would probably see them at the summit. We hiked the 3.3 miles to the peak and were met by a father and son making coffee on the windy peak. Ah, nothing like a lovin spoonful on the top of a snowy Virginia summit. I'll have to admit, I was a little jealous as I crunched down on my somewhat icy pb&j I had dropped in the snow.
The views were impressive and equally humbling. The flute playing did not work as well as it was extremely windy and the wind blew into the key holes, stifling any sound I was trying to create.

We decided to complete the loop instead of going back the way we came, which added another mile onto the hike. The snow was pretty deep in some spots making the hike more challenging, but definitely a lot of fun.
We stopped by Staton's creek, a micro creek flowing into the Pedlar River. This is a creek I paddled about a year ago with some friends from Charlottesville.

      As we snakedour way over the mountains via Rt. 56, we stopped at a small country store to grab a drink. Peyton ordered some mac and cheese. I'm not sure if we were both just so hungry from our hike, but it was by far the best mac and cheese I have ever had. Can't wait to go back there as it's about two miles from one of my favorite hikes- St. Mary's Wilderness. We continued past Spy Rock, Crabtree Falls, and The Priest on Rt. 56. Once we reached 151 we stopped at Blue Mountain Brewery to pick up some drinks for Joe's birthday party we would stop at on our way back to town. All in all, a good day hiking, driving some scenic byways, and of course, eating mac and cheese was the highlight.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Savannah Cat

     The Savannah Cat is a mix between the African serval and a domestic cat. It really didn't gain its popularity until the 1990's. The first known Savanah cat was "achieved" in the Mid-1980s by breeder Judee Frank.  The F1 female resulting from this breeding was named "Savannah," and most appropriately, is the official name of this fascinating breed today. The breed was actually named after the savannahs of Africa: the grasslands from which the breed's serval ancestors originate. Savanah cats are considered one of the largest breeds of domestic cats. They can weigh as much as 20-30lbs. but most breeds weigh in between 10-15 lbs. The coat of the cat depends on the generation of breed. Some have a lighter coat wiht darker spots, and some have a dark coat with evry light spotty patterns across the body.
     Savannah cats are often likened to dogs in their loyalty to their owner. They can be trained to walk on a leash and even fetch toys. Owners are often impressed with their keen sense of intelligence. One of their most distinguished characteristics is their ability to leap up to eight feet from standing position. Savanah cats love water and often take baths with their owners..(kinda creepy- but cool).
Here are a few more pictures for your Savanah cat viewing pleasure:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Biking to Work

 The last couple of weeks, I have tried to be more intentional about riding my bike to work. There are many reasons, a few being the following: I only live about 2 miles away from work, so there is really no reason I need to drive; I use less gas in my car, I get exercise, I'm less likely to run errands over lunch where I'll spend money; I use my lunch hour to read instead of driving somewhere. Most of these are pretty selfish reasons to ride, except the eco-friendly part, I guess..
I was on a roll, four work day mornings in a row, and then this morning came. I looked outside when I woke up to see puddles of water and a cold rain falling from above. I had the rain gear, the bike panniers for an extra pair of shoes, flashing lights on my bike, and a beard..(don't know how that fits in, but it does). Was I going to "brave" the elements all the two miles two miles to work. Yes, I did. It felt invigorating. Was this the first time I've rode in the rain? No, but for some reason, it felt really good today.
Although I wish the above picture is what this morning's commute looked like, I'm afraid it looked more like this, without the cycling partner:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Doc Watson

 As many of you know, Doc Watson is one of my favorite musicians. I think part of music appreciation includes knowing some background about the artist or group you listen to. Where did they get their inspiration from? Was it from their childhood experiences, a mid life crisis, an old truck they had, or a psychadellic trip they took?
When I first heard of Doc Watson, I was actually driving through his home state of North Carolina, on Doc Watson highway. For me, the mountains of North Carolina make me think of a certain type of music- bluegrass. North Carolina is home to many bluegrass groups- Red Clay Ramblers, Kickin Grass, Paul's Creek, and others.
Now, a bit about Doc- The sixth of nine children, Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson was born in Stoney Fork,Watauga County, North Carolina on 3 March, 1923, to Annie Greene and General Dixon Watson. When he was born, he had a defect in the vessels that carry blood to the eyes. He later developed an eye infection which caused him to completely loose his vision before his first birthday. He was raised, and still resides, in Deep Gap, North Carolina.
Early Days of Playing-
Doc has said that his earliest memories of music reach back to his days as a young child being held in his mother’s arms at the Mt. Paron Church and listening to the harmony and shape-note singing. The first songs he remembers hearing are "The Lone Pilgrim" and "There is a Fountain." Singing led to an interest in making music and Doc says that he began "playing with anything around the house that made a musical sound." At about the age of six, Doc began to learn to play the harmonica and from that time was given a new one every
year in his Christmas stocking. Doc’s first stringed instrument, not to include a steel wire he had strung across the woodshed’s sliding door to provide bass accompaniment to his harmonica playing, was a banjo his father built for him when he was eleven years old. His father taught him the rudiments of playing a fretless banjo, the rest Doc learned by trial and error.
Soon after, Doc borrowed a friend's guitar and was hooked from the first chords he learned. It was only days later that Doc was holding his very own Stella uitar his father bought him from Sears.
Doc is 88 years old and still on tour each year. I had the opportunity to see Doc last year in Arlington, VA.

Below is one of Doc's finest- Deep River Blues

Change of Pace

 I've decided as part of my blog, each week I will do three things: Introduce a figure in history- they may be dead, alive, from anywhere in the world, famous, ordinary, bearded, well-groomed. Next, I will introduce a creature of some sort- bird, butterfly, mammal, fish, etc. Just some characteristics that stick out. And finally, I will introduce a quote, song, verse, phrase.
 We'll see how it goes.

Friday, January 21, 2011


What are a couple of your favorite documentaries? Some feedback would be awesome.
Last Saturday, Nate and I took off from Richmond headed for St. Mary's. We had both hiked the wilderness several times, never completing the "loop" on many topo maps we've looked at. We arrived to find most all of the creek running thru St. Mary's completely frozen. WE had a full day of hiking up past the falls, as well as boulder hopping through the creek bed. I brought my flue in the bag my mom handmade me for Christmas. The bag definitely was handy for hiking. We stopped various places along the trail to play the flute and offer up some melodies. We have so much to be grateful for. I am reminded every time I am in nature of all that I take for granted so often. Virginia has some amazing views to behold and I feel lucky every time I am able to get out to enjoy the beauty. Below are some pictures from the hike:

 A couple nights ago, a couple of the guys came over to play some music. Ended up with a bigger group than expected. Having a couple extra guitars is never a bad thing. By the end of the night, we had a menagerie of instruments to include guitars, a mandolin, a banjo, acoustic bass, accordian, bongos, and even a turkey call which made it's first bluegrass debut. Thankful for music, creativity, instruments, and friends!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Haiti Pics

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip.

Haiti Part 2

I will now attempt to sumarize our amazing seven day experience.
Here is a brief list of some things we did, in somewhat of chronological order:
Day 1- We arrived in Haiti about two hours delayed, as we were one of the last flights out of Haiti. We spent the afternoon at New Hope Haiti Mission, where we would stay the rest of the week. We were greeted by 21 kids who lived at the orphanage. When we arrived, they were actually having parents day for the kids which they have twice a year. Most of the kids living at NHHM do have parents, but their parents are not able to take care of them in their home town, so the send them to the orphanage to stay until they are 18. The orphanage is able to pay for their education, provide them with meals, and a safe place to grow up where they are well nutured by the amazing staff.
After settling in, we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening playing with the kids, learning their names, and of course, a few creole phrases.

Day 2- Today we visited Melissa's Hope Orphanage in Croix de Bouquetts. We had originally planned to stay at Melissa's Hope and work there most of the week,  but some things came up that didn't allow us to work there. When we arrived, we were greeted by one of the children living at the orphanage who gave us a tour of the facility and introduced us to the 11 kids living there and the staff taking care of them. Melissa's Hope is an orhpahange for special needs children. It was home to kids with CP, HIV, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and other physical and mental developmental disorders. The kids were amazing. I won't forget their smiles and laugher admist the hard times they were going through. Later, the director showed up and told us that he had been waiting at a gas station for over three hours waiting to buy gas- a common occurence in Haiti. He told us about the broken history of the orphanage and his story of coming back from the States where he spent his teen and early adult years living, to run this orphanage where he felt like he was being called. This experience will definitely stick with me for some time.

Day 3- Today we got the opportunity to travel to the town of Balan, which we had heard about for some time. Balan is located about an hour outside of the capital in a very dry reigon of the country. Because of the deforestation in the area, Balan has not had a healthy topsoil layer in years. We took the "caged" truck to Balan with sacks of rice and beans in the bed of the truck, which would later be distributed to the community members. As we pulled off the main road, the vegetation changed tremendously. What was lush, green plants became dusty, dirty cacti and brown thickets growing along the bumpy, dry road. Here and there we would see a goat wandering through the thicket, or a malnourished cow searching for water. We learned that Balan is located on the largest lake in Haiti. The only drawback is that it is saltwater. Jean told us that even before the earthquake, Balan was one of the poorest regions in all of Haiti, if not the poorest. As we sat in the back of the truck, a line formed as we bean to drive into their community, stopping at the small church in the center of the community. The feeding program has been funded by NHHM for over five years and currently feeds over 2,200 people once a month. The food is said to only last between two-three days. We were later told that often the children are not fed by the food provided. This experience was hard for our whole group. Many of the children were severely malnourished and all they could say to us was "mange"- eat. As the food began to dwindle, the people became desperate as they knew the group would not return for another month. The desperation led to panic as women and children thrust themselves at us desperately asking us to full their shirts, hats, cups with whatever rice and beans we had left. Areas like Balan, although often a more peaceful area than much of the rest of Haiti, is often hit just as hard by the repercussions of natural disasters as they are dependent on what aid workers and locals in the city have available to bring them.

Day 4- Today Jean Claubert, director of NHHM, took all of the kids and us to a soccer field about an hours drive away to play soccer. The kids all had soccer jerseys that had been donated by a soccer coach back in Richmond. We spent a few hours here where the land was lush and farmers worked in their fields as we played soccer. It was in a more rural setting that where the orphanage is located and there were amazing views of the mountains all around us. The rest of the day was spent at the orphanage, helping the women cook the traditional late lunch which is the biggest meal of the day. Most every evening was spent hanging out with the kids, playing games, singing songs, and learning creole.

Day 5- Today we spent the day working at NHHM. Jean had come up with a few project to keep us busy for the day. We worked on taking down the stage that was used for parents day, organizing the pharmacy at the orphanage, and picking up trash around the orphanage. We also helped Jean take some things to his church as he prepared for a New Year's service the next evening. We helped with meal preparation and also took a walk around the neighborhood with some of the kids to pass out information to the community about cholera.

Day 6- St. Rock Medical Clinic.
     We woke up early Friday morning to allow time to get to St. Rock Clinic, located on the other side of Port-au-Prince in the mountains. We were invited to this clinic by a team of doctors and nurses we met on our plane ride down to Haiti. The team was from Boston and have been running this clinic for over ten years. Valermie, a medical student who also worked at NHHM, picked us up around 7:00 and drove us to meet the group from St. Rock that would take us the rest of the way to their clinic. Along the way, Valermie took us on a tour of downtown Port-au-Prince to show us the National Cathedral, presidential palace, and other landmarks in the city. Most of the downtown area is covered in tent cities. It is too hard to describe in words what exists in the downtown area. Hoepfully pictures will explain some of what we saw.
We received a warm greeting once we arrived at the clinic. It was set up on a mountaintop overlooking the port. Nate and Peyton worked with a team of doctors seeing some patients while Ian and I hiked to a local orphanage supported by the clinic foundation. We were joined by other member's of the St. Rock team who have been startin local projects in the area to include a micro-loan program, scholarships for the local school, and now partnering with a local orphanage. We visited people's homes along the way to the orphanage. The feeling in the mountains was much different than in the city. There was much less tension in this area and more freedom to talk to people as we met them and interact with the members of the community. We were all impressed with the work being done by St. Rock and were invited back in the future to stay at the clinic and participate in their work.

Day 7- Haiti-->Richmond
Today was a tough day for us all. I think we were all starting to really feel at home and had developed relationships with the children at the orphanage. It was a tough feeling leaving these amazing kids and Jean Claubert who had taught us all so much. As we unloaded our bags at the airport and stepped out of the truck, we had 21 faces that were watching us as we walked into the airport. The kids taught us all so much. All they had been through and the perseverance, hope, unselfish love that they freely gave to all of us. It was more than we could have ever asked for.