Saturday, October 27, 2007

Camping in Shenandoah

Can you believe it? We are well into October with out a single day camping. Well, we couldn't let that happen, even though the season was quickly passing us by. Matt and Cami thought it sounded like a good idea too so we made the plans.

Jill and I took Friday off from work and after packing, cleaning, and a quick trip to Target we were off. We drove down 340 through Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia until we got to Front Royal and entered the Shenandoah National Park.

The leaves were just starting to change into their autumn glory. We were in a hurry to drive 80 miles through the park (at 35 MPH) in order to get to the campground.

Two of the park's campgrounds were already full when we entered the park. And later we found out that all of the 400+ campsites in the park were completely taken by Friday night.

We took lots of 'drive-by' pictures through the windshield of the car. There were lots of clouds along the Skyline Drive. The rain was staying away for the most part but the threat was always there. The forecast called for thunderstorms all through the night!

Here are all the Drive-By pictures.

We arrived at the campground and began our search for a suitable campsite in the fog. Just as we exited the car to inspect our choices the rain began to fall. Within moments we were soaked through but we selected our spot and waited in the car until the down pour calmed down a bit.

About 15 minutes after it began, the rain was just a drizzle and we decided that we had better setup the tent before the rain came back.

We setup camp and waited for Matt and Cami to arrive. It took them a few times around the campground in the fog before they found us (even though they knew the site number where we were).

We sent up their new tent (I mean 'Vacation Home') and made a yummy dinner. Then it started sprinkling again and within moments the downpour was soaking us again. We put away our dinner as quickly as we could and retreated to our tents. Unfortunately we brought in a lot of rain water into our tent too.

Luckily it only lasted about 15 minutes again. So we moved over to the Chapman Vacation Home to play a game on the comfort of the queen size inflatable bed! After a couple of games of Gin we headed for bed. Even though it was only about 8:30, we tuckered out and crashed quickly.

On Saturday, after a big breakfast of sausage and pancakes, we went for a hike to Doyles Falls. It was about a 3 mile round trip hike. Like most of the hikes in the park, you start at the top so the easy downhill part is first. The falls were quite small since the region is experiencing a pretty severe drought right now but still very pretty. There are lots more pictures from the Doyles Falls hike.

The tinfoil dinners that Matt and Cami put together were awesome. We spent several hours staring at the fire and enjoyed a great evening relaxing. I love camping.

Sunday morning we had a quick breakfast of bagels and cream cheese then broke down our camp. Matt and Cami needed to get back to church to be with their Primary class and I needed to get back for an Elders Quorum meeting.

We decided to continue South through the park for the remaining 24 miles. If we had try to drive back through the park it would have taken about 3 hours with all the tourists.

We lucked out by finding a black bear only about 20-30 feet off the road. It was a challenge to take some pictures though the trees and bushes. This makes the sixth black bear I have seen in Shenandoah National Park. On another camping trip I saw a mother bear and two cubs walk within about 20 yards of my campsite.

The drive home was quite nice as we headed North through small towns in the Shenandoah Valley along 340. The 'mountains' we on both sides of us with lots of splashes of color.

Here are some more camping pictures and autumn leave pictures.

I LOVE Camping!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Harpers Ferry

We have been to Harper's Ferry several times. Or should I say that we have floated past Harper's Ferry on the Potomac river.

Well this time, Jill and I went to the actual city.

We entered the National Park visitors center, overhead something about a bus ride into the city, and boarded the bus before we really new what we were doing. As it turns out, we did it right.

It was the John Brown weekend with lots of people dressed up. We even had to register with the troops in order to gain access to the town.

We spent several hours wandering around the town. The demonstration of the black powder rifles/muskets was pretty cool. It was amazing to learn that the band would play while the armed guard would fire their muskets. Apparently it was to keep up the morale of the troops.

The little town was pretty interesting. We ended our visit to the park with another picnic.

Here are some pictures of Harpers Ferry.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Summer Picnics

A few times this summer, Jill and I were able to enjoy the weather around the Frederick region on an afternoon picnic.

One of the picnics was at Baker Park in Frederick.

There were lots of people out, swimming in the public pool, running, biking, walking around the lake, watching and playing little league baseball.

We found a nice quiet piece of grass under a willow tree.

We enjoyed our food, read our books, took some pictures and relaxed.

Here are some more pictures from Baker Park.

Another picnic was at the Washington Monument State Park.

We took the short hike to the monument, read the plaques and took some pictures.

Then we got mobbed by a noisy, rambunctious scout troop. Again we found a nice quiet spot on the lawn and enjoyed our lunch.

Here are more pictures of the Washington Monument.

And the last summer picnic to mention is the Braddock Heights Ward picnic.

There was lots of good food, silly games, and general commiserating. We actually arrived late and left early to this one. Does that make the popular folk or the losers?

It was a pretty decent summer as far as the weather goes. It was nice to be able to just relax and soak in the outdoors once in a while. Now fall is quickly approaching as the temperature is steadily decreasing. Soon the 'mountains' nearby will be displaying the great fall colors.

More Braddock Heights picnic pictures.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Plan

Have you guys seen this before?
Someone sent it to me in an email and I thought it was amusing. I did quick search a found a couple of other versions so I guess it has been around for a while.

In the beginning there was THE PLAN

and then came the assumptions

And the assumptions were with out form

And THE PLAN was completely without substance

And a darkness was on the face of the consultants

And they spake unto their Team Leader saying

"It is a crock of sh** and it stinketh"

And the Team Leader went unto the Project Manager and sayeth;

"It is a pail of dung and none may abide by the odor thereof"

And the Project Manager went unto his Program Manager and sayeth;

"It is a container of excrement and it is very strong, such that none may abide by it"

And the Program Manager went unto his Program Director and sayeth;

"It is a vessel of fertilizer and none may abide by its strength"

And the Program Director went unto the Account Director and sayeth;

"It contains that which aids plant and is very strong"

And the Account Director went unto the Vice President and sayeth;

"It promoteth growth and is very powerful!!"

And the Vice President went unto the president and sayeth;

"This powerful new plan will actively promote the growth and efficiency of the force"

And the Policy Planning Unit looked upon THE PLAN and saw that it was good

And thus THE PLAN became policy...

And this is how sh** happens!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In the Streets

This weekend we enjoyed an interesting gathering of people here in downtown Frederick during the 'In the Streets' celebration.

I never really saw what we were celebrating but their were sure a lot people.

We actually did not get there until about 5PM and missed most of the excitement. They were already breaking down the various booths and stands that had been scattered all along Market street.

As far has people watching goes, this event had a much more diverse sampling than the Frederick Fair.

Everything from families with little kids, to tattooed mid-aged folk, to square-dancing seniors and strung out street folk. There were a lot more of the riff-raff type of youth at this event (but no prize winning beasts).

We walked up Market street and back observing the die-hard performers, the weary festivites, and hundreds of party folk cramming into the local bars. It was fun to watch all the kids in kayaks and paddle boats on the canal. And that was about it. Back to the car and home again, home again...

Here are some pictures of 'In The Streets'

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Great Frederick Fair

While getting my haircut, my overly friendly stylist told me all about the Fair that had just started. One thing led to another and suddenly Jill and I found ourselves enjoying all of the wondrous sights and sounds of the Great Frederick Fair.

That's right, the official name of the fair is the Great Frederick Fair. And boy was it ever great.

The first building we entered was plastered with thousands of photographs all separated into many different categories. If I had only known! There were a lot of really great photos. And some that were not so great. But I'm sure someone was proud enough of the shot to try to win a prize at the fair!

I grew up as a city kid (well actually a very tame suburb kid) so there were things that I noticed from this fair that I had never caught before.

The fair of my youth/young adulthood was always the place you went to make fun of the white-trash and their 'whore'-able clothing choices. It was the place where burned-out/has-been bands played lack-luster concerts. The place that had extremely scary carnival rides (scary as in how many people has this thing killed this year). The place where you spend a lot money on crappy food. Oh, and there were some sheep, goats, bunnies, chickens, and cows over in the buildings over there somewhere. They may have had a more prominent role in the fair then I remember, but this is my memory.

The Great Frederick Fair was all about the animals. Building after building was full of animals. Not just your average farm stock animals. These are the best that Frederick County, MD has to offer. These are the prize winning animals. The blue ribbon wearing ones outwardly mocking the hundreds of loser animals who have to stick around four more days being parading in their shame.

I was living the 'Charlotte's Web' version of the county fair. I thought it only existed in children's tales. Oh how my sense of reality has been altered!

One thing that I was quite fascinated by was all the people (mostly kids) hanging out in the barns. These were not riff-raff sneaking away from their parents. These kids were the proud owners and handlers of the beasts. Lovingly cleaning, brushing, vacuuming the coats until they glistened. I guess 4H is alive a well here in Maryland. The only thing I ever knew about 4H was seeing commercials during the after-school cartoons and thinking they were lucky rich kids that had horses.

We watched some young kids (10 or 11 years old) competing with their alpacas. The kids had to lead their animal through an obstacle course. Some of the animals were very good at it. But some, no matter how much the poor kids tried to encourage, their beast of burden just would not be convinced that the blue tarp should be walked on.

Another fun section was the adult toy section. In this case, it was referring to the large selection of tractors and farm machinery. Boy, are those things expensive! I knew they were not cheap but I did not realize that a farmer's tractor probably costs twice as much as his house!

We enjoyed a yummy BBQ beef sandwich and a funnel cake. There were certainly no shortage of food choices. We sat behind one the food vendors and I found myself intrigued by the back-of-the-house operations. It appeared to be a family operation of simple folk that probably made the rounds at all the county fairs. It was interesting to see the amount of food they had stock piled. Oh, and based on the food preparation methods, I was glad we had purchased from a different vendor. And I had no interest in seeing what was in the back of their house! Intestinal juices and stomach acid do your thing!

Anyway, that all was incorporated into the one the best reasons to go to the fair - People Watching. The fair always brings out the interesting folk. Overall, this one was quite tame but still delightfully amusing.

Here are a bunch more pictures of the fair.