Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas on the Creeper

The day after Christmas I took my bike up to the Virginia Highlands.  My destination was the Virginia Creeper Trail, an old railroad line that was turned into a 33-mile trail back in the 80s.  It is one of the best bike trails in America in one of the most beautiful places on earth.   My mom’s family settled in the region hundreds of years ago, so it always feels like home to me.

Vrgina Creeper

Part of the magic has to do with the geology of the region, which creates some stunning scenery.  Just looking at the rocks takes you back almost a billion years.  The whole region is underlain by hard volcanic bedrock.  This erosion-resistant rock, known as rhyolite, comes from melted continiental crust, which takes you back to the time of the continental rift.  In addition to the large rocks, I noticed lots of little colorful rocks with beautiful patterns on them, which are also some kind of volcanic matter.

I met up with my cousin Pat near Damascus, Virginia, a convenient point between the trailhead, 17 miles up Whitetop Mountain, and Abingdon, Virginia, 16 miles in the other direction.  We decided to skip the mountain climb and head  towards Abingdon.  Our leisurely ride  took us around the south fork of the Holston River.  We’d stop occasionally to check out some of the more interesting geological features and massive icicle formations.


We passed through a lot of pasture land on our ride.  Next time, I’ll bring more apples for the horses.


As we rode along the south fork of the Holston, we noticed a number of cabins for rent. My favorites were the tree houses. Maybe we’ll stay there next time.

Tree houses on the Virginia Creeper

After a bend in the woods, we passed a cave.  I couldn’t resist checking it out.  Although it seemed fairly cozy, I had already made plans to crash on the couch at the house my aunts had rented for our family gathering.


As the sun faded, the temperature dropped rapidly. We cooked a quick cup of hot
chocolate and then headed back to Damascus.  That evening I stayed  with my aunts, uncle and cousins. We got up the next morning and hit the trail again.
Nothing could have been more beautiful than mist rising off a waterfall in the morning sun.


Of course, with the beautiful, there is also the ugly.  We found the head of a goat as well as a well-eaten wild turkey carcass. The coyotes must be hungry this year, and there must be lots of them.  It made me remember that the original name of Abingdon was “Wolf Hills,” after Daniel Boone and his party were confronted by a pack of wild wolves.

I’d like to come back to the Creeper in 2014.  Next time we’ll see if we can stay in one of the tree houses.







The Harvest

This week we brought our fingerling sweet potatoes up from the basement where they’d been curing after this fall’s harvest.  Unfortunately our basement wasn’t as cool as we’d thought, so they were a little soft.  Next year we’ll need to keep them under the fan.


This hasn’t  make our little babies any less tasty, though—they  are delicious–but it does mean  we  need to eat them up in a short amount of time.  Of course, I’ve been binging on them from the moment I brought them up from the basement.  It’s been a few days now, and my skin now has a nice, orange glow.

A couple of nights ago while peeling a bunch of them   in front of the television,  I discovered that our bobcat, Franklin, loves sweet potatoes almost as much as his daddy.  He’s become quite a discerning herbivore with a sophisticated palate.


He loves the stringy ends of the fingerlings, usually slinging them around before crunching down on the delicious orange center.  I  gave him a few of the smaller ones.  He seems to like the peeled skin too, which makes me wonder if he’s looking for nutrients. I did a little wikipedia research to find out about cats and vegetables.  Apparently when cats kill a bird they eat the vegetable matter out of its stomach. Kind of gross, huh?   Gives me an idea for a cat toy with a sweet potato center.     FranklinMouthProfile