Cwm Idwal in the Ogwen Valley

From the cultivated beauty of Bodnant Garden, we drove on to the wild beauty of Cwm Idwal…IMG_4450IMG_4452IMG_4458A stone path guided our steps…IMG_4466IMG_4465IMG_4488IMG_4494

…to a lake:

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It was a bit windy…


Actually, it was CRAZY windy!

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Brooding Heathcliff moment.


No brooding here. This is the face of a man in his element.


Valentine’s Day

It was not the Valentine’s Day of my dreams…

In the afternoon I attended the memorial service for a man with whom my husband and I used to sing. He was a retired minister with a warm smile, a twinkle in his eye, and a deep love and steadfast devotion for his wife. His son described the love his father had for his mother as a “perfect shelter.” One of his closest friends spoke movingly of the time he spent with him on the many hikes they would take together in the Shenandoah Mountains. He was one of those rare people in this world who simply radiate goodness and light.

I went alone to the service, and my husband stayed home with the kids. As I was leaving the house, I asked my family to think of something fun that we could all do together when I got back. I knew it would be a wrenching occasion, and I wanted to have something to look forward to when I came home.

When I returned, my husband suggested that we go for a hike.



Did he not remember that I had asked him to think of something fun to do?

Did he not remember that in all of the almost twenty years that he’s known her, his wife has always, most definitely been an indoorsy kind of person?

Did he not remember that we had just gone on a hike the weekend before, thereby 100%, maybe even 175% fulfilling the annual hike quota for 2015?

Did he not care that it was about 20 degrees outside?

No. The answer is no, he did not.

And so we went.

We went to the Ragged Mountain Natural Area, which at this time of the year looks like this:

As we walked along I kept hearing alarming creaking noises and thought it was only a matter of time before I got beamed on the head with a falling tree.

My fourteen year old had decided not to wear his winter coat, and in keeping with my resolution to let him make his own crazy-ass wardrobe decisions, I kept my mouth shut. He did not look very happy:

As we hiked, I was quickly outpaced and fell behind. Everyone disappeared from view, and I trudged along by myself, thinking sad thoughts and apprehensively eyeing the groaning tree trunks. Suddenly, I saw this brave little plant right in the middle of the path. It seemed to be miraculously growing out of rocks…

I thought it might be a sign.

When I reached the summit, I found this:

It was a beautiful view worth hiking for, and it made me smile for the first time that day.

And then, to round off Valentine’s Day, we went to Lowe’s to pick up a part to fix a light fixture that had blown out…

And that’s how we restored a little light and love to Valentine’s Day.

In memory of John, who really did love hiking, and who brought so much light and love to the world.

The Great Fall

My husband has been wanting to take our oldest son on a hike for ages. This Saturday they seized the opportunity to go to Mount Pleasant in the George Washington National Forest.

In the morning we bade a fond farewell to our intrepid hikers:

and went about the rest of our day:


That afternoon I received this text from my husband:

I went to pick up my son at the ER to spare him the inevitable, lengthy wait for a verdict and his dad’s eventual discharge. Back at home, I continued to check in with my husband over the next several hours by text:

When he was finally home with a diagnosis of a multiple fracture, he explained what happened…

After reaching the summit, they started to make their way back down toward the trail head. My husband’s boot caught on a rock hidden by fallen leaves, and all six feet three inches of him went crashing down. Unfortunately, they were still quite a distance away from the car.

“It was agonizing. Believe me, you would not want to walk two miles down a mountain on a broken ankle,” he told me that evening.

“Uh, yeah. As we all know, I wouldn’t want to walk two miles down a mountain, period,” I replied…”Why didn’t you call for help?”

“I didn’t want to cause a fuss. I would have been too embarrassed,” he said…”I hobbled along, and whenever anyone passed, I’d straighten up and pretend like nothing was wrong.”

He mimicked how he would give a cheery wave and say to every passer-by, “Beautiful day for a hike!”

I shook my head.

“Remember when your dad fell into a ravine on his hike and he got a gash on his forehead that required stitches?! And you were so upset with him, because instead of getting help, he just made his way back to his car and drove home for hours gushing blood from the gaping wound? Remember?! Remember how you scolded and scolded him for doing that?! You are your father’s son!

“There’s a HUGE difference!” my husband protested, “My dad hid behind rocks whenever he saw anyone on the trail!”

NO DIFFERENCE! You two are EXACTLY the same!”

“Well,” my husband conceded, grinning…”That’s the spirit that built the great British empire!”

It might explain the fall of the great British empire too…

Mutual Bafflement

My husband and I split up on Saturday. It was just for the day, but what caused us to go our separate ways was something that has always divided us and that reveals how very different we are.

My husband loves nothing better than to camp and hike in the great tick-ridden, mosquito-filled, venomous-snake-laced outdoors. I too adore nature. I am enthralled by the writings of naturalists such as Loren Eiseley and Annie Dillard. I am awed by nature photography and documentaries. I am stirred by poetry that celebrates the seasons, the starry firmament, or the miracle of life in all of its myriad manifestations…But Lord knows I certainly don’t want to actually be in nature.

I can’t fathom it. Why would you subject yourself to the hassle and discomfort of camping, if you weren’t homeless? Why would you want to gnaw on dry, uncooked food fished out of a hot, sweaty backpack? We’ve progressed so far beyond this! Flushing toilets, hot showers, comfortable beds, refrigeration, microwaves, air-conditioning, couches! Why would you give that all up on purpose?

…Which brings me back to Saturday. My husband decided it would be the perfect day to go on a hike in the Blue Ridge. I decided it would be the perfect day to take a daytrip to visit my parents and sister in Arlington. We knew the boys would want to go hiking, but we weren’t sure what our daughter’s preference would be. We presented her with the two options, never dreaming that we would be inflicting an agonizing Sophie’s Choice moment on her. Honestly, she looked like she was going to cry as she deliberated out loud.

“I really, really want to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s, but I really, really want to go hiking too!”

“Well,” I reasoned, bewildered by the fact that this was actually a difficult choice, and trying to make the decision a little easier for her, “I’m planning to take you to their house over Labor Day weekend, and that’s only a week away, so maybe you should go hiking.”

“But that’s SEVEN WHOLE DAYS,” she wailed.

Finally, we decided to put the poor girl out of her misery by flipping a coin. She went on the hike.

In Arlington as my sister and I drove to Harris Teeter to pick up some groceries, she asked me what my husband and kids were doing.

“They’re going hiking,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

Hiking?! What do you even do on a hike?” she asked.

“Well…I guess you drive to a mountain, find a trail, and then walk up to the top.”

“Why would you do that?” she asked, sincerely mystified.

“I have no idea. It’s not as if they’re being chased by Nazis.”

“Huh! I just don’t get it.”

“Me neither. That’s why I’m here, and not there.”

At that moment my husband called. He and the kids had gotten back from the hike and he was checking on my whereabouts.

“Ask him why he went hiking and if he really thinks that’s an enjoyable activity,” my sister urged.

I relayed her questions to him. He was rendered speechless. All he could muster was a: “Hunh?!?!”

“Oooh, gotta go,” I told him and hurriedly hung up the phone, because just then I witnessed a real spectacle of nature! I saw a flock of little birds taking a dirt bath in the mulch rings around the trees by the grocery store parking lot. I hung out of the window of my sister’s air-conditioned car and took a picture with my camera phone:

Ahhh, nature!

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