It’s a funny, albeit ironic thing about being between jobs: you have lots of time to do things you’ve wanted to do for so long, but not the scratch to fund them. So, you learn to pick and choose and work a little harder to find those “free” or cheaper entertainments.
And being a new Staunton resident, still wearing my “honeymoon” goggles, I am happy to report on occasion some of the small but worthwhile treasures I stumble across in my size 9 shoes (Ok, size 10… well, I mean, if they are really stretched out.)
I had come across a blog from the Staunton Visitor’s website that outlined some easy hikes for folks like me who are not ready for the rigors of Old Rag Mountain. Sherando Lake Recreation Area in George Washington National Forest (you can’t throw a rock in Virginia without hitting a place a president either lived, slept or squatted in the woods) offers just such a hike. The lakeside loop is easy and scenic to boot.
Here’s a blurb about the lake: The Upper Lake is 7 acres and is fed by the waters of the North Fork of Back Creek. The Lower Lake is 25 acres and is fed by springs, the North Fork of Back Creek, and Williams Branch, so the water stays refreshingly cool all summer long.
It’s an easy 35 minute ride from Staunton. Along the way I drove by country side roads with names like Log House Lane (‘nary a log home in site) and Bear Park Road (I’ll take their word for it).
I pulled through the gate and parked in a busy lot. Nearby, families were taking advantage of the sandy beach/cool water recreation area. It was a self-pay deal that went on the honor system, so you put money into an envelope and drop it into a National Park Service brown slotted wooden box, tearing a hunk off to hang from your rear view mirror. (Note to self – find out why parks always use the same color brown paint on all edifices.) Not knowing yet how much the fees were, I put a fiver in the box and later discovered that was more than adequate for one daytime visitor.
On the second half of the lake loop, the trail elevation rose a bit. I could faintly hear voices ahead of me and soon caught up to a young woman and her small daughter, laboring up the incline. The woman turned to me and asked, “does it get any better after this?” Apparently the short legs of her young daughter – likely four or five years-old, were becoming an issue on this part of the hike. I answered that it was my first time too. As they moved aside so I could walk past, I couldn’t help but note the young girl was wearing dark blue Crocs and a baby blue, tulle princess dress.
“That has to be the prettiest princess dress I have ever seen on a hike,” I observed as I passed by.
Not to let it go at that, the young girl piped up “it’s not a princess dress, it’s princess pajamas.” Well, now I was in for it. She continued to tell me how she had just had a sleepover with her cousins and would likely again that night. I nodded and smiled as I paused to listen but then edged away as she provided additional details no longer related to her pajama dress in the way only a five-year-old can. A steady stream of consciousness brought on by my observations of her hiking garb.
I smiled as I walked on, and mused on the ways of children who are well beyond caring about what they wear and when, but are concerned that we as adults, get the facts right.