I’ve long had an interest in the history of Shenandoah National Park, just a few hours west of us–and this past weekend we found a way to get up close and personal. On a last minute whim, we decided to take a quick overnight trip to Doyles River Cabin. The cabin was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1936–the same year that the Park was established–and is now managed as a rental property by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).
As you probably know, the CCC was created during the Depression as a way to provide employment, housing, and food to young men that were facing grim job prospects. CCC “enrollees” were paid roughly $30/month to built roads and bridges and cabins and more. They built a lot of structures still standing in the park (many of the original structures were removed when settlers were forced out by the state of Virginia to create the park; more on that here).
CCC boys leaving camp for home. Photo courtesy of Oregon State University, public domain
CCC Company 2530 Building a road. Photo courtesy of Edmund R. Golladay, public domain
Meal time at Camp Roosevelt, just up the road. Photo courtesy of Oregon State University, public domain
CCC Camp Kitchen Crew. Photo courtesy of Oregon State University, public domain
A CCC Barracks. Photo courtesy of Edmund R. Golladay, public domain
CCC laying stone for a road, 1933. Photo courtesy of National Archives, public domain
The CCC did a lot of work across the country. In addition to roads and bridges and cabins, they also planted trees, built flood and erosion control projects, erected fire towers, stocked trout—basically did whatever they could to improve the infrastructure of our country.
More than three million young men enrolled in the CCC, including some that later went on to great notoriety–like baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial and Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager (I’m imagining fireside chats about curveballs at the speed of sound).
Stan Musial in 1953, from Bowman Baseball cards, public domain
Chuck Yeager in front of the Bell X-1, 1940s. Photo courtesy of US Air Force, public domain
Doyles River Cabin is a primitive (no power or water) one-room structure, but it is sturdy and accommodating and in a great location. It also has a lovely covered porch and a beautiful view. PATC has done a nice job maintaining it, and we were thrilled that it was available on short notice.
The hike to the cabin is just a half mile from Skyline Drive. And with such an easy hike, we figured we could carry some fancy food (shocking for us, I know). We brought a small cooler bag full of our dinner, along with some frozen water bottles to keep things cold (figuring we could drink/dump the water before heading home). We did most of the food prep ahead of time, including cracking and freezing some scrambled eggs (for Sunday breakfast) in a Nalgene bottle.
We dropped our food and overnight gear at the cabin and then headed down trail another mile or so to Doyles River Falls (very pretty, despite the low-flow conditions). We shared the trail with a bunch of friendly folks, and saw quite a bit of bear scat. The black bear population is growing in the park, although we weren’t lucky enough to see one on this trip.
After our hike, we spent time lounging around the cabin and soaking in the view.
Souzz loving the hammock
For dinner, we fried up some trout (just as the CCC might have done), made our favorite frybake French potato dish, Potato Gratin Savoyard (probably not what the CCC would have done), and enjoyed steamed mussels (definitely not what the CCC would have done).
Cheese and prosciutto from our favorite local wine shop, Arrowine
Raw Acacia Honeycomb honey, from the Savannah Bee Company
Souzz assembling the Potato Gratin Savoyard, a backcountry favorite of ours
Fried trout, anyone?
Cooking on the nice stonework
Potato Gratin Savoyard, ready to be baked
Potat Gratin Savoyard, done!
As we cooked dinner, we admired the stonework and hand hewn logs that make up the cabin, as well as the beautiful view of the night sky. It’s pretty amazing to think that Doyles River Cabin has been providing cozy nights under the moonlight for 80+ years. The cabin looks fantastic for its age–which apparently is only a compliment if you are talking about a cabin (ask me how I know).
Souzz and our little cooler
Nice night sky
colors changed by the minute
Something magical about a fire
Breakfast sausage (and eggs in the bottle to the left)
There’s something rewarding about finding an adventure close to home—and even more so when it includes a bit of history and a nice menu. And we have the mussels to prove it.
There are a lot of power points in my life…and by power points, I don’t mean boring work slide shows (although I have a lot of those, too). I mean special places that have significance to me. The significance might be there for any number of reasons: natural beauty, the journey to get there, an experience associated with the place, or maybe because of different phases of my life that I’ve spent there. And the more that I experience, the bigger the list becomes–sort of the opposite of a bucket list.
Tatonduk River, Yukon, Alaska
Smokehole Canyon, WV
Upper Twin Lakes, Lake Clark, Alaska
Elephant’s Perch, Sawtooths, Idaho
Marsh Fork of the Canning, Alaska
KB on Skyline Traverse, Seneca Rocks, WV
Cat’s Ear Spire, Alaska Range
Col du Flambeau, Italy
A crevasse on Sahale Peak, WA
Paul Gearhart Shelter, Tuscarora Trail, WV
Cloud’s Rest, Yosemite
Cuernos, Patagonia, Chile
Early Winter Spire, Alaska Range
Midi-Plan traverse, France
Torres del Paine, Chile
Middle Fork of the Salmon, Idaho
Pentickton, British Columbia
Pillow Rock, Gauley River, WV
Col du Flambeau, Italy
Minke whale, Antarctica
One of my power points is Avalanche Lake, near Lake Placid in the Adirondacks of New York. The lake is in a narrow (~250 foot) slot between 4,714 foot Mount Colden and 3,816 foot Avalanche Mountain, and steep cliffs on both sides knife right into the water. The whole area is tight enough to feel intimate, and yet the lake feels much bigger than the nine acres that it is. There’s also a persistent wind that reminds you that you are alive…especially in the winter when the wind is filled with fine powdery snow blown off of the lake.
My first trip to Avalanche Lake was supposed to happen in 1987, but that trip was cut short when the temperatures hit 30 below (which, as it turns out, also reminds you that you are alive).
In 1992, I was finally able to visit Avalanche Lake in more typical winter weather, and I’ve been back probably four times since. Each time the lake was a little different and a little the same, with ice formations, lots of weather, and that persistent cold wind.
1992 with my brother
With my friends Rick and Philip
Ice in the pass
Avalanche Pass in winter conditions
Tim in the pass
What’s up with those tights?
2009 with KB
Skiing into Marcy Dam, 2018
KB knows how to eat on the trail
A bluebird day at the lake
With my buddy Bill. We met at a shelter and are still in touch almost 30 years later
This year’s trip to Avalanche Lake was my first in warm weather…and my first visit with Souzz. Once again, it was a little different and a little the same. For starters, Marcy Pond (on the five mile hike in) is now Marcy Brook, as the dam blew out during a big storm in 2011. There have also been a few more landslides in the pass–so I guess this place is both a power point and a slide show. But the trail is pretty much the same, although in the summer there’s of course no snow to even out the rough spots–and it’s slower on foot than on skis. But this is a cool hike to a cool place in any season.
Marcy Brook, formerly Marcy Pond
Souzz heads up “misery mile”
Avalanche probes, pre-positioned
Some technical sections of trail
Going through Avalanche Pass
An added bonus to our trip was a visit afterwards with our friend Matt Horner, an artist in nearby Keene. Matt is an amazing stone sculptor–as well as a fly fishing guide and one of the best ice climbing guides anywhere. Matt shares my love for the lake, and he has had the benefit of looking down on it in ways that most of us mortals can’t.
We met up with Matt at the Farmer’s Market in Keene, just south of Lake Placid, and Matt’s art speaks for itself. We added to our art collection on our trip, and it’s always nice to bring back a little slice (or carve) of the Adirondacks.
This beautiful piece came home with us
As for Avalanche Lake, I’ve said before that I rarely go to the same place twice, but that’s only selectively true (read: a lie). The Adirondacks are one of my favorite places, and Avalanche Lake is a favorite within a favorite. I love the dramatic features, the stark relief, the hike in, and the memories. And when I get to share a favorite place with my favorite person, it feels like a new adventure all over again. That’s a powerful point.
Souzz and I often spend New Year’s Eve in the backcountry or in a cabin, and we traditionally make risotto (along with some other fancy dish). The standard bearer of New Year’s absurdity was probably the year that we made risotto with lobster in a five burner kitchen while camping in the snow. We didn’t quite reach that level of absurdity this year, but we at least thought about it.
Lobsters in the snow
Souzz and our friend Sara
Anyway, with cold rain in the 2019 forecast, we decided to head to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Dawson Cabin in Pennsylvania, about two hours drive from our home in Virginia. Dawson is one of the lesser visited cabins in the PATC system, maybe because the hike to the cabin is straight uphill. But the hike is short, and Dawson is a hidden gem that is worth the visit. The cabin is well appointed and very well maintained, and it has southern exposure and a beautiful view.
Approaching the cabin
Lots of windows across the front, so nice light
Roomy and bright
Very well maintained and supplied
Lots of supplies
All of the bedding needs to be caged when the cabin isn’t being used
It was too rainy for us to use this, but in nicer weather it’d be great
Looking back from the bunks
A concrete foundation and nice outdoor space
puzzles for a rainy day
For our planned risotto and filet mignon feast, we hauled in a lot of cookware, as well as a five pound canister of propane and a two-burner camp stove. Utility wagons are a great tool for getting bulky gear into walk-in PATC cabins—but dragging them uphill through the mud and over tree roots in the rain might be an acquired taste.
The start of the trail
Arriving at the cabin as the rain stopped!
When we reached the cabin, we discovered that there was a problem with the regulator on the camp stove, so the stove and propane were basically flammable barbells. The issue was clearly beyond what I could field-repair, and fiddling with high-pressure gas connections is exciting in any circumstance–but especially so in a remote wood-framed structure. I’m also kind of fond of my eyebrows.
As a consolation, at least we had some good appetizers.
Appetizers were easy, though! This is olives, feta, lemon peel, olive oil, garlic
Prosciutto…oh, and beer!
With appetizers gone and still five hours to New Year’s, we had a new twist: how to make risotto without a modern camp stove. But there was a perfectly serviceable wood stove sitting right at our feet, so how hard could this be?
Tending a wood stove is always important in a PATC cabin in winter, although the goal is usually just heating the place. But now we had to figure out a way to keep the heat somewhat constant.
Chopping onions, nothing special
Sauteeing onions in olive oil
Mixing in rosemary
Coating the arborio rice
Wood stoves used to be the only stoves we had, right?
Looking very holiday
Starting to shape up
Ok, so I get that wood stoves have been around for generations, and my friends in bush Alaska are probably rolling their eyes by now (well, at least Ruby is…but in my defense, I don’t remember seeing a lot of risotto on “Life Below Zero“).
It took a little fiddling to maintain the level of heat on the cooktop, and there were times when we had to cool things off by lifting the pan onto a hastily made wire trivet (using a piece from a broken dartboard that we found in the cabin).
And more broth…
But we figured it out, and the risotto was quite good. And the keys to good risotto are the same whether on a modern range or on a wood stove: using homemade stock (way less salty), heating the stock quite a bit before adding, and cooking the risotto at high heat (ideally enough heat to finish the job in less than 20 minutes). With too little heat, things take a long time and the risotto gets sticky.
Lastly, our stove challenge gave us the chance to puzzle over why we go to primitive cabins and then haul in hundreds of pounds of fancy gear. That seems about as logical as getting the turbo option when you buy a Ford Fiesta. So maybe simplifying things should be our New Year’s Resolution? Well, that and preserving my eyebrows.
Souzz’s Christmas gift was an inflatable chair (she got me an Apple watch, whoops).
So what’s a camping trip without a mole? And by mole, I mean the pepper-based sauce from Mexico and not the burrowing beady-eyed critter. Mole (pronounced mo-lay) tastes amazing over fish, chicken, or basically any kind of meat (except over mole meat, which is disgusting).
Mole is an ancient Spanish word that loosely translates to “mix.” The recipe has its roots in the Mexican town of Oaxaca, about 200 miles southeast of Mexico City. Popular legend has it that nuns were rushing to prepare for a visit from the archbishop and they just made up a sauce out of what they had on hand.
Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Cathedral of our Lady of the Assumption), dating to the 1500s
Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
Cuilapan de Guerro, a former monastery dating to the 1500s
Souzz visited Oaxaca last month on a business trip, and she managed to squeeze in a mole-making class during her visit (I guess the margarita-chugging class was fully booked).
At the local market
Chef Jose Manuel Baños, at his restaurant, Pitiona
Chef Jose Manuel Baños flanked by a few students
shopping for ingredients
At the local market, the peppers used for mole
The produce was amazing
Lots of great choices at the local market
Plaza de Santa Domingo
Monte Albán ruins, 500-100 BC
Oaxaca countryside garden
Monte Albán ruins, 500-100 BC
Cuilapan de Guerro archway
Souzz raved about her class (and her trip) when she got home. So when we started planning a menu for a backpacking trip with our good friends Lou and Kay, mole-making became an obvious choice (with margarita chugging as a backup). Our destination was Racer Camp Hollow, a favorite of ours in the Blue Ridge mountains near Wardensville, West Virginia.
Rock-hopping along the way
Walking the plank
The view from our camp, not bad
Racer Camp Hollow
Looking down into camp, Racer Camp Hollow
We made a mole verde that used tomatillos, which are smallish green Mexican tomatoes. Our mole recipe also used pumpkin seeds, jalapenos, onions, garlic, cilantro, parsley, and a little bit of chicken stock.
Tomatillos in their husks
After peeling the husk
The whole trick to backcountry mole–besides a penchant for cooking the absurd–is to carry a hand-crank food processor. Our new little toy worked out great, and it weighed less than a pound.
After browning the veggies
Adding the cilantro
Kay provides power to the mixer
It turns out there are actually several makes and models of hand-crank food processors, which had me wondering how many lunatic foodie backpackers there could possibly be? Or maybe people want to cook fancy during power outages? But mostly I wondered if this thing could be used to make margaritas.
The basis for the sauce
browning sauce ingredients
The absurdity of our meal planning came into sharper focus when we decided to include fresh doughnuts for breakfast. We always use a paper bag to shake and coat the doughnuts, which naturally prompted a text exchange ahead of the trip about cow pies.
Here’s the text exchange when I needed paper bags to dust the doughnuts
Have another doughnut!
In any case, dinner was delightful, and we served the mole over rice and some fresh grouper that we had hand-carried from Florida a few weeks back. We followed the main course with Kay’s apple tart for dessert, which made for a pretty elegant backcountry meal.
Florida grouper, vacuum sealed and still frozen
Grouper frying away in the frybake
The finished product – grouper with mole over rice
Kay’s apple tart, fabulous!
Camping with Lou and Kay is a lot of fun under any circumstance, but in particular when you team up for a five star meal at a five star campsite. It’s great to be with folks that know both the outdoors and food…and it’s a total bonus when they also know Heather Locklear trivia (don’t ask).
Our recent trip to great state of Utah featured a lot of variety: a four day backpack on the historic Boulder Mail Trail, a day of canyoneering in Capitol Reef, downhill skiing at Brighton, and mountain biking in the central part of the state. We also caught up with our cousin Brian and our nephew Pat, so we got in some good family time, too.
With cousin Brian, backcountry tour guide extraordinnaire
Souzz with her nephew (and expert snowboarder) Pat, fresh off of a Naki concert
with cousin Brian above Escalante
Over the course of the week, we traveled by plane, bus, car, foot, rope, ski, and bike—not bad for a couple of flatlanders from the east. And we capped off the week with bear watching (ok, so the bear was the mascot at a Utah Grizzlies hockey game).
Souzz hanging below Cassidy Arch, Capitol Reef NP
At the trailhead of the Boulder Mail Trail, with Souzz’s cousin Brian
Mountain biking near Price
Souzz hanging out in Cassidy Canyon
The natural bridge in Mamie Creek, Escalante
Crossing the stream in Death Hollow
Capital Reef NP
Descending into Death Hollow, Escalante
Well, the blog is called souzzchef
Camp in Mamie Creek
Part of our trip was spent around the town of Price, a coal-mining community of about 8,000 that at first glance doesn’t look like much of an outdoor playground. But there are some great mountain bike trails on the plateau just outside of town, and friendly locals told us about a nearby must-see area called the Little Grand Canyonin “The Swell.” After getting some vague directions, we poured over our maps and found what they were talking about—a BLM recreation area in the heart theSan Rafael Swell.
There’s pavement in a few places, mostly where the road washes over
Close to the Wedge
Headed down towards the river
To get to the Little Grand Canyon required about 20 miles of driving on a dirt road…but “it’s a good dirt road where you can go 60 miles an hour,” to quote one of our new friends in Price. We were a little slower than that, but the road was in great shape. There was a BLM visitor center kiosk along the way that provided some information as well as a few good area maps.
BLM visitor center and kiosk
Headed in towards the Wedge
Shade must be nice in summer
Lots of cattle gates
A great lunch spot on the rim of the canyon
A side canyon near the river
Nice interpretive signage
Those are antelope out there
A good sense of location
The locals were right that it’s a spectacular place, with cliffs and canyons as far as we could see. The Little Grand Canyon itself is not as grand as its larger namesake, but there are stunning vistas, petroglyphs, an old (1937) bridge, primitive campgrounds, and an abundance of hiking and biking trails. And what is plenty grand about this place is what’s missing: people, concessionaires, streams of vehicles, and the suffocating infrastructure that can be somewhat common in larger parks. This place is definitely a hidden gem.
Looking to the north
That’s the San Rafael River down there
I must be standing on a rock above Souzz
Selfie, little Grand Canyon style
Looking down canyon
A great hike or ride, but don’t stray too far right!
As we were leaving Price earlier in the day to head towards the Swell, the guy at the local convenience mart asked where we were going. “Aaaah, yes, the Swell, you’ll love it,” he said. “It’s exactly like the Grand Canyon, only way better. And who wants to drive all the way to Arizona anyway?”
I’ve wanted to hike hut-to-hut in Switzerland for years, but planning such a trip always seemed like a daunting task. For starters, there are more than 150 huts in the Swiss Alpine Club system, which seemed totally overwhelming. And the language barrier for someone that doesn’t speak Swiss German is big, as almost all of the websites and information are in Swiss German (go figure).
Enter our good friends Reto and Annika, who live near Zurich and know a thing or two about these huts. They helped us plan a three day trip of about 30 kilometers on the Greina Plateau in the south central part of Switzerland–and by “helped us plan,” I mean that they planned it. Best of all, Reto came along (perhaps he thought we could use a chaperone?).
Reto and Souzz at Rheinfall, near Zurich
Annika and her best friend (oh, wait, I think that’s Reto)
Getting from Zurich to the trailhead near Vrin was ambitious enough, requiring four hours, three train rides, three cups of coffee, two bus rides, and a kilometer of walking up a village road.
Along the way
The marker is Vrin
Reto scouts future trips
On the train
In the village of Vrin
The start to our hike
From the trailhead, it was about 9 kilometers and 800 vertical meters to get to the Terrihutte, which is a beautiful stone structure on a point at the head of a valley.
One of many stream crossings
Souzz and Reto
Another stream crossing
A beautiful spot!
the last leg of the hike
I look like I am helping Souzz through a tough section, but Reto actually did the hard part.
The Terrihutte was built in 1925, although it has been renovated and expanded multiple times since. It has space for 110 in shared bunk rooms, as well as a full kitchen and a bar with cold beer and wine (as with most huts, restocking is done by helicopter). It also has electric power generated from the creek below, quite the luxury.
Food at the hut was simple but hearty. Potatoes, meats, soup, breads, butter, and salads are typical, all served family style in a dining room that offers ridiculous views.
ok, so it’s cloudy…but a pretty cool view
Mashed potatoes and meat
A busy room
Huts kind of have some views
The huts are also highly social places, even if you don’t speak the language. We were generally sitting across the table from someone who hiked the same hard kilometers that we did, which means we had a few things in common–including sore feet and tired legs. And, despite our ugly American language skills, many of our fellow hikers were gracious enough to reach out in English (which was a good thing, as hearing Reto and his family laugh as I tried to say the word for “three” in Swiss German wasn’t very encouraging).
We filled our water bottles here
A charging station in the backcountry, pure magic!
Souzz in our dorm-style room
The next day we headed up and over our high point at Greina Pass (2703 meters) to theMedelserhutte. It was a 15 kilometer hike, including some scrambling and a descent of a long snowfield. There were also some really fun glissades (the easy part) before a short ascent to the hut.
Headed up to the pass
Capricorn against the snow
With Reto at Greina Pass
Headed down the snowfield
Glissading is fun, no matter how old you are!
With Souzz, looking down the pass
The Medelserhutte is in a saddle with a commanding view to the west. It is a smaller hut than the Terrehutte, with 55 bunks, but still plenty roomy. Despite an early-ish start to our hike, we didn’t get there until nearly 6pm–but that was still enough time to catch sun on the back patio and watch Capricorns (a type of bighorn sheep) run the hillside.
Looking down valley
An inviting front door
A room with a view!
Rooms were pretty nice
I guess I’m not much of a conversationalist
Souzz and Reto
Reto spies some Capricorns
Our entire route
Soaking in the sun after a big day
Capricorns roaming the hillside
Looking back, Reto and Annika made it easy for us to do something that would have been very hard for us to do on our own (impossible?!), and for that we are very grateful. Visiting Switzerland with their help was priceless, spending time with them and their children before and after our hike was a treasure, and we are still glowing about our trip.
As for our time in the huts, I caught myself wondering how the Swiss built these places. But mostly I wondered why my legs were so sore. And then I wondered what another beer would taste like.
This weekend we joined good friends for a quick getaway to the nearby Blue Ridge mountains and a stay at theRosser Lamb House. The house was built in 1915 as the home of Hiram and Lucy Lamb and their nine children, and it is now one of thePotomac Appalachian Trail Club’s primitive (no power or water) rental cabins. It is located in Lamb’s Hollow (of course), adjacent toShenandoah National Park.
The spacious sitting room
The dining room, just off of the kitchen
The renovated kitchen
SNP Map #10. The Lamb House is in the lower left quad
Looking down into the valley near Stanardsville
A peek at the two decks and the screened in porch
Shenandoah National Park was created during the Great Depression, and the formation of the park resulted in more than five hundred families being forced by the U.S. government to leave their homes. Many of these families had been on land that they had occupied for generations, and entire communities were uprooted and moved to the east—including some to a subdivision in nearby Madison County called “Resettlement Road” (seriously).
George and Emma Meadows Lamb. Photo courtesy of PATC
George Lamb. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
More than 500 families received letters like this. Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Heritage Project
Resettlement Road. Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Heritage Project
Emma Meadows Lamb. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
In 1934, the Lamb family–which had been in that hollow since 1845–got the word that they needed to relocate. But in a twist of fate, the government ran out of funding for the park before the Lambs were forced to move. The park border stopped just short of the Lamb house, and they stayed there well into the 1960s–when the house was eventually sold to be used as a hunting lodge.
Rosser and Rosetta Lamb. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
Rosser and Rosetta Lamb with Sevilla and Thurman. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
Sevilla, Rosetta, Thurman, and Rosser Lamb, at their front porch. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
Rosetta Lamb and son Thurman. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
In 1995, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club acquired the house and its surrounding property and began what became a 17-year project torestore it. The house has been described by a park historian as “a tribute to a mountain family living out the American dream in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.” And a fine tribute it is.
We spent our weekend hiking on the nearby trails, enjoying the stream-side setting, cooking in the spacious and renovated kitchen, and imagining life here some 100 years ago.
The Blue Ridge Heritage Project Memorial in Albemarle County. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
Larry Lamb and Kristie Kendall. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
Larry Lamb with the chimney that is a central part of the Memorial. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
Larry and Kristie were incredibly gracious in sharing the history of the house and the surrounding area, and both of their organizations are doing amazing work.
Larry’s father, Thurman, was born in the house in 1925, and Larry visited the house often as a kid. He shared that his grandparents, Rosser and Rosetta Lamb, were “kind, humble people who loved the mountains and their home.” There were also stories of corn growing on the hillside, a smokehouse, a big garden, and family gatherings that featured banjo music and dancing the Virginia Reel.
Larry Lamb’s Aunt, Sevilla Lamb, playing guitar. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
Inspired by the history of the house, our friend Lou brought his guitar
The Virginia Reel!
As for food during our trip, we tried to use recipes that we thought might be common back in Rosser and Rosetta Lamb’s day. Cherry trees were popular in the Blue Ridge, so we made a cherry pie. The Lambs made sorghum molasses, so we baked molasses cookies and muffins. They grew corn, so we had corn on the cob. They likely atewild ramps, so we had some ramps. The streams in the park had wild trout, so we made a trout dip. They had a smokehouse, so we smoked some fish.
soon to be smoked trout dip
Apps on Friday night
a portable smoker
smoked salmon, 30 minutes start to finish
molasses and apple muffin ingredients
molasses and apple muffins
the muffins, after baking
Molasses cookies, ready for baking
Molasses cookies, not bad!
Pickled ramps, a first for me
A pickled ramp
The finished pie
Ice cream and pie, through the miracle of dry ice
Of course, it’s a lot easier when you get your food from the local supermarket and keep it on ice in a giant cooler—a little different than in Rosser and Rosetta Lamb’s day.
Later on the trip, we visitedFar Pocosin Mission, which is about a two mile hike from the house. The Mission was founded in 1902, and historians describe it as the center of the community at the time. Now, 115 years later, the Mission is slowly fading into the forest–but there are old foundations, stairs, and chimneys that are still visible. Rosser Lamb attended church at the Mission, and his children went to school there.
Remains of the Mission worker’s cabin
peeking into the Mission worker’s cabin
artifacts on the Mission worker’s cabin
A foundation at the mission
Steps to an old cabin
I’ve enjoyed hiking and backpacking in and around Shenandoah National Park for more than 30 years now, and I confess that I haven’t always thought much about the human history. But we found the house and the mission to be powerful reminders of the people that were here before the park. The house is a fine tribute to the Lamb family, and to a lot of other families that lived in the neighboring hollows. I really can’t imagine what it must have been like for those that were forced to leave.
Main headstone in the Lamb Family Cemetery, just up the hill from the house
The Lamb Family Cemetery
Paying our respects for those that went before us
Lastly, it turns out that Pocosin Mission was founded by a very distant relative of mine,Frederick William Neve, a fact which was fascinating to me—but was either irrelevant or annoying to Souzz and our friends. After all, how many times can you listen to someone say “hey, I’m related to the guy that built this!” without wanting to scream?
Actually, I know that answer, and it’s four.
Frederick Neve, the Archdeacon of the Blue Ridge. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
A young boy at the mission, early 1900s. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb
As we planned our menu for an upcoming backpacking trip, Souzz reminded me that she “basically grew up on doughnuts”—which was a shocking revelation coming from somebody so fit. Apparently her hometown of Buffalo has a long (or round?) doughnut heritage–withFreddie’s, Paula’s, Tim Horton’s, and Zen’s (her family favorite as a kid). Doughnuts were (and are) such a part of the Buffalo scene that hometown hockey hero Jim Schoenfeldonce famously screamedat one of the lesser fit NHL referees to “have another doughnut!”
Freddie’s started in 1922
Paula’s is the new rage
The weekend’s destination was a quick overnight toKepler Overlook, in the Blue Ridge near Van Buren Furnace. Our good friend KB joined us for the first day.
Detailed trail map
Down low along Cedar Creek
KB and Souzz near the ridge
The hike started out along Cedar Creek before finishing on a long ridge, covering about five miles and 1000 feet of elevation. There were several great campsites up high, as well as a nice “improved” site on Cedar Creek with benches and a huge fire pit. We headed to one of the sites on the ridge, bringing a gallon and a half of water along with a bunch of good food (winter camping, even on a warmer weekend, should always be about food).
Souzz and KB near our campsite
KB and I shared our first adventure was in 1987. He looks the same.
cool clouds from the ridge
We shared the trail with a mountain biker
It was too bad KB couldn’t stick around for the evening, because dinner at our camp overlooking the Shenandoah Valley was fabulous. We started with an appetizer of local ham, smoked trout, and cheese, and then followed with beef tenderloin, gnocchi with tomatoes and garlic, red wine, and frybake chocolate chip cookies. We don’t lose weight on these trips.
Souzz gathering wood
ham, bread, cheese, smoked trout
that thermometer was handy!
ok, maybe we cooked it a little too long…but it was pretty good!
Gnocchi with tomatoes
Dinner at sunset, not bad!
The day’s mild temps eventually dipped into the high 30s, and then morning dawned warm and sunny….perfect doughnut weather, right? We learned soon enough that backcountry doughnuts really are pretty easy. We’d made the dough ahead of time using aBetty Crocker recipe, and we didn’t really need a lot of extra stuff on the trail–just an instant-read thermometer, a pair of tongs, vegetable oil, and cake doughnut toppings (chocolate, cinnamon, and powdered sugar).
Ingredients for the dough
dough and flour, pretty easy
While the oil was coming to temperature on our cook stove, we rolled out the dough and cut it into shape using the top of a Nalgene bottle and a cap from a Diet Coke. Then we dropped the dough into 375-degree oil for about two minutes a side. From there it was a quick dunk into the topping of choice and it was time for our Zens-like moment(s).
improvising is key
we could have ordered a doughnut hole cutter (they actually make those), but what’s the point?
raw doughnuts on a frisbee
Getting the oil to temp
Waiting for toppings
A “backcountry dozen”
With several miles of walking ahead of us after breakfast, it was pretty easy to justify a doughnut. There was less of a case for the next four.
We closed out our trip to Newfoundland with a hike in Little Cove, just south of the village of Twillingate. Our hike took us to Jones Cove and then up and over the ridge toLower Little Harbour.
The Twillingate hiking website listed this particular hike as easy, but we found it to be a bit more—four or so miles with a lot of up and down. Perhaps this was due to weather in the low 50s (Fahrenheit) and high winds (25-30 mph gusts), or maybe we are just flatlander tourists. In any case, the hiking was interesting, with sections of heavy forest, sections of bare rock, a summit ridge, and even a short stretch of rocky beach.
Along the way, we passed a natural arch and the remains of a settlement from the 1930s, including what was left of a restaurant called Kelley’s Sunset Chat. Our hike was a nice mix of nature, history, and exercise–including some scrambling and some up-hill climbs.
Souzz up on the ridge above Jones Cove
A wooded section of trail
Great views to the east
Colors are changing
Beautiful natural arch
A root cellar from the 1930s
Kelley’s Sunshine Chat restaurant, from the 1930s
Back in Twillingate atOceanview Retreat, we closed out our stay with another interesting Newfoundland dish,seafood chowder. It’s pretty clear why I haven’t lost weight on this trip.
Fresh north Atlantic salmon
local carrots, celery, onion
mixing in savory and pepper
Some other local dishes this week includedNewfoundland fish cakes, pickled herring, and fried dulse. Menu staples here are highly seasonal, revolve around the sea as well as roots and berries, and have a simple charm about them.
Dulse, a local seaweed
Lots of ways to prepare dulse
Somehow this looked better in the jar
We are back in Virginia now, but we have some great memories of “The Rock,” as Newfoundland is often called. We didn’t know much about any of these places before planning this trip, and now we’ll never forget them. The culture is interesting, the people are amazingly friendly…and there is so much more to see.
On our way to the airport in Gander, Souzz uttered the telltale phrase that marks the end of a great vacation: “I wish we had one more day.”
We just headed off to Gander, Newfoundland for a quick trip. So where is Gander, you might ask? We knew this place was a bit off the beaten path when we checked into our flights on Air Canada, and Jessie, the Air Canada agent, asked “is Gander in Canada?”
Gander is a town of 10,000 that has an airport with a big runway and a lot of aviation history. A walk through town reveals streets named after Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, Eddie Richenbacker, and Chuck Yeager. Gander was a stopover for almost all trans-Atlantic flights back in the day—until fuel capacities got bigger in the 1970s. And Gander continues to be a safe haven for flights over the North Atlantic that have mechanical problems (thankfully, that wasn’t us).
Gander is indeed in Canada (as of 1949)
Our hotel, the Albatross Inn
Gander also had a big role in helping the world on September 11, 2001, when US-bound planes were diverted here and6500 passengers spent five days in townwaiting for US airspace to re-open. The town’s population nearly doubled in just a few hours, and the people of Gander answered the call. They opened their homes to total strangers, the hockey rink was converted to a giant refrigerator to store food for the “plane people,” and citizens made weary travelers feel as comfortable as they could (imagine hearing this: “Hi, welcome to Walmart. Would you like to come to our house and take a shower?”).
Gander on 9-11, with 38 planes grounded
Gander’s post-9/11 role was largely overlooked at the time, but it is an amazing story—even inspiring a musical that is playing now at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC called “Come from Away.” One of the many passengers stranded in Gander back in 2001 was so touched that she started a highly successfulscholarship programfor the high school in nearby Lewisporte. The stories from that time offered a ray of hope in the midst of a very dark time.
As for us, we took in a few local sites, including the Silent Witness Memorial, and then stopped by the North Atlantic Aviation Museum. The museum offered up some fascinating artifacts from Newfoundland’s rich aviation history, as well as a few more reminders of 9-11 (including a piece of steel from one of the Twin Towers).
The front of the museum, unintentionally ironic
A PBY-Catalina, part of sea rescue in World War II
A Link Trainer, another classic!
A piece of the twin towers, given to Gander to acknowledge all of the town’s help to passengers diverted on 9-11.
A letter displayed in the museum
9-11 thank you
9-11 thank you
9-11 thank you
From Gander, we headed on toTwillingate, about an hour and a half north, where we’ve rented a cottage overlooking the harbor. We are going to take in as much local culture as we can, hike a bunch, cook up some local treats, and perhaps learn a little more about a corner of the world that we don’t know that much about.