We had planned to have a quiet, stay-at-home kind of fall. For whatever reason, this did not come to pass. Yet there’s little to complain about. Our adventures have been of the energizing variety.
Last Thursday we headed south, bound for Douthat State Park, an idyllic stretch of mountainous acres about an hour west of Charlottesville, Virginia. Robbi and I used to go there back before we had kids, but we thought it time to let them in on the secret.
Given the lateness of the season and the coldness of the nights, we stayed in a cabin, which, while appropriately rustic, was also outfitted with such pleasing features as a furnace and adequate pillows.
Friday morning started with a hike on the Beard’s Gap trail, up to the ridge, along which we would hike before coming down again into the valley.
The day was truly spectacular. Temperatures in the low 50s. Crisp air. Clear skies. Gorgeous light.
The company was equally inspiring.
The kids were excited. At home, we have no yard. In Douthat, there were no shortage of places to weirdly scamper.
And occasional views to take one’s breath away.
By the time Alden was two months shy of her fourth birthday, she was doing everything for herself, including the climbing of reasonable mountains. Not so Augie, who continues to cling to babyhood with fierce determination. He has concluded that his hiking limits extend to approximately 20 paces. Rather than endure the litany of complaints, we chose to hoist him aloft and carried his not-insubstantial weight up the mountain.
At the end of our hike, we came to a suspension bridge that was not at all to Iggy’s liking.
The kids, on the other hand, spent the better part of an hour enjoying a slow and spirited crossing in a manner not at all in line with the bridge builders’ intentions.
Eventually, they arrived on the opposite shore.
And splashed a bit in the little river just crossed.
While Iggy slept off her fear.
After resting a bit, we went down to the lake, where we did not swim.
I assume the swimming ban was a function of the season. The water was not warm and no lifeguard was on hand.
There were no posted restrictions on scenic hugging.
Back at the cabin, Iggy’s demonstrative exhaustion continued.
As night fell, we made ourselves a fire.
We lit some charcoal and put some buttered salmon on the grill.
We warmed our hands against the cold, and then we roasted marshmallows.
Morning found us at another trailhead.
This time, we walked around the lake. It was another perfect day. There were a few white clouds, but they did us the favor of casting handsome shadows on the mountains.
The lake is formed by a gorgeous dam that looks handmade.
The trail clings to its edges, close enough to reach your hand into the water.
I kept on looking up, because the sky was basically daring us not to.
Eventually, reluctantly, we left Douthat behind. Nothing could have filled the gap it left in our hearts. Except perhaps the taco bar that doppelganger Marigold Haske prepared for us to ease the sting of leaving paradise.
Marigold is one half of Marigold and Steve, who were, for a long time, the west coast Robbi and Matthew. (They are writers and illustrators and designers and generally funny, smart, creative, kind people and parents. We like them. A lot.)
Now that they live in Charlottesville, the are the Virginia Robbi and Matthew. A bit too close for comfort, we fear. It was, in fact, the first time all four of us had been in the same place, and we wondered if there might be some sort of cosmic rift when it happened.
Not so, thank goodness. All we did was revel in the taco wonder and have a nice time at a playground.
Where Alden learned and repeatedly demonstrated her latest trick.
Later, our tour of Charlottesville continued with a visit to our dear friends Aaron and Dahlia. She is a journalist who writes brilliant articles about the Supreme Court, and he does amazing things with embroidery. It was our first time beholding his 15-thread machine. Just try not to admire the engineering.
Just try not to admire the gorgeous results.
Here you may admire them together.
Aaron showed us a bunch of his stuff and walked us through his process. The piece he’s holding below includes approximately 100,000 stitches.
I love how every kind of artist has a different set of tools. I always admire gear and long for some of my own. We writers are somewhat limited, though. I do love my laptop, but it lacks the sex appeal of Aaron’s machine.
I have no analog to his endless drawers of colored rayon thread. Unless it’s words. Which I do not keep in a drawer.
As much as we love Aaron and Dahlia, the highlight of our time together is always their kids, who are the sweetest, kindest boys we know.
And also generous. All three kids got to try on Sosi’s robot costume. Here is Alden. Looks like Robbi and I will have to take it up a notch this Halloween.
On the way home, at the urgent recommendation of doppelganger Steve, we stopped at Moo Thru (drive through ice cream, just like it sounds) and acquired cones and milk shakes.
Because how else could we end a weekend like this one?
It has been a great string of trips. But we’re calling it quits. It’s time to be home for a while.