Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Roadblocks to Vacation

            When most people plan their vacation they think of things like the beach, the mountains, visiting family, or even Disney World. When Charlie and I plan a vacation we try to see how far from civilization we can get and for how long. And for those of you who know me (those of you who don’t will quickly figure this out) most of our vacations involve paddling in some form. Last year our big trip was to the boundary waters of Canada with a few of our fellow firefighters. Ten days in the middle of nowhere, and at least a two-day paddle for help at our farthest point. It was awesome.
            This year we decided to stay a little closer to home. The two-day drive to Canada was just not appealing this year. So naturally we turned to the river that we love the most, the James. The James has two other rivers; the Cow pasture and the Jackson River, and several streams that come together to then form the headwaters of the James. We figured that we had two options; the Jackson or the Cow pasture. So we did what any good paddler and steward of the river does and we started doing our research. We started with our home library of paddling books and searched some trip reports. It was looking like either river was going to be a great trip. Then we ran into our first roadblock. It turns out that much of the Cow pasture as been deemed un-navigable and that the land owners have ownership of the river. Now I thought how is this possible? Or even legal. But with some more research turns out it’s true. We would have to cross the Cow pasture off our list. So next was the Jackson River. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful paddles in Va. Now I was really excited. Well again we researched (Ok mostly Charlie researched I was still bummed about the Cow pasture). Well there was the next roadblock. So the Jackson is going through a similar situation that the Cow pasture has been through. There is currently a lawsuit pending with the landowners and the fishermen. The landowners want the same thing to be done for the Jackson as the Cow pasture, and have it deemed un-navigable. Sigh… This whole thing got a lot more complicated then we had ever imagined it would. Well in doing some more searching we figured out that we could still potentially paddle the Jackson, but we would have nowhere to camp. While there is a lot of national forest land, just not where we needed it to be. Back to square one. Iron Gate became our next viable option. There is still limited camping, and we have had to plan this to a rather tight schedule to make it to the campsites that we won’t get run off from. The funny thing about the whole thing is once we get to Lynchburg the rest of the trip is a breeze. Well as far as knowing where we can and can’t be, and everyone that we have ever met on this stretch of river has been nothing but nice to us. One man even let us camp in his driveway when we were unexpectedly flooded out of a campsite several years back.
            Now I would just like to say that I can see where the landowners are coming from. If I was lucky enough to have land on the river I wouldn’t want anyone messing it up, but I would also never want to deny someone the pleasure of being able to paddle or fish the river. How is it that someone can own the water? I feel like there could be a compromise somewhere in all of this. It is just very hard for me to not get a little bit angry about the whole thing. I guess it’s just a case of a few bad apples ruining the bunch, and knowing that I am not one of the bad apples. The most disturbing part of this whole situation is that this could potentially place all of the rivers in Va. at risk.
            Now that we had all that figured out the next discussion became what boats do we take. We have a variety to choose from. The first thought was that we would take our smaller raft with the oar rig attached. Charlie and the pups in the raft then I would take a ducky (inflatable kayak). Like much of the east coast our weather lately has been freakishly warm and dry. The dry part is what worries me. On a trip to Balcony falls in the small raft to get Seven used to the boat, it was decided that all the gear and the dogs just weren’t going to fit in the small raft. So the 16ft raft with the oar rig it is, but the river levels have been on the bubble of us being able to take a raft at all. So canoes may be our mode of transportation, which should be pretty interesting with Seven. Her love of chasing geese might become a problem. Luckily we have had several days of rain, and we are keeping our fingers crossed.
            Despite all of this, I think that Charlie, the pups and any other of the rag tag group that may join us along the way and I, will still have a wonderful time. I can’t think of a better way to spend two weeks off.

Some pictures of our trip to Balcony Falls with our friend "Dude" (James) who by the way runs a really amazing organization called Urban Mountain Adventures http://urbanmountainadventures.org/   You should check it out!
Angus is an old pro at this

James and a hitchhiker 
Seven is not sure about this at all

She got the hang of it by the end

Should you want to help the cause of the Jackson River here is the link to the defense fund

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Homestead

            Growing up I spent a good portion of my time getting into a lot of trouble on the horse farm that my grandfather managed. My time there was unfortunately cut entirely too short when he unexpectedly passed away. So I have always had this attraction to farms. I have always wanted to live on one. Well now I might get my chance.
             Charlie happens to have some family land out in western VA that we are hoping to turn into our homestead. It’s not much – 4.5 acres – but I still think that will be plenty of room for me, Charlie, the pups, some chickens, a donkey, a large garden and maybe a goat. The goat is still up for debate. It has been slow going at first because we are starting from scratch and I mean scratch. Let’s just say that we almost have the lot cleaned up. The land was recently clear cut so we have been spending most of our time clearing what was left by hand and with some much needed help from our friend Trip and his dozer, and some awesome family members who needed fire wood. We are hoping to get things really moving and getting the septic system in within the next few months, and then possibly start building shortly after.
There is a lot to clean up here. Looks like someone dumped a bunch of tree sized toothpicks all over the place
Trip's Dozer. We couldn't have done any of this without him and that dozer.
The workhorse of the whole project. Well really the only one that worked well enough for us to cut anything

Charlie working on clearing by the creek. The mountain laurel is going to be beautiful once it gets some room to grow
            There are two things that are really hard for me through this whole process 1. Being patient and 2. Keeping the motivation to keep fixing up the house we are currently in to hopefully sell it. I can’t wait to be out there. The city has been good to us. We are close to the water and get to paddle regularly, and there is plenty to do, but part of me craves the quiet simplicity of being in the middle of nowhere. That and the barn parties we plan on having. I feel like in the city I have gotten a little lazy. I am completely in love with the thought of taking care of animals and working in my garden. We have a small garden now, but nothing close to what I want to have out in the country. I know that it is going to be a lot of hard work, but I am excited and ready for that. Working hard to take care of yourself and your family makes it worth it to me.
            One of the things that I am most looking forward to is having chickens. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I have a thing for chickens. It all started with a reoccurring dream of being chased by giant chickens. The dream was scary at first, (these chickens were foaming at their giant beaks) but about the third time I had it and the second person I told, I realized how funny it actually was. There have been other chicken occurrences as I call them. There was a girl in college whose mother decorated her entire kitchen and a good portion of the house with chickens and roosters. It was creepy trust me. This seems to be a common theme for kitchen decorating and usually to a degree that borders on insanity. I try to limit the chickens in my life when it comes to decorating, but I am so excited to have some real chickens on the farm. My current procrastination technique from schoolwork is researching coops and everything that my little chicks will need to be happy. It is amazing the array of chicken coops that are out there.

     A great reference for just about anything for a small farm if anyone wants some info. She gets really in-depth about chickens:      http://theweekendhomesteader.blogspot.com 

            Another hope of mine is that I get back the creative juices I seemed to have been missing for a while. I love creating and making something out of nothing, but I tend to get messy with it. We are a little cramped in our current home (a rancher) since one whole room is full, like hoarder full of our camping, paddling, hiking, skiing, rafting and any other outdoor activity you can think of, gear. It’s quite amazing really. There is also the fact that we are trying to fix up and sell the house. I am looking forward to my own space where I can spread out and get as messy as I want, and not worry about it. Having that freedom I am hoping will unleash my inner artist again. Plus I will have room to store the random things that I pick up off the side of the road, like those old windows in my garage that need to be turned into picture frames…

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

   And it Begins...
  After much consideration, and some great encouragement form one very amazing woman Becky, I have finally decided that I am going to start a blog. So here it is...
   I hope to share some of the events in my life that I swear would never happen to anyone else but me. I hope that you find my antics entertaining, the art projects inspiring, and if nothing else I hope that the pictures are decent.

   Just so you know who I will be speaking about on a pretty regular basis here is the line up:

         Charlie Holland: Paddling Companion, Best Friend, Love of my Life, and all around good guy. He doesn't always make that face I promise.

     Angus: Best Bud to one Charlie Holland and a total "Momma's Boy" How could I not be a sucker for that face?

   And finally Seven: AKA "Big Brown Dog" Lover of Tennis Balls, Professional Drooler, and Best Bud to Me. Don't let the cute face fool you she's trouble.

  These three tend to get into the most trouble with me so you will see them often, but I am sure that more characters will be added.

Let the Blogging begin!