A Windy Walk to Clear My Mind

The sun burns brightly in the blue sky. What warmth it provides is swept away by a strong breeze. The move, the death of my mother, settling into a new church, and dealing with the new house has taken a lot out of me. I need a break. I take Tuesday off and spend the afternoon hiking around Rocky Knob, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, east of Floyd, Virginia.

One of the surprises in the move came in our new house. I fell in love the view of “the Buffalo.” Perhaps that’s why I didn’t notice the large number of air freshers in the house. I’m not sure how, but when I first toured the house the day after it went on the market, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The former owners (children of the man who owned it) had the ceilings painted and aired it out. They may have even used an ozone machine to mask the smell of smoke.

The inside is prepared for paint. The picture in the bottom left is an early morning view of “The Buffalo”

I realize from the first time I saw the house, there are things to be done. With the house being smaller than the one in Georgia, I need to finish the walkout basement. I also envisioned adding a deck around the back to be able to fully enjoy the view of the Buffalo. Then there’s landscaping and what to do with five acres of pasture. I put all those things on hold. While moving in, entering the house after it had been closed up for six weeks, we realized the former occupants were smokers. Heavy smokers. Currently, we’re staying in a farmhouse of friends while painters are working hard to seal in the walls. When we move back in this weekend (or early next week), it will be very nice. For now, it’s an inconvenience.

I can imagine coming into this cabin and warming up at the fireplace.

I take Tuesday afternoon off. Driving to the Rocky Knob ranger station, I park my car and head off on the Black Ridge Trail. I take the loop which leads me to the West side of the ridge. The path drops into a hollow. I’m sheltered from the wind. After a few minutes of hiking, I come upon an old chimney. The craftsmanship is amazing. While there is no evidence of a house, the chimney appears to be in perfect working order. From there, I cross a small creek, as the trail heads back up toward the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just before reaching the Parkway, the trail heads south, with pasture to my right and the parkway high above me to the left.

When the trail climbed up and over the Parkway, as I left the hollow, the north wind became intense. I was now on the Black Ridge, which hangs high above Rock Castle Gorge, where I had hiked last August. Vegetation is thick in the canyon with tall trees reaching to the edge of the ridge. On top, the trees are short, gnarled by the wind. The grass remains green, even this late in the year. Granite boulders stick up in the midst of the meadow, creating a tombstone-like appearance. As with the old chimney, ghosts abound in these hills. I find a large enough boulder to block the wind and provide a back rest. For a few minutes, I write in my journal. Afterwards, I pull out Billy Beasley’s new book, The Girl in the River and read a few chapters. I’ll review the book in my blog next week.

Looking east. Rock Castle Gorge is to the bottom right.

I enjoy the chilly walk along the ridge, frequently stopping to look to the east. Passing a woman with two dogs, I say hello. One of the dogs is trying to get to me, but she says he’s in training. I smile and say I’ll continue on, in order not to entice the dog to run after me. When I reach my car, I check the time. It’s not yet 4 PM, I’ve been gone for less than two hours. Much of that time I spent reading. Not ready to head home, I set out to find another trail.

It’s interesting how the wind “designs” the trees along the ridge

35 Replies to “A Windy Walk to Clear My Mind”

  1. I enjoyed reading the notes from your “old” friends plus a few new ones. We do live in a beautiful place and I’m glad to know you are enjoying it as you hike. As a Bluemont member I have to tell you that I am enjoying your on line worship services during COVID 19, and the information that you give us in so many forms. Once more, the Sullivans welcome you enthusiastically.

  2. What a gorgeous area, Jeff! I like your new large photos ~ The better to see the scenery with. I’m glad that you took a break for a few hours. You’ve been through it, and I hope things ease up for you. The view from your new home’s windows is spectacular. Here’s hoping you have many enjoyable times in your new home ~ with no hint of smoke!

  3. As one who loves the mountains too, I enjoy seeing the views you have been providing. Barb and I had bought a lot on a lake near the mountains in SC, but opted for Savannah to be near Barb’s brother and wife. Unfortunately, they didn’t move from Delhi, NY, which is in the Catskills mountains. Ironic!
    You’ve heard from others who have dealt with “smokers”. Here is our story. After living in our first home for 15 years, we moved to another house in the same neighborhood and decided to rent out the first home. The lady who rented it for the next 19 years was a heavy smoker too. When she had left, we had to do what you did before we could let our son use it. Even the windows had nicotine stains that required ammonia to remove.

  4. Gosh those are some gorgeous views. And you’re going to love those trails. You’ll get things worked out with the house. Welcome home!

  5. I can imagine coming into this cabin and warming up at the fireplace.

    That picture reminded me of the ruins of a homestead me and several others found on the edge of the prairie in southeastern Colorado.
    The convoy I was part off was on the way to the Pinyon Canyon site and pulled over to the side of the road for a short break to stretch our legs. It appeared to be a one or two room dwelling made of mud brick, or something like it.
    Can only wonder at the people who lived there. The same goes for that fireplace and chimney.

    1. That first view was of the trail on the west side of the ridge. The trail is a loop with half of it along the ridge and the other half in the hollow to the west.

    1. Maybe, John, but there is a need for a fence. And then there’s my daughter. She won’t let me eat any animal I raise (or sell for someone else to eat). She is interested in raising certain kinds of sheep and goats for fiber, which she spends and weaves. This winter I will fence in a large area for gardening.

  6. The new scenery is spectacular. My children went to camp near Wytheville, so I know a bit of that area. I have followed a few bloggers from Floyd. I hope you will like your new churches and that the house aroma will subside in time.

    1. I remember a few of the bloggers from Floyd. Maybe I’ll run into them. but I don’t remember there names. I’ve been going to Floyd every week-will be there in a few hours, actually-for the library there has the fastest internet upload around. So I tape a copy of Sunday’s sermon on Friday, then upload it on Saturday, but bring it live on YouTube on Sunday. I’m pretty sure the new paint and all the washing of the walls will get rid of the smoke smell and seal in any nicotine.

  7. You’ve sure been dealing with a lot, Jeff. Nature really calms the mind. Your hike looks tremendous and reading about your adventure makes me want to get outdoors too. Your house looks stunning. Regarding the smoke, my step son and his wife moved into a house on the beach. The previous tenant smoked inside the home for decades. They washed the walls before painting them and now you can’t smell even a hint of smoke.
    I look forward to seeing a few more pics of your new home.

  8. Sorry that you have to deal with the smoke smell. Hopefully, it will be a thing of the past soon. Your break looks and sounds lovely. I probably do something like that more often. Looking forward to hearing about the updates and progress you are making in your new home. Take care.

  9. So pleased you could take this welcome short break, it’s so lovely to be able to walk and see views like you’ve shared here.
    That chimney is amazing 🙂
    Take care, my good wishes.

    All the best Jan

    1. Next week, my brother is going to be nearby and we’re going to meet and ride bicycles along a long stretch of abandoned railroad that is now a bike path. Hopefully I can continue to get time to take breaks!

  10. Ahhh! Nice recollection of your saunter. Just to give you an idea of the “community closeness” in these parts: my friend, named Valley, came over Tuesday eve to bring me a dozen of her chick’s eggs. She was telling me about her new pup and their training hike that afternoon at Rocky Knob – including meeting a friendly man who understood about ‘training.’ Because I’d just seen your FB post and pic, I jokingly said,”Bet that was my new minister!” Showed her your picture…and Yes, it was you! Yep, it is all very connected on this rocky mountaintop – but in a fine, fine way!

    1. She had a very well trained dog and a second (the one she was training) who seemed to want to play and to run to me. I decided I didn’t want to be the reason the dog didn’t receive treats, so I kept walking.

  11. What a beautiful landscape you live among, Jeff. Gorgeous photos of your walk too. That chimney is amazing. Sounds like you’re dealing with a lot and nature can really calm the mind. Regarding the smoke in the house, my step-son and his wife moved into a home on the beach (renting) and the previous tenant who lived there for decades was a heavy smoker. They washed the walls before painting them. Can’t even smell a hint of smoke in there now.
    Your new home looks stunning. Can’t wait to see more of it.

    1. I can’t wait to get back in–there were things I wanted to do first, like a deck off the back, but that’ll come. The painters have finished some rooms and I’ll be surprised if I can smell smoke.

  12. I have found too that when life is “taking a lot out of me” that a hike is in order. It really frees me to just not think about anything beyond what I can see for awhile. I have one planned for this weekend sometime on the anniversary of my mom’s death and on one of her favorite hikes.
    I have passed on houses that reeked of smoke. I hope you are able to get it sealed up.

    1. Enjoy your walk and memories of your mom.

      I’m not sure how they masked the smoke so well.

      The painters have done a good job of prepping everything. Then they put down a coat of an oil based Sherwin Williams primer that dries flat and can be painted over with latex. This primer was designed for houses with smokers or smoke damaged. It seals in the walls. Then they’ll do two coats on everything (trim and all). It is the first time I have had a “whole house” painted at once.

    1. I have always loved the mountains. One of the things I liked about the house (as opposed to buying one more in a hollow) is the open view. I lived in the West and near the marsh long enough to appreciate long views.

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