storm

Clueless on Vacation

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Last week, with two kids shipped off to sleep-away camp in West Virginia, I realized that we could slip away for a few days… if only we pawned off the remaining kid.

Martin and I did just that, and Wednesday, we hit the road for four days and nights. Our first stop: a resort in southern Virginia, a dozen miles shy of the North Carolina line.

We drove for hours down I-81, then plunged into the remote farmland and wilderness of Carroll and Patrick Counties. Our cell phone signal quickly evaporated and GPS struggled to emit directions. Near our destination, we stopped at a country store which offered local fare: homegrown produce, pickled eggs, salted pork, and Confederate emblazoned lawn ornaments.

We were torn between the Confederate flying pig and the racist rooster. Decisions, decisions.

 

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From there, it was just 5 miles to the resort. Or rather, the resort’s security gate — a sturdy, locked gate manned by a guard. A gate keeping out…who? The locals?

No need for a gate. It was another 7 winding miles to the main lodge. The resort, called Primland, sits atop 12,000 pristine acres. Its challenging and picturesque golf course attracts avid fans of the sport. But we were there for the hiking, the view, and the peace and quiet.

And it was peaceful, Alarmingly so. Rarely did we spot more than a few guests at a time, and all the while, the resort staff circled, magically appearing before we asked. They were so attentive, practically sensing what we needed. I soon wondered if this gated and immaculately maintained property was inhabited by zombies — while we and the reclusive guests were the only humans trapped inside. (Lately, I’ve been binging on episodes of the show, “Wayward Pines,” which fueled these thoughts.)

But enough about the creepy quiet and the friendly, overly attentive staff.

The place was fabulous.

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Here’s our room — located not in the lodge, but in one of the many cottages:

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A room with a view:

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After two days of hiking, eating and relaxing, we loaded up the car on Friday and made our way back up I-81. Next stop, the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. When we left Primland, the staff mentioned “some flooding” at Greenbrier, but that was it. In a cellular silent area, no flash-flood warnings chimed from our phones, and the radio station focused on the recent death of bluegrass legend, Ralph Stanley.

Only when we neared White Sulphur Springs, was the devastation apparent. We spotted fences flattened or uprooted, then mountain slides, and homes surrounded by murky, watery moats. In several places, the road was nibbled away and as we drew closer, we encountered big bites from the asphalt, with rushing water filling the gaps. I skirted around a “road closed” sign and navigated the flooded route  —  which was really quite stupid. But we were oblivious to the extent of the damage.

What was we found was a town of 2,400 torn apart by flooding. Most of the water had receded but the restaurants and shops were clogged with mud and mountainside run-off. Houses were splintered and unmoored from their foundations, and cars hung from trees. The town was darkened without power and telephone poles were sheared off and dangling from their lines. People walked along the road, dazed and in shock.

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When we arrived at the Greenbrier, the security guard chirped, “Checking in?” as if nothing was amiss. But he admitted that the flooding was bad: the area received 9 1/2 inches of rain, sometimes falling at a rate of 2 inches an hour. We pulled up to the dark, hallowed shell of the resort and confirmed that we weren’t checking in. The receptionist was relieved; they were staying open for a night for those unable to travel, but the hotel rooms had no power, the restaurants provided no food, and the casino and golf course were water-logged. We pressed on to Lexington, Virginia and stayed a night there before arriving home.

Here’s the Greenbrier golf course a day before we arrived:

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On that Friday afternoon when we arrived in White Sulphur Springs and took it all in, we were hit with a feeling of alarm. Hadley and Cayden’s camp was just 60 miles away. With cell phone service restored, Martin quickly called the camp. All was well, the staff told us. They received lots of rain, but dodged the storm’s epicenter. And the sun was back out. The kids were unaware of the damage and destruction just one county away.

Blissfully unaware. As kids at camp should be.

 

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Rivulets Run Through It

After a snowfall of any size, there is always mud. Gradual melting is a rare event. Instead, after a few chilly days, temps rocketed up to 50 or 60 degrees. And if you’re lucky, a heavy rain lumbers through — like yesterday — and voila!

Major mud… plus a bit of flooding, free of charge.

This afternoon, as I waded through the mire to hay the horses, I heard running water. Clearly, Martin forgot to turn off the tap after filling the water trough. It’s a common mistake — I’m guilty, too. It’s a 150-gallon stock tank and it is slow to fill. You get distracted, wander off, and that’s that. Eventually, someone walks out and hears it: that steady rush of water cascading over the side, pattering the ground, and burbling as it forges its way along the slopes.

So today, when I heard the sound of forget, I bee-lined for the trough. But the water was steady and nowhere near the rim. The hose wasn’t even hooked to the spigot.

It turned out, the sound was emanating from the vast amount of rainwater and melted snow flowing unfettered through the horse field, carving rivulets in the grass. There wasn’t a visible origin or a final destination. It was just water on-the-run, racing to congregate and make mud.

More damn mud.

I refuse to photograph mud. Instead, here’s a look at this week’s sunsets. Each night threw a different hue.

Monday, we saw the faintest peep of departing sun, shrouded in snow-fog.

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Last night, after a day of rain, a strange gale wind roared through like a rogue wave. It blew for 10 minutes and then fizzled out. But it thinned the fog and cracked the cloud cover.

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And finally, tonight. Uncomplicated and uneventful, but colorful enough to upstage the mud below.

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The Great White Blight… In Pictures

 

 

If you’re on Facebook, or if you peruse the local papers, then you’ve gorged on snow photos.

Well, I’m sorry to subject you to more. I promise, this’ll be quick and painless. And then we can move on:

With all the white hype, last Friday, Martin tried to resuscitate our tractor, which was suffering from starter problems.

With assistance, Martin kicked the tractor into gear, but it blew a hydraulic hose, which rendered the bucket inoperable. (The bucket was a lead actor in this performance.)

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While Martin gave the tractor mouth-to-mouth, I went grocery shopping. The choices were slim pickings.

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Snow started falling and accumulating on Friday night. By Saturday morning we were snowed in: the drifts sealed the mudroom door shut.

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Snow permeated every crevice. In the mudroom, snow billowed through a wisp of a crack in the dog door. By morning, an inch of snow filled all of our shoes.

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Much like the storm of 2010, the drifts piled up along the fencelines… and 18 inches really meant 3 or 4 feet.

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The drifts proved too much for Maisie.

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On Sunday — tractorless — we began to dig out. The horses were the first to be liberated.

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The path to the sheep was ponderous.

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Eventually we dug a trench to the sheep shed and — crawling and slogging — I ferried hay and water to them on a sled.

The sheep were utterly ungrateful.

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All the while, the kids rode out the storm at my cousins’ house (where the risk of a power outage was minimal.)

It was a struggle over there:

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Without an operable tractor, we were paralyzed. So we called for backup; Andy and his Cat plowed us out.

But first things first: we had to mark the drive, so Andy knew where to plow.

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Andy removed the snow like a peel from an orange…

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… and in the process, he created a mountain of snow… a sledding hill from what was once a plateau.

The kids built a luge run and an igloo.

It is part of the landscape until melting overcomes everything.

And life returns to normal.

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