As I drove along early Thursday morning, I began to notice that the colors of the fall foliage were intensifying and deepening. We don't really get much of a fall in Texas, so it's a genuine pleasure to see what happens up here in the cooler climes. One of the things I really love is how the angle of the light early in the morning and late in the afternoon makes the leaves glow in various vivid shades of fire. It touches me in a deep deep place when I see it. I have to admit though, when I try and capture it in a photo, it never fails to make me acutely aware of my limitations as a photographer. The pictures almost never translate into the satisfaction I feel when I see it live and in person. "Not to worry," I tell myself, 'there are plenty of talented photographers who've covered this topic very thoroughly and capably. Focus your abilities on giant balls of twine instead."
So please allow me to make a single generic apology for all the fall color pictures I post here - sorry - it was as close as I could get.
Seeing as how I was wending my way toward Christiansburg, Virginia and still had a lot of Ohio to go through, I dug up some information on a place to visit in Springfield called Hartman's Rock Garden. It was built between 1932 and 1939 by a fellow named Ben Hartman who found himself out of work during the depression and decided to use his spare time constructing a variety of dioramas and sculptures in his yard. He fashioned the structures predominantly out of cement and decorated them with pieces of rock he had broken into gumball sized chunks - estimates are there are around a half million pieces embedded in the cement. Ben finally got a job and went back to work in '39 and subsequently died in '44, but the Garden has been lovingly tended by family members ever since. Recently, the last heir died and a local preservation board has begun oversight of the place, and they seem to be doing a wonderful job.
After a nice quiet look around the Garden (I was the only person about at that hour), I headed south and soon discovered the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve just in time to take a nice long walk. Clifton Gorge is one of those places that is of sufficient natural beauty and rarity that indigenous peoples have been visiting for well over 10,000 years. It looked beautiful and rare to me, anyway, swathed as it was in shades of butter yellow, persimmon orange and maraschino red.
After my walk, I spent the remainder of the afternoon and a good part of the next day crossing some pretty bland territory in Ohio on my way to Christiansburg. I was having a lot more trouble than usual scaring up something fun to do. I made a stop for lunch at a spirited hot dog shack in Lesage, West Virginia that came highly recommended - a highly decorated place called Hillbilly Hotdogs. I selected the Strickly Business Dog which starts with a deep fried dog, piles on a variety of classic toppings and then finishes with pencil width slivers of freshly fried Spam.
I left Hillbilly Hotdogs with a belly full of pork products and a growing sense of amazement for all things deemed "Hillbilly" I headed toward Christiansburg via Charleston, arriving at my friends Aaron and Brooke's place just as the sun was setting. I'd be staying with them there in Christiansburg Virginia for the next week, perfectly poised to enjoy an honest to goodness fall season along the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. I was about to ratchet my fall color experience up a few sizeable notches!