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There is a new arts information resource for Loudoun County; LoudounArts.com. This website provides timely information about local cultural events in our area. Aside from a terrific arts events calendar, the site provides information about Loudoun theater, music, wine, gallery exhibits, and locally grown.

 

 

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Holly River Camping

Camping in West Virginia is a wholly underrated experience. The state has a bad reputation for a number of reasons that I won't cover in this post. However, over the last number of years I've camped in locations all over the state. It has become apparent that the state is indeed Wild and Wonderful.

While there are many terrific campgrounds in Virginia, Maryland and in the surrounding mid-Atlantic region, they can be over managed and encumbered with rules meant to keep strict order. I've found that camp sites in West Virginia maintain a high regard for the natural setting while encouraging full enjoyment of the environment. Sometimes this can be in the form of relaxed rules or simply friendly park staff. There never seems to be a lack of genuine smiles and helpful pointers. This extends to many of the campers and citizens I've encountered as well. It never ceases to amaze me that the local folks offer a friendly wave and a smile, even with out of state plates on the car.
 

Of the dozen or so campsites I've visited, the natural surroundings are often managed in a way that does not impede upon the experience. There are never too many obnoxious signs, aggressive camp hosts or rules suggesting that one stay on the path. Exploration is always encouraged. These things make camping, and photography, a much more pleasant experience.

The Holly River State Park is beautiful. Encompassing more than 8000 square acres, it is one of the largest parks in the state. The Holly River Campground has an unusual layout. While most campgrounds are somewhat circular in design, this one is linear. Composed of four camping areas, they are arranged along the river itself. In doing so, it maximizes access to the river from as many sites as possible.

The park also features a wide range of natural hiking trails. Ranging in length and difficulty, there is something to offer every type of hiker, and photographer. During this trip, I chose a moderate trail that wend its way along rivers. The brilliant green ground cover glowed making the hike seem like a visit to an enchanted forest. Fallen trees were left in their natural states, other than where they crossed the actual path.

More about this particular campground can be found at this Wiki site: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holly_River_State_Park.

The photograph above was taken next to the campsite where I stayed for two nights. The tripod supported a long exposure of more than half a second. The large boulder in the foreground, combined with the flowing river and arching distant trees, caught my eye. A palette of ocher browns and lime green leaves easily reveal the true feeling of this place. Layer slow moving water blended by time and you can almost hear the birds chirping and the frogs peeping. Need I go on?

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Oatlands Plantation Celebrates

On this day the Oatlands Plantation celebrated the 200th birthday of their greenhouse. Built in 1810, the most advanced materials and techniques of the day were used in its construction. With a glass roof and southern facing glass wall, the facility captures much of the daily sun as it makes its way across the sky. The balance of the building of made of brick. The pipes, attached to the interior brick walls, are connect to the fireplace. The internal system for heating and cooling were balanced by heat from the sun, the fireplace and cool cellar which served as a multi-functional aspect of this building.

The greenhouse is noted as being the second oldest such structure in the country. In its restored state today, it looks much like it did 200 years ago, when it provided produce year round.
 

 

The historic mansion (below) rests a short distance from the greenhouse. A tour of this beautiful historic home provides the feeling of stepping back in time. Plantations can be found all over the state of Virginia, but Oatlands stands out for its grandeur and rich history of early farming. This National Trust location hosts events throughout the year, including the well attended annual horse race know as Point To Point.
 


 

Locations such as this provide a one stop site for producing Virginia photography. With its rich gardens, long covered roads and paths, staff quarters and mansion, the grounds provide something new upon every visit. Oatlands Plantation is a wonderful place for the family to visit and take in local Loudoun history.

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Crabtree Falls Hike

Crabtree Falls, located in the George Washington National Forest, is an exhilarating vertical hike. I've been to no other location in Virginia where you can hike next to a water fall of this size. Southwest of Raphine, Virginia, along Highway 81, sits a vast collection of high mountain hills, for lack of a better term. These rises in the earth are not connected as is typically seen in northern Virginia, with our bountiful ridges. Instead the horizon is defined by humps in the earth, with an almost fairytale like quality.

The hike itself is a long series of stairs, platforms and paths around boulders. It requires stamina to make it to the top, not a path for the weak of heart. However, each higher landing offers large amounts of crashing water streaming down the mountain. The mossy smell and spray on your face make this somewhat of an adventure.

The nearby Blue Ridge Parkway is a must see for visitors of this area. This northern most section is filled with spectacular views of those enchanted mountains. In my humble opinion, this is a better motor stroll than Skyline Drive. I learned from a local that The Virginian television show was filmed in these valleys.

This photo was taken about half way up the falls, looking west. Now that the leaves are in full bloom, much of this view is likely obscured. The park asks for small donation, which is well worth it. I even saw an envelope sitting on a pole with coins spilling out. No one touched the pile, it had been there for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of great info about Crabtree Falls Hike info: www.hikingupward.com/GWNF/CrabtreeFalls

Nearby Devils Backbone Brewery, great food, great suds, great place. dbbrewingcompany.com

How to get to Crabtree Falls:


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Photo to appear in Loudoun Magazine

One of my photographs will be published full page in the summer 2011 edition of Loudoun Magazine. It is expected to be printed on the last inside page. Shot in April, the owner of the Mt. Gilead, Virginia property invited me to shoot their lovely location.

While there, a pair of geese landed in the pond where I was standing. What a stroke of luck! While the second goose is not visible in this particular photograph, it made quite an entrance. It actually landed on the back of the first before finding its own place in the pond. I'll withhold posting the photo until it appears in the printed magazine.

Canadian Geese are a transitory part of Loudoun County. We tend to see them in spring and fall as they travel between Canada and more southerly routes. Their breeding patterns, and fondness of temperate climates, have them traveling thousands of miles in the name of preservation and comfort.

Dressed in black and gray feathers, they are easy to identify. They often stand out in contrast to Loudoun's emerald green backdrops. Unlike many other animals seen in Loudoun County, these ones often announce their presence, well before being seen. You can hear them approaching from a great distance away before actually seeing them. They tend to honk loudly as they glide across the sky at nearly 100 feet above the ground.

Update: the magazine has been published and is now available on newsstands. The link above leads to the online version, which shows the photo near the last inside page.

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