New Year, New Camera

A brief respite in winter weather demanded a quick afternoon trip to Mountain Valley Brewing to try some of their new flavors and see what’s changed since last year.

I missed some beautiful shots this morning.  I had to drive down an unpaved road into the woods after a rain to get to a friend’s house so I was worried that I’d be able to make the trek at all without getting stuck or sliding down a hill. I hadn’t taken my camera with me.  It turned out that I got down the road just fine and the rising sun through the trees, a light fog here and there, and otherwise crystal clear air was breathtaking.  I passed a herd of longhorns that would have made an especially wonderful photo.  Oh, well.  Next time.

In the meantime, there are cats.

This is a test shot of Sunshine, a Siamese cat, perched in a window
Sunshine Perched in a Window

We’ve gotten a little over an inch and a half of rain recently and it’s been cold.  It’s warming up to normal January temperatures now but last week we had a short but glorious taste of spring weather so I escaped the cabin and headed over to Henry County’s local craft brewery, Mountain Valley Brewing.

Photo of the taps in the Mountain Valley Brewing tasting room
The Tasting Room Taps

Now, the folks at Mountain Valley Brewing are friends of mine.  We moved into Henry County around the same time and one of the owners, Herb, and I both tried a short stint in real estate before we went on to our respective livelihoods.  Mountain Valley Brewing started as a hops farm.  They still grow hops but the brewery has been growing like a weed.

A Glass of Porter's Porter and a few samples
Porter’s Porter and Some Samples

For one thing, they make excellent beer.  I went for a little Porter’s Porter (named after their newest canine family member) and got to try samples of some of their newer creations: Ginger Bread Man and Choc Full of Cherries. Both were incredible.  They had just come out with a new red that is not even listed on their website yet.  Despite being new, everyone coming in the door ordered it as soon as they set one foot over the threshold.  I am not a fan of reds normally but I did try a pint and I can see what all the fuss is over.  It may be the only red I like.

Mountain Valley Brewing Pamphlet Advertising as a Venue
Mountain Valley Brewing Has Become a Popular Venue

One important thing,  my photos will not do Mountain Valley Brewing justice.  Just take a look at their website and you’ll see some stunning photos.  One of the reasons for their incredible growth rate, besides incredible owners,  is its popularity for hosting events.  For many around here, craft beer is a novelty.  It really helps that it’s really good craft beer but they’ve gone a step further and tailored one of their beers to the domestic beer lovers so feel assured that, if you like any kind of beer at all, you’ll find something you like here.  This helps make the experience inviting for everyone.

Backlit shot of the interior of the pavilion with Herb playing an acoustic guitar
Herb Sings a Little House of the Rising Sun

This past season they enclosed the pavilion.  There is a separate set of taps in the pavilion that have different flavors than what is available in the tasting room.  This is also where the live music is.  They have some incredible talent come through, usually in the evenings.  Herb has been known to pick up a guitar and sing a little “House of the Rising Sun” now and then in the afternoons.

There is also a new deck off of the back of the pavilion. It was a perfect spot to enjoy the music and fine weather last weekend.

The sunlit deck off the back of the pavilion with several people enjoying good weather
The New Deck Off the Back of the Pavilion

They’ve also put in a hammock garden featuring locally made hammocks from DAM Good Equipment in nearby Martinsville.

A wooden structure built to attach hammocks out on the lawn in the sunshine.
The Hammock Garden

They still have the fire ring and we may be fast approaching the temperatures that make that kind of thing enjoyable.

Making a mental note… scribble, scribble, scribble

The firepit with benches around it and some of the view you get from that vantage point.
The Fire Pit

There is still some finish work to be done but, all in all, you really can’t beat a trip to Mountain Valley Brewing on a reasonably warm winter afternoon.

The bartender in the pavilion serving a beer - a red.
Someone’s Getting a Red

I am still running the camera on “auto” but I plan on joining the Blue Ridge Photography Club that has just started meeting at the Martinsville branch of the Blue Ridge Regional Library.  (The Blue Ridge Photography Club was previously the Spencer Penn Photography Club but has changed its name as it has changed venues).

Here’s to warmer weather and better photographs!

Cheers

Most Photographed Mabry Mill

If you are sitting at a desk in Dallas looking up photos of the Blue Ridge Parkway, there’s a good chance that the majority of the photos that you are seeing are from the North Carolina stretch.  I don’t know if they just do a better job of Internet marketing or what the deal is there but there is one site along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway that is touted as the most photographed. That is Mabry Mill.  It’s about an hour from Henry County, maybe a little less, just north of where the Parkway passes Meadows of Dan.  Part of the National Parks System, Mabry Mill is a perfect blend of natural beauty, history, and local fare.  The Mabry Mill Restaurant is lauded for its  sweet potato, blueberry, and apple pancakes made from buckwheat and corn meal ground at the mill.  Continue reading “Most Photographed Mabry Mill”

A Monument to Booker T. Washington

Virginia has been in the news this year for a violent alt-right rally centered around a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville.  Public opinion is mixed about how to respond. In fact, public opinion is mixed about exactly what is or what are the problem(s) that need to be addressed.  We have yet to be able to have a responsible dialog as thoughtful adults. Maybe we’ll get there. I hope so.

I don’t have an opinion on the statues so I am not going to offer one.  I do have an observation, however.  In the rural areas of Virginia, there are precious few monuments to anything other than the Civil War and that seems like an oddity to me.  Roanoke is not so bad.  It’s got some great monuments – like the firefighter monument at the Museum of Transportation and the monument to fallen officers in front of the police station.  Greensboro has the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park commemorating the Revolutionary War.  When you get into rural Virginia, however, there are pretty much only Civil War monuments.  It’s as if there have been no notable people or events in the past 150 years, although I am absolutely sure that that is not true.

One notable exception to this is the Booker T. Washington National Monument about an hour north of Henry County on the way to Smith Mountain Lake.  Continue reading “A Monument to Booker T. Washington”

The Silverbell Trail – A Walk Through Martinsville

I had started this year hoping to really get in some local hikes but, as they say, the best laid plans oft go astray.  I did succeed in finding a fantastic local hiking group connected to the Reynolds Homestead, The Homestead Hikers, and joined them on their inaugural hike for the 2017 year – The Silverbell Trail.

The Silverbell Trail is a short boardwalk trail that joins the Uptown Connection Trail in Martinsville just off of the Dick & Willie Rail Trail and ends, somewhat abruptly, at Church Street, across the street from the YMCA. Even in January, when all of the leaves are on the ground and a coat is required, this is a beautiful trail.   Continue reading “The Silverbell Trail – A Walk Through Martinsville”

A Little Gilded Age Tobacco Money

I am fascinated by the Gilded Age.  The termed was coined in the 1920’s (credited to Mark Twain) and refers to a period from 1870 to 1900 when a few Americans made obscene fortunes and competed with each other in the ostentatious display of their wealth.  They thought that they were building monuments for all time in the elaborate homes that they built, quite often copying country estates in Europe.  Instead, they built albatrosses that succeeding generations simply could not afford to maintain.  While most of the mansions that I’ve read about were built (and often subsequently torn down) in New York or Newport, RI, at least one – the Biltmore – was actually built not far from here in Asheville, North Carolina.   Continue reading “A Little Gilded Age Tobacco Money”

The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum

Some of the prettiest pictures I have of Virginia in the fall are from the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum, Virginia.

These are photos that I took last year when the leaves were at their peak.  They are a little bit behind schedule this year and I’m afraid that I’ll miss this year’s festival so it’s been on my mind the last couple of days.   Continue reading “The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum”