Life in the woods

I’m sitting at a local library in Westlake Corner, VA. It’s books time for Nadia, play time for Alex and shopping for Agnieszka. I have a few minutes and a decent Wi-Fi connection for this short update. We’ve been living in this beautiful Smith Mountain Lake State Park for almost a week now. The temperature has been in the mid ’80 and there’s only been a few other campers beside us. That gave us the opportunity to participate in all the programs the park has to offer. We’ve been hiking and running in the woods, we’ve been watching bats and owls, learning to use a compass and cook in a campfire, playing ball on a beach, swimming, canoeing, boating and even knee boarding. We’ve been busy playing, but we didn’t forget about school. We did most of the lessons in Discovery Center, where Nadia was crunching Math and practicing English and Polish. We’ve been reading The Story of the World and other books rented from local library. Nadia even started her own journal!

11-Sep-2011 00:12, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 45.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
11-Sep-2011 00:03, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 400
11-Sep-2011 00:12, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 400
 
12-Sep-2011 19:04, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 75.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
12-Sep-2011 19:06, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 300.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
12-Sep-2011 21:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.8, 300.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
 
12-Sep-2011 19:40, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 300.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 400
12-Sep-2011 19:08, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 300.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 400
12-Sep-2011 21:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
 
13-Sep-2011 22:34, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 800
13-Sep-2011 22:38, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 135.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 800
14-Sep-2011 16:29, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.022 sec, ISO 800
 
14-Sep-2011 01:02, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.022 sec, ISO 400
USA, Smith Mountain Lake, VA - Widok z parku na jezioro (Fot. Robert Bajan)
USA, Smith Mountain Lake, VA - Widok z parku na jezioro (Fot. Robert Bajan)13-Sep-2011 22:48, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 11.0, 28.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
14-Sep-2011 19:51, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 4.0, 6.7mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64
 
USA, Smith Mountain Lake, VA - Widok z parku na jezioro (Fot. Robert Bajan)
USA, Smith Mountain Lake, VA - Widok z parku na jezioro (Fot. Robert Bajan)14-Sep-2011 16:42, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
USA, Smith Mountain Lake, VA - Pień drzewa wyrzeżbiony przez Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker (Fot. Robert Bajan)
USA, Smith Mountain Lake, VA - Pień drzewa wyrzeżbiony przez Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker (Fot. Robert Bajan)14-Sep-2011 17:06, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 70.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 800
15-Sep-2011 15:53, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 64
 

With our busy schedule, the consequence of sleeping longer and walking slower is simply that… the days became much shorter. Living this simple, frugal life is so exciting, that it is hard to believe how fast time passes by.

Knee Boarding on Smith Mountain Lake

Last week we’ve met some interesting people in the Smith Mountain Lake State Park. Since there were only a few people in the park, we’ve been bumping into a couple from North Carolina throughout the week. As it turned out they also home school their kids and enjoy spending time at the park after season. The last day of their stay, they invited us for a pontoon boat ride on the lake. Nadia and Alex had a lot of fun! Even though there was rain in the forecast, the sky was only overcast and the temperature was still in the high 70’s. Perfect conditions for a… Knee Board Ride!
Agnieszka on the lake…

…and Nadia doing so much better:

Smith Mountain Lake

It rained all evening, all night and the whole morning on our departure from Altoona. When it eventually stopped, we’ve arrived in Cumberland, Maryland. This sudden dryness in the air has tricked us into changing our plans. We were headed to Big Bend State Park in West Virginia, but decided to stay in Rocky Gap near town. A terrible mistake…

The first night was dry, although thick clouds covered the sky at all times. The wood in the park was to wet to get a proper fire going. We ended up watching a movie on my laptop in the car. The next day was still fairly dry and we’ve tried a little bike ride around the lake. Unfortunately, the trail was just a bit too difficult for Nadia (Alex didn’t complain, sitting on a one wheel attachment carried behind my bicycle). The good thing is we decided to turn around and return to our camp just before the rain. We watched couple of movies in the car that night…

It poured all night and the next morning. There were no signs of relief any time soon. We packed our stuff in the midst of an epic storm. We were all soaking wet, but ready to go. The destination didn’t matter – anywhere dry and sunny would do. I turned the key, but instead of the familiar engine rumble there was nothing – just some strange clicking of the electric system. I guess two nights of watching movies eventually dried the battery. The timing could be better! Fortunately a ranger came to our rescue and jump started the engine. We were on the road before noon.

We stopped at Martin’s, a local equivalent of Wegmans (a New York chain of upscale grocery stores). Although not as sophisticated, it offered enough products in the organic alley to satisfy the Captain and a decent internet connection to fine tune our trip. Looking at the Doppler radar, I knew the only way was south.  Cumberland was at the very edge of the storm, and had we pursued our original destination we would have been fine. Lesson learned. Our next target was Douthat State Park in Virginia.

Within an hour we were out of the influence of Lee, a tropical storm bullying entire North East. The route followed highway 220 in the winding roads of West Virginia. The afternoon unfold to be dry and sunny, just as we wanted it. It was late afternoon, when we finally got to the park. To our horror, there were no camp sites available. Yes, it’s past Labor Day, but with such beautiful weather, the park was still cramped with outdoors enthusiasts.

We’ve decided to spend another night at a hotel, but we still had an important mission to accomplish before that. After all, we’ve left Rocky Gap in the middle of a storm and all our camping gear was still soaking wet locked out in the roof rack. We stopped in Lexington and pulled out all our equipment at a local community park. An old lady with a poodle was looking suspiciously when I started putting up the tent and Agnieszka pulled out the stove and started cooking. I was sure she would call the cops…

Apparently she didn’t, as an hour later all our stuff was semi-dry and we weren’t hungry anymore. It was almost eight, so time to find a hotel room for the night. We pulled at Best Western parking lot and… opened up the laptop and booked a room through hotwire.com. Five minutes later, we’ve arrived at a local Days Inn. The kids were delighted, when they saw a swimming pool from our hotel room window. Unfortunately, the season ended and despite the temperature in mid-80’s (25 C), the facility was already closed. To save the day, I picked up a nearby camping in Smith Mountain Lake State Park, making sure there are camp sites available and that the swimming beach is still open.

The road to the park goes through the Blue Ridge Parkway and quite frankly I was very happy we didn’t set off for the trip in an RV (i.e. Recreational Vehicle or a camper), as I’m sure I wouldn’t make the tight curves. The scenery was picture perfect, the sky cloudless, our morale finally started to build up after this unfortunate start of our journey.

When we arrived at the park, we were very pleasantly surprised by modern facilities, abundance of activities for kids, and complete lack of mosquitos! We have the whole park almost entirely to ourselves, and we’ll stay here for another week. I hope this will finally give us a chance to re-pack and charge our batteries after two months of partying with Friends and Family.

I’ll keep you posted.