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"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, 
and autumn a mosaic of them all."
~ Stanley Horowitz

Ah, glorious fall!

We've been following the autumn leaf colors since the third week of August at Denali National Park in Alaska, to Fairbanks and northwestern Canada in early September, to Montana in mid-September, to South Dakota in late September, to the Plains and Midwest states in early October, and now Virginia in late October.

Because of the heat and drought that baked much of the Lower 48 this past summer the leaves between South Dakota and Virginia haven't seemed as colorful as they are some years.

In the greater Roanoke area, including the woods on our property, there are a few trees that are absolutely brilliant right now. Those are mainly the ones I've taken pictures of during my recent drives and hikes. I've included some of them in this entry.

Bright yellow leaves of a poplar (I think), red of a burning bush, and green of various
other species against a blue sky -- a small autumn vignette in our side yard (10-22- 12)

We should be surrounded by a kaleidoscope of color in Virginia for a few more weeks. That and the mild weather are two of the big reasons we time our visits to our house in the fall and spring each year after traveling in our RV for several months.

Spring is always full of promise. Autumn is a bittersweet thing to us. It's a beautiful season but it represents more yard work, fewer hours of daylight, and the upcoming winter.

Jim dreads having to mow/mulch/blow the leaves for weeks on end but this year he can finally stop getting up on the roof to wash them out of the gutters. He installed fairly inexpensive gutter guards near the end of the leaf season last fall and they are working just fine. That's a relief because it's a hazardous job to get on our roof -- the back part of our house is two stories high where the yard slopes down and I always worry that he's going to slip off.

Neither of us deals real well with the diminishing hours of daylight in the fall and we know it's just going to get worse until the winter solstice. We absolutely loved all the hours of daylight this summer in Alaska!

Early morning sunlight highlights some of the autumn leaves in our yard.  (10-19-12)

Neither of us deals particularly well with cold, dreary, snowy weather, either.

I joke about the "ravages of winter in Virginia" each time we escape for the warmth of the Southwest in November or December. Obviously it's not as bad here as in more northerly states where we each have lived but for snow-phobes like Jim, even a few inches of snow that he has to shovel or drive through = too much snow.

I like the beauty of snow more than Jim does. I figure since we're retired we usually don't have to drive anywhere until the roads are clear or the snow melts on our driveway. I'm happy just to walk through our woods or down our little country road and enjoy the pristine white crystals clinging to tree branches and mailboxes:

Pretty snow on a path through our woods (1-21-05, one of the few winters we stayed in VA).

I used to love running in snow, especially as big fat flakes were falling. I can't run any more but that doesn't prevent me from hiking all day. Now I like to hike in snow.

Ironically it's on our summer trips that I often find snow on trails high up in the Rockies. I can't wait to see our new puppy's reaction to her first snow. (Yep, Cody finally got a puppy to play with. More about her in the next entry.)

Hi! I'm Casey. I met this guy about five minutes ago and I've already got him
wrapped around my little toe. We're gonna have lots of fun together!!  (10-12-12)

We'll see what I think about snow in a couple months . . .


So why am I talking about snow??

We had a great time on our Alaska trip this summer but we are pretty much worn out from the enormity of it -- not just all the miles, but also the wealth of new experiences.

Autumn splendor in Roanoke  (10-23-12)

As we often joke, we aren't 35 any more. Even though our overall health is good we simply don't have the energy and stamina we used to have. I mentioned in a previous entry that we're "tripped out" right now. (It's a temporary condition, I'm sure.)

As a result we have decided to remain at our house in Virginia this fall and at least the early part of winter. We plan to take a shorter (in time and distance) trip somewhere in the Southeast to warmer climes after our new pup gets all of her shots in early January. We're researching public campgrounds, private RV parks, and military fam-camps in Georgia and Florida for potential destinations.

This is all tentative, of course. If you know us or have been reading this journal for any length of time you know we often change our minds, hit the road in our RV, and sometimes just make it up as we go! We are wired to be nomads.

Back in dry dock for a little while . . .  (10-19-12)

Meanwhile, we have plenty to do to keep busy in our house and out in the yard and woods.

Fortunately, all is well with the house after being empty for five months. Although the basement still smells a little musty there was no visible mildew inside this time (one good thing about the summer drought) and very little dust. The mice and insects had a heyday (the price we pay for living in a forest!) but we eradicated them before any visitors will come.

The yard and woods are another matter entirely.

As usual, weeds took over the large perennial beds (despite the summer drought) and it will take me a while to pull all of them. I've already gotten the biggest offenders so the place looks less wild now. There are other less-urgent gardening tasks like pruning, edging, mulching, and fertilizing we're working on as time and energy allow.

Large bed by the driveway after I pulled most of the worst weeds  (10-19-12)

We missed a memorable weather event in late June when strong straight-line winds took out numerous trees and power lines in a number of states from northern Illinois to North Carolina. Winds were recorded close to 85 MPH in our area. One of our neighbors called us while we were in Alaska to let us know our house was OK -- just in case we'd heard or read about this rare storm called a "derecho." 

We only occasionally checked the NOAA weather site for our area while we were gone so, no, we didn't know about the storm.

This large tree at Explore Park is one of the victims of the June wind
storm in the Roanoke area -- looks like it was pretty violent.  (10-22-12)

Eleven of the twelve acres of land we own are covered in hardwood trees, many of them one or two feet in diameter at the base. Although about an acre around our house is cleared, numerous trees are tall enough to reach our house if they blow down in that direction. You can see some of them in the photos above that show our house and camper.

We are extremely lucky that none of those trees fell on our house -- especially while we were 5,000+ miles away!

Plenty came down farther out in the woods, however. Jim has already purchased a more powerful chain saw than we had to cut them down and into manageable sizes to haul away or use for firewood in our woodstove. Several large trees snapped 20-30 feet up. Others were uprooted and either fell to the earth (easier for us to manage) or are leaning on other trees, as in the photo below. Those will be more difficult for us to cut down.

 Several of the trees in our woods that were snapped off or uprooted in late June  (10-22-12)

I've seen similar damage in town, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and on the trails I've hiked. More trees may come down in a few days if Hurricane Sandy, currently powering its way toward the eastern coast, makes landfall as far south as Virginia.


I won't be able to help Jim with as much of the yard work as I have previously. I can do a lot but not as much lifting or pulling now.

Not only did I re-injure both of my rotator cuffs in the spring when I was doing too much strenuous yard work, I also tore the top of my right bicep and the muscle migrated down my arm; I now have one impressive bicep without even flexing! Our orthopedist says it can't be repaired with surgery, even if I had gone to see him in May. It happened right before we left on our Alaska trip and I didn't realize how serious it was (it's never hurt).

Nice single track trail to Stewart's Knob along the Blue Ridge Pkwy. (10-13-12)

Now I'm doing physical therapy to try to strengthen my upper arms and shoulders again.

I'm also continuing successful treatment for the osteoarthritis in both of my knees but that is less restrictive re: the kinds of activities I can do than my rotator cuffs. Orthovisc injections in my knees work great for me and I'm still able to hike and climb mountains as much as I want. I just can't run any more.

Cody and I have already been out to some of our favorite nearby trails. I hope to enjoy more distant ones north and west of Roanoke this fall (like McAfee Knob, Tinker Cliffs, and Dragon's Tooth on the Appalachian Trail).

Graceful arched trees above the trail at Chestnut Ridge in Roanoke  (10-23-12)

I've noted some additions while we were gone to this scenic farm along the
Wolf Creek Greenway, including more fencing, outbuildings, and horses. (10-16-12)

Jim continues to do a lot of the literal "heavy lifting" around the house and yard. His bum knee from a bike wreck 2+ years ago bothers him less when doing chores than it does when he walks/hikes. He can't run and he can't hike with Cody and me for more than one or two miles.

He can cycle all he wants, however, so that's where his athletic focus is directed. He's been out on the Roanoke River Greenway several times already. Too bad it's at least a 15-mile drive one way to access it, or he'd ride more often. He can't ride from our house to the greenway -- the roads are too dangerous.

He's also ridden dirt and grass trails at Falling Creek Park in Bedford. I hope he'll be able to get down to the New River Trail and the Virginia Creeper Trail in southern Virginia before it gets too wintry. He can go 40-50 miles or more one way on those rails-to-trails paths, longer out and back.

Jim rides on a new section of the Roanoke River Greenway that was finished while we
were gone this summer. This section spans the river twice on long bridges. (10-10-12)

We have no clue right now if or where we'll travel next spring-summer-fall.

It depends on whether the housing market has improved enough for us to put our property up for sale in the spring. Our goal is to sell it so we'll have more freedom to travel and not have to worry about it  while we're gone. We want to live/travel in the RV full-time until we either get tired of doing that or have to settle somewhere for medical reasons.

View of the back of our house; that will be harder for us to paint than the front.  (4-24-11)

Whether we sell our property next year or have to wait longer for the market to improve, there is always work to be done to keep it in good shape.

Projects we plan to do this fall or in the early spring are some interior painting, sealing the driveway (Jim already patched it), painting the siding, and cleaning up the woods. We'll do as much of the work ourselves as possible.

We are also continuing to downsize our possessions as we get older. Even in the camper it's easy to accumulate too much "stuff." Because of all the time we've lived in the Cameo we've learned that we don't need much "stuff" to keep us happy.

It's quite liberating.

Beautiful sunrise across the little road from our house  (10-24-12)

I will do my best while we're in Virginia to update this website, starting with the Alaska entries from June. Our new distraction -- Casey-pup -- is keeping us very busy!

Stay tuned for more puppy pictures and stories . . .

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-Pup

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2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil