Blue Ridge Parkway - Rock Castle Gorge Overlook

Blue Ridge Parkway – Rock Castle Gorge Overlook

Rock Castle Gorge Overlook.

Rock Castle Gorge Overlook is located at milepost 168.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. After we visited Mabry Mill, we decided to pull into this overlook on the return to Roanoke.


According to the National Park Service sign, the Rock Castle Gorge is best seen from the summit of Rocky Knob, where you can look into valley 1800 feet below.

The first settlers came before the American Revolution to farm the land. Six-sided crystals of colorless quartz occur here. The shapes reminded the settlers of castle towers, and that is how it came to be called Rock Castle.


An old road parallels the creek through the gorge. Originally a trail, and then a wagon road, the old road is once again a hiking trail.

You can access the Rock Castle Gorge Trail, which is a 10.8 mile loop from this overlook. We were on a day of exploration and not hiking (meaning that we did not bring the amount of food and water that we would have if this had been a hiking day). We did walk a little piece of the trail, accessed at milepost 168.0, The Saddle Overlook.

The part of the of the Rock Castle Gorge Overlook that caught my attention was this trio of rocks.

Call it the lover of all things fantastical in me, but I was drawn to their semi-circular state.

It made the area feel quite magical.

Like they held some ancient secrets.

I’m sure that this feeling of mystery was spurred by the fact that I traveled to Scotland at the beginning of June. I didn’t have a chance to visit any standing stones while I was there, but they were (and still are) high on my bucket list.

Given that the Blue Ridge portion of the Appalachian Mountains was formed somewhere between 250 million to 1.1 billion years ago (second only in age to South Africa’s Barberton greenstone belt), I’m pretty sure that these rocks contain some secret magic of their own.

So much of who we are is where we have been. -William Langewiesche

Let your light shine!



wpc: scale

Blue Ridge Parkway - Rocky Knob Visitor's Center and Picnic Trail

Rocky Knob Visitor’s Center and Picnic Trail

Rocky Knob Visitor’s Center.

On our Blue Ridge Parkway outing, we stopped at the Rocky Knob Visitor’s Center. Located at milepost 169.0, it is open Friday-Monday from 10-4. There are bathrooms located here as well.

If you are traveling this way, always be sure to check the U.S. National Park website as most things along the Blue Ridge Parkway are not opened year round and days and times might change in the future.

The Visitor’s Center was where we discovered that we should check out the trail at the Saddle OverlookThere is also a one mile loop trail called the Rocky Knob Picnic Area Trail  whose entrance is located the Visitor’s Center. We arrived here right at noon and were starting to get hungry. Our final destination of Mabry Mill was still another 7 miles up the road. Given the fact that paving was being done along the Parkway, slowing down the traffic, we decided to head south to get lunch.

But not before I captured some photos of the forest dappled with sunlight.


This shed is located right across the parking lot from the Visitor’s Center. I thought of all my Thursday Door  people, even if the door has a tendency to blend into its surroundings.

I only meandered a slight ways onto the trail since we needed to continue along on our journey.


Nothing like this sign at the entrance to the Picnic Area to remind you that we are not alone. The forest is home to many animals….and some of those animals would like to eat your stuff!


I love all the giant rocks located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I climbed over many of them when I hiked Dragon’s Tooth.  On the Rocky Knob Picnic Area Trail, I just admired them.

I have always been fascinated by the lichen, ferns, and moss that grow in the forests of Virginia. They add to ambiance of the enchanted forest feeling you get when traveling through this woodland.

The rocks along this trail were covered in lichen.

Lichen is quite amazing. It’s a fungi and an algae or cyanobacterium (sometimes both) living in a symbiotic relationship. Fungi is incapable of photosynthesis and so in this relationship, these lichens are able to live in places where they would not have been able.

Nature never ceases to amaze me!

With its symbiosis and cycles…reminding us of our own place in these things.


John Muir quote over a photo of mountain view from dragons tooth trail in catawba virginia

Let your light shine!


Blue Ridge Parkway - Mabry Mill

Blue Ridge Parkway – Mabry Mill

Mabry Mill.

When the hubby and I had a day of exploration along the Blue Ridge Parkway, we knew that the final destination would be Mabry Mill.

Mabry Mill is located at milepost 176 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was built by Edwin Boston Mabry. He began construction in 1903. At first it was a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, then it became a sawmill. By 1905, it was in operation as a gristmill.

In our four years of living in Roanoke, we have never meandered down to Mabry Mill, even though it is one of the most photographed locations on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Perhaps the fact that it is such a heavily photographed locale is what kept me from venturing down there.  A quick Google image search will bring up a plethora of photos of the mill…in every season…in every light…

And I am an amateur/hobbyist photographer.  It’s unlikely that I could add anything new to the perspective. We are not in peak fall color season…or flush with wintry white snow…or in the rhododendron blooming phase of spring.

However, I decided to go because what would make the photograph different…. was that it would be mine.

We took our time making it down the Parkway, stopping at the overlooks. If you missed my post on The Saddle Overlook, you can check that out here. By the time we arrived at Mabry Mill, it was around noon. We had some lunch and then strolled through the pedestrian pathways around the mill.

The shot above was one of the first I took, and is probably my favorite. Mostly due to the fact that the perspective is not one you immediately see as you scroll along the image search.

But don’t worry! I took some classic shots as well. The ducks decided to be accommodating and make my photo have a slight uniqueness.

Even though autumn had not shown her glory, there were still some colors to be found along the paths.

The are other buildings to near the mill and the area is set up like an outdoor museum.

From Memorial Day through the end of October, there are demonstrations on crafts such as blacksmith, furniture maker, basket maker, and hand loom weaver. The schedules of the demonstrations rotate.  The day and time that we were there, the furniture maker was outside of the blacksmith shop describing the process for making a chair.

There is also a collection of Mill Stones.

According to the sign, they are made from a quartz congiomerae (it doesn’t say conglomerate, I checked. I don’t know if that’s a sign error or if the other is a real word) obtained at Brush Mountain Quarry. Blacksburg, VA. They were shaped at the quarry, but  the miller “dressed” or sharpened them with homemade “chisels.”

I wanted some of them for my yard! I loved how there were little flowers growing in the center of some.

The Mathews cabin was built near Galax in 1869. It is mostly made of Oak and has one room on each of its two floors.  In 1956 the cabin was donated to the National Park Service. They restored the cabin and moved it to this site.

Have you ever visited Mabry Mill?

If you are traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is definitely worth taking the time to stop and see.

I suspect that now that I have finally made my way down there, I shall find myself visiting again.

Let your light shine!


Blue Ridge Parkway - The Saddle Overlook

Blue Ridge Parkway – The Saddle Overlook

The Blue Ridge Parkway.

I love to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway. When the hubby decided to take Friday off from work, I knew that we would definitely be having a day of exploration.

We often use parts of the Parkway to get to various areas of the surrounding towns. It’s a mellow, scenic drive.

We decided that we would head South with our final destination being Mabry Mill (one of the most photographed sights along the Blue Ridge Parkway). Since this was considered “my day”, we pulled off at almost every overlook.

One of those overlooks is at milepost 168.0.

The Saddle Overlook.

The Saddle Overlook is at an elevation of 3,381 ft. It is a ridge connecting two high points on Rocky Knob Mountain and forms a portion of the Blue Ridge Crest line. The view from the parking lot is facing East.

…but if you turn to the West….

The view across the roadway is of Buffalo Mountain.

Buffalo Mountain, in Floyd County, rises to 3,971 ft.

There is a sign at this overlook that, unfortunately, I didn’t photograph. It describes how in the past when children would go out to play their mothers would tell them that they could travel as far as they wanted as long as Buffalo Mountain was still in their sights.

I would think that would be a great distance given its looming stature. Perhaps it more from the perspective of a compass home. I’m sure if I could remember the entire sign, then I’d have the answer.

I guess you’ll just have to go check it out for yourself! I promise that the views are worth the trip.

Up the road a bit, at the Rocky Knob visitor center, we discovered the nearby trails. We had spent longer than anticipated on the drive due to the fact that they were paving parts of the Parkway. We decided to head to Mabry Mill and eat some lunch, do some meandering, and stop again at The Saddle Overlook on our return to Roanoke.

The Saddle Overlook is part of the 10.8 mile Rock Castle Gorge Trail. We had not planned to hike, but we did learn that we could see some views by going up the trail a bit.

I’ve always thought that Virginia forests look quite enchanted. This trail did not disappoint.

I later learned that there is a 1.1 mile loop trail over the peak of Rocky Knob Mountain. We   walked the 2/10 of a mile up to the old Appalachian Trail shelter.

Yes, this was originally part of the Appalachian Trail!

That was interesting to learn. Apparently the Parkway’s construction in the 1950’s relocated the trail farther to the west.

This shelter remained.

The views from the window of the shelter, overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, are just stunning.  It’s easy to see why this is a much loved area of the country.

We passed a gentleman coming down the trail as we were heading up. He told us that if we traveled along the trail, a few hundred feet beyond the shelter, that we would come to a rocky outcropping. That it was a safe place with gorgeous views of the valley.

We found the outcropping. And a bouquet of flowers that had been left. Of course my mind began spinning stories about why a bouquet of flowers would have been left along a rocky outcropping overlooking the valley.

Had this been the favored location of a couple who had grown old together…and now the one left alone came to this place to leave flowers and reminisce amongst their memories?

Had it been a first date and a mutual love of hiking…the flowers left as a marking of existence in this space?

Or something else?

I’ll leave you to decide your version the story.

We descended into the parking lot, and with one more view across the mountains…. I climbed into the Jeep and began my journey home.

Let your light shine!



wpc: windows

Houseboats of Amsterdam

Houseboats of Amsterdam

What do you think of when you hear about Amsterdam?

No, not that…


Did you know that Amsterdam has more than 100 km of canals, about 90 islands, and 1500 bridges?

Located along some of these canals are houseboats. In fact, there are around 2,500 legally  moored houseboats in Amsterdam, and it is unlikely that any more spaces will be added. Originally they were used as a way to deal with the housing shortage. In today’s world, they are in great demand.

After our trip to Amsterdam, the hubby thinks that it would be amazing to live on a houseboat in Amsterdam, even if it were for a brief amount of time. Since we are still raising teens, that possibility has be set somewhere in a distant future.

In the meantime, today is his birthday, so I thought I’d give him a visual of his dream and share a photo tour of some of the houseboats of Amsterdam.

If you’d like to see more doors, be sure to check out Thursday Doors… more windows, check out the weekly photo challenge.

I hope that you enjoy coming along on this canal tour of Amsterdam.

The home should be the treasure chest of the living. |Le Corbusier

May your walls know joy, may each room hold laughter, and may every window open to great possibility. |Mary Ann Radmacher-Hershey


Home is any four walls that enclose the right person. |Helen Rowland

Home is the nicest word there is. |Laura Ingalls Wilder

Home is the most popular, and will be the most enduring of all earthly establishments. |Channing Pollack


I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself. |Maya Angelou


One of my future dreams is to be able to spend long enough in a new place to become immersed in its culture.

Amsterdam is one those cities in which I think I’d enjoy spending an extended amount of time living. However, I’m a little apprehensive about a houseboat. I’m concerned about the movement and if I’d adapt. An apartment in the city…absolutely. Houseboat…?

What about you? Would you live in a houseboat?

We all are a little weird. And life is weird. And when we find someone with weirdness whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutual satisfying weirdness - and call it love - true love. Robert Fulghum quote

Let your light shine!


The Elephant House Edinburgh Scotland

The Elephant House – Edinburgh Scotland

If you are a Harry Potter fan, then it’s likely that you’ve heard about The Elephant House. Touted as “The Birthplace of Harry Potter”, it is said that J.K. Rowling penned some of her works here.

Here’s my disclaimer. Prior to planning a trip to Scotland, I’d never watched all any of the Harry Potter movies. Sure, I’d seen bits and pieces. I’d even been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because we had annual passes to Universal Studios when I lived in Florida. I was knee deep in babies and toddlers when the first movie came out. I didn’t have time to brush my hair, much less watch a movie. Then I didn’t want to see them out of order…time passed…and the. I was going to head to Scotland.

So I binge watched the entire set of movies…and started reading the first book on my plane ride to Edinburgh.

As I perused “must-see” places in Edinburgh, The Elephant House (a gourmet coffee and tea shop) made the list.

I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so we decided to head there one evening, for dessert. We were coming from a dinner down in the Grassmarket. By the time we got the coffee and tea shop, located at 21 George IV Bridge, it was close to closing time. We weren’t sure if we were too late, but they seated us for dessert.

The menu had a good selection of drinks and tasty sweets. My mom opted for the hot chocolate. I went with a hot chocolate that had Bailey’s Irish Creme.

Everyone said they were yum. Overly sweet drinks and I don’t mesh, so I should have gone with coffee or tea. I paired my drink with a decadent slice of red velvet cake.

In a place called The Elephant House, you would expect a Elephant motif. And it did not disappoint. We ended up at this cool table in the back of the restaurant that had this amazing chair.

There really is a view of Edinburgh Castle out the window.

I can definitely see the appeal of sitting here and writing over a nice, warm drink.

Of course one of the things that I heard about was the graffitied bathrooms.

I don’t really take bathroom photos, but snagged this one because there are traces of “ginger” in our family. In fact, while Mr. D’s hair has become a shade of reddish-brown, it was very red when he was born.

On our return to Edinburgh (after Glasgow) I went back to get some photos in the daylight.

We did the bus tour in Edinburgh, on which it was mentioned that many places claim Harry Potter fame, but that only The Spoon Cafe was given a plaque.

That was okay. I didn’t visit The Elephant House because I am a hardcore Potter fan.

I visited because I take inspiration in a woman who poured out her ideas, her words, her imaginations…who created…who took a chance.

It makes me want to be more fearless.

To take chances.

To create.

Let your light shine!