Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a Road Scholar program ( www.roadscholar.org ) called "The Appalachian Experience", # 9482.  My friend, Diane, took this photo of me, with hands uplifted in thanksgiving---praising the God of Creation, for the beautiful landscape in front of us.  The scene was on a mountain top (elevation 4, 365 feet) that is about a two hour hike from Mountain Lake Lodge (www.mtnlakelodge.com ) which served as headquarters for the program. 
This area is famous for its fall foliage changing colors in the hardwood forests that cover the mountains.  The date of our program (September 13-18) was a little early to see much color change, but I was able to find at least one maple tree that was displaying its new autumn "wardrobe"!
I put the camera on automatic, and snapped this photo of Diane and me at the summit, with the Appalachian Mountains, and mist in the valleys, visible behind us.  We made the ascent as soon as breakfast was over, and before our program started at 9 am, in order to beat the heat and gnats!

When we got to our meeting room, the group was working away on our activity for the morning. 

Upon returning from our hike, we each got to make our very own "corn husk doll", and take it home with us as a souvenir!

This is our group of  crafty doll-makers, displaying their hand-made creations.  I was amused and astonished at the way our group seemed to become totally immersed in completing the corn-husk-doll-making-Appalachian tradition!

This inviting veranda was just outside the door of our doll-making room, but not one of the  participants seemed ready to relax on the veranda, until they had competed making their souvenir doll!

After lunch, we all piled into the Mountain Lake Lodge van, and started out through the back roads of Giles County, Virginia, to make our way to the remote location of our afternoon activity. 

The road took us across the New River, which (despite its name), is said to be one of the OLDEST rivers in the world!

After several minutes of driving on paved, then gravel, then dirt roads---we arrived at Buckeye Ranch. 

There we met the blacksmith, who was going to teach us about her craft, not just by demonstrating it herself, but also by letting us make an iron creation ourselves!

This photo shows me decked out in the safety gear of heavy gloves, apron, and protective eye wear, ready to "forge on" to a new experience.

With a great deal of help and encouragement, I was able to take a piece of iron, heat it to red hot in the coals, hammer and bend  it on the anvil while it was hot, reheat it, put it in a vice, then move the vice to create the twist, and "voila!"  I made an iron hook!  I have it proudly displayed in my living room!

Besides the blacksmithing classes/shop, this is also the location of the world famous "Buckeye Banjo" workshop.  This photo shows us with the artisan who makes these one-of-a-kind, custom-designed musical instruments. 

The customer can choose the inlaid design they want on the arm of their banjo---animals, plants, paisleys, initials---whatever!

You can learn more about both the blacksmith classes, as well as the Buckeye Banjos, by visiting their website at www.BuckeyeBanjos.com .

The blacksmith and banjo maker were kind enough to let us go inside their home to look around and use the restroom.  It seemed to reflect the mountain culture we were studying, including the large bass fiddle, propped up in the corner of the room!

This view from the porch of the home shows our group gathered around the outdoor kitchen that the owners use for their numerous music fests.

The group took a stroll across this footbridge, and into the nearby fields, to see the honeybee operation that we learned about.

Each of us was given a jar of the honey these insects had produced---just for us!

When we returned to Mountain Lake Lodge, we had the last of our very delicious suppers, topped off with trays of pastries and fresh fruit. 

After supper, we gathered in Mary's Barn at Mountain Lake Lodge, to hear some very talented musicians, play their banjo, fiddle, and guitar for some fantastic toe-tapping mountain music. 

On the last day of the program, I was loading up my car, and gazed out over the beauty of the valley.  The cabin on the left is where the parents of  "Baby"(Jennifer Gray) stayed in the movie, Dirty Dancing.  The mist in the valley is coming off the lake.

This fire pit was available every evening of our program, and a Mountain Lake employee dutifully built a fire, and had it available for anyone who wanted to sit beside it.  It was also the site of a "somores" culinary extravaganza, for those who cannot resist that famous fireside treat!

Just a short distance down the mountain from Mountain Lake Lodge, this overlook platform provides a place to stop and snap a photo.  My friend Diane, is shown checking out the scenery, in this photo.

This historic church is also very close to Mountain Lake Lodge, and we stopped there as we were leaving, to take a few photos.  The scene is a reminder to me to give thanks for the opportunity to attend this particular program, but especially for the last 24 hours of the program, that these photos represent.  I am using it as a visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verse from James 1:17 that says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow or turning."  This experience was defintely a "good and perfect gift from above", and it gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!  Tricia