Photo essay: “Welcome to Bear Country”

Bear_countryProbably one of the most memorable moments of this summer was when I saw the bear. This happened last weekend during our weekend camping adventure on Virginia’s Skyline Drive. The night before the sighting, the possibility of seeing a bear (a first in my lifetime) was the only thing on my mind. The reason for this was primarily because we were welcomed to our campground by a big sign that read simply: "Bear Country." I could not sleep much that night. I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking about the possibility of a bear hovering outside our tent. Also, seeing the movie about a man being eaten by a bear just a week before did not help things.

The bear sighting occurred the next day around noon during the tail end of a five-mile hike (a hike that alone almost led to my demise). It was surreal. After taking a break, we were just starting down the trail again when we saw it. The bear was some 150 meters away from where we were standing. It was calmly drinking from a creek when my shouts interrupted its moment of peace. Hearing my cries, it raised its head to look at us. While I was busy shouting and cursing the day, the rest of the group were taking pictures. The bear looked up at the animated crowd and then just walked away. Just like that, the mammoth beast was nowhere to be found.

I have to say that although coming face-to-face with the bear gave me the scare of a lifetime, it was exhilarating. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The bear The bear exodus

American tradition: Backyard camping

Westwind in the backyardIn preparation for our much anticipated camping trip up amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Skyline Drive [pic] at the end of this month, the husband wanted to try out a brand new tent (one he’d bought years ago but never used) by camping out in the backyard at his parents’ house. He told me the idea and I liked it. So, last weekend, we brought our gear (two sleeping bags, two pads) and headed to the Shenandoah Valley, where we got the tent out of the attic and set it up in the backyard.

To increase the camping flavor of our adventure we decided to watch the documentary Grizzly Man while settling into the tent before we slept. It was fun, well except for the fact that the movie freaked me out a bit. It’s a real-life story about a man who gets eaten by a grizzly bear while camping in the wilds of Alaska. I’m pretty sure there are bears where we are going to camp but, according to the husband, they are "small bears" that you try to ignore if you ever run into them. Of course, this did not make me feel any better about the possibility of a bear attack, but I’m up for adventure.

I was also surprised when the husband told me that backyard camping is pretty common, often done by children seeking an escape from their parents’ house. Mom Tynes shared her backyard camping adventures from when she was young; she’d even craft a stove and cook! I had no idea. The American lifestyle never ceases to amaze me.

Thanksgiving in the Valley

Shenandoah Lake
We spent this Thanksgiving weekend in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, where we gathered with family members for fellowship and divine food. It is goes without saying that gathering in the breath-taking valley adds a special vibe to this fall holiday.

Colors along the skylineNo matter how many times we visit the Valley, I can never get over how beautiful it is. There is something about the mountains there — the Blue Ridge and Massanutten — that simply take my breath away.

No wonder this stunning place is listed among the 1000 Places to See Before You Die, a book I picked up at Staples while the husband was trying (and succeeding) to land a good deal on Black Friday.

Now, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. These photos were taken by the husband on two different occasions and in two different locations in the valley: Lake Shenandoah, near Harrisonburg and the Skyline Drive. Happy Thanksgiving and happy holidays.

Williamsburg: A trip back to colonial times

I enjoy a a capital moment One of the most unique places I have visited in this country so far is Williamsburg, Virginia. What made this place special for me is it the vast amount of history associated with it. During our two-day visit there a few weeks back, I received a crash-course in American history.

Thanks to our quick museums tours, I got to know about the Revolutionary War, the victory in Yorktown, the Boston tea party, what taxation without representation is all about and the daily doings of the early immigrants who formed the first colonies.

A candlight dinner serenadeVisiting Jamestown, which is right down the road from Williamsburg, was pretty eye opening as well. I laid my eyes upon the original location of the first colony that gave birth to what is now the United States. It was exciting to see the early haunts of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, two characters that for awhile I thought of as mere fiction.

Downtown Williamsburg was the most enchanting part of it all. It was a bit surreal for me to wander down cobblestone streets alongside people dressed in colonial clothes, speaking in colonial accents, while listening to colonial music and eating colonial food. It was a trip back in time in every sense of the word.

Dining in Williamsburg was out of this world, as we savored a colonial dinner in the dark using only candles for lighting — just like the good old days. Overall, it was a memorable trip. I will let the pictures — taken by the super talented husband — speak for themselves.

A tavern call goes out Colonial fortress A colonial reader

The roller coaster rider

The Loch Ness Monster's interlocking loops
When the husband told me of his desire to take me to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia I answered saying: "Great. But no roller coasters." "We’ll see," he said under his breath.

As soon as we arrived, the first thing we did was ride a roller coaster, the park’s legendary Loch Ness Monster. I have no idea how he convinced me to do it. I just succumbed so quickly — with no resistance. The experience was terrifying in every sense of the word. I was so scared that I decided to close my eyes during the ride and pretend that the whole roller coaster experience was just a bad dream. As soon as this near-death experience came to an end, the beaming husband asked me how I felt. "I need a beer," was my reply.

The day rolled on with still more adventures including haunted houses, bumper cars, Halloween shows, water rides and one more roller coaster. Yes, I succumbed one more time. "I want to you to share my love for roller coasters," he said in his latest attempt to convince me to ride another roller coaster — this time the Big Bad Wolf. I obliged for I’m too weak. This second ride was as terrifying as the first except that this time I decided to conquer my fear and keep my eyes open. I did not conquer anything. I was scared to death.

By the end of the day, yes, the husband wanted to try yet another roller coaster. This time I resisted. "Come on how can you keep doing this?" I asked a bit annoyed.
"Well I’m like Grissom in CSI. I love riding roller coasters," he explained.
"Did he say that in the show?" I asked.
"Oh yeah," the husband said smiling. "Do you know when I was about fifteen, my friend Steve and I once rode the Loch Ness some 25 times in one day."

After three years of marriage I discovered something new about my husband: he rides roller coasters.

The Alpengeist
Das Festhaus
Le Scoot

A Virginia wedding

David and Diane's wedding

Several days after my return from from Jordan, we drove to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to attend the wedding of my brother-in-law David to my now sister-in-law, Diane. The wedding was really wonderful in every sense of the word. The newlyweds were ecstatic and all those attending were happy to be there for the wonderful occasion. There was lots of eating, chatting, more eating and loads of fun, all taking place in the wonderful turn of the century home of my parents-in-law. What a great time we all had. Many congrats to the newlyweds. Happy times await!