Friday, 29 April 2016

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I'm a bit obsessed with my hair. I've been like this as long as I can remember. Partly because my hair is so very hard to control, always going its own wavy way, frequently frizzy, with crazy curlicues in places where it should go straight, and undulating whoop-dee-doos where it should lie flat. And partly because I'm a fussbudget. In fact the Google definition of "fussbudget" is followed by the example: "[S]he's such a fussbudget, [s]he gets upset if one hair is out of place." Yep. That would be me. It's stressful to be a fussbudget, needing to control every hair, yet having hair with a mind of its own. 

Early on in life, I realized that I would never have sleek, shiny locks à la Peggy Lipton in Mod Squad. Remember Mod Squad? I adored Peggy Lipton. My older sister Carolyn had long, sleek, blonde locks like Peggy. Sigh. I was always jealous.

This is me in grade four... missing tooth and all. I've been fighting that twirl of bang in the front my whole life. In fact, I wrote a post some time ago about my lifelong hair battles. Check out the sparkly barrette borrowed from my older sister, and no doubt used to control a hair bump on that side. This was pre-blow-dryer-flattening-iron era. I'm sure Mum washed my hair the night before, and might even have resorted to rollers to control the curl a bit. But when my hair dries, and then I sleep on it, despite a vigorous brushing, there's no budging whatever bumps and whorls have arisen overnight. Still, doesn't look like my hair is bothering me much in this shot. I look pretty pleased with myself. Must have been my dress. Gosh, I loved that dress. 

With the help of good blow dryers, flattening irons, and smoothing, de-frizzing products I'm now able to control my hair pretty well. I even had a sleek bob for a few years in my forties. And lately I've been loving my asymmetrical, shiny, straight bangs courtesy of my hair magician buddy Carmen. Until last week that is.

Last week I went to a different hair dresser. Don't get me wrong, I've not abandoned Carmen. But I was just returning from our two week road trip, and Carmen was on vacation, so I booked in with her friend, Elizabeth, at the salon where they worked together before Carmen went out on her own. I've known Elizabeth for years, chatted to her about her kids and our respective knitting projects, and really, really like her. Plus she cuts Carmen's hair, so that was recommendation enough. But... she's not Carmen.

I showed Elizabeth the picture that I had of the cut I was aiming for... the same one that I had showed Carmen a year or so ago. And explained how we were morphing my colour, referred to resistant bits, highlights, low lights yadda, yadda, yadda. And from the look on her face, I knew it was way too much information. I stopped and put the picture away, and just said, "Well, you get the idea. Just do what you do. I trust you." 

And so she did. 

Let's pause for a few minutes here to admire these lovely short, short cuts. Remember this image of Mia Farrow? I've always loved her with this short pixie cut. Much nicer than the rather limp, curly bob she's affected for the past few years.
And the lovely, messy cropped hair of French actress Audrey Tatou. Those French women, they've definitely mastered the art of effortlessly chic insouciance. I'll bet they don't stress that this or that bit of bang won't lie flat. 

And this undone pixie cut on British fashion model Stella Tennant. Short over the ears, just how I like it. A bit longer on top and probably swept back with her fingers. I love her easy, unfussy style. Stella always looks confidently casual. Of course she is the granddaughter of the youngest Mitford sister. Confidence is in her genes, I guess.

Now, hold those pictures in your mind and let's get back to me in Elizabeth's chair last Friday. Elizabeth is a great stylist. But, as I said, she's not Carmen. So she did her thing, like I told her. And she admonished me as she wielded scissors, blow dryer, and styling products... "I don't know why you don't work with the texture of your hair, Sue. Instead of against it." And when she was finished, I liked what she had done with my hair. But wow... it was short. My long sleek bang was gone. The top was waving, and scrunched, with a few pixie-ish wisps around my face. Hmmmm. 

I liked it. Really, I did. But.... after so many years of striving for straight and sleek, could I give up the battle in favour of co-operation with my waves and whorls?

I don't have a picture of my hair after Elizabeth did it. But this is me on Monday morning as I headed out to an early appointment. "Day One of the Transition," you might say. I did my best to let the curl have some say. I scrunched. But I had to resort to the blow dryer when frizz began to overtake the front. It looks... okay... I guess. 
Brooks Brothers sweater, Max Mara blazer, blue scarf from Ogilvy's
Day One of the New Do.

Brooks Brothers sweater, Max Mara blazer, blue scarf from Ogilvy's
Hmmmm. Day One... Not Entirely Successful.
This is Day Three, below. I'm off appliance shopping with Hubby. Wearing my new Twiggy jacket, as you can see. I managed better with my new de-frizz product, mixing it with my styling wax as Elizabeth suggested. I'm trying to let the top go its own way, mostly. I'm trying to scrunch and not stress about what happens when I scrunch. Gad... the habits of a lifetime are hard to break. 

Twiggy suede biker jacket by Marks and Spencer, Brooks brothers sweater
Day Three of the Transition
I still haven't been able to replicate what Elizabeth did. I mean this looks like I just rolled out of bed, to me. Well, except for the clothes and make-up. But then again, I tell myself, isn't that what I'm looking for? Eventually, I resist more fussing and bolt before I'm late meeting Hubby. 

Twiggy suede biker jacket by Marks and Spencer, Brooks brothers sweater

    Twiggy suede biker jacket by Marks and Spencer, Brooks brothers sweater
Love my Twiggy jacket. Not quite there with  my hair yet. 

This last shot is later the same day, after three hours of appliance shopping. It was windy and my hair was pretty messy. But... no brushes allowed, folks. If you have curly hair, you'll understand. Brushing it will only take away the curl and replace it with frizz. So, I freshen up my lipstick and try pushing my hair forward with my fingers. Huh. I kind of like this. 

Twiggy suede biker jacket by Marks and Spencer, Brooks brothers sweater
A bit better... maybe.
And so the week progressed. Last night I went to dinner with a friend. My efforts to achieve balance between blow-drying and leaving alone were not so successful. I tend to grab the dryer and start wielding my round brush so automatically, that it's hard, now, to decide when and where to intercede, and when and where to let nature do what it does. So I wasn't altogether happy with my efforts last night. The whole thing came out rather too puffy and undulating, sort of eighties big hair meets Elvis quiff. 

Sigh. So, that's my hairy week, people. I started with a long straight bang in need of a trim, and ended up after six days trying not to look like Elvis. Hair today, gone tomorrow. I'm in transition. Like some sort of helicopter mom, I'm struggling to let my hair chart its own course, to make its own mistakes. And I'm striving not to interfere too much, not to try to control every little bump and kink. You know, that's hard for a fussbudget like me. 

So my hair is a work in progress... as am I. I mean, aren't we all works in progress all of our lives?

Before I wrap this up, I should say that Hubby loves my new hair. But let's be brutally honest here... he really doesn't get a vote. I've decided to give myself another week. And then I may resort to blow-drying and flattening iron again. We'll see. 

Who knew easy, un-done, insouciance could be so danged hard?

How about you folks? Any hair stories you'd like to share with the rest of us? Do tell.

Linking up this week with these great blogs: Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style, #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, All About You at Mama and More, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, and with

Monday, 25 April 2016

On Her Own: Spinsters and Women Who Write about Them

Apparently Greta Garbo never actually said, "I want to be alone." Except as a line in the movie Grand Hotel. But she was. At least alone in the way that society defines women who don't marry as being "alone." I've been thinking of the state of being alone, or unmarried, a good deal these days. And the many famous, respected, independent women who live and have lived single lives. Women whom I admire for one reason or another, like Jane Austen, Diane Keaton, Harper Lee, Coco Chanel, and Greta Garbo. Some of these women did not marry by choice, and others might have liked to marry but, for whatever reason, did not. 

On Her Own: Spinsters and the Women Who Write about Them
I've been wondering how pressured these famous women felt to conform to the norm, how they probably felt undervalued as women because they did not fulfill roles as wives and mothers. And how much harder it might have been for them if they had not been talented and creative, and able to build a life around satisfying work. 

All this has been on my mind since I've been reading Kate Bolick's wonderful book Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own. I don't think I've enjoyed a non-fiction book quite so much in a long time. In fact I've been reading it like fiction, in that I couldn't wait to find out what happens. Bolick is a talented writer. In her book, she explores the evolution of the "spinster" in society. And she tells her own story, compellingly, of building a career, and a life of her own, despite societal pressure to find a mate, marry, and have children. 

In a May 2015 article in the Globe and Mail, Zosia Bielski outlines Bolick's argument that "there's nothing wrong with being a 'spinster.'" In fact Bolick believes the word 'spinster' doesn't necessarily have to be a pejorative term. But might be extended to any woman, "single or partnered" who holds onto "the idea of autonomy that can get so easily lost inside of marriage or motherhood." Bolick thinks we should all try to cultivate this autonomy, and hold onto "that in us which is independent and self-sufficient." Can't argue with that. Growing up as the child of a single mum who was raising four kids, my sisters and I certainly learned early the value of independence, and self-sufficiency, and the idea that in order to achieve these as women, a good education was key. 

On Her Own: Spinsters and the Women Who Write about Them
Kate Bolick in the Globe and Mail
So I enjoyed reading about Kate Bolick's personal journey as narrated in her book. But I also loved that she explores the lives of five women who influenced and inspired her; she calls them her "awakeners." Essayist Maeve Brennan, columnist Neith Boyce, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, novelist Edith Wharton, and "social visionary" Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Bolick says she borrowed the term from Edith Wharton who "used it in her memoir, A Backward Glance, to describe the books and thinkers who'd guided her intellectual studies." 

On Her Own: Spinsters and the Woman Who Write about Them
Edna St. Vincent Millay source
All five of Bolick's "awakeners" lived fascinating and vivid lives. Like Bolick is doing now, they struggled with society's expectations of them as women, and with their own desires and ambitions to live a life that was not defined by marriage and motherhood. In fact it was my fascination with Bolick's "awakeners" which lead me down so many "reading rabbit holes" (as I call them) that I couldn't finish this post earlier in the month when I started it. I won't go into any more detail; you should read the book yourself. Really. You should.

On Her Own: Spinsters and the Women Who Write about Them
Maeve Brennan source
Women on their own, whether single, or widowed, or fleeing from bad marriages is a theme in the work of many of my favourite writers. Like Anita Brookner. Sadly Brookner died in March at age 87. If you read this blog regularly, you'll already know what I think of Brookner. If not you can read this post about Barbara Pym and Anita Brookner, and what I call "gentle reading." Neither Pym nor Brookner married, and their stories of other "spinsters" are some of my favourite novels. And have a look at this article in The Guardian where Rachel Cooke contends that  Brookner's "ability to capture life's quiet battles" makes her novels "required reading."

On Her Own: Spinsters and the Women Who Write about Them
Anita Brookner source
Another writer who writes about women who struggle to "throw off the restraints placed around them by husbands, fathers, society" in order to live meaningful lives... and whom I consider as required reading... is Canadian Constance Beresford-Howe. Beresford-Howe also died this past winter, at age 93. You can read her obituary in The Globe and Mail here. According to Pat Kennedy, her longtime editor at MacMillan Canada, Beresford-Howe is "often underrated" because she "was quiet and not flashy." In fact Beresford-Howe has been compared to Barbara Pym, who Philip Larkin called the "most underrated writer of the twentieth century." 

Constance Beresford-Howe in the Globe and Mail
Constance Beresford-Howe source
Beresford-Howe's best known work is The Book of Eve, in which the character Eve, at age 65, leaves her disastrous marriage and discovers who she really is, who she's really been all along: "You can't know what it's like to be invisible for years on end. Never independent. Never free, even to use those four letters words we all know, because the chief duty of females, we are taught, was to practice the restraints of civilization, not explore its possibilities." Gad, I love that book.  All Beresford-Howe's books are about women finding the courage to build their own life, on their own terms. And mostly on their own. Alone. 

It's odd to think of Constance Beresford-Howe writing about the stultifying effects of marriage and family when you consider that she was happily married for 55 years. But then again, she says she based the character of Eve on her mother who "never left her father, but should have." According to Kennedy, women used to approach the author at readings to tell her she "gave them courage to change their lives." That's lovely, isn't it?


These are my three favourite Beresford-Howe novels. If you haven't read her books, do check them out. You'll be in for a treat. You know, I think it would be amazing if someone were to revive Beresford-Howe's reputation, like Philip Larkin did for Pym in the seventies. And reignite interest in this wonderful writer. 

I read Pym, Brookner and Beresford-Howe for the first time in my late twenties. When I was making major changes in my life. And when I think of it, I guess I would classify them as three of my own "awakeners, " as Kate Bolick (and Edith Wharton) might say. 

So, Constance Beresford-Howe wrote about bad marriages, and lonely women, yet was happily married. Jane Austen never married but wrote about women who longed for perfect marriages. Kate Bolick writes of spinsterhood as something to be cultivated, yet she has a long-time boyfriend. And me, I've been happily married for 27 years, but I suspect I may have a deeply ingrained streak of spinsterhood in me. Huh. 

Now what the heck does all of that mean, do you think? Kate Bolick writes: "Whom to marry, and when will it happen- these two questions define every woman's existence... until they're answered, even if the answers are nobody and never." But I think what Bolick's book, and the books of these other writers, goes on to prove is that even once these questions are answered, women still grapple with the consequences of the answers. There is no happily ever after. There's just us continuing to "explore possibilities" as Beresford-Howe's character says. 

Sheesh. That's enough of me pretending to be profound. Trying to maintain a pretense of profundity, I might say, if I were being particularly pretentious. What do you say about all this, dear readers?

Linking up with All About You at Mama and More, and Thursday Blog Hop at Katherine's Corner

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Twiggy and Me

I remember clearly when I first became aware of fashion. Not just clothes, I've always loved clothes. But fashion, as in what was in style and what was not. Grown-up fashion. It was late 1967, early 1968. I was eleven going on twelve, and in grade five. Our class was producing the monthly assembly for our school and we had planned to have go-go dancers on stage, of which I was one. And, besides having stage jitters, I was upset because... wait for it... I had nothing to wear. I still remember the outfit that Mum bought for me: black turtleneck, black tights, and a pink and black, tweed mini-skirt with a wide belt. Ooooooh, I looked fierce. Well, as fierce as a gangling, long-legged, skinny kid with frizzy hair can look. I imagine those black tights did not do much for my legs. Like twigs they were.

But that was okay. Because Twiggy, well, she had legs like twigs too, didn't she? And in 1967-68 Twiggy was big. Really big. And although she couldn't make me feel any less skinny, she did make me feel not quite as gawky, maybe a little less self-conscious. So, yeah, Twiggy and me. We go way back. 

Twiggy in 1967 as featured in  The Daily Mail On-line
At sixty-six, Twiggy still looks gorgeous. Of course she's not a skinny kid anymore. None of us is. She celebrates fifty years in fashion this year. You can read about her career in this article in The Daily Mail On-line. And about the line of clothing which she collaborates on with Marks and Spencer in the UK.

Twiggy modelling her "signature biker jacket" from M&S for Daily Mail On-line          
I first read about this line of clothing on Alyson Walsh's blog That's Not My Age, in a post where Alyson writes about Twiggy's fifty years in fashion, and where she and M&S gave away three Twiggy biker jackets in gorgeous khaki suede. You can read Alyson's post hereAnd, you know what? I won one of those jackets. Yah. I never win anything. Let's hear it for Twiggy. And for That's Not My Age

So, last Friday, we came home from our two week spring road trip to find a package from Marks and Spencer UK waiting. Along with a personal note from Twiggy herself. How cool is that? I sound like a twelve year old there, don't I? Ah well. Twiggy and me, we have history.

personal note from Twiggy

So the note is special. But the jacket is even better. Much better. I first tried it with a plain white tee shirt, tucked in, my Current Elliott jeans, belted, and my Paul Green boots. I feel so comfortable in this outfit. This is what I've been wearing in one form or another since I was in university. It's vintage me. 

     M&S Twiggy khaki suede jacket

And speaking of vintage. I dug through my bags of old earrings and bracelets that I don't wear anymore but can't give away. And found these earrings from the eighties. "I knew I had a pair of earrings the exact colour of the jacket," I yelled excitedly to Hubby. "What? Did you say something?" Sheesh. Some people will never be able to comprehend the joy of finding something old, which you've hung onto for years, is exactly what you need to wear with something new.

M&S Twiggy khaki suede jacket

Then I tried my new khaki suede biker jacket with my cropped Citizens of Humanity jeans, this grey and sage green striped tee from Vince and my Stan Smith Adidas. I felt great in this outfit too. Particularly since I haven't worn this Vince tee enough, and it goes perfectly with the jacket. What luck, eh?

M&S Twiggy khaki suede jacket      

Not to mention the fact that the jacket also looks good with these Anne-Marie Chagnon earrings. See that little green bead? It looks great against the darker green of the jacket, I think.

M&S Twiggy khaki suede jacket

I also paired the jacket with my Paige high-rise skinny jeans, and this blue and white striped sweater from Brooks Brothers. And my Stan Smith sneakers again. I love khaki green with dark blue.  

M&S Twiggy khaki suede jacket

And yesterday when I was heading out to run errands and then had an afternoon appointment for a post-winter facial, I kept the Paige jeans and sneakers, and changed up the sweater for this white Theory shirt. Simple. Works for me. 

M&S Twiggy jacket     

I must tell you that I tried very hard not to get too excited about winning this jacket.  At first when Alyson e-mailed me for my size, I panicked. I'm not an easy fit even when I understand the sizing. Rosie, who reads this blog, came to my rescue and sent me a helpful link on UK sizing. But when I took my measurements, I fit exactly in between sizes. So I played it smart, and did what Mum would have done when I was a kid, I went up a size. And all during our trip south, I kept telling myself that, when it came, the jacket probably wouldn't fit. It probably wouldn't suit me. I probably wouldn't like it. You know... downsizing my expectations. 

And truthfully, it is a little big. But, if I'm going to wear it with tight jeans, I don't want it to be snug. Not at all. It's described as a "fitted" jacket on the M&S website. But I want it to be a bit loose to better hide my middle-age middle. And I like it a bit slouchy. A bit louche. Makes it more biker-y. 

So I guess you could say that I like my new jacket. That it goes with just about everything I own. Or at least with enough things to keep me reaching for it regularly. I guess you might say it suits my long-legged, carrying all my weight above the hips sort of body type. I guess you might say that, in a way, Twiggy is still inspiring me to feel good about my body... with all its flaws. Even though those flaws are a bit different than they were in 1967. 

So yeah. Twiggy and me. We go way back.  

As far back as that assembly in grade five. Of which I have such clear memories. Of what I wore. And the song we danced to. "I'm a Believer" by the Monkees. I still know every single word to that song. 

And be honest... from the point of view of your twelve year old self... tell me.... wasn't Davy Jones just the cutest thing ever?


Do you remember when you first became conscious of fashion? What's your take on biker jackets? Or on Twiggy? Or the Monkees? Or... you know... whatever?

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Mountain Time: Spring Road Trip Part II

Okay... back to our spring road trip. Hubby and I enjoyed South Carolina. Charleston was lovely: beautiful historic homes, great beaches, fabulous restaurants. But along with the warm sunshine, there were lots of people, and traffic. After four days we were ready for something less busy, and more empty. And rugged. With more open space and many fewer people. So we headed for the hills, so to speak. 

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
Headed for the mountains
As I mentioned in my last post, we had booked a cabin in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina for a few nights. And we were looking forward to cooking for ourselves, and doing some hiking in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. And hopefully getting a look at the Appalachian Trail of which we'd read so much.

cabin in North Carolina

We love staying in cabins and cottages. And happy to have finally arrived and loving the rustic grounds of this place, we unloaded the car, and piled our bags and cooler onto the porch. A bit precipitously as it happened. We couldn't get into our cabin. Despite following the e-mailed instructions we'd received from the owner, the "lock box" wouldn't work, and since there was no one on site, and my cell phone had no signal (only Verizon customers get coverage apparently), we had to pack everything back into the car and drive to a small store nearby to beg the use of a phone. Apparently the owner of the cabins lives somewhere "far away," according to the store owner. Even the local "staff member" whom we contacted lives twenty minutes away; but he explained over the phone the "trick" to opening the lock box was "to press on the grey part while trying to flick the switch." Happily that worked. We were in and we unloaded the car for the second time that day. 

But the cabin was freezing. The wall thermostat did not appear to do anything. The gas fireplace looked dodgy, and with complicated instructions and no way of knowing if the gas was even turned on, no cell phone coverage in case of emergency, we steered well clear of that potential disaster. We managed to get heat by turning on the old baseboard heaters in each room. We pulled on our ski underwear that we'd packed for hiking, and laughed, "At least we aren't in a tent, eh?" And later we were happy we'd brought the electric heating pad for my back, since the single quilt on the bed just didn't cut it for warmth. Really? A cabin in the mountains in April... you'd think they'd have a duvet or at least an extra blanket. 

Anyhoo, the next morning when all the electrical outlets in the kitchen failed, and we had to move the coffee maker and the toaster to the bedroom, and the microwave to an outlet by the back door, I finally e-mailed the owner for assistance. Thank goodness for WiFi. A return message later that day said the the "trick" for resetting the kitchen outlets was "to press a reset button on the shaving outlet in the bathroom." Of course. Now why didn't we think of that? You see, folks, the "trick" to enjoying travel is to be flexible and to have a good sense of humour. And to look at all glitches as fodder for blog post stories. 

road up Clingman's Dome
Road up Clingman's Dome
No more glitches that day, though. We drove into Great Smoky National Park to visit Clingman's Dome, at 6643 ft, the highest point in the park. The sign at the park entrance said the Clingman's Dome road was closed, probably due to the dump of snow they'd had overnight. But we took a chance and carried on. And by the time we turned off the main road and began the ascent, it was open. 

route up Clingman's Dome
Walking up to Clingman's Dome
The temperature (and the wind) was brisk when we arrived at the parking lot to start the short, but steep, walk up to the viewing tower.  Lucky for us we had packed our toques and gloves, and were wearing our ski underwear. Some people were not so fortunate, and one lady was attempting the walk swathed in what appeared to be a heavy blanket. That must have been awkward. We saw hikers heading down this section of the Appalachian Trail, but we didn't join them. 

Part of the Appalachian Trail at Clingman's Dome

We carried on up to the viewing tower on Clingman's Dome. Stunning view isn't it? Row upon row of exquisitely smoky mountains. And thus the glitches came to an end, and we began three days of sunshine, bluer than blue skies, and gorgeous scenery. 

View from the top of Clingman's Dome
View from the tower on Clingman's Dome
The snow made it all the more lovely. I felt like bursting into song or quoting a Robert Frost poem, but I restrained myself. I'd been warned after an embarrassing Macbeth quoting incident at Dunnottar Castle in Scotland. Poor Hubby, the perils of travelling with an English teacher.

view from the top of Clingman's Dome

On day two we stopped at the tourist office in the lovely little town of Bryson City. This graceful old building is the Swain County Museum and tourist information centre. The helpful lady at the desk gave us trail maps and pointed us in the right direction for our hike to Indian Creek Falls that day.

Tourist Information Centre in Bryson City, North Carolina
Swain County Museum and Tourist Info Centre in Bryson City

We had the trail to ourselves for a long while on this sunny Sunday morning. Well, except for a smiling priest, whom we met early on, striding down the path, cassock billowing around his legs, clutching his rosary. 

Beginning of trail in Smoky Mountain National Park
Lone walker at the beginning of the trail.
That was surreal. Perhaps he'd come to this quiet bench for a bit of Sunday morning meditation.

Smoky Mountain National Park trail

We pressed on enjoying the exercise, and the views. 

Indian Creek Falls hike

Indian Creek Falls hike

When we crossed the wooden bridge over this fast flowing creek, we couldn't resist tossing sticks into the current, then running to the downstream side to see whose "boat" was winning. I don't like to brag... but, well... you can guess where this is going. Spring makes you feel like a kid again, doesn't it? 

Indian Creek Falls hike

Back at our cabin after our walk, the hot tub (which by the way worked perfectly) felt verrry good... but did nothing for my serious case of post-hike hat head. 

Hot tub in the Smoky Mountains

On our last day in North Carolina we drove part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We'd thought about doing this on our "get-away day," as Hubby calls it, but an ominous weather forecast helped us to change our minds. We've driven some beautiful, twisting, mountain roads in our travels over the years, and this one did not disappoint. 

Blue Ridge Parkway

views along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway views
Thank you Mr. Weatherman. If we hadn't paid attention to the forecast, the view below is all we'd have seen. Actually it's all we did see, for a while anyway, on our "get-away day" as we headed north. Rain. And low clouds. 

North Carolina
Rainy get-away day

And mountains hidden by more clouds. Kind of magnificent in its own way, though, isn't it? 

enroute between North Carolina and Virginia
Somewhere between North Carolina and Virginia
We had one more stop before we headed home. We planned to find a hotel near Roanoke, Virginia and hike in to McAfee's Knob, one of the most famous overlooks on the Appalachian Trail. After reading Bill Bryson's book on the trail, and then watching the Robert Redford film based on Bryson's book... we couldn't get the idea of McAfee's Knob out of our heads. And Hubby had done some research, and read that it was a thirty-five minute hike one way. Ha. A veritable doddle. Cue the ominous music here.

We checked into a hotel in Salem, near the head of the trail to McAfee's Knob, and as it was only three-thirty in the afternoon, and the weather had turned out to be beautiful, we decided to do the walk right then instead of the next morning. The sign board in the parking lot said the hike was 3.9 miles. One way. So definitely not thirty-five minutes. 

hiking McAfee's Knob
Hiking up McAfee's Knob
Ah well. We needed some exercise. We'd been in the car for the best part of two days. Nothing ventured and all that. We set off. And walked. And walked. And walked. Up hill mostly. Almost entirely, in fact. After an hour or so, we spied what turned out to be an old fire road that ran alongside the trail, and we slithered down a side-hill to walk it. Easier on the feet than the rocky trail. At one point, we met an elderly man who was sitting on the bank beside the old road, digging wild garlic. Sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale, doesn't it? But we weren't two children lost in the woods and he wasn't a troll or a leprechaun. Hubby had a conversation with him about the merits of wild garlic soup, he explained how much farther to the top, and we went on our way. 

At one point, we turned off the fire road and back onto the trail. Soon, we clambered up steps as the trail headed directly for a cliff edge. "That must be it up ahead, " Hubby exclaimed. This was the selfie I took when we discovered that the trail turned and ran along the spine of the ridge we were on. And carried on upward. Okay, I wasn't really that upset. Just making a dramatic face for the camera. But where the heck was the damn knob? 

hiking McAfee's Knob
What-da-ya mean we're not at the top?
Ah yes. Another mile or so later. There it was. Definitely worth the exertion. And the sweat. And the swearing. 1,100 ft of ascent over the almost four mile climb. And the views were impressive. 

McAfee's Knob Virginia
The view from McAfee's Knob
And we were all smiles again. 

McAfee's Knob Virginia
All smiles at the top

Too bad that Hubby's camera was on the wrong setting when he took the shot below. The picture was terribly bleached out and I had to doctor it to be able to see anything. But as you can tell.... we made it! And the way back was all down hill. Well, mostly. Phew.

McAfee's Knob Virginia
Great glee on McAfee's Knob

It must have been after eight o'clock by the time we picked up take-out pizza and made it back to our hotel room. Where upon we had hot showers, turned on the "what is Trump up to today" show on CNN, and lolled on the beds, gulping down pizza, sipping wine, and feeling quite pleased with ourselves. I was fast asleep by nine-thirty. 

The next day we really did head for home. Our "mountain time" had been time well spent. And we were hoping that spring would be fully sprung by the time we reached Ottawa. 

So what have I learned on this trip? Well, you never know where you're going to meet a priest or a helpful old man. Always travel with gloves and ski underwear... actually I already knew that one. Always, always wear hiking boots when we walk, even if I'm told that it's only a short hike. Rocky trails are not kind to sneaker-ed feet. 

And I've decided that one should always calculate the length of a hike in miles before you start... pffft it's only 3.9 miles one way. And in kilometres when you're finished... wow, 12.6 kilometres in total, much of it climbing. I am impressive. See? Miles for motivation, kilometres for patting oneself on the back. Works for me.

Now I really must wrap up this marathon post. Hubby has just brought my bike back from its spring tune-up and we are off for the first ride of the year. Spring... so glad it's finally here.

Sorry for the patchy posting schedule, folks. Between walking and driving, and walking and driving... not to mention the mountain of laundry when we came home. I couldn't find time to write this post. What spring-y things have you been up to? 

Linking with Upsy Daisy Linkup, All About You at Mama and More, and Thursday Blog Hop at Katherine's Corner