A couple of Saturdays ago, my husband, some friends, and I  hiked James River Park’s trails from Westover Hills on the south side across the river to the North Bank trail and back across the Belle Isle bridges to our Forest Hill Park starting point. www.jamesriverpark.org In a stroke of brilliance, we decided to meet our friends at the South of the James Farmers’ Market at 8 a.m. www.themarketumbrella.com Fortified with chocolate chip cookies from www.norwoodcottage.com , honey crisp apples (from one of the vendors) that tasted like apples are supposed to taste and haven’t tasted in years, and enough trail mix that I had made to sustain us for months, we set off. I was tempted to bring some pies along, but that would have gotten messy. (We are the only people I know who go to farmers’ markets to buy cookies and pies and pizza dough, just like gramma used to grow on the old family farm.)

First we poked around the Forest Hill Park Lake renovations, which are lovely. http://www.nbc12.com/Global/link.asp?L=414883 Walk the paved paths if you’re feeling lazy or go off-road as we did to feel like you are in the mountains.

In the city, I swear

Then we snuck onto the Buttermilk Trail and proceeded clockwise, over hill and dale to see some of the beautiful stone work, wooden bridges, and landscaping that volunteers put in. The stairway looks like a classic CCC project, but was completed just last year. Then we crossed the Boulevard Bridge and took in the views up and down the river.  If only the Huguenot Bridge were as pleasant to be on. Sigh.

we were tempted to jump aboard....

As we walked by Maymont, we spied one of the bears hanging out in the sun, which was warming us all up quite nicely and wondered why Maymont www.maymont.org doesn’t open up a gate to connect the trail to the park during the day. Perhaps they don’t want the plentiful mountain bikers from the trail zooming in. I wasn’t too crazy about seeing them either, especially when one nearly sent me down a ravine. A happier sight, above a steep ramp, we saw city Parks and Rec Trail Manager, Nathan Burrell, and several volunteers from MORE improving the trail. I didn’t feel too guilty walking by as I had put in some serious hours at Pony Pasture with the Friends of James River Park this summer. At that point, the trail followed Kansas St. a few blocks before heading back down into the woods at the Texas Beach entrance. The North Bank trail continued below Mt. Cavalry, Riverview, and Hollywood cemeteries and came out near the pedestrian bridge onto Belle Isle (and bathrooms at Tredegar).

Back on the southside, where we belong, at the 22nd Street stairway crossing the railroad tracks, we came upon a geology class from John Tyler CC. I should have signed up on the spot since I needed more info along the way other than what my information-gathering told me: some damned big rocks–Falls of the James and all that.  I did see the place where farmers stored their buttermilk, hence the trail’s name. That was enough information for me.  We were wiped out by the time we got back to our car, but in a good, happy, we spent our time better than most people did kind of way. Which was as good as it got, because later that afternoon Ed and I did what everyone else does Saturdays, shopped for an appliance for hours on end, so I guess we wound up no better than anybody else, just more tired.