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Ducks do it:

What's the big deal?

Yesterday at Pony Pasture, the ducks couldn’t be bothered by the to-do surrounding the 15 or so die-hards who arrived at the boat ramp at noon for the 4th annual Polar Plunge. Air temps were fairly kind, but still the chill was on the skin and faces of the cheery crazies even before they took the plunge.

Showing some guts, so to speak!

And at the stroke of noon, they were in, in honor of Wayne Goodman, RA-More stalwart and trail-builder extraordinaire, who is recovering from a spinal cord injury he suffered in Forest Hill Park. 

in the drink

Don’t expect to see a photo of moi in the James…maybe next year. It’s too bad I didn’t jump in wearing only James River Park license plate applications. That would have made great TV.

I like to think of myself as an observant person even if I’m not observant in the religious sense. I do like the whole 12 days of Christmas deal and think the Christmas season doesn’t end until Jan. 6th, today.  I like the wise men wandering. It is wise to wander. And The Roches have the best version of “We Three Kings” ever.   We Three Kings: The Roches

I suppose extending the holidays is just an excuse to keep baking and eating Christmas confections, but what better use can you make of M & Ms, Hershey’s kisses, and square pretzels other than plopping one on top of the other in a compact concoction of salty, chocolate meltiness?

But that’s not why I called you here today. Just before Christmas I got tickets for a holiday nighttime glitter tour of Monument Ave. here in Richmond. Seemed cheery and seasonal and useful to me as I work on my guidebook to Richmond. Ok, so it was a bust. One guide yelled at the top of her lungs to the large crowd who had gathered, so that when we were given the chance to run away with another guide, we did.  Our more soft-spoken guide knew her Richmond history but was a little more vague on what we were seeing along Monument Ave: “There’s a pretty door.”  Well, yes it was, but no real need for that sort of information transmission.  Anyway, my party of three wandered off to the Strawberry St. Cafe mid-tour to grab a pleasant bite.

On our way back to the car, we saw an old white Caddy all decked out for the holidays parked on the corner of Monument. Santa was in the driver’s seat and it was jammed with wrapped packages inside and topped with more. We went over to take a few pictures when a Cadillac Escalade pulled over, blocking traffic, and the driver waved and asked if the car was ours.  Completely unnecessarily, but certainly friendly-like, he got out of his car to take our photo in front of the Christmas car and then called his wife over so I could take their photo, with my camera, laughing the whole time since we knew damned well that we didn’t need their photo (we didn’t actually need our photo either) and they would never get it since we didn’t know who the hell they were.  Somebody was tipsy and it wasn’t me. It’s likely they’ve been searching the web for weeks trying to track it down. So here it is:

Who are these people? A Christmas mystery. And that concludes the holiday season.

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. In a stroke of brilliance, we decided to meet our friends at the South of the James Farmers’ Market at 8 a.m. Fortified with chocolate chip cookies from , 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. 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 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.

I’m back!