Category Archives: Outdoors

Kayaking and Hiking at False Cape State Park with e2 Outdoor Adventures

IMG_4034We recently left the Blue Ridge Mountains for an exciting adventure on Virginia’s coast. We joined our friends at e2 Outdoor Adventures for a kayaking and hiking trip exploring False Cape State Park in Sandbridge, Virginia.

Chris, Owner and Chief Adventure Officer at e2 Outdoor Adventures, founded this outdoor adventure company in 2014. It “is an adventure travel and outdoor lifestyle company created to provide an avenue for adults who demand more from their travel experiences.”

Interested in a guided trip near Ridgeside? e2 Outdoor Adventures also offers guided adventures in our neck-of-the-woods, such as a 3 day/2 night Shenandoah National Park backpacking trip.

IMG_4013For our False Cape State Park trip, our group met Friday morning at Little Island Park, and we prepped for our paddle through the waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. After a tutorial and instructional session from our Black Dog Paddle guide – we were off! The day looked beautiful, but weather along the coast can change quickly. As we paddled, we were greeted by a strong headwind, so it look lots of muscle to keep the boats moving. If we stopped, we would quickly drift backwards! The water was pretty, though, and I loved the feeling of floating on the surface in my boat, gliding along.

IMG_4062After about 8 miles of kayaking, we hiked into the campsites to setup our tents. Later, we walked along a short trail to the dunes and arrived at the shoreline – it was so nice! The beach at False Cape State Park is extremely quiet and untouched since you have to either hike, bike, or paddle into the park.

IMG_4040Chris made delicious pulled-chicken nachos for dinner and Rice Krispies treats for dessert. Since we were pretty tired from the day’s paddling, we went to bed early and slept to the lulling sounds of frogs, rain, and a little thunder.

On Saturday, we started the day with blueberry and chocolate-chip pancakes and bacon. What a treat!

FullSizeRenderAfter breakfast, we hiked and explored the park. It was a sunny morning with blue skies. We visited the site of a historic coastal community and searched for (and found!) 1940s and ‘50s beach relics – old automobiles that had been left behind in the sand.

To our surprise, the headwind that blew on Friday shifted overnight because of the storms, and we faced a headwind on our return paddle. It was windy, it rained, and then it poured. What an adventure we had! After our exciting day, we drove into Virginia Beach for some seafood and spent Sunday exploring the city on bikes.

Thank you e2 Outdoor Adventures for the amazing trip and experience. We greatly enjoyed the companionship, the outdoors, and the adventure!

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Fermenting Our Own Hard Cider

This year’s apple harvest was fantastic. Our little orchard produced so many apples – too many even for the deer to keep up with, which means we were able to pick a lot for ourselves. At first we made applesauce. But there were still bushels and bushels of apples. What next? Apple cider! We’ve made applesauce plenty of times but never tried making cider. We were up for the challenge.

IMG_1751We let our apples sit and “sweat” for a couple weeks – allowing them to rest in a cool place before pressing them makes them juicier and sweeter. We’re not sure what types of apple trees we have, but it seems to be a variety of tarter green apples and sweeter red apples. The combination makes for a great blend.

7Josh ordered a nice, sturdy looking fruit press, and we got to work. After some trial and error, we found that quartering the apples and then grinding them in a large food processor worked best for extracting the maximum amount of juice. Some folks have fruit crushers for this part of the process, but we made it work without one.

3We filled the fruit press with the fine apple pulp that we prepared in the food processor. Once the press was totally full, we pressed! The juice was sweet and flavorful. Nothing beats fresh apple cider, and it was really satisfying to work hard and be rewarded with something so tasty.

2We kept a small amount to drink as sweet cider but put the majority in a six gallon carboy to ferment into hard cider. We used some champagne yeast, combined with some wild, natural yeast, and added in a little bit of sugar to help the fermentation process. Over the next few weeks to months, we’ll monitor the sugar content and ABV to see when it’ll be ready to drink. Hopefully we’ll have a nice hard cider to enjoy later this year.

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Protein Granola Bites

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As an alternative to buying and eating packaged protein bars like Cliff and Luna Bars, we started making these protein granola bites to refuel after outdoor activities. Depending on how much peanut butter and honey you use, you can adjust the consistency and either create a looser granola or a more dense texture that keeps its shape in bars or balls. These snacks taste really, really good and use natural ingredients – nothing mysterious or unnecessary! I can find most of the ingredients in the bulk food section of our local grocery store. 

Ingredients like peanut butter and chia seeds already contain protein, but to add extra protein to this recovery snack, I’ve used a natural whey protein powder. These are so easy to make – no baking required. Just stir it all together! Plus, it’s really easy to pack on hiking, camping, or climbing trips.

Recipe adapted from Easy No Bake Protein Energy Bites.

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Here’s the list of ingredients:

  • I cup oats
  • ½ cup natural peanut butter (no salt or sugar added)
  • ½ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • ½ cup cacao nibs (or mini chocolate chips)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1/8 cup chia seeds
  • 1/8 cup flax seeds
  • 2 tblsp vanilla whey protein powder (optional)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon

And here’s the method of preparation:

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir.
  • Shape into balls and store in the refrigerator in air-tight container. 

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If you leave the mix as a loose granola, it tastes great eaten in a bowl with a little milk. 

Hope you enjoy making and eating this healthy and less expensive protein bar. Happy adventuring!

Tracking Animal Prints in the Snow

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Spring has officially arrived in the form of warmer temperatures, budding trees, and singing birds, but I wanted to give a last farewell to winter by sharing some animal tracks I spotted during the many snowfalls in February and early March. After a few of the snowfalls, I trekked through the snow at Ridgeside in search of animal prints, hoping their trails would be captured in the snow. Luckily, there was a lot of activity! Nothing too out of the ordinary but fun non-the-less.

I spotted lots of tiny and cute rabbit tracks.

IMG_6192 And plenty of deer tracks, too.

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I’m fairly certain that these tracks must be from a fox because of the size and shape.

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The snow was so deep it was hard to get a clean print, but the trail made a graceful curving line like how a fox might prance and dart. Plus, as extra confirmation, Josh spotted a bright red fox one afternoon skipping along the white covered field. I missed it, but it sounds like a pretty sight!

Winter’s snow sure was beautiful, and it enabled me to see the adventures of the local critters, but I’m happy that spring has started to fill the property with active birds and early flowering bulbs. Goodbye, winter!

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Removing Ivy and Uncovering History

We recently removed ivy that was growing along the exterior of the house – a section that is actually part of an older home’s stone foundation. To help preserve the stone and to make it visible (because it’s so nice!), we decided it was best if we pulled down the vines.

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We don’t know exactly when the original home was built, but we do know that the land was purchased in 1911 by Nelson C. Baber from J. H. Bragg. The deed from 1911 does not mention any buildings, so it is likely that the home was built by the Baber family shortly after purchasing the land. In 1936, Lillie Baber sold the property to Troy Clear with the existing building on the property.

Here’s an old photo of the Clear family with the original house in view behind them:

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The home burned down in the 40s with only the stone foundation remaining, and the current home was built in the 70s by the Watlings, who purchased the property from the Clears. Robert Watling and his family built the home themselves on the existing foundation.

Now, back to the ivy project! The ivy was very established and had some impressively large vines. I pulled off what I could by hand, and Josh used clippers to work on the tougher sections.

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Some of the ivy had grown onto the painted siding and door, too – I just need to do some touch ups, and everything will look good as new.

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It makes such a big difference, and it’s so nice to highlight a part of the home’s past. It was also fun learning about the property’s history – we look forward to doing more research. For round two of the ivy project, I’ll tackle some vines that are growing along the side of the foundation. I’ll also check back in the spring to keep any new growth at bay. In the future, I think it would be nice to put some planters below the stone to bring back some leafy greenery and color.

Wild Animal Sighting!

A few Sunday mornings ago, we experienced a wild animal encounter at Ridgeside. It was a completely amazing, awesome, shocking, and rare sighting. Josh and I were leaving the house, slowly driving down the driveway. Suddenly an animal came bolting out of the creek, bounded over the driveway in front of us and into the creek on the other side, then ran up the ridge. It was a bobcat! So unbelievable.

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We both sat in the car with our mouths open, quiet for a moment, then stammering and yelling  in disbelief. I was so overwhelmed I actually started crying. We saw the bobcat’s stubby tail, pointed ears, and impressively solid muscles as it leaped across the driveway, only a few feet from our car. Obviously, the encounter was brief so there was no time for photos, but the image is permanently etched in our minds.

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A bobcat’s territory is large and can range between 5-50 miles in diameter, so most likely, this one was passing through after a night of hunting (they feed on small game like rabbits, birds, and fish). Wintergreen Resort has motion-detecting cameras that have captured images of several bobcats, in addition to bear, coyote, fox, and deer. Bobcats are relatively small for a wild cat but large compared to our domestic cats; they weigh 10-25 pounds. These wild cats are very secretive, so we’re lucky to have caught a glimpse of one.

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Want to know more about bobcats in Virginia? Here are a couple great sources:

What We Learned at This Year’s Heritage Harvest Festival

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The 8th annual Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello was this past weekend, and it was everything I imagined and more. Josh and I had fun walking the grounds, and we learned so much at the workshops. We were some of the first festival-goers to arrive and also some of the last to leave! Over the course of the day, Josh and I split up for separate workshops (except for So You Want to Become a Beekeeper – we both took this class and learned that bees are very complex insects).

I went to The Best of Fragrance and FlavorMonticello Herbs & Their Uses, and How-To Basics of Meadow GardeningWe plan to use homegrown herbs in our cooking and also to make our own soaps for the bed and breakfast. I definitely learned about some new herbs and plants to add to my “need to plant in the garden” list. These include Queen of the Meadow (similar scent to Wintergreen), Soapwort (becomes more fragrant at dusk), and Bee Balm (a spicy aromatic that works well in tea).

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We’ve been planning to create a wildflower meadow at Ridgeside, so the How-To Basics of Meadow Gardening was great for me. I learned about natural ways of creating a meadow – just stop mowing. Easy peasy. We’ve done that to a front section of the property, and it looks pretty. You just need to mow the meadow once a year in early Spring. I also learned about enhancing meadows with perennial flowers so that the meadow is about 50% grasses and 50% flowers. Some great ideas for our future meadow include Swamp Milkweed, Purple Top Grass, Bee Balm, Goldenrod, and Shenandoah Switch Grass.

Josh attended Fruit Tree BasicsSmall-Scale Poultry Flock, and The Sustainable Farm Lifestyle. He learned about North American apple trees from expert Tom Burford, a fifth-generation grower. We have several apple trees at Ridgeside (they are maybe around 25 years old), and we want to make sure we’re caring for them the best we can! We’d also like to raise chickens, so Josh took a class about housing, pasturing, and feeding them, and he learned about different breeds of chicken such as Australorp, Buckeye, and Faverolle. In The Sustainable Farm Lifestyle workshop, he got great ideas like planting cover crops to discourage weeds and add nutrients to the soil and like how to make a natural fertilizer using compost tea.

Josh and I both love learning about gardening and farming, and we hope that things like an orchard, wildflower meadow, and chickens will make our future bed and breakfast a unique place to stay. We look forward to sharing these experiences with everyone!

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