Even in a pandemic, nature can provide benefits, a place of solace and peace. Like our last sojourn (this is going back a few months) at the regional Claytor Lake  State Park (VA). We decided the last minute to go to Claytor Lake with just charcoal and a lighter (no Coleman stove). Sometimes you want to pick a natural setting for a cookout, and we had even planned to eat corn on the cob at the park! So, we put the corn in water in the pan we brought to get hot enough on the coals to almost a boil, cobs split in half for ease of cooking.

It took almost an hour to come to an almost boil. In the meantime, we played dots. I think I won!

We also went down to the water — our picnic area not far from Howe House, under some really impressive, old white oaks — and spied a few mallards coming and going in the lake water alcove, along with speed boats and pontoons in the central part of Claytor Lake. It was relaxing, and we took our time. On a Tuesday, school was in session (or kids were doing things online) so few people were out and about.

But there were a few deer around. After finishing our repast, we hiked the “Shady Ridge” and “Hidden Valley” trails Claytor Lake Park  has to offer. We started going up and up. Passed wingstem plants and some ferns, also areas where they had thinned out in the surrounding woods.

Took a right turn on down the Hidden Valley trail (trailhead) and it was much wider than the other one, and  looking like a bulldozer made this trail. Curiously, in many parts of this trail it went from fairly smooth to rather rocky, with tiny holes punctured in the trail dirt.

We hadn’t been keeping track of time. We’d gotten as far as a wide pond that is near the entrance to Claytor Lake State Park and turned back — it was dusky and didn’t want to be walking back in the dark. And the spouse noticed something near the trailhead pointing out the black bears were out at dusk. Would we meet one?

The bears didn’t show, but on our way back up the trail we came upon a family of deer — mother, father, with four point antlers, and a youngster deer too. They were a spur coming off our trail. They noted our presence and quickly moved on. Then we descended the main trail to the parking lot. I spied a tiny swamp lobelia along the way, so delicate and blue. Not many flowers were out now, but it was a relaxing time nonetheless.

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