Raven’s Nest Dawn
The Bride and I traveled to Virginia to Smith Mountain Lake to visit Sister Sarah, (sorry no mules at all much less 2 for her). Smith Mountain Lake, predictably, sits at the foot of Smith Mountain which is a survivor of the eon’s long erosion that has rounded and borne off much of the topography around it. Seen from the bird’s eye view, SML looks like a leaf of False Aralia or maybe some variety of Cannabis.
I wish I could tell you that the area was named for some interesting reason, like it was the hereditary home of the Blacksmith’s Clan or some other tradesman’s guild, founded in the hollows and valleys of the mountain, but no. Supposedly the two Smith brothers were wandering around the area in 1740 or so, noticed some really tall areas of rock and earth and came back out to the settlement to announce the find.
Daniel “Hey y’all, we’uns back!”
Gideon “You canin’t believe it, we stumbled on a mound-tain!”
Daniel “Yeah, and it’s real tall and stuff”
Gideon “We’uns named it,uh, Smith Mountain!”
The local electrification folks proposed damming up the Roanoke River in the ‘20s, got in done in 1963 and by 1966 the lake was at full pool The Roanoke River, source for SML was called by the Algonquin inhabitants, “The River of Death” The beauty of the area might have been greatly enhanced by the mystery had the peak been named, “The Mountain of Death”. But probably the tourism development folks would have had a much tougher job if the area had become known as “The Mountain of Death Lake”. Or maybe not…….., adventure tourism being what it is today.
The view from the Raven’s Nest
One of the locals drops by for a bite to eat.
Other than the pure enjoyment of Sarah’s company, our other excuse for visiting is the annual SML Wine Tasting Festival. So, after an excellent breakfast prepared by “Cookie”, Sarah’s nickname by our family, we left the Raven’s Nest, (my name for Sarah’s top level perch, since the dawn area was filled with Ravens and Crows), and off we went to the fete du vin.
I’ve been to wine tastings prior to, we all have pretty much, either at a vineyard or perhaps in a convention center or similar venue – but I’ll have to say, this was my first in a campground. When Sister Sarah invited us to come up for the event, she mentioned it was being held this year, its 30th anniversary, in a “lakeside campground”. Sounded good to me, my uniformed mental picture was of all the vintners set up in shaded lanes with perhaps an open meadow where the entertainment stage would be set up……..I was acutely wrong. The campground was obviously for those of the bovine persuasion. I suppose the turf, if it hadn’t been trampled by a couple of thousand people, might have made for a good pastoral scene, but as it was, it was just sub-mirey (?).
But what the hey, the Smith Mountain Lake Wine Tasting festival was a hit with the visitors anyway. After paying the “Tasters” entry fee, one gets the coveted purple festival wrist band and also receives a cute little, emphasis on little, wine glass, nicely embossed with “SML Wine Tasting Festival’. The glass, which might hold as much as three ounces, full to the brim, was carried from tent to tent to sample the wares For the math savvy, a little computation might be in order. On average at each Vineyard’s tent there would be 4-8 wines to taste, with each “taste” measuring perhaps an ounce. Additionally, at some tents you could get a 6 oz. glass, a 750 ml bottle or a 96 oz. pitcher, particularly of the very excellent Slushie mixes from three of four of the Vineyards. Take the above, multiply by, say, 30 Vineyards and the sum total of ounces of wine potentially imbibed is impressive, or disgusting, depending on how many booths one actually visited, even if only visiting one time. The highly sought, hard to come by, “Tasters” purple band, enabled one to visit, and taste, as many times as one desired/was physically capable of doing so. Being staunch believers in AGTIM, (all good things in moderation), we sampled a few, bought some wine and slushie mixes to go and departed fairly early in the order of things. Overall impression of the event: worth going to, watch out for the heat index and subsequent dehydration brought on by alcohol! Insider’s tip: Check out the vintages from the venerable “Peaks of Otter” Vineyard. The wines taste good, come in pretty cool bottles and have un-boring names like, “Raz Ma Taz Raspberry”.
Back at the Raven’s Nest, our kayaks awaited.
Smith Mountain Lake, at about 32 sq. miles of navigable water, is home to every imaginable type of watercraft on the weekends. Sister Sarah has her own kayak and the Bride and I brought two more from Charlotte, lashed to the top of the Black Beast.
Air temp was cooling, humidity was very good and a soft breeze was coming across the water from the SE. In short, a great way to finish off a fun day with a little exercise. Arriving back at our take out point, we were all saying what an excellent day and afternoon it had been on the water.
The Bride- CB Sister Sarah and Carrolle
The Lake thought otherwise. The Bride, having negotiated several pretty substantial swells in a 10’ craft, fell pray to 2” of water trying to get out of the ‘yak successfully –
It was a weird accident, totally unforeseeable. Perhaps the lake should have really been named The Mountain of Death Lake after all.
Tomorrow: Natural Bridge Caverns – a descent into darkness.