Blue Ridge Parkway – Milepost 85.6 – 176.1

Blog Working Folder10This is now day 7 of our F.A.R.T.!  In order to maximize our time on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we decided that it would be most efficient to car-camp in the campgrounds along the road.  We had read in multiple places that October is a very busy month for the BRP, so we made reservations for our campsite well in advance.  We spent our first night on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Peaks of Otter Campground.  Our campsite was nice enough, but the bathrooms and water spigot were out of order in our section of the campground (site B16).  We didn’t receive any warning of this despite having reservations.  We could have moved to another section of the campground, but we had already set up our campsite, so we chose to stay where we were and walk to the other area of the campground.  We made chili for supper that night.  We got up with the sun so that we could pack up our campsite and get on the road before the crowds hit.

The scenery along the parkway is beautiful during the fall!

I’m a sucker for cows, barns, and cemeteries, so we stopped for a bit at the Shaver Cemetery at milepost 136.

The first big stop for this day was Mabry Mill.  We wanted to get there early in an attempt to avoid the crowds, as we read that it is one of the more popular sites along the parkway.  It certainly did not disappoint.  The mill was beautiful and still functional (which was a big plus for this engineer)!

There were several other buildings to see while at the mill.  On our way out, there was a yarn making demonstration being done, but we did not have time to stay and watch.  I did snap a few photos as we were leaving.  We had hoped to eat lunch at the restaurant, but the wait was too long.  We bought some locally-ground grits and hit the road!

Apple Orchard Falls

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After completing our hike to White Rock Falls we continued south on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The next hike on our list was Apple Orchard Falls.  We did an out-and-back hike that ended at the falls for a total of 2.4 miles.

These were easily the newest trail markers we’ve ever seen!

By the time we started the hike, the sun was already setting.  We knew we’d have to book it to the falls in order to be able to see them before it got dark. The foliage along the way was beautiful, and the trail was covered in leaves.

I was a bit nervous about making this hike at all because I knew that the return trip would be in the dark.  I’m so thankful that we made the decision to go ahead with the hike, as the Apple Orchard Falls were beautiful!

We went ahead and donned our headlamps before setting out on the return hike.

 

Making the return hike in the dark was a bit intimidating, but we didn’t encounter any issues along the way.  We’ve backpacked in the wilderness before, but we’ve never hiked after dark, so this was a first for us.  I’m thankful that we had the foresight to put our headlamps in our backpacks before setting out.

Good Bye, Shenandoah. Hello, Blue Ridge Parkway!

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After finishing the Bear Mountain Rock Scramble hike, we continued heading South on Skyline Drive.  We stopped at several scenic overlooks before leaving the park.

Before starting our trek down the Blue Ridge Parkway, we stopped in Waynesboro, Virginia, to get gas and stock up on groceries.  In order to maximize the amount of time we could spend enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway, we decided to go car-camping for two nights during our drive south.  We made reservations well in advance of our trip for the campgrounds — one night at the Peaks of Otter campground and one night at the Linville Falls Campground.  Prior to the trip, we planned out which hikes we thought we’d like to do, so that enabled us to figure out how many miles we thought we’d be able to drive along the parkway each day, which helped us choose what campgrounds to make reservations for.  We ended up arriving to both of our campgrounds after dark, but we felt that that helped us to make the most of our daylight hours.

We entered the Blue Ridge Parkway via the North entrance near Waynesboro.  Our first stop was a mile marker 5.8, the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center.

After getting a magnet and sticker from the visitor’s center, we made a couple of PB&J sandwiches (to eat while hiking) and set out on our first hike of the Blue Ridge Parkway leg of our trip — Humpback Rocks.  The hike was a short one, only 1.6 miles out and back, but the steep grade made it a bit more challenging than we expected.  The views from the top were totally worth it!

After completing the hike, we continued driving south along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Our next stop was White Rock Falls.  It was an easy-to-moderate 2.5 mile hike that began at the Slacks Overlook parking lot.  The falls were rather unimpressive but could definitely be lovely in a different time of day (we were there in the afternoon) or with a larger volume of water (maybe in the spring time).

There was lovely foliage to admire along the trail.


Maple


Sassafras


Oak

We continued our drive south.  This was one of the prettiest sections of threes that we came across during the entire trip.

Our Pregnancy – From Beginning to Birth

Bryan and I found out that we were pregnant on December 14, 2016.  We were preparing to go to the airport to catch our flights to NYC.  Based solely on statistics, we had expected that it would take longer for us to get pregnant than it did.  It’s always exciting to leave for a trip, but the news that we were expecting a little one made that day even more exciting!

We shared the news with Bryan’s family on Christmas Eve and with my family on New Years’ Eve.  I threw up (the first of many…) at my parents’ house on New Years’ Eve.  Our families both did a great job of keeping our secret.

We saw our sweet baby for the first time on January 24, 2017.  Margot’s heart rate was 172 BMP and she measured just 3.1 cm long from the top of her head to the bottom of her tailbone. After waiting for 10 weeks, it was so wonderful to hear her heart beating and to receive confirmation that our little one was alive and well!

On January 29, 2017, we “went public” with our pregnancy.  We know we’ll still be able to travel with a little one (in her first 3 months Margot has already been to 5 states)…we just thought this would be a funny way to make the announcement.

All in all, the first trimester was pretty miserable for me.  I took 4 Diclegis pills a day and still threw up fairly regularly in the morning and in the evening and at night.  I was very tired, and oftentimes Bryan would come home from working out to find my asleep on the couch.  Most food sounded terrible, though I was able to eat ground beef, McDonald’s burgers, canned peaches, popcorn, plain Cheerios, grape juice, grilled cheese sandwiches, and peanut butter toast.

On February 16, 2017, I took my first bump photo! This was prompted by a neighbor asking if I was pregnant when she saw Bryan and me on a walk one evening. I diligently took a bump photo every week that I was pregnant.

On March 27, 2017, my PA-C arranged for us to have a “quick, free” ultrasound so that we could find out baby Richter’s sex.  We were so excited to finally learn what we were having — now we could start buying things to prepare for our baby’s arrival!  Our small group from church threw us a gender reveal party — such an unexpected and fun surprise!

I bought the shoes in the top right-hand corner of this photo the day that we found out we were having a girl; my parents sent us the outfit in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo.

On March 30, 2017, I felt Margot move in my tummy for the first time (right at 19 weeks).  Bryan was able to feel her move for the first time on April 1, 2017.

On May 16, 2017, (25 weeks pregnant) Bryan and I flew to Florida for our babymoon. We had a wonderful time playing in the gulf and eating tons of seafood and ice cream. We also picked out some special gifts for our sweet girl at the nearby outlet malls and a few local shops.

Our baby shower was on June 17, 2017.  A group of 9 friends from our church threw it for us, and they couldn’t have done a lovelier job.  A back patio in Borger, Texas, was magically transformed into an outdoor Parisian cafe.  The food and decorations were perfect, and so many people came to help us celebrate the impending arrival of our sweet, little girl!

On June 24, 2017, the weather was perfect — overcast, no wind — for me to take a few maternity portraits of Bryan and me.  I still need to go back and edit them…as of now, this is the only one that I’ve edited (spare time is uncommon these days).

The nausea continued throughout the rest of my pregnancy but was manageable thanks to my Diclegis prescription.  Beginning around July 16, 2017, the palms of my hands and the bottoms of my feet started itching badly.  I remember one night I went to bed at 10 PM and was still awake at 3:30 AM (which is super abnormal for me) because of the severity of the itchiness.  On July 20, 2017, I learned about cholestasis.  Someone in my online pregnancy group posted a complaint about being itchy, and several people told her that she should be tested for cholestasis.  I promptly called my doctor’s office freaking out (the only time during my pregnancy that I lost my cool), so they had me come in that morning for a blood test.  My next appointment was on July 25, 2017, and at that appointment I learned that my results came back normal.  The nurse practitioner who saw us that day (the PA-C I had been seeing was out of town) went ahead and ordered another blood test just to make sure that everything was okay.  They told us that they’d call us if anything was normal.

We didn’t hear anything from them, so at our next appointment on August 3, 2017 (my 37 week appointment), we thought that everything was good.  The nurse who worked with our PA-C came in to see us just like she always did.  She asked if I wanted to have a cervical check done to see how things were progressing, and, naturally, I declined.  When I declined, she said, “I think you’re going to have one anyways because Haylee is going to want to induce you.”  At that point Bryan and I were worried because we had no idea what was going on.  Haylee, my PA-C, came in and explained what was going on.  The bile salt levels from my second blood test came back “dangerously high,” and I had been diagnosed with cholestasis.  Cholestasis is a condition that pregnant women can get that impairs the flow of bile from the liver.  While it poses no threat to the mother, it can make the womb a toxic environment for the baby and ultimately increases the risk of the baby being stillborn.  For that reason, women who are diagnosed with cholestasis are frequently induced at 37 weeks.  It was then that we learned we were going to be induced the next day.  We hadn’t even pre-registered at the hospital or packed our hospital bags yet.  We had 20 hours to complete many of the things that we thought we had at least 3 weeks to get done.

As I look back on that day, I can see God’s provision for us.  The only reason Bryan was at that appointment was because I had scheduled our hospital tour and preregistration appointment for that day — otherwise I would have learned this news completely alone.  Haylee did a cervical check after all, and I was dilated 3 cm.  This was a complete shock because I was not aware that I had been having contractions.  For that reason, we were granted one more night at home before being induced.  Had I not been dilated, we would have spent the night in the hospital.  The whole time that I was pregnant, one of the things that I was most paranoid about is what we were going to do with my sweet Tibby-Lou when it came time to deliver the baby.  I called our vet in Borger right after my appointment ended, but they didn’t have any openings.  I tried the vet in the next town over, and was so thankful that they had a spot for Tibby at such late notice — I would have been so worried about her if either of the vets hadn’t had a spot open to board her.  We called our parents to let them know what was happening, and my parents were able to leave that evening so that they could be with us when I was induced.  I look back on that day, and I see God’s hand on everything.  He took care of everything that I was worried about…my husband was with me, my dog was safe, my parents were there…He orchestrated everything.  God definitely revealed himself as Jehovah Jireh, God our Provider, during that time.

That evening I took my final bump photos.

Bryan updated our due-date countdown chalkboard — straight from 20 days to 0 days.

The most painful part of Margot’s delivery for me was getting the IV.  It took multiple tries, and they blew out one of my veins in the process.  The epidural was magical, though it did take quite awhile for the feeling in my right leg to come back.  I was only in labor for about 5 hours when Margot made her arrival (much to everybody’s surprise), and I only had to push 5 times.  Praise the LORD that she was completely healthy and didn’t have any complications from my cholestasis!

our sweet Margot’s first photo

our first family photograph

our precious baby

“Children are a gift of the LORD.” – Psalm 127:3

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Shenandoah National Park – A Black Bear and Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble

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After checking out of our room at the Big Meadows Lodge, we continued our drive South along Skyline Drive. Up to this point I had been fairly disappointed about the amount of wildlife in the park.  That all changed as soon as we made it to the parking area for our next hike, the Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble.

Perched high up in a tree was a black bear! He didn’t pay any attention to the small group of people stating up at him — he was much more interested in getting to the walnuts hanging in the tree he had climbed.

After watching the bear for a bit and taking a few photos, we set out on our hike.

I tend to be a bit more of a scaredy cat than my husband, so I was a little concerned about what this “rock scramble” hike would entail. The initial part of the hike was just a normal trail. As we approached the rocky area, I was relieved to see that the path for the rock scramble portion of the hike was actually painted on the rocks (note the white blazes in the photos below).

This hike ended up being one of our favorites from the entire trip. Check out the panoramic views of the surrounding area from the top!

Our trip took place during the middle of October, so there weren’t many wildflowers left by then, but there were a few still hanging on.

Shenandoah National Park – Lewis Falls Trail

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Our second (and final) day in Shenandoah National Park started at sun-up.  We set out early on the Lewis Falls Trail (the trailhead is at the Big Meadows Lodge) so that we could complete the hike before checking out of our room at the lodge.  The sun was just rising and starting to peak through the trees as we started our hike.  We ate peanut butter and crackers for breakfast while we were hiking in order to make the most of our time.

We came across this doe somewhat close to the lodge.  She didn’t mind us one bit.

I’ve never seen trailmarkers like the ones used at Shenandoah.  The design is actually pretty smart, as the metal holds up much better over time than painted wooden signs.  There were quite a few trails in the area.  It was TOO COOL to see the Appalachian Trail labeled on this particular marker.  Maybe one of these days I’ll get to hike the whole Appalachian Trail, rather than just a teeny, tiny part of it (you can see that the Lewis Falls trail heads south on the Appalachian Trail).

We don’t have much of a fall or many trees where we live, so we were constantly keeping a look out for pretty leaves.  I really love the color variations in these maple leaves.

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