My husband and I recently celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary. It was a good experience. Last year was nice, but the shadow of everything I had discovered just 6 months before was hanging around. We had great moments, but sadness creeped in every now and then. I distracted myself through lots of planned activities and experiences that would take my mind off of anything negative.
This year was almost the opposite. We had no distractions, nothing really planned beyond where we would be camping, and nothing over the top. It was just him and me… and a tent. I left my laptop and tablet at home, he left his phone. Mr. Mess had picked out and reserved a camp site in Shenandoah National Park, we had a rough idea of when we wanted to leave, and he had a few general plans of what we could do in the area. When we arrived at the entrance to Skyline Drive they gave us a map, a brochure, and told us that there was an apple butter festival happening that afternoon. Fun!
We picked up some firewood and a few supplies, then got right to the business of setting up our tent. The campsite was perfect. It was right at the end of a road and there was an area set back from the fire pit and picnic table that was surrounded on 3 sides with trees. That is where we set up our tent. It was the only moment where things got a little hairy… We had a small tiff over getting the tent staked down, but it didn’t linger. We were both able to see how completely useless it would be to argue over something that minor, so we moved on and had a nice time.
Once the camp was established, we headed down Skyline Drive and made our way to the apple butter festival. 30 miles doesn’t seem like far, but at 30 miles per hour, it takes an hour… not counting stops along the way to check out breathtaking views like this one:
By the time we made it down to the area where the festival was located we were quite hungry. The parking was also about a mile or so away from the festival area. My husband’s knee started really bothering him (it was probably his gout flaring up, but he didn’t know that he had gout at that point). Then out of the blue a very nice gentleman stopped and let us hop on his tailgate. Yay for helpful strangers!
The festival itself was somewhat disappointing, but we managed to connect with each other over the horrible food and cheesy items for sale. One really neat aspect was two large vats of boiling apples over open fires. There were large, long-handled stirrers to keep the boiling liquid mixed and evenly heated. The smells were amazing. There was also great music and several acts, including cloggers. There were pony rides for kids, a wine tasting booth, and plenty of cute doggies.
When we had our fill of that environment I was able to get us another ride back up the mountain (sometimes you just gotta ask). We then exited onto Route 33 to head into town. The pump for the queen air mattress that we brought was useless – some moisture must have gotten in when it was stored, and the batteries were corroded. On the way to Wally World we stopped by the ABC store to get some yummy local wine (we already had some favorites from previous trips to this area). We also picked up a knee-brace for hubby, and a few other things – including wonderful cheese (blue cheese, gouda, and an herbed cheddar), bakery-made Asiago focaccia bread (the best bread in the world – I stand by that statement), and contact solution (which I had forgotten to pack).
On the way back to our campsite we caught this phenomenal view of the sun starting to descend behind the mountaintops.
That evening my husband cooked us one of the best dinners I have ever had. First, we started up the fire. I have to add here that I find the smell of a camp fire incredibly amazing. It’s one of my favorite smells in the entire world. We worked together to prep the items to cook – sliced Portobello mushrooms and onions, filet mignon, the various cheeses, the wonderful bread, and a beautiful bottle of wine.
He heated up the cast iron skillet, we loaded it up with butter, and sautéed the veggies. The steaks soon followed (in the same pan), then a thin layer of blue cheese was applied over everything. We enjoyed the wine as things cooked, then shared a dinner that can only be described as scrumptious. I wish I had pictures to share, but that meal lives only in our memories.
That evening we drank quite a bit, played with the fire, lounged around the campsite, and snuggled. When the stars came out I could swear there were a million of them. Our tent has a mesh top with an optional cover, which we left off. As we lay in each others arms on our comfy mattress under a thick comforter, we laughed, kissed, and stared in wonder at the beauty of nature.
The next morning it was COLD!! 30 degrees, frost on the picnic table, can see our breath cold! Mr. Mess tried to start our fire back up, but it was so windy that all we could create was a smoke monster (we joked that it could have been an extra in Lost). I wrapped myself up from head to toe in our huge comforter and watched him try to make breakfast over our pseudo fire. It resulted in a somewhat edible breakfast that was nothing compared to our dinner. We quickly decided to pack everything up, get in the warm car, and start our day of adventure early.
Without any specific plan in mind, we drove in the direction of the closest winery, according to our GPS. We should have known better. That thing is evil. I really think it hates me. The first thing it tried to do was take us down an old fire lane that was overgrown with grass and blocked off by the park rangers. It refused to detour us – according to evil GPS that was the only way to get to said winery. We decided to continue to the exit that we were closest to, then try again. We should have just given up on that winery, but for some reason we were stuck on finding it.
After we got to Route 33, we tried again. It said the winery was 2.6 miles away… Not too bad. All of a sudden, that 2 miles turned into 6. Then 11 more. Apparently this was the magically moving winery. Still we continued on. Next thing we knew, we were in the middle of absolutely nowhere. The paved road was ending and a gravel road stretched out ahead. Our GPS told us to turn left. The problem is there was no road. Just a little grassy clearing that ended in a ditch. We wandered around a bit trying to find anything close to a winery. No luck. We finally decided to give up, while laughing and cursing our evil British GPS (I gave him a funny accent to make him more bearable).
Not to be dissuaded, we picked up some food and chose a more easily located winery that we had visited in the past. The weather was beautiful, the windows were down, and our car and all of our belongings smelled like the wonderful camp fire (smoke monster). Life was great! On the way to said winery, we passed this beautiful, inquisitive cow, and my husband stopped to allow me to snap a few pictures.
The first winery was simply stunning. The wine was good, but the view was better.
The chatty woman who went over the wine tasting with us also gave us a map of all of the wineries in Virginia. (Funnily enough, she knew about the winery we were trying to find earlier… She said it was like 2 miles farther up the winding gravel road. When we checked out the winery on said map, we discovered in large, bold letters the warning NOT to use a GPS to get there. Oh well.) We picked a few wineries on the map that were on the way home, and took off with the wind in our hair. Here’s the view from the next one we hit:
We picked the final winery based solely on the fact that free wine glasses came with each tasting. It was a fantastic choice! Not only were the wines fantastic, they have a weekly polo match there every Sunday! There were hundreds of people there, the energy was fabulous, and they had a cooler full of great cheeses. We grabbed our glasses, a few warm baguettes, some cheese, and a bottle of wine and headed down to the polo field. The sun was shining, the grass was soft, and the food and wine were delicious. We couldn’t have planned things this perfect if we had tried!
Our last stop on the anniversary celebration was apple picking in Charlottesville. It was the first time Mr. Mess had ever been, and we had a good time. He bought some ice cream, I got a few cinnamon donuts, and we filled a bag with apples that we climbed trees to salvage. I will leave you with a picture of the orchard we wandered through together.