Dense fog covered the area this morning. At first glance outside you could barely see anything, but a closer inspection made me grab the camera. Countless spiderwebs appear where they go unnoticed every other morning, and the entire landscape was cloaked in a soft, soothing, filtered light.
The Space Shuttle chapter in American history is one rich in pride and pain. And, sadly, it is one that can at last be written. The shuttle Discovery felt the atmosphere push across her wings — albeit a little more slowly than she’s used to — for the last time today.
Much of the Washington, DC area got to see the spectacle of the shuttle, affixed to a 747, being escorted by a T-38 Talon as it flew over the city and surrounding suburbs in multiple passes before landing at Dulles International Airport. In the coming days, it will be de-mated from the carrier craft and towed to the adjacent Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. This, by the way, is a wonderful museum I highly recommend.
As I waited along with many thousands of others near the airport for Discovery‘s arrival, I spotted this girl literally giddy with excitement. The atmosphere was infectious. People in the midst of a traffic nightmare, eager to find a vantage point but without a hint of aggression or impatience, met strangers in the cars next to them and smiled in anticipation. We had gotten here in time. We were going to see it. We were all going to see it.
In 1986, the Challenger disaster forced the suspension of the shuttle program for nearly three years. And in 2003, when the Columbia and crew were lost on re-entry, the program was again suspended. And in both instances when it came time to return, with tragedy still clear in the national memory, the question was hard not to ask: Why do we do it? And in both instances, the same craft served as the Return to Flight ship. And the answer to the question was painted on its side: Discovery.
Whatever the future of space exploration holds, it will not involve the shuttle. But Discovery served us well, and will serve us again as millions of people will now get to see it. Years later when I return to the museum and stand in Discovery‘s shadow, I will think of this day. I might even wonder where that giddy little girl is. Maybe her experience alongside Rt. 28 today will shape her career. Who knows, maybe she will be one of the next generation of explorers, the next to return to flight.
Every now and then I’m in the mood to do a long hike, which for me is anything over five miles. The Cedar Run/White Oak Canyon loop in the Shenandoah National Park has a few different configurations, but last year I did an eight mile loop which is plenty, considering half of that is steeply uphill. So I decided to repeat this very enjoyable and vigorous hike, with one addition: this time I brought a fly rod. Both Cedar Run and White Oak Canyon are home to some of the most beautiful brook trout you’ll find anywhere. And since during my last outing in search of brookies I got shut out, I had a score to settle.
The Cabins at Rose River Farm are an awesome place for any weekend getaway, and a Saturday night stay allowed me to get a nice early start Sunday morning as I was literally just minutes from the trail head.
The Hill Top Cabin offers great views and is an extremely relaxing place to put the work week behind you and focus on the outdoors!
This is the type of water found along both legs of this hike. Falls at the head of a pool, surrounded by great scenery.
In the early morning, I could see trout rising in almost all of those pools, so I just started fishing them and it wasn’t long before this beauty fell for my antics.
Not all that’s beautiful is under water along this hike!
Trout don’t live in ugly places.
I have to brag on this wonderful little 3-weight Scott fly rod of mine. It casts beautifully, and a lot of the casting in these confined places has to be pretty accurate. It’s only 6’6″ long which helps too.
Back you go, little fella!
Nice view of the beautiful White Oak Canyon.
This is, without a doubt, a very large Shenandoah National Park brook trout. My best brook trout by a wide margin.
Another look at the same fish.
This is the payoff for all that uphill hiking!
A three foot black snake sharing the trail.
This one escaped before he reached me, but I was able to get his picture before he got too far.
Life is good indeed. Bringing the fly rod along made for a longer, but much more enjoyable day!
Eight miles = Four Advil. I’ll feel it tomorrow, but the excitement of dry fly fishing for wild brook trout in stunning scenery will have me back very soon!
As this living dog art unfolded in my living room, I was reminded, of course, of the Sistine Chapel. I pondered the scene, trying to recall Michelangelo’s arguably more powerful original. I snapped a single picture with my phone, and when I Googled it, I was pretty surprised at the similarities in the composition.
A gold watch. A Winchester Model 94. A trunk full of shooting trophies. A keen appreciation for the outdoors. A fierce sense of loyalty to good friends. A pretty good head of hair and a tendency to let too much beloved beer hang around the midsection.
These are the things I inherited from my Father.
Patrick Edwin Felker would be 76 years old today, but he died almost 35 years ago. Many of his gifts I see in me went unnoticed, regrettably, for decades. But I don’t think I’m alone in that regard. A typical kid of 15 knows hardly anything and appreciates even less. But I watched him live his life — or the portion I was present for — to the very fullest. It was almost as if he knew he had too little time here. Then I watched him fight like hell in an unimaginably long and horrific battle with cancer. One could hardly expect a man so full of passion for life to give it up easily, after all.
I used to think I would be driven by the desire to have made him proud as I navigated the challenges of a full life without him. And I think I said as much for years after I knew it was no longer true. I do of course wish it, but it’s not a force in my life decisions. I am my own man, and while he is part of me, so much time has passed that the lines between his influence and who I am have blurred. I do wish to have made him proud. But mostly I long to have known him as a man. To fish together, hunt together, joke together and add a little bit of girth to the midsection together.
Somewhere along the line, long ago and without really noticing, I think I stopped needing him, and started simply missing him.
Sometimes I forget about black and white. But it’s fun every now and then to shoot in monochrome, and my wife Sandy’s horse show (she is an eventer) seemed like a good opportunity to experiment a bit. Here Sandy puts studs in Emma’s shoes for better traction in cross country.