The Photography of D L Ennis, and more!


Friday, January 26, 2007

Winter Hiking in the Blue Ridge

It’s winter time. Time to hang up the hiking boots and snuggle up indoors, right? Well, not necessarily. Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we are blessed with many mild days in winter, perfect for hiking. But even when there’s a nip in the air, frost in the trees, or maybe snow on the ground, a winter’s day hike can offer many rewards.

Sunlight, even winter sunlight, and fresh air offer many health benefits. Popular trails see less traffic in winter, and the absence of leaves on the trees gives a new perspective on the world. Animal tracks can be seen readily in snow and winter mud. Plants and wildflowers reveal different stages in their cycle of life. My daughter a
nd I love to discover dried seed pods, interesting rocks, growth patterns on downed logs, lichens. The skeletal shape of an oak or walnut or other deciduous trees have a symmetry and shapeliness that is unsurpassed. Even patterns of frost on a muddy embankment can add interest. The winter landscape is beautiful in its way.

With some simple precautions, you and you family can enjoy these lovely ridges and forests all year long. Some tips:

1. Always tell someone where you are going and how long you plan to be gone.
2. Before you leave, check on the area you plan to visit—in severe weather, the
Blue Ridge Parkway and other national and state parks may close to traffic. On milder days the agencies that manage trails can guide you to the best conditions. Keep in mind that park facilities might be closed for the season even when trails are open (meaning restroom facilities may night be available). Walks along a closed and snowy Parkway can afford some breathtaking scenery and stunning photography.
3. Dress in layers. As you go along, you might become warmer than you realize. Even so, peeling off layers is always preferred to being underdressed and cold.
4. Wear footwear appropriate for the weather—waterproof boots and warm socks. You might even consider bringing an extra pair of socks just in case.
5. Carry a small daypack with additional supplies: a mini flashlight, small first aid kit, extra layers, matches in a waterproof container, an emergency whistle. Consider an emergency blanket that folds into a small package in case you get los
t and have to stay warm.
6. Bring lip balm or petroleum jelly to soothe chapped lips and faces.
7. Be sure to carry water and snacks for energy. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you won’t get hot, thirsty, or hungry.
8. Don’t forget your camera. You’re sure to find some new and interesting shots.

Of course, among the many rewards of winter hikes, one of my favorites is…coming home to a warm fire, a hot drink, thick socks, a warm blanket, and a nice memory!

Images by Wesley J. Satterwhite

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Counting Birds in Western Maryland

As I have mentioned previously on my birding blog, this past Saturday was the C&O Canal Count. This count, in its ninth year, aims to survey bird life along the length of the C&O Canal, which runs parallel to the Potomac River for 184.5 miles from Georgetown in Washington, DC, to Cumberland, Maryland. I was one of several birders who traveled from the DC area to cover a stretch in Allegany County. Since the distance from Washington is so far, our group stayed in the Little Orleans Lodge both Friday and Saturday nights.

At dawn on Saturday there was a fresh coat of snow on the ground. This quickly disappeared as the day warmed. Predicted heavy winds never materialized on this stretch of the canal, though they did further downstream. The canal in the 130s through 150s is generally protected by high ridges and deep bends in the Potomac River. The Little Orleans team spread out to cover 3-6 mile sectors between mileposts 136 and 153. I paired with another birder to cover the area between mileposts 140 and 144.

The two of us encountered a typical winter birding phenomenon: long stretches with few birds and concentrated patches of mixed-species flocks. We saw six woodpecker species, brown creeper, winter wren, my first black-capped chickadees of the year, tufted titmice, dark-eyed juncos, eastern bluebirds, and a few large flocks of cedar waxwings. Eastern phoebe and belted kingfisher were two lingering warm weather species. Near the end of the count we spotted a subadult bald eagle seeking thermals; once it found one, it soared high into the air over the river valley. Oddly enough, the four miles we covered had few sparrows and no cardinals. For an urban birder like me, it was even more disconcerting to see only two rock pigeons and no starlings at all. An evening walk - not part of the official count - turned up a barred owl barking from across the Potomac.

On Sunday, our team from DC took a side trip to do some birding in the Green Ridge State Forest. Those spots turned out not to be very birdy, possibly because the morning was so raw. Three of us pushed on along the canal to see the Paw Paw Tunnel in mile 155. The 3,118-foot-long tunnel is impressive work, especially considering the technology available at the time. After its completion, the tunnel allowed canal boats to bypass some of the many deep bends in the Potomac River. The cut on the eastern end of the tunnel is itself worth seeing; on Sunday the sheer rock was lined with cascades of icicles, as well as overhanging ferns and conifers. A winter wren popped in and out along the rocky slope.

The three of us walked through the tunnel; when we emerged from the western end of the tunnel, snow was falling. Snow continued falling as we backed over the tunnel hill trail and along the canal. Despite the snow, we encountered some active flocks of birds, including more phoebes, creepers, chickadees, titmice, juncos, and a kingfisher. With few people out on the towpath, and no sound except for flowing water and our own footsteps, the walk was very peaceful. Snow made the canal all the more beautiful.

The weekend offered some great birding, but not so much in the numbers of species or individuals. Great birding can also consist of close-up looks at birds, looking for birds in a spectacular setting, or birding with skilled companions. All three were certainly the case this weekend.


A growing list of reported species and individuals is here. If you visit that page, keep in mind that we are still in the process of collecting data from observers and not all reports have been verified. Until we release the final report, the totals listed there should be regarded as tentative. We have set up a gallery with images from the count here.

SPECIES OBSERVED (over two days): 33

Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Common Merganser
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Barred Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Cedar Waxwing
Carolina Wren
Winter Wren
Northern Mockingbird
Eastern Bluebird
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Blue Jay
American Crow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch


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Friday, January 19, 2007

Local Station Receives National Bluegrass Society Recognition


Contact: Rhiannon Ballard
Creative Services Director

WBRF-FM 98.1 “Blue Ridge Country”
(276) 236-9273
fax: (276) 236-7198

Local Station Receives National Bluegrass Society Recognition

Kirksville, MO., January 12-- SPBGMA, the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America, released nominees for their 2007 Bluegrass music awards. The awards will be presented at SPBGMA’s 24th National Convention at the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville, TN, February 1st through the 4th. The Society recognizes those who work to keep the heart and spirit of Bluegrass music alive. Among the nominees selected for this year’s awards is WBRF-FM, “Blue Ridge Country 98.1” which is nominated for Bluegrass Radio Station of the Year. In addition, WBRF’s sister station, WPAQ-AM in Mount Airy, NC is also a nominee for this highly coveted award. Nominated for Bluegrass DJ of the year is Blue Ridge Country’s own Jay Allen, host of the “Blue Ridge Backroads” program which airs every weeknight from 6:00 until 10:30.

WBRF is dedicated to promoting Bluegrass and Old Time music, which plays a huge part in the heritage of our region. Along with the nightly program anchored by Allen, aired each week is the “Blue Ridge Backroads: Live from the Rex Theater”. In August WBRF broadcasts live from the Galax Moose Lodge #733’s Annual Old Fiddler’s Convention, the largest and oldest in the world. 98.1 FM is the flagship station for Wake Forest University Athletics and a Nascar affiliate. The radio station, headquartered in Galax, VA, reaches over forty counties in four states by airwaves and accommodates the rest of the globe by way of online streaming from their website,

General Manager, Debby Stringer, says “I feel honored that WBRF and WPAQ were both nominated for SPBGMA’s Bluegrass Station of the Year. This is really something special, as we were chosen as two of the top five Bluegrass stations for the entire United States. Not only that, but this is the second year in a row WBRF has been nominated. I am also proud of Jay Allen, also nominated for the second straight year, as Bluegrass DJ for the entire US. Allen has a lot of knowledge and a great love for the music.” A tour bus is tentatively scheduled to travel to the SPBGMA Convention in Nashville. Anyone interested in attending on the tour can call Stringer at 276-236-9273. Further information on SPBGMA and a full list of other nominees and voting can be found at the official website for the organization,


Stuart’s Birthplace: The History of the Laurel Hill Farm

For Immediate Release: Ararat, Virginia, January 9, 2007

Tom Perry is pleased to announce publication of Stuart’s Birthplace: The History of the Laurel Hill Farm. Perry hopes to have the book available on February 6, 2007, J. E. B. Stuart’s 174th Birthday.

This book tells the story of the farm in Ararat, Virginia, that was the birthplace and boyhood home of Patrick County’s most famous son James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart and the people who lived there.

In over 250 pages will tell the story of Stuart’s family from their arrival in North America through 2006 with a seven page bibliography and index. Laurel Hill’s history begins with prehistoric times including information on the Native-Americans, the American Revolution, Antebellum Farm Life and the life of J. E. B. Stuart, who served in the U. S. Army and fought against it in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia as commander of Robert E. Lee’s cavalry in the Civil War.

The book reveals the lives of the women of Laurel Hill such as Elizabeth Perkins Letcher Hairston, who saw her husband, William Letcher, killed by Tories in the American Revolution and then married George Hairston of Henry County. The book tells of her daughter, Bethenia, who married into the Pannill Family and was grandmother to J. E. B. Stuart. The book tells of the life of Stuart’s mother Elizabeth Letcher Pannill Stuart and J. E. B. Stuart’s widow Flora Cooke Stuart along with information about the Stuart children and their father, Patrick County Attorney and politician Archibald Stuart.

The book tells about the Laurel Hill Farm after the Stuart’s left it in 1859 dealing with the history of the Patrick County community of Ararat with stories of Revered Robert Childress “The Man Who Moved A Mountain” and the midwife made famous by the cabin along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Orleana Puckett. The book concludes with a chapter on Perry’s personal work to preserve the site along with the preservation interest of the Brown, Dellenback and Mitchell families of Ararat, Virginia.

The book may be ordered at or by check payable to Tom Perry P. O. Box 50 Ararat, VA 24053. The cost is $25 plus $5 tax and shipping.

One dollar from the sale of each of Perry’s books will go to the preservation efforts at Stuart’s Birthplace in Ararat, Virginia, owned by the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace

Places to hear Tom Perry speak on his new book

Stuart's Birthplace: The History of the Laurel Hill Farm

February 10, Arts and Antiques Mall 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. beside Lowe's Grocery Store in Stuart, Virginia, as part of the J. E. B. Stuart Birthday Celebration.

March 7, Surry County Civil War Round Table at the Mount Airy Public Library on Rockford Street in Mount Airy from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m.

March 10, Bassett Historical Center, 3960 Fairystone Highway in Bassett, Virginia, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

March 11, Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society 3-5 p.m. Pythian Building adjacent to Old Henry County Courthouse in downtown Martinsville, Virginia

Biographical Information on Tom Perry can be found at

Historian Thomas D. Perry is the Founder of the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace and hold a BA in History from Virginia Tech (83) He is the author of Ascent To Glory: The Genealogy of J. E. B. Stuart ($20) and The Free State of Patrick: Patrick County Virginia in the Civil War ($30). Both books ($40). Stuart’s Birthplace: The History of the Laurel Hill Farm ($30) are available on Perry’s website or by sending check payable to Tom Perry P O Box 50 Ararat VA 24053.

Perry speaks all over the country on topics related to J. E. B. Stuart, the Civil War and Patrick County history. You can see the latest events by visiting the following webpage Perry will speak to any church, civic or school group in Patrick County free of charge.

Perry was the recipient of the George Waller Sons of the American Revolution Citizen of the Year in 2004 for Patrick and Henry Counties and the North Carolina Society of Historians Award for a magazine article on J. E. B. Stuart’s North Carolina Connections in 2005. In 2006, the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace honored the Perry Family for its work in preserving Stuart’s Birthplace.

Perry produces a monthly email newsletter about Patrick County History from The Free State Of Patrick Internet History Group, which has over 350 members.

Contact Information
Tom Perry
P. O. Box 50 Ararat, VA 24053

Table of Contents For Stuart’s Birthplace: The History of the Laurel Hill Farm

Foreword “Home”
Part One Journeys To Eden
Chapter 1 The Hollow: Ararat Virginia Before The Stuarts
Chapter 2 The Immigrant: Archibald Stuart (ca1697-1761)
Chapter 3 The Major: Alexander Stuart (1733-1823)
Chapter 4 The Judge: Alexander Stuart (1770-1832)
Chapter 5 The Patriot: William Letcher (1750-1780)
Chapter 6 The Daughter: Bethenia Letcher Pannill (1780-1845)

Part Two Laurel Hill
Chapter 7 The Father: Archibald Stuart (1795-1855)
Chapter 8 The Mother: Elizabeth Letcher Pannill Stuart (1801-1884)
Chapter 9 The Stuarts and Mount Airy: Connections To Surry County NC
Chapter 10 The Children of Archibald and Elizabeth Stuart: J. E. B. Stuart’s Siblings

Part Three Stuart of Laurel Hill
Chapter 11 Son of Southwest Virginia: James Ewell Brown Stuart (1833-1850)
Chapter 12 Soldier of the United States: James Ewell Brown Stuart (1850-1861)
Chapter 13 Soldier of the Confederate States: James Ewell Brown Stuart (1861-1864)

Part Four Preservation
Chapter 14 The Wife: Flora Cooke Stuart (1836-1923) and her children
Chapter 15 Laurel Hill and Ararat Virginia After The Stuart Family
Chapter 16 A Personal Preservation

Afterword “Walk This Hallowed Ground”
Appendix: The Laurel Hill Land Transactions
Records of the Slaves and Free Blacks

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Blueridge Photo Tour: Continued.

Welcome back as the photo tour continues:

This beautiful spot is Abbot Lake. Located at the Peaks of Otter Lodge, it is one of the most peaceful bucolic areas that I enjoy. The Lodge is open all year long, and open for a very comfortable stay. The food at the Lodge is excellent. You must try their fried green tomatoes. Sundays feature a seafood buffet that many of the locals from the area are in the habit of visiting. Besides having such scenic views this is one of the best spots to see deer on the Parkway. They will walk right up to you.

A seasonal campground is near by, and primative free camping is near by in the National forest.

Not far from Abbot Lake is Orchard Mountain. Trails from the scenic overlook lead you into the Thomas Jefferson National Forest. In a quiet, but strenuous walk you can find the Orchard Mountain Falls, this is just one small scene found on the way.

Thunder ridge Overlook is several miles north of Orchard Mountain. It is an amazing spot with a rock and stone built overlook that is less than a quarter mile from were you park. The Westward view is amazing and constantly changing. I have walked up on deer there. And one time when I was sitting quietly a bear walked right behind me. I was at the moment to spooked to get his picture.

This little wayside is found deep in the George Washington National Forest. I found this when traveling down Petties gap and taking a short road trip west of the mountains.
And if you are interested in being shown around. Press the contact button on the right side bar. It would be a pleasure to show you around


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Blueridge Photo Tour

This photo is at the entrance to the trail that leads to the top of Flat Top Mountain. At one Time Sharp Top was considered to be the highest peak in Virginia . Then it was found Flat Top Mountain was higher. In fact, other near by mountains are taller than both these peaks.

At the time of the sculpture of Mt Rushmore, rocks were brought from Sharp Top Mountain as a symbolic use from the highest peak in Virginia, but they were wrong. It was not the highest peak.

Here is a spot I go often in hopes of seeing a beaver that has been busy here. Or perhaps to catch a picture of a blue heron. It is Otter Creek near were it empties into the James River on the Blueridge Parkway.

Just off the Blueridge Parkway, there are roads through the National Forest. This picture was taken off Pettties Gap.

To see more of my photos of the beautiful Blueridge mountains and other parts of nearby landscape visit LynchburgViriginia on Flickr

If you are interested in personal photo safaris, feel free to contact DL at It would be our pleasure to show you around.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Birds of the Mid-Atlantic #28: Fox Sparrow

Winter brings visitors from the north, and attracts short-distance migrants into the Piedmont and coastal plain. Among the avian visitors are a host of sparrows, one of which is the fox sparrow.

Fox Sparrow / Photo by James C. Leupold (USFWS)

Field guides do not quite convey how distinctive fox sparrows look in the field. Almost uniformly, they show the bright rufous upperparts and the crisp black chevrons on the breast. While these field marks are sufficient for identification, what really separates a fox sparrow from the most rufous of song sparrows is something that is harder to quantify. Fox sparrows stand out for their size and bulkiness even next to larger song and white-throated sparrows.

Fox Sparrows spend their summers in northern Canada and Alaska. The red, or eastern, form breeds in the boreal forest of eastern Canada and winters in the mid-Atlantic and southern United States. Other forms are distributed farther west. They can be spotted in the underbrush as the scratch through leaves for seeds and insects.

Since fox sparrows breed so far to the north, and only stay in this region for a few months, it is unusual to hear one sing at these latitudes. With all the warm weather lately, several observers in the DC area have reported hearing snatches of fox sparrow songs recently. A fox sparrow sings a clear, warbled song, similar to a purple finch or orchard oriole. It is something to listen for on your next walk in the woods.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Goshen Pass

DL and I recently took a trip off the Blueridge Parkway to one remarkable beautiful spot. The view would make your heart drop. It was spectacular. You have to appreciate the raw beauty that you find there. It is quite over coming. below is some info on Goshen Pass provided by the State of Virginia.

Goshen Pass is Virginia's oldest state-managed natural area. Located in Rockbridge County, about 10 miles north of Lexington, the Commonwealth first acquired the property in 1954 to help protect the spectacular views of the 3.7-mile long gorge along the Maury River. More recently a number of biological treasures were discovered on the property. Among them are outstanding examples of chestnut oak forest, pine-oak-heath woodland, rocky riverside scrub communities, a state-rare damselfly called the Appalachian jewelwing, and several rare plants. The preserve, which encompasses the southwest face of the gorge, was dedicated as a State Natural Area Preserve in 2001.

On the way to Goshen Pass, we found this swinging bridge maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation on route 39. We both ventured out there DL went a little further than I did. He was a brave soul. The bridge sways with each step, I turned back when one of the boards cracked under my foot.


Beautiful Blue Ridge Moments

Panther Falls

Panther FallsA small part of Panther Falls in the George Washington National Forest, in Amherst County, Virginia…

Whitetail Buck

Whitetail BuckI crept up, keeping a large oak tree between this 6 point whitetail buck and myself…I leaned against the tree and moved slowly to one side and took the shot as he watched me. Taken on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Bedford County, Virginia…


ReprieveTaken from the Blue Ridge Parkway on a day threatened by rains that never came…

Hoarfrost Country Morn

Hoarfrost Country MornThis morning, on a back road not far from my Blue Ridge Mountain home, the open fields, hay bails and trees were covered with the heaviest frost of the year so far…

Moonlight on Otter Creek

Moonlight on Otter CreekTaken on Otter Creek, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia…


OrchardAn apple orchard and out buildings on a back road in Bedford County, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains…

Barn Red

Barn RedFound on a back road in Rockbridge County, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia…

Doe-eyed Fawn

Doe-eyed FawnA beautiful late born whitetail fawn, not long out of spots, poses for me on a back road in Bedford County, Virginia…in the Blue Ridge Mountains… Nature has given this fawn an extra heavy coat and a darker color to help protect it from the winter elements and predators…including hunters!

Click any image to see a larger version…

If you would like to see more of my images of the Blue Ridge, click here