Latest News

April 9, 2018
Trail Medley Blog

April 25, 2018    Grist Mill Lake

This morning the rain continued its downpour, and the lake was still wrapped in its sheet of mist and moisture.  Creatures of land and water maintained their seclusion, staying tucked into their places of rest.

The heavy rains of yesterday, last night, and this morning created an overabundance of water, and the boundaries of the lake expanded throughout the day.  Caramel-colored lake water poured over the dam with such power that the falling waterfall actually generated a wind that swayed the branches of the trees on the backside of the dam.  Tons of sheer force roared over the stone and concrete barrier with a mighty thunder.  There are no words to capture what this was like-the power, the loudness, the volume magnitude.

Then the rain ceased, and the blue sky and sunlight peaked through the fluffy gray clouds.  The birds sang once more, and the butterflies rode the easy breeze.  The currents in the lake continued their journey toward the dam, but gradually it all slowed.  The constant peace of this place soon prevailed again.

This evening the beavers cut through the calm waters, searching for the perfect trees to gnaw.  The two pairs of geese, Goldie and Galahad and friends, meandered slowly from the shore banks down to the creek channel, where they soundlessly set sail.  A pair of mallards floated serenely in the upper cove, and the peep frogs resumed their happy chorus.  The cascading rush of tears from heaven and onward had already receded to the distant memories of this morning.


April 24, 2018    Grist Mill Lake

Falling rain changes the surface of the lake, creating a cocoon of privacy with its sheet of cascading moisture.  The mist rises from the water, and the inhabitants are tucked away in their places of refuge.

A few ducks were out and about today, but then rainy weather is ideal for ducks.  They still were shy and elusive, moving away from the shore when we came near.

The chorus of peep frogs sang joyfully, its melody serenading the lake with a persistent song.  The rain-clad day seemed to heighten the voices of these unique amphibians, so tiny individually but so powerful in their multitude.

A beaver, impressive in size, cut quickly through the water.  It was so large that at first we could hardly believe it was a beaver.  Nonetheless, it was the master craftscritter, serious about its business, paying us little attention.

Daily, the personality of the lake changes, some days warm and welcoming, some days frozen and icy.  And then there are days like today, rainy and mysterious, unobtrusively filled with its continual life force.


April 23, 2018    Floyd

Songbirds are such fascinating creatures, and this time of the year they seem to be especially lively.  Their songs fill the air all through the day, while their busy little selves are constantly searching for food and nest building materials. 

 I saw a phoebe this morning, perched on the edge of the roof.  Phoebes are delightful little brown and white birds, modest in appearance but outstanding in personality.  A quick way to identify a phoebe is to look for tail twitching.  As it sits on a branch or fence line, it will twitch its tail up and down, up and down.  They can usually be found with a water source, like a small creek, nearby.

Another bright, cheerful bird that often makes an appearance here, including today, is the American goldfinch.  This morning a flock of them was busy in the yard, searching the recently mowed grass for seeds or insects.  Their yellow bodies look like bursts of sunshine fallen to the earth.  In the winter the females are much duller than the males, but this time of the year the transition is occurring, and before long the two genders will be very similar in coloration.

We are so blessed to have so many species of songbirds right in our yards.  Add lawn observations with what can be seen on walks along park trails or through the native woods and you will have a fine collection of small bird sightings, complete with sweet melodies and vibrant displays of color.  They are so small but so complex with noteworthy survival characteristics, ready to add moments of joy to our days.


April 22, 2018    Grist Mill Lake

The nursery in the heronry, high in the sycamores, continues to incubate.  All seven nests were occupied today with a parent in each.  Typical nests have three to seven eggs, so soon there should be an abundance of baby herons on Grist Mill Lake.  Here's hoping!

Some great blue herons were seen swooping in.  There's nothing quite like watching these long, gangly, yet stream-lined, bodies approach the nests.  Somehow each feathered flyer knows exactly how to control wind speed and wind direction, along with body speed and body position, to correctly approach and land in the chosen nest.  It truly is amazing to observe each bird arrive home to its own stick platform, sixty feet in the air in the midst of other heron dwellings.

The mallards were on the lake today, at least two pairs.  A bittern was also seen in Taz' flooded field at the edge of the cove.  Songbirds filled the warm air with their melodies, and in the distance, probably deep in the cove, the geese were honking.  A turkey gobbled in the woods on the far shore.  Grist Mill Lake was the happy habitat for various and sundry avian citizens today.

A tiger swallowtail flitted about the late-blooming daffodils, adding color to color.  The vibrant colors of spring are so evident now, offering such a beautiful visual pallette to the eyes that are hungry to see.  After the long, gray winter, the energizing array of tints and hues offers nourishment to the soul. 


April 21, 2018    Floyd

The shrill call of the male whippoorwill easily caught my ear right at dusk this evening.  Only the male makes the namesake call, while both the male and female have a softer clucking voice they use to communicate with one another.  These mottled gray and brown birds spend their days sleeping and their nights hunting insects.

Members of the nightjar family, whippoorwills are almost never seen during the day.  During the daylight hours, they sleep on the forest floor, blending in with the dead leaves.  They do not make nests, not even for their one or two eggs, which are laid in a small indentation in the leaves.  Both parents incubate the eggs and care for the young.

Whippoorwills are strictly meat eaters.  They dine on moths and other flying insects, caught in flight during the night.  These birds are rarely seen, and the most common observations are not the birds themselves but the glow of their ruby red eyes reflected in headlights.

These robin-sized birds are captivating with their aura of mystery and solitude.  The calls of the males are so distinct that they give the hearer of the persistent song the sense of being allowed into the exclusive whippoorwill club, permitted to partake, at least auditorially, in the world of this plain, but majestic, night cryer.  The warm summer nights are heralded by the clear song of this extraordinary feathered friend.

For more information, visit and  The whippoorwill is such a fun study!


April 19, 2018    Floyd

The wind is a major character in the grand picture of the natural world, its own entity in the forces that move and shake us.  Warm, cold, gentle, ferocious, it is found in every environment on every continent and across all bodies of water, large and small.

Recent storms have revealed the mightiness of the wind.  Large limbs and even trees themselves have been snapped in half, mere matchsticks in the presence of the wind.  Human structures prove to be so fragile, surrendering to the mammoth gusts of air.  As humans standing in the wildness of the wind, we are easily moved, swayed, brought to our knees, quickly reminded that we aren't all that we think ourselves to be.

Yet, the wind can also be the gentlest of breezes, barely forceful enough to ruffle a baby's curls.  These tender puffs of air caress our faces and give cooling relief to our sun-heated skin.  Swaying dandelions and gliding butterflies give testimony to the docile push of the wind.

Sometimes the wind comes with welcoming warmth, and sometimes it comes like a cold, cutting knife, dividing body from soul.  Gales and breezes and typhoons, the wind marches across the land and the seas in its own style.  Hats off to you, dear zephyr, windy friend; let us give you the respect you deserve. 


April 18, 2018    Grist Mill Lake

The summer-like warmth of today brought an even greater serenity to the lake.  The turtles were content on their basking logs, soaking in the revitalizing sunshine.  Their cold weeks of winter submersion under the mud were surely forgotten today as the sun beamed on them.  They always crowd onto the logs, sometimes as many as ten on a timber.  From a distance a drifting log takes on the shape of an alligator.

The herons added to the turtle excitement by flying in and out of the colony.  The incubators didn't sit as tightly as yesterday, possibly because of the warm air.  These birds exhibit royalty in their own way.  Their impressively long legs and slim, stream-lined bodies add to their stateliness.  It is such a joy to be able to watch them constantly, from the front window and from the trail and from the Rock Garden.

The butterflies abounded in the warm breezes.  There are enough wildflowers blooming that the butterflies and other insects are busy feeding, providing visual beauty to the rest of us as they do so.  

The glories of Nature are so strong here, seen in the bright colors and the endless evidences that life in its natural forms flourishes here.  What a rare privilege it is to be able to observe and contemplate, to be inspired by these wonders.


April 17, 2018    Grist Mill Lake

Life in the heron colony continues happily along.  There are at lest six, maybe seven, heron nests actively occupied now.  The parent sitting on the eggs, which can be either the mother or the father, sits low in the nest, while the other parent stands guard on the nest's edge or flies in and out with food.  It is quite a busy production all through the day.

Goldie and Galahad were on the lake this morning, and Gally had a lot to say.  Then they disappeared for a while.  Now they are on back.  It is interesting to speculate where they go and what is pulling them here.  Research does reveal that the female goose returns to the place where she was born, so it is likely this is Goldie's birth place.

I so hope they have their second clutch of eggs and that they hatch successfully.  Today when we were working on the backside of the dam we found a part of one of the first eggs.  It was lying so white and broken in the grass at the edge of the dam.  The shell had an amazing thickness to it, and there was a definite sadness in holding the shell that had once held Goldie's baby.  Nature is not always kind.

The beavers have been especially busy this evening.  It is amusing to watch them, each on a definite mission.  There were three swimming industriously across the lake and up the channel.  They never seemed to acknowledge one another with each just going on his or her own way.  They acted like complete strangers, and there was no indication that they live in the same house.  These master craftscritters do demonstrate human characteristics at times!


April 16, 2018    Grist Mill Lake

After yesterday's heavy rains the lake water is a muddy brown, the natural result of a downpour.  Goldie and Galahad were not to be seen today, and I so hope they are doing well in their new nest somewhere, preferably here on the shores of the lake.

We did observe the herons today, high in their lofty nests  in the sycamores.  There are at least six, maybe seven, that are definitely nesting.  They are sitting low in their large nests with mostly only their heads showing.  The coldness of today's air requires them to settle in, cozy on their eggs, providing the needed body heat and protection to the babies in their eggs.  Interestingly, the incubation is done by both parents, and once the eggs hatch both parents will feed and care for the babies.

A group of wood ducks were also observed here today.  They too are in pairs and hopefully are in one of the nesting stages.  They are quite shy and will fly at the slightest motion, such as raising the camera to capture their image.  Watching them from afar with the binoculars is always rewarding, as they display their own regal presence here.

The peep frogs sang their melodioous chorus in the late afternoon and continued on, serenading in the evening light.  Another lovely voice that fills the night air is the whippoorwill, a most unique bird. Only the male makes the distinguished call, filling the warm night air.  The female's voice is much more subdued but important nevertheless. Further reflections on this member of the nightjar family will be forthcoming.


April 15, 2018    Floyd

Nature really showed herself today with her fierce winds whipping all around and her heavy rains pouring down!  So often we talk of Nature in the language of sunshine and rainbows and butterflies.  But, like all of us, she has a tempestuous side too, and days like today remind us of her power.

During such storms, I always wonder where the wild creatures are.  I am sure they are wiser than I would be if I was the one out in the fury, that they have snug and dry spaces where they have sought and found refuge.  Such weather can be overwhelming to us humans with our mortal weaknesses, but to the critters it is probably not so bad.

Here's a toast then to the wild ones out in the raging winds and the soaking rains.  Here's a note of respect for them in their wisdom of survival.  Here's to hoping that if we are ever out with the forces of nature in our faces, then we too will have the forebearance to survive.  Here's to encouraging one another, human and wild creature alike, to stay strong during life's storms, to press on with determination, and to soak up the sunshine when it abounds.


April 14, 2018    Floyd

One of the most versatile creatures in our part of the world is the crow.  Often shunned and rarely appreciated, these birds do have their own unique personalities.

Their black sheen in the bright sunlight is unparallelled in terms of ebony beauty.  Their glistening eyes usually glimmer with mischief and understanding, demonstrated by their knack for discovering and taking shiny objects

.The broad range of their vocal calls varies from comical to eerie.  Once I heard the strangest sound, a cross between mournful and vicious.  As it turned out, it was a group of crows, perched high in the tree, making an awful racket.  The noise was so surreal and disturbing.  Yet, sometimes the laughter in their voices is uplifting, reminding me to see the lighter side of life.

Yes, crows are more than what they are automatically assumed to be.  Wise and funny and cunning, they may live to be fifty years old.  They are adaptable to many living environments, and often they display human-like characteristics.  A group of crows is called a murder, but their true nature suggests they need a more aristocratic name.  The least we can do is gaze upon them with the admiration they deserve.


April 13, 2018    Grist Mill Lake

Goldie Goose and Sir Galahad floated serenely on the lake this morning, although there were times of quite a bit of honking.  This was mostly when they were out of sight. 

 This afternoon one of them, probably Galahad, was taking quite the bath in the creek channel right above the lake.  Over and over he dipped his head and wings into the water, splashing so merrily.  Yesterday's research revealed that this is a pre-mating ritual done by the male-taking a bath, either in water or dust.  There are high hopes that Goldie will soon be incubating her new clutch of eggs, nature's second chance.

Activity in the heron colony, also called a heronry, across the lake is also promisingly pointing to new hatchlings.  At least four herons are nestled deep in the large, lofty nests, and males are continually flying in and out.  This is their routine during nesting; she nests on the eggs and he feeds her.

Today I saw the first tiger swallowtail of the season.  Seeing the state butterfly with its unique beauty always brings joy. A tiny black butterfly of some sort fluttered by yesterday, but I couldn't make an identification.  Today I also saw a sight I have never observed before, a tiny baby ladybug!  It was exquisitely colored with dots of black on its orange wings, so perfect and so small.  The wonders of nature are endless.


April 12, 2018    Grist Mill Lake

The beauty of this day was reflected in the animal behavior at the lake today.  Life abounds here, and each day is a new revelation.The geese are in two pairs, definitely mating two-somes.  They have been close to the shore today and have even been traveling somewhat together.  Silently, their regal forms glide through the water, adding such elegance to the lake.

Both pairs have been quite vocal today, probably sounds of their mating behavior.  Earlier in the day both sets were in the upper part of the lake, and their loud sounds filled the air.  Later, they made their way to the lower end of the lake, sailing along with the evening light reflected on the water.  Such beauty and such promise reigns, that in spite of the predators, goslings will still soon be a part of the lake population.  Such joy in this hope!

The beavers were active this evening.  We saw at least three swimming quickly though the water, even coming so close to us on the shore.  The mischievious critters would dive into hiding as soon as the cameras came out, emerging again immediately once the cameras were put away.  Their laughter was probably heard by all the lake animals.

The serenity of this place gives comfort and creativity to the soul.  It is such a special opportunity.


April 11, 2018    Grist Mill Lake

Tragedy has descended on Grist Mill Lake.  But, the uplifting news is that in all her cruelty, Nature does provide a healing element.

Today, in my eager observation of Goldie on her goose nest, I was greatly distressed.  The abandoned pile of down feathers fluttered sadly in the gentle breeze.  A quick walk to the dam gave a clearer view, and sure enough, the evidence of shattered white egg shells silently told the tale.

But. now for the cheerful news!  Research today has verified that if the nest or the eggs are destroyed, then the pair of Canada geese will nest again, usually near the original nesting site.  I am fairly certain I saw this pair today in the upper bottom near the rain pond.  They both were making communication calls with one another, so there is hope the new round of mating and egg tending is underway.

Predators for Canada geese eggs include raccoons, coyotes, and eagles.  Interestingly, we did see the eagle last Friday, so it is very possible that he is the culprit.  The location of the nest in the center of the dam would allow access only through flying or swimming.  Hopefully, the new nest will be in a better protected area.  Regrettably, it probably won't be as easy to observe, but all that mattters is that the goslings hatch and thrive.


April 6, 2018   Grist Mill Lake

Goldie Goose continued her nesting today.  The top of the dam doesn't seem like the ideal place for this, but I am sure she knows what she is doing.  She is definitely safe from predators, and the greatest danger is probably from the weather.

Galahad Goose is taking his responsibilities as her protector very seriously.  He glides along placidly on the water, sometimes close to her, sometimes a distance away.  Often he seems to be taking the attention on himself, away from where she is.  Yet, he swims close to where Goldie is at times.  I am unsure if Gally is checking on her or if he is moving closer in response to a perceived danger.  It is amazing how quickly he can sail through the water with his quiet stately presence.

It is a treat to be able to observe all this from the front windows of the cottage.  A pair of binoculars enables us to easily keep an eye on the goose nursery developments, either from inside the cottage or from the trail.  We so appreciate the gift that we have here, the being able to witness first-hand so many amazing facets of nature, such as the new goose nursery.


April 5, 2018 Grist Mill Lake

Sometimes gifts are not immediately recognized.  The gift for this day was such a present, which thankfully turned into the opposite of what it first appeared.

During the morning walk, we saw a goose on the largest pier of the dam.  It seemed to be dead, lying stretched out with its head flat on the pier top.  There were a few loose feathers around the majestic bird.  The automatic thought was that it had died where it lay.

Later in the day we observed that it was still there, but it had turned and was now facing in the opposite direction!  What a surprise this was.

As we worked on the backside of the dam clearing brush, the goose stood and then rested with her head in an upraised position.  She was definitely alive and alert.  Further investigation through the binoculars revealed that the quantity of loose down feathers was much larger than it had been in the morning, and now she was resting in this feather nest.  She had also laid two, maybe three, perfectly oval white eggs!What a joy this is!  What we had at first thought was a dead goose has turned out to be a mother bird, striving to bring new life into being! 

This has been our gift for this day, a reminder that first perceptions are not always accurate and sometimes are even the exact opposite of what we think!  And what a treat for us-to be able to observe this uplifting event in the life cycle of these regal birds!

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Grist Mill Lake

                                                                                             click to watch Video !!!!!

48 Acres @ $299 K

Grist Mill Lake is a private lake of 15+ acres

fed by Frying Pan Creek and is a portion of a 

48 acre tract of exceptional land. Bordered by stately

hardwoods and native wildflowers, this picturesque

lake has excellent fishing and is perfect for kayaking

and canoeing. With easy walking trails and over a

mile of creek frontage, this is an ideal property for

all nature enthusiasts. 


An array of wildlife chooses to reside here. Daily,

Canadian geese and various types of ducks enjoy the

tranquil setting of the lake. A family of beavers

has established its lodge on the far shore, and

otters play in the cool water. Songbirds abound,

filling the air with their melodious voices. Herons

and egrets stalk the shallow water, searching for

tasty meals. Fish and turtles frequent the lake's various

depths. Many small animals, such as chipmunks and

squirrels, dart about, and the occasional deer, bobcat,

and bear travel through the premises. A majestic pair

of eagles oversees it all, soaring into the clear sky

or perching in lofty branches.


Having off-the-grid characteristics, the property includes

a newly remodeled cinder-block cottage with 12-inch

thick walls, complete with moisture barriers. The

  renovations include warm pine tongue and groove

boards, both inside and out, and all new windows with

low-E, high performance glass. A fully redesigned water

 system now supplies the house with gravity-fed spring

water at a rate of 10 gallons per minute. A water

pump with modern upgrades guarantees 

a powerful, continual water flow. 


Along with the gravity water, the property boasts

a multitude of other off-the-grid possibilities.   

Certain fruit trees are already established here: paw paws,

persimmons, crab apples, and maiden blush apples.

The nuts from black walnut and hickory trees provide

food for humans and wildlife alike. The sandy loam

is optimal for homegardening, an orchard, and

even a nursery. With Frying Pan Creek running

through the bottom land and with the other

rich water sources on the site, there is an

excellent opportunity for irrigation.

Potential hydropower options are also present.


Grist Mill Lake can be found off Route 29 and then off

Route 40. It is 7 miles from the town of Gretna, Virginia

and is 17.4 miles from Smith Mountain Lake State Park.

The residence has easy accessibility to hardtop road

frontage. This special piece of property is

a supreme investment!


Click Here for Reflections Blog




The creek is perfect for kayaking and canoeing and also has potential for irrigating the bottom land.
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