The Environment Seems Better

The Roanoke River and clear and picturesque near Niagra Dam.

I walked a stretch of the Roanoke River yesterday, looking to take photos of some trash which is pretty common this time of the year for a magazine piece I’m working on.

What I found surprised and delighted me. There was almost no trash and the water was clear, as was the air over it.

Frankly, I don’t recall a time since I moved to the Roanoke Valley (1971) when the air and water have been as clean looking and feeling as they are right now. Of course, people staying home, not driving, not trashing have a lot to do with it. I sure hope we can keep this as we go forward.

Flowers and greenery reflect in the much-cleaner river.

Getting Out on a Pretty Mother’s Day

The brisk wind made flying kites fruitful.

The parks and greenways in Roanoke are a little ways away from re-opening, but they’ve been going strong in Salme for a while now. I went over to Green Hill ParkĀ  for a walk and some observing today and found pretty much what I expected to find: families celebrating Mother’s Day, getting close, but staying away from people outside their small groups. I wore a mask, but only saw one other person with a mask and he had it snugly around his neck, not his face.

I did unexpectedly run into a couple of old friends, Meg Hibbert and her daughter Meredith, but we couldn’t hug, which stressed me. Hugging is what I do. Damn virus.

Here’s some of what it looked like.

My friends Meg Hibbert and daughter, Meredith with their pup who was left in the dryer too long.

Mom, Dad and the kids at the water’s edge.

Picnic on the ground.

The shade was nice, even though the day was cool.

Chatting on the fence.

Serving the celebratory meal.

Serving a snack to the little one.

Playground is eerily empty.

Island in the stream (that is what we are …)

Art at the bottom of the Roanoke River.

Art on top of the Roanoke River.

No, this is not Halloween.

These guys were doing a little dog training.

A Quest for Rhododendron

The rhododendron in my yard is at full bloom and it’s gorgeous, but it is limited to a couple of plants. I wanted more today, so I set out on a quest to find it in bunches with running water, high cliffs, and a pat

A couple of kids found comfort beside the rushing waters in a hammock.

h. I found it just a few miles from my house at Hanging Rock greenway in Salem.

It is a short-ish trail–maybe 3/4 of a mile one way–but the first half of it is simply packed with theories, mostly pink (light and dark), water and high rock cliffs. It was a cheap thrill because I didn’t have to work for it.

Lunch with My Gym Buddies

That’s the ladies and me in a vacant parking lot in the Hidden Valley section of Roanoke County.

One of the most difficult parts of all this self-imposed solitude these days is that I miss my buddies. Today, I got to sort of remedy that by getting together with a group of some of the people I have been working out with at the gym for the past two years.

We had a good bit to catch up on over our six-foot distance and couldn’t swap hugs, but it was good to hear familiar voices telling familiar stories. It was a real treat (and my salad and gazpacho were excellent).

See how far apart we stayed?

Roanoke Greenways To Reopen Next Week

Smith Park’s segment of the Roanoke River Greenway will see the light again beginning very soon*.

It will begin with a trickle and end with a flood, but starting next week, Roanoke’s system of greenways–closed since April 3 because of COVID19–will begin re-opening.

Here’s the schedule, announced today by Mayor Sherman Lea:

May 15: Garden City, Tinker Creek and Lick Run Greenways

May 19: Roanoke River Greenway

The Greenways had been backing up with walking and biking traffic for a number of days before the city decided to close those that are paved. The unpaved segments of the large Greenway system remained closed, mostly because they don’t attract nearly as much traffic as the paved branches and are less-traveled. They will, of course, remain open.

(*I shot this photo several years in Smith Park. I titled it “Jesus Visits the Greenway.”)

The Beauty of the City Is Not Always in Buildings

Dad trolls for minnows or crawdads in Murray Run, near the old Shenandoah Life Building (now Carilion).

When the sun hits a red tree just right in the spring, you get this effect.

Sometimes it is astonishing that we can find rural Virginia mountain landscapes inside the City of Roanoke, but they are always there.

Today on my walk, I shot three photos, all of them with country-style landscapes; all of them in the city, minutes from downtown. This is a walk I frequently take, never take for granted. It is simply lovely, regardless of the time of day, time of year or the weather. Today’s 77 degrees and a medium breeze was perfect, but this trail is beautiful even when the weather is not.

I don’t know how many times I have photographed this natural spring, but it never gets boring.

A Nice Little Neighborhood Hike

This farm has a variety of big animals that are often out grazing and they are friendly, especially the donkeys.

Yesterday’s walk led to the eastern side of Vinton onto the Glade Creek trail, one of the little-used greenway spurs in the Roanoke Valley. It’s a nice little neighborhood walk beside a creek, but nothing to write home about. It was about an hour’s walk through rolling hills (nothing to really climb). Here’s what it looks like.

Several roads go over the pathway, creating interesting views.

Here’s a rolling meadow near a subdivision.

Burros grazing in a lovely meadow.

This guy was quite friendly.

This farmhouse overlooks the trail.

A Bright New Spot in Southeast Roanoke

Sunni (on the ladder) and Maggie go at it hard.

The best part of my hike/walk today came after it was finished and, on the way home, I ran into Sunni Purviance and Maggie Perrin-Key painting the side of a building at the corner of U.S. 24 and 9th street with bright hearts.

Sunni is the president of the Southeast Action Forum and Maggie is an artist who specializes in murals. Maggie, as a matter of fact, was to have had a Roanoke show last night at the Alexander/Heath Gallery, but a certain virus interfered. She’ll reschedule and promised she’d let me know when she does. (Look at her work on her website

They were giving this truly dull Presbyterian Community Center building a real glow in the heart of an almost totally flat-looking (from the standpoint of color) part of town. Sunni actually got her second $1,000 grant from a Roanoke group called SIMPLERoanoke, a group of 10 couples who give out $1,000 a month to community organizations doing good stuff.

Sunni is an avid supporter of Southeast Roanoke, traditionally the lower-income, mostly white section of town that is often ignored by city government and an afterthought for most Roanokers. I’ve discovered in the last few months that Southeast is a vibrant, forward-looking section of town with some excellent leadership.

Sunni said she and her buddy had touched up the beautifully painted wall strip just down the road from the Presbyterian center recently and would love to take the current painting around the corner and down U.S. 24. That would give the whole corner some real spark.

This flowing tree along a wall on U.S. 24 is spectacular.

This is what the rest of the wall looks like, unpainted.

A Day in the (Quiet) Life of Grandin Village

This is the entrance to Grandin Village. Turn left at the light and you’re right in the middle.

Twenty or so years ago, I was on a Roanoke City Planning Commission committee helping create a new city plan for the future. One of our findings was that Roanoke needed at least 10 “city centers” in order to amp up economic development across the city.

The Grandin Theatre, closed until further notice, remains a focal point.

They would be based on the success at Grandin Village, where the renovation of the Grandin Theatre was to help create an impressive base for the entire section of the city. Today, with few of those goals realized city-wide, the village remains one of the primary success stories in both residential and commercial terms.

I walked the village yesterday–face masked, hands gloved–to see what it looks like during our recent misfortunes. Here’s some of what it looks like.

The Roanoke Valley Natural Foods Co-Op is a destination grocery store for the entire valley.

This section of the village has become quite stable.

Small, local shops are the village’s bread and butter.

I think this door leads to my pal Catherine DeVine’s art studio.

It’s quiet now, but the center of the village is usually bustling.

James Tarpley, the recently deceased “Angle of Grandin Village,” was honored with this wonderful painting on the side of a building.

These angels are at James’ feet.

Farmer Tim Meadows takes locally-grown produce to the Co-Op.