Smith Mountain Lake Mystery Writer

Contemplations from a quiet cove on Smith Mountain Lake.

My Photo
Location: United States

I'm a Southern gal who loves life, my husband and our family (which, to date, includes 13 grandchildren). I enjoy being with friends and family. But I also like being alone and thinking up plots for future books. I've published two novels, both mysteries, and I'm working on my third. For more about my books, visit me at If you ever hear me say, "I'm bored," please get me to the ER immediately! Paddling my kayak and snapping pictures of the critters I see relaxes me. Beach music has the opposite effect--when I hear those old "doo-wops" I want to dance.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Felled Trees and Beaver

Because I had literally worn out my beloved Kodak, sweet Ron gifted me with a new camera for Christmas and I was eager to try it out. So last week when an unusually warm January day presented itself, we took off in our kayaks for a picture-taking adventure.

Hoping to capture shots of wildlife, we paddled in and out of quiet coves, saw neither a single bird nor animal. We did, however, see signs of beaver. See photos below. Click, then click again to enlarge.

 Beavers  must chew on wood often because their huge teeth are constantly growing.

 Here's another shot.

 Same tree snapped from a distance. It was a big tree. 
And all they did was gnaw around it.

 Another tree felled by beaver. This one toppled over before 
they finished chewing all the way around it.

A close-up of the same tree.

Many property owners around Smith Mountain Lake complain about the damage done by beavers. Some folks have lost nice trees they've planted near the shoreline. I have a friend whose weeping willow looked lovely one day. The next day it had vanished, except for the gnawed trunk. They replanted; lost another. And another.

I know beavers are considered pests, but I remember a February day several years ago when I stepped out on our deck and saw two beavers--Momma and Baby (called a kit)--climb up our bank. I hurried inside, grabbed my Olympus camera (I wore it out, too), and hurried back to the deck. The beavers shuffled around in the dry leaves and small scrub trees. I watched Momma chew off a small branch, nudge Baby, then drop back in the water; Baby followed.  I snapped a few pictures. None are very good, but they help me remember.

Note the branch in Momma's mouth, and Baby swimming behind her.

Momma and Baby

The pair was almost out of camera range before Momma stopped swimming and faced Baby. For about 30 seconds, Momma and Baby "conversed." Fascinated, I continued to watch as both beavers swam back to the edge of the bank. Momma waited in the water while Baby climbed up the bank, gnawed off a twig, and returned to the lake. I missed those pictures, and  wish I'd had time to set up a video camera for the whole event.

Baby swimming with his twig.

 Baby with his twig. Momma was behind the tree in both photos.

 I felt privileged to have witnessed this precious event, a learning experience for both Baby and me, and I'll never forget it. 

To learn more about beavers, visit the youtube sites below.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 09, 2012

SCOTLAND IN SEPTEMBER: Crianlarich to Oban

We left Ewich House on day two with full stomachs, anticipation of what the day would bring--and raindrops. Soon, however, shafts of sunlight appeared over the mountains. The rain stopped.

 I took this photo through my side backseat window from the moving car.

Occasionally, Joyce, Larry, Ron and I all hollered "Picture!" at the same time, as we did for the shot pictured above. And believe me, it's even more gorgeous in person. Lots of other cars had stopped for a photo shoot, too. If you want to follow along on a map, we were on two-lane highway A82 in the western part of Scotland. A few miles down the road we stopped again. And again. And again. . . .

 Ron and me.

We continued on A82 to Glencoe, a village near Glen Coe, a  natural scenic area.

After Glen Coe, we doubled back on A82 until, at the last minute, we decided to take a short cut and turned  onto B8074. This delightful one-lane road wound through farms and along a river that changed quickly from a roaring rush (above), to a tranquil, meandering one (below).


I snapped the picture below from the back seat so you could see how narrow the road is. Occasionally we'd meet another vehicle, which meant that one of us would have to pull into a "lay-by"--lay-bys occurred about every half mile or so--or back up. Below is a photo of Larry driving; he drove the whole time, did a great job.

 Larry "getting acquainted" with a mannequin in Inveraray.

We came out on A85, then detoured onto A819 to Inveraray, a great place to purchase wool and cashmere items, then backtracked to A85 (past Loch Awe).

Kilchurn Castle on the banks of Loch Awe.

We arrived in Oban that afternoon, and spent ages looking for Dunheanish Guest House. Oban roads are quite narrow. It seemed like folks parked their cars anywhere they wanted, so sometimes getting past them put you between a car (or a rock) and a hard place--rock walls. Dunheanish Guest House had off-street parking that provided challenges. We almost decided that "you can't get there from here," but we persevered and were rewarded with a splendid place to lay our heads.
The walkway in front of our first-floor bedroom overlooking Oban Bay.

I took the above picture through one of our four bedroom windows. Remember, I like shooting through windows.  Dunleanish Guest House has six guest rooms; ours had a king-size four poster bed with a gorgeous view of Oban Bay. It also had a private bath. Yay!

Superb hosts William and Linda steered us to the waterfront for dinner. We dined at EE USK (which means I Ask) located on North Pier and owned by the MacLeod Family. Dinner was delicious!!

Dining room at Dunheanish Guest House.

Dunheanish Guest House 
Dunheanish, Ardconnel Rd., Oban, Argyll
PA34 5DW
Phone: +44(0) 1631 566556

If you haven't read my first post about our trip to Scotland and are interested in doing so, scroll down to the next blog post.

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 06, 2012

SCOTLAND IN SEPTEMBER: Glasgow to Stirling to Crianlarich

Scotland in September is cold, dreary, wet--and fabulous! Ron and I crossed the Atlantic with friends Larry and Joyce Horne, and spent 10 days seeing much of what Scotland had to offer. Flying there tried our patience; flying home did the same. But we didn't crash, and the trip was definitely worth the inconvenience and discomfort. We flew into Glasgow, picked up our rental car, and headed toward Stirling.

We toured numerous castles, spent most nights in B&Bs, two nights in castles. I snapped so many pictures that my beloved Kodak often refused to turn off. Guess it figured I'd just turn it back on again. Larry, who doesn't mind driving on the left side of the road, is a camera nut, too, so when any of us hollered "Picture!" he pulled off the road when possible.We hollered "Picture!" a lot.

I took the above photo through the side window of our moving car. The countryside is littered with huge rocks, so stone houses like this one are common. Storm clouds like those in the picture are common, too!

Larry, Joyce and Ron in front of the Filling Station 
Restaurant in Stirling. I'm taking the picture.

Lunch at the Filling Station was excellent, as were most of the meals we had in Scotland. The soups were outstanding; I ordered soup often.

A distant view of Stirling Castle. Click on picture to enlarge.

Stirling Castle, a home for Scottish kings and queens in the 12th century, was also one of the most besieged castles in Scotland, and in the 17th century was adapted to become a garrisoned fortress.

Below is a statue of Robert the Bruce, one of my ancestors. That's me in the purple raincoat pointing to the statue. When I was five years old, Grandmother told me we were related to Robert the Bruce. Even though I had no clue who he was, I was impressed. After all, he was family.

I took the below photo through a window at Stirling Castle. Don't know why, but I like taking pictures through windows.

From Stirling we headed toward Crianlarich, where we spent the night at Ewich House, a converted farmhouse dating from 1811, and located not too far from Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The bedrooms were small, but clean and comfortable with a private bath. Hosts Ian and Deb were friendly and jolly, as were most of the Scots we met.

Ewich House
Strathfillan, Crianlarich, Perthshire, FK20 8RU
Phone: 01838 300300

Ian and Deb served a delicious and hearty Scottish breakfast, as did most of the places we stayed.

A typical breakfast consisted of eggs, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and bacon. This one at Ewich House also offered beans and a type of toast. A few establishments also served kippers (fried salt fish).

If you're interested in contacting Ewich House, you'll need to get the telephone code to dial from the U.S. And if you go, be sure to take a raincoat and an umbrella. And lots of money!

Labels: , , ,