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My virus scan had slowed my computer to a crawl, so I spent the morning cleaning out the mess at the top of the basement stairs, which was used as the cleaning closet by the previous owners, despite the fact that it is less than three feet square and is in fact the stair landing and needs to be used to get up and down, and brainstorming how to rearrange it.  We had gotten mop clips to be put up, but you can never just do one thing.  There is a circuit box there, for which a giant hole was cut in the plaster wall and never finished, leaving cable, rough plaster edges, and the inside of the wall exposed, and something needed to be done about that.  We brainstormed and decided to surround the thing with pegboard, so I put chicken in the crockpot for green chile enchiladas later, and we went to Lowe’s and then off to the mountains again, figuring there wasn’t any daylight in the staircase so the afternoon would be better spent where there was.

We went to Pleasant Creek WMA, where we didn’t find skunk cabbage, and then back down to see if we could actually find Arden, a swimming spot on the Tygart Valley River.  We weren’t planning a swim, but we got lost in the wilds of Barbour County a few years ago while planning a picnic there on the way to take our daughter to the Pittsburgh airport.  It was meant to be the scenic route, and was, but not what we had planned, and we wanted to try again.  We did find Arden, a pretty spot on the Tygart, and then went over the hill to Moatsville, a beautiful spot on Teter Creek just above where it joins the Tygart.

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So while Robert finished the pegboard, I made these brownies.  I found the recipe while adding all my recipes to this blog, partly as part of the “automate menu planning and the grocery list” project, for which I’m using Ziplist, but don’t want to copy all my recipes there.  I can put them here, link their ingredients there, use them for schedule and grocery list generation in Ziplist, and still have them under my control.  I suspect this was my mother’s recipe, but I don’t remember her ever making them – and I haven’t either.  An experiment.  I suspected from the tiny amount of flour that they would be the kind described as “fudgie” but they are more like baked mousse or maybe divinity (and way less trouble than divinity).

And the top of the stairs now looks like this, and will be quite lovely, as basement stairs go, once we paint it all gray to match the kitchen.  Broom closet

IMG_3216Our pileated woodpecker showed up this morning, for the first time in months.

Robert above the Swallow Falls

Robert above the Swallow Falls

We hadn’t been out in the mountains for six weeks or more, since Robert’s cousin Priscilla was here. We hadn’t been anywhere much but Lowe’s, Home Depot, and a few other forays for bits and pieces for our refurbishing projects, more of which soon. Nature was limited to our views of the yard (not too shabby), and watching the activity at our bird feeders (dozens of goldfinches, with some excitement like a towhee, which I had been hearing for weeks, but hadn’t seen.)

I put on long johns, jeans, my heaviest sweater, a flannel shirt, a fleece vest, my down jacket, a pashmina scarf, a wool hat, my down jacket and hiking boots, and we headed out for another attempt at skunk cabbage at Cranesville Swamp.  We now know that the snow isn’t plowed on the last stretch to the parking area (tantalizing visible from the plowed road) and there is no other place to park and walk in.  So four-wheel drive (or maybe chains) are required.  But the views driving there are grand.

Driving on, we came to the sign for Swallow Falls State Park, just over the Maryland line, and decided to try it.

We walked the trail to the Swallow Falls

Swallow Falls of the Youghiogheny

Swallow Falls of the Youghiogheny

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Muddy Creek Falls

Muddy Creek Falls

and then down the Youghiogheny to the mouth of Muddy Creek and up to its falls.

I always enjoy just driving the backroads in this part of the mountains. I noticed a lot of stores and mailboxes that said “Friend.” Those families are descendants of Anders Nilsson Frande, a Swedish trapper and trader who lived and traded on the Potomac in the very early 1700s or before. My pioneer Germans moved in a generation later with the first permanent settlers. The high plateau holds the headwaters of the Youghiogheny and Potomac, and also branches of the Cheat and Tygart Valley River. When it was first settled, the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia lines were in dispute, so naturally my ancestors moved about freely, leaving traces in all three states (not to mention multiple counties in each, as the counties split.) The plateau now, reached by winding up Laurel and Cheat Mountains, holds wide vistas of beautiful rolling farms, interspersed with pine and hemlock woods and alpine bogs.

As I was writing this, we received word that Priscilla died unexpectedly after what was expected to be minor surgery. We took her to Blackwater Falls in January, and she was thrilled with the mountains, and curious about the geography and history, a treat for me. She was looking forward to more travel, and we to visiting with her. We will miss her deeply.

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. - Howard Thurman.

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