Stonewall Jackson

It was a dark and stormy night. Let’s just say that the start of our journey south was a bit challenging. No issues at the border crossing. We handed over our Nexus cards, the officer asked us where we were going and how long we were staying after which he returned our cards and said “Have a nice day.”

The day was not nice for driving. It was a day filled with torrential downpours, high winds and tornado warnings. Oh, and bitter cold. Even after driving 600 kilometres south.

A long drive in the coach. Too long really. We were up at 5am and it took us two hours to prep and get the coach on the road. A 600 kilometre drive should take about 6 hours in theory. We were closer to 10 hours by the time we pulled into Stonewall Jackson State Park. It was good to get the jacks down and recover from the drive.

We spent two nights at Stonewall Jackson.

We had site 12.

Site 12 is one of the few 50 amp sites in the park. Most of the sites are paved although the pavement is very narrow. Our site was not level. We noticed that fifth wheels had a lot of difficulty backing into their sites. The loops here are very tight.

I had no issue parking the coach. We had a clear line of sight for our satellite and the park WiFi was much better than when we stayed here last year, meaning that we could at least do email and browse the web.

When we arrived, there was a break in the storm. That allowed us to setup without getting drenched.

The Canadian RV community, especially in the Class A coach community, is pretty small and we are never surprised when we bump into friends on the road. A couple that we have connected with several times over the years just happened to be staying here. We enjoyed a wonderful evening with them at a nice restaurant in the main lodge.

A few photos to share from the state park. Even though the sky was very overcast, I hope you can get a sense of the beauty of this particular spot.

A wooden pedestrian bridge connects the campground to the resort which you can see on the upper right hand side of the photo.

As Lorraine quickly found out, the people that live here in West Virginia are very, very tall.

There are a few piers along the lake. If the weather had been warmer, we might have rented a kayak or a canoe. The temperature this day was close to freezing. We opted to hike instead.

Several trails can be reached from the main lodge. We elected to follow the Lakeside trail, over 3 miles in length, although much of that trail was through deeply forested areas.

A few shots from the trail within the woods.

So many leaves. At times it was hard to find the trail but we manage to make it back to our coach.

We left Stonewall Jackson on Saturday and made our way to Apple Valley Farm Motorcoach Resort in Lake Lure, North Carolina where we are now. We will be staying here for the week.

Apple Valley Farm Motorcoach resort is a stunning place and I’ll share more about this place in tomorrow’s post.


Plus 2. Or 36 Fahrenheit for my American friends. That was the temperature when we woke up this Thanksgiving weekend. Canadian Thanksgiving. A different date than American Thanksgiving. And why is that? Apparently the farther north you go, the earlier the harvest.

We are definitely farther north. Much colder now.

Turned out to be a beautiful day. My youngest son joined us for the Thanksgiving weekend and the two of us decided to take a photowalk through Copeland Forest.

Copeland Forest is roughly 4,400 acres. The forest is just a bit north from where our coach is located.

Huge area and we barely covered a small portion of the northeast part of the forest.

My son and I both shoot with Nikon cameras although I also carry Leica and Olympus gear. But for this photowalk, I grabbed my Nikon D800, my 14-24mm F2.8 lens and a tripod. My son had his Nikon D600 and his 24-120mm F4 VR lens. We both left with some great frames.

Wonderful afternoon in a beautiful setting.

Fall colours were out in force. The trees easily reach 40 feet or higher. Look up. Way up.

As we started down one of the trails, it was easy to follow the path.

A little farther along and the leaves began to hide parts of the trail.

Until finally all of the trail was covered.

We came across this memorial for someone’s son. He was only 22 years old when his life ended in 2013. The inscription below the cross reads: Forever in our hearts.

I do not know the story behind this memorial. It did cause me to reflect on the many blessings in my life. It caused me to be thankful.

A final shot to share from Copeland Forest. Being out in nature, enjoying the fall weather, makes life a wonderful thing.

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving.

Toronto Island

Toronto Island is a short ferry or water taxi ride from the city. The island offers some interesting subjects for a photowalk if you bypass the typical tourist areas.

When I did the photowalk with my youngest son last week, we spent several hours at the Toronto Island Marina. Let’s do some exploring.

We crossed on a water taxi. The cost is $11 CAD one-way however the city ferry will provide a free ride back. The cost to cross both ways on the city ferry is slightly cheaper however we wanted the experience and convenience of making the crossing on the water taxi. The waters were calm and it was a beautiful sunny day which made for a pleasant ride. If the weather was not as pleasant, we would have queued up for the ferry.

Exiting the docks, we headed west along the banks of the island. It is here that you see many of the shots of the Toronto skyline. This skyline has changed dramatically over the years since I lived there. A literal explosion of skyscrapers and condos. You can gain an appreciation for the height of the CN Tower, one of the tallest towers in the world, as it dominates the Toronto skyline.

The walk to the Toronto Island Marina takes only a few minutes. It is a strange place. When we were there, it looked like a scene from the apocalypse, so much junk strewn about and seemingly abandoned.

Of course, you can point the camera and take a frame like this one:

Or, walking around the place, you see odd scenes like this one:

Or this one:

There must be life here somewhere, as evidenced by the glasses on this table.

There are over 350 berths in this marina. We did come across three people during our time there. However, large areas of the marina looked like a dumping ground for old boats such as Fairways:

And the Harbourfront centre:

Picnic tables were littered across the property. Most were decomposing.

Others were used for storage.

Chairs also littered the marina. Perhaps used by someone but not today.

The experience of walking through this marina was surreal. At times we thought we were on the set of the Walking Dead. Life had been here but somehow abandoned this marina. A fascinating walk within a short distance from Canada’s largest urban centre, the Greater Toronto Area, with a population of roughly 6 million people.

We took the ferry back. Caught a picture of a similar ferry crossing to the island. Gives you a sense of the view that you can expect when you ride the ferry.

A final shot of Toronto from the deck of the ferry. Another successful photowalk.

The island is definitely worth a visit if you come to Toronto. You can learn more about the park here.

Distillery District

A few more images to share from my photowalk with my son last week. We were tourists in downtown Toronto and we really enjoyed our time in the city. I worked in the financial district of Downtown Toronto for about a decade and the experience of working in downtown Toronto was not all that enjoyable. The congestion in the greater Toronto area is insane and I have no idea how I put up with the 3 to 4 hour commutes every workday.

As a tourist?

A very different experience.

Toronto is surprisingly engaging.

I highlighted our photowalk of Graffiti Alley in this post.

In today’s post, we head over to the Distillery District. This area is a Canadian National Historic site and contains the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America. It is a pedestrian-oriented area. Great for walking, browsing the boutique shops and eating at one of the unique restaurants.

Keep in mind that a photo permit might be required. From their website:

The Distillery District offers a unique and beautiful setting for personal photography, commercial photography, and filming. Casual snapshots taken as memories, souvenirs, or for personal use may be taken at any time at no charge, however portraiture, photos for professional or semi-professional blogs or professional or semi-professional social media use, and any pictures taken for any kind of commercial require a permit in advance.

As I receive absolutely no money or any form of payment for this website, I did not require a permit nor do I share the following images in this post for any form of commercial gain.


All nice and legal.

Curious to see what the place looks like?

Let’s start here.

Street art. Isolated though. This was the only wall painting in the district. I am still pondering the meaning of that piece of art. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine?

The most popular section of the district was the Love flower sign. It took a bit of patience to find a moment where the throngs of people wanting to take selfies or portraits left the frame. And, because I was holding what appeared to be a “serious” camera, I was asked repeatedly to take pictures of other people. But I got lucky and found the moment. If you look closely, you can see that there are a lot of padlocks on the flower sign. More padlocks than flowers.

There are other examples of street art like this Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player.

Restaurants abound with abundant outdoor seating.

Boutique shops announce their sales with sidewalk signs.

There are lots of small details to be found like this pot of flowers on the ledge of a storefront.

And a final flower sign bids you farewell as you leave the area.

If you come to visit Toronto, take a few hours to explore the Distillery District and enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants.

Graffiti Alley

Photowalk: a communal activity of camera enthusiasts who gather in a group to walk around with a camera for the main purpose of taking pictures of things that interest them.

I spent the week in Toronto with my youngest son and, man, did we ever photowalk. 26,633 steps, or 16.8 km, on Tuesday. 16,313 steps, or 11.9 km, on Wednesday. 13,525 steps, or 8.6 km, on Thursday.

Back home last night with a much needed day today to recover. Well, not exactly a recovery day. I am setting up a guitar for a friend. That will take a couple of hours. Later, I will be spending three or four hours practicing guitar for the weekend. Then I will be spending the evening coaching another guitarist on how to craft tones using compression, overdrive, delays and reverb. Oh, and posting on this site. Something I missed over the past few days with the photowalk.

Never a free moment in retirement.

I’ll share a few of the images from our photowalk. We covered five main areas of Toronto: Graffiti Alley, the Distillery District, the Toronto Waterfront, Toronto Island and the Royal Ontario Museum.

Today’s images come from Graffiti Alley.

I have shot this part of Toronto for many years, before it began to attract a lot of tourists. Every time I went down to Graffiti Alley, I would be on my own but recently it can become crowded, especially during the summer months. But it was a must to do with my son. It was his first time out shooting this alley, a photographer’s paradise.

Here is a shot of the alley with a few tourists in the background.

There had been a busload of people in that same area a few minutes beforehand. We waited for them to lose interest and move on after which it became rather easy to frame shots without people in them.

The alley is just south of Queen Street near Spadina, about a twenty minute walk from the downtown. We spent roughly two hours shooting in this area. The alley runs several city blocks in length. And the street art is everywhere, on dumpsters, concrete poles, walls, literally anywhere there is an available surface.

Even though Toronto is considered a clean city, Graffiti Alley is full of garbage. Even if the sign tells you that there is no dumping.

Believe it or not, this doorway is an entry into a kitchen at the back of a restaurant on Queen Street. Hopefully the kitchen is a bit cleaner than the doorway.

The street art is vibrant and provides a unique perspective.

Some of the street art is surprisingly compelling given the transitory nature of Graffiti Alley. The walls are constantly being repainted.

It would be a shame to paint over this work.

For context, the same graffiti in the alley.

If you get a chance to visit Toronto, and you are in the downtown area, a walk through Graffiti Alley is a unique experience and recommended particularly if you enjoy photography.