Imagine waking up surrounded by lush tropical foliage, awakened by the sounds of the ocean. Trees heavy with exotic fruit provide you breakfast as the forest around you begins to wake up. Rainbow hued birds respond to the day’s first sunlight with their songs shortly followed by the unmistakable roar of a howler monkey. Creatures of the four-legged variety begin to stir and slowly the jungle around you comes to life. Is this Eden? No my friends, this is Bosque del Cabo.
Thoughts of Africa tend to conjure up images of the continent’s iconic wildlife; cheetahs zipping across the plains, a pride of lions stalking a herd of wildebeest, and the unmistakable silhouette of a rhino surveying his territory at sunset. Sadly that last image may soon become more of a memory that a reality due to daily threat rhinos face from poaching. Rhinos are being killed for their horns at an alarming rate, incidences of poaching have risen by more than 300% in the last four years, from 333 in 2010 to more than 1020 animals in 2014. At this rate it is estimated that the rhino population could become extinct within 20 years.
Seemingly frozen in time the Original Mast General Store has been serving the surrounding rural community since 1883. Tucked away high in the Blue Ridge Mountains the Mast General Store is the anchor of Valle Crucis and is one the National Register of Historic Places as one of the finest examples of an old country general store.
It was New Year’s morning of 2014 when I sat down to write my first words for the Casual Travelist. A short month since my Mom passed and only a few days after she was laid to rest, the pain of our family’s loss was still very raw and all too real. The month leading up to my Mom’s death were a roller coaster of highs and lows in and out of the hospital and my world outside that had stopped. I spent the weeks following in a complete haze, only focusing what was right in front of me. I wore my grief like blinders and really couldn’t think or focus about much of anything. I knew I needed to do something to start moving forward.
The Casual Travelist is nearing its first birthday and one of the best things I’ve found is discovering and connecting with other travel bloggers. I’ve had the pleasure of finding a diverse and welcoming community of people equally passionate about exploring the world and there are some fantastic writers, photographers and story tellers who want to connect others with the myriad of experiences that travel has to offer. These seven bloggers have helped me along my journey or inspired me in one form or another this year and wanted to take this opportunity to share their work with you.
The Mast Farm Inn, tucked deep into North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, is a boutique hotel deeply committed to celebrating its Appalachian roots. Located in Valle Cruces, the Mast Farm Inn is one of the best preserved homesteads in the south, earning a spot on the National Registry of Historic Places and Historic Hotels of America. Driving up to the green and white Victorian past log cabins and pastoral family farms, it was clear to me that time has done little to change this area and the Mast Farm provides a warm homey welcome to travelers today much as it did in the 1800’s.
Now that I’ve had a chance to experience a bit of the Eastern Shore’s present-day oyster heritage and gotten a glimpse of its future with Shooting Point Oyster Company and HM Terry Company I think its time we look at the Eastern Shore’s oyster past. The watermen of the Eastern Sore have usually been independent fishermen who then sold their catch to seafood wholesalers; they caught whatever was in season which traditionally was crabs in the summer and oysters in the cooler months as well as a variety of fish year round. Some accounts liken the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster boom of nineteenth and early twentieth century to California’s gold rush; it was hard work that sustained many and made a few very rich.
Having broadened my oyster palate at Chatham Vineyard’s Merrior and Terrior event and discovering the beautiful Chesapeake Bay inlets where Shooting Point Oyster Company grows its Nassawadox Salts it was time to find out where the sublimely salty-sweet Sewansecott oysters come from. The H.M. Terry Company has been producing oysters in Virginia’s coastal waters for well over 100 years. Located in Willis Wharf, a tiny waterman’s town( that also happens to have some of the best Texas BBQ this side of the Lone Star state), the Terry family has been growing oysters in the peaceful waters of Hog Island Bay for four generations. After two viruses wiped out Virginia’s oyster population in the 1980’s the company switched to raising clams. While they have been quite successful with farming clams H.M. Terry has always at it’s heart been an oyster company and has recently revived their oyster heritage.
Oysters and wine, is there any better pairing of seafood and grape? I think not. Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one of the few places in the world where both of these indulgences are produced within scant miles of each other. Historically Virginia had a booming oyster trade throughout the Chesapeake and along the Atlantic coast that was blighted in the late twentieth century, but a new generation of watermen and women are commited to the resurgence of Virginia’s oyster heritage. November has recently been declared as Virginia Oyster Month and the Virginia Oyster trail has been established to highlight the emergence of Virginia as a premier oyster region.