I like the morning rush of a Saturday in springtime — the birds chirping exquisitely as they dart from worm to worm, wet grass beneath my bare feet as I race to the driveway to retrieve a dew-dipped newspaper, the blare of a manual alarm clock replaced by my own hushed awareness that the day is beginning.
Today, my body clock nudged me awake a little after 5am, and I’m loving the peaceful quiet of my Saturday morning. That will change shortly, of course. Five children will pound down the stairs in search of sustenance. The dogs will hover, waiting impatiently for their dishes to be filled. Soccer uniforms and baseball gloves will need to be hunted down. But for now, I’m reveling in the solitude of this rare Saturday morning. I can write the blog I wanted to write last weekend, after our completely spontaneous Sunday adventure.
We woke up everyone at a little after 7am so we could be at Saint James for the 7:45am service. Immediately afterwards, we piled into the Yukon and headed west to find Pine Grove Restaurant, an unassuming brown wood building that houses one of the yummiest country-style breakfasts this family of seven has found around the county. Pine Grove is located in Bluemont at 574 Pine Grove Road, just off Route 7 West. Not only is the food delicious, but the wait staff couldn’t be friendlier or more accommodating. When we visited near Halloween, the girls were decked out in their country bumpkin best–including painted on freckles, pony tails and blacked out front teeth. When you chat with the staff, which of course we do, it’s evident that working here is nearly as fun as eating here. Attitude is everything, and
at Pine Grove Restaurant, service with a smile makes the meal all the more delightful.
On this early Sunday morning in May, we arrived with big-breakfast appetites, and were pleased with every aspect of our overly generous portions. Our kids wanted cheddar cheese in their eggs–no problem. I so appreciate that my steaming hot coffee is served in an extra-large ceramic coffee mug…not a dainty tea cup that needs three refills to equal a normal cup of coffee. Daily specials are listed on the blackboard, behind the cash register. Today, it was blueberry pancakes ($3.50 and so large they hung over the sides of the plate) and the tomato, feta and spinach omelette ($6.95). They also offer the 1-1-1 or 2-2-2 breakfast specials, which are easy on the wallet. Choose one egg, one meat and one bread–or two if your appetite, like our teen boys, is a little heftier. We’re usually torn between the sausage patties (mmmm) or the bacon strips, and flip a coin between their pancakes and french toast. Sean, our youngest at eight, has his own menu-must: the egg and sausage sandwich ($4.95).
Given to Pine Grove’s proximity to the Appalachian Trail, you’re as likely to spot a thru-hiker catching a hot meal as you are a local retired couple in their Sunday finest. We like this diversity, and the lack of pretense. There’s nothing fancy about Pine Grove, but everything feels just right the moment you walk through the door. It’s country perfect, and for this family of seven, we’ll take that any day of the week.
If you venture out to Pine Grove for breakfast, you’ve got plenty of time to hit the AT for a short hike to one of the best overlooks in the county: Bear’s Den. Buemont rests at the base of Snickers Gap and the Blue Ridge Mountains. According to LoudounHistory.org, Bluemont is the county’s loftiest community, perched at 680 feet, with the still-higher mountains as a beautiful backdrop. Bear’s Den Overlook provides a spectacular view of the Shenandoah River from high atop a rock outcropping. You can hike the moderately difficult trail–with kids and pets alike–from two directions. Our favorite route is to start from the public parking lot just off Route 7–at Blue Ridge Mountain Road. This is about a mile and half climb over somewhat rocky trails bordered by mountain laurel. Or, you can take the easy road, enter Bear’s Den from Blue Ridge Mountain Road, park in the lower lot and walk to Bear’s Den Hostel, and then follow signs to the AT and overlook. Either way, it’s a picture-perfect, year-round destination and one of nature’s best playgrounds, with plenty of rocks for young kids to slither through.
In all, we found 12 geocaches, some along rarely traveled dirt and gravel roads, others expertly hidden along Main Street in plain view. The three kids who came along, although slightly squished in the rear seat of our Jeep, only broke into backseat squabbles a few times, thank goodness. It was an incredible day out and about in Loudoun and Clarke counties–not necessarily because of what we did or where we went, but because our day wasn’t scheduled to the minute or even the hour. After church, we just rambled west, our GPS leading us to the next great cache. The more geocaching we do, the more we realize that the best part of this newfound passion is that it gets us outside, together, and never fails to deliver something unexpected–new information, new sites, new challenges.
On our way home from Berryville, we stopped at another of our family’s favorite destinations: Hill High Orchard, the well-known Route 7 landmark with the covered wagon sitting out front. You should never be in such a hurry that you can’t stop at Hill High. Sodas, ice cream, barbecue and country ham sandwiches, preserves, coffee, country crafts and dozens of flaky, mouth-watering pies that can be boxed in about two minutes flat. Hill High currently shares their building with an art gallery and winery–more reasons to visit. You can grab breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a snack for the car ride. This general store, with its worn hardwood floors and shelves teeming with local preserves and crafts, is just the place to “feel” LoCo.
A FEW OTHER NEARBY STOPOVERS:
I’m going to add a few more pictures to this when I can figure out how to post without sending my text haywire. Right now, I’m slightly frustrated by my own ignorance. I’ll tackle those editing details later. For now, I’m off to enjoy my weekend–plant some perennials, clean the upstairs bathrooms and head to the NOVAGO spring geocaching event at the Blue Ridge Center tomorrow, a first for our family. Hope you enjoy your weekend…get out there and live the life God intended us to live…surrounded by his awesome creation.
Wherever you go, be Loudoun Crazy–Martha