Trip down the Super Highway

A big thank you to my cousins Lisa and Robin for inviting us out to a family farm nearby for a much-needed day in the woods.

I know, we’re already in the woods—but here in the campground we’re surrounded by strangers, whereas out in the middle of several hundred acres of farmland and wilderness, the world seems unchanged by the virus. For several hours I totally forgot about it. Can you imagine?

Rose Retreat and Nellie Mae

I won’t spend time here waxing about this particular farm. (For example, my vivid memories of meeting my first pony, shaggy, stout Flicka, in the back paddock; 30-odd-years later I lived on the farm briefly when Finn was about that same age.)

copyright Robb Scharetg

I will also reluctantly skip over my dad’s side of my family, especially sadly my beloved aunt who bred and raised race horses there.

(Lisa or Robin, do you have an online link to that beautiful newspaper article about Rose Retreat with the photos? I can’t find it.)

None of those topics is within the purview of this travel blog, but believe me, the place is special.

You really will have to trust me, because my photos don’t do it justice. I was trying to preserve the privacy of Larry who manages the horses (as well as the farm’s Facebook page) and my uncle and male cousin who still live on the farm, so I took pictures shots somewhat surreptitiously.

Zoomed-in view of the main house from the road.
My mom told me that, when my aunt and uncle bought the house and land, cows were grazing in the house’s foundation.


One of our plans pre-pandemic was to socialize with my cousins in Richmond on this first Airstream stop, but with that nixed they suggested we stop by the farm where it’s easier to socially distance. Still, I hated to just drop by, knowing it’s still a working farm and it’s been about 15 years since I lived there, But when Lisa texted me saying she’d be there to ride yesterday, we jumped at it.

The products of the farm have changed over the generations, from 4H hogs and a donkey who would sometimes put his head through the window at the house, to kids riding and showing, to breeding and raising racehorses, to a quiet boarding stable now. But to me as a time traveler here, nothing has changed.

The Super Highway

When I was living here, my uncle had just moved on from one of his kajillion projects across Richmond—this one a road through the woods, partially around the perimeter of Rose Retreat. It’s basically a truck-sized path, but the crew cut trees, built over creek crossings and installed drainage pipes, and jokingly called it the Super Highway.

Again, I’m tempted to write about my ritualistic walks down the Super Highway after I’d put Finn to bed each night, with two different dogs through the short years and my deepening love of walking in the woods at night.

I certainly had all the feels on this revisit.

Hotel Heron

Back to the point of this day trip. Lisa had read my entries here about the lake and its herons and how I missed the herons from the Super Highway, so she urged me to get down to see them at Rose Retreat before the rambling thorns and poison ivy made it impossible to access a viewing spot.

Beavers have dammed a creek flowing through the farm and created what was a swamp 15 years ago and now looks like a real lake. They’ve left the old forest trees dead but standing, and herons nest in them every spring,

You can see of three of the five or six nests across the pond.

We stood watching the herons as the parents swooped over the water and landed in their nests, with two babies per nest and at least one parent perched at the top of each tree on watch.

Lisa described it as a heron sanctuary, and she was spot-on.

Picnic in the Middle of Nowhere

We were determined to walk the length of the path through the woods to see if it’s still clear enough to make it to where I remember it ends, and indeed it is passable.

The end’s where we spread a blanket and pulled from Tracy’s backpack a picnic, and after eating we sprawled on our backs, heads turned up to watch the leaves against the blue sky and listen to the birds deep in the woods.

Reminder of What Lasts

One of my favorite quotes is from The Return of the King when Frodo and Sam are slogging toward Mount Doom, dying and weighed down more so by the subsequent ruin of their beloved agrarian culture.

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.

For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.

At our “there”—in the middle of the tall, old trees, with a stream nearby, a pileated woodpecker fussing high above—the world seemed unchanged, beyond the reach of the pandemic and its global fallout.

I know it’s not, but for a few glorious hours I completely forgot that.

I hope you find a way to connect with what hasn’t changed. It is a renewing experience, and your own hope might return.

8 thoughts to “Trip down the Super Highway”

  1. Awesome stuff. Brings back fond memories of the family farm up in Nova Scotia. Glad to hear you guys are getting out and about. Sounds like a wonderful life.

    1. We’re looking forward to you guys visiting us somewhere like this whenever we all can!

  2. Thank you Shelly for sharing all your memories! You guys do not need an invitation! Please visit the farm as much as you can before your journey heads west.

    1. Thank you! – we will!

      Hey, do you know what newspaper article I’m talking about? I found the one in Virginia Living, but online it has only one photo of your mom and none of the farm. Is that the one I’m thinking of with all the gorgeous farm photos – but they didn’t make it to the online version? I thought I read an article that was more about this history of Rose Retreat.

  3. So happy to see this, and remember my own childhood visits to 15 acres my parents bought off the road near Cartersville, with a red-clay pond and a decrepit tin-roof clapboard house.

  4. what a great visit for you!I remember a few years back, going to a childhood spot and having that amazing revelation that even though I had left it, oh maybe 40 years ago, it still remained without me. Nature prevails!