My unplugged vacation was a success! Although I did find that despite being on top of a mountain in basically the Middle of Nowhere, Virginia, I did still have 4G LTE which was surprising and also didn’t entirely cut me off from social media. But I still enjoyed myself immensely and was actually able to RELAX which is a big deal for me.
I even went the whole week without writing or filming or editing any videos! What madness!
But honestly, it was a welcome break from not only my day job (which is video producing/editing) but also my YouTube life. And sometimes you just need a little YouTube vacation!
However, I wanted to share with you, the magical place we stayed because you can stay there too! It’s working farmstead called Cair Paravel (Narnia reference!) and has 3 sites available on AirBnB including the very cool yurt we stayed in!
So if you don’t know what a yurt is, I brought you a handy-dandy dictionary definition:
But it should be noted that we weren’t staying in a movable tent. This yurt (and many others available for rent around the U.S.) is based on the ancient tent-like shelters of Mongolia, but it’s modified to be much more sedentary with a hardwood base and ceiling, a working kitchen and bath, running water, a small A.C. unit, ceiling fans, and even a loft for extra sleeping space! While it’s an open layout with a lattice framework and screened windows with several layers of flaps to open and close in order to help cool/heat the structure, it was really like a beautiful, round cabin in the woods!
Now while the yurt itself was a beautiful sight to behold, it was really all the interesting things that happened while we were there that made our trip memorable.
Clumsy McClumsy Pants
So as soon as we arrived we had to explore the yurt which mean opening up all the cabinets and flipping all the switches to see what they controlled. It also meant running up to the loft area to check out the row of cute twin-size beds and even musical instruments! Parker drummed a bit on the bongos and we looked up through the skylight and marveled at this awesome little place we got to stay in for a few days.
Then we decided to begin our descent so we could make a trip to the grocery store (a nice 30 minute drive) to stock up on food for the week. You would think doing something as simple as walking down some stairs would be easy-breezy for me, right? No. Nothing is easy when it comes to managing my physical body the way it’s supposed to be managed.
Parker took the stairs first and I followed quickly behind. I’d taken about 3 steps when I felt my foot slip a bit and I caught myself. (I was was wearing socks which was my first mistake). And I said, “I’m going to slip, Parker.” But I kept descending and with another 2 steps, my feet slipped again and I reiterated (a little more distressed this time), “I’m going to fall down these stairs!” Then one more step and somehow I was gone, my feet completely out from underneath me as I desperately tried to hold onto the railing and then eventually the cables that lined the stairs. I’m not sure how I managed to fall the last half of the stairwell without killing myself (or at least seriously injuring myself), but somehow I made it off the stairs with just a bit of a sore back from where it had bumped its way down a few stairs. And Parker staring at me like I was crazy.
“Well, you did say you were going to fall down the stairs,” he quipped matter of factly.
So it was with that slightly traumatic instance that I began my vacation. Fortunately I was not seriously injured. And I did NOT go back up the stairs. I also did not wear socks while in the yurt anymore after that. Socks + hardwood floors DO NOT mix well.
The Wildlife – Both Beautiful and Terrifying
We also experienced LOTS of wildlife on our mountain adventures. Some were a bit scary. Like when I spotted a snake slithering through the rocks of the firepit that Parker had just been walking on and around to stoke the fire. (After some research I determined from its markings and head shape that it was a non-venomous water snake. Still creepy but we weren’t in imminent danger. It just liked our warm fire!)
We also had a funnel weaver spider. I tried googling the exact kind of spider it was (Maybe a grass spider? Maybe a barn funnel weaver?) All I know is that it was BIG and it made funnel-shaped webs and it was IN MY BEDROOM. Googling was futile because it just gave me the heebie-jeebies, made my skin tingle, and made me NEVER want to go to Australia because their funnel spiders are deadly. (Is Australia just one big deathtrap?) There was a “Bugzooka” in the yurt which Parker considered using to dispose of this creepy giant in our living space, but he was so high up and Parker is just as freaked out by spiders as I am and it required him to get way too close to it. So…we just lived with a spider roommate all week. We eventually became a bit desensitized to him and would even walk under the doorway where he’d taken up residence. But sometimes he would disappear for a few hours (hopefully just down into a nearby crevice), and it would freak me out. He was much too close to my open luggage and it made me think I would be taking home our new spider friend!
On the not-so-scary side of wildlife encounters, we also ran into a few deer. The first was on our trek back up from White Oak Canyon falls. This encounter was actually a little concerning because it was a lone deer, criss-crossing the trail around us and seeming completely unconcerned with us (or several other human passersby). Parker mentioned it made him wonder if it had rabies. (She got close enough where we could actually see her ribs poking through her sides and I felt like during the height of the summer there should have been enough deer yummies to fill up her tummy. But I also know very little about deer.) It was an interesting experience to get that up close and personal with a deer as we basically walked a good quarter of mile on the trail with her.
The best wildlife encounter though was with a fawn and his momma. (Can you say Bambi!)
These deer were quite a bit more standoffish than the previous one although after determining that we weren’t a threat, the fawn slowly explored his way closer to us as shown in this awesome video:
We also watched the sweet baby deer having a case of the “zoomies” (or rather deciding he needed to show off for his new human friends). He made several laps at top speed on the hill above us with his (probably exasperated mother) looking on and rolling her eyes. All in all, this was probably my favorite experience of the trip!
There was also an instance when I definitely thought I was going to die.
Parker has been begging me to watch “Se7en” for probably a few years now. And for some crazy reason when we were downloading movies to watch while at the yurt and he (I think somewhat jokingly) suggested it, I agreed. I did note that watching a creepy movie in a cabin in the woods is probably NOT the best idea. And what did we do? Watch it at night with the lights off. (Admittedly, we had started it before the sun had gone down and just hadn’t turned any lights on yet. It was not intended to make the creepy factors off the charts!) We were near the end when there’s a general sense of unease because catching the killer seemed just TOO EASY when we suddenly heard a set of footsteps running across the deck outside. Parker and I looked at each other in the glow of the laptop screen like, “What the heck!?” We waited a moment, expecting a knock on the door and perhaps Whitt, the owner of the property to be there. It was about 9:30 PM and bit late for him to show up, but that’s the only thing that would make sense. After a moment’s waiting and no knock nor anymore footsteps, I turned on a light and Parker jumped up and went towards the door. The next few moments were a rush of turning on lights, grabbing sticks as weapons, and peeking through the blinds but finding it too dark to see much. Parker then decided it was best to turn off all the lights, plunging us back into blackness, and lie on the floor listening for more footsteps or just any sounds at all. (I started getting particularly creeped out because the yurt sits up off the ground and there’s significant open space below the deck and body of the yurt that someone could hide in. After literally 15 minutes of lying on the floor and listening, Parker then decided he was going to check the grounds and left me, brandishing his belt like a weapon in the pitch-black yurt while he explored outside with a flashlight. This only made my anxiety worse because though I heard nothing from the outside I kept thinking, “What if he doesn’t come back inside!? This is how all the horror movies start! You never split up!” And I was imagining what I would do, who to call, how to fight, etc. It was an awful 5 minutes in my brain. Parker finally called for me from outside and asked me to come out too. (Which I didn’t particularly like because there were in fact two doors to the yurt and I imagined someone slipping in the second one while I was outside). He said he couldn’t find anyone or anything so it was best just to go back inside and forget about it. Which we did. (Although apparently after I’d gone to sleep that night, Parker had checked the loft area and the outside one more time).
Flash Forward to the next day when I thought, “Maybe it was one of the dogs running across the deck? If it’s a farmstead, surely there might be some dogs loose at night.” I sent our AirBnB host a message telling her about our scare and suggesting that perhaps it was a dog (even though the footsteps we heard did not sound like a normal four legged creature). What we found out is that they 1.) Do have some dogs loose at night and they like to patrol the property and 2.) Most likely we’d heard Tsuki, their three-legged dog, whose gait would have been just a bit different.
You cannot believe how much we laughed when we realized this absolutely was the explanation and how silly we would have looked to anyone on the outside of the situation, lying on the floor listening for footsteps for 15 minutes! It was a welcome relief. And also Tsuki is creamy white/yellow and sweet and definitely not a midnight murder!
Our final adventure of the trip involved turning our four mile hike up to Hightop Mountain into a six mile hike because I didn’t look across the street from our parking area! We ended up going about a mile in the wrong direction (and unfortunately downhill) on our last day of hiking when we were trying to make it up to Hightop Mountain. I was kicking myself for not taking the time to double check the trail and following my gut when we didn’t see an obvious trail head at the start. We were both tired at that point and trying not to overdo it since neither of us has done any significant amount of hiking in the last month or so. But we decided after turning around and making it back to the carpark that we still wanted to make it to top even with the extra pre-intended hike mileage. And we did it! Although we were feeling some fatigue on the way back which is always a little scary on rocky and steep trails like this. One misstep or a weak ankle and you’re out of commission!
But fortunately, it all turned out okay. No twisted ankles. No spider or snake bites. No rabid zombie deer (as far as we know…) I’m so glad we got to spend a week in this magical and special place. We’re definitely planning on going back (preferably in the fall or maybe early winter when it’s a bit cooler). And if you’re interested in staying in the yurt or one of the other cute places at Cair Paravel, you can book it on AirBnB here!