And so just like that, summer is over. Whereas 2 weeks ago, we were braving temps of barely 80 degrees to go to the pool or hang out in seaside locales, this weekend, the ponchos are out. I’m planting mums and shopping for school lunches. Summer’s a wrap. It’s a done deal.
The last weekend of summer---Labor Day weekend---tends to be the last hurrah of the summer for lots of people. We ended up going to Shenandoah State Park, which was established in 1935 by park planners looking to transform a motley patchwork of forest, fields, orchards, and private tracts of land, into a park preserve. They succeeded. This beautiful park, located in Virginia, is like an outdoors United Nations, with people from all over the world coming to marvel at the vast beauty of our American landscape.
As we drove along Skyline Drive, from one overlook to the next, and decamped from our car for various hikes, I never expected to find coffee….but I did. We stopped in at Lewis Mountain Lodge, which functions as part souvenir shop, a place for campers to shower, and a place to simply relax. You can get pretty much whatever you want at the lodge: books, maps, clothing, hats, Virginia pottery, clothing, hats, sundries, cameras, batteries, snacks, postcards, jewelry, magnets---and COFFEE.
Traipsing along next to the bears
So what I can say about the coffee at Lewis Mountain Lodge? It was not remarkable. It was hot, it was good---and it was free, because the kind shop-owner noted my enthusiasm. We fell into a passionate conversation about how coffee makes life better, how healthy it is, and why we can’t live without it. Amidst smiles and a final thank you, I left with my coffee, happy and caffeinated. Good thing, too, because 20 minutes later, I found myself literally 8 feet from two black bears (a momma bear and her cub). Momma Bear saw me looking at her and her baby, she looked back at me, I snapped a quick photo, and I quickly ambled back to the path. I admit, I was nervous---but coffee kept me calm and focused.
During our trip, we stayed at a lovely resort near Harrisonburg, VA. My parents had told me about the White Oaks Lavender Farm, a family-owned farm where more than 20 varieties of lavender grow---a total of 8,000-plus bushes of fragrant, beautiful lavender. White Oak farms even has culinary lavender, which is used not only for coffee, but for tea, jams, jellies, and even ice cream (If you go, try the strawberry-lavender ice cream; you won’t be sorry!).
While I was there, I bought artisan-roasted, fair trade lavender coffee. The minute it started brewing, I could smell the lavender mixing with the coffee---a delicious smell that prefaced a truly amazing coffee-drinking experience. I could “taste” the lavender, and feel little tiny bits of lavender plant in the coffee. Like coffee, lavender has many healthy properties: It’s anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, good for digestion, good for your hair and skin, and chock full of antioxidants.
Speaking of antioxidants, it turns out that coffee is the #1 source of antioxidants in the American diet. Perhaps that’s why coffee is associated with a significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, many types of cancer (breast, colon, liver, brain, etc.), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke. And what happens when you mix coffee with lavender…you get all of the benefits in one, with an overall feeling of being both relaxed and energized. This was a first for me, and it led me to one conclusion. We live in a big, beautiful world, and there are so many places to go, so many things to learn, and so many coffee-drinking experiences left to come. Look towards the vast horizon of possibility---and have a cup of coffee while you do it.