Jan Ellen Ferrigan

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Virginia’s Hidden Destinations

An interesting radio show about…

Virginia’s Hidden Destinations on the Public Radio show Virginia Conversations.

How fun!


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Fairy Stone Park Visit and Book Signing

On the weekend of June 22, my family and I returned to Fairy Stone State Park in Virginia to do a book signing at their Family Summer Fun Day. Park visitors paid reduced admission fees that Saturday and there were a variety of giveaways and a local radio station broadcast from the park.  It was a great day to spend at the Fairy Stone Lake beach.Thanks to those who stopped by and played Park Trivia and/or bought a book at our table.

Fairy Stone is a gem of a park with lots to do, especially in the warmer months when you can swim or paddle on the lake. And of course, Fairy Stone has the legendary fairy stones – purported to bring luck to those who carry the cross-shaped staurolite crystals.  To get a sense of the park and the fun Lotto and his siblings had there, here is a short excerpt from Lotto’s Super-Awesome Unbelievable Park Adventure’s chapter on Fairy Stone.

While the siblings were hiking, they kept hearing noises behind them like someone was there, but every time they turned around they didn’t see anyone.

Finally, they stopped to take a rest and have a drink of water. Lotto and Armond sat on a rock. When they were sipping from their water bottles, they heard rustling in a nearby bush. Riley bent down and peered into the bush.

“Careful!” Armond warned. “There might be an animal in there. Don’t touch it.”

Riley reached under the bush. “This isn’t an animal,” Riley said. “It’s a fairy.”

Lotto and Armond choked on their water. Riley’s hands were cupped in front of her. Lotto and Armond stood up and looked closely at Riley’s hands.

“Whoa!” said Armond. Riley was holding a tiny girl with a frilly dress and sparkly wings.

“What the heck?” Lotto said trying not to act too frightened of something so tiny.

“But fairies aren’t real,” whispered Armond, shaking his head in disbelief.

“I am too,” said the little fairy. She stood up in Riley’s hand and wagged a teeny finger at Armond. “I am as real as the sun in the sky.” She turned and pointed to the sun shining through the tree leaves at the top of the forest.

“She’s real,” said Riley in defense of her new little friend. She gave the fairy a small, gentle hug.

“What’s your name?” Lotto asked.

“Esperanza” said the fairy. “That means hope in Spanish. I suppose you didn’t know that.”

“Well, no, we didn’t,” replied Armond.

Lotto wished Armond would learn to speak for himself. Lotto got an A in his Spanish class and knew exactly what Esperanza meant. “Where did you come from?” Lotto asked.

“Where did you come from?” Esperanza repeated mockingly. “I live here. We all live here.” She pointed to the bush that Riley found her beneath. Lotto and Armond had missed seeing about twenty other little fairies lounging about on the branches. After Esperanza pointed to them, the fairies took flight.

They darted this way and that in small circles around the kids. As the fairies flew by, they saw that the fairies were a mix of little people, almost like they had interrupted a little fairy bus ride. There were skinny ones, chubby ones, light ones, dark ones, young ones and old ones. Lotto worried that Riley might be scared, but she just smiled. Correction, she beamed. Lotto and Armond were freaked.

Armond took a step back and asked the fairies nervously, “What do you want?” His voice came out all shaky like when Mr. Baxter had told them they had to solve a park challenge.

Esperanza landed on Armond’s nose. “We don’t want anything. We have something for you.” Then she laughed a tiny, bubbly laugh and turned around and faced the group of flying fairies. “All right, everyone. In formation!” she yelled. With that, the fairies dropped to the ground and spelled out the letters ROUY, like the way the band and cheerleaders spelled out REDSKINS the time Ms. Shirley took Lotto and Riley to go see a Redskins game.

“Rouy,” Lotto said. “What’s that? Fairy language?”

“No, silly. It is isn’t a word. It’s letters. You have to unscramble the letters to make a word. Don‘t you remember your challenge?”

“That’s our scrambled word?” asked Armond.

“You got it, smartie,” replied Esperanza. “Now, we must get going.” She put her hand to her mouth and gave a whistle. The fairies rose up again and formed a line in mid-air.

“Wait,” Lotto said. “Do you know Mr. Baxter?”

“Everyone knows Mr. Baxter,” said Esperanza as she joined the front of the fairy line. “I hope you find the giant, soggy forest.”

“What does that mean?” asked Armond. He looked panicked.

“Adios.” said Esperanza. “Hang onto your fairy stones, they will bring you luck, just like the President.”

“President Obama?” asked Armond.

“No, President Teddy Roosevelt, silly. He carried a fairy stone. Adios,” called Esperanza from the air. Then, off they flew. If Lotto, Armond and Riley didn’t look too closely, the fairies looked like tiny hummingbirds darting through the forest.

After speaking with a park naturalist at the Family Fun Day, I found out that Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t the only famous person to carry a fairy stone. Franklin Roosevelt also carried one and gave fairy stones  to the Allies in WWII.  Thomas Edison, Woodrow Wilson, and Charles Lindbergh also carried fairy stones. See a nice article about fairy stone myth and history here.

We didn’t get any fairy stones on this trip, but we collected several last year when we visited the park. We haven’t become famous since acquiring them, but as always, we feel lucky:)

Hope you are enjoying summer and finding a beach of your own to relax on.


The Power of Niagara Falls

We stopped at Niagara Falls on our trip to Canada this summer. Growing up in Ontario, I’ve seen the falls a number of times, but they still have a “wow” factor. I can’t look at them without wondering what it would have been like for First Nations and early explorers to come upon the falls without expecting to see them.  Even if one of their buddies told them, “oh yeah, there is a big waterfall over there,” there is no verbal way to accurately describe the sheer awesomeness of an enormous amount of water dropping 50 meters.

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Of course, Niagara Falls aren’t just nice to look at. They produce power. In fact, First Nations and early explorers saw a much grander set of falls. Now, up to 75 percent of the water is diverted for power.  Like all current renewable sources of energy, hydro power is not a perfect energy solution, but it is relatively clean and amazingly simple. Canadian Geographic had an interesting article recently on the new tunnels used for power generation under Niagara Falls.

I understand the need for power. I like lights. Even today, living far away in coal-powered Virginia, I sometimes refer to our utility bill as our “hydro bill.”  But I can’t help thinking wouldn’t it be great, if even for a few minutes, they could let all the water flow over the falls again? Totally unrealistic, I know, but fun to think about.

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Fairy Stone State Park

In the bottom of Virginia, slightly to the west of middle. not too far above the North Carolina border,  is Fairy Stone State Park.

Fairy Stone Park is a far drive from almost everywhere (unless you happen to live nearby). But it is a great little park. We drove 3.5 hours to go there last weekend.  Here is what we found:

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To learn more about fairy stones, see Mr. Baxter’s post below.  The password to access his post is the answer to this question – According to legend, fairy stones are fairy ______:

a) dust

b) patios

c) tears