These Valleys

The Shenandoah

Someone told me once adventure happens when plans meet reality.  Around 5:30 this morning I awoke and began to plan what I was going to do about my current reality. Which was that overnight a flash flood had happened so quickly and with such force that two cold rolled steel brackets and one solid aluminum  pole had been deformed considerably by the weight of water that fell while I was tucked inside the cab writing and not paying attention.

So a morning otherwise devoted to a nice sunrise drive across the blue ridge mountains was spent trying to figure out how to re-bend and reinstall awning brackets that suffered as a result of my poor planning.  Adventure.  It turned out to be a very satisfying repair accomplished over a couple of hours fueled by good coffee and completed without reference to fault.

The net net of all this was a slightly later start to our journey northward, but no less enjoyable.  Sometimes, a good fix results in a good mood. Even if the cause of the need for the good fix is self evident. 

We rolled up the remainder of the Blue Ridge Parkway and into the Shenandoah National Park as if we were on schedule and not at all involved in the previous night’s problems.  This is a a key to happy journeys.  You travel and you adapt and you don’t worry.  

Shenandoah National Park is essentially a continuation of the the Blue Ridge Parkway — you just keep going straight and you go from one to the other.  The Blue Ridge Parkway becomes Skyline Drive.  The result is satisfaction through continuation. If you told anyone in the world you could travel from the corner of western Carolina to just outside of Washington DC without leaving the forest and without seeing anything remotely like civilization, they wouldn’t believe you, but you can. 469 miles of Blue Ridge Parkway, and around 100 miles of Shenandoah National Park.  All sublime, and all a carpet of mountain and valley scenery that comes to you as you come to it — 45 mph, windows down (in our case) and without pretense. This is the southern end of the oldest mountain range on the continent, but it doesn’t brag, it just is.  

Battles were fought here, westward dreams were launched through these gaps, countless generations of those who settled this country found a way through and over these knobs and gaps and forks and balds.  And you can see it all in one continuous thread from Cherokee, NC, to just outside of Washington DC.  Unchanged by anything but time, and still just wild enough to help you dream of what you could be if your life depended on finding the next gap to keep moving and keep looking for a life beyond the one you live now.

We are, on paper, a little behind schedule.  But we sat tonight with deer 10 feet away, cooking dinner and discussing life’s big questions, amidst locust trees and singing frogs and we didn’t think at all about schedules.  Tomorrow we will continue.  We will enter the Allegheny and follow the Appalachian Mountains north getting ever closer to the Eastern Reach of Cape Breton Island.  We may make it as far as we think, or we may make it as far as we can.  But we will make a journey.  And we will wander as we wonder about those who before awoke with adversity, solved problems, and proceeded without concern for what they lost, but rather with anticipation for what they might find ahead.

2 thoughts on “These Valleys

  1. S Monett

    I am struck by your amazing ability to write with such great descriptions of your journey. I am envious of your journey and your willingness to make lemonade out of lemons. Sounds like an experience that will feed the soul. Thanks ever so much for sharing…


  2. Mike Echols

    Likewise, headed to the shores of Maine later this week, but with a little assistance from Delta and National Car Rental. We were up in Nova Scotia a few years back but only as far north as Truro. Safe travels.


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