|It had been a couple of years since I hiked some of the trails at Shenandoah National Park and over the last two weeks I went twice, the second time after having so much fun during the first hike.
I first I hiked a modified Rose River trail so that I could see both, the Dark Hollow and the Rose River falls. As much as I love waterfalls, it is the smaller cascades that I love seeing and the Rose River has a number of them tumbling down moss covered, timeless boulders, with the green color of the moss accentuating the gray rocks in the sunshine. The following week I hiked the South River trail at the very south end of the Central District of the park. The South River water fall is the third largest in the park but again, it is the smaller cascades rushing down the canyons that appeal to me.
Having lived in the Washington Metro Area for a lifetime, I am well aware of the growth and the resulting changes that have occurred over the last 30+ years but I still marvel at the population density along the way to Shenandoah. I traveled west on I-66 (and then Rt. 29 and 211 on one of the trips) at about 7:00AM and for forty mails – forty miles! – traffic was crawling east-bound towards Washington, bumper to bumper, a numbing journey; at 7:00PM when I was coming back home, the same volume of traffic was crawling back, west-bound this time. Next day it would be the same again. Vienna, Manassas, Gainesville, and Warrenton – all points west of Washington – are unrecognizable from a decade ago.
I can go on decrying the sameness of the towns along the way – malls with the same stores, the same gas stations, the same junk food joints as anywhere else (mostly) – but shortly after Warrenton, the “Virginia is for Lovers” motto becomes real: rolling hills, tree half-canopies over the road, vineyards – a great way to make Virginia even more lovable – farms, horses, still more vineyards and cellars, a lot of history and by the time one reaches Amissville, the mountains are right there in front of you.
It was still early when I reached Skyline Drive. Because the higher altitude in the mountains, summer arrives just a bit later than at other places so the trees were still in the process of dressing for summer time and the ferns along the road were still uncoiling, unwinding towards the sky.
Lots of history there too: the park was created when government accomplished things, when it had not been declared a “problem” yet, when the roads and facilities in the park were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), created by the government to provide jobs to young mean during the Great Depression. That’s the good side; there is bad, too: many locals were forced to leave the area to create the park.
Most hikes in the Shenandoah have one thing in common: they start at Skyline Drive on the spine of the mountains and from there the trails descend, in some cases more than 2500 feet, which makes the return to the car quite challenging. In these two hikes the altitude difference was only about 900 feet each but still, the last few hundred feet on the return leg seemed forever.
Bad things can happen on these trails as some are very rocky, and when one is used to walking on nice, smooth, flat sidewalks in the city, we forget to lift our feet with every step we take so it is easy to trip on rocks, tree roots and fallen branches. A fall on these sharp rocks, if nothing else, is gonna hurt a lot. And there is the danger of miscalculating your level of fitness and how slippery the rocks can be. Garrison Keillor in his News from Lake Wobegon monolog talks about his people, the Lutherans of Scandinavian ancestry and inhabitants of the fictional Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon, and how they manage negotiating icy places by being blessed by a low center of gravity, as he put it, and that’s a good approach on the slippery trails: low to the ground; more like dragging your behinds over the rocks in my case!
But the rewards are immense: streams, waterfalls, birds singing, wild flowers – mountain laurel, wild azaleas-, etc. All of the reasons why to go to the mountains.
And I have the pictures to prove it!
Making Smiles into Memories
|Long, long ago, at a much younger age and at a different time, a friendship formed, grew and blossomed. We spent long hours together, not in silence but not in boisterous riot of sounds either, getting to know each other better, as good friends do. She was already accomplished while I, a novice; her ancestors formed a long line in history, from the Arab world to the Spanish peninsula where they entertained royalty and peasants alike, to the Americas in the company of the Spanish “conquistadores” of long ago, so she had pedigree, while I, of peasant roots. I met some of her relatives in yet another place and time in my early years, never forming a bond with them but growing intrigued. I did not meet her in then for she had not wandered off from Spain yet, and more precisely she had not left her home at Calle Mayor in Madrid *. It wasn’t until much later when she embarked to the US and where we met, both of us foreigners in a new land . She was, and she is, beautiful with a melodious voice and a slender, curvaceous, sensuous body.
Our closeness grew as it always does in a good friendship, but at some point we reached a plateau and she demanded more time, dedicated time, quality time, alone-together time. I fell short of her demands: the time she demanded I did not have for there was a mortgage to pay and a demanding job to make it possible; there were travels to distant lands that the job that paid the mortgage demanded and she could not come along, not because I did not want to take her along with me but because it was not possible. Slowly, but as surely as the seasons change year after year, we grew apart. There was never a recrimination or a complaint but I no longer held her as I once did and my hands felt empty; her voice, once melodious, was now silent.
As the wind that moves the sand that moves the dunes inland, a grain of sand at a time, over time the mortgage was paid; the job that paid the mortgage which demanded the travels, mercifully ended, and I was left with time in my hands and a deep nostalgia for the days when I held her in my arms and we sang together melodies that I had before sang alone in my wanderings along the trails of my life: I missed her dearly. Perhaps I thought; perhaps, I wished; perhaps, I dreamed; perhaps we could get together again? What if I had changed so much, and not for the better? What if we could no longer sing together the same songs we once sang, and even worse, what if we could no longer make music together?
I dared the chance and when I came looking for her she was still there. She had been patient and faithful, waiting all of these years, always beautiful, always radiant. Upon the embrace of old friends, the curves of her body in my arms felt so familiar; the same voice, unchanged by time; the same softness in my hands. We were tentative at first, I more cautious and uncertain, and she responsive as she always was. And we could sing again; we could still make music together.
I know she is demanding but now I do have time to give her and time to sing and time to love the songs we sing together; old friendships like ours never die. My guitar and I, together again.
* Made by Manuel Contreras, Luthier, Calle Mayor #80, Madrid, Spain http://www.manuelcontreras.com/index/en
Making Smiles into Memories
|A short visit to the Maryland Cunningham Falls State Park today. As usual this time of the year, there were not many people visiting except for a few hardy souls trying to negotiate a very slippery trail from the parking lot to the Cunningham Falls. The falls are almost frozen now and they are more magnificent than in summer time, at least to my eyes.
I ventured off the beaten path to go exploring along the river, away from the hiking trail and I came up to some beautiful ice-encrusted, small falls. Reaching the river was a lot more than what I had bargained for until I came across a path that deer use to reach their watering hole; deer know best!
Making Smiles into Memories