Goodness gracious, Great Falls
On the way back from Washington (where I saw the Nationals win) last Thursday, I made a few sightseeing stops, including some old familiar places and a couple that were entirely new to me. The skies were mostly clear, and I had time to kill, so I decided to go see Great Falls, a famous landmark that I had not visited for at least ten years. But first, as I was driving along the sharp curves of Georgetown Pike west of McLean, Virginia, I made a brief impromptu stop at riverside trailhead called Difficult Run. It is nestled in a shady ravine, a nice cool place to be on a hot day. After looking around for birds, etc., I then headed over to Great Falls itself, which is less than a mile away. The water level seemed a bit below average, but it still made for a very impressive view. "Great" seems like an understatement by today's inflated standards, and it occurred to me that they should perhaps rename it "Totally Awesome Falls." I did a bit of walking around, but it was already getting hot, so I retreated into the visitors center for a while and then headed on.
The next stop was The Plains, a small, quaint town with a big pocketbook. It is located near I-66, about ten miles south of Middleburg, in the very heart of Virginia's horse country. Filled with beautiful rolling green pastures and unspoiled by commercial encroachments, it looks much the same as it did a century ago. When I lived in Washington in the 1980s, that was one of my very favorite areas to go on long-distance bicycle excursions. Jacqueline and I had a brief rendevous there, and we drove around to see the local sights off the beaten path. There is an old passenger train station that has been wonderfully preserved, and now serves as a gourmet health food store for pet animals, I think. We also saw Grace Episcopal Church, a beautiful stone structure that is well shaded by tall spruce trees.
Finally, later on in the day, I took a detour off if I-66 at Front Royal and ventured into Fort Valley, an isolated, elongated pocket of land that is is situated between two branches of Massanutten Mountain. (As far as most people know, Massanutten Mountain is a single ridge that divides the North Fork and the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, but it actually splits in two at the halfway point, and is shaped rather like tuning fork.) As you enter Fort Valley from the north, you encounter a narrow, heavily wooded canyon, with the main road following the course of Passage Creek. There are a number of parking areas at which people can revel in the mountain stream, and facilities for picnics and campaign at Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area. (See U.S. Forest Service and/or trails.com for more information.) After lingering a while in the cool shade, I resumed heading south through Fort Valley, admiring the countryside. I turned right at King's Crossing, crossed the peak of the mountain ridge, and then headed into the town of Edinburg, whereupon I took the usual (dull) route along I-81 back to Staunton. The detour into Fort Valley was time well spent.
Scenes from these latest travel "adventures" (loosely defined) are shown on the new Summer 2012 photo gallery page. It also includes some photos I took while attending the rally in support of ousted U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan in Charlottesville last week. The U.Va. Board of Visitors is meeting this afternoon to consider reinstating Sullivan, who has deep and broad support from all sectors of the University community. I certainly hope they do.