Ramble On

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

...more than just a pretty picture...

A few months ago, after hearing for a few years about the road that climbs Balkamore Hill near Stanley, I decided to take the drive up there.  This view appears suddenly after you round one of the bends.  It's become one of my favorites.

After discovering it, I met Chris Gould, who organizes the bike races in Page County. He told me that this was also one of his favorites, only that when the riders pass it, it's at their backs - they may never even see it.

He explained some technical matters about the race course and its requisite climbs and recoveries, and how the descent and eventual turn down into Kite Hollow make this route the way it has to be for the bike race.

Their loss, but there's no shortage of great scenery for those riders!

I'm in Las Vegas this week and brought along a book for in flight reading.  I've been holding onto this one for some time:  The Shenandoah Valley, 1861-1865: The Destruction of the Granary of the Confederacy , by Michael G. Mahon (Amazon link below).  My refreshed view from Balkamore Hill over the weekend made a passage in Chapter 1, "The Daughter of the Stars - History of the Valley" strike a chord.

Quoting from Mahon-

In early times, the Valley was primarily a vast prairie of bluegrass and clover.  Forest and dense stands of timber were found only along the banks of rivers and streams in the mountain hollows.  Buffalo, deer, elk, bears, wolves, beavers, and other wildlife roamed the low, rolling countryside.

Before the arrival of Europeans, the Valley was the domain of the Cinela, Susquehanough, Senedo, and Tuscarora tribes, which resided along the rivers and streams.  Catawba, Cherokees, Shawnees, and Delawares, who lived in neighboring regions, oftgen visited the Valley.

Every year bands of young braves stalked the migrating herds up and down the Valley, always mindful to take only what they needed, thus assuring an amply supply for the future.  The Indians routinely set fire to the dry grasses every fall, preventing the forests and thick underbrush from overtaking the open prairie and ensuring that fresh grass would be plentiful in the spring.  The richness and fertility of the Valley awed the Indians; believing that it was a gift from the heavens, they named it the "Daughter of the Stars."

Of course the book moves on into the Civil War history of the Valley - from Lexington on up to Harpers Ferry.  But I found this historical description compelling.

Amazon Link:

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