I live along the California coast where the weather is unusually mild. We broil when the temperature reaches 80 degrees, a rarity, and we drag out the woolies in the low fifties. Therefore, witnessing the change of seasons is always a true treat. A year ago, my husband and I took a historical tour of the East Coast at the perfect time: the leaves were turning.
Perhaps the most dramatic experience of visual delight came in the Shenandoah Valley, named for the river that lines much of its length. The valley consists of nine counties in Virginia and two in West Virginia. Famed for autumn displays like the picture below, (courtesy of Dreamstime), our group looked forward to our stay at Big Meadows Lodge, located in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, at 3,510 feet above sea level. Every balcony of the original building overlooks the valley.
The historic lodge was built in the late 1930’s with stones cut from Massanutten Mountain, which bisects the valley. Sadly, rain and fog obscured much of our views, but we still managed to enjoy plenty of local and fall color. The following pictures are mine.
The Shenandoah Valley is gorgeous any time, bordered on the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, to the north by the Potomac River and south by the James River. Kind of the confluence of many of the places and rivers we’d visited.
Many legends abound as to how the valley got its name. The one I like best comes from the Iroquois, one of my favorite tribes. It is said Chief Sherando (also the name of his people) fought against the ruler of the Powhatan Confederacy–the Algonquian chief Opechancanough, (1618-1644), and was driven back to his original territory at the Great Lakes by Opechancanough’s son, Sheeva-a-nee, whose descendants became the Shawnee. I like how several tribes kind of mashed together in this account.
After this, colonial settlement of the farm-rich valley was delayed by the barrier of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1671, they were finally crossed by explorer John Lederer at Manassas Gap, and Cadwallader Jones in 1682.
The first permanent white settler in the valley was Adam Miller, or Mueller, who staked out a claim in 1727 on the south fork of the river near today’s division of Rockingham and Page Counties. A Native road through common tribal hunting grounds soon became the Great Wagon Road. This road, later called the Valley Turnpike, soon brought more settlers in from Pennsylvania and northern Virginia, including Quakers and Mennonites who apparently were fairly well received by the natives. The German settlers became known as “Shenandoah Deitsch” and may Scots-Irish immigrated into the valley via the Potomac River.
During the Civil War, the valley was known as the “breadbasket of the Confederacy” and became a back door for Confederate raids on Maryland, Washington, and Pennsylvania. In the 20th century, the valley’s vineyards reached maturity and the new industry of viticulture began.
Whenever you get there, the Shenandoah Valley is a terrific place to visit.
As John Denver (one of my favorites)sings:
Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains
SOUL FOOD available now. ANGEL CHILD early 2013