Monday, July 13, 2009

A Good Idea?

I visited home over the 4th of July weekend, and while there I was struck with an idea. That idea was to walk a little of the North Mountain Trail at the top of our mountain. I had been down the trail many, many times over the years, and I remembered it was really pretty, very quiet and a good walk. I asked my Mom and my brother to go with me, and they did.

We walked the trail for about 5 minutes and came to the first overlook, I knew it was a good overlook but I also knew a better view awaited just around the next bend. Still, I was caught off-guard with the remarkable view that lay before me.

As I walked closer to the cliff, this was the vista that greeted me.

There was a nice breeze that day, especially considering the wind coming off of Spruce Knob smashed against the cliffs, creating a great updraft. It was a nice contrast to the nearly oppressive humidity. I looked out over Germany Valley for a few minutes then continued on down the trail to my favorite overlook. Along the way, we picked the ripening huckleberries, they were so good.

Then we arrived at a truly breathtaking sight. The strong mountain breezes slapped me in the face as I looked out over beautiful Germany Valley. The cliffs of North Mountain Rocks were a stark contrast to the lush valley below. The huge oak trees under the rocks looked miniature, and there was at least 100 feet from the cliffs to the treetops. I knew of the view that awaited me, but never have I been able to prepare. To me, this is the most beautiful sight in West Virginia.

Of course, no trip to the North Mountain Rocks would be complete without some mention of Old Fon, the legendary goatman who lures small children up to the cliffs and shoves them off. And then there was the obligatory mention of Der Belsnickle, the mean (or perhaps just misunderstood) German version of Santa Claus who came to these cliffs with my ancestors back in the early 1700's.

We also remembered a little girl named Haddie Whitecotton, a friend of my great-grandmaw Mary, who while helping make hay one day, wandered off up into the mountains, and who was found dead over a month later. She was about 5 or 6 years old. The search party found her body up on top of the mountain near a massive mound of boulders. Nobody could figure out how she would have gotten up there through all the rough terrain. Some figured that a mountain lion had carried her up there since her body was covered with leaves when they found her. Others suspected a giant hawk had carried her up on the cliffs. A giant hawk had been seen in the vicinity carrying off a small calf only a week before Haddie turned up missing. Nobody ever knew for sure, and now a lonely little white cross marks the location where Haddie's body was found 100 years ago.

My family has been on this mountain for so long, it seems that everywhere I look I am reminded of a story about one of them. This mountain has sustained my family for so long, we are a part of it. My blood is a part of this mountain, and this mountain is part of my blood. The mountain seems to remember all of us, and it reminds us when we listen.

So what do you think? Was it a good idea to go for a walk out on the North Mountain Rocks? I think so.


Shirley Stewart Burns, Ph.D. said...

I love this part:
"The mountain seems to remember all of us, and it reminds us when we listen."
I have heard that called "blood memory." You certainly have it as do I for my once beautiful, currently decimated mountains. North Mountain is truly something to behold...all of Germany Valley is, really. Absolutely stunning.

Granny Sue said...

Absolutely a good idea. What a beautiful place. The view over Germany Valley has always been one of my favorites. Peaceful, rugged, lush and remote all rolled into one.

Tami Koontz said...

Hi Matthew - I work with Shirley and a few months ago she told me about your website. I started reading your stories and now I find myself constantly checking for new ones. You have such a way with words and your photos are amazing. When I'm reading your stories I'm oblivious to everything around me - you have a gift. Look forward to reading more.

Janet, said...

I think it was a very good idea to go for a walk up the mountain. The view is just gorgeous!

Sharon said...

Very beautiful country! would love to visit your valley and mountain some day.
Yes, it was a good decision.

KIm A said...

Most definitely worth the effort of going for the walk.

Especially so for those of us some distance away, who dream of a time in the future when a visit back to WV will bring with it a glimpse of countryside that you are so lucky to enjoy so often. :-)

Tipper said...

Very good idea-and even better that you took us along. Loved your thoughts about the mountain.

Angela said...

Being from the Charleston area and having visited the Canaan Valley area many times over the past 5 years, I don't know how you don't go home every single weekend! I just love it there.

We have drove through German Valley. It was so beautiful. As is Seneca Rocks, Dolly Sods and the list goes on and on.....

I'm glad that you went on your walk and took those wonderful pictures to share with us on your blog!!!