You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
The Johnson Confederate Breastworks and a walk out the Shenandoah Mountain Trail
Choupette has distinctly zero interest in reading another word about Trump -- fell asleep after two paragraphs. It's 10 January 2021 and most of the Proud Boys' foofaraw is history now. Sort of.
It's a fine day, not terribly cold, and we're out for a bracing walk in the mountains west of Staunton. We're coursing a little more than 20 miles up US Rte 250 (which in fact goes past our front door), on a stretch called the Hanky Mountain Hwy, in the George Washington National Forest to the trailhead of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail.
Passing White's Wayside, between Churchville and West Augusta, a legendary establishment, apparently, and we're determined to book a table there once they've found a vaccine for the Trump Virus.
We're at the trailhead, which is also the site of 'Fort Edward Johnson', the Confederate Breastworks built along the pass over the ridge here in 1862 to prevent two small Union armies in West Virginia from hiking over to harass Staunton and the Shenandoah Valley.
The Breastworks, temporary earthwork fortifications thrown up (to breast height) to protect defenders preventing attackers from passing through, have been fitted out with interpretive signs like this one, and quotations from the letters of one of the rebel participants.
But that will have to wait a bit -- we're bound first out a not-yet-determined distance along the Shenandoah Mountain Trail.
So we begin . . .
. . . with only a passing glance at some of the informative 'signage'.
Fewer trees then, we're told, but we're also told that the soldiers chopped them all down to create a field of fire to the west; surely that's overstated.
Our guide today is anxious to get on the hoof, so we'll need to scurry along to keep up.
With a glance back at the carpark on the pass
Scenic delights. Not the Alps or the Jura, to be honest, but almost a worthy substitute.
The wonderful path runs in a straight line along a narrow ridge northward.
This is either a very popular trail or the management is spending a fortune on its maintenance.
Some parts of forest seem a little less healthy than other parts.
And this part is a paradise for woodpeckers.
The creek, or as they often say here 'the draft', looks to be about 200 meters down on this side, and probably the same on the other.
A useful landmark for figuring out later how far we got, because we're fading a bit and certainly not considering climbing up Shenandoah Mountain. We seem to have come a little less than 2 miles out (it's not like the old days, eh).
Our guide sets a surprisingly sprightly pace back to our little monument to Confederate history.
Fine sunlight always persuades us to linger, or proceed less vigorously with appreciative glances all about us.
But then look what happens. Wait up, hey!
It's probably just round this bend.
Bingo, here we are. The interpretive trail round the Breastworks amounts only to about half a mile, but that leaves time to read all the interesting signs planted along the way.
Like this one. Quoting Jedediah Hotchkiss (1828-1899), a master cartographer who supplied Stonewall Jackson with the first accurate maps of the Shenandoah Valley for the general's 1862 lightning campaign. Hotchkiss died in Staunton in 1899 at the age of 71.
This aging info-sign is a bit hard to read in this photo, and not much easier in person.
The breastwork ditches themselves, protecting the defenders of the summit of the ridge -- it rather seems that before you'd got a good look at the chaps scrambling up the slope, they'd be in your lap. But they knew what they were doing, and I don't.
A hell of a way to make a living, by the looks of it, but of course that wasn't the point. They did all this in February, and slept in tents on the ridge for a long time waiting for something to happen.
Most of the info plaques involve poignant epistolary quotations from Lt. 'Shep' Pryor to his beloved Penelope at home in Georgia. Happily, Shep survived the war and died in 1911 at 82.
The recreated field of fire from the high point along the ridge
We can be glad he made it home. Not all that many did, in that appalling war.
Time to go home. That's the Mountain View General Store stuck way out there on the Hanky Highway. On the Barn Lick Branch of the Calfpasture River.
That's the Buckhorn Inn and B & B, waiting out the covid-19 like everybody else.
And the inviting White's Wayside diner, to remind us of our solemn determination to try it.
Next up: The Ben Cline gala and some disappointingly false snow alarms