At the end of July, Guitar Dude and I headed up to Damascus, Virginia to see my dad and uncle. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here before, but some of my fondest childhood memories are as a result of time spent at my Grandma and Grandpa Hamm’s place in Damascus. Really, there’s not much to the town itself, other than a pretty kickass breakfast biscuit at Cowboy’s and, of course, Trail Days, but there’s just something I love about it all the same. Since we weren’t able to make it up to Trail Days the last couple years, we decided to make a visit one quiet weekend.
Saturday morning, after my dad made us a delicious breakfast of biscuits and gravy, we decided to head up Whitetop Mountain. We took the “back way,” which means we went via dirt road instead of paved, and the ride was really breathtaking. When I say I love the mountains, I don’t just mean I enjoy spending time in them. No, I mean something about the Appalachian Mountains moves my soul. I feel something deep in my being that I simply don’t feel anywhere else. The deeper in the mountains, the better. So, as we ascended Whitetop, I could feel the peacefulness rising up inside me. By the time we reached the summit and I opened my door to get out (because we drove, not hiked – we might be crazy, but we ain’t dumb), the crisp, clean air made me damn near euphoric. Now, for Guitar Dude that feeling might have been altitude sickness. He’s a lowlander straight out of South Florida. Me? The thinner the air, the better I breathe. Of course, I say that having never been higher than 6,000 feet.
As we puttered around on top of Whitetop for a little while, me taking photos galore, I was recalling in my mind the times I came there with my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and/or cousins at various times in my childhood. One time in particular, I seem to recall there being a mountain lion somewhere nearby that caused us to promptly vacate the area. My dad doesn’t recall that story, so I can’t tell you if I made it up in my imagination or if it really happened, but I think it adds to the allure of the area now (mainly because we did not get eaten by a mountain lion while we were there). One thing I know for sure, though, the mountains around Damascus, Taylor’s Valley, and Whitetop are very special to me, and I hope I can always return to this area that calls to my heart.