This is Sunday, but we are early, and the park has few visitors. If Sunday means the day of the sun, it applies, because even at this early hour the day is bright, and the mountains bathed in the morning translucence. The park has a paved serpentine road, that winds up the mountains and winds down the other side. You can stop every few hundred yards at outlook spots, jutting out of the hills, where you can look around, relax, take photos.
The park came into being in 1935, though environmentalists, including a President, had tried to midwife it earlier. Its birth was an interesting model of official and private effort. Private donors gave land and money. The government lent its muscle, evicting people who occupied the grounds: residents were compensated, squatters were made to go. When I first visited the park in 1978, the last occupant was still holding on. Annie Shenk vacated the following year; she was 92 and died.
Curious as it may sound, I miss the geologist colleagues I had during my mining days when I come to the park. Particularly, I miss my Dutch friend, Henk van Veelen, who would look at a stone and start telling me its history. The crest of the mountain range in the park divides the drainage basins of Shenandoah, Potomac, James and Rappahanock rivers. Perhaps that is the reason I have never seen such beautiful rocks anywhere else. There are exquisite granitic rocks a billion years old, and volcanic, sedimentary and clastic rocks half that old. Covered with moss, washed by rain, they sit there with incredible majesty and make me marvel.
I wish you would come with me and walk alongside me in these mountains. Enough of cars and computers and comfort. Just bring yourself and step beside me. You don’t have to do anything, not even talk to me or look at me. I just want to sense you next to me. It is quite enough to know that you are there, with your indulgent smile and fragrant hair. As the dusk settles beyond the azure hills, I will long for the assurance of a benign presence.