As you may have noticed, changing venues is one of the ways that Souzz and I are sustaining ourselves during the pandemic. Last week’s move was to Lookout Cottage, a beautiful property in the mountains of West Virginia. The cottage is on a ridge above Judy Gap, which is about 50 miles west of Harrisonburg (Virginia). We teleworked a fair amount, but we also enjoyed some amazing sunsets, got in some nice hiking on the weekend, and celebrated Souzz’s birthday along the way.
We were at the head of Germany Valley, near Spruce Knob and Seneca Rocks, so there was plenty to do when we weren’t ‘at the office.’
We got in some adventure each day–including short lunchtime hikes on the days when we had to work. During one of those hikes on nearby North Fork Mountain, we noticed an interesting ridge to the south, on private land. The map identified it as Harmon Rocks, and showed a trail leading up there, but we couldn’t find out much else about it. With our curiosity piqued, we reached out to the land owners, Future Generations University, and asked for (and received) permission to visit.
With permission in hand, we had a new lunch hour destination just out the back door. The trail was short, about 25 minutes one way, but on a beautiful position on the mountain. It wound up and around the shoulder before turning steeply uphill. We were hardly the first folks that had been up there, but I’m sure we were the first in a while (certainly since the last snowfall). It felt like an exploration, and any hike that requires permission feels like one worth taking—although I know there’s absolutely no logic to that.
We kicked our way through a lot of untracked snow, and the trail ultimately led to a scramble to a windswept overlook. At that point, we plopped on the rocks and enjoyed a simple lunch.
Newly curious about Future Generations University, we googled a bit and learned about some interesting research and education that is happening there. The school was founded in 2003, is fully accredited, and is focused on community-based sustainability. Their programs are international and on-line, using the same technology that allowed us to visit the area in the first place. We were totally inspired by their mission and their reach—which was impressive for any institution, let alone one tucked away on a rural mountain top.
As we read about their work, we thought about the irony of the University generously sharing its home community with a few strangers while their faculty and students worked to build community across the globe. We also thought a lot about our own footprint, with our disposable hand warmers, fancy gear, and long drive from home to telework. Heady stuff, especially on a day when I spent the bulk of my morning looking for a misplaced sock.
In the end, we both got a huge lift from our hike to Harmon Rocks, and we agreed that we enjoyed it more than anything else we did on the entire trip. It wasn’t the most remarkable hike we’ve taken, but the discovery and their willingness to share their space were a total bonus. We felted invited in on a secret, and we were reminded once again that the unexpected things in life are often the best.
Reflecting on our trip later, I thought about how much planning and effort I’d put into Souzz’s elegant birthday dinner and presents. And yet somehow I’d been one-upped by a half mile hike to eat a peanut butter sandwich. That kind of irony really isn’t sustainable, but it was definitely the most lasting gift. The pandemic has taken away so much community; it was nice to get a little of it back.