A Day On the Mountain

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jun 20, 2015

“You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, remakes all the moves.”
Lito Tejada-flores

There are some places in the world that Evie and I love visiting more than once. One of these places is Skyline Drive in Virginia. This scenic roadway within Shenandoah National Park follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles, going from Front Royal in the north to Rockfish Gap in the south. From Rockfish Gap it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway that stretches 469 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

We were on our way to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for Memorial Day weekend and decided to take Skyline Drive at Front Royal. We began the trip in Pennsylvania but we first had a couple days of leadership obligations in Connecticut. When those were finished our drive south began. 

Our day on the mountain began in Winchester, Virginia, where we had spent the night at a Hampton Inn. As is our custom when we travel like that, our morning began at a leisurely pace. I got ready, went down to the lobby, gathered our breakfast, and brought it to the room for Evie and me. We watched the morning news, made final preparations, packed and were off on I-81 south.

About 10 miles later we went through Front Royal and entered Shenandoah National Park. Several years ago, while at the Grand Canyon, we bought a lifetime pass to any national park. That pass gave us immediate access. The temperature was 65 degrees with hardly a cloud in the sky, a perfect day for a day on the mountain.

As we started our drive to the top we looked at each other and said, “We’re ba-a-a-ck.” Up and up we climbed on those winding roads. The 35-mph speed limit is almost faster than you want to go as you try to take in all of the sights. 

Along the 105 miles of Skyline Drive there are 75 scenic lookouts. Although there are a few that face east, the ones we enjoy the most look to the west. We love to stop, turn off the car, get out and just breathe in the moment. Sometimes we see a beautiful flower at our feet. Sometimes we look though trees to the expansive Shenandoah Valley with I-81 cutting its way through its heart. Sometimes we sit on a bench and just close our eyes in the moment.

No wonder Newmann Buhl said, “Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence.” I have often said that just getting out of town does wonders for one’s perspective. But if you can get out of town and to the top of a mountain, that really impacts our perspective. 

Just as we were pulling out from one of those lookouts, a small black bear crossed the road right in front of our car. Now that may have happened often to you, but for Evie and me, that was the first time in all of our years together that we had ever seen a bear in the wild. Yes, we did get a quick picture as it climbed up the mountain on the other side of the road. We must confess that was one of the highlights of our day on the mountain.

On a previous trip we stopped for lunch at Big Meadows Lodge. That day on the mountain was a day to do so again. We sat there, and as we ate, we savored the moment as well as the food.

John Muir (1838–1914), the Scottish-born American naturalist, author and early advocate of the wilderness in the United States, once said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”  

After that day on the mountain, I agree with John Muir.

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of  
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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