It is not altogether rare to have fine weather on a February weekend, nor is it rare to have absolutely hideous weather. This weekend has seen both, but we were fortunate to get out into the wilderness for a mountaintop picnic on Saturday before the Sunday Slush rolled in. We chose as our destination Pinnacle of the Blue Ridge.
It has been several years since I have taken this hike, but I remember distinctly finding initials carved under a rock, with the date of 1864. There are carvings like this all across these ridges, made by outliers during the Civil War. Last time I didn’t have my camera with me, so I was eager to document this particular carving.
Denali was most curious about finding this spot, and he had many questions about these men. How did they live up here? What would happen if they were caught? What did they eat? It is hard to imagine what their lives were like during those four terrible years, but what we imagine captivates us, as we wander high on a mountaintop with forest and mist stretching out. An old-timer has told us that far up Rock Creek are boulders that bear similar carvings. You can only see them after a flood scours the stones of moss. We found this JHD’s carving easy enough, and traced his marks with our fingers.
Speaking of moss, there was tons of it on this trail, much to the delight of Zoë. She gathered samples along the way, stowing them in the many pockets of her camping vest. Later at home, she spread out her moss collection on the counter, enchanted with the varieties, and planning the laboratory in which she would study the small, soft plants. I gathered photographic samples.
Even in the ledges of rocks, moss and grass thrive. I wonder what happened to the spirit of JHD, as he clung to life on these very same ledges while a bitter war raged below. Was he broken by his isolation, or did he find a way to survive? Only the stones could tell us that story now.