I took a wrong turn on my way to the Mary Washington College Reunion!

And that’s why I wasn’t there.  I should have been concerned when the alums I did connect with in Virginia kept sipping their beers, concealing their laughter and leading me repeatedly to roads that led consistently UP.

Anyway, if you DO live in Virginia, did you see me waving?  I’m pretty sure I could see roughly 65 percent of the state from where I was standing.

Seriously, though — this was my birthday trip to Stony Man Mountain in Shenandoah National Park.  It was unforgettable.  The beauty of the Commonwealth was the perfect balm for the knowledge that I am one year older.

The Stony Man Trail is actually a pretty easy hike, even though the peak is the second highest along the Blue Ridge Mountains’ Skyline Drive.

To clarify some of the content of the below photos:

1)  In the second picture, the ONLY reason that I look so skinny is that the mountains are big by comparison.  It’s physics.  Yeah.

2)  Note the sign at the park visitor center.  One of my friends was totally jonesing for that woefully absent blackberry ice cream, which apparently is part of the park’s fame.  (He was talking about it on the way up.)  It must be good, if the park actually has to post a sign apologizing for running out.  The next time I see the mountains, I am going to have to get some myself just to see what the fuss is about.

3)  Spot the face in the inside of the tree.  And what is it?  A portion of my friends will call “Ent” immediately; others will name Cthulhu or one of his minions.  The inside of a tree can serve as a thematic apperception test.

4)  We met an extremely friendly mountain man in the wilds who was kind enough to let us stay in his home.  (It was surprisingly stately.)  He even had a copy of my book on his mantle, next to a happy, meditating dog statue.  (I see what you did there, man.)

I loved the trip.  If you visit Virginia, treat yourself.  The hike is easier than you think, and you need to experience this at least once.

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