It’s a lovely sunny early autumn day in the Shenandoah Valley as we wake and venture into our farmhouse kitchen after a comfortable night under handmade quilts in our rental cabin. The 18thc floors show their age – bowed and just creaky enough to provide a hint of movement without waking the inhabitants. One can imagine generations slipping quietly up or down those angled stairs with a restless matriarch keeping one ear awake to know the comings and goings.
Four bedrooms can sleep eight with a claw-footed tub in the single bathroom over the kitchen addition on the original cabin built in 1787. We later learn our temporary abode is the oldest structure in the tiny town of 1000 and the owner, after building his home, built the pride and joy grist mill on Stony Creek running into the north fork of the mighty river that twists and turns through this fertile valley on the western foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The mill had been converted at one time into a restaurant and then a foundation purchased it and has filled it chock-a-block up and down with local lore and interesting tidbits with a mishmash of tourist tat, local history books and cast off 20th c antiques in the little shop. It makes me think they buy entire lots, interpret the best and sell off the rest to keep the lights on. We could easily have spent several hours but had some bucolic artistic intentions and vowed to come back for the $3 entry fee for the second and third floors. https://www.edinburgmill.com/
As we settled in for the short drive to the Weems Bottom covered bridge, we passed lovely old farmsteads with either soybeans or cornfields – swatches of bright green awaiting harvest or golden yellow turning fallow in the last drops of seasonal warmth. We brushed off the last vestiges of our normal busy lives in favor of the woodpeckers, crickets and critter noises as we check out the old bridge.
A school bus travels the tree canopy approaching Weems Bottom Bridge
We drive down the treed alley, cross the bridge on widened ties, turn around to come back and walk to experience the bridge with cameras in tow and flattening ourselves on the inner walls when local traffic kalumps through faster than we dared. It’s a working thru-road/short cut to the main route in the valley with a steady stream coming and going. https://www.virginia.org/listings/outdoorsandsports/historicmeemsbottomcoveredbridge/
As we dodged black walnut balls falling in the breeze and wander under the bridge, we notice a ragged couple with stringy hair and saggy jeans wander into the woods for our speculative assessment of only two possibilities – sex or drugs. We didn’t hear rock-n-roll or any other noises but noticed them coming back out a half hour later looking no less scruffy. They cranked up a Harley – momentarily disturbing our peace – as we pulled out drawing and writing supplies under the big old walnut and in site of a 17 foot circumference giant sycamore.
As lunchtime approached, the quiet spot got more and more busy with a gay couple, a group of young women with picnic baskets and a quartet from West Virginia who “came over to the valley to measure” the tree – but forgot their tape. We suggested maybe a rope which could be knotted and measured later, and they thanked us kindly reporting their results after the effort.
Picking up our supplies, we set off back across the bridge for a visit to Rt 11 Chips – a scant 2 miles from the bridge. Perhaps this is the reason for all the traffic! With the inside glass enclosed factory tour closed for the virus protections, the folks at Rt 11 Chips have brought a photo display onto the porch and provide a guided explanation of the process before taking orders on demand for the renown potato chips in various flavors and sizes. One chap had come up for a case of the seasonal specialty Yukon Gold while admonishing the staff to keep the supply chain running as his local store had run out over an hour away and he NEEDED refills for the Redskins game the next day. Rt 11 Chips engender that sort of dedication up and down the valley and throughout the region. Bonus: we discovered that purchasing directly from the factory was indeed cheaper. https://www.rt11.com/
A lazy day in the Valley is heartily recommended at any season but especially in the fall for the bounty of the season and the changing leaves.