Shenandoah National Park
The Shenandoah has been a very special place for Maureen and
I since 1987. We've hiked countless trails and trekked through many, many sites
and long abandoned homesteads. The wildlife, vistas and history give the
Shenandoah a unique character. I've been drawn to the park in a mystical way
since I first traveled "up" the valley on Interstate 81 in 1972. In fact my
first glimpse was driving at dawn as the sun rose over the mountains. It wasn't
until after we started visiting the park that I learned my Great-Great
Grandfather, James Jackson had served in the 1st West Virginia Cavalry during
the Civil War and had fought in battles throughout the valley including Cedar
Creek, Waynesboro, Winchester and others....later he was wounded in a skirmish
fought at Brown's Gap...a one time highway that crosses the Shenandoah Park.
James continued to serve until the end of the war and was present, serving under
General George A. Custer at Appomattox Court House when General Lee
surrendered...all before his 18th birthday.
One of the most unique qualities of the Shenandoah is that
until its establishment as a National Park, it was inhabited. People lived and
died, raised families, worked, planted and mined. These people were "relocated"
when the park was created. If you look carefully echoes of their lives
are everywhere. Orchards and homesteads, and scattered about are the traces of
life...tools, pottery...even old cars....and cemeteries. But its not about the
relics...its about the people and the life that is no more. And always the
In January of 2001 Nikki's husband Dan was teaching in Kettering, Ohio when
he began organizing a field trip for his students . It took months of work by
Dan, Nikki, his fellow teachers and his students but by June, thirteen students
accompanied by a few dedicated volunteer parents and teachers arrived in the
Shenandoah National Park to begin a week of exploration, hiking and camping. I
had hiked in the Shenandoah and on the Appalachian Trail many, many times over
the preceding fifteen years. So I had volunteered to act as the group's guide.
This was a special group of students, parents
and teachers. They worked hard to make the trip possible and when they arrived
they enjoyed themselves thoroughly....They immersed themselves in the
experience. I will always remember these very special people
with great fondness. Since this trip I have never looked at life the same way.....
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