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Sabbath Weekend – Oh Shenandoah

July 31, 2016

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Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you. Away, you rolling river.
Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you. Away, I’m bound away, across the wide Missouri.

I’ve spent the last two weeks studying Church Business Administration at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. As mentioned in a previous Sabbath post, I tried to make the most of study trip by simultaneously tracking down some of family history in Virginia (particularly the Morgan, Alley, and Allen lines) as well as Maryland (my Plowman ancestors). I also used the trip down to hike parts of the Appalachian Trail in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland (including a walk across the Shenandoah River.

But two full weeks in class studying finance, budgets, communications, HR, insurance, etc., meant missing two Sabbaths. So I used the weekend in between classes to hike the AT in the Blue Ridge Mountains overlooking the Shenandoah Valley.

Right after class on Friday I headed for the trail. I had five miles to hike to reach camp, and I did not make it before dark. My last mile of switchbacks included hiking with my flashlight and startling a coyote. Met a pretty cool father overnighting with his two sons when I finally reached the Paul Wolf Shelter. Discovered that I can put up my tent in the dark (which is good to know).

Saturday was a 20 mile round trip up Humpback Mountain (an elevation gain of at least 1500 feet) and back down, plus the five miles from Paul Wolf back to my car. Humpback Rocks was stunning. And crowded. While I climbed seven miles to get there, there is a picnic area and parking lot just a mile below the rocks. I met a whole busload of touring high school orchestra students. (And thus plenty of someones to take my photo).

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After reaching the rocks I continued another mile and half up to the summit to look over the other side. Then the long walk back down. Most exciting were the seven bear, including the mother with her cub. Sitting on the path! I tried to be quiet and think invisible thoughts, but couldn’t help thinking that my fingers smelled like the beef jerky I ate for lunch.

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The point of the weekend was to meet a personal goal: hiking 20 miles in a day with all my gear on the Appalachian Trail. I found my trail legs doing 25 mile out and back from Rockfish Gap to Mill Creek and over Humpback Mountain.

For the record, with the exception of the nights of rain, I managed to take a significant walks each evening I was in Richmond. The Airbnb I stayed at was just a block from Maymont Park and the James River. I hike the North Bank Trail South one evening along the East Tuckahoe River, and North on another along the James. I spent another evening on Bell Island, wading in the water.

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I visited the Japanese Gardens and the Italian Garden in Maymont, as well as taking in a stunning sunset over a boat pond. (Lots of photos on my Facebook page).

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And on yet another evening I walked the six mile Richmond Slave Trail from the Manchester Docks on the south shore of the James River, over the Mayo Island Bridge, into the heart of slave trading Richmond. “No state traded more slaves than Virginia, and no city more than Richmond.” The Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site and African Burying Ground are currently under redevelopment and could not be visited.

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Truly, the two weeks of study at Union were a great investment by my church which will bear fruit for years to come, but these hikes and walks fed my soul. It has taken me a long time to figure out how enjoy and learn from the places I have gone to study. This feels like a breakthrough for me. 🙂

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