A few years ago, around my “big-O” birthday in September, I felt the need to spend some time in true peace and quiet, in pristine nature away from the city. So instead of celebrating with friends in the city or flying down to the beach, I packed my small family into our old SUV and we hit the road from D.C. towards the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The drive through the mountains in itself was beautiful. Some of the green was already starting to turn yellow and red on the mountain sides. I had found a small cottage for rent close to Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. It stood there alone on the mountain side, almost a mile from the nearest neighbors. A perfect refuge to enjoy a few days of nature therapy!
The view was breathtaking, mountains everywhere! But what you could not see from the house was the pristine river in the valley, just behind a steep decline in the “back yard”. Every day we spent time at the river fishing, or just sitting on the boulders listening to the sounds of the water and the nature around us. It was exactly what I had bargained for, a perfect setting for the quiet celebration of this mid-life event.
The steep climb back to the cottage 3-4 times a day gave us a good dose of exercise! And in the afternoons the terrace was the ideal place to take in the natural beauty of the surroundings, with some birthday bubbly and good food.
Our cottage was about an hour’s drive from the world-famous Luray Caverns in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. As we had not yet seen this natural wonder, we decided to exchange fishing for cave exploration for one of the mornings. And did not regret it!
These remarkable caves have formed over millions of years and have an interesting history. Little by little the nature still continues to decorate these caverns through slow seepage of water from the surface above the rock and new deposits accumulate at the rate of one cubic inch in 120 years.
In addition to covering the ceilings and the floors, dripstone or flowstone is also “growing” on the cavern walls in all imaginable colorful formations.
The stalactites are formed in a fluted fashion from the ceiling down and the stalagmites build up in “hills” and ridges from the floor up. When these two formations of deposits meet, a pillar is formed.
Luray Caverns also have several bodies of water, the largest of which is the “dream lake”. The clear water reflects the many colors of the stalactites hanging from the ceiling. Very beautiful.
Visiting these caverns and seeing all the masterful creations was a memorable highlight of my mid-life escape to nature. I think we need such escapes every now and then to reconnect with our origins. Almost heaven…life is old there…that’s how I felt driving back home over the mountains.