Country Road, Take Me Home

Almost Heaven, West Virginia. These words never meant more than last summer. 

After 22 years, I finally understood what the song means when it says “blue ridge mountains”.

And I understood why my throat chokes every time I hear this song.

Getting to Cranberry Mountain was an experience in itself. Memories of the inclines and untamed gravel roads that led to my grandparents’ house came flooding back. Or maybe it felt like driving out to Mombacho Volcano where there’s that moment of not knowing if the 4x4 truck is going to make it.

Or was it the perfect mix of the gravel, uphill climb in Nicaragua combined with the narrowness and windy roads of Ireland? The only exception is that the severe drop of these cliffs is covered by rows and rows of trees giving the illusion that you are “safe-ish”

After miles and miles of nothing, we reached a beautiful, wood cabin perfectly located in front of 7 mountain ridges.

A thick forest that seemed to go on forever sits right below. Above, the green peaks of the mountains start mixing with some blues. Shadows make it look a little dark in spots, then it’s a deep blue, followed by another shade of blue that make it seem like the ocean is behind all these mountains. And depending on where the sun is hitting, sometimes it’s like Caribbean blue waters.

Then the sky starts peeking, along with some puffy, white clouds.

And finally, above those clouds lies a powder blue sky.

It dawns on me. This is what John Denver means… “Blue Ridge Mountains”.

Falling in love with these country roads was easy on my first trip. I thought it was because the mountains reminded me of my volcanoes. But then, it was the fall leaves, Thanksgiving dinner, and my new, future family…

Shortly after came the summer trips that made me long to go back to its trails and pick blueberries to my hearts’ content.

Dolly Sods, Cooper’s Rock, Black Water Falls… Many summers, many hikes year after year.

My love letter on summer 2020 went like this:

“This trip is different. This trip feels like the mountains are mine, and not just because they remind me of Nicaragua, but because I adore being here.

I love the trees on the trail, the wild flowers, the solitude of the mountains, and the rugged terrain. I love the blue mountain ridge, and the puffy clouds, and the abundant stars on a clear sky. I love the orange moon and the purple sunsets. And I love being here without sharing the trails, the steepness, the ruggedness, the clean trails, and the wild trails. I love it all.

I’m grateful.

I can’t imagine being anywhere else this summer. There are no phones, no electronics, just the sound of the ax against the dead tree branch that the kids just hauled back from the woods.

This summer, I don’t miss the new places I haven’t seen or the trip that was canceled.

I don’t want to leave. I don’t even want to go to the Greenbrier Resort just below this mountain.

Today I don’t really need the fancy tea service and the delicious scones. Today I just want to hike and smell the wild rhododendron and honeysuckle. I want to come back to homemade pizza made with the Italian flour that we bought from our friends in Wheeling, and the wild yeast that we grew in quarantine.

Today I just want to sit in front of these 7 mountain ridges, listen to the wind, and enjoy the feeling of nature restoring my soul.

My chest tightens.

After 22 years, I realize I must be a mountaineer at heart.”

Happy Earth Day! May you find your little piece of "Almost Heaven" wherever you are.