Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Being Part of a Pilgrimage

Saturday October 6, 2018                                               Most Recent Posts:
Charlottesville, Virginia                                                   
Leaving the Great Smokies and Flying Through Fall
                                                             Saved the Best for Last: Ramsey Cascades


In July of this year, 100 area residents boarded a bus for a pilgrimage from Charlottesville, Virginia to Montgomery Alabama with two purposes.

First purpose, to deliver soil from the site of John Herny James lynching just outside of Charlottesville in 1898 to the Montgomery Alabama collection at the Equal Justice Initiative, which opened the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in commemoration of the nation’s lynchings earlier this year.  Secondly to understand the relationship between Charlottesville’s 2017 summer of hate and our town and the country’s long history of racial terrorism.  

After reading accounts of this moving pilgrimage I am sorry to have missed it.  I am proud of my fellow citizens for orgnizing this and bring such lost history to the forefront.  I am sure there is more to be discovered, reclaimed and owned.  There are several good articles on the bus tour.  The best and most moving was sensitively written by Lisa Provance and published by Cville on July 18th.  Here’s the link.   The Washington Post covered the pre gathering at the lynching site in this article.

I will admit to having no small amount of white guilt for what my country and fellow citizens did in the past and continue to do in the present to both Native Americans and Black Americans.  I did not personally do any of these things and neither did members of my family for the 3 generations I can trace.  Still, though not a member of the 1% by a long run,  I am a member of the priviledged class and it is high time we all took a look at what it is and has been like for those on the outside of this protection.

A second pilgrimage is scheduled for October 6 to 13.  I am only able to attend the first of the three events that make up the Pilgrimage of Transformation.   My Mohs surgery makes the other two not possible for me.  In hindsight I realize I should have cancelled the surgery, gone on the full Pilgrimage and rescheduled to have the carcinoma taken care of by a plastic surgeon.  If you want to read more about that, you can find it in my previous post.  That link is in blue at the top of this page.

On Saturday October 6, a group gathered for a 4 mile pilgrimage from the 1895 Jefferson School, the first school for Black children in this area, to the Slave Graveyard at Monticello.  The march is orgnized and sponsored by the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, made up of over 50 religious leaders of the community, in response to the violance of the summer of 2017 in Charlottesville.  I was not here during those days and was shocked to see how the poison of racism can infect, divide and kill.  Like many other long time members of this community I did not realize the extent of the racism in the history of the city and county. 

The Reverand Liz Emery with New Beginnings Christian Community and a member of the Clergy Collective talks about “racism” in America as “prejudice sanctioned by institutional power that upholds a white supremacist value system.  She tells us, “This racism first decimated the indigenous American Indians and then enslaved people of African and Caribbean descent. As people of faith, we know that we cannot move forward as a healed community without first telling the truth about our past, acknowledging our long history of racism, and turning from it.”

This march is a part of those goals.  We are marching to honor the work of slaves in the building of our city, the University of Virginia and Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello.  We are marching to remember the Auction Block in Charlottesville.  We are marching to remember the names of the 400 slaves of Monticello. Many of us are marching in recognition that the remnants of slavery still exist in our society, our institutions and in too many hearts.


We march through Charlottesville passing the sites of last summer’s confrontation between resurgent white supremacists and our community.  We pass Market Street Park where a marker is proposed to remember the July 12, 1898 lynching of John Henry James in 1898 and the court square site where enslaved persons were auctioned.



We fill the sidewalks as we approach the lunch break stop at Belmont Baptist Church where food trucks are available if you didn’t pack a lunch.



At Monticello we gather at the site of the African American Burial Ground which was identifed by Archeological investigations in 2001 as a slave burial ground.  Men, women, and children who lived in slavery at Monticello from 1770 to 1827 are believed to have been buried here.


The graveyard was a visible and readily accessible  part of the Monticello landscape.  It was situated on a road that linked Monticello Montaintop with a public road to Charlottesville.  The graveyard’s location was away from slave dwellings at the edges of plantation fields and on Mulberry Row.

Below this diagram of the graveyard, the archeology of its discovery is explained.


Gayle Jessup White, a decendent of family enslaved on the plantation here, is now employed by Monticello in bringing the lives of her ancestors to light.  She tells us “I am proud to walk in their footsteps because I work here at Monticello where they labored.”

She explains that almost four hundred persons lived in slavery at Monticello over a sixty-year-period and well over forty graves are estimated to be within this area. Some of the graves have un-inscribed fieldstones at the head or foot, but there are no surviving markers. 

We leave the cemetery and walk on up the mountain to Mulberry Row, the location of the slave cabins at Monticello.


We arrive to find music being played on the most popular of instruments owned by slaves, the violin/fiddle..  The music chosen has been researched as that most likely to have been played here during the years in question.


We hear family stories from decendents of the slaves who lived and worked here.  Gayle Jessup White and  Calvin Jefferson share stories passed down through generations in their families;  stories which eventually were researched and led to the ongoing recovery of the lives of these people and their connection to Thomas Jefferson and Monticello.


As we gather to listen, small pieces of compostable paper implanted with seeds are given two to each person.  Written on each paper is the name of a slave of Monticello.


We are asked to take them home and plant them in memory of those whose lives are being resurrected and remembered.


And then comes the reading of the names.  Because of Thomas Jefferson’s detailed accounts of everything at Monticello, the names of these 400 people are known and are read one by one as the conclusion to the pilgrimage.  They have been buried here as property but today they are honored as people vital to this place in their time.    Members of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective step to the microphone and read a list of names until all 400 have been spoken aloud.

The man in the foreground is filming this short local TV video of highlights of the Pilgrimage and the reading of the names.


These are the  names read out one at a time.  The men and women and children of Monticello.

This has been a solem occasion and before we leave, we are told about the Contemplative Place that Monticello intends to create here on Mulberry Row to honor these 400 people, a site dedicated to their memory and identifying the names of the individuals.  The exact design and location has not yet been determined.  I hope to return and see the finished memorial.

IMG_3261Walking back down the mountain, some of us stop by the Jefferson Family Cemetery.
A very different spot from the one we have just seen.   Whether the descendents of Sally Hemmings children whom historians say, after results of 1998 DNA tests, were likely fathered by Thoms Jefferson, will be permitted to be buried here or will the Slave Graveyard be expanded for them does not seem to be much of an issue any longer.  There are still those members of the Monticello Association who will not accept the apparent facts but things are improving as is seen with this pilgrimage, the inclusion of the Slave stories in the tours at Monticello and the planned memorial.   The most recent article I read about the decendents was this one
from the New York Times June 16, 2018

IMG_3262The Charlottesville Clergy Collective had planned two other pilgrimages which I wish I had attended.    On Friday October 12, participants traveled by bus to Richmond to walk the trail taken by enslaved people who were transported from ships to a holding jail and then to the auction block.  On Saturday, October 13, the Journey of Transformation concluded as participants tour Jamestown National Park for a First Africans tour, and then moved on to a sunset service at Fort Monroe, where the first ship brought enslaved Africans to this shore almost 400 years ago.

I’m proud of my little city and especially the Clergy Collective for  its efforts to recognize all of its history.  It was humbling to be a part of even this one event.

Leaving the Great Smokies and Flying Through Fall

Friday August 24- October 31, 2018                                                   Most Recent Posts
Charlottesville, Virginia                                                                       Saved the Best for Last: Ramsey Cascades
                                                                                                           The Closest Trail to Home: Roundtop

After all the detailed posts of hiking the Great Smokies, this one is going to zoom right out of summer and through most of the fall.

Back to AUGUST


I spend the day after hiking to wonderful Ramsey Cascades making soup and waiting for David to come.  The day is lovely so I’m able to sit out in the shade in the afternoon and enjoy the bit of view in my back yard.  I am reading a great book on the park as I wait.

It’s a long drive and David arrives late and tired..  He’s been looking forward to dong some hiking but recent severe pain in his left leg when standing or walking may compromise what we can do. 

The next day, Saturday, we go out for breakfast which is usually guaranteed to perk David up. Hiking turns into a drive on Saturday and by Sunday he has a fever.  He was supposed to stay here until the end of August but I decide to leave early, on Monday, to get back to a doctor.

Monday night, we stop at Walmart in Wythville, Virginia to break up the Trip.  When we arrive on Tuesday I take him straight to the hospital for blood work.  It is 95 degrees in Charlottesville.  What a wonderful welcome.

On Friday the 31st David’s in the hospital for IV fluids


There isn’t a lot to say about the entire month of September that hasn’t already been said as we were living it intersperced with my posts on the Great Smoky Mountains as I tried to finish up documenting my wonderful summer.  Those posts helped to keep me sane during September.  Thanks to those of you who stayed with me all the way through and commented.  You have NO idea how much those comments meant to me.

The short recap of September is:
On Saturday September 1st our Grandson Colin Harrison is born but we can’t go to see him since David is so sick.   I‘m pretty sad about all of this.  I did do a post on his birth at the time and
this is its link.


Over the next few days, he doesn’t improve and on Thursday September 6, he’s admitted to the hospital where he stays for 11 days while they try to find out what infection has laid him low.   I have also already done a post on this not so pleasant news. More details about all of this can be found here.

The rest of the month of September is spent on David’s recovery. until finally on Saturday the 29th he is well enough to travel to Maryland to visit Colin, his big sister Celia and their parents.


There are lots more pictures of our darling grandchildren (no bias here) and our stay in Maryland here on the post I did about that visit.. 


In October things calm down.  At last we were able to meet three friends  we’ve never met but have known through their blog since before they started full timing.  They were staying close enough that we managed to meet in the middle at the Vintage Restaurant near James Monroe’s estate Montpellier.  We were too early for the restaurant but the bar was comfy, the food was good and the company the best.IMG_3191

The Divine Miss Tessa was first to greet us, as it should be and then we spent several hours with her staff, Bill and Jodee.  We are all so on the same page although we probably spent too much time talking politics.  It felt like we’d known them forever.  Being from California, they are mostly out west and headed into and out of Florida before we are so I have no idea when we’ll see them again.  That’s too bad.  I would enjoy spending more time in  their company.


On Saturday October 6th I participated in the first leg of A Pilgrimage of Transformation which followed a longer pilgrimage from Charlottesville to Montgomery Alabama in July, these events come in response to the hate filled week-end that catapulted the little town of Charlottesville into the national spotlight.  This meaningful event deserves a post of its own but I want to note it here in my record of this October.

In the evening, the day of  the Pilgrimidge,  David’s older brother Roger and his wife Carol stopped to see us on their east coast tour.  They had lived fairly near by in Maryland for many years but have since retired and moved to Texas.  So seeing them is a rare treat.  On Saturday we take them out to David’s favorite spot, Blue Mountain Brewery.   The borthers have a laughing good time but .   The next evening they take us out to the Petite Pois on the downtown mall where again we eat outside in the lovely weather and I take not one picture unfortunately.  We had a great waitress who was in full blown Halloween costume so I’m sorry that isn’t recorded.


Post Surgery brown eyes

A visit to my dermatologist reveals two squamous cell carcinomas on my face, the result of a careless youth spent in the sun.  She refers me to a doctor for Mohs surgery to remove them.  I have it done and this is the marvelous post op picture of me on October 26.  I would NOT recommend this for your face.

From my vantage point now and the resulting scar across my nose, I recognize that my dermatologist should have recommended a plastic surgeon for facial surgery.  As a result she’s going to get some negative reviews and be fired at least as my dermatologist.

Just FYI, the product “Scar Away” does not work.  That’s what the Mohs doctor told me to use.

Anybody else have experience with squamous cell removal?

I take my bandaged face to Rady Park in Warrenton on Wednesday October 17 and meet up with my favorite people, Carrie, Celia and Colin drive to meet me there.  It’s half way between us.

It’s a nice fall day.  Carrie and Colin who is all of 6 weeks old take advantage of a nice creek side bench.


Celia is excited to see the water.


We do the slides and the swings and over and over.

Colin peeks out from under his jumbo hat.


We travel into Warrenton for lunch and for some reason I take pictures before but not during the food.  Oh well. 

Back at the park, we take one more walk around before they have to leave to beat the afternoon beltway traffic between here in Virginia and their home in Maryland.


Celia likes Nana’s sunglasses but isn’t so thrilled about having to leave the park.  “why?”


No goodbye pictures.  Too sad.  It will be two months before I see them again.

In preparation for that holiday meeting, I get some help with an early gift.

When Carrie was first born in 1980, I made patchwork holiday stockings for the three of us with our names hand embroidered.  I used my sewing machine which I no longer have.  In 2016 when Celia was born I was on the road, no sewing macine so I made one for her stitching everything, every patch, by hand.  

This year when Colin was born, I thought to do the stocking before hitting the road again.  My friend Pam offered to do the machine work and I would do the handwork.  So on Sunday we got together and what took me weeks to do for Celia took one day for Colin.   Thank you Pam!!

And with that both September and October have flown by and we are heading south for the winter.  Next stop Fort Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach Florida. 

Saved the Best for Last: Ramsey Cascades

Thursday August 23, 2018                                                               Most Recent Posts:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park                                             The Closest Trail to Home: Roundtop           
Tennessee                                                                                        A Bear Bonanza: My Last Visit in Cades Cove

I’ve saved Ramsey Cascades for my last hike in the Smokies for seveal reasons.

It’s the tallest waterfall in the park and possibly the roughest and longest hike to a waterfall.  My 7.5 mile round trip on Roundtop  yesterday was a bit of a prep for this hike which is billed as 8 miles round trip but those who’ve done it, including me have found it to be closer to 10 out and back.

It’s rated as strenuous and is all up hill though only the final 2 miles to the falls is particularly steep and rocky.  The trail gains over 2200 feet in elevation.
The trail begins with a long footbridge that crosses the middle prong of the Little Pigeon River.

It drains off of Mount Guyot, the second tallest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains,  a beautiful sparkling water way tumbling over the rocks.   Mount Guyot is also the source of Ramseys Branch the stream that flows over Ramsey Cascades.


For the first mile and a half, the trail is an old gravel road running along the river.



After the first mile and a half the trail becomes a typical Smoky Mountain single track through the woods.   It’s rooty, rocky and sometimes muddy.  It travels through rhododendron tunnels.


The trail gets rougher and steeper the further I go.


I begin passing by some very big trees.  Unfortunately the sun is right in front of me at this point.  I later read that this area is in one of the largest old growth areas of the Smokies. 



It’s a muddy approach to one of two foot bridges on the trail. 





The trail is seldom out of ear sound of the water.


Although it is rough and rocky the surroundings seem like a ferny velvety green fairyland.


What is this bright cone that stands out so sharply in the midst of all this green?
I haven’t seen a magnolia in this deep woods and it doesn’t really look like any magnolia cone I’ve seen.  


Eastern Native Trees Society reports that some of the largest trees in the park are located on this trail, including  the second tallest white oak in the park (123 feet), the third tallest red maple in the park (141 feet), and the tallest black cherry in the park (146 feet).  They aren’t labeled so I’m not sure which is which but there are some huge trees on this trail

The trail passes between these two but I don’t think it’s possible to experience just how big they are until you see the next two pictures with me in them for comparison.

Yet another giant on the trail.


A good hiking stick is a must on this trail.


I suppose these stepping stones are for when the trail is awash in mud.

The second one log foot bridge is longer than the first.



Pretty long, pretty narrow.


I find giants on the ground as well.



It’s slow going the narrower and rockier it gets.  But wow the trees!



Yes that is the trail there in the distance.


No bridge, figure it out on your own.


The trail goes right through there.


And right through there too.

Climb over the best you can.


And right through all these rocks in this narrow spot is the destination for the day.

Ramsey Cascades.

It’s hard not to want to hurry through to get there but this is ankle twisting/breaking boulder territory.

Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park.  I’ve only seen one taller and that was Mingo Falls on the land of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation.


The water drops roughly 100’ over several tiers into a small pool where salamanders are often found before continuing on.


I am here with this spectacular falls for a while by myself before others join me.  Everyone seems to feel the same awe of the beauty.  They are respectful and quiet.  No one jumps around on the rocks or tries to climb the falls where as recently as May last year someone fell to their death.

Take a look and listen to the falls here.   There’s unfortunate interference from the sun.


I trade pictures with the couple who arrived after me and reluctantly head back down the trail.

Heading down is somewhat easier than climbing up although with the rocks, I have to be careful where I place my feet.  That necessity enables me to see and watch this fellow hopping around for a while.  I think he is a Dark eyed Junco but his tail looks twice as long as his body


Other things seen on the way back not seen on the way there is this great fungus in the midst of a fern field at the foot of its host tree.




I stop to take a look at something and get a picture and when I look down, I have a hitch hiker on my shoe.


I think he may be a type of  Eastern Comma Butterfly.


The approach to the one log bridge is quite different coming down where I can see it from above.


And guess who I find on the hand rail?



Another of my favorite things.


This has been the perfect conclusion to my summer of hiking the waterfalls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I have loved every one but none more than this challenging gorgeous hike to the wonderful Ramsey Cascades.  

I only wish David could have come to see both the falls and the amazing old growth trees.  How he would love this trail.   He’ll be here tomorrow but due to his Myeloma can no longer hike something this strenuous.  

Don’t put off coming to the Smokies to hike this trail. 
Right now, it is at the top of my “I’d do it again” list.