Afton encounter

Growing up in Upstate New York in the 50s, Sundays always had a restless, ambiguous, vaguely anxious quality–half a century later I still don’t know why. This last sunday (2-28) was a bit like that—had to get out of the house–epecially since the sun was shining, the snow has finally begun to melt and the glacier is at last retreating!!

I asked Joanie if she’d like to join me in my photo-wandering. She graciously agreed and packed up a cross-ward puzzle book, pencil, dictionary, magazine and water bottle.

We headed for the Blue Ridge Mountains which can be reached in about 30 or 40 min.  from here (the Charlottesville, VA area)

Went to a small town lieing a few miles east of the Appalchian Trail where it runs through The Shanendoah National Forest on Afton Mountain–the town of Afton, VA.  I think I read somewhere the population is 191–I think there’s a micro-brewery there.

Made the mistake of listening to my GPS device and ended up a few miles from the actual village. Found myself in the parking lot of  (what used to be) the lonely old Holiday Inn Motel on top of the mountain near Rockfish Gap (Yes “Walton’s” fans–Rockfish Gap–the same place mentioned in the TV show back all those years ago.)

There in the nearly deserted parking lot–winter sunshine and piercing blue skies, mountain winter wind cutting through your jacket, a rusting, massive old water tank sits on top of a snow-blasted rock outcropping above the crumbling old motel.  And there’s a huge old decaying sign–lettering gone–towering over the lot—snow pushed into piles at the edges. Snow-covered mountains in the distance, the sign now speaks more eloquently than it ever did when a name and logo were on it.  Great shots taken of these silent monuments to humankind’s goofy efforts at some sort of comment in the face of eternity’s relentless indifference.

A stranger by the side of the road directed us to the village of Afton.

In the tiny village,  stuck to the side of a steep, twisting road almost falling down the mountainside, the post office is in the same shack as a church.  Another beaucholic/American Gothic little house of worship–the Afton Chapel–is down a side road  (you turn just past the post office.) It has been waiting all these years it seems,  for a nosey, wandering photographer to stumble upon it. Built in 1895–about the size of 2 full-size pick-ups by 3 full-size pick-ups, a trustee–Mr. Keith–stands inside, the doors open awaiting the congregation–between 5 & 15 members–to arrive.  Mr. Keith  gives me a tour—-points out hand-carved pews over a hundred years old—-heart-pine floor boards squeaking under our feet as they have for over a century–the rope through the ceiling above the front entance goes to the old cast iron bell in the little belfry above the steep-gabled roof. Mr. Keith tugs mightily on the rope to ring the bell calling the faithful to worship.   With pride the 86 year old Man of God points out the nave carpet that was added 40 years ago and stained glass windows in the Apse put in (and how much they cost) 50 (or maybe it was 80) years ago.

A small, modern heating plant in the basement warms the building against mountain winter winds outside. Downstairs a Woolworth’s Five & Dime framed print of “The Good Shepherd” looks out over folding tables and chairs—a child’s drawing, chewed by rodents,  hangs on the wall. The tiny restrooms have circular mirrors that—with doors open—reflect one another back and forth endlessly across the little  hall between them.  On the chalkboard to the right of the hall between the bathrooms it says, “Ladies’ bathroom is broken–use the men’s.”

Hope you enjoy the pictures.

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