“It’s amazing how a little tomorrow can make up for a whole lot of yesterday.” ~ John Guare
I drove down to Johnson City, Tennessee Friday for the Appalachian Studies Association conference. It was cold and drizzly. I dropped the dog off with my parent’s in West Liberty, then hit U.S. 23 straight down the mountains. In all my years, in all my travels, even the many times I played in Johnson City, I never took 23 past Pikeville. I guess the Universe was saving the best for last because this was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken. Friday saw the Virginia mountaintops covered in snow, as if God was turning on an extra light from heaven. I can’t find the words to adequately describe how inspirational they were. Driving back today, it was even colder, but the skies had opened up and blue permeated everything.
Of course, I wanted to stop every quarter mile and photograph something, but there wasn’t time. When I saw a pull-off on Benge’s Gap, I took it. I couldn’t help myself. It was like that moment in the Sound of Music when Julie Andrews takes off her habit veil and begins to twirl and sing on the mountaintop, except I took off my lens cap and began shooting and talking to myself. Like the movie’s character, the hill was calling me and I had to answer. It wasn’t just the visual beauty that awed me. I was mesmerized by the smell. Springtime in the Appalachians smells unlike anything else on the planet. The fragrance is so sweet it’s like sugar’s been poured over the Earth. If you’ve never taken U.S. 23 (known in Kentucky as Country Music Highway and in Virginia as The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Music Heritage Road), you really should. It would make a perfect weekend trip if you live in the area. Or if you’re looking to explore the Southern Appalachians on vacation, include this route on your agenda. You won’t be sorry. It gave me a stunningly beautiful Sunday.