Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our Appalachian Trail or was it Trial?

From Lake Anna, VA we headed for Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Mountains (Appalachians) along Route 33 and it starts to rain! We had some good and beautiful days in the preceding 2 weeks and had not checked on the weather channel and although we know that at this time of the year there can be bad days, we had not anticipated this. As we pass through the National Parks Gate at the top of the Shenandoah Mountains we are literally in the clouds with fog all round and can see for only about 150 yards in front of us. This provides for very difficult driving with clouds swirling about on an unknown road; we can’t turn back as the roads are narrow with lots of curves. So we end up taking 2 hours to travel just 40 miles in these conditions and emerge into the James River valley and make our way to I-81 which passes through the mountains; here all is well - no fog, traffic moving freely and we get to our destination “Jelleystone RV Park” in Natural Bridge just before dark. That night and the following day it rained so we decided to take an easy day; Adele baked brown scones in our little oven and made soup, we caught up on writing our blog and planned where to head for next - so the day passed quickly enough.

On the next day we drove to Lexington, VA where Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson  both lived yet at different times. We wondered why would a parent call their son Stonewall…the answer - his name was Thomas Jonathan Jackson however, he earned his nickname during the Civil War for standing his ground in battle. Stonewall Jackson was an exemplary citizen, deeply religious, a dedicated family man who taught in The Virginia Military Institute one of the local universities the other being The Washington and Lee University. We took a self-guided walking tour around Lexington where many of the buildings are pre Civil War (Stonewall Jackson’s house which we toured) included; as the town is on a steep hill we had plenty of exercise.
Washington and Lee University is a private school which has a student population of less than 2,000 was originally founded in 1749 as The Augusta Academy and renamed Liberty Hall in 1776; in 1782 it was chartered as Liberty Hall Academy by the Virginia legislature and empowered to grant degrees, then in 1796 George Washington saved the struggling Liberty Hall Academy when he gave the school its first major endowment--$20,000 worth of James River Canal stock. The trustees promptly changed the name of the school to Washington Academy as an expression of their gratitude. In 1865 after the Civil War General Robert E Lee reluctantly accepted the position of president of the College a position he held until his death in 1870. After Lee's death the trustees voted to change the name from Washington College to Washington and Lee University. Robert E Lee is buried in a magnificent Virginia marble tomb, which bears his likeness lying in full military uniform, in the Lee Memorial Chapel.

Adjacent to Washington and Lee University is the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) which was founded in1839, students of General Stonewall Jackson helped train Confederate Army recruits during the Civil War. Today, a co-ed institution, all students dress in military uniform. As we toured the grounds and museum we were greeted and welcomed by the students as they walked by. Students who are civilian soldiers of the State of Virginia may, after graduation, be commissioned into an arm of the US forces or undertake a civilian career.

VMI’s most famous past student is George C. Marshall architect and implementer of “The Marshall Plan” who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

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