Augusta County, Virginia – October 28, 2017

With rain in the forecast for Sunday, we decided to take advantage of a pretty Saturday to check out the fall colors in the Shenandoah Valley.  An interactive map that shows our route is here, and you can click on any of the pictures for a larger view.

First, west on Rt. 250 to Waynesboro, VA….


We could have stayed on 250, but opted to take Rt. 254 towards Staunton because it’s such a pretty, rural drive.



We got back on Rt. 250 in Staunton, and continued driving west.


We planned to go to Elkhorn Lake, a 54-acre reservoir in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.   Based on some of the pictures we’d checked out before we left home, it looked like it would be an interesting place to visit.  (A blogger and kayaker shared this post in 2009:

We turned on Braley Pond Road, and a sign said that Elkhorn Lake was 7 miles.   I neglected to note the odometer reading when we made the turn, but we drove past a few homes, hunting cabins–and hunters–and then passed a sign that said, “End State Maintenance.”

The paved road soon turned to gravel, and it got steeper and more rugged.  While we generally like back roads, we’ve come to learn our limits.  Perhaps we were close to the lake, or perhaps we still had a mile or two to go, but ultimately we decided it would be best to play it safe and turn around.

As we headed back down Braley Pond Road, we decided to stop AT Braley Pond.  It was just a tiny blip of blue on the GPS, so we were surprised by the number of cars in the parking lot.


Stocked with trout, apparently it’s a favorite fishing spot for the locals.  Pretty place!





When we got back on Rt. 250, I was ready to turn east toward home, but Wayne wanted to stop by Mountain View General Store, which was less than a half mile west.  (We’ve stopped there before.)

Well, I guess it was meant to be, because just as we walked into the store, I heard someone say, “Hi, Wayne!” What?!

It turned out to be a friend of Wayne’s who used to live in Richmond, but now lives in Augusta County.  He’d just stopped in to put gas in his car before heading home, and we would have missed him if we’d been a few minutes later.  What a coincidence!

While Wayne was talking to him, two more people we knew walked in the door!  These were friends from our side of the mountain, and they were coming back from a drive to Monterey, VA.  Too funny–50 miles from home in rural western Augusta County, and yet there we all were. 🙂

When we got back to Staunton, we drove through Gypsy Hill Park, and then stopped at Wright’s Dairy-Rite for a milkshake.

Across the road from Wright’s is the former Western State Hospital.  The buildings–many of which were built in the 1820s and 1830s–are being converted into condominiums, and towards the back of the property is the Western State Hospital cemetery.

Access to the cemetery is restricted, but somewhere on this lonely hillside–among the nearly 3000 lost souls who are buried there–is the grave of my great-great-great grandmother….


At the time of each burial, a code number was painted onto the grave marker to identify the deceased while protecting his or her identity.  Unfortunately, the numbers have washed off or faded away over the years, and most of the markers now carry no information at all.

From state records, I know that my ancestor, Mary “Polly” Anderson Fox, was buried in “Row 9, #27” but I’m not sure that I would ever be able to find out–with any certainty–exactly where she is buried.  Sadly, markers have fallen over or crumbled, trees have grown up and pushed over the markers, and time has not been kind to this cemetery on the hill….

As we got closer to home, we stopped at the overlook on Afton Mountain and were treated to these late afternoon views.  I think our Rockfish Valley–home to so many of my ancestors–is beautiful in every season!




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