Highland County

I haven’t been inspired to write lately, so this will be brief.

This past weekend, we stayed at an old farmhouse outside of Monterey, Virginia, in Highland County. Years ago, I read an article in a newspaper about the Highland County Maple Festival, and I’ve been going back to the area ever since. I was never really sure what it was that has attracted me to this area over and over, but after giving it some thought, this is what I think:

-It’s climate is very different from the rest of Virginia. Technically speaking, it has a maritime climate rather than the humid subtropical climate we have here. Practically speaking, this means summers are warm but not hot, and winters are cold and long. There are lots of maples and conifers, and lichen-strewn trees populate the dark, forested hills. I love the ecology of the place. At night, owls hooting and coyotes howling (very close by), and we could actually see stars. It feels wild in a way I didn’t think existed anymore on the east coast.

-At the same time, the human footprint is very apparent, even though the county is extremely remote and underpopulated. Maybe this shouldn’t be a selling point for me, but it is. Rather than valleys surrounded by heavily forested hills and mountains (like in the Shenandoah Valley), the hills and mountains are partially stripped, creating a a more complex, human-shaped landscape. Driving or walking around, you’ll see cows, sheep and horses halfway up the human-shorn mountains. I think in the U.S we tend to like to keep nature and human culture separate, but there is something so aesthetically pleasing about this place.

-It feels closed in and cozy. And very few people seem to know about it. I like the feeling of being “in” on a secret. It’s desolate and wind-swept. Just over 2,000 people live in an area over 400 square miles, yet it’s the type of place that seems like it would always retain an air of mystery, like you might never discover every last hollow or creek. I was researching local hikes, and found one that required hikers to drive 21 miles down a gravel road and then walk several miles before reaching the trailhead. That’s solitude. It feels off the grid. I guess I feel the way I feel in the west there…just a feeling of possibility and grandeur.

I took the above pictures while walking down an empty road on a Saturday afternoon.

-I like the little town, Monterey. It has a diner, a fancy little upscale grocery store, a gas station, a few thrift shops, a cidery, a tiny library, and a tavern that closes before sunset. It’s not picturesque, per say, but there’s something quaint and old-fashioned about it. The above pictures were taken from the farmhouse we stayed at.

-Maybe I’ll write more some other time when motivation strikes. That’s all for now.



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