Rockfish Gap has been a natural gateway through the mountains for thousands of years, Once travelled by Indians and wildlife along a footpath from the coastal plain to the Ohio Valley, today a highway, four roads, two railroad lines, and the Appalachian Trail all converge on this spot. Black Bears still follow the route as they move from one valley to another, lumbering along on the shoulder of the road like pedestrians. The Blue Ridge Parkway begins here, heading south, as does Skyline Drive, going north. From the crest of the ridge there’s a view that stretches for 20 miles down the Rockfish Valley, and it’s one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. As many times as I pass through there, my heart still hurts when I see it. The Gap and the Valley both are named for the Rockfish River that winds below, and it’s astonishing to think the entire view was created by that little stream, small enough to throw a stone across.
Years ago, before we moved to the country when land was still cheap here, we bought a patch of woods that was short walk from a swimming hole in the river and a few miles from the nearest paved road and power lines. We’d camp there on weekends to get a break from life in the city. These pictures were taken a few miles upstream from there, past the little village of Schuyler and Walton’s Mountain, where Earl Hamner grew up. A small community of Tibetans have settled here recently and made it their home, building a temple on a hill looking over the river.