Friday, July 2, 2010


So often after I visit a place I develop an intense curiosity about it. As a teacher, I know how important it is for students to be able to make a personal connection to instructional material, how such a tie makes it easier to learn and retain skills and information. As an adult, I see this principle in action in myself. Researching activities and destinations for a future vacation in a place I've never visited is too abstract; the information slides from my brain like butter on hot teflon-- no more than a skim coat of retention. Once on site, though, I'm motivated to voraciously consume any material I can get my hands on, but it is usually unsatisfying, perhaps because I am distracted by actually being on vacation and all. Back at home, I spend lots of time researching the place I just left, a bittersweet experience because I'm essentially discovering every cool thing I missed on my visit.

Take my recent trip to Fort Valley, VA for example. I stayed for a couple of nights at a ranch there and took a trail ride through George Washington National Forest. It was beautiful-- the mountains of western Virginia at their summer finest-- all dappled light and fragrant hayseed fern, elder berry, hemlock, and mountain laurel-- and so much less inhabited than this urban area where I reside. Our bunk house cabin may have been a little rustic, but there were bull frogs and river otters just outside our door, not to mention all the stars in the sky which were only obscured by the blazing camp fire we had each night.

Once home, though, I found that this valley within a valley was not only the site of three iron forges destroyed by the Union Army because of the Confederate canon balls they were churning out, but also the location of the very first CCC installation, Camp Roosevelt, built in 1933. AND it is named Fort Valley because it was George Washington's fall back plan. The first access road was built so that the Continental Army could retreat to this naturally fortified place for a last stand against Cornwallis. Fortunately, the Battle of Yorktown made Fort Valley a footnote to history, but now that I know a little more about the place, I can't wait to go back.

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