Category: Blue Ridge Life

Blue Ridge Life

Foster Falls Girls Industrial School: Suffering and Success

Foster Falls Girls Industrial School: Suffering and Success

In the heart of Foster Falls, Virginia, an Inn sits high on a hill, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains’ serene beauty and the New River’s rippling waters. The New River Trail passes by, a rails-to-trails success story that is a magnet for recreation. The luxurious Inn at Foster Falls offers a serene escape, a far cry from its origins […]

Heritage Tune Competition: The Story Behind ‘Shady Grove’

Heritage Tune Competition: The Story Behind ‘Shady Grove’

In 2012, I participated in the Heritage Tune competition at the Union Grove Old Time Fiddler’s Convention. The competition is open to musicians of any age who have competed in one of the festival’s twelve instrumental competitions. I competed in the Mountain Dulcimer category, so I was eligible for the Heritage Tune competition. One prize was awarded, consisting of cash […]

Cripple Creek: The Song and The Legacy

Cripple Creek: The Song and The Legacy

Go to any Old Time jam session in the area surrounding Galax, VA (“The World Capital of Old Time Music”), and the tune “Cripple Creek” will be played before night’s end. This melody has echoed through the hills and hollers of Appalachia for generations, becoming a staple in bluegrass and old-time music. Its lively tune and catchy lyrics capture the […]

The Enchanting Legend of Virginia’s Fairy Stones

The Enchanting Legend of Virginia’s Fairy Stones

In Southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, between the towns of Bassett and Stuart, nature and legend intersect in the tale of the Fairy Stones. The focal point for the legend is Fairy Stone State Park, a haven for nature enthusiasts, rock collectors, and seekers of magic. From the moment you step onto its trails, the whispers of ancient fairies seem […]

Seven Trails to Damascus, VA

Seven Trails to Damascus, VA

From Damascus, Syria, to Damascus, VA For nearly ten thousand years, the ancient city of Damascus has flourished in southwestern Syria. Sitting at the crossroads of trade routes between Africa and Asia, the city has always been a hub for craftsmanship and culture. Like its namesake city, Damascus, Virginia, sits at the intersection of former trade routes and serves as […]

Tobacco Bag Stringing: Craft, Culture, and Survival

Tobacco Bag Stringing: Craft, Culture, and Survival

Amid the harsh economic strains of the Great Depression, the unassuming craft of tobacco bag stringing emerged as a lifeline for many Blue Ridge families. This craft involved the simple—but tedious—task of threading drawstrings into tobacco bags. These bags held more than tobacco; they promised survival and a speck of prosperity for those who stitched their way through hard times. […]

The Melungeons: Lost Tribes, Hidden Heritage

The Melungeons: Lost Tribes, Hidden Heritage

Legend has it that in 1654, a group of weary English explorers stumbled upon a sight that defied explanation: a village nestled among the ancient oaks, its log cabins revealing arched windows, yards boasting fenced gardens punctuated by outbuildings. They were shocked: There should not have been any European settlements this far west. Who were these people? Where were the […]

Whispers Along the New River Trail

Whispers Along the New River Trail

Stepping onto the New River Trail today, I can’t help but feel like I’m walking through layers of time, each step tracing the echoes of a bygone era transformed into the present’s treasure. My curiosity sparks as I pass by the N&W Railroad caboose at the southern (Galax) trailhead. On my right, Chestnut Creek is running high and fast on […]

John Chiswell Climbed into a Hole and Became a Legend

John Chiswell Climbed into a Hole and Became a Legend

Along a freeway passage where traffic travels north on I-81 while simultaneously going south on I-77 lies the exit for Ft. Chiswell, VA. One might expect to find some semblance of a colonial fort there, considering that Virginia is a state rich in historical sites. But there isn’t one. Instead, this crossroads hides its frontier past under a cloak of […]

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