My family lives in Northern Virginia by chance. We moved here courtesy of the U.S. Military for our last tour of duty 17 years ago, and just haven’t gotten around to moving home. Truth be told, we don’t exactly know where home is. I’m a native Rhode Islander, and I pine for the water and sand. My husband grew up in Montana and Colorado, where it’s all about the mountains and snow. So we sit here in the suburbs while the years tick away; we’re like sloths trying to choose our next tree. For years our only certainty has been that we won’t be staying in Virginia. The traffic, the hurried pace, the shopping malls—not for us.
However, a new family hobby may be bringing our future more clearly into focus. We’ve been geocaching for more than a year now. That’s a different story for a different time, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll describe it as an international pastime involving more than two million containers logged according to their longitude and latitude. Or, as one popular slogan explains, we use billion-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods.
This hobby has taken us to places we’d never have seen otherwise. We’re half-way through our quest to find a cache in every county and independent city in Virginia. That’s 95 counties and 39 cities. In the process, we’re discovering Virginia.
This past weekend, we drove along the West Virginia border, through the George Washington National Forest, stopping in counties with names like Bath, Bedford, and Botetourt. We spent a night in Harrisonburg and a night in Roanoke. Between the two stops, we found a breathtaking waterfall in Covington, we snaked alongside the James River through the Appalachian Mountains, and we stumbled across the gravesite of the WWII U.S. Marine Corps general whose artillerymen may have kept Uncle Frank alive at Iwo Jima (yet another story, coming soon to a Portrait site near you).
Our recent trip has left me reflecting on the many historical, peaceful, and bizarre sights we’ve seen in the past year or so—and how our opinion of Virginia is changing. There’s a lot more here than asphalt and tail lights. We’ve watched the Serenity Schooner sail into Yorktown, admired the pirates at Colonial Beach, and waited for the sun to set over the Shenandoahs.
We’ve visited so many monuments and grave markers that we’re developing a fascination and appreciation for America’s history while searching among headstones at Arlington for the graves of Iwo Jima flag raisers, standing at Stonewall Jackson grave site statue wondering what he’s looking at for all eternity, or even just hanging out in Middleburg, where Jeb Stewart and his cavalry were skirmishing just before the battle at Gettysburg.
It’s been a most excellent adventure…and we’re only half-way through our journey. As it turns out, Virginia is a tad larger than we first thought, and much more interesting. In fact, on each trek, we add another site to our growing list of places we want to go back to when we can spend more time. More importantly, in nearly every place we visit, I think, wow, I could live here.
Next trip: Smyth, Grayson, Patrick AND Henry counties. I can hardly wait…
I’m starting to think we might be Virginians after all.