Alleghanian Orogeny

Alleghanian Orogeny sounds like a concept that belongs in a sex self-help book. But actually, it’s a geological term to describe what occurred over a billion years ago in central Virginia when the ground smashed together until rolls and ridges formed the Blue Ridge Mountains. Today, those mountains harbor wildlife, prop up sunrises and sunsets, and invite hikers to explore their heights and depths—all in a blue hue that is delicious and soothing.

I recently visited Wintergreen Resort and stayed in a house that resembles an elegant treehouse as its six mini-levels spiral around a stoic, stone fireplace that rises high into the ceiling. Such an architectural treat, this house. As unusual as this unique house was, I found the outdoors surrounding this house equally compelling. The rolling hills, the trees blown bare of leaves and awaiting spring buds, the air—cool and clean. So refreshing.

But it was this rock that sat just outside the house that had me pondering the relative life cycle of the nature around us. The rock is covered in moss and other flowering “stuff.” (I’ve since learned the technical term is lichens. Guess I should have paid more attention in my biology classes!) But this rock was beautiful and expansive and unmoved by my initial state of citified stress. The microbes attached to this rock must be ages older than me, making me feel slightly insignificant but also young! And it made me pause—to think, to breathe, to just be. Nothing like a boulder to slow you down!

I sat still while the wildlife—the chirping chickadee, the scampering squirrel and the nosey black bear (no, I didn’t’ see any but I understand they are there)—hid just beneath the undergrowth and explored the sprawling hills. Then it dawned on me that these inhabitants live out their lives, every day, here in this arena of fragile, and yet somehow sturdy beauty, while I toil away at all of the demands of life in the concrete jungle.

Then, I attempted to hike Fortune’s Ridge trail on the eastern side of the resort to find the rising sun. (The resort has a plethora of intertwining trails and a friendly staff of naturalists at the Nature Foundation located on the property.) My hiking endeavor was feeble as I skirted and tripped over some downed trees and brush. It seemed the winter months had been hard on this trail as well as my hiking dexterity. (Plus, I worried about the possibility of encountering that nosey black bear all alone!) A hike that almost was. Nonetheless, being back in my hiking boots and crunching rock and stick beneath me returned my mind and body to the state of equilibrium that I always find on my hikes, no matter how short.

So, instead of marching forward among the trail’s disarray, I capitulated to nature’s demand and stood still. Oh, the stillness. Oh, the motionless moment. Standing there among nature, being enveloped by silence, is as close to zen as I know. I don’t have a name for this state of being, but someone should find a name as elegant as Alleghanian Orogeny.


  1. Man ! That makes me want to go hiking and to say the least that is not my forte 😆 I usually spend most of the hike trying to not fall over stuff! That concentration usually doesn’t leave room in my brain for everything that you encounter when you hike! 😜

  2. Enjoyed the ride with you…my eyes closed felt the serenity of your experience. I won’t be hiking but will enjoy the hike through your eyes and words! Thanks for the stress free moments!

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