Voluntouring Students Find Floyd VA

This will be the third year that SustainFloyd has had a role to play with visiting students from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. It will be the first year I have been involved with VolunTours, and I am looking forward to it, and envious of the week-long experience that these 25 young people will have after they arrive at the Ecovillage tomorrow.

I’ll have a part in their orientation after dinner on Saturday, and then we will spend three hours together in Celebration Hall on Monday afternoon—a block of time that is more than I would have chosen for anyone to listen to the sound of one voice, but there it is. We’ll make the best of it.

One of the main outcomes the staff is hoping for is that these students gain a deep and clear understanding of their place in space and time; that they better understand the Appalachian mountains and especially the Blue Ridge; that they gain a sense of “Appalachia” in cultural context including the stereotypes versus what they experience on the ground in Floyd County; and that they see with new eyes with regard to their relationship to the natural and human community in light of the ties to the land. Sense of place is the beginning of this process. It goes on beyond that to become connection to and allegiance to place—the soil, air, water, forests and people of those places.

I will try to keep in mind that, when I was 20 years old like these students, I gave no thought at all to a grounding in such things. I wish someone had offered me, as I hope to offer these guests in Floyd, a way of seeing myself in place and time that points in the direction of what I call “a personal ecology.” It would have given me a framework upon which to hang so much of my photography, my writing and my sense of who and why I am.

I’ll share a Prezi with them I call “A Biology Watcher’s Look at the Anthropocene” starting with the “Great Acceleration” in 1950 and the first Earth Day in 1970. In another time block we’ll take 10 minutes for a “visual essay” of personal landscapes and nature scenes from the Southern Mountains and talk a bit about writing, photoessays and “nature deficit disorder.” And I’ll hope to direct their thinking towards eco-empathy and a future where the human economy is once again founded on a healthy ecology.

Interesting to note that participating students have the choice of these locations: Guatemala, Mexico, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, San Diego, Santa Fe/Taos NM and little ol’ FloydVA. Here’s how the local program is described:

Appalachia region, Virginia

Deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a rural community is proving its resilience by celebrating and strengthening its culture and its natural and historic beauty. This is a place where small-town values and creative community collaboration are thriving. Meet micro-enterprise advocates, support food security and self-reliance initiatives, visit the Floyd country store, enjoy the lively folk traditions and music of Appalachia, and meet with community leaders and families that have championed these initiatives together through Sustain Floyd.

Traveling Hopefully

So I had this notion a month or so back that my experience as teacher, speaker, field trip leader and engaged citizen would mesh nicely before small groups of folks who come to Floyd County lacking any depth to our natural or human communities here.

Well, you know about plans. Mr Murphy is always ready to give us a ground in The Way Things Are.

If you plan something so well that nothing can go wrong, something will. Before you can do what it is you want to do, you have to do something else first. Everything you want to do takes longer than you think, and costs more than you have. And finally, if you do something so carefully and thoughtfully that nobody could object, somebody will.

So here’s how things are.

First, the unintended has become the only actual boots on the ground from my original intention. I had not even considered being a guide for tour buses.

Floyd has until this summer lacked adequate lodging in town for busloads of out-of-town guests. Hotel Floyd now offers 40 rooms, in addition to other nearby lodging. And the Jacksonville Center is now a bus destination since its parking lot is paved for the first time ever.

So having gained a bit of visibility for my touring intentions, I was contacted by USTours, and as things turn out, this Friday I will have the opportunity to tell the story of Floyd and Carroll County landforms from Saddle Gap to the Blue Ridge Music Center at milepost 213 south of Galax.

We’ll talk about the history of the Blue Ridge Mountains and of the Parkway. There will be things in bloom and the Eastern Deciduous Forest in general to explore through the windows. The Bluemont rock church, Buffalo Mountain, Bob Childress and Olean Puckett will offer interesting characters and features to explore.

Pilot Mountain, Mt Airy and the Andy Griffith era also fair game at about milepost 189–the mountain barely visible at the overlook due to the “sequester” that has choked off funding for parkway maintenance.

Stops at Mabry Mill, Nancy’s Candies, Poor Farmer’s Market (for lunch at the deli there), for music at the Blue Ridge Music Center, and at the Jacksonville Center on the return trip will make for a full day. I’m looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, with regard to the MAIN service I hoped to provide and closest to my heart: the nature walks along the Parkway are off the ticket. I learned at the last possible moment before press releases went out last Thursday that the fees and other expenses ($600 or more the first year) and other restrictions and burdens were more red tape and bureaucratic crap than I cared to wade through.

There may be private forest and ridge that will serve, but it seems a crying shame to me that the fantastic resource of the parkway should be so difficult to use for education for those like me whose returns from any commercial use would be so small. Fishing guides in western National Parks could pay in one day what it would take me a season to bring in.

And so it goes.

Alligator-back Formation: I’m Glad I Asked

A shale-like rock in the Blue Ridge: What's going on?

Why do the rocks at 3200 feet at the “very edge” of the Blue Ridge look as if they were laid down by water, layer after layer, when it is from harder, igneous rock that this geological province is formed (at least in my limited understanding?) Horizontally-layered dark mica-flecked rocks jut out across the ridge-tops like the vertical ridges along an alligator’s tail. What’s with that?

I asked a friend who asked a friend who knows, and who explained it nicely in his reply. I think he’d approve of it’s use for educational purposes. I know I learned something!

It’s detailed. I imagine eyes crossing. But for some nerdy types like me, this was immensely informative. Still not interested? Okay. You’ve forced me to talk dirty: metamorphic schist. So there.

I’ve put it up on my posterous page, just click the link.

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