I grew up on the back of a horse.
At the age of two, I had my own pony. By age 10 I was riding with the other northern Virginia gals in the local Pony Club chapter. By age 14, though, I had abandoned my non-existent competitive spirit. Instead, I took to riding solo through the 400 acres of forested fields that bordered my family’s one-level ranch house. I had no neighbors to speak of, an older brother who was less-than-enthused about digging up old medicine bottles and building forts (unless they were snow forts, that is), and a dangerous, sometimes stubbornly persistent, sense of curiosity.
There’s no question in my mind that those early memories have only fueled my present desire to explore, my thirst for adventure, and my passion for the great outdoors. I feel so fortunate to have grown up in the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounded by ancient landscapes and people who say “folks” and “y’all,” the kind that drink gallons of sweet tea and sit on front porches listening to the wind. Sure, the mountains of the West are undoubtedly epic, foreign even to a small town girl like me. But there is something about this area, these hills, these people, that will remain forever ingrained in my being.
When I think of finishing the sentence, “My Blue Ridge is…” I think of those long summer afternoons spent riding bareback through empty hayfields. I think of dirt on my face, poison ivy in places it shouldn’t be, scraped knees, and bee stings. I think of the bamboo forest in our backyard, the tops of which would bow over after a heavy snow, creating a hiding place, a secret labyrinth for my adolescent wanderings. I think of the family of foxes that denned every year behind our barn, of standing on the banks of the Shenandoah River, of the dusty film that coated the inside of my air condition-less car after a Sunday drive down backroads. I think of bonfires with friends, fireflies in the night, and the distant cooing of Mourning Doves outside my bedroom window.
This is what my Blue Ridge is. Despite the fact that I have seen and explored much more of this world in my adult life, when I think of the Blue Ridge, when I think of home, this is what I see.
In celebration of the magazine’s 20th anniversary, we have launched a site dedicated to what you, our readers, see when you think of the words “my Blue Ridge.” To finish the sentence “My Blue Ridge is…” with one word, one phrase even, would simply not do these mountains justice.
Help us paint a portrait of this region by contributing your voice, your images, and your tales of adventures in these hills. You can do this by sending in your story through our contact form, in a comment below, or by using the hashtag #myblueridge on Instagram and Twitter. If you submit a story, you’ll be entered to win the ultimate B.R.O. swag bag at the end of the year!