Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Last Road Trip of 2013

I took advantage of a warm sunny day in December, the last Saturday of 2013, to head out on the road. I had grand plans to do a wide loop through the Virginia back roads, mostly I wanted to get out, to drive down roads that weren’t crowded with people, to be outside where I could see long views.

I got lost, missed a turn off, found myself in places unplanned. My plans, like much of life, shifted and evolved. Instead of worrying about how I was off-track, I decided to focus on the journey, discover what I could instead of trying to stick to a schedule or even a plan.

First stop was Chapman's Mill, a grist mill built in 1742. You can read about the Mill here:

Chapman's Mill, Thoroughfare Gap

Back on down the road, I stopped at the Broad Run Post office to photograph an old house sitting in a hollow, long abandoned I wonder about the people who once lived in it.
Broad Run, Virginia

I drove through the small town of Aldie, stopped at an antique store (or two). Once outside of Aldie I was on the Snickersville Turnpike, the kind of road I was looking for, narrow country roads with low stone fences on both sides, farms and estates, horses and cows, long vistas up and down valleys. I stopped to ponder a statue erected to the Civil War Battle of Aldie. The Battle of Aldie took place on June 17, 1863, as part of the Gettysburg Campaign.

Monument to the Battle of Aldie

My ultimate goal was to find the small town of Unison, Virginia. I passed the Mountville Church, now being used as an office building.

Mountville Church, circa 1852

The road to Unison was unpaved, and still wet from melted snows.

The road to Unison
Along the road to Unison

Unison was a small hamlet, sweetly hidden. I definitely want to go back. From Unison, it was more back roads to Route 50, I made one more stop at the Mount Zion church. 

Mt. Zion Old School Baptist Church, built in 1851, sits at the intersection of the Old Carolina Road and the Little River Turnpike – once a main crossroad in Loudoun County. The church was at the center of much of the area's history, particularly the Civil War. Many churches and other buildings were put into service during the Civil War, but few saw as much action as Mt. Zion.

The church was used as a military rendezvous site, prison, barracks, battleground, and hospital.  Union troops used the church as a field hospital after cavalry engagements of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville in June of 1863. July of 1864 saw military action close to the church, when Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby and his men met the Union forces from Massachusetts and New York.

I never visit Mount Zion without feeling a little bit haunted. The trees around the church lean in  to embrace it.

Mount Zion, circa 1851

After stopping at Mount Zion, it was a straight shot through to Route 50 and home. So ends the last road trip of 2013, there will be many more road trips in 2014 - each with it's own flavor and discoveries.