The Trail Begins

Final Project: A study of Old Rag Mountain

The Trail Begins

Madison, Virginia 22719, United States

Created By: Kaitlin Cleary


As I stand at the trailhead about to begin my hike for the second time in nearly a year, a great defeat in my opinion especially considering the 9.3 mile loop, I find it crucial to begin my tour with a historical analysis of the area I will soon be traversing. The land surrounding what is now considered Shenandoah National Park was settled by the Shawanee tribe, and the Manahoac tribe. Shawandasse Tula is the homeland name of the earth on which the trail begins. Translated in Algonquian, the name means Southwind Earth and in traditional tales of lineage, the land was a gift of sustenance to the Shawnee people from Gitche Manitou, the "Great Spirit" or Creator. According to native history, to reward the Shawnee people for their great sacrifice and divine commitment to the ceremony, the Creator blessed the tribe with access to the valley which provided not only plentiful farming land but also rich resources including ample game and flora.

It is not hard to acknowledge the beauty and raw provision behind the land from the trails start. The first time I hiked this trail was with my father when I was sixteen years old and I always have such fond memories of the anticipation building in my belly as we migrated from the parking lot to the beginning of the trail. Entering the landscape it is not hard to feel connected to the space, a space that provided for members of the Shawanee tribes for thousands of years before it was exploited and settled by Europeans. As we prepare to explore the land before us, I implore you to take a breath and listen to the sounds of nature around you to reground yourself and your emotions prior to this experience. Closing your eyes, seek out the calls of the native avian species such as the wild chimney swift and chipping sparrow. Though many of the precise native names for these birds have been lost to colonialism, the Shawnee would have considered them under the umbrella term of wieskillotho (Cousins, 2012). The calls of these birds are unmistakable upon your entrance to the trailhead and mark the onset of a traversing within this space. If you struggle to identify the calls select the audio link below to listen and adjust yourself to fit within the collective memory of this space. These birds have been native species within this area for thousands of years and continue to thrive among the lush provisions of the land. Recall that this land we find ourselves on holds within it, beyond the soil, mud, and gravel, the history of a people before us. This history is a cyclical one that continues to build its value through the collective, as such the intentionality behind this journey needs to be one of appreciation for the land.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Final Project: A study of Old Rag Mountain


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