Letter: Appreciating Rappahannock

From the time I first climbed Bald Mountain as a kid in the Adirondacks in New York, I have wanted to live in the mountains. In 1987, I bought five acres with a shack and no running water on a no name road on Oventop Mountain and in 1995 bought a small log cabin home on the same road which now has a name and where my husband, Ray Boc, and I live. We are definitely “come heres.” We would not live anywhere else.

Current discussions about economic revitalization of Rappahannock County raise our collective awareness of the complexity of the issue. I appreciate the interest of all segments of the community and believe that, with ongoing dialogue and respect, the county will emerge stronger. To that end, more folks may start to attend the meetings announced in the paper.

Rappahannock meets the needs of many people in unique ways. I have come to appreciate how much this county means to those who come here as tourists. With all the discussion about the future of Rappahannock County, I want to share these thoughts.

Tourism is about people. It is about those of us who live and work here. John McCarthy says that Rappahannock is “on the way to nowhere,” but all of us know that when folks get here they sure do love it! If agriculture and tourism are to remain the bedrock of our comprehensive plan, it is the ability of the folks who live and work together who will make it successful.

We have managed a vacation rental home since 2004 and are relative newcomers to the tourism business. One of the reasons Ray and I enjoy this business is because guests find peace and happiness during their visits.

Who comes here? Our beloved county has three times been a refuge and safe haven from war for a very brave Green Beret who fought over 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan; families seeking a place to reconnect; couples celebrating their anniversary or just getting away; groups of women gathering annually to sustain friendships; hikers exploring the park; single parents playing with their kids; families and friends of a bride and groom attending weddings at vineyards; groups of Girl Scouts on their final adventure climbing Old Rag with a leader they had since first grade.

Last spring break my daughter, a frequent visitor, took over the house with two other moms and their kids who all enjoyed the mountains and visits to a vernal pool filled with clumps of frog and salamander eggs and tadpoles.

Whether it is one couple, a family or a group of friends, our vacation rental home in the heart of Sperryville has never failed to please. Yes, we provide the home, but — and this is a big but — it would not work without all the family run businesses and restaurants that folks can walk to from the House on Water Street:

• All the shops at the School House, River District Arts, Copper Fox Distillery and Copper Fox Antiques.

• The Corner Store, Rudy’s and Thornton River Grille are of such high quality that they never fail to please and now we can add those juicy grass fed burgers at Headmaster’s Pub and Tapas and Spanish Cuisine at El Quijote as choices.

• The availability of grass fed beef, pastured pork and lamb at Heritage Hollow which guests bring back to the house to grill and take home in coolers.

• The massage therapists and chefs who provide services at the house.

• Main Street, a unique blend of residential and commercial, including art galleries, a yoga studio and the dedicated group of volunteers at Sperryville Volunteer Rescue Squad.

• The workshops provided by artists such as stained glass artist Patti Brennan and the photographers at Old Rag Photography.

• The county’s many wineries.

• The short drive to Sperryville’s west end to Eric’s Oldway Gallery, to Phyllis and Bobette’s Beech Spring Farms, to those yummy Saturday morning donuts and scones from Triple Oak Bakery and to Rainbow Market and Nature’s Way Day Spa at Hearthstone.

• And, of course, Shenandoah National Park!

What makes these visits successful? Without doubt, the proximity to the park and the beauty of our county bring visitors. What keeps them coming back is their interactions with the welcoming folks at our businesses, old and new.

For example, they love chatting with “Mom” at Copper Fox. One woman sent a note saying how helpful Chuck at the Corner Store was to her during their weekend here. She also did her Christmas shopping last week with Eric Kvarnes. Waterpenny Farm, in season, and Roy and Janet’s Orchard and Market, are must stops for those who cook some meals at the house. Every shop is a joy to our guests, without fail.

Ray and I could not keep The House on Water Street going without the support of so many folks who live here. John Dodson, a multi-farm manager, plows the snow in winter and helps with heavy cleaning jobs. Ronnie Dodson finds time, in between his full time job as a deputy sheriff, to mow while we are away and Ellen Berg, who also operates an in-home pet sitting business, leaves no detail unattended in the house.

Nan Reddick, contractor and house designer, built a porch and upgraded doors. Darren McKinney, also a contractor, designed and installed a shower and is there for every emergency — like replacing a rusted hot water tank and burned out HVAC system. Master gardener Susan Hager and Martin and Estelle Hernandez work on the yard. We are an interdependent community businesses and this works.

At the dinner table with my grandchildren we usually start the meal with each person saying one nice thing about each person there — often a challenge with siblings! In our community dialogue, I hope we can find ways to express appreciation as we move through our community problem solving process.

Yes, we need affordable housing. Yes, we need to participate in an open planning process. Yes, we need to continue to find ways to link agriculture and conservation, and yes, we need to keep the conversations going. I appreciate that every person starts from a common value — love for Rappahannock.

Barbara Adolfi

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