For centuries, people have been pondering the classic koans: the sound of one hand clapping, the nature of the Buddha, the tree falling in the forest. Now, we get to add to this the distinctly American koan: How can you trespass on your own land?
Like the Native Americans who could not wrap their head around the idea of buying and selling land, I have not been able to wrap my head around the shutdown of public lands during the government shutdown. I’ve read the reasons, but I still don’t really get it. These lands are mine and yours. That’s what I knew, and as my husband joked, I was ready to go all Edward Abbey on my favorite piece of National Forest if they didn’t stop all this nonsense soon.
Life with a newborn makes time go faster, but it was a long 16 days without Glen Alton. “Where? Glen What?”
Glen Alton. Paradise right here in Giles County. You know you haven’t died and gone to heaven only because a) the swarm of gnats that surround you must have come from the wrong side of Earth and b) surely no lawn mowing is necessary in heaven.
Glen Alton is an old homestead that has recently been renovated for public use. The extensive grounds call to picnickers, while the red-painted outbuildings make it a photographer’s dream. Birders come to listen to calls on the nature trail, and fishermen reel in trout from nearby Big Stony Creek. Littler folks find delight in the mound of sand and sandbox toys, swings, and the mud pie “kitchen.”
Eric and I originally wanted to get married here, but that was the year they were doing construction on the buildings, and we didn’t think yellow “do not cross” tape was very romantic. Now, however, it’s perfect. One of the main buildings is occupied full time as a caretaker’s cottage, but the other is available for day-time rental. Brides often use it to get dressed for their big day. Most weddings take place underneath the grape-vine arbor on a manicured peninsula. (As what homestead would be complete without its very own pond?)
The best time to visit Glen Alton is in October. Wind enough to keep the gnats away, sunshine, spectacular mountain views made better by the changing colors of the leaves– you won’t ask for any more, but you’ll get it. Delicious muscadine grapes, unusual apple varieties, pears too, chestnuts and walnuts just a-lying on the ground, all ready for the taking. You can go and harvest the wealth for hours at a time. All of this might make you might be tempted to keep Glen Alton a secret all to yourself, but it’s not necessary. There’s plenty for everybody. Just being there will make you feel positively rich.
Every time I go to Glen Alton, I discover something new. There are so many little out-of-the-way pockets to poke about in. Can you find the old barn– the one that’s not painted red? What about the row of blueberry bushes? The old scales? What will I find next time?
So, have I convinced you yet? Go visit! But first, a caveat: Glen Alton is off the beaten track; the caretaker’s cottage is the end of the line for electrical and telephone service. Don’t expect to get cell service or your GPS to provide accurate directions. Also, bring a wide-brimmed hat (in case of gnats).
In the meantime, leave a comment to tell me about your favorite piece of public land that you’re glad to be able to visit again.