Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sounds of the Mountain

Camp Bethel near Troutville, Virginia hosts Sounds of the Mountains this time of the year and Lib and I make it a point to attend. It's a growing regional event dedicated to the art of "story telling" and includes some musical groups who play blue grass or Appalachian music. Camp Bethel is in the Blue Ridge mountains and its rustic ambiance is almost a perfect venue for this weekend event.

I was particularly interested in seeing and hearing the The Wright Kids , a family group of four siblings from around six years of age to sixteen. They have already attained some national attention and since they play stringed instruments and came from nearby Franklin County had aroused my curiosity. They were most professional in their performance individually and together and should be around as professional entertainers as long as they can maintain their unique niche in the business.

And then the cloudburst happened! It was just after lunch and the afternoon program had just gotten underway when it began to rain. At first it was just the ordinary pitter patter of raindrops falling on the roof of the auditorium building. The first story tellers did theirs to this accompaniment. Then as if in a huge orchestral crescendo the patter turned into a thunderous roar which came in waves and lasted perhaps over an hour. It was soon obvious that this was not the usual rainstorm and Camp Bethel is not designed to deal well with such inundations. The first sign that there was something to be concerned about was that many of the vendors were moving their tables away from the walls. Next there was an announcement for owners of  RUV's to meet with the camp manager. Rising waters were posing a threat. The rain continued for some time. Then
there was the announcement that flooding had become critical enough to close the road that leads out to the main road...that it would be at least two hours before the water would be low enough for people to leave.
The Wright Kids must have been on the premises before lunch or we would probably have missed hearing them.

After their very fine presentation there was a supper break..thanks to vendors who provide ample meals so people don't have to leave the premises for food. Finally, around 7:00 pm the camp manager announced that
due to the efforts of a farm family close to the camp the road was now open but that VDOT had said
"at your own risk". Lib and I opted to leave; it was the time we had planned to leave anyhow to return to our place in Midlothian by 10:00 pm.

As we drove through the camp grounds we could see rivulets crossing the road at several places. Some were the size of small creeks. Near the entrance to the camp ground the road was inundated by ponds of water  inches deep   that one prayed was just that, inches deep. A brown rushing stream of water ran under the bridge that lead over to the main highway. As there were a few cars coming into the facility I was comforted that the bridge was structurally sound and crossed over.

We followed the storm home, but it was always ahead of us. Just as we drove into Chesterfield County I saw one lightning flash just on the far horizon. At home I checked out this weather event on the news and wasn't surprised at the extent of the flash flooding that had occurred in many places all over the region. An ordinary excursion to attend a favorite  event became an adventure  to remember!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Har Ki Dun

I wrote this for my writers club. Thought my India and international readers who might visit Mussoorie would be interested.

There is a beautiful vale to the northwest of Mussoorie called Har Ki Dun “The Valley of the Gods”. I have never been there, but came to know of it through Jill Jornson, a NGO architect designing a school building for a nearby Himalayan village. She was attending the well known Landour Language School and blogging of her adventures there during the 2007-8 years. By this time it was easy to troll for information about Mussoorie on the Net and this is how I encountered her. That she wrote almost poetically of her spiritual journey had me coming back to learn more about her and why and how she had arrived at this place in time.

On one of her entries she described a trip to Har-ki-dun. She was a photographer with professional abilities and took some fine pictures during her trek. One in particular was of a wooden mountain cabin taken near sunset where a golden misty light seemed to envelope the whole scene. The cabin was on a knoll and surrounded on each side by towering peaks bathed in this same beautiful light. It was not part of a village but perched in its own splendor almost as if it were a destination. When I Googled Harkidun pictures, others had sometimes taken this same shot, but none so dramatic and colorful as hers.

It is not easy to get there. First there is a drive from Dehra Dun to Taluka, possibly taking a half day or better as one passes Kempty Falls and would surely stop there to enjoy their beauty. At Taluka is a rest house for those who journey on. Next morning motorized transportation is exchanged for real trekking by foot. It takes about seven hours to the next village which is Osla.. My impression is that it takes about the same time to actually reach Harkidun the next day.

Ir’s still relatively new as a Himalayan destination fot it requires some arduous hiking to get there. It is not on the way to a climbing destination so is a place valued for its aesthetic qualities alone. Even though there are habitations in the valley they are few and far between. The vistas are overwhelming, of a mountain stream gushing over huge boulders and great snow capped mountains at the end of the valley, beckoning for several more days of hiking if the resources are available.

In the Spring many varieties of flowers bloom there. Thus Harkidun is also sometimes known as the “Valley of Flowers”. If you can’t go there in person you may do as I do...visit there via “YouTube” on the Web. Wealthy healthy young people who enjoy this kind of adventure are arriving there, taking pictures or movies of this remote valley and posting them on line. For spiritually sensitive souls it must be a special place where great natural mountain beauty whispers of God’s presence.

Here are three "YouTube" links to Har-ki-dun:

Harkidun 1

Harkidun 2

Harkidun 3