Fog-shrouded hillsides, historic landmarks, roads built upon ski-slope grades, and a peaceful calm seldom found in most of our 21st Century Loudoun County: all this- – just a few seconds away from the high-velocity traffic of Route Seven. I imagine that if there’s a perfect spot in which to read a spooky novel (my choice would be Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) in these parts- you could do far worse than a little crows-nest bedroom in one of the houses perched on the ladder-like geography of Bluemont.
The last morning I was there, the mist still hung over much of Loudoun Valley to the east- easily visible from those almost dizzying heights. I’ve read that Bluemont’s the highest community in the County – above sea level, that is- and I’m a believer. Incidentally, I’m starting a list of places to go in this locality from which you can see a lot of topography – and the little corkscrew portion of Snickersville Turnpike that climbs the grade up to the divided highway above Bluemont’s a good place to start. From up here, you literally command a view: you almost feel like you possess everything you can see – and you can see quite a lot of landscape as it slides back down toward Round Hill, Purcellville, Hamilton and Leesburg. It’s a very empowering little spot.
Of course, back down in the heart of the more ‘civilized’ section of the community, you’ll see familiar landmarks like the E.E. Lake General Store, the Bluemont Community Center, local churches, and historic homes – and, further out in the ‘flats’ – horse farms, cattle spreads and the almost ubiquitous stone fences. I heard a story from one of the nearby landowners that the construction of some of these rock walls dates back to the Revolutionary War- when they were supposedly used as portions of prisoner-of-war barracks – to house Hession soldiers. I haven’t been able to nail that one down, but it’s still a good story. Sometimes it’s better if it just stays that way – a little mystery.
And, on that subject – you know the story about Mount Weather- the best-kept secret in Loudoun County – just a hop, skip and a jump down the Blue Ridge from Bluemont: rumors claim that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s operations and training facility features some sort of underground labyrinth which could accommodate a full United States Government after some unspeakable event. I’ve even heard a crazier story: that Uncle Sam actually had an underground tunnel constructed all the way out to Mount Weather from Dulles Airport. Now, I like a good story, but that one has WHOPPER written all over it. Still, Mount Weather has its secrets- sitting like a Sphynx out there on the western slope above Bluemont- a cold war relic living on into a New Age.
Another local fixture – this one highly accessible – tying the past to the present, is the beloved, annual Bluemont Fair: if pickles, pies and bluegrass are your thing, you’ll want to experience this one. Part of its allure is the timing – about the third weekend in September – just when the leaves out on the western slopes are starting to think about turning color, and the air has that little something in it that makes you think of football, bonfires, hayrides and jack-o-lanterns.
So – what have we said about Bluemont? It’s foggy, steep, generally quiet, has great secrets, and huge, welcoming arms. It’s also pretty sparse: only a couple hundred residents tough it out here every winter – and enjoy the cool evening breezes of the summer. And, how they must enjoy their autumns! I have the pleasure of riding through some of the most picturesque countryside in Loudoun on a daily basis – and I’d say that Bluemont has itself quite a coveted little spot.So – add ‘colorful’ to that list of adjectives we’ve been stockpiling. I think another advantage to this location is its relative distance from most of the Loudoun County population: as much as Northern Virginians seem to like driving, they certainly don’t all pile into the family SUV and head for Bluemont very often.
You know – I’ve noticed, in my time in Loudoun County, that it’s far easier to get locals to drive east than to entice them to the west. Maybe that’s a good thing. I always did like a reverse commute.