About an hour or so later, during which I tortured myself wondering if I was going the right way and thinking that I probably was, then doubting myself again, I finally decided to ask for directions. When I told the attendant, an incredibly sweet girl with a red buzzcut and a butch country look, where I was going, a woman on her way out remarked "Boye, you are a long way off!" Unfazed, the attendant described the steps to get where I was going ("No, I don't know the street names, but its real simple"), saw my worried look, and decided to write the directions down.
Adorable, right? I thought so too, but I was still nervous about whether I could follow them reliably. Fortunately, they were absolutely perfect directions, despite the lack of punctuation. They put me back on track, and I continued onward, passing an increasingly themed array of private drive street signs: Winter Wonderland, Snowflake, Arctic; Revolver, Rifle, Shotgun. When I finally got to my turn the road almost immediately turned to gravel/dirt. It also got narrower and narrower as it twisted its way up the mountain.
go 2 second Red light turn right,
about 25-30 min come 2 red light and take
another right you should Be in duffield
drive Bouth 25-30 more min when
you see a wendy's you R in GAte CitY
My directions said to go to the end of this road, but at times it got so narrow I kept thinking "surely I'm in someone's driveway now." Then another three houses would pop up and I would keep driving. I finally arrived at about 9 PM, two hours late, and although I didn't get to see the property, I did have a long and interesting conversation covering topics as diverse as activism since the 60's, travelers that have come through and stayed at the house, and "Possibly Possums" an idea for a Possum-themed gift shop.
Steve was one of the founders of Virginia Forest Watch, an organization that literally watches forests, keeping an eye out for illegal or inappropriate logging in our public lands and educating private landowners about how to manage their resources sustainably. He first arrived in the area as a "Vista," a government program set up to fight poverty that in the sixties became a breeding ground for countercultural ideas.
Since then, Steve and Maxine have been vocal advocates for peace and environmental stewardship in the region, building quite a reputation for stirring things up (or annoying officials, as Maxine called it). Maxine told me it was a sign of the times, though, that they had recently become involved in the Democratic Party.
The couple take in travelers from time to time, and have thus developed a network of contacts who they can (and do) visit abroad. One such person was Martin Vosseler, who has been walking across the US to promote solar energy after having sailed across the Atlantic in a Solar-Powered catamaran.
As the conversation went on, it got later and later and Steve started to fade out. I wanted to let him sleep, but kept getting hooked back into the conversation by the sheer interestingness of these people. Eventually I left, but I hope I can go back during the daytime sometime to see their beautiful forest.