What makes the Virginia Piedmont Special?
If you ask anyone who has been to Orange, VA what they thought about it, probably one of the first things they’ll say is “It’s so beautiful!” Indeed it is, which is one of the many reasons why Sharon and I moved here and bought our historic bed and breakfast inn! Let me explain to you why this is.
First, I shall amaze and enlighten you with a quick and easy geography lesson. Virginia is essentially one giant watershed–that is, the water from the mountains to the west drains through Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay, and eventually into the Atlantic. This watershed is actually quite diverse and includes several topographical zones. In the East, we have the Tidewater, so named because the rivers flowing from West to East are close enough to the coast, and low enough in elevation, to rise and fall with the Atlantic tides. The Tidewater is characterized by low wetlands and predominately sandy soil. The eastern broder of the Tidewater is the Chesapeake Bay, and the western border is a geological feature called the Fall Line. The Fall line runs north to south, roughly along the route of I-95. The Fall Line marks the farthest point inland where the rivers are no longer tidal, and where they historically were no longer navigable by large vessels. Hence, this is the reason why so many Virginia towns and cities were established along this North-South Corridor (Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Alexandria, just to name a few).
West of the Fall Line is the Virginia Piedmont. The Piedmont is the quintissential Virginia landscape, filled with babbling creeks, streams and rivers flowing gently on their perpetual journey to the Chesapeake Bay. The Piedmont is best characterized by gently rolling hills, historic pastoral landscapes, large forested areas, beautiful sprawling farms, and plenty of wildlife. Historically, travellers and commentators have called the Virginia Piedmont “Virginia Horse Country” or “Virginia Hunt Country” because of the historical predominance of these activities here. More recently, the moniker Virginia Wine Country has increased in usage due to the immense number of Virginia wineries and vineyards dotting the landscape. Naturally, large expanses of vineyards lend themsevles to scenic views and romantic ideas. It is in this iconic Piedmont zone that one can find Orange, VA, and the Holladay House Bed and Breakfast.
Continuing to the West, the Virginia Piedmont terminates at the Blue Ridge Mountain range, one of the most scenic and picturesque natural landscapes in America. The Appalachian trail meanders through these mountains, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, and numerous Wildlife Areas and State and National Parks.
The Blue Ridge Mountains then descend into the famed Shenandoah Valley, which is bordered on its west side by the Allegheny Mountains, which, like the Blue Ridge, are also part of the Appalachian Mountain chain.
The Peacefulness of . . . Hot air?
So, why the geography lesson? Because when one understands what makes the Piedmont region unique, one will understand why I was so excited to launch a hot-air balloon five minutes from our Bed and Breakfast Inn! If you continue to read my regular blog posts, you will begin to discover why the Virginia Piedmont is a vital component of America’s history and economy. In modern times, the region still appears much like is did almost 2 centuries ago, and you cannot help but sense the essence of history when you meander across this region. From a hot-air ballon, this sense of history, place, and natural romance comes to you with stunning clarity!
The rolling hills, immaculate horse farms, roaming sheep and goats, meandering rivers, historic sites, and low forested mountains are breathtaking from 1800 feet. We launched early in the morning, just after sunrise, and the mist was still nestled among the shallow valleys, with the early sun reflecting brilliantly off the moisture in the air. The views were breathtaking. One of the most unexpected characteristics of a balloon ride is the quiet stillness one feels when floating in the air currents. High above the human-induced bustle below, the world is peaceful and still. You have little sensation of movement, because when you are moving at the same speed as the air currents, you feel no breeze. You are free to reflect upon the beauty of the natural world, and the stirring consequences of the history that happened on this landscape. Truly, the Virginia Piedmont is a special place, and we strongly encourage anyone to view it from the vantage point of a comfortable basket gently sailing in the air currents above.