'Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter, away, you rolling river '. In my memory, I can still hear the deep powerful voice of Paul Robeson coming from the trumpet horn of a wind-up gramophone. I was probably five years old, the place was the post-WWII Odessa, Stalin was still alive and worshiped, and the anti-American campaign, namely, the Cold War, was in high gear. The warfare was utterly schizophrenic as well as the Soviet world around me - American spies and their helpmates were around every corner, however, trucks on the streets were mostly American-made lend-lease trucks; I was dressed in a colorful American jacket from a Joint humanitarian parcel, my only jacket that I was ashamed to wear; my Dad shaved himself with Gillette razor blades; 'Tom Sawyer' was the first English book I read, and Paul Robeson was my favorite singer. His pure Americana records were freely distributed in the anti-American Russia of that time as he was on the right side of the barricades - he was a card-carrying Communist and Stalinist and was even awarded the Stalin Peace Prize in 1952. Go figure!
I completely forgot all this along with a lot of other things in my life and it floated up in memory just recently while reviewing my Shenandoah National Park images. The funny part, by the way, is that I had perceived the Shenandoah lyrics incorrectly as a rhetoric expression of 'a daughter of the place/river'. Actually, the river mentioned in the song was Missouri and Shenandoah was a real person, an Indian chief. The Shenandoah valley and the river there was named after this chief by George Washington in recognition of the chief's support of the Americans during the Revolutionary War.
Anyway, it was my first visit to any National park, not counting the Valley Forge, I had great expectations regarding potential photo opportunities, took a lot of heavy lenses and a solid tripod to cover two days of shooting while the rest of the group would bike along the scenic Skyline Drive. It never happened, it was so cold and windy outside that I did not even touch the damned tripod and made all my shooting handheld from the numerous overlooks leaving my car for not more than five minutes in a row. On the bright side, despite the uncooperative weather the light was amazing, constantly moving shadows from the clouds over the hills created spellbinding landscapes.
We entered the park through the Front Royal entrance, drove to the Skyland Resort and left the park via the Thornton Gap entrance the next day.