On days when life has dealt more than I can handle, I have a little thing I do that makes it better. I just close my eyes, drift back to Douthat State Park in Virginia, and relive some of the happiest days of my life.
In 1986, life was difficult for us. Money was tight. But, we were in love and yearning to have a family. We wanted to be married. Although I was born and raised in Florida, it had always been my dream to marry in the scenic mountains of Virginia on the steps of a log cabin. I had visited Virginia when I was a child, traveling the full length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and fell in love with the breathtaking beauty of the majestic mountains. My fiancé was also a nature lover, so together we decided to elope to Virginia.
One day, we unfolded a map of the area that displayed the slogan, “Virginia is for Lovers” which seemed to be written especially for us. With clasped hands, and our two fingers pressed together, we closed our eyes and pointed to a spot on the map. We landed on Douthat State Park. We set a wedding date for September 17th, 1986, and reserved a week in cabin number six.
With a sign in our car that said, “To the Mountains or Bust” we drove from Florida to Virginia, non-stop in my mother’s car, loaned to us because neither of ours could have made the trip.
We received a video camera as a wedding gift, and began using it to capture the beautiful mountain panorama along the way. The magnificent Virginia Mountains echoed our timeless love. We were thrilled to be in such a beautiful place. With the hope of new love in our hearts, we shouted with joy as we drove down the tree-lined road toward the unseen cabin. To this day, I can still hear the sound of the gravel road as we drove past the glistening lake to our left. We called out the numbers as we passed each log cabin, our anticipation growing exponentially. Suddenly, there it was right in front of us, cabin number six in all of its charming simplicity nestled on a hillside in the woods. We were giddy with delight knowing that we would soon be married right there. It was everything we had dreamed of. Oh, the romance. We cried, we laughed, and we were both very happy.
Although we knew it would be unforgettable, we took video and pictures of everything as we saw it for the first time. The gravel, the lake, the trees, the mushrooms, the deer, the singing birds, the huge logs put together by the CCC that formed the cutest little cabin I had ever seen, and the neat pile of firewood on the front porch beside the lovely blue rocking chairs. Finally, we opened the door to the little log cabin and took a step inside. We faced a large, impressive stone fireplace with George Washington andirons. To the right we saw a quaint dining table with chairs, and to the left a charming little bed with a beautiful braided rug hugging the wooden floor between them. The rustic blues and browns were warm and inviting. Hanging on the wall was a framed “Virginia Is For Lovers” poster. We were overjoyed.
We unpacked our belongings into the cozy cabin, and I hung my wedding dress on a hand-wrought iron hook in the back room. We then enjoyed a drive into Clifton Forge to get our marriage license and to find the right minister. A very nice lady in the Court House, helped us get in touch with a loving minister who found great happiness in performing weddings in the special ways that mean so much to a couple. We called him immediately, and he said he would be very happy to perform the wedding ceremony on the steps of the cabin for us, in the glory of the outdoors, which was to us, God’s church. Based on this phone conversation, we asked the minister to perform the ceremony the very next morning.
We then enjoyed the spectacular scenery while driving around the Alleghany Mountains searching for a restaurant where we could enjoy our wedding dinner. Wow, were we surprised as we rounded a curve on the narrow mountain road and discovered the stately grandeur of The Homestead in Hot Springs as it revealed itself to us. We went to the dining room and made dinner reservations for the next night. Secretly, my loving fiancé arranged to have red roses delivered to the table.
At sunrise the next morning, in anticipation of the day ahead, I sat quietly in prayer for a few moments while my soon-to-be-husband walked to the park office, and asked if there was someone available to take video of our wedding at 11:00 AM that day. “Sure,” they said, “A ranger will be at your cabin around 10:45 AM.”
At 11:00 AM, on the perfect morning of September 17th, 1986, the minister, the park ranger, and the man of my dreams said they were ready. The mountain air was clean and cool. The dappled sunlight shining through the autumn leaves, the clear blue sky, and the singing birds, would all be witness to our sacred vows. Trembling with happiness and almost forgetting my shoes, bashfully I stepped out onto the old stone porch of the historic log cabin.
There were three other people there that day, but I only saw one at that moment …the honorable, sincere, compassionate, devoted, warm-hearted, and dashingly handsome man that I had fallen so deeply in love with. Waiting for me there with his strong outstretched hand he gallantly guided me to the lovely stone steps in front of the log cabin.
With the natural beauty of the Virginia Mountains as our backdrop, the minister performed a deeply touching ceremony for us. I gazed into my love’s dreamy azure eyes that were reflecting the beauty of the Heavens and we spoke our sacred vows to each other, cherishing every promise. And so, all of those years ago, with a tender kiss, we began our lives together, on the steps of the little log cabin, surrounded by the natural beauty provided by God. Our love and our memories are as fresh as today in our hearts and minds, and we surely realize how truly blessed we are.
Later that evening, as the beauty of the setting magenta sun gently kissed goodnight the sunny day, we traveled the scenic drive to The Homestead for an enchanted evening of dining and dancing. In the ballroom, there were wonderful people who spontaneously photographed our descent of the spiral staircase and our first dance together as husband and wife while the band played, “The Greatest Love of All.” These gracious and generous people then presented us with their completed rolls of film along with a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne.
Very sadly, the minister we had grown so quickly fond of passed away years ago, leaving to his own bride an enduring legacy of loving service. And the funny, warm and enthusiastic park ranger… it would make us so happy to find him again after all of these years of enjoying the priceless video he took for us that day. I wonder if he kept my ruffled satin garter he caught, that I placed over his boot and onto his muscular leg.
During our stay, we had fun at the Falling Spring Falls left us breathless and were especially picturesque. The beauty of Virginia inspired our passions, enlivened our senses, and restored our souls.
September 17th, 2011, will be our 25th wedding anniversary. Our family has grown to include three beloved children and three precious grandchildren. How truly blessed we are.
Through all our times of sickness and health, of feast and famine, of heartache and joy, we have had and still have each other and our family, and we will always have these cherished memories of one of the happiest times of our lives when we became husband and wife on the steps of little log cabin number six, at Douthat State Park, nestled in the beautiful Alleghany Mountains of Virginia.