Playdates with God: Horsepen Mountain



This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. Scroll down to find out who won last week’s anniversary giveaway!


Yesterday, I drove south, through some old coal towns, along the Guyandotte River, to preach in a little gem of a town called Gilbert, WV. It’s a two hour drive, one way, but the people who waited for me there were worth that little bit of Sunday morning anxiety caused by being too far from home. Getting into Gilbert isn’t easy, the roads having given way to nature in places—down to one scant lane at times. But it’s a beautiful drive and yesterday the sky opened up to the blue of the morning and the trees were getting a start taking on color.

When I arrived, I chatted with Tim in the church kitchen while the others were in Sunday school. He told me about a stretch of four-lane the Department of Highways has been working on since 1999. “It will only be twelve miles when it’s done,” he said. “But every mile costs 11.9 million dollars to complete.”

I told him I had seen the massive innards of the mountains they have blasted away—awe-inspiring rises of naked stone gaping down over the little valley.

“I wanted to pull over and take pictures,” I told him.

He told me about a place up on Horsepen Mountain where I could look down into the valley and see a bright spot of beauty. It’s the highest point in Mingo County, he said. “It’s a really nice view from there.”

After church, I asked my friend Debra about Horsepen Mountain. “It’s a twisty, windy road,” she said, an edge of caution to her voice. “But it would be really pretty right now.”

I was eager to get home to my family, as I always am when I have to leave them on a Sunday, but I felt that familiar tugging in my spirit. The thing about the almost-empty nest is I’m freer to pursue that tugging—not so much worried about everyone else’s schedules now. So I pointed my minivan north on route 52 and headed up, up, up, into that blue sky. On the way I noticed the Poplars and Sycamores were almost bare, and the road was littered with blowing leaves. One red maple leaf did a graceful pirouette and landed on my hood. Near the top, I passed a historical marker, but didn’t see it in time to stop. So I turned around and pulled off the road beside the sign to read these words:

Nearby, Boling Baker, white leader of the Shawnee Indians, and husband of Aracoma, the daughter of Chief Cornstalk, held horses stolen from the white settlements. Recovery by owners in effect exterminated Baker’s adopted tribe.”

Well, if that isn’t enough to spark the imagination on a two-hour drive home, nothing is. I couldn’t wait to read more about Boling Baker and Aracoma.

It didn’t take long to get to the top of the mountain, which Wikipedia tells me is 2500 feet. I found the gas station Tim told me about and pulled over across the road from it. Sure enough, the view was magnificent. Horsepen Mountain is part of what’s called “The Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians.” This belt of mountains within a belt of mountains is characterized by long, even ridges, with continuous valleys in between. Wikipedia says “from a great enough altitude, they almost look like corduroy … “

Those undulating ridges and valleys took my breath away. It was shortly after noon when I stood on the top of the world looking down and the sun and clouds played chiascuro over the treetops. I let God’s hand touch me through that glimpse of beauty.

Then I hopped in the van and came down from the mountain.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

The winner of last week’s giveaway is … Jaime Wiebel! Congratulations, Jaime! I’ll be in touch. 

Almost Empty


    • says

      Isn’t it interesting? In my investigations, I learned that the story is performed in an outdoor drama every year in one of the state parks nearby the mountain. I’m going to have to go next year! Although, the assessment of the performance was this: great theatre, not so great historical accuracy. But it does leave a lot to the imagination. I found it so sad that all their children died of small pox. 8, was it? That alone could make me cry. BTW, I ordered D’s book for you on amazon and you should be getting it soon, but I felt cheated not to get to send you a personal note, so I’m working on another little mailing for you :).

  1. says

    Oh this sounds lovely… and this: “The thing about the almost-empty nest is I’m freer to pursue that tugging…” It’s so true! It’s one of the unexpected blessings. (–only unexpected because who would have thought we would learn to love it?)

  2. says

    What a drive that must have been! Did you get more photos than the one in this post?
    How wonderful that you set out on a trip to “feed” a group of believers with the weekly message and ended up receiving so much–the scenery and history.

    • says

      I did get a few more, Constance. It was fun pretending to be a nature photographer :). Yes, I was filled in a special way. And it didn’t add too much to my trip, only about half an hour. It was good. I wish I always listened to the promptings of the Holy Spirit so well!

  3. Dea Moore says

    I love the mountains. The empty nest—not so much. I’ve never been to WV though I love the Appalachians to the south. So much beauty and history…I thankful you took the high road my friend…

    • says

      Oh, you must come and visit us, Dea! It’s especially beautiful this time of year with all the fall foliage. And I suppose there’s a story for every mountain, don’t you? I’m such a glutton for them. You know how they name the bridges after our veterans? Every one I drive over I want to know the namesake’s story! Just a reflection of our Daddy, the Great Storyteller, I think :).

    • says

      It is a beautiful time of year, isn’t it, Mary? I wish you could have been with me, it was a sweet time. You’ll have to have a little playdate with God that is similar 🙂

  4. Sharon says

    I love when God surprises us with His beauty in creation! Last week my hubby and I were camping in Joshua Tree National Park. And, we were treated to the most amazing thunder and lightning storm we have ever seen! It was truly spectacular! It was a good lesson to remember – sometimes we find God when we take the time to venture away from the familiar…


  5. says

    I love taking unknown paths, Laura! You never know what you might find. I always miss the historical markers, too. From your post, I think I need to start turning around. You never know when you’ll find a good story!


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