Fog on Afton Mountain


Afton Mountain is deceptive. When the sun shines, there’s a clear view of Rockfish Valley on the eastern side. Cars become matchbox miniatures and vineyard rows look like fresh rake marks in dirt. Sometimes, visibility is so sharp that individual leaves on the trees wave to the passerby. On the western slope, the Shenandoah Valley spreads out rolling, slopes touching clouds, and dipping into ravines—a haphazard blanket over a bed of sleeping dogs.

When it’s a gray day, and water droplets weigh down the pockets of the clouds, Afton Mountain is ominous. Fog rests in tree tops and filters down before sprawling on the highway,  like a ghost with arms outstretched, quietly gathering up guardrails, warning signs, tail lights, cars, and whole tractor trailers in its mist. People become confused. Airplane pilots lose their visual bearings and travelers on Afton lose direction, front-to-back, side-to-side. It seems they drift alone and a silence takes over. The fog can kill.

In April 1992, sixty cars skidded then piled up on the mountain, claiming two lives. In April 1998, sixty-five drivers succumbed to the same fate; forty people were hospitalized. Three weeks later, eighteen cars collided in a chain reaction. When Afton Mountain hides under cloud, a dangerous game of hide and seek ensues. It’s best not to be tagged. Stay at home when rain threatens.

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