Blue Ridge Tunnel




When was the last time you said the phrase, “I see the light at the end of the tunnel”? Perhaps you spoke these words at the end of a difficult season in your life, at the completion of a large work project, or while visiting the Blue Ridge Tunnel.

Our family visited the tunnel for the first time on December 31, 2020. We parked our car in the west entrance parking lot and started our descent along the trail from Waynesboro to Afton. Our conversations included words of reflection on the past year and hope for the year to come. After walking nearly a mile along the trail, the tunnel’s west entrance appeared with its impressive stonework. At first glance, the tunnel’s entrance looked like a drawing of an archway of stone holding a dark shadow with one small yellow dot in the center. The dim light drew us into the tunnel, and it grew brighter with every step. We left the tunnel that day in awe and with gratitude.


One month later, my younger daughter, Haven, and I walked the trail starting at the east entrance. A woman in front of us shared that her son planned to propose to his girlfriend inside the tunnel. She encouraged us to allow the couple time alone for the proposal to take place. We paused by the waterfall and watched with excitement as the young couple entered the tunnel. A few minutes later, we entered the tunnel and saw a glowing light approximately 1,000 feet ahead of us. This glowing light was from a twelve-foot tree branch wrapped with battery-operated white lights. We soon heard shouts of joy. I turned to Haven and said, “It sounds like she said, ‘yes.’”

The joy that reverberated within the walls was a clear reminder of how celebration can happen in the darkness and in dark seasons of life, such as a job loss, the death of a loved one, or a health crisis. Celebration marked this second visit to the tunnel.

Early one morning, my older daughter, River, and I went to the tunnel to see the sunrise. The west entrance parking lot was empty. We stepped out of the car into dark silence. Birds were not chirping, and other people were not hiking. Doubt and fear increased with each step. We gave up. We failed to see the tunnel’s beauty at sunrise. I felt the weight of regret as we turned back toward the parking lot. I wondered how many stories go unwritten when faith yields to fear. River and I witnessed a sunrise that morning, just not from the tunnel. We choose a less anxiety-provoking spot, an Afton Mountain overlook.


Before winter turned to spring, I walked the tunnel trail with a small group of ladies from my church. We were all amazed at the large falling icicles both outside and inside of the tunnel during this walk. As we neared the end of the trail at the east entrance, several college students walked past us. One student lifted her eyes to ours and wished us words of blessing. This visit was enriched by community, those who came along for the walk and those we met along the way.

I encourage you to visit the Blue Ridge Tunnel. As you walk or ride your bike, explore the trail with your body, mind, and spirit. On life’s trail and inside life’s dark tunnel, trust your Creator with each step, watch for joy, do not yield to fear, be patient in the darkness, and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Remember, God is with you on the journey.


 

April was born and raised in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina. She earned her Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. April and her avid-angler husband, Reed, reside in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with their two amazing daughters, River and Haven, along with furry companion Daffy. April finds her joy with mountains in the background and mission in her heart.


Read more about April at www.aprilhcranford.com