A Romantic Timber Frame Getaway
The Land… (Jewell Hollow)
Guests often ask us “How did you find this place?” We felt it would be helpful for those interested to provide you the “short” story of Shadow Mountain Escape’s history!
The name “Shadow Mountain Escape” comes from the name of the tracts (Shadow Mountain tracts) of land that were originally subdivided within Jewell Hollow from large parcels that once belonged to several of the pioneering families of the county (the Jewell and Sours family among them). We added the term “Escape” to invoke a sense of the purpose behind our effort. To provide our precious guests an environment conducive to happiness and fulfillment, we focus on exposing the beauty and spirit of the natural landscape and the remarkable life that grows from it. In respect to the origins of timber framing and our German heritage (we spent many years living and discovering the wonders of the “old world”), we also strive to capture the same old rural European charm that left its indelible impact on us many years ago. We hope that our vision shines through our timber frames just a little bit… fueling your passions and contributing to your happiness.
In the mid-1980’s we would often drive to our favorite Virginia escape – the mountains – for back packing, day hikes, visits to local wineries, etc. Ultimately, we fell in love with the mountains in and around Page County! Despite later years of military service, Corporate International Sales and Marketing jobs, and many homes “under our belt”, we began a slow and challenging process of pursuing our vision to build “Shadow Mountain Escape”.- Eventually to establish our permanent “homestead” in the mountains that we adored.
The real journey began one sunny afternoon in 1993 when we stopped at a Real Estate office in Sperryville (just over the mountain on the East side) and asked if there were any sizeable lots available with a pristine and undisturbed mountain stream, mountain views and bordering the Shenandoah National Park. The realtor’s response in her distinct Appalachian dialect was…. “Wouldn’t everybody like property with a stream and bordering the National Park? Honey, you’ll never find that!” After the initial shock and disappointment, we became determined to find what we were looking for. Following a generic letter sent to most of the local real estate offices in the area, one month later, we received a call from Ashby Downer with Page Realty stating he had the property we were looking for! We drove to Luray the following weekend. Upon seeing the remote and completely overgrown lot tucked into the local legendary “Jewell Hollow” (wild enough at the time to scare most sensible prospective buyers away!), we immediately saw the potential. After struggling to scrape together the funds, we took our first big step in pursuing our dream of “Shadow Mountain Escape”. As a result, SME was born from these 15 acres of land, at elevation approx. 1300 feet, next to the National Park and home to countless native species of animals and vegetation.
The land in Jewell Hollow hides many stories. Jewell Hollow is steeped in stories of early America. Prior to the 20th century, the hollow was home to several pioneering families who labored greatly to scrape out a simple agrarian living on the side of this mountain. It was a busy place during the American civil war with constant union and confederate scout movements all around this pass. During colonial times, the British governors directed surveying of this area and granted land rights to pioneering families for the purpose of reaping the tremendous natural resources. Timber operations and mining left many parts of these mountains bare in the 18th and 19th centuries. Prior to the Europeans arriving the area, this area was active ground for numerous Indian tribes including the Shawnee, Iroquois, and Cherokee. The earliest Indian tribe mentioned (never contacted by the Europeans as far as my research shows) was a tribe known as the Shenantoa… surely leading to our name Shenandoah. Indian history here spans to the end of the ice age. Artifacts are found in this area dating back thousands of years. In Dec 2021, Ralph found an ancient axe head that resembles some of the earliest axe heads… likely dating back over 6-8,000 years ago.
The vegetation on Shadow Mountain Escape includes mostly varieties of trees and brush characteristic of the Virginia Mountains. Of particular interest may be the numerous shapely Red Cedars, Black Walnut, Hemlock and White Pine trees. Look for the many varieties of mushrooms – especially in April when the morel mushrooms flourish – a regional delicacy. In the late summer and fall after rainfalls, you can find a wealth of mushrooms throughout the forest to include Boletus and Chanterelle mushrooms. In the summer look for the many wild raspberry (wine berry) and blackberry bushes. Wild onions and wild carrots are also typical.
The animal life on the property includes too much and too many species to give justice to in this paragraph! In short, keep your eyes open for the following: Black bear, white tail deer, wild turkey, raccoons, fox, possum, and an occasional coyote. Some of the more interesting reptiles include box turtles, snakes (watch out for copperheads), and blue tail lizards. Enjoy the variety of birds which seem to migrate in an out constantly – the popular woodpeckers, cardinals and blue jay can be spotted almost year-round.
One of the most wonderful things about being in this beautiful location in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains is that the environment changes dramatically with each season. It is like being in four different places each year without moving an inch. The mountains take on a dark and ominous appearance in the cold and icy winter months – perfect for huddling near the wood stove and bundling up for a walk in the woods. In the spring the landscape explodes in bright greens and colorful flowers while the “greening” of the earth slowly moves up the mountain slopes week after week. The Summer is characterized by hot days and nice evenings – the forests are rich with foliage and the sounds and signs of the animals are rich in the air. The Fall is stunning as it erupts into color while the welcome cool air and crystal-clear nights prepare to put nature to rest for another winter.