Body Parts

The more I thought about it, apparently body parts influenced an awful lot of geographic names. It seemed natural though. People liked to name things after familiar objects. What could be more familiar than the flesh right there in front of them? From head to feet and practically everywhere in between, I found spots on the map that shared those names. I focused on a small sample of some of the more interesting references.


A Portage to Freedom
A Portage to Freedom via TradingCardsNPS on Flickr (cc)

The name that began this latest search appeared in Pennsylvania. Imagine living in a place called Foot of Ten (map). Within this unincorporated village stood the Foot of Ten Independent Baptist Church. Its website solved the mystery.

The Pennsylvania Legislature authorized construction of a canal between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in 1826. This would do more than simply connect two cities, it would open a trade route between the eastern seaboard and the frontier. Pittsburgh offered direct access to the Ohio and Mississippi River watersheds. However, builders faced a problem, the Eastern Continental Divide atop the Allegheny Mountains. Tunnels or locks would not be feasible on such a massive scale.

Instead, the builders borrowed an idea from England, the use of inclined planes. I mentioned such structures in Tunnels, Bridges, Lifts and Inclines a few years ago. Here the solution became the Allegheny Portage Railroad. Barges loaded onto rail cars and went through a series of ten inclined planes; five uphill and five downhill. Then they resumed their canal ride on the other side. Pulleys and ropes helped move loaded rail cars between inclines, up and over the ridge. They named each incline numerically, from one to ten. A little village sprouted at the foot of Incline Ten. Not being terribly original, the village became Foot of Ten.


Wounded Knee South Dakota
Wounded Knee South Dakota. Photo by Adam Singer on Flickr (cc)

Wounded Knee leapt immediately to mind as I considered noteworthy examples. Wounded Knee Creek flowed into the White River in southwestern South Dakota (map). The name originated exactly as I thought. Rival groups of Native Americans clashed at that spot somewhere in the long forgotten past and one of the men suffered a wound to his knee. Thus, Wounded Knee. Those events happened well before Wounded Knee entered the lexicon for an entirely different reason.

Historians used to call an infamous 1890 incident the "Battle of Wounded Knee." More contemporary interpretations labeled it the "Wounded Knee Massacre." The exact sequence of events will likely never be known. By one account it began when U.S. Cavalry soldiers attempted to disarm members of the Lakota tribe at their encampment. One member of the tribe, being deaf, did not understand the soldiers’ intent. A struggle for his rifle and a possible accidental discharge began a shooting spree on both sides. The soldiers didn’t stop firing until 150 Lakota, including unarmed women and children, lay dead upon the frozen ground.


Devils Backbone - Outpost
Devils Backbone – Outpost. My own Photo.

In Virginia, the small Devils Backbone brewery grew quickly, eventually large enough to be purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2016. I’ve been to both their original brewpub location in Roseland and their "Outpost" production brewery outside of Lexington during my beer wanderings. Naturally I wondered about the unusual name. Did it come from the geography of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains?

Fry-Jefferson map” of Virginia (1751) via Wikimedia Commons, in the Public Domain

Actually, the name did indeed and it tied to a rather notable colonial-era accomplishment. The brewery’s website explained further.

On September 25, 1746, eight years before the French and Indian War, a party of forty set out from Bear Fence Mountain in the Blue Ridge on one of the most legendary land surveys in American history… Their task was to carve and measure a straight line, eighty-miles long through the wilderness, connecting the sources of the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. This line was known as "The Fairfax Line."

I visited the northwestern terminus of that line at the Fairfax Stone last year.

The Geographic Names Information System listed several different Devils Backbones just in Virginia alone. Looking at the Fry-Jefferson Map of 1751, the one inspiring the brewery seemed to be the ridge on the western flank of the Shenandoah Valley (map). The survey line crossed what they called "The North Ridge alias the Devil’s Back Bone." not too far west of current Mount Jackson, the town with the awesome water tower.


Cayuga Lake
Cayuga Lake. My own photo.

So many interesting places existed throughout the world that I generally don’t travel to the same place more than once. I’ve made an exception for the Finger Lakes of New York. I’ve explored the region twice and I’d love to get there a third time. It’s that beautiful. These lakes earned their name for their appearance, like fingers pressed upon the earth.

Glaciation, as one might expect, created these lakes. Glaciers during the most recent ice age pushed down through north-south valleys. Their southward flow accentuated these valleys and left deep, broad troughs behind. They also pushed debris to their farthest extremes. When the glaciers retreated, those large debris moraines became natural dams. Water filled the troughs, and behold, the Finger Lakes appeared. Creeks and rivers left hanging after ice retreated created amazing waterfalls like Taughannock Falls, Watkins Glen and Buttermilk Falls.

So Many More

I could go on-and-on although it’s probably time to stop. Heads, teeth, mouths, elbows and lots of other body parts appeared across the landscape. I so wanted to add Liverpool. Unfortunately, Liverpool was not named for the liver. It came from the Old English word "lifer," meaning "thick, clotted water." Yuk. Even a liver sounded more attractive.

Charlottesville Beer Trail

Email traffic began to pick up late last summer on the DC-Beer Listserv. Another brewpub was about to open in the rolling hills west of Charlottesville. Breweries and brewpubs had been sprouting up in central Virginia like mushrooms on a wet summer morning, and I made a mental note to check things out once I found the right opportunity. That chance came around last weekend when the in-laws visited us for a few days and kindly volunteered to watch the kids overnight. I suppose they felt a little guilty about making me suffer over the holidays but whatever the motivation, we gladly accepted the offer without a second thought.

Charlottesville has long appreciated refined tastes so the recent brewery explosion didn’t seem too surprising. There have been brewpubs within the city for twenty years. However beer continued to take a back seat to wine. Nearly two dozen vineyards dotted the surrounding countryside in all directions to form the Monticello Wine Trail. Breweries hadn’t been confined within the city limits until recently but now a critical mass coalesced in rural western Albemarle and northern Nelson Counties.

View Larger Map
Look at this glorious proximity!

Admittedly this journey doesn’t sound like much of an original effort because of an article that appeared in the Washington Post recently, "Virginia is Also for Beer Lovers." I know, I know, we should have done this in the Fall like we wanted, but who would have watched the kids? Think of the children!

Starr Hill

Starr Hill

We began the trail in Crozet at Starr Hill [see my Starr Hill page; see the real Starr Hill page]. It would have been equally feasible to start the trail in Charlottesville but I’ve already exhausted those possibilities many times before and I felt no particular reason to add to our day. An adventurous outing could have extended the trail to Richmond or even Williamsburg for a full weekend of tastings but we were constrained for time. Perhaps you will be more fortunate when you follow the trail.

We spotted Starr Hill at an industrial-looking site hugging Route 240, Three Notched Road, as we approached a hamlet in western Albemarle. The only other times I’d visit Crozet were back in my college days to taste the renowned Crozet Pizza. Beer and Pizza. What else does a little town need?

Starr Hill didn’t look much like a brewery from the outside, and indeed ConAgra used to convert live chickens into frozen dinners inside that building. Chicken genocide. Bad Mojo. So bad that Starr Hill had to change the name of their MoJo Lager to JoMo Lager (well, actually that was a result of some kind of naming dispute with a Colorado brewery but why ruin a good story). But maybe that’s why we accidentally drove right past it.

After a quick U-Turn we parked in a gravel lot and walked up to the entrance. The door opened onto storage area filled with kegs. We thought there had to be a better way into the building (and maybe there was) but we plowed through anyway and soon arrived at a large, open space with a bottling line and a row of stainless steel fermenters.

A large rectangular bar rose in a nearby corner with plenty of room for thirsty visitors. I was surprised to see a lively crowd at 2:30 on a random winter Saturday afternoon but we had no problem jostling for samples and chatting-up the bartenders/tour guides with all kinds of beer geeky topics. This brewery has a slew of major beer festival awards to its credit and the samples did not disappoint. We joined the 3:00 tour and poked around various nooks for the next half hour or so with our knowledgeable guide, stepping over hoses and trying to stay out of the way of the brewers as the scrubbed and cleaned kettles for the next batch.

There were further invitations to sample once we finished the tour but we had a mission. I got the feeling that anyone could have walk off the street, grabbed a spot at the bar and drank the afternoon away for free if so inclined, as long as one showed an appreciation for the craft being performed here. We left Starr Hill with great reluctance. This was a nice visit: excellent beer; friendly to visitors; passionate staff.

Devils Backbone, with no apostrophe

Devils Backbone

Next we headed towards Devils Backbone [see my Devils Backbone page; see the real Devils Backbone page] about twenty miles further south, just past Nellysford. The mailing address is Roseland but that’s a bit of a misnomer. Essentially it sits right outside of the Wintergreen ski resort. Coming out of Crozet, it would be quickest to take Route 250 to Route 151. My GPS suggested a slightly shorter track taking the backroads, and that’s exactly what I followed. Now, I grew up along roads like these so I flew through twists-and-turns, popping in and out of hollows at about twice the speed my wife would have done, and thought it a great adventure.

We pulled into the shiny, new Devils Backbone brewpub, with memories of Starr Hill’s award-winning brews still fresh on our palettes. This may not have been optimal because I think subconsciously it may have skewed my perceptions.

It was a large, inviting facility and, once again, surprisingly busy for a lazy afternoon. Nearly every table in the restaurant was occupied along with almost every spot at the bar. I guess there’s not much else to do out here but drink, either in breweries or at one of the many vineyards. I’m a big supporter of Alcohol Tourism so I don’t have a particular problem with that. Certainly there were no signs of the recession out this way, and that’s a good thing.

Devils Backbone has a great brewer but they’re a new operation that’s been selling their own home-grown product only since November. One should probably expect a little time for them to get their sea legs under them, and I tried to remain open-minded as we sipped through a sampler. I think it’s fair to say that I found their beers to be a little thin in most cases and with flavors profiles somewhat outside the style norms for some of the others. I do think they have everything in place to become top-notch as time goes by, and I would love to come back in about a year when they work the kinks out. [UPDATE 2011: And that’s exactly what happened, with Devils Backbone having won a slew of major brewing awards over the last two years].

Afton Mountain B&B

We backtracked up Route 151, called the Rockfish Valley Highway along this segment, and checked into the Afton Mountain B&B. I won’t dwell on that part of the story since it’s not beer related other than to note that it was a fine place to stay, conveniently in the middle of the Beer Triangle, and damn it was nice to spend a night away from the kids. I love those squirrelly boys, I really do, but mom and dad need a break every once in awhile too. Though, before we could get that really good night of sleep we still had one more brewery ahead of us and it was less than three miles away. I didn’t mind.

Blue Mountain

Blue Mountain Brewery

We arrived for dinner and met some friends there who live in Charlottesville. Blue Mountain [see my Blue Mountain page; see the real Blue Mountain page] featured typical pub grub which provided great comfort on a frigid evening of freezing rain and snow. They packed in a crowd just like all the other places we’d visited earlier in the day. Blue Mountain has just one small room, but a warm, inviting atmosphere of friendly people enjoying themselves. Blue Mountain has an outdoor patio during the summer so I was told, but here in late February, room had to be made to squeeze all that extra furniture indoors. There was a chaotic mismatch of couches, benches, and tables, that further emphasized the casual atmosphere.

Beer is the star at Blue Mountain and it showed. We laid out a couple of samplers, tried those, ordered a couple of pints, finished those, and then I stopped because I was driving (being responsible and all that). That didn’t faze anyone else though, and perhaps that’s what prompted our friend John to order the Blue Mountain version of a shandy, in this case their Belgian combined with a 7-Up. Let me say that again: Our friend, one of the biggest beer geeks around, ordered a shandy. We were shocked. After the first sip he said it would probably be fine during the middle of summer sitting out on the veranda, but it was February and probably not the best choice. Curiosity got the most of me and I just had to take a try. Seriously, I liked their beers a lot, I even bought a bunch of bottles to bring home, but I hope to never taste their shandy again.

I’ll have to return in a few months as the hops vines grow and check that out too. Supposedly Blue Mountain uses a lot of their own hops in their beers and that would be an interesting process to watch.

With that, my brewery visit list stands at 231.