- Posted April 4, 2012 by
Clifton Forge, Virginia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Photo essays: Your stories in pictures
NexGen Flag Raising on Devil's Backbone
The flag on the rocky outcrop known as Devil's Backbone in Iron Gate, Va has been viewed by travelers on Va Rte 220 in Alleghany County for over 50 years. There are no records that list who first placed a flag at this perch nor why it was placed there in the first place. Yet for 50 years there's been a flag - sometimes tattered, sometimes worn, but always eventually replaced.
The flag flies at the very end of rock that juts out from Mt Wilson over a dramatic gap created by the Jackson River on its way to the headwaters of the mighty James just a mile downstream. The drop from the edge of the rock to the river below is some 300 feet straight down. There is no slope to the rocks, they simply rise straight up from the hillside. The route from the top of the rocks to the position of the flag is just as bad: not as steep but laced with sharp edges,crags and crevices.
For a few years the nearby town of Iron Gate provided flags for replacement but now the flags come from anyone interested in preserving the tradition. Some travelers will complain about the condition of the flags when they see one that's been shredded by the wicked winds that blow through in the Winter and Spring not realizing the spontaneous effort that keeps the tradition alive.
The flying of the flag will represent different things to different people. As a former combat veteran (Vietnam era) I like to think that the flag is a tribute to the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces as well as to the country we served. So a flag in good condition is something that I feel is a personal responsibility and I can't help but wonder about the logistics: who provides the flag and how do they get it up there.
I was pleased and surprised to find out that one of the current flag raisers who is continuing this tradition is Anmarie Allen, 22, a student at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge. Anmarie has replaced the flag several times over the past few years and has made the trek to Devil's Backbone many more times just for the view. She follows in the footstep of her older brother who did likewise.
This series of photos shows Anmarie and her friend, Courtney Walton, 19 and also a DSLCC student, as they hiked up to replace the flag on April 3, 2012. I followed them up the mountain and onto the "Backbone" to record the moment while fellow photographer, Lexington-based Steve Shires, shot from the road below to provide some scale and context to the photos.
It's reassuring to know that the tradition is in safe (and young) hands. Those who pass through Iron Gate on Rte 220 can rest assured that the flag will continue to fly. And if you happen to pass by after some rough weather and see a less than glorious "old glory," just give it some time for the weather to clear and a new flag will take it's place.