I programmed Gladys, my GPS copilot, and four hours later turned onto Burke’s Garden Road in rural, rugged Appalachia. This narrow road was heavily shaded; pleasant. Then at the crossroads two large, empty cattle transports sat in the road with their hazard lights blinking. After about fifteen minutes, blue lights appeared beside me. The officer said he was our escort. He weaved to the front and we moved like a caterpillar through the first curve. We climbed a steep incline in a series of S curves. There are no berms, no center lines, and the trucks used the entire roadway to maneuver the turns. This road is a lot like several here where we live! We’d not gone too far when the rear wheel of the front truck slipped off the asphalt. For about 45 minutes it was just the three of us. The two drivers took turns trying different strategies. Nothing worked. Cars began to show up. They were also vendors, but they were locals. They gave me the news that we had a lot farther to go! The situation deteriorated and at one point the trailer swayed precariously forty-five degrees. We heard the torqueing. They tried all sorts of things. I didn’t see what they did that finally worked, but after an hour and half we were all snaking back up the mountain. Suddenly, like the peak of a roller coaster, we were headed down, just as steeply, just as curving. It seemed the descent was farther than the ascent. How could that be? That’s the answer to my query, what is Burke’s Garden.
They call it God’s Thumbprint. It’s a unique landform believed to be the only one like this in the world. It’s a basin completely encircled by a steep rim of heavy forest. Geologists believe eons ago the basin was a mountain peak at 6500 feet. As it eroded away it deposited soil down its sides creating a rim around itself. We had driven from outside the rim, up and over, and down into the basin which is at lower elevation than outside. Inside, a bucolic fertile valley, quiet, the switchback road, the only way in or out. There are small farms, a country store, an old schoolhouse, a few churches and this small community called Burke’s Garden that would offer hospitality to thousands of people coming to their festival.
A gentleman had a display of a scale model of Burke’s Garden. He’s been working on it for 45 years, and says it’s not finished yet. His fingers walked me up and over the rim and gave me a better understanding of where I am and how I’d gotten here. It’s truly a very unique place. I’m so glad for the opportunity to experience life inside the rim and share my picture books with the lovely people who call their home God’s Thumbprint, and are completely surrounded by His handiwork.