The small community of Radford, in the state of Virginia, dresses up for autumn every October and turns the leaves of the trees into a blanket of delicate tones that yellow their greenery until it turns reddish. The forests do not seem to be aware of the time concentrated in their leaves, of the gesture of the leafy branches anticipating the long nights and the first breaths of cold. There are still days of peaceful walks along the river, the old New River, with the course changed to the north, a river full of history that was used by the Indians to reach the west and then by the pioneers in the 17th century.

Now fishermen travel through it looking for trout perch or some giant pike. Walkers and cyclists also enjoy it, and everyone is amazed by the landscape and the symbiosis of the forest, the valleys and towns united by the pulsating river.

The past whispers from the white slats of the Allisonia Methodist Church, there the ivy grows embracing the distant echo of the prayers of its parishioners. Religious fervor in rural areas found its roots in 1891, with this parish and different remittances from European emigrants who placed faith and prayers in it. However, today, the sacred allows itself to be invaded by the weeds of time that deteriorate the wood.

The inhabitants are scattered, there are lonely houses at the end of the dirt paths, a pink caravan and its grill remind us that life is simple, that perhaps there was no luck, that a home does not need to be a mansion to be beautiful. The humble cabin allows itself to be portrayed and is part of an album where all eyes want to penetrate the hearts of those who sleep there.

Radford has a powerful university, and the character of the places that are reinvented in each new cycle. Its paths draw routes near the Blue Ridge, where old farms appear, with those large silos that stored forage or grain, and continue to evoke the vestiges of another type of life. The small cafes in each town, like The Floyd Country Store, shelter musicians who pursue their passion and delight us with the breath of their voices, often hoarse and exhausted. Love is a sculpture in capital letters that evokes the desire of those who want to live and always fall in love.

In Radford, present and past coexist like a melody of old red brick buildings and many flowers. They will tell you that these lands are full of dreams and tears, of those who lived in them, of the Indians who named it, of the whites who occupied it, of that impulse to seek the west again and again.

New generations walking the path of that same river where one day in 1762 William Ingles and his wife, Mary Draper Ingles, settled and created the synergies for a settlement. Everything is condensed into lives that left a mysterious trail, they will tell you that the Shawnee Indians captured Mary Draper Ingles and took her away, and that she was able to escape and return to her settlement next to the river.

The train arrived nine decades later, in 1854, and so did the mines with the flow of people, businesses and new settlements. Places like Lovely Mount and Central City appeared and grew, and new inhabitants joined them looking for prosperity and work, and with that vital energy shops, taverns and houses were built. And Central City, one day in 1887, was renamed Radford, and in 1910 its university was founded, and industries arrived.

Between 1940 and 1941 an arsenal was built to manufacture ammunition, and in the late 1950s it was the plastics industry. In 1971 the passenger train stopped operating, and Interstate 81, which had been completed in 1965, became the master of solitary travel. The cars changed the rhythm of the place and robbed the train of its fun.

The region also dresses up and celebrates its Scottish and Irish roots with the Highlanders Festival, where Celtic and Appalachian music is danced, eaten and drunk, and the rural life of the first European settlements is evoked. And for those who long for silence and want to immerse themselves in the stunning nature, thirty miles from Radford is the majestic Blue Ridge and its 469-mile path over the mountains.