While driving through Buckingham County yesterday, up and down the hills of the Piedmont, I was surprised to see a prominence to the south of Dillwyn. The size of a small mountain, it’s oddly-shaped, in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It turns out to be an interesting spot. Willis Mountain is made entirely out of kyanite-bearing quartize, rising 560 feet above the surrounding area. Kyanite is strong, and so as the surrounding land has eroded, the prominence has remained. Or, at least, it used to remain. It’s now a kyanite mine, and much of the mountain has been mined away. (Kyanite doesn’t melt until the fantastically high temperature of 3,300°F, making it useful in manufacturing products that need to tolerate high temperatures.) A Northern Virginia Community College geology class took a field trip last fall, and produced an interesting report on the mining operation.
If I hadn’t been sick for the past few days, I would have made a proper day of it and headed over to Cumberland, to contribute to my Commonwealth Quest list. It’s just as well, though—when I finally make it I intend to make a proper trip of it, complete with a tour by Mark Brooks.