You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for
casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
The Augusta Springs 'Upland Trail'
We're out in the Augusta Springs Wetland for our afternoon constitutional, 27 February 2020. This former health spa and resort, now minus its health spa and resort, sports a easy and enjoyable half-hour walk round a wetland and pond, some of it on a boardwalk (as here at the trailhead; with a public restroom in the background). The potential wildlife sightings are well signposted, but we're mainly here in the winters and see none of that.
In addition to the wetland loop trail, however, there's also an 'upland trail', and that's on our to-do list for today.
Nearing the 'upland' part of the walk, passing over a ridge near the top of the blue trail on the map above, probably about 120m higher than the trailhead.
Lots of relics of former occupation
The top of the ridge
The 'Summit', as it were
And down the other side (usually harder than walking uphill these days)
A look back up the ridge
Along a meandering little creek that doesn't merit a name on the map
Augusta Springs signs of civilization
Perhaps a long-forgotten, Prohibition-era shootout with the FBI
Or just the local dump
(But perhaps not Prohibition era)
Vestiges of a bustling social life in the region, way back when
Back to the trailhead, we're exploring back up a channel, presumably to the 'springs' part of Augusta Springs. After a lot of pointless speculation, we've finally stumbled onto some information about the former health resort that occupied these premises. What follows is drawn from an unsigned article in the Staunton News-Leader newspaper, 30 May 2015, much condensed.
And there they are -- the health-giving springs, once so prized by the wealthy valetudinarians of an earlier time, and perhaps by the truly sick as well. The resort was created in 1817 by a Staunton attorney named Erasmus Stribling (1784-1858) who owned this property, 'rich in alum, chalybeate and sulphur springs', and decided to benefit from 'the public’s widespread belief in the healthful benefits of “taking the waters.”'
So however healing the water's properties may be, we can confirm that this is definitely not a thermal spring.
The old channel is still here, or part of it, but the rest of the resort has been carted off long ago. Stribling's resort, with an inn, cottages, bath houses, and of course a casino, flourished, both for its healthy waters and for its elaborate culinary and even theatrical attractions. 'People from all over the country and Europe descended upon the springs, often staying for months at a time, especially in the days when travel was difficult,' and it was then known as Stribling Springs.
'Edward Beyer’s 1858 painting of Stribling Springs. Visitors in 1858 could expect to pay $2 a day for a stay of less than a week. (Photo: courtesy of Charles Culbertson)'
Stagecoach service was provided from Staunton three times a week in its heyday, but during the Civil War, some of Stonewall Jackson's army bivvied here in 1862 (he borrowed one of the cottages as his HQ) and turned it into field hospital for his wounded and sick men. The inn declined after the war, alas, but was revived by others and was still operating in 1915, 'well improved, picturesquely situated, and ... a noted sanitarium or mountain watering-place'.
But by 1940, however, it was over and had to be demolished because one of the springs had undermined the inn. There's little or nothing left of it here now, except for the principal spring itself.
As we've noted before (Oct. 2019, Dec. 2019), the present wetland trail is sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture in the George Washington National Forest.
So now let's go see how the cats are doing at home.
A deeply resentful look -- we've been out too long, perhaps.
-- 'Don't mind Choupette, she's always like that.'
-- 'Here's my chance, he's asleep'.
A pause for catching one's breath