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.
A visit to the Natural Bridge of Virginia
Here's the Natural Bridge Historic Hotel & Conference Center (8 April 2023) -- an attractive building built in 1964 on the site of an early 1900s predecessor that burnt down in 1963. It's apparently been free-standing until now, but has recently been purchased by the voracious Wyndham brand for its 'Trademark Collection' (with 'the world’s most generous rewards program with thousands of hotels, vacation club resorts and vacation rentals worldwide'). A $750,000 renovation is said on the website to be beginning soon (or it may have benn completed by now).
It does have an historical look to it (though it was built in 1964).
The staff was friendly, the room rate not entirely beyond our means; we had to ask for the bed linens to be changed for us, but that was quickly done.
Kristin's naturally striding off to check out the menu.
The Tavern looked cosy but wasn't large enough for all the guests who preferred it to the spacious dining room (perhaps because it had a telly). There were apologies for a long wait because of an understaffed kitchen, but the wait wasn't oppressively long (we'd brought a crosswood puzzles magazine).
There is a refreshing sense of faded elegance here, though that renovation probably won't be money badly spent.
There are these lovely pink trees all round here (in Staunton as well) -- one is alas incapable of identifying them, but the name 'azalea' has come up. (If bets were required, we might plop down the coins for 'Pink Dogwoods'.)
[Wrong again. The hotel has identified them over the phone as cherry blossoms.]
It would be fine to luxuriate here on the mile-long patio on a nice afternoon, but we're here after all for the view of the Natural Bridge itsownself.
It's all bundled up in a state park, and that's the visitors' centre just down the hill. And of course, the Natural Bridge Baptist Church ready to do its own part of the experience, if asked.
One can become embarrassingly enamored of these lovely trees.
Like pink popcorn
The State Park's visitors' centre. This is Virginia's 37th state park, dedicated in 2016 -- presumably there'll be a small fee to get to see the famous bridge.
Sure is a fee, $9.00 each! (oh well, you're only young once) (and how'd that work out?).
More like a Mall. But clean. And just the thing if you need more sweatshirts with destinations displayed on them.
Out the back of the visitors' centre, we progress down a stairway into a very green ravine. Here's the background: Thomas Jefferson saw or heard about this area (Monticello is not so very far away), so in 1774 he bought 157 acres and the bridge from King George III for 20 shillings. (George III was probably furious when he heard about the Declaration of Independce two years later.) He built a two-room cabin here, the second one for guests, like John Marshall, James Monroe, Henry Clay, Sam Houston, and Martin Van Buren -- Fun Times!
The owner of the land in 1833 built an inn to accomodate the many visitors (Melville compared Moby Dick arching out of the sea to 'Virginia's Natural Bridge'), and a new hotel succeeded it on this present site up the hill in about 1890.
We've presented our receipt and got waved in, so here we go, along the bottom of this ravine.
A pause for the information board just ahead:
So there we have it.
[At its highest point . . .]
The info board goes on to say that, 'according to legend', in 1750 George Washington, then a young surveyor mapping this region, came upon the bridge, climbed 23 feet up the left wall of it and carved 'G.W.' on it, 'which may still be seen today' [not by us!].
It make a very interesting view, especially with those lovely pink flowers along the way.
Jefferson is said to have called the bridge 'the most sublime of Nature's works', which is probably a big overstatement but we get the point.
It seems solid enough. We'll chance it.
From the other side, there appears to be something up there on top.
[It turns out that there is -- it's the Lee Highway, US Route 11. We drove in that way: nobody warned us.]
That tiny slow-moving watercourse, the Cedar Creek, made this whole ravine, and for some reason left the Natural Bridge still standing. It must have taken a long time.
Perhaps the creek was a bigger deal in the Old Days.
A permanent sign saying that it's temporarily closed. Hope they get things sorted out in due course.
A sign warns us to beware of flash floods when crossing this little bridge. We will.
Upstream -- the Cedar Creek
A potential educational diversion; yes . . .
. . . it's an opportunity to look into the 'Saltpetre Cave', where in the Olden Days miners dug out 'saltpeter', potassium nitrate (bird & bat poop), for making gunpowder with; apparently Thomas Jefferson at one point held the lease for the excavations. We'll give it a miss on this trip.
The Cedar Creek in its glory
The Cedar Creek Trail carries on from the park entrance about a mile out to the Lace Falls, where it deadends . . .
. . . here. Not an overwhelming set of falls, but it's something.
That's called the 'Lost River'. Supposedly in about 1812, Saltpetre Cave miners heard this underground river and blew this hole in to find it, after which they arranged to transport its waters to their equipment for extracting the cave's nitrate. 'Legend has it that' later people tried to locate the source and destination of 'this mysterious subterranean river', with dyes and what not, but no luck. [We haven't got time to help them with that today.]
'Warning: Fallen Rocks'!! Well warned, but what are we supposed do? Duck? Run? Walk zigzag?
The sight of the highway guardrail up there is disconcerting.
-- Hurry up. Falling rocks!
The hotel from the visitors' centre carpark, and . . .
. . . more lovely flowers up to the short tunnel under the highway.
We're betting that the cats will be ecstatically greeting us again.
Ooooh, not so much. A panic attack perhaps.
-- We're here now, Choupette, come on out of there.
A frequently paranoid little cat . . .
. . . but a magnificent yawner
Clearly, Choupette is feeling better now. (Melvin's not paying attention.)
-- But don't let anyone in that door!
The Middle of the Night Watch
We've enjoyed our visit here, an hour or so south of home, but our chief mission is dumping Kristin off at the Roanoke Airport, half an hour farther south, so here we go.
It's not only a very nice airport, it's apparently got the only direct United flight to Chicago from anywhere near us.
Off for a week of helping out with the new addition to the clan
We'll be back in a week or so to take delivery on the traveler; luckily most of the countryside in the upper (southern) Shenandoah Valley is extremely beautiful along the I-81.
Back to our Historic Staunton, to feed the cats and keep reassuring them nonstop, till our reinforcements come back from Chicago.
Next up: A hustle through the Montgomery Hall jungle and a bunch of etc's.
Anyone who liked the look of Virginia's Natural Bridge might be even more enthralled by the Natural Bridge . . .
. . . of Kentucky (10 June 2021).