Saturday, August 02, 2008

Natural Bridge, Virginia

Last weekend we attended a family reunion near Harrisonburg, Virginia, and stayed overnight there at the Ramada. We had dinner at a GREAT Mexican restaurant called El Charro.

They have good margaritas

Sunday on the way home we stopped off at Natural Bridge, Virginia, to see the Natural Bridge.

They have really tried to expand this historic landmark as a tourist attraction. Besides the bridge and adjoining nature trail, there are a toy museum, cavern, wax museum, monster museum and my personal favorite, Foamhenge. We didn't actually visit Foamhenge, but you could see it from the road and that was pretty much enough.

To get to the bridge you walk down a trail which includes 137 steps that following a small creek. This tree is along the way. It's a really old arbor vitae tree that was over 1500 years old, but it's dead now. The arbor vitae is apparently a type of cypress tree. The name is Latin for 'tree of life'.

Eventually you get to the bridge, which is pretty cool.

The Natural Bridge is an arch carved out of limestone which is 215 feet high and 90 feet wide. A road (Route 11) actually runs over top of it. It's touted as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but apparently that refers to an old list of seven natural wonders of the modern world.

Natural Bridge was a sacred site of the Monacan Indians who had settled nearby. George Washington visited it and carved his initials in it. Thomas Jefferson owned it at one time and had built a log cabin retreat there. It was a popular attraction in the 1700's and 1800's. At one time you could be lowered from the top in a steel cage while a violinist played. Since 1927, the "Drama of Creation", a night time sound and light show depicting the 7 days of creation, has been put on at the bridge. It was inaugurated by Calvin Coolidge.

Husband wore his WVU shirt which I thought nothing about. But apparently it is Hokie territory and I guess they are rivals? A few people commented on the shirt but luckily no one punched him or anything.

After you leave the bridge you continue along a nature trail following Cedar Creek. There are nice stops along the way. Lots of benches made from logs and now I want one of those for my yard. I neglected to take a picture of one though.

Along the trail is a "living history" small-scale replica of a Monacan village. Apparently all but one thing in the village is reconstructed from archeology records. I can't remember now the one thing that wasn't. This is the palisade built around it out of bent branches woven together.

They have people there telling you about the history and the village. This woman was actually Cherokee.

Oh there are some log benches. The ones in the village weren't exactly the same as those on the trail. The ones on the trail were higher.

This is a dwelling called an "ati". They were having a firemaking demonstration inside but it was really hot and smoky and I didn't stay inside long.

This lady was interesting to talk to. She was in the cooking area. She is actually Choktaw. I asked her about the symbolism of the turtle drawing on one of the containers and she said one of her tribe brothers gave her the nickname "Mud Turtle", because he said she likes to stick her head in the mud and avoid things. I can't remember why he gave her the turtle part though.


After we finished most of the nature trail we had to walk back the way we came and back up the 137 steps. It was so humid and I was so sweaty and tired!! I had to stop a couple of times and rest on the way up. After shopping in the huge gift shop, we headed for home.

More photos here:

Harrisonburg and Natural Bridge, Virginia

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