There is nothing better than a relatively unplanned adventure. Spur of the moment, jump in the truck, slap the travel trailer on my truck and head to a camp site. That’s pretty much what we did for Fathers Day 2014. The beauty of these experiences is the more we do this, the better we get at ensuring we are properly prepared for whatever we encounter on the way. Additionally, we are better understanding what we don’t need and what we do need for these trips. Another amazing thing that we did on this trip was we got all the water hooked up to include the shower, sinks and bathroom. It was a small learning experience and we now understand how all the systems work in our travel trailer but the one thing that my wife and I will agree on is this. One of the greatest things about the travel trailer is 1. Being able to take a shower in it. 2. Being able to wake up in the morning and use the bathroom without having to walk a mile to the campground bathrooms.
Some people don’t really like to drive. When traveling through the mountains, I absolutely love it! During our trip we had absolutely amazing views. We were surrounded by mountains and although it was not sunny, the clouds were certainly low to the ground we provided a different perspective and stunning views. This included the opportunity to catch a double rainbow.
In our search for good places to camp at Natural Bridge, Virginia we ended up staying at Yogi Bears JellyStone Park. I think we made a good choice as this particular campsite had a ton of amenities to include Dual Waterslides, Spray Playground/Waterpark, Swimming pool, a large lake, it was right on the James River, a Jumping Pillow, Playground, mini-golf, snack bar on and on. Additionally, if you have young kids there are a ton of activities run energetic campground staff. Everything from water gun fights, hayrides, sports and more! There was also a KOA that was very close by however I did not get a chance to take a look at it.
Outside the campground the main attraction is obviously Natural Bridge. Natural Bridge is a formation from Cedar Creek which was carved out a limestone gorge. The Natural Bridge 215 feet high with a span of 90 feet. Most people would not realize it, but Natural Bridge is actually the remains of a large cave. When it was a cave, Cedar Creek actually flowed through it. Natural Bridge is said to have been surveyed by George Washington around 1750 and was granted to Thomas Jefferson July 5, 1774.
Originally, Natural Bridge was inhabited by the Native American Monacan tribe. The Monacan Indians treated Natural Bridge as a sacred site. During the self guided tour, there was a fantastic exhibit showing off the Indian culture as well as a few real Indians that supported the exhibit. I have always been fascinated with primitive technology, tools, old ways of living and the exhibit showed me some great examples.
This particular structure was amazing. If you look closely, it is actually made out of bark. The Monocan Indians would wait for a particular time during the year when the sap was closest to the surface of the tree. At that time, they would score the tree bark vertically as well as around the bottom and top of the tree. They would then pull the tree bark off and go through a simple process of flattening the bark. By removing the bark it essentially created a water proof shingle. I spoke to the Indian at the exhibit and she mentioned that the bark would last approximately 4 – 5 years. This type of innovation and primitive technology is just fascinating.
This picture shows the part of the process where the Monacan Indians placed the bark on the ground and flattened it with rocks. If I recall, it took a few weeks to flatten the bark.
This structure contained two small fire pits as well as two holes beneath each one to let the smoke out. Additionally, there were two logs that had the bark removed and it looks like they could have been used as seats. It is fascinating to see how these structures were put together on the inside as well as the primitive engineering and thought it took to put this together and repeat it throughout a village.
This was a backpack that was built out of bark. The amazing thing was there was a primitive drill that was used (I should have took a picture) to drill the holes in the bark which allowed the Indians to sew it together with leather twine. This was a primitive yet extremely effective container to carry whatever you may have needed at the time. The other Interesting thing to note was by the time the children of the tribe were 6 or 7 years old, they knew how to make these types of items. The gentleman explained that this type of education was essential to their survival.
Our next little excursion, we went to the Natural Bridge Caverns. If you have never been inside a cave, I’d recommend exploring this one. If you have been to Luray Caverns, this cave does not even remotely compare and will not impress you at all. All in all though, it was worth the visit as my daughter enjoyed it. In the last year, Virginia and particular close to my house has experienced a major earthquake. At least it seemed major to those who have never been in a real earthquake. With that in mind, my daughter asked me “What will happen if we are down here and there is another earthquake?” I thought, hmmmm definitely a valid question. So while I had the opportunity and I was away from my daughter I asked our tour guide what happened to the caverns during the earthquake. He explained there was a tour going on during the earthquake however the only thing that happened was it sounded like a train was going through the caves. I can only imagine that this was in fact a scary experience for the people on the tour as well as the tour guide. After the earthquake, the owners of the caverns sent experts in to do an inspection ensuring that the caverns were still safe to travel through. Needless to say I made my daughter feel a little better after providing the tour guides answer. Here are a few pics.
That night we went back to the Natural Bridge for the light show. On May 22, 1927 President Calvin Coolidge inaugurated the first light show of the Natural Bridge. I’m sure at the time, the light show would have been some of the most amazing effects of the time. Even for todays standards, it was a beautiful display although there is a part of me that would have preferred to have the area undisturbed. The current presentation is supposed to be true to the original and it comes with a narration of the Seven Days of creation. It is also accompanied by orchestral music and moving lighting effects.
A picture of the sunset on our way to the nightly Natural Bridge light show.