Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Revisiting The Bridge

There are only a few things that I remember from the reunion back in 1987. Obviously, I remember a few of the faces and the fun at the gathering itself but one of the other things that has always remained in my mind was seeing the Natural Bridge. It is because of this memory that I wanted to return to the natural wonder now that I am quite a bit older and am able to appreciate the experience.
Of course, memories can be rather selective and while I retained an image in my mind there was little else about the brief time we spent there nearly three decades ago. Maybe it is because of this that I forgot all about the stairs leading down into the valley…

…and the massive trees that lined the path.

Once we got to the bottom and slowly made our way down the path the first sight did not disappoint…

…and after a few family photos and listening to a brief history about the formation and ownership of the sight we proceeded down the walkway for a closer look.  

From beneath the mammoth formation it was hard to believe the different roles that the bridge has played in history not just as a tourist destination (one of the first in the United States) but also as a functional formation for the production of cannon balls during the War of 1812 (molten lead was dropped from the top which naturally formed into a ball on the way down and immediately cooled and hardened upon hitting the water below).

Looking back you can see the deeper water where the ammunition collected.

From the other side the structure doesn’t have nearly the same visual impact but still possesses an impressive presence.

Walking further along the path there is another part of the experience that is of great personal interest to me, the Monacan Living History Exhibit. It is an unassuming presentation as you approach the site with the fence hiding much of what is behind the walls…  

…but once you walk through the entry the details are impressive. The recreated (albeit downsized) offers a unique glimpse into who Monacan villages looked during the time of first contact by European settlers (note that the Monacan are included on John Smith’s map of Virginia in 1612). Some of the structures include spaces that would have been used for meetings…

…cooking and weaving…

…as well as where people slept.

The overall ‘village’ was something to behold and the experience was only enhanced when I was able to speak at length with one of the tour guides who also happened to be a member of the Monacan Indian Nation. But that is a post for another day.

From the village we continued down the path toward the waterfall.

Along the way we came across the saltpeter mine which was also used during the War of 1812. This was a full service site at the time for the needs of artillery units.  

It wasn’t long after that when we reached the waterfall. Of all the ones that we have seen in our travels it wasn’t the most impressive but when thinking about what it helped to form it was well worth the additional walking.

Having walked to the end of the trail it was time to turn around and head back to the bridge. The weather was a bit questionable throughout the day both with heat and rain possible. However, the sky remained relatively clear and offered us a reminder as we approached…

…and back under we walked.

While there are many more memories that I will carry with me from this trip compared to the brief glimpses from years ago, I couldn’t help but take one last picture as we approached the stairs. Oddly enough, the impression is just as strong with the last glimpse as it was with the first. Hopefully, it won’t take so long this time around to return.