Sept. 23 – Blue Ridge Parkway & Natural Bridge

I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of the Blue Ridge Parkway before a coworker insisted that we visit it on our road trip. After driving 115 miles on the parkway this afternoon, we fully understand why it has been the most visited unit of the national parks system for almost 70 years!  At 469 miles, Blue Ridge Parkway is the longest linear park in the U.S., running through North Carolina and Virginia. We stopped frequently to take pictures and we spent additional time exploring Mabry Mill and Peaks of Otter, where you can also obtain cancellations for your national parks passport.

Shortly after returning to the highway, we began seeing signs for Natural Bridge. I had heard of Natural Bridge before but I couldn’t remember where. The increasing number of signs as we approached the exit suggested something cool, so we decided to stop and check it out.

Natural Bridge is a natural arch carved out of limestone by the continuous flow of Cedar Creek. It was one of the first tourist attractions that Europeans visited when they came to America, was surveyed by a young George Washington, and was once owned by Thomas Jefferson! Natural Bridge is also the name of the Virginia town where the attraction is located. Shortly after returning to the highway, we began seeing signs for Natural Bridge. I had heard of Natural Bridge before but I couldn't remember where. The increasing number of signs as we approached the exit suggested something cool, so we decided to stop and check it out.

A set of steps descends onto an open walkway and at first, we didn’t see anything impressive. As the path began to wind, we were not prepared for what was just around the corner. The arch stood looming before us, 215 feet high and 90 feet wide! It was so awesome that we stood there for about 20 seconds in order to process what we were seeing. After passing through the arch, there is a long path, surrounded by woods and wildlife, that ends near a small waterfall.

We paid $20 to visit Natural Bridge, which we thought was a bit steep, but what we didn’t know is that the price included a light show. On the way back up from our walk, the ticket taker informed us that the show would begin at 8 PM. Since we hadn’t eaten, we decided to have our dinner in the parking lot and return for the show.

The second time around, we opted to ride the free shuttle bus down to Natural Bridge. There are a number of benches on each side of the arch and we sat on the side closest to the exit. As soon as it was dark, the show began. A deep voice recounted the “Dawn of Creation” as told in the Bible while classical music boomed in between the narration and a myriad of colored lights flooded the archway. It was truly a sight to behold!

It has been a long day and we are presently resting at a Walmart in Staunton, Virginia. Follow us tomorrow as we visit Shenandoah National Park and another famous road, Skyline Drive!

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