A day after I got home from Mississippi, Corinne Duyvis came to visit me as part of her epic U.S. trip. I wasn’t sure what small town Virginia could offer her, but it turns out Corinne is very interested in snakes, bears, and owls.
We went to Natural Bridge to see the caverns and, um, the natural bridge. I’ve been to see the caverns a few times now — I have most of the tour memorized, but sometimes the guides add different things — but I’d never been to see the bridge. After we saw at least fifty signs and touristy things boasting that the bridge is 55′ higher than Niagara Falls, we had pretty high expectations. It turns out the bridge is very big, and quite pretty. We got someone to take our picture. (I think this is actually the only photo of us together. We fail at tourism.)
The trail under and beyond the bridge was about a mile or a mile and a half long, so we had a long walk to see a pretty waterfall and more nature stuff.
There were snakes. Remember when I said Corinne likes snakes? We paused along the river pretty often to look at them and get pictures. We found out later they were just water snakes, so not venomous, but at one point I was standing on a rock to get a picture of Corinne a little ways off . . . and a big snake slithered toward me and under the rock I was already on. I yelped and jumped off, and Corinne came back to try to make friends with it. It was kind enough to show its head to prove that I wasn’t making things up, but refused to come out while we were standing there. Since I wasn’t sure what kind of snake it was at that point, I was relieved it didn’t emerge — how awkward would it be to try to explain Corinne’s tragic demise on my watch?
We also stopped in the butterfly garden where we tried to get a butterfly to land on my face, but no luck.
They we much more interested in these bits of fruit, which did look good, to be honest.
The next day, we hiked through one of the trails in Shenandoah National Park. Corinne was still hoping for bears, but again, I was kind of relieved when we didn’t see one because I would have had to restrain her or — as I said before — try to explain her untimely demise to the internet. There are warnings online and at the parking lot to “be bear aware,” but I think she might be bear aware in the wrong way. *g* (They’re just black bears, so not, say, grizzly bears, but still: bears.)
The first part of our hike was more strenuous than either of us anticipated. We hiked uphill for about 30-45 minutes (it seemed like forever!) before we reached the highest point in the park: 4050 feet. From there, we had a gorgeous view of the valley.
After that, the walk was more leisurely, though there were a few places that were a little scary. At one point, it looked as though there’d been a rock slide because the trail was . . . only sort of there. And there was a pretty steep cliff to one side. So we had to pick our way over the (loose!) rocks to get back on the path.
Speaking of the highest point, the Natural Bridge Caverns are supposedly the deepest caverns on the East Coast at 3400 feet, so within two days, we were at the highest and lowest points. Hawksbill Mountain isn’t the highest mountain in Virginia, but it is the highest in the Shenandoah National Park, so that is pretty cool.
Now I think I’d like to sleep for a week in order to recover from my vacation and my portion of Corinne’s vacation. Vacations are exhausting!