I think there’s a character limit for titles, which is why I broke from my usual form of putting locales in the title. I saw too much today to condense it into one line! When I made the decision to break up the VA portion of the trip into three days, I really didn’t take into account the fact that I am impulsive and as such, might want to go do something random. Therefore, my Friday was long- but rewarding!
I left Bedford and got back on the Parkway. The very first stop, not even 50 feet after the intersection of the Parkway and VA43, was the Peaks of Otter. The Peaks features a lot of hiking trails as well as some historic buildings, such as Polly Wood’s Ordinary, an 1830s-era inn for travelers.
It was super foggy after the rain, so I had to cut out several of the hiking trails I planned to do there, but the ranger at the visitor’s center recommended that I do the Fallingwater Cascades trail since it went to a waterfall, not a mountain view. So I did.
The waterfall itself was kind of mediocre, compared to the others I’ve seen so far on this trip, but it was still pretty. Hiking the wet trail in the fog was SO fun too!
New favorite thing- hiking in the fog!!
At the James River Visitors’ Center, you have the chance to walk under the Parkway across the wide James River, a river that back in the day was a major transportation artery. There is a reproduction of an 1840s canal lock on display.
Just up the road from the James River is Otter Lake, which seems to be that area’s equivalent to Trout Lake in the Blowing Rock area. There is a path around the lake, most of which I was able to do except for a part that had washed out a swath too wide for me to cross without sinking in muddy water to my knee.
Now that’s what I call a stream crossing! The round concrete tablets looked to me like pylons but they worked for crossing.
As I was riding along up the Parkway, I saw a sign: “Natural Bridge of Virginia: NEXT RIGHT”. It was only about 2:30pm, so I decided, why not?? I’d seen it online and thought seriously about doing it, but that was as far as it went. So off I went. It’s only about 25 minutes off the Parkway, and the drive is pretty over to it. I’d never been to Natural Bridge, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Besides the bridge itself, there is a toy museum, an indoor butterfly exhibit, a wax museum (that I did not get to due to time constraints), a reconstructed Indian village, and a waterfall.
The Americana folk art toys were interesting, but then I turned around and saw the big display of Star Trek toys. Not gonna lie, I spent more time drooling over them than I did anything else in the toy museum.
I had a blast in the indoor butterfly exhibit. They had just opened it the day before I went, and there were butterflies of all shapes and sizes flitting around. For some reason, moths scare the crap out of me but I love butterflies. The first shot of these three is a butterfly on me- dream fulfilled! Always wanted to hold a butterfly!!
The pictures just don’t prepare you for how darn big this thing is. It’s awesome! George Washington surveyed it back in the day, and then Thomas Jefferson bought it from the King of England for 20 shillings- the equivalent of about $2.40 in today’s money. Talk about a great real estate deal! Good ol’ TJ allowed the surrounding land to be mined in wartimes for materials needed, and in peacetimes many heads of state visited. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited and wrote that she “was well pleased with [her] visit.”
On up the path from the Natural Bridge, there is a recreated Indian village typical of how the Native Americans lived in the area before the European settlers arrived. Further up at the end of the paved path, there is an overlook where you can view Lace Falls, a part of Cedar Creek, which eventually runs into the James River.
When I got back to the parking lot- decided to take the shuttle bus back rather than climbing the 137 steps back up to the entrance- it was 5pm, and I realized I’d better get back on the road if I expected to finish the Parkway in daylight hours, since I still had around 50 miles of that to go.
Yankee Horse Overlook combined three of my favoritest things on this earth: waterfalls, railroad tracks, and a hiking trail! The tracks are a reconstruction of narrow gauge tracks that used to crisscross the region decades ago for logging purposes. The trail leads to Wigwam Falls, a fairly small but still lovely waterfall very near the tracks. Too bad there wasn’t a good place I could safely climb up to in order to get a shot of the tracks with the falls in the background.
The view from Ravens Roost Overlook offered an unparalleled view into the Shenandoah Valley. It’s kind of interesting to note the different between the views here and the views much further south, around Waterrock Knob and Mount Mitchell. Here, it’s more of a valley view with mountains in the distance, whereas on the southerly end of the Parkway it’s ranges of mountains behind mountains behind mountains ad infinitum.
Abruptly I came to the end of the Parkway. As it was at the southern end of the Parkway, there was no fanfare whatsoever- just a continuing road to Skyline Drive, and an intersection with VA250 which led to I-64. Maybe I’ve built the Parkway up in my head to be this big deal to America, but it really seems to me like they would want to mark each end of it with nice signage. We Americans love making a big deal about anything possible, so why not about America’s Scenic Drive?
I’m kinda sad that the Parkway portion of this trip is over. I’m driving Skyline Drive today (Sunday) then I will have completed it. I’ve been planning this trip since September, so it’s rather odd to be nearly done with it. At least I’ll have the pictures and memories to last me a lifetime!!