Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Natural Bridge State Park

Last Sunday Jimmy & I hopped on our bikes and traveled east to Natural Bridge State Park. It's not but an hours drive if you travel by interstate highways, but we don't. We like to take the more scenic country roads to our destinations & back.
Just as soon as we arrived at the park, I spotted two Rhododendron bushes in full bloom, but I could tell that they were the more cultured variety and not what we were looking for and they were placed neatly on each side of a wooden sign. Since the Rhodies were the only flowers blooming within sight they were covered with butterflies and bumblebees.
From the parking lot we headed straight for the chair lift to take us up to the top of the mountain where we could see the sandstone natural bridge and maybe get a glimpse of Mountain Laurel flowers along the way to the top. We saw many Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel bushes along the way, but no blooms. We also passed over May Apples and large ferns.

Oh shucks! We aren't allowed to swing the chair lift around. Who would be that stupid enough to want to jostle it around...Have you seen how they are held in place? If you haven't, then I advise you not to ever look up.

Once at the top there was plenty of hiking around to do up there. There were many paths leading in many different directions. We decided to head straight out towards the Natural Bridge and then on to the lodge from there.

All along the paths and mountainside there was Mountain Laurel but it was only budding. We thought right then that by Wednesday we would have to return to see it in full bloom. But here it is Tuesday and Jimmy is not feeling well today. He had a rough night with fever & chills and said that he started feeling bad on the way home from Pine Mountain State Park yesterday....Now I feel really bad for having put him through helping me with taking the pictures of the Rhodies there.

The Mountain Laurel flower buds are really pretty aren't they...I just love them.

Jimmy is standing on the edge looking down at the scenery.

This is one of the views you see while standing on the Natural Bridge. It's hard to really see all of the Natural Bridge while you are walking on it. You can climb down beneath it, but you can't take a picture of the whole bridge from there because you are just too close. There is also a very narrow passage way, I guess you would call that a deep crevice, that you have to squeeze through to get under the bridge. I blogged about it before, and posted some pictures but I couldn't find it. It's beautiful under there but since we have been there many times and were looking for the flowers, we skipped it.

Here is Jimmy talking to the park ranger and the ranger said that the Rhodies aren't going to bloom there this year because they were so severely damaged by the April freeze while they were budding. The picture above with the ranger is on the top of the Natural Bridge and this is the very FIRST time that I have EVER seen a park ranger there. I often wondered why no one was there watching to make sure that nobody fell off the sides of the bridge. There are no guard rails on the bridge and there were many people sitting along the edges with their small children...I imagine that they were keeping a close watch on them.

So many people back through the years have carved their names and the dates that they were here on the bridge and on any visible sandstone rocks. Thank goodness, I was never one of them but I did enjoy reading the dates just to look for the oldest dates.
I was going to make a joke of the picture with Jimmy & the park ranger and say that Jimmy was distracting the ranger while I carved my initials on the bridge behind his back, but I was afraid that one of you might think that it was true...So I decided against that.

Here we are heading in a different direction, so we can get a better look at the bridge from a distance.

The Mountain Laurel over on this side is looking like it's ready to burst into bloom at any moment.

A few steps further and look how pretty. This picture reminds me of the one that Susan of Patchwork Reflections put on her Sunday post about the Mountain Laurel that she is lucky enough to have growing in her yard...or maybe I should say, 'her woods.' Mountain Laurel doesn't grow just anywhere...I transplanted some many years ago into my woods but it didn't like it there and didn't thrive...in fact it died.

Almost across to the opposite side and I catch a glimpse of the rock bridge through the trees.

Finally we have reached the opposite side. You can see the rock formation where we are now standing by going back and viewing picture #8.
Look between the pine brances and you can see the bridge way off in the distance.
These people were setting a bad example for their children by throwing rocks over the edge. Don't they realize that there may be hikers below...after all this is a State Park with hiking trails everywhere. I bet they would be the first to cry foul if someone tossed a rock down and hit one of them on the head. Someone must have complained because as we were leaving another forest ranger was quickly heading in this direction. I hope they got fined before they accidently killed someone.
Another view of the bridge off in the distance. I'll have to visit here in the fall so I can get a good picture of the whole bridge when the leaves are gone from the trees.
I used my 'very limited zoom' to bring the bridge a little closer. If you enlarge it you can see some people on it.
Looking away from the bridge we could see water below.
Here I am before we start back on the trail back to the sky lift that will take us down from the mountain. Do you know that I have been coming here for many years and it was just about 2 years ago that I discovered that you could ride the sky lift up. I had always hiked up and now I always take the lift.
Here we are back in the parking lot of the sky lift, gift shop and picnic area. A brief visit to the ladies room and we then headed for home by a different road used to get here. We never travel using the same roads we came on when going back home. That way we see new scenery going home, because the ride is our trip and stopping at all the interesting places along the way is just a bonus.


Susie said...

Hi Sandy,
You must have been a very good girl for blogger to allow you to post all these beautiful photos! What a lovely walk and peek at your beautiful scenery!!
Sorry Jimmy isn't feeling well. Hope it's a short lived bug!!

Val said...

The hiking trails look idyllic, Sandy! Thanks for taking us with you, and we don't even have to work up a sweat.

PEA said...

Oh Sandy I so enjoyed looking at all these pictures...what fabulous scenery!! That's the type of trail I love walking in! I'd never seen Mountain Laurel before, it's gorgeous!! I do hope Jimmy is feeling better today! xox

Rachel said...

Gosh Sandy, I haven't been to NB in about .....ah...it's been many years! No way will I ride the lift up. No way. I am too chicken!!! That tight crevice they used to call "Fat Man's Squeeze" or so I heard!! I never ever saw a ranger there either. It's pretty there and I sure enjoyed all these pictures.

I hope Jimmy gets well soon!

susan said...

Thanks for taking us along on your hike, the pictures are great! We will definitely visit this park if/when we are in the area. Thanks for the link! Hope Jimmy gets well soon.

jellyhead said...

Wow, Sandy - the Natural Bridge is such a beautiful spot. Thanks for telling us about your adventures, and for showing us all these lovely photos!

"Early Bird" said...

Looks like you had a spectacular outing...you made wonderful pictures too! ;)

doubleknot said...

That was a great trip to share. Lots of pretty pictures. That bridge is amazing. I don't know if I would have the courage to ride the lift up there.

doubleknot said...

How could I forget to say that I am sorry Jimmy is sick and I hope he gets better soon. He may have to break down and go to the doctor.

Alipurr said...

Aunt Sandy,
I love reading about your adventures and looking at the beautiful pictures you take. I am glad you found some of the mountain laurels that were blooming. very pretty. Hope Uncle Jimmy feels better right away.