What Price Sublime?

En route home after a winter in Myrtle Beach, we swing wide to go through Virginia, hoping to see (and get good video of, natch) a repeat of the redbud glory that we saw two years ago along Interstate 81. But it is not to be. Mayhap that spring was unusually early; certainly this year has seen late snowstorms and hard freezes that have significantly discouraged the redbud trees, not to mention the other locals.

Just before stopping for the day we stop at the Natural Bridge, high on the list of Things to Do in Lexington. I know what you’re thinking, but it isn’t as if there aren’t choices. In the same area there are caverns . . .

Roadside sandwich-board sign for caverns at Natural Bridgeand a historic place to stay . . .

Greek-style facade of hotel at Natural Bridgeand a zoo, all of which brand themselves using the name of the central attraction.

In Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson described the Natural Bridge as “the most sublime of Nature’s works.” He then put his money and his time where his mouth was: buying the land on which it stood, visiting it yearly whenever he could, and building a cabin nearby to host his friends.

Online, it looks like a nice walk to a natural wonder, and so it is, sort of. The nice walk turns out to be all steps: down outbound and up on the return. The natural wonder itself turns out to be a bit underwhelming.

Late afternoon shot of Jefferson's Natural BridgeI mean, it’s OK, but I’ve seen other natural bridges and stone arches, most with nicer colours. Maybe it would photograph better with early-morning light on it.

Maybe I’d appreciate it better if I hadn’t just parked in a huge lot, pretty well at capacity on this Easter weekend, and walked through an extensive gift shop.

And maybe I’d appreciate it better if I’d had to work as hard as Thomas Jefferson did to get to it in 1767. The on-site interpretive material for this National Historic Landmark talks about him riding horseback and bushwhacking through the forest: no steps with handrails for him. No handy resting benches or optional shuttle back to the top of the hill, either.

I know that effort doesn’t necessarily equate to appreciation, but the Natural Bridge gives me pause. They say you get what you pay for. Maybe that’s right. I’m pretty sure at least that I don’t get more than I pay for.



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6 Responses to What Price Sublime?

  1. Tom Watson says:

    That’s an astounding picture.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Well, there you go. I must admit I don’t care for it much at all. But I’m glad you like it.

  2. Judith Umbach says:

    Perhaps we suffer from the vast opportunities of travel, thus being able to compare various natural bridges and other marvels. It is suffering I am more than willing to endure!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Perhaps. And that’s without even allowing for the insidious effects of TV (wherein we see so much of the world) and of travel photography (where someone has always arranged for the perfect angle, and the perfect light). It *is* hard, isn’t it? 🙂

  3. Looks man-made to me.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – And yet there is that little creek at its foot, ever so patient. Or relentless. But you could be on to something – maybe it’s an alien artifact.

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