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Seasons of Beauty in the Blue Ridge: Natural Life, History, Folk Culture and Music

Program Number: 10029RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/12/2014 - 10/17/2014; 5/10/2015 - 5/15/2015; 10/18/2015 - 10/23/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Natural Bridge, Virginia
Price starting at: $698.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Natural History
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Low Fat; Vegetarian; Low Salt; Gluten Free    

Enjoy the noble beauty of one of our continent’s most striking mountain settings and discover how its natural wonders came to be as you investigate the primordial forces that sculpted the Blue Ridge, Alleghany and Shenandoah Valley landscapes. Study the web of life in the temperate highlands and the culture that draws from it. Hear stories of early settlers in this woodland setting and how their encounters with the wild frontier helped shape Blue Ridge folklore, language, music and customs. Experience this rich culture for yourself during sessions of Appalachian music performed on traditional instruments.




Highlights

• Encounter a mountaintop ecosystem during excursions on the famed Blue Ridge Parkway and experience spectacular scenic views at the Peaks of Otter.
• Discover Natural Bridge and its gorge and see why Thomas Jefferson called it the most "sublime" place on earth.
• At Warm Springs, take a relaxing soak in the mineral waters of a 1761 bathhouse, the oldest spa structure in the United States and the same one Jefferson used during his retirement in 1818.



Activity Particulars

Walking up to two miles at easy pace; uneven, grassy, hilly terrain. Elevations up to 4,000 feet on one field trip.




Date Specific Information

10-12-2014, 5-10-2015, 10-18-2015

Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.



Coordinated by Virginia Commonwealth University.




Natural Bridge

Considered one of the natural wonders of the world, Natural Bridge spans a deep gorge and caverns between the Blue Ridge and Alleghenies. This ancient limestone arch became a path for wildlife, a sacred site for Monacan Indians, a gateway for settlers and a curiosity for Europeans. Thomas Jefferson called it "the most sublime of nature's works."



Accommodations
Historic hotel from the pre-Interstate era, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains; ridge-side setting with trails, buffet breakfast.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Woody McKenzie

Woody and Marcia McKenzie are long-time residents of Virginia’s New River Valley and now live in Lynchburg. Woody builds instruments and is accomplished on guitar and mandolin, but fiddle is his greatest love. Marcia’s favorite instrument is her voice, but she plays the mandolin, guitar, clawhammer banjo, rhythm piano, drums and various whistles. Their repertoire of lively tunes, familiar ballads, sing-alongs and humorous novelty songs creates energetic entertainment.
 
Meals and Lodgings
   Natural Bridge Hotel
  Natural Bridge 5 nights
 Natural Bridge Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: The Natural Bridge Hotel was built in 1965 and is the fourth hotel to occupy the site since 1834. Its immediate predecessor was luxurious in the "Old South" style, and the present hotel offers food and lodging that retains much of that regional flavor, even though today it leans more toward the economical than to the elegant. Since World War II, Natural Bridge has been more than just the hotel and famous Bridge: it has been a tourist resort with a number of attractions and a mid-20th century vacation-by-auto feeling. In that spirit, participants will have a pass for the length of the Road Scholar program to visit Natural Bridge, the Natural Bridge Gorge, the Native American village, and Natural Bridge Caverns. In January 2014 the hotel was purchased by the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, an affiliate of a Roanoke, Va. non-profit organization, and the new owner is undertaking extensive renovation of the facilities. Once the mortgage is paid, the Natural Bridge and most of the property (but not the hotel) will be deeded to the state of Virginia for a state park.
  Contact info: 15 Appledore Lane
(US Route 11 at Va Route 130)
Natural Bridge, VA 24578 USA
phone: 800-533-1410
web: www.naturalbridgeva.com
  Room amenities: TV with satellite connection, iron & ironing board, coffeepot, free wireless internet connection. Refrigerators in some rooms and available upon request.
  Facility amenities: Air-conditioned. Free parking. Dining room, classrooms, and the Red Fox Lounge in hotel. Nearby are the Gift Shop, which contains snack bar; Natural Bridge Caverns; and a hiking trail to Natural Bridge, Cedar Creek Gorge, and the Native American village. Over 2014-15, new hiking trails are being installed, and the gift shop is gradually being converted from tourist trinkets to Virginia-made products and crafts.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Variable by season. Advance registration required and stay is based on availability. Road Scholar rate varies by season.
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Variable by season. Advance registration required and stay is based on availability. Road Scholar rate varies by season.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
4:00-5:30 PM in hotel lobby for Road Scholar registration. You will be staying at Natural Bridge Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after early lunch at 11:30 AM. Room checkout is 12:00 noon. You will be staying at Natural Bridge Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required. None
  Required innoculations:
Yes: Those allergic to bees should carry their own bee sting kit as field trip sites are remote and immediate medical assistance may not be available.
  Parking availability:
Parking at hotel is free for the length of the program.
Transportation
To Start of Program
  Location:  Natural Bridge
  Nearest city or town:  Lexington is about 15 miles northeast
  Nearest highway: US Route 11, Interstate 81
  Nearest airport:  Roanoke Regional Airport (37 miles away)
  From End of Program
  Location: Natural Bridge
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details
 

Roanoke Regional Airport

 

From Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Commercial Van/Shuttle
Roanoke Airport Transportation Seervice
phone: 800-288-1958
Advanced Reservations Required

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

Sedan for 1-3 is $76 each way; 3 or more by van is $38 each, each way
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

1 hour 

 

Distance:

 

50 miles

   

Natural Bridge is best reached by private car. Car rentals at Roanoke Regional Airport include Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz and National/Alamo. Website for airport is www.roanokeregionalairport.com, choose "Terminal Services."

 
Driving Directions
  From the East on I-64, from Richmond, Norfolk, VA Beach, Williamsburg Take I-64 west to I-81 south (I-64 joins I-81 below Staunton). Follow I-81 south beyond Lexington to Exit 180 for Natural Bridge, a left exit to US Route 11 south. The hotel is about 4 miles on US 11. Billboards announce Natural Bridge as it nears. The hotel will be obvious on your right.
  From the North on I-81, from Maryland, Washington DC Follow I-81 south beyond Lexington to Exit 180 for Natural Bridge, a left exit to US Route 11 south. The hotel is about 4 miles on US 11. Billboards announce Natural Bridge as it nears. The hotel will be obvious on your right. Alternative driving routes from the north include US 11, which parallels I-81 but is slower and prettier; or the National Park roads, Skyline Drive which leads into the Blue Ridge Parkway, which are the prettiest but also the slowest and rather wearying for long distance travel.
  From the South on I-81, from Roanoke Follow I-81 north about 35 miles north of Roanoke to Exit 175 for Natural Bridge. The hotel is about 2 miles on US Route 11 north. Billboards announce Natural Bridge as it nears. The hotel will be obvious on your left. An alternative driving route from the south is the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is pretty but also slow and rather wearying for long distance travel. Exit the Parkway at Va Route 43 west for Buchanan, and take US 11 north to I-81 for the last leg.
  From the West on I-64, from West Virginia Follow I-64 to I-81 South. Follow I-81 south 11 miles to Exit 180 for Natural Bridge, a left exit to US Route 11 south. The hotel is about 4 miles on US 11. Billboards announce Natural Bridge as it nears. The hotel will be obvious on your right.


Required innoculations:

Yes: Those allergic to bees should carry their own bee sting kit as field trip sites are remote and immediate medical assistance may not be available.

Elevation Note: Field trip to Peaks of Otter goes through a mountain pass at approximately 4000 ft.

Equipment Requirements: Comfortable walking shoes for field trips.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrival/Registration/Social hour/Orientation
(Sunday, October 12)
   
 Afternoon: Welcome to Natural Bridge! Register for your room after 4:00 at the desk in the hotel lobby. Register for the program in the lobby between 4-5:30 PM. Enjoy a Social Hour from 5-6 pm in the Red Fox Lounge (with cash bar) - this is a great time to meet your fellow participants in a relaxing atmosphere.
 Dinner: Dinner in the hotel
 Evening: 0rientation and introductions in the classroom.
   
Accommodations: Natural Bridge Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Classes in the Natural and Cultural History of the Blue Ridge
(Monday, October 13)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the hotel
 Morning: This is a tentative schedule. Classes and field trips may be rearranged to accommodate the availability of instructors and locations. Natural Bridge is located at the southern end of the Valley of Virginia, and prominent in the view from the Hotel is the Thunder Ridge section of the Blue Ridge, about 7 miles away. The ways of the mountains are the subject of this program, both natural and human. The field trips will provide spectacular views and the chance to explore the mountains, valleys, and woods. The classes will talk about how these places came to be, and how people have crafted lives and a culture as residents. Class this morning begins by describing the geological forces that shaped the two mountain chains that define the Valley of Virginia.
 Lunch: Lunch in the hotel
 Afternoon: Afternoon class: "Cultural History in the Great Valley and Blue Ridge" discusses the history of those settlers who peopled the Valley -- and some of the tales that began years ago and are still told today.
 Dinner: Dinner in the hotel
 Evening: This evening the retired Park Service ranger who will accompany the group on the field trip tomorrow recalls his years on the Blue Ridge Parkway, including many things that most visitors don't hear about.
   
Accommodations: Natural Bridge Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Field trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Peaks of Otter/Class on Natural Bridge
(Tuesday, October 14)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the hotel
 Morning: Today is a field trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We won't travel all of its 500 miles, but we will go to the top of the mountain ridge that you see from the hotel. Expect spectacular views of the valley and the mountains! We will stop at several places for short hikes and overviews, as we make our way to the Peaks of Otter. We'll be accompanied by a retired Park Ranger who knows this park from experience.
 Lunch: We'll picnic with a box lunch along Blue Ridge Parkway.
 Afternoon: The Blue Ridge Parkway field trip continues. The beautiful and distinctive Peaks of Otter include Flat Top Mountain and Sharp Top Mountain. Depending on conditions, we may be able to ride up Sharp Top. From the end of the road, there is a walk over a rocky and uneven path to the peak, but the reward is a dramatic 360 degree view.
 Dinner: Dinner in the hotel
 Evening: Evening class: Slide lecture on Natural Bridge in History and Legend
   
Accommodations: Natural Bridge Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Classes on Blue Ridge culture/Evening musical performance
(Wednesday, October 15)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the hotel
 Morning: Class on the Monocans, the Native Americans of this section of the Blue Ridge; and class on Blue Ridge folk culture as it evolved from the early European settlers and then newer waves of settlers.
 Lunch: Lunch in the hotel
 Afternoon: We continue with a class on Blue Ridge folk culture, which leads into a class on Blue Ridge music.
 Dinner: Dinner in the hotel
 Evening: A relaxing and delightful evening of "Music with the McKenzies," who play a variety of traditional instruments and feature many of the popular musical hits from the 1800s, along with some newer songs too.
   
Accommodations: Natural Bridge Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Field trip through Goshen Pass to Jefferson Pools and Boxerwood Garden
(Thursday, October 16)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the hotel
 Morning: Our field trip today has an early start. We are actually heading to the Alleghanies, the mountains that form the western wall of the Great Valley, in order to visit a special historical site. We'll go by Lexington and then through Goshen Pass, a most appealing scenic route with the Maury River alongside. Our destination is Warm Springs and the Jefferson Pools, the oldest mineral baths in the U.S. And we are not just going to look at these naturally warm mineral baths, spring-fed and housed in a 1761 structure--we are getting in, for an hour soak. The pools are named after Thomas Jefferson because he spent 22 days in them in 1818. Once dried off and changed, we'll head back through Goshen Pass.
 Lunch: Box lunch at a picnic area in Goshen Pass.
 Afternoon: Field trip continues with a visit to Boxerwood Garden, an arboretum outside Lexington. The gardens contain many kinds of trees both native to this area and imported, for instance 57 varieties of Magnolias and 81 varieties of Dogwoods.
 Dinner: Dinner in the hotel
 Evening: This evening offers an opportunity to see "Drama of Creation," a sound and light show at Natural Bridge, that includes readings from the Bible, colored light projected on to the arch, and symphonic music. The show has been recently upgraded from the original version that first played in 1927.
   
Accommodations: Natural Bridge Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Walking Field trip to Natural Bridge/Departure
(Friday, October 17)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the hotel
 Morning: Put on some comfortable shoes and join our guide for a leisurely walk through Natural Bridge Gorge. You'll see the unique plants, birds, animals and geology of this setting that Thomas Jefferson called one of the most sublime places on earth. We'll walk at an easy pace, with stops (and places to sit) to listen and look. From the Bridge itself, you'll walk approximately one mile through the Gorge to Lacey Falls (and one mile to return). We'll learn about early human history at the working Monacan Indian Village. You'll be able to return to the hotel at any point - or sit a spell overlooking the Lost River (learn why it's "lost" on this walk!). Most of the walk is paved and handicapped-accessible, except for an unpaved path near the end of the trail to the Falls. There's a lot to learn, see, and enjoy, even if you go only part of the way. Early lunch at 11:30 AM allows you a head-start on your travel home. Room check-out is 12:00 noon.
 Lunch: Early lunch in the hotel, before departure
   
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List


Blue Ridge nature journal: reflections on the Appalachian Mountains in essays and art


Author: George Ellison and Elizabeth Ellison


Description: Essays by George Ellison and paintings by Elizabeth Ellison



Mountains of the heart: a natural history of the Appalachians


Author: Scott Weidensaul


Portals to Shenandoah Folkways


Author: Ed. by Dorothy A Boyd-Bragg


Touring the Shenandoah Valley Backroads


Author: Andrea Sutcliffe




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