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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:
5/10/2015 - 5/15/2015; 10/18/2015 - 10/23/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Natural Bridge, Virginia
Price starting at: $749.00 - 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

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 and Check-in / Program Registration / Welcome Dinner / Orientation
(Sunday, May 10)
   
 Afternoon: Hotel Check-in: Available from 4:00 p.m.

Program Registration until 5:30 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.
 Dinner: In the hotel’s Colonial Dining Room, enjoy a Chef’s selection, beginning with salad or soup, followed by an entrée and sides, and dessert. Beverage choices include coffee (regular or decaf). tea (iced or hot), water.
 Evening: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have.

Indicated times are approximate; program activities and schedules may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

We have set aside some free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration. The Group Leader will often be available during free time to accompany informal excursions, activities, or meals that have been excluded from the program cost. You are welcome to join if you like, with any associated costs on your own.

Continue getting to know your fellow participants, settle in, and get a good night's rest for the day ahead.
   
Accommodations: Natural Bridge Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Natural History of the Blue Ridge Mountains / Natural Bridge Gorge Field Trip / Natural Bridge in History and Legend
(Monday, May 11)
   
 Breakfast: In the Colonial Dining Room, enjoy a breakfast buffet with selections such as scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, hot apples, grits, biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, French toast, oatmeal, fruit, baked goods, plus juice, coffee, tea, water.
 Morning: A naturalist will join us at the hotel for our first lecture, a discussion of the Blue Ridge ecosystem. Part of the 1,200-mile Great Appalachian Valley that stretches from Alabama to Quebec, the Valley of Virginia (which includes the Blue Ridge) was formed as bedrock dissolved away, leaving many cliffs, sinkholes, and caverns. Our naturalist will introduce the biodiversity of the region, how the present day flora and fauna have changed over time, and how they continue to change to this day.

For our second class, we’ll be joined by the retired Park Service ranger who will accompany us on tomorrow’s field trip. He’ll recall his years on the Blue Ridge Parkway, including many things that only an experienced ranger could know.
 Lunch: In the Colonial Dining Room, enjoy today’s Chef’s selection with soup or salad, make-your-own sandwiches, or a hot entrée and sides, plus coffee (regular or decaf). tea (iced or hot), water.
 Afternoon: Wear your comfortable, broken-in walking shoes as we join our naturalist for a leisurely field trip through Natural Bridge Gorge. We’ll see the plants, birds, animals and geology of this unique location, which Thomas Jefferson called “one of the most sublime places on earth.” We'll walk to Lacey Falls, with stops to sit, listen, and take in the magnificent scenery. Learn about early human history at the working Monacan Indian Village, and then learn from our naturalist why the Lost River is "lost.” There's a lot to learn, see, and enjoy, even if you go only part of the way.
 Dinner: In the hotel.
 Evening: A Virginia historian will present an overview of Natural Bridge in pictures, with insights into its place in history and legend.
   
Accommodations: Natural Bridge Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Blue Ridge Parkway Field Trip / The Peaks of Otter / “Drama of Creation” Multi-Media Presentation at Natural Bridge
(Tuesday, May 12)

Note: Short hikes along rocky and uneven trails at stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway.



   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: We’ll board our bus with our retired Park Service ranger for a field trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the top of the mountain ridge we can see from our hotel. Expect spectacular views of the valley and the mountains! We’ll stop at several places for short hikes and overviews, as we make our way south towards the Peaks of Otter. Thomas Jefferson thought these three peaks were the tallest mountains in the then-young United States, and Virginia sent stones from the Peaks of Otter as its contribution to the Washington Monument.
 Lunch: Along Blue Ridge Parkway, we’ll stop to have box lunches with a sandwich, side dish, fruit, cookie, and beverage.
 Afternoon: Continuing our Blue Ridge Parkway field trip, there are several trails in the vicinity of the beautiful and distinctive Peaks of Otter: a nature trail, a one-mile hike around a picturesque lake, and a two-mile round trip hike that leads to a preserved farmstead. Because the inclines vary, we will select the hike most appropriate for the conditions.

At the end of the field trip, we’ll return to the hotel with time to freshen up and relax before dinner.
 Dinner: In the hotel.
 Evening: We’ll go together 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. Tonight’s show is a recently upgraded version of the original presentation that first played here in 1927.
   
Accommodations: Natural Bridge Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Native Americans and Folk Culture Through the Ages / Free Afternoon / The Blue Ridge Through an Artist’s Eyes
(Wednesday, May 13)
   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: The manager of the Nature Bridge Indian Village will present a class on the Monacans, the Native Americans who call this section of the Blue Ridge home. Our class continues with a look at Blue Ridge folk culture as it evolved from the early European pioneers and then newer waves of settlers.
 Lunch: In the hotel.
 Afternoon: Free Afternoon. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions. You might choose to explore the nearby town of Lexington, or any of a number of local sites.
 Dinner: In the hotel.
 Evening: A local expert will share insights into the career of Edward Beyer, a 19th century painter and lithographer from Germany whose almost-photographic views of the Blue Ridge remain a standard for art of the region to this day
   
Accommodations: Natural Bridge Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Goshen Pass Field Trip to Jefferson Pools / Riverside Hike / Live Performance of Music of the Blue Ridge
(Thursday, May 14)

Note: Bring a bathing suit if you wish to dip into Jefferson Pools (towels provided).



   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Our field trip today has an early start. We’ll take our bus to the Alleghanies, the mountains that form the western wall of the Great Valley, to visit a special historical site. Through Lexington and then the scenic Goshen Pass, we’ll make our way to Warm Springs and Jefferson Pools, the oldest mineral baths in the United States. The structure housing the pools dates back to 1761.

And we’re not just going to look at these naturally warm spring-fed mineral baths – we’re getting in, for an hour-long soak. The pools are named after Thomas Jefferson, who spent 22 days here in 1818, when he was 75 years old. Once we’re dried off and changed, we'll head back to Goshen Pass.
 Lunch: At a picnic area in Goshen Pass, we’ll stop for box lunches.
 Afternoon: We’ll hop back on our bus and return through Goshen Pass, where we’ll stop for a one-mile hike that winds along the Maury River.

After returning to the hotel, we’ll arrive in time to freshen up and relax before dinner.
 Dinner: Iin the hotel.
 Evening: Enjoy a relaxing and delightful evening of music with the McKenzies, who play a mix of popular musical hits from the 1800s, newer songs from the folk tradition, and originals, all with a Blue Ridge theme.
   
Accommodations: Natural Bridge Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Folk Traditions of the Blue Ridge / Birds of the Valley of Virginia / Program Concludes
(Friday, May 15)
   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: For our program’s final classes, a local expert will talk about the folk traditions of the Blue Ridge and the region’s distinctive culture, followed by a presentation about birds and birding in the Valley of Virginia.
 Lunch: In the hotel. This concludes our program.

We hope you enjoy all your Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. We encourage you to join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!
   
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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