A friend of Ronnie's sister mentioned to us that we would enjoy Virginia's Natural Tunnel State Park. To learn more about this natural wonder, how the cave was formed, discovered by Daniel Boone and the train that travels through it, click the link. We knew we would be near this state park while here in Big Stone Gap so we made plans to spend an afternoon. We took a picnic lunch, enjoyed the hike down to the tunnel and we were even treated to the train moving through the tunnel itself. There are other attractions at the Natural Tunnel State Park but we decided to spend our time just exploring this massive naturally formed cave.
|The hike down to the tunnel is only .3 miles but hiking back up it sure seems a lot longer. The trail is very steep.|
|Notice at the bottom of the photo near the center, you can see the RR tracks. There are several overlooks with good views down into the tunnel.|
|You are not allowed to walk down the RR tracks but the train does not run one day of the year so folks can walk the tunnel safely. The air down at this cave was cool and it had a damp smell.|
|The noise created by the train's brakes was extremely loud, we had to keep fingers in our ears while it passed.|
|Now this was strange..seeing the train disappear into a hole in the ground.|
|The surrounding cliffs create an amphitheater-type effect and looking up you think, what an amazing place.|
Of course, we have been exploring the surrounding area of Big Stone Gap and have found some great overlooks with scenic views.
|This is a panoramic photo of the Powell Valley. Big Stone Gap is located at it's western end.|
We visited High Knob Observation Tower on an especially clear day.
|The town of Big Stone Gap is located between the two mountain ridges on the photo's left.|
We were invited by one of the locals here to visit the June Tolliver House to enjoy a wine/dessert tasting and attend the last performance of the season of the Outdoor Drama Trail of the Lonesome Pine.
After the tasty desserts and a couple of glasses of wine from Mountain Rose Vineyards we decided to see the play and it was pretty good. During the intro-audience-participation part of the play Ron and I won the Fairystone for traveling the farthest to see this performance. Why sure, we used our original North Carolina address.
|Photos are not allowed during the performance. There was a delightful bluegrass band performing on stage for the pre-entertainment.|
What a nice discovery to find southwestern Virginia filled with such interesting places to visit, scenic vistas, a variety of great rail-to-trails parks, good food, the friendliest folks and cool temperatures. We think we need to extend our visit here a bit longer to enjoy these new discoveries...so we decided to stay here at Jessie Lea RV Park in Big Stone Gap for a month!
So...there will be more later.