The Wonders of Natural Bridge

By Karen Jurgens

As its name implies, Natural Bridge is a natural wonder. Nestled in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Slade, Kentucky, this sandstone archway looks like it was carved by the finger of God.  At least a million years old, it spans 78 feet long, 65 feet high, 12 feet thick, and 20 feet wide with glorious views of the forest on both sides. Native Americans and early American Hunters like Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett explored and lived for hundreds of years in these abounding woods.

We have family ties to Natural Bridge going back several generations, beginning with my great-grandfather. He, along with other visitors, began coming in 1889 when there was no way to reach the top unless you hiked. That’s still one way to do it, but there’s also a matter of having to dodge bears and snakes. About forty-five years ago the park added a skylift, making the trip not only safe but easy and fun.

The Wonders of Natural Bridge by Karen Jurgens

A two-seater at the skylift

The Wonders of Natural Bridge by Karen Jurgens

The skylift is cut through the forest

Riding the two-seater chair has always been the highlight for me. It skims high above the treetops where I enjoy taking pictures of the beautiful, thick woods, full of songbirds and bubbling brooks. When the lift pulls me straight up and over that last rocky ledge, my heart always jumps in my mouth as I ride over the sheer precipice, similar to the thrill of a roller-coaster. Arriving at the top and feeling the ground under my feet is a welcome relief.

The Wonders of Natural Bridge by Karen Jurgens

Looking down from the top of the skylift

The Wonders of Natural Bridge by Karen Jurgens

The path across the top of the bridge

To reach our destination, we follow a narrow path with a railing on one side. At the end of 600 feet, the path widens out to what looks like a narrow dirt road. The woods stop, and the sky opens on all sides. That is the beginning of the top of the bridge.

Walking across is an adventure because neither side has railings, so I make sure I stay in the middle of the 20-foot-wide crossing. I’ve witnessed people lying on their stomachs and hanging off the edge to take pictures of the sheer drop-off that plummets thousands of feet straight down (but you won’t find me doing that).

I can’t appreciate where I am unless I walk the top’s full length and take the stone staircase that descends to the bottom of the bridge. Next is a very narrow passageway, sliced out of a sheer boulder that is about 300 feet high. There is just enough room to slide through sideways, and only one person can enter at a time from either direction. It makes me feel like a piece of bread sliding through a toaster, and I always hold my breath, hoping I won’t get stuck. At the other end is a clearing where I can look up and see the majesty of what I walked across. Words can’t begin do it justice.

 

The Wonders of Natural Bridge by Karen Jurgens

Red River Gorge

Hemlock Lodge is the hotel for the park where I love to stay. It’s built on the edge of a mountainous cliff and has a marvelous view of the Red River Gorge at the bottom. Bird feeders line the outdoor porches that run the length of the building where you can enjoy the view and the variety of birds as they’re drawn to feed. A huge kidney-shaped swimming pool is at the bottom of the gorge. The 40-acre Mill Creek Lake hosts fishing, paddleboats and canoes—fun for the whole family.

The Wonders of Natural Bridge by Karen Jurgens

Swimming pool view from the lodge

Family reunions and vacations are popular at this park. Groups can choose to stay in cabins for more privacy and convenience. Meals can be enjoyed in the lodge’s dining room or on the grounds at one of the many picnic spots. There’s also a one-acre Hoedown Island where country folk dances happen every Saturday night from May through October. Throughout tourist season there are several choices for nature walks and hiking. The park also hosts educational seminars about its natural biology. What a terrific place for kids to learn about nature through personal experience.

Interested in learning more? http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/natural-bridge/

Writing Prompt:

I had no idea what to expect on my first hiking trip to the mountains. The guide met us and explained the rules, then took us out to the path. My backpack held binoculars, a camera, sunglasses, and sunscreen. I could feel adventure in the air as we hiked up our path. Everything went well until we came to a bend where …

Natural Wonders – Victoria Falls

Natural Wonders – Victoria Falls

slide1

 

Today’s post is brought to you courtesy of Wikipedia, and moi!  It’s gorgeous country, and someday I’d love to visit there!

slide2

slide3

I have learned that missionary David Livingstone is the first know European to discover the falls in 1855.  He named them Victoria Falls in honor of the British monarch at the time, Queen Victoria. The falls occur on the Zambezi River, running along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

slide5

 

 

 

 

slide4

Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls. In height and width Victoria Falls is rivalled only by Argentina and Brazil’s Iguazu Falls. See table for comparisons.

slide6

There are two islands on the crest of the falls that are large enough to divide the curtain of water even at full flood: Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) near the western bank, and Livingstone Island near the middle—the point from which Livingstone first viewed the falls.

slide7

slide8

When the river flow is at a certain level, a rock barrier forms an eddy with minimal current, allowing adventurous swimmers to splash around in relative safety a few feet from the point where the water cascades over the falls. Crazy daredevils!

slide10

slide9

Before 1905, the river was crossed above the falls at the Old Drift, by dugout canoe or a barge towed across with a steel cable. In 1905, with the influx of European influence and settlement, the first bridge across the Zambezi and [Cecil Rhodes] insisted it be built where the spray from the falls would fall on passing trains, so the site at the Second Gorge (of five gorges) was chosen.

slide12

 

The national parks contain abundant wildlife including sizable populations of elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, and a variety of antelope. Vervet monkeys and baboons are common. The river above the falls contains large populations of hippopotamus and crocodile. African bush elephants cross the river in the dry season at particular crossing points. Above the falls, herons, fish eagles and numerous kinds of waterfowl are common.

slide13

slide14

slide16

slide15

slide17

slide18

Mopane woodland savannah predominates in the area, with smaller areas of miombo and Rhodesian teak woodland and scrubland savannah. Riverine forest with palm trees lines the banks and islands above the falls. The most notable aspect of the area’s vegetation though is the rainforest nurtured by the spray from the falls, containing plants rare for the area such as pod mahogany, ebony, ivory palm, wild date palm and a number of creepers and lianas.[12] Vegetation has suffered in recent droughts, and so have the animals that depend on it, particularly antelope.

slide20

Writing Prompt: What is your favourite attraction about Victoria Falls? Did you learn something new from my (humble) little post? Would you like to visit the falls?

 

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Falls

 

 

ME - 041115“I once said I should write down all the story ideas in my head so someone could write them someday. I had no idea at the time that someone was me!

 

Ms. Mason has been writing since 1995, and began working in earnest on her debut novel, Tessa in 2013. She resides in the Upstate of South Carolina. She has three novels published, the unsavory heritage series. Tessa, Clara Bess and Cissy are available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. She also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She will also be working on a personal compilation of poetry to be released in 2017.

 

 

Come visit me at:

 

http://robinemason.com

http://robinsnest212.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robin-E-Mason-Author-Artist/224223274404877

http://www.amazon.com/Robin-E.-Mason/e/B00MR5IQ9S

https://twitter.com/amythyst212

http://www.pinterest.com/amythyst212/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7808042.Robin_E_Mason

robinemason212@gmail.com

 

 

Writing Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas, Natural Wonders, Victoria Falls, Zambezi River, Zambia, Zimbabwe, David Livingstone

 

Save

Natural Wonders: A “Mammoth” Good Time

By Sandra Ardoin

With over 400 miles of explored tunnels, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, one of our national treasures, is the largest cave system in the world. Its environment changes with the rainwater dripping through the sandstone layers to the underlying limestone, to underground rivers and eventually into the Green River.

The park was established in 1941, but two hundred years after the first formal tour in 1816, hubby and I approached the kiosk outside the Visitor’s Center. No spelunker, it was my first experience in a cavern. I walked up to the counter and asked the ranger on duty, “What tours do you have for old people?” (Okay, we’re not old old, but we get closer with each new ache.)

dscn1605-copyI’m sure the polite man gave me a mental eye roll before telling us about the one-eighth-mile Frozen Niagara tour to see the stalactites and stalagmites. Then he mentioned the Domes and Dripstones Tour, which encompassed more territory, plus the Frozen Niagara. We’d driven a long way to see a bunch of underground rock, so it was the Domes and Dripstones or bust.

Before the tour began, we were told that those who were claustrophobic (check mark), afraid of heights (check mark), and had knee issues (well, on occasion—see above paragraph) might want to reconsider. Really? Did they think they were dealing with a couple of wimps? Bring on the bus to the cavern!

dscn1603-copyAs we approached the cement, bunker-type entrance at the bottom of a sink hole, I thought of the TV show Lost and that underground bunker. I didn’t relish being part of a resurrection of the show and hoped we’d eventually “find” the exit.

Over a hundred people took our tour, with hubby and me almost bringing up the rear, so it was slow going as we descended into the abyss. I’ll admit, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if there was an earthquake. Nope. No wimp in that bunny-hop line.

The way was well-lit and the path relatively smooth. No problem, except when we were forced to pause in a tight, low-ceilinged spot. (One of us found out the hard way that you need to watch your head. I won’t say which one, but for once, it wasn’t me.) Occasionally, it seemed the whole ceiling was propped up by one small, well-placed rock.

dscn1591-copyWe spent two hours going down, around, and up, exploring the limestone caverns with their sometimes wet, but mostly, dry walls. I’d come prepared to freeze in what the website said was a constant 54 degrees. About halfway through, I removed my sweater.

Twice, we stopped in large “rooms” with rows of benches to listen to the tour ranger provide more information about the caves. Once, we were in a “dome” room. Unlike the walls with their jagged protrusions, the ceiling was smooth, looking somewhat like stucco with cracks running through it. To me, the dripstones resembled a hanging mud dauber’s nest.

When we stopped in the second room, the ranger explained about the crickets in the cave, one of numerous species of insect and animal life that live there. These aren’t your typical crickets. They’re thin and lighter in color, and they don’t make noise. To show us why they’re silent, she turned the lights off. Yipes! You’ve heard the axiom about it being so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face? I could touch my nose and still not see my hand. I’ve never been in such pitch blackness. But crickets are a bat’s prey, and bats track by …? Yep, sonar. So, the insects don’t sing.

dscn1614-copyFinally, we reached the Frozen Niagra. Beautiful! Stalactites, stalagmites, and columns of limestone.

From there, we were given the option to take a shortcut to the exit and avoid nearly a hundred steps. Phfft! Didn’t I say we weren’t wimps?

Before leaving the underground, we passed walls populated by those crickets I mentioned, and then ducked beneath a bat hanging from the ceiling—the latter much smaller than I’d expected and seemingly unimpressed by a bunch of temporary explorers.

dscn1624-copyAt the end of the tour, they bused us back to the visitor’s center where we were required to walk over a bio mat with soapy water to clean our shoes. Unfortunately, a disease called White Nose Syndrome is killing the bats and, of course, they don’t want it spread from cave to cave.

We drove to the ferry that crosses the Green River. While the ferry is no longer made of wood and hauling animals and wagons across the strip of water, it can carry three vehicles and was so smooth I only knew we were moving by watching the scenery.

A little history about the river and the ferry from a park sign:

dscn1622-copy

There’s much more to do in the park than wander tunnels. You can camp or stay in the hotel, hike, bike, and horseback ride. But if being underground is your thing, there are numerous cave tour options, including one in which you can prove how adventurous you are when you “climb, crawl, squeeze, hike and canyon walk” for six hours. Crawl on, but you won’t see me on that one!

All right, maybe I can be a little wimpy, but I didn’t ache the next day nearly as much as I expected.

Writing Prompt: I bent almost double, hands on my knees, as ragged gasps erupted from deep inside. The darkness enveloped us, with only the small point of the flashlight to lead our way. How did I get trapped in Mammoth Caves with such an enthusiastic tour guide? Suddenly…


Sandra Ardoin_HeadshotSandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, antique store prowler. Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.arm-cover

 

 

 

Who Said Kansas is Flat?

By Tammy Trail

With this month’s topic being Natural Wonders, I had a very hard time choosing just one. I love my home state of Kansas, so it wasn’t hard to choose where. As you drive across it, the flat land attests to why we have so many tornadoes. However, you may be surprised to learn, not all of the state is flat, and Kansas claims eight natural wonders. Here are some of them.

Who Said Kansas is Flat? by Tammy Trail

Arikaree Breaks

You probably have heard of the Badlands, but did you know it’s a term for a certain kind of land formation? The Arikaree Breaks (pronounced: A-rick-kar-ee) are the Badlands located in Northwest Kansas. They were created by deposits of sand and other minerals carried by the wind and then eroded by water. In the case of the Arikaree Breaks, they form thirty-six miles of canyons and ravines that are two-to-three-miles wide. Its terrain lies between the plains of northwestern Kansas and eastern Colorado.  You can find this natural wonder near the town of St. Francis in Cheyenne County.

Who Said Kansas is Flat? by Tammy Trail

American Kestrel

A second wonder is the silent prairie, covered by many yucca or soapweed plants, and possessing very few trees. Two species of sage that flourish in the Breaks don’t grow anywhere else in the state. It also boasts as many as sixteen different kinds of rare plants. Wildlife such as ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, and black-tailed prairie dogs make their home there. Bird watching is a great pastime with Horned Larks, Vesper Sparrows, Western Meadowlarks, Mourning Doves, and the American Kestrel.

Interested in a tourist map loaded with historical stops? The city of St. Francis has produced one that’s full of history. A third wonder is marked as a metal surveyors’ seal you can stand on and brag about being in Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska all at the same time.

A fourth wonder is Devil’s Gap.  It’s a rock formation used as a marker by the Cheyenne Indians as they traveled between their encampment at Cherry Creek and Julesburg, Colorado. These Cheyenne were the survivors of the famous Sand Creek Massacre. On the 29th of November in 1864, survivors of the Sand Creek Massacre fled to Cherry Creek in the Arikaree Breaks to hide and wait to be joined by other Plains tribes. There they regrouped to organize retaliation on Fort Rankin for the Massacre against innocent people. There is also a memorial for those tribal people who lost their lives at Sandy Creek.

Horse Thief Cave, a fifth wonder, sounds just like its name suggests. As a large hideaway, it hid thieves and their stolen horses for days. Unfortunately, floods destroyed it in 1936. When the county cut roads through the prairie. it caused the roof of the cave to collapse. The entrance still stands, however, and creates a natural bridge.

Who Said Kansas is Flat? by Tammy Trail

Horse Thief Cave


Writing Prompt:  Are there any natural wonders in your state?

Save

Glow Worms at the Dismals Canyon

grand-canyon

Grand Canyon

By Jennifer Hallmark

Natural Wonders is the topic for October and goes right along with our subjects this year which include favorite vacations and world travel. The difference lies in the definition.

One source mentions that a natural wonder must be a clearly defined natural site or natural monument that was not created or significantly altered by humans. Our Crew at the Writing Prompts blog will be pointing out several natural wonders such as Mammoth Cave, Victoria Falls, and the Dismals Canyon.

What? You haven’t heard of the Dismals? Read on to find out more…

Glow little glow worm. The 1952 release of the song Glow Worm was sung by the Mills Brothers and talked about little glow worms, shining and glimmering. It’s a fun song and I’ll share a You Tube recording of the song at the end of this article.

Possibly the songwriter had visited the natural wonder tucked away in the northwest corner of Alabama called Dismals Canyon, a national natural landmark near Phil Campbell, Alabama.

The website for the canyon says:

Past twilight, the canyon lights up with tiny bioluminescent creatures we call Dismalites. These “glowworms” require a select habitat to survive and are unique to only a few places on Earth. They are “close cousins” of the rare glowworms found in Australia and New Zealand.

dismalites

Dismalites

It’s been a while since I visited what locals call “The Dismals” but it remains a magical place filled with streams, waterfalls, hiking trails, and a guided night tour to view the Dismalites. Besides hiking, activities include swimming, camping, cabin rentals, and a country store and restaurant. The canyon itself is rich with native plant life and the stream, Dismals Branch, enters the canyon through Rainbow Falls.

 

rainbow-falls_dismals-canyon

Rainbow Falls

On the one-and-a-half mile hiking trail, you’ll see the falls, boulders, natural bridges, and cliffs, while you’re surrounded by giant trees and ferns. This natural wonder contains one of the oldest primeval forests east of the Mississippi River untouched by ax or fire that is open to the public. The canyon is thought to have been originally occupied nearly 10,000 years ago by native tribes.

So if you’re ever in North Alabama, make sure to plan a visit to Dismal Canyon. It is open seven days a week and cabin rental’s possible year round. And plan to be there on a Saturday night so you can go on the guided night tour to see the shimmering glowworms. You’ll be glad you did. I’m planning an adventure there soon with the grandchildren. I know they’ll love it as much as me.

Writing Prompt: The odor of damp earth mingled with the green ferns and vines surrounding me. I stepped into the cave and flipped on my headlamp. Suddenly…