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NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.

Modern Day Camelot - Mt. Solon, VA

By: Michelle Harper

Natural Chimneys Regional ParkIf you were to visit Natural Chimneys Regional Park in Mt. Solon, VA on most days you would hear the happy sounds of campers setting up their sites, squeals of delight from children playing in the pool and light-hearted conversation between picnickers mingled with the sounds of birds chirping in the background. However, if you were to visit on the 3rd Saturday in August, you would be transported to mediaeval times and the sounds of thundering hoof beats of horses charging by as modern day Knights and Maids compete at the Joust would overwhelm any sounds of the 21st century.

Natural Chimneys Regional ParkThough Maryland was the first state to choose jousting as its official state sport in 1962, Natural Chimneys has been home to the oldest jousting tournament in North America since 1821. This tradition has made Mt. Solon home to the National Jousting Association and the National Jousting Hall of Fame is housed within Natural Chimneys Regional Park. The giant rock formations of seven "natural chimneys" ranging from 65 to 150 feet give an illusion of a giant castle, which provides the perfect backdrop for the tournament. What better setting to hear "Charge Sir Knight!" as you imagine yourself back in the days of King Arthur's Court.

Natural Chimneys Regional ParkOver the centuries jousting has undergone many transformations. Today Knights and Maids compete as equals. The prize is not for the honor of the King or Queen or the hand of a fair maiden but for the honor of being the best in the sport of jousting. Images of sharp lances being thrust into the armor of an opponent have been replaced by a much more civilized test of skill in which riders gallop down a track and attempt to spear 3 small steel rings with their lance. Though less violent, barreling down 80 yards of track in 8 seconds or less is just as thrilling.

Natural Chimneys Regional ParkThe park's Natural Chimneys formations draw crowds from all around with or without a joust. Over the years many artists and photographers have tried to capture the magnificent beauty of these unique structures that began as a series of tunnels and underground caves eroded by over 5 million years of wind and water. Visitors can explore the caves at the base of the chimneys or just enjoy a picnic in its shadows.

Natural Chimneys Regional ParkFor those who are a bit more adventurous, there is a ¼ mile hiking trail overlooking the chimneys. The view from above is spectacular but the trail is fairly steep and strenuous. Tree roots and rocks also make the path a bit challenging but the view is well worth the effort. In addition to activities surrounding the chimneys themselves, the park offers other activities such as camping and swimming. Everyone from Lords and Ladies to Knights and Knaves will find something to enjoy in National Chimneys Regional Park.

Natural Chimneys Regional ParkNatural Chimneys Regional Park Hours: daily from 9am until dark.
For more information on Natural Chimneys Regional Park call 1 -888-430-CAMP
Directions: Exit 240 off of I-81. Travel west to Bridgewater and follow signs.
Natural Chimney's Annual Joust: August 16, 2003 beginning at noon.

 

 

For more information on the sport of jousting from its history to modern day "how to" visit: http://www.nationaljousting.com

NOTE: This is a motorcycle friendly campground.

GPS reading at the Natural Chimney parking lot N 38° 21.467 W 079° 04.958

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