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.
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.
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armor of an opponent have been replaced by a much more civilized test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.
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.
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
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
Natural Chimney's Annual Joust: August 16, 2003 beginning at noon.