Day 9:

Natural Bridge, VA

I woke up in the parking lot of Planet Fitness in Roanoke, VA on Monday. It worked out quite well, except I did feel a bit weird about checking into the gym just to go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, and change clothes. Thankfully the guy at the front desk wasn’t there to give me a strange look when I went to leave. After getting ready to go for the day, which has been taking substantially less time on the road because I’ve completely given up on wearing makeup and doing anything fancy with my hair, and I wear pretty much the same thing every day, I headed straight to downtown to explore some more. Luckily the traffic was light and parking was easy to come by. There were tons of 2 hour parking spaces which was more than enough time for what I had planned. I mainly wanted to visit the Roanoke City Market, however, when I got there it didn’t seem to be going on. It said that it was seven days a week 8am-5pm, and I was there around 11am. Maybe I was missing something. None the less, I still managed to stop in for some coffee and breakfast at Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea. The chocolate chip scone was perfect to satiate my ongoing chocolate cravings.

Once breakfast was eaten, I walked around the block and decided to head back to my car. I’m sure there is tons more to do in Roanoke, but it didn’t really strike my fancy a whole lot, so I decided not to stick around much longer. I already had plans to visit Natural Bridge State Park, so that’s where I headed. It was about 45 minutes outside of town, and it wasn’t very busy when I got there. The ticket was $8, but I’d say it was worth it. The hike to the arch itself was rather short, but I did the full hike to the waterfall which was around 1 mile. The falls weren’t anything extraordinary, but it was definitely worth it to enjoy the nature. The arch, on the other hand, was incredible. Apparently it used to be a large cave opening that has slowly deteriorated over time leaving only the arch left. I’m really glad they had that little tidbit of information because I had always been a bit curious how the natural phenomenon occurred. The arch is an incredible 215ft tall, and it’s rumored that George Washington left his initials on the wall of the arch during a survey expedition there. However, there are only the initials “GW,” so it’s not confirmed that they were actually carved by George Washington himself.

Natural Bridge, VA

During the hike back from the falls I was adopted by three adorable old women. They were walking in front of me, and then when they went to let me pass, one of them struck up a conversation with me. She was very talkative and seemed so excited about life, so I let her talk. She told me she used to live in Philly, so considering I will be visiting there soon I asked her what she recommended seeing. Her only answer: Botanical gardens. She listed, like, four different ones. The woman was so excited about plants. She told me so much about the gardens, and she even had pictures to show me! It was pretty sweet, I must say. As we neared the exit to the trail, she invited me to join them for lunch, but I declined as I had plans to spend more time at the park. Besides my time at the Workaway, that was the longest conversation I’ve had with anyone face-to-face since I started this trip.

Natural Bridge, VA

One thing that’s so easy to take for granted is human connection. While I’ve been gone, I haven’t had a whole lot of it. I’ve been very lucky to have extensive phone-calls with my boyfriend, and many texts and calls with my parents and best friend, but it just isn’t the same. I miss being face-to-face with the people I care about, and being able to touch them and see them. I’ve always been a pretty introverted person, so I usually handle solitude pretty well, and for the most part I’m fine out here. However, in those moments at night when I don’t have anything actively occupying my thoughts and time, it’s really easy to get homesick and feel lonely. I’m not the most outgoing person, so it’s hard for me to just strike up conversations with strangers, and even if I did, I would have to be really careful about what I say. Being a solo-female far from home isn’t exactly safe, so I have to be cautious about the things I do and say. For instance, I don’t want people to know I’m alone, or that I’m far from home and have no one around that I know, or what my full name is, or that I’m camping in my car. Too much information can lead to potentially dangerous situations depending on not only who I’m talking to, but who around me could be listening. So for those reasons I haven’t been the most social person, and that can take its toll after a little while, because like it or not we are social creatures.

Enough of the deep talk, though, because even with the low moments, this has been an incredible experience. As I left Natural Bridge I decided to go to Lynchburg, VA. That was another last minute decision, and I really didn’t know anything about it. Needless to say, I don’t feel the need to go back there again. As soon as I made it into the city I headed towards to library to use their Wi-Fi for a minute to get my bearings, and the first thing I saw was a man being arrested by five officers…outside the library. Great first impression, right? I decided to drive around for a bit anyway to see if there was anything I wanted to do, but I really didn’t feel too safe anywhere that I went. After a little while of driving around, I just decided to move on, so I started to head towards my campsite for the night – the Pine Campground in Jefferson National Forest. While my visit to Lynchburg proved to be a bit uneventful, it was still worth the drive so that I could eliminate the curiosity there.

One of the pit stops I made on the way to my campsite

When I made it to my campsite it was just after sundown, but there was still plenty of light to build a fire by. I finally made it to a campsite before dark! This was an extraordinarily nice campsite, too, considering it was free. There were picnic tables, fire rings, lantern posts, and bathrooms. For that reason, it was quite packed, and I managed to get the last campsite available. So I parked up and started a fire. I was quite proud, because I think that’s the first fire I’ve ever started without any assistance. Some kids (I assume) had come in and painted faces on many of the trees around my site in glow in the dark paint. I must admit, it was a bit unnerving. It’s funny the things that are unsettling when you’re alone that wouldn’t otherwise bother you. Like the scary movie that you laugh at with friends but get nightmares from when you watch it alone. It’s easy to find solace in others, I suppose.

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