There was another stop for the Essential Herbal contingent coming back from the SEWHC a few days ago. Driving along Rt 81, there were signs tempting us to stop at Natural Bridge, a property that at one time belonged to Thomas Jefferson. We looked at the signs wistfully until we saw the one for the butterfly house. That did it for us.
It was fun for a while, even if it was in a cement block basement with no windows. Then I started noticing the dead butterflies under the plants and began to wonder about the lack of caterpillars.
So I asked one of the youthful attendants if the butterflies were able to complete their life cycles by reproducing. "No," she said, "we don't have the plants they need here, and besides, there would be caterpillars everywhere eating the plants... and we'd need a greenhouse."
They just continually order in the chrysalis stage of butterflies, hatch them, and that's that. I might be over-reacting, but that just ruined the whole thing for me. A cheesy roadside attraction with no regard or respect for the magnificent living creatures that draw the crowd - that's how it felt to me. We left the display saddened, and continued the walk.
Along the way, there was a series of perhaps 150 steps down to the rock-walled creek that led to the natural bridge. Going down the steps we saw some lovely scenery as water coursed down the hillside beside the steps.
There was still lots of lush growth in the underbrush.
And finally, the bridge itself.
It was stunning, no doubt about that. The bridge is probably at least 100 feet high and breathtaking.
We skipped the wax museum and the dinosaur museum. The whole thing (except the actual attraction) had the flavor of South of the Border - the crazy village of hotel rooms/cottages on the border of North and South Carolina.
It was fun to walk around and see the plants and the bridge. The rest... not so much.