Natural Tunnel State Park

“Find your happy place.” That’s a term people use when someone is stressed or overworked. Usually it’s understood to be a mental state. I, however, discovered my happy place in a physical spot: Natural Tunnel State Park.

Daniel and I rented one of the new cabins for the weekend. It was first-rate, although we didn’t spend much time in it. There was too much to do!

We spent the first evening with strangers, travelers enjoying this little treasure in Scott County, Virginia. Park rangers built a large campfire, encouraged us to sing songs, and passed out sticks and sticky marshmallows for a sweet treat by the crackling flames. We giggled like little kids.

Before turning in for the night, we sat in rocking chairs on the deck and gazed into the dark woods that embraced our little cabin. Glimmering green eyes peered back at us as foraging deer lifted their heads, seeming to rebuke us for our chatter. In deference to their simple dignity, we whispered, and then grew silent. So this is what it’s like to be unplugged, I remembered. Ah, I found such joy in this stillness.

We spent the next day exploring the park. We rode chairlifts to the tunnel, passing squirrels in the treetops on the way down. Our timing was perfect because we got to see a train come through on its way to parts unknown, bearing a load of coal. We crossed clear, tumbling streams to visit the Carter Log Cabin and tried to imagine what it would be like to live in earlier times. After our hike, we cooled off with other families splashing in the swimming pool.

We returned to the deck that night to watch fireflies blinking secret messages to each other. I believe they were saying how sorry they felt for us, these pitiful human beings who had to return to a five o’clock world soon. Not too soon, I thought. Let me enjoy my happy place a few more hours.

Neva Bryan is author of St. Peter’s Monsters and Sawmill Boys. This Wise County native is the education coordinator for `Round the Mountain

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