Thomas Jefferson Slept Here

Monday, July 16, 2012

George Washington wasn't the only president who slept around. And no, I don't mean with other women.

Most people think of Thomas Jefferson as the drafter of the Declaration of Independence or the third president of the United States. But he was also a land owner who liked grand vistas.

The first picture isn't Jefferson's main residence at Monticello. It is Poplar Forest near Forest, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Jefferson built Poplar Forest as a retreat from the crowds of tourists who visited Monticello during his lifetime. Now tourists visit Poplar Forest, too, and Roland and I were among them. Fortunately for Jefferson, we didn't disturb him during our visit.

Before visiting Poplar Forest, our vacation took us to Natural Bridge, Virginia. That is the bridge in the second picture. You can see how tall it is by looking at the people on the path below.

Thomas Jefferson was so enamored by the formation that he purchased the land from King George III in 1774. Jefferson called Natural Bridge "the most sublime of nature's works" and built a two-room log cabin (long gone) at the top. One room of the cabin was reserved for guests. It is said that Jefferson even hooked up a basket for lowering people to the bottom, turning the site into his own version of an amusement park for travelers and artists from around the world.

Thomas Jefferson was also impressed by places he didn't own. Roland and I started our vacation in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers converge. When Thomas Jefferson visited in 1783, he recorded his observations with his ever-ready pen. In his words, "The passage of the Patowmac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature." And this after seeing and owning Natural Bridge.

The scenery has changed a bit since then, but the third picture gives a rough idea of what Jefferson saw. Without the church and the bridge, of course.

Yes, Jefferson like to sleep around. But he saw some great places that way.

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