After dropping our only child at college we turned to the mountains and explored. Over the next week or so I’ll be sharing the sights that my wife (Page) and I captured. These won’t be in chronological order because that would make too much sense. The order can best be described as, “I want to edit these photos now”.
On Saturday went to Natural Chimney in Mt. Solon Virginia to check out a unique geological feature. The seven Natural Chimneys tower as much as 120 feet above the Shenandoah Valley. Viewed from one angle, the formations resemble enormous chimneys standing in bleak contrast to the greenery of the Valley. Take a few steps, though, and the chimneys are transformed into the massive turrets of a foreboding medieval castle.
We didn’t know about the Jousting Tournament hosted by the Natural Chimneys Jousting Club until we rolled up to the gate this past Saturday.
Natural Chimneys claims to be home to the nation’s oldest continuously held sporting event, the National Chimmneys Jousting Tournament. The first joust was held in 1821 and continues today. During the Civil War one of Stonewall Jackson’s generals, Turner Ashby, jousted. Talking with spectators we learned that one family was putting out their 5th generation of riders and 3-4 generations were common. If you google oldest continuous sporting event in the US you’ll be told the Kentucky Derby but it started in 1875 nearly 50 years after the first joust at Natural Chimneys.
This is not the jousting of medieval knights clashing against each other but rather with the words, “Sir Knight of Possum Hollow (or whatever moniker they go by)! The rings are hung and the track is clear! Charge Sir Knight!” a horse carries a rider down an 80-yard track to attempt to catch three rings with a lance. The rings dangle from wooden arches that suspend the ring 6 feet 7 inches from the ground. Tournaments permit each rider three “charges” at a specified size ring to determine the winner. If two or more riders have a tie score, the ring size is reduced until a winner is determined. jousting clubs have “sets” of rings. They are graduated in size, the largest is 1 ¾”, then reducing in size by one-quarter inch increments to 1 ½”, 1 ¼”, 1″, ¾”, ½” and the smallest ¼”. The measurement is the inside diameter.
Tournaments are divided into four classes; Novice, Amateur, Semi-Professional and Professional. Novice is where you’ll find the young knights and horses are led down the course. As you’d expect the speed picks up as you progress to Professional. Unfortunately, we only had time to catch the Novice and Professional rounds. That does mean we got to see the cutest and the quickest. The lances in the Novice group varied from custom-made to pool cue.
There were three professional riders and their speed was impressive.
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