Walking across the historic Humpback Bridge of Covington, Virginia I am feeling the vibrations of history under my feet. Knowing this is the only one of its kind in the United States, and possibly one of only a few in the world, I desire to stay longer, allowing my imagination to have the freedom to soak up the beauty of this moment – my moment in time that may never come again here at the crossing of the Dunlap Creek. I let my mind wonder back to the time in history when the Conestoga wagons loaded with freight were crossing this bridge bringing supplies into the valley – a time when flocks of sheep, and drovers with herds of cattle paid a toll just to cross. I’ve imagined the foot soldiers of both the Blue and the Gray as they tramped across this bridge during the war. Okay, so I get caught up in the moment and the imaginations of my heart and mind take a journey into the past. It seems unavoidable in an environment such as this.
Visiting The Humpback Bridge
The people of Alleghany County have a determination to keep the Humpback’s place in history. Having succumbed to the floods and deterioration on three separate occasions, the bridge was restored and reconstructed repeatedly until in 1857 the present structure was completed. Built in 1824, it has the distinction of being the oldest covered bridge in Virginia. Until 1929 it was used for private carriages and vehicles. At that time a new modern steel reinforced bridge was constructed to carry vehicle traffic, leaving Humpback as a foot bridge. Today it boasts of nothing but a place in history, preserved as a beautifully landscaped roadside park offering solitude and reflection along the banks of the Dunlap Creek.
As I study the bridge and appreciate the uniqueness of this one in comparison to many others I have visited, I discover why it is called Humpback. There is a four-foot rise in elevation at the center of the bridge between the two ends of the span. Studying the underside of the bridge and the interior, I find it to exhibit remarkable examples of superior craftsmanship. Unfortunately, as is found across the nation, there are those who feel it is their right to embellish the workmanship with graffiti.
I want to fully immerse myself in the experience of this bridge and surrounding park, so I hike down to the creeks edge and wade out to the center of the creek. Standing in the shallow water of the Dunlap Creek as it gurgles its way beneath my feet over thousands of smooth stones, rushing ever onward to some distant destination, I stand silently. Standing here in this beauty it’s hard to think about the distractions of my job, of conflict in the world, or of pressing deadlines. It’s a bit like Jesus must have felt when He stepped into a small boat and pushed away from a crowd of people to spend time alone. Today at Humpback Bridge is my time alone to recharge. Listening, ever listening – I’ve quieted my thoughts only long enough to hear the distant whistles of the trains as they snake their way through the mountains, today just as in days gone by. I am poised precariously at the end of a spit of creek stone and must stand steady lest the rushing water push me where I don’t care to go – at least not today.
The park beside the bridge is beautifully maintained and offers a place of respite and contemplation. Though I didn’t capture it in my pictures, if you go along the creek a short distance beyond the bridge and look back you’ll make an unexpected discovery. There is a brick fire grill forming the letter “L”. Next is an old wagon wheel, “O”. Then you’ll see a tree that splits at the base into two trunks, forming a “V”. And lastly you’ll see “E'”. Looking at it from the walk leading onto the bridge, it makes one wonder why an “E” is sitting beside the creek bank. There are several other locations around Virginia where Loveworks have been installed. After all, “Virginia is for lovers”
I am richer for the experience of making the journey, and for meeting the people in the valley of these Alleghany Mountains. I’ve discovered the beauty of the area, and have absorbed a feel for the mountains of Virginia. Humpback Bridge is a place I’ve put on my list to revisit again. I know it would be a place I want to experience when the leaves turn to crimson, and again when a blanket of snow wraps it in wintery splendor.
Are you a covered bridge adventurer? Have you seen Humpback Bridge during other seasons? I’d love to see your pictures and hear of your experience.
While you are in the area, be sure to visit Falling Springs Falls in Covington, VA