Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tour of Virginia

Smith Mountain Lake just before the thunderstorm
  Our states park tour is continued on our annual two weeks off and first up was Smith Mountain Lake State park. This park is right on the lake, but the only lake front camping you will get is in the cabins. The cabins are nice we drove through them to see what they were about. There were a lot of fisherman with bass boats occupying the cabins so I am going to go out on a limb and say that if you fish and have a bass boat this is going to be a great place for you. There were also some very nice places to fish off the bank. I will say though that if canoeing and kayaking is your thing this might not be the best place. At least not around the state park. There may be other places on the lake that are perfect for this, but where we were there was a lot of motor boat/jet ski traffic that would make a paddle slightly nerve racking and not that safe. It is however a beautiful lake and if you find a quiet spot to paddle let me know I would love to come back. Of course I have also been told that maybe I should give those new fangled motor boats a try instead of just paddling.
            We stayed one night at Smith Mountain and it was lovely; clean campsites and facilities. The camp hosts as always were friendly. The camp ground does fill up fast especially once it gets warm so make sure to call ahead for reservations. It was Mother’s day weekend on a Saturday so that might have had something to do with it, but we ended up with the last open site with reservations so call ahead. 
Angus sniffing the camera
            Up next was Fairy Stone State Park. The big attraction here is that there are these stones shaped like crosses that according to legend were formed by the tears of fairies after they had learned of the death of Christ. We didn’t go stone hunting; Angus and Seven would have dug the whole place up. We did however spend some time on the beach and Charlie got to fish. The beach there is nice, and I venture to say man made but no matter it’s a great place to swim and rent canoes and paddle boats. That is exactly what we would have done had it not been 60 degrees and windy, but sitting on the dock in the warm sunshine was super nice.
Waiting for Dad  
            This doesn’t sound like a big deal but one of the things that really stuck out to me was that the bathrooms and showers were all in the same room. Many of the campgrounds have these separated in the same building. It was so nice to go into one room use the bathroom then go hop in the shower instead of lugging all your shower stuff to the bathroom then having to lug it all to the showers after you are done in the bathroom. Again sounds trivial but when it’s cold out this can make all the difference.
Yep it's a tower
            Shot Tower Historical State Park was next. And well it’s a tower. It doesn’t sound it but this tower is rather significant because it made lead bullets and other munitions during the civil war. It is really just a historical site so there isn’t a lot to it, but there are some picnic tables and it is really beautiful on the top of the hill. The trail at the bottom of the tower connects to the New River State park so you don’t have to make a dedicated stop at the tower you can stop and New River and bike/hike to the tower.
View from the campsites at New River 
            The New River State Park just has primitive campsites no room for RV’s or campers. It is really picturesque. The river flows right along some of the campsites, and there are several islands that you can get to by boat to camp on as well. The staff at the camp store/office were super friendly and very helpful. Charlie and I are hoping to plan a paddling trip here in the future. Things to remember though are that the river flows north so take that into account when planning a paddling trip. Also get the Blueway Virginia/West Virginia maps to plan your trip. Don’t worry a detailed trip narrative on this will be coming in the future I’m sure.
Listening Rock overlook
            Grayson Highlands State Park is perfect if you have a backpack and want to head down some of the best trails that Virginia has to offer. The name says it all though, it is up high so be prepared for wind. We are told it is windy almost all the time here, which in the summer I am sure is delightful. In the beginning of May it’s still pretty cold. Along with your hiking boots make sure to pack your warm socks. The claim to fame here are the wild ponies that roam what is called the “balds” or basically the large fields on top of the mountain. So far we have seen none but in all honesty we didn’t look very hard. Most of the trails that take you were the ponies live we felt were too long for Seven just yet, but we do have friends who have hiked the portion of the AT (Appalachian Trail) through the trail that have seen them. So basically if you hike the trails that promise to see the ponies apparently you can’t fail unless you go blind during your hike.  We took the dogs on the Listening Rock trail. The map says that it is a moderate trail with handicap access. Don’t be fooled though. The whole time we were trying to figure out how a handicapped person would do this. Well there is an overlook that is wheelchair accessible, but that is about it. It wasn’t the hardest hike that we have ever done, but it was pretty strenuous and the footing is not the best as there are a lot of rocks, that and I had Seven so the difficulty is raised for me anyway. With that said it was an amazingly beautiful hike. Most of it is in the woods, but it is open enough that you can see for a good distance. The Listening Rock overlook is pretty awesome. All you can see are mountains all around you and the humongous Christmas tree farm that you pass on the drive into the park. Don’t get blown off though, this is probably the windiest part of the trip. Side note I am convinced that Grayson County is the Christmas tree capitol of the world. There is almost nowhere you can look where you don’t see another Christmas tree farm.
We have worn them out
            Now for the down side to Grayson. THERE IS NO HOT WATER! This is an absolute huge bummer when we are getting stinky and would like a shower; we have been stinky before, 10 days in the Canadian Wilderness and we’re still together, so I think we can manage. The campsites aren’t that bad. They are a little tight though. We had to try a few out to make sure that we could get the camper level and that the fire ring wasn’t going to be too close to the trailer or the truck. As it turned out though we didn’t really need to worry about the fire pit because it was too cold to stay out very long and way too windy. Thank goodness that Charlie didn’t take the heater out of the camper, other wise we would have froze during the night. The second night there proved to be a lot less fun than the first. During the day we took a trek out to Hungry Mother to do some recon on the place and take a warm shower. We restocked on some supplies and headed back to camp. We made it through dinner ok and I managed to sew a few more patches on the curtains but then the winds picked up and I mean picked up, like fear that the camper was going to roll down the mountainside because we had been blown over. Clearly we weren’t but it was touch and go there for a while.
            So we have hit the halfway part of our trip and we are having a great time. It is so nice to just hang out.
            Next Up: Natural Tunnel, Breaks Interstate, Southwest Virginia Museum, Wilderness Road, Hungry Mother, Claytor Lake, and maybe Douthat. Plus I will recap the camping menu and how awesome this little gift we received called the Camp Chef has been. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

An update on the Big Brown Dog and other news


As you can see she is still in good spirits. But then again
She really loves a belly rub.
  I am glad to say that we are in the home stretch! Only about 2 ½ weeks left of The Big Brown Dog’s “prison sentence.” Seven is dealing with all of this wonderfully. She still has to be on a leash or in the crate most of the time, but it is getting better. She is able to put more weight on her leg now and her limping has decreased as well. When she first came home she had the dreaded cone to keep her from chewing at the incision site. The problem with the cone was that she couldn’t get into and out of the crate because of the size of this crazy thing. Thankfully the vet tech offered some good advice. She said that there was an alternative. So to the pet store I went and the donut I got. I can’t say that she liked it, but it had to be way better than the cone. Plus it was a great pillow for her when she slept. She got the staples and stitches out last week and we finally got to say goodbye to the dreaded donut. Now comes the hard part. She’s starting to feel better and I still have to keep her still and quiet. Yeah right. We still have to sedate her, which makes me feel like a bad parent, but unfortunately it is kind of necessary to get her back to her old self again. But I am glad that she is feeling better. All she wants to do is run and is acting like nothing has happened. She is still just a bit confused as to why she is on a leash in the yard, but we are getting closer, which is great news because frankly she has become high maintenance all of a sudden. It has all been worth it though to get my happy dog back on track.
Coop almost ready!
The garden is growing fast
            In other news that garden is up and going and we are closer to having chickens! The city finally got their act together and passed the motion to allow for urban chickens. I can’t wait. We can only have four hens, but I think that is a great start for us since there are only two of us and well I have never done this before so four seems manageable. The coop is almost ready to go and I have to hand it to my husband he did a great job. A few more adjustments and we are in business. Tomatoes and squash will go in the ground as soon as we get back from vacation along with at least another two raised beds if I have my way. I have broccoli that is almost ready to eat and the cabbage looks delicious! Carrots are on the way as well and I am very excited to see how they turn out. We have a potato patch in the works as well as some ambitions to get a green house built so that we can sustain a little more of this through the cold months. I also have plans for the hubby to build me an outdoor canning station. He may not know this yet but it’s going to be awesome and he is going to be busy.
Had to add a shot of Angus.
Aren't they good looking?
            Probably the most exciting news is that I am no longer a college student but a graduate! I turned in my final paper the other day and it was a huge weight off of me. Now to figure out what to do with the free time I might allow myself to have now that I don’t have to have my nose buried in the books. It won’t be much free time as I have started teaching some fitness boot camp style classes (so much fun!), and rafting season is starting to get into full swing. Next on our agenda is to continue the state park tour and hit up the western part of Va. A whole two weeks off! I’m getting excited to get the camper on the road. I will have plenty of pictures and park reviews along the way. I hope that everyone’s spring/summer is off to an exciting start!