|Smith Mountain Lake just before the thunderstorm|
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.