We turned around shortly past the one-mile mark and made our way back to the car. From there we continued to Rt. 29 South, and then turned on Rt. 60 West. This ultimately took us up the mountain to the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance near Buena Vista.
It was cold on the Parkway–late afternoon temperatures were in the low 30s–and there was plenty of ice on the rocks.
Driving slowly and stopping frequently to savor the views, we reached the north end of the Blue Ridge Parkway at sunset.
We’re so thankful to have these special places within an easy drive–and doubly thankful that Wayne has the (restored) health to be able to enjoy them. <3
This morning Wayne said he’d like to go to Blackrock Summit on the Skyline Drive. It seemed pretty ambitious to me given that he had major lung surgery in early November, but spending a day on the mountain seemed like a good way to spend a surprisingly warm December day.
A short while later when checking my Facebook “memories,” I was very surprised to see that we’d visited Blackrock Summit on December 12, 2015. Quite the “coincidence”!
Early in the afternoon we drove up to the mountain and turned north onto the Skyline Drive, enjoying the views and stopping at random overlooks.
We noticed a lot of cars on the Skyline Drive, so we weren’t too surprised to find that the parking lot at Blackrock Summit was full. We parked along the road and walked back towards the trail. Then, after some quick pictures, we started up the mountain.
This is actually one of the easier trails in the Shenandoah National Park, but there are still some inclines, plus you always have to watch your feet to avoid tripping over roots or rocks.
We took it slowly and stopped to rest when we needed to, but finally we reached the summit!
To say this was a big accomplishment for Wayne is an absolute understatement; I felt a mixture of awe, concern, and gratitude that he was able to do a hike like this so soon after his surgery. We took a “selfie” in the spot where we’d taken one five years before, and it should be noted that in December 2015, Wayne was recovering from another serious medical procedure!
We also took a picture with our masks on, and we were so pleased to see that the majority of people on the mountain had masks they would put on whenever they had to pass on the trail or were otherwise close to people.
What’s so special about Blackrock Summit? This!
After enjoying the sunshine and the scenery for a while, it was time to start back down the mountain on a different trail (which actually included some uphill climbs).
The Skyline Drive (and the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we go most often) are both scenic roadways built along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Overlooks sometimes offer east views and sometimes west views. We enjoy both. 🙂
At some point, Wayne admitted that he’d kind of forgotten how far it was to the summit (about 8/10 of a mile) and how long some of the inclines were. I hadn’t forgotten, as we’ve been up there several times!
While this was undoubtedly the most challenging trek up to Blackrock Summit, it may be remembered as one of our favorite trips, given the circumstances…. Wayne still has a ways to go with his recovery (which includes physical therapy and a pulmonary rehab program), but holy cow–he climbed a mountain today! <3
Dinner at our campsite: Fried oysters appetizer, followed by crab cakes, fried shrimp, creamed spinach, coleslaw, and a bottle of Chardonnay (from Stinson Vineyards).
After walking back to our campsite, jagged streaks of lightning signaled the approach of another strong storm. The cloud-to-cloud lightning looked like electric dragons stretching and writhing across the sky, and soon torrential rain and heavy wind straight off the Bay began pummeling the front of our trailer. By (wisely) closing our front window cover we couldn’t see out that way, but I’m sure the waves were coming over the rock wall!
Friday – August 14, 2020
Northeast view from our bedroom window, and East view from our campsite. We had sunshine, rain, and more sun all before 9:00 am.
Ready to leave–but NOT ready to leave…. Gwynn’s Island is such a special place!
So blessed and so thankful to have had this wonderful adventure! We’d love to return to Gwynn’s Island next summer!
We’ve felt pretty comfortable regarding the whole social distancing thing when we’ve camped at rural state parks this summer, but I had some real concerns about going to or staying in a more populated area. Hoping to have some beach time without officially staying in Virginia Beach, we made reservations at American Heritage RV Park near Williamsburg, Virginia. We were familiar with the campground as we stayed there last year, and while it’s certainly different from a state park, we’ve found it to be a clean, safe, and quiet environment.
We knew it was going to be hot–and we seem to have a knack for camping during heat waves–so the temperature when we got there really wasn’t a surprise:
After we had everything set up, we went over to York River State Park, as we did the previous year, while cumulonimbus clouds formed in the sky.
Almost as soon as the York River came into view, I heard the sound of Ospreys. We spotted them at the edge of the river in a tree behind the visitor’s center. There were two on a branch, and one was enjoying a late lunch or early dinner:
It was a relatively short walk to a trail that leads down to the river, but the heat was still oppressive, even in the shade.
We took a couple of “selfies” once we got to the beach area, just to show we’d made it. 😉
A young couple was also braving the heat along the river, and they said they’d just seen a snake go under one of the trees on the beach. We didn’t see it, but this gets filed under “Note to Self” for whenever we visit again!
With the clouds continuing to build, we drove back to the campground. A tree near our campsite had an interesting mark on it. What do you think–was this a natural phenomenon, or did someone carve this into the bark? What do you see?
Usually when we’re in Williamsburg–or Virginia Beach–we treat ourselves to dinner one night at Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant. While the restaurant in Williamsburg is now open for in-person dining (which surprised me), this time we opted to do curbside pickup. We ordered the “Ultimate Captain’s Seafood Feast for Two,” and as we waited in the car for our food to be brought out, I noticed that everyone going into the restaurant–or coming out–was wearing a mask. Good.
Soon we were heading back to the campground with our food, and what a feast it was! Our dinner for two included 2 pounds of crab legs, a pound each of steamed shrimp, baby clams, and mussels, 2 ears of corn, and baby potatoes. WOW!!!
It was absolutely AMAZING! And yes, we ate ALL of it! 😉
After cleaning up, we sat outside for a while. It was still hot and humid, but we were impressed with how incredibly quiet the campground was–and how incredibly loud the cicadas and other night bugs were! Good summer sounds. 🙂
When we came in for the night, we rolled up the awning and made sure that everything around our campsite was secure. After midnight the storms that we’d been anticipating all day started moving through, and they continued most of the night. This was the first time we’d been in our trailer when there was torrential rain, intense lightning, and ground-rattling thunder, and I was thankful that I’d recently purchased a surge protector for our electrical system, thankful that our power stayed on, and even more thankful that we weren’t in a tent!
Fortunately, all was well in the morning (another hot one) so we set out for Virginia Beach, which was a little more than an hour’s drive down I-64 East.
We got to Nick’s Restaurant on Laskin Road after they’d stopped serving breakfast, but since they had tables set up outside in a bit of shade, we ate an early lunch there. After that, we went to the section of First Landing State Park that’s on 64th Street. As usual, we spotted Ospreys and other large birds as we drove into the park.
And as usual, we kept our camera busy while walking along the beautiful Cape Henry Trail! 🙂
When we left the park, Wayne knew of a place on the north end of Virginia Beach where he could get in the ocean for a while. I opted not to swim, but holding an umbrella over my head, I bravely crossed the “Sahara” with him to walk out towards the water….
This part of the beach wasn’t at all crowded, and he thoroughly enjoyed swimming in the ocean!
We then drove to another section of First Landing State Park (where the campground is), and even though there’s a beautiful beach on the Chesapeake Bay there (and bathhouses), I just didn’t feel like changing into my suit–or even getting out of the car. I was ready to go “home,” and definitely ready to get out of the heat.
When we got back to the campground there were only a few people in the pool, and then I was ready to swim. The water felt great, and it was a nice way to finally cool down after such a steamy, sticky day.
The previous night for dinner we’d had our “Ultimate Feast for 2.” Because we hadn’t realized just how much food would be included, we’d ordered an extra pound of crab legs, along with a couple of servings of a seafood casserole. I steamed the crab legs in the electric skillet to warm them up while Wayne microwaved the casserole, and we feasted once again! Yes, while we missed the dining-in experience which offers a wide variety of salads, vegetables, desserts, and more, being able to have two fabulous meals in our little home on wheels–for the price of one in the restaurant–was pretty cool. 🙂
Camping in Virginia during the summer months often means high temperatures and strong storms, and this summer certainly poses even more challenges due to the pandemic. But by being sensible about hydration, limiting our time outside in the heat, and by being cautious–but not fearful–we’ve greatly enjoyed our midweek outings. We look forward to exploring more beautiful places in the state in the weeks ahead!
When we visited Smith Mountain Lake State Park on New Year’s Day 2015, it was COLD! It was SO cold that we didn’t spend much time outside exploring, but we hoped to come back another time when we could really enjoy the park.
It took us a while (5 years!), but we finally reserved a non-specific site for two nights at the campground and down the road we went, with our Coachmen Clipper following along behind us!
When we checked in at the visitor’s center, the young ranger behind the desk said we’d have a choice of 3 pull-through sites, which she highlighted on a map. Cool! When we got to the campground, however, only one of those sites was available. Alrighty… (We later learned that the camp host was off the day we arrived, so the center hadn’t been updated regarding open sites.)
The road through the campground is one way, and our pull-through site was on the left side of the road. The hookups for electric and water were on the left side of the site (which is normal), but the picnic table and fire pit were also on the left side of the site–and up half a dozen steps…. Fellow campers, do you see the problem here? If we’d pulled into the site as we should have (given the one-way road), our door and awning would have opened towards the road and we would have had to walk around to the back side of the trailer to get to the table and fire pit. Fortunately, our trailer was small enough for us to make a u-turn into the campsite, and this gave us much more privacy and convenience.
We definitely liked some of the back-in sites in the campground better, but we had no complaints about the size of our site or the spacing between campsites! 🙂
After we had everything set up, we started to explore the park.
We drove down the Interpretive Trail Road to the Discovery Center (which we knew was closed) to get our first good views of the lake:
Next, we drove to the boat launch area and the swimming beach:
We got there a little before 6 p.m., and the concession stand was still open and lifeguards were on duty. We learned that the beach “officially” closes at 6, but people can swim after that–at their own risk–until dusk.
Back at our campsite that evening, Wayne fixed a simple and totally satisfying dinner: giant turkey, cheese, and cranberry sauce sandwiches! Yum!
It didn’t cool down much after dark, and since we’d been outside all day, we were ready to stretch out inside our air conditioned trailer. Just for the heck of it I decided to see if I could pick up any TV stations with our antenna, and I was astonished to find that we got over 25! Really?! That NEVER happens! So for the next few hours we thoroughly enjoyed watching shows on the H&I TV Network which featured Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. I wish we could get this channel at home!
The next morning we were ready to swim! As we expected, the beach was much more crowded than it had been the evening before, but we still felt comfortable about being there as most people were respectful about distancing.
We only stayed for about an hour (not wanting to get sunburned), but we went back again that evening. And it was absolutely perfect then, plus we saw several Ospreys and a Great Blue Heron flying over the lake. So yeah, if I ever decide to run away from home, a good place to start looking for me might be Smith Mountain Lake….
Before returning to our campsite, we drove back out to the Discovery Center area. It was an incredibly beautiful and peaceful evening, and we felt so blessed to have the opportunity to safely visit such a place during these strange and troubled times…
Dinner that night was a delicious Bertolli frozen meal. We love having a small freezer in the refrigerator of our trailer, and after years of using a Coleman camping stove, we’ve really enjoyed the convenience of cooking outside in an electric skillet.
Wayne started a campfire, and we enjoyed watching it from a distance. It was just too hot to want to be close to it, plus we weren’t wild about walking up and down the stairs at night. We put our string of blue lights along the side of the stairs, just to put some light there. Again, the layout of the pull-through campsites aren’t really ideal, especially for folks of a certain age…. 😉
I always sleep extremely well when we’re camping, and the next morning I woke up, started the coffee, then went outside while Wayne was still asleep. When I looked down our driveway towards the back of the trailer, I saw what I thought was a long, thin branch. Hmm, wonder where that came from? Wayne had picked up all the sticks he could find to use as kindling for the fire….
It took my pre-coffee brain a second to realize that it wasn’t a stick!
Ah, I’d forgotten that July 16th was World Snake Day! I’m just thankful that it chose to do its celebratory pass-through BEHIND our camper instead of coming UNDER our camper (and potentially between my feet!) while I was sitting out there under the awning! 😉
Even though checkout time was at 1:00 p.m., it was drizzly with the threat of storms, so after a quick breakfast of bagels and cream cheese, we decided to pack up and head out a little early. On the drive down to Smith Mountain Lake State Park we’d followed our GPS, which had guided us on the shortest route, but not necessarily the best route when towing a trailer. A much better way to get to or from the park from Rt. 460 (East or West) is shown in the picture below:
Even with the rain and clouds, it was a beautiful drive home….
Smith Mountain Lake State Park is truly another gem in the Virginia State Park system, and I can certainly understand why this whole area is a popular vacation destination. With campgrounds, rental cottages, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, historical sites and more, Smith Mountain Lake offers something for everyone. We really shouldn’t wait another five years before visiting again!