Friday, May 27, 2016

Virginia State Parks (5/27/2016)

I have been really impressed by the Virginia State Park System.  Naturally I am biased; I am a Virginian since 2000 and worked for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (or DCR) for 4 years before my program was transferred to another agency.  As part of DCR I had some special privileges, including a discount on the wonderful cabins that they maintain in many of the parks.

This past week we camped one night at Fairy Stone State Park.  Regretfully it was only one night, because we had an absolutely wonderful time there.  The camping spots are ok, they were a little packed together, but thank goodness there were only a few campers there.  Naturally there is always this one very inconsiderate camper who invites his or her buddies over at night for a party and then despite the 10 pm curfew keeps on partying until midnight (which we did not here) but then the rowdy friends left the camping site honking the horn of their car all the way out waking us up.  People like that should be zapped straight into hell for being so inconsiderate.  But then their car/truck would go out of control (without a driver) and it would careen right into our tent and wake us up anyway.

Galax was flowering everywhere
The next day we did one long hike to the little waterfall and then it was time for a four and a half hour drive back home.  This visit was way too short, but it was part of my teaching gig in Rocky Mount the day before which was only a forty-five drive to the north of the park.  My family was waiting there for me and we had a good time.

The little waterfall in Fairy Stone State Park
I have been to a fair number of State Parks in Virginia.  Here is my review of some of the ones I visited:
  1. Hungry Mother – Far out one of my favorite parks, it has great cabins and great hiking.  We stayed there once.
  2. Grayson Highlands – We camped there probably 10 years ago.  It takes some driving to get there; it is remote.  It felt Alpine and yes if you like to hike it is great.  It is a day hike from Mount Rogers the highest peak in Virginia.  It is also on the Appalachian Trail.
  3. New River Trail – A great (mountain) bike and walking trail that I visit a lot.  Just look in my label list for Draper and you will find lots of entries form the descriptive to the philosophical.
  4. Shot Tower – On the New River Trail, just interesting to visit.
  5. Claytor Lake – I visited this one for one or two hours for a hike and to look around.  If you have a bass boat and like fishing, this one is for you.  They have nice looking modern cabins.  This one is not for me I like hiking and biking.
  6. Douthat – Another very favorite state park.  Here you can stay in a log cabin that was built in the 1930s, or camp.  Great trails for hiking.  We absolutely love the place.  I have three short entries and photos in my blog on this park; just look at the labels.
  7. Shenandoah – Another great park.  Stayed here two times, both times in spring and enjoyed it tremendously.  We combined nature hiking with visiting some of the wonderful wineries in this area.
  8. Sky Meadows – When we visited, this was only a hiking park with access to the Appalachian Trail and I am not sure if this has changed.  We had a great afternoon hike on the trail.
  9. Westmoreland – Nice park, along the Potomac River, near some nice wineries, Washington’s birthplace, and general Lee’s home.  In other words there is a lot to do and a lot of history and culture to be had.  On the beach you can even find geologic shark teeth.  We stayed in a cabin and had a lot of fun.
  10. Belle Isle – A very new park; it is very flat and good for walking.  There is room for camping and a few cabins for rent (I think).
  11. York River – This is my home state park.  It has great hiking, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, and riding trails.  Not camping or cabins.  We enjoy going there and walking through the marshes.
  12. Kiptopeke – Looks great.  We just drove through it to the shore to look at the concrete ships that were sunk as breakwaters just off the shore.
  13. First Landing – A great park with great hiking trails
  14. False Cape – We spent a day in March walking from Virginia Beach to North Carolina and back.  It was all along the beach, looking at wild horses and shore birds.
  15. Chippokes Plantation – Another “home state park”, although I’ve only been their once for the annual peanut festival.  It looks nice for the rest and we really need to rent one of the cabins one of these days.
  16. Pocahontas – We go there for retreats of our church, and DCR had their annual personnel award ceremony there.  It has great hiking, biking and kayaking/canoeing. 
  17. Bear Creek – I was there once for a conference.  It was nice.  Not much else to say about it.  It was far removed from everywhere.
  18. High Bridge – This is another bike trail.  I did this a number of times and started in Farmville.  I have a number of blog entries on this park as well.
  19. Twin Lakes – Interesting, this is an historic black park.  The cabin we stayed at was right at the lake and was really nice.  It is more a recreational park.  Hiking was fair and not well developed.
  20. Occoneechee – This is a park on a lake near North Carolina (Kerr Lake).  You can guess, this is a park for people who have a bass boat and fish.  It is a new park with great cabins but not many trails.  We enjoyed our stay, but should have brought the kayaks instead of the mountain bikes.  I actually wrote about it <here> in my blog.
So, counting the I have visited 21 of the 36 state parks and I have not been disappointed in any of them.  In fact, I/we loved our stay and will continue visiting them and after this week's short camping trip we will even go camping again.  It is a great way to go back to nature and alleviate your nature deficit disorder. 
Along the trail in Fairy Stone State Park

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