Camping at James River State Park, July 11-13, 2019

After doing many, many day trips to James River State Park, we were finally able to camp there! We left for the park a little before noon on Thursday, July 11th.

In addition to numerous “primitive” sites for tent campers throughout James River State Park, there are 31 water/electric sites in Red Oak campground. The camp host was in site #13, and we had reservations for a “non-specific” site in Red Oak, rather than a specific site.

When we arrived, we were given a map that showed the open campsites, and we were told we could pick out whichever one we liked best. I asked if we’d have to drive back to the front gate to let me know which site we’d chosen, but the ranger said the camp host would let them know. Cool!

ALL of the sites were nice–and HUGE–and we opted for site # 16 which was near the bathhouse. It had a long driveway, and it was very level.

Once we were set up, it felt nice to sit in the shade of the awning; it was SUCH a hot and humid day!

Wayne had just a bit of signal for his phone (Sprint) and I had none (AT&T) so we went to the visitor’s center to pick up a few things and to take advantage of their Wi-Fi. We always enjoy looking at their exhibits, too.

I’ve taken a picture of this sign each time we’ve visited James River State Park, and it has become one of my favorite quotes:

Strong storms were in the forecast–no surprise, given the heat and oppressive humidity–and clouds were building ominously in the distance.

All along the river at Dixon Landing, the leaves on the trees were turning upwards (which is often a sign of a coming storm), so we decided to head back to our campsite. Soon we could hear thunder, and the wind started to pick up.

We’d originally planned to cook dinner outside, but it was so very nice to have the option to cook and eat inside of our trailer!

After the worst of the storm was over and we’d cleaned up the kitchen, we sat outside under the awning.

When the rain finally stopped, a funny thing happened: we were both befriended by a beautiful butterfly. It flew to Wayne first, landing on his head and then riding around on his shoulder before flying over to me. It stayed with us for close to an hour, until it was almost fully dark.

We talked about the possible significance of this unusual encounter, as there’s a lot of symbolism pertaining to butterflies. You can read more about that here:

As night fell, the moon started to peak through the clouds and trees.

Finally it was clear enough for me to get a good picture of the three-quarter moon:

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing beside a campfire. So peaceful….

The next morning it was clear and sunny, but very hot and humid again. For breakfast, we ate a simple (but delicious) breakfast of bagels with cream cheese, fresh peaches, and coffee, and I took a picture of our campsite from the road, just to show how much room we had!

What a beautiful summer morning!

It was so nice to be out in the woods, AND have electric and water hook-ups! This allowed us to use the air conditioner in the trailer, and have fresh, filtered running water. “Roughing it?” No, not really. 😉

As many times as we’ve been to this state park, we’d never been on the trail that leads to the confluence of the Tye and James rivers. Due to the problems Wayne has had recently with his back, walking the full distance (over a mile, mostly uphill) to the confluence seemed unlikely. I’d read something about how the park could help with accessibility to this scenic spot, and when I asked a woman at the visitor’s center, she said that a ranger would be happy to open a gate along the trail so we could drive most of the way! Excellent!

Everyone we encountered at the park went out of their way to be helpful and accommodating, and once the gate was open, we drove up Cabell trail so we could take a much shorter trail to the confluence overlook. Well, it was SUPPOSED to be a short trail, but somehow we missed it. Instead, we found ourselves on one of the equestrian trails!

We just took it slowly, and soon we could see the overlook. We’ve been to several different confluences along the James River, and it’s always fascinating to see where one distinct river joins another. The Tye River (lighter brown) flows into the James (darker brown) at almost a 90-degree angle.

At one point as we were talking with another couple at the overlook, Wayne asked for the camera. He said he didn’t say anything at the time, but when he saw it coming over the branch on a nearby tree, he thought he was photographing a snake–and not a lizard! 😉

This was one of the signs at the overlook:

On the way back to the car, we managed to get on the correct trail, and it was a bit shorter and easier than the equestrian trail we’d come in on.

Our next stop was the river again, this time at the canoe livery and camp store.

There were a lot of people out on the water; perfect day for it!

We hadn’t planned to get out on the river, but seeing everyone else out there made it very, very tempting! Wayne checked at the livery to see if we could rent tubes to do a short float. Unfortunately, they couldn’t rent tubes that day for liability issues since the river was running quite fast. (The people who were tubing had brought their own.) Next, he checked to see if we could rent a canoe, but they’d stopped renting a half hour before. Oh well!

We continued to sit by the water for a while, watching the kayakers, tubers, clouds, and butterflies.

There are no swimming areas at the park, and caution is advised regarding getting in the river due to rocks and sudden drop-offs. But it was SO hot, and the water was SO inviting…. Decision made, we went back to the trailer to change into our bathing suits, stopping along the way to let some horses and riders cross in front of us.

Back at the river, we carefully and cautiously found a sandy area where we could at least sit in the water and cool off. So refreshing!

Before leaving, we symbolically blessed a tiny quartz crystal with our prayers and best wishes for the safety and health of the waters of the James River before tossing it into the river.

When we got back to the campground, we both took a shower at the bathhouse, which was very clean and nicely maintained. In addition to the shower rooms and bathrooms, there’s a laundry room and an outside sink for washing dishes.

Dinner that night was quesadillas and corn on the cob. It was nice to be able to cook and eat outside, but it was still SO HOT! Having a little fan on the end of the picnic table definitely helped!

After dinner, we took a slow walk around the campground, stopping to chat with some of our fellow campers…

…and watching the moon rise in a crystal clear sky….

Curiously, the same butterfly–or at least the same type of butterfly–accompanied us during half of our walk. <3

Back at our site, Wayne got a fire started and it was time for s’mores. 🙂

Later, I walked out to the road to get a shot of the moon and Jupiter (at about the 8 o’clock) position).

I could clearly see the moons around Jupiter with the zoom on my camera, but without a tripod, I couldn’t get a clear picture. Pretty amazing, anyhow!

The campfire that night was magical, and I loved watching the changing colors and patterns. We sat outside until midnight, truly enjoying our last night at James River State Park.

The next morning we went back to the river, taking our breakfast coffee with us.

Despite the lack of easy communication with the “outside world,” it actually felt good to be somewhat disconnected for a couple of days. Just being out in nature–surrounded by trees and near water–was something that I think we both needed. If we could have stayed longer, we would have. 🙂

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” ~ John Muir

We’re so thankful that we had the opportunity to camp at beautiful James River State Park. And while there are other state parks we’d like to explore, we’d love to come to this one again!

On the way home when we crossed the James River on Rt. 60, we could see a whole flotilla of canoeists, kayakers, and tubers starting the three-hour float down the river towards the park. Yep, maybe we’ll try that some day!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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