Camping at Powhatan State Park – April 23-25, 2021

After doing a day trip to Powhatan State Park on the James River earlier in the month, we knew we wanted to camp there as soon as we could. A lot of campgrounds are booked solid on weekends, but when I checked reserveamerica.com towards the end of the week, two sites had opened up at Powhatan due to cancellations. Yay, I was able to make a reservation!

Friday, April 23rd was a crazy-busy day for both of us (made a bit crazier by planning to go camping!), but at the same time we were excited to get out! Fortunately, traffic on I-64 East wasn’t too bad for a Friday, and at the Gum Spring exit we turned onto Rt. 522 South. When we reached the small town of Goochland, we stopped at a Food Lion to pick up a few items we’d forgotten. This is somewhat typical for the first camping trip of the season. 😉

Next stop, Powhatan State Park and River Bend Campground!

Our reservations were for site #15, with water and electric hookups. Such a nice, big, level site! All of the sites in River Bend have water and electric, all are “site specific,” and all of them are actually pretty nice. 🙂

LOL, celebration snacks after getting everything set up!

There was a trail near our campsite that wasn’t on the trail map that we’d gotten during our previous day trip, so we decided to see where it went. We could tell it headed towards the James River, but we weren’t sure how close we’d actually be to the river.

There were Mayapples all along the trail on the forest floor:

A couple hundred yards into the woods, the trail formed a “Y” with paths to the right and to the left. Both trails offered a glimpse of the river through the trees. Apparently the park service hopes to ultimately connect this trail with River Trail, but due to the steepness of the terrain down to the river–and the lack of funding–this hasn’t happened yet.

This satellite image shows the location of the campground in relation to the James. While it looks pretty close, flooding should never be an issue in the campground due to the difference in elevation. (The yellow arrow points to our campsite.)

After we walked back to our site, we drove to Canoe Launch C. It was such a beautiful evening!

Symbolically charging a crystal with our prayers for the James River
Looking across one of the meadows near the campground.

I’d heard good things about the bathhouse at Powhatan, and when we got back to the campground, I checked it out. These pics were taken inside one of the private bathroom/shower rooms, which appeared to be handicapped accessible. The shower had fold-down seats (inside and outside) as well as grab bars. All of the bathrooms and shower rooms are single/private.

There’s also a laundry facility in the same building:

By this time it was getting pretty late (yes, thankful for longer days and lighter evenings!) so we fixed an interesting dinner of leftover chicken noodle casserole with a can of baked beans. It was definitely an odd combination, but it tasted good! (LOL, follow us for more recipes. 😉 )

Wayne started a campfire, and although we didn’t fix S’mores, we did toast a few marshmallows.

Beautiful moon above our campsite….

….And a beautiful little trailer in the woods!

The temperature started dropping quickly, so once the fire died down we went inside. With a little ceramic heater to keep us warm, and our antenna pulling in a few channels on our TV, it was a nice way to end a very busy day.

The next morning Wayne fixed omelets, and even though it was still pretty cool outside, we ate at the picnic table again. (Whenever possible, we cook and eat outside.)

Sadly, the little coffee maker we keep in the trailer chose that morning to die, so we decided to make a trip back to the shopping center in Goochland in hopes of finding a new one.

On our way out of the park, we saw the most beautiful bird–a Tree Swallow.

After that delightful and unexpected treat, we continued on to Goochland and we were happy to find a coffee maker–and a variety of other things!–at the Family Dollar store. It was really nice to have a variety of resources–a Food Lion, Family Dollar, pharmacy, ABC store, gas stations, a couple of restaurants and more–within an easy drive of the campground.

With rain in the forecast and wanting to be outside as long as we could, we went to Canoe Launch A as soon as we got back to the park. This is one of the tent sites in the primitive camping area along River Trail near Canoe Launch B.

We kept hearing and seeing a tiny, tiny bird flitting between the trees above us along the River Trail. Finally I was able to snap a couple of pictures of it. I learned (later) that this is called a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. In size, it’s somewhere between a Hummingbird and a House Wren.

Most of the Pawpaw blossoms had faded and fallen off the trees, but we still saw a few:

What can I say? We love this state park!

A weather alert pinged on my phone, letting me know that it would start raining soon. Sure enough, by the time we got to the parking lot it started sprinkling. (By the way, I had 1 or 2 bars of service on my phone with AT&T. I didn’t try using my phone as a hotspot and I don’t think there’s any Wi-Fi available at Powhatan; there was certainly none in the campground.)

With no storms associated with the rain–and with no wind–we put up the awning on the trailer so we could continue to be outside. And kind of funny–earlier in the day I was wearing a lavender cardigan, but I changed into the new zippered hoodie I’d bought at the park office that morning. There were only two colors in my size–black and lavender–so guess which one I picked?

Thanks to the awning, we were able to cook dinner outside and stay dry while doing it. We use this electric skillet a LOT now, and tend to use it more than we use our propane camp stove.

In case you’re wondering, yes, the awning is crooked. We do this on purpose to allow rain to run off one corner instead of pooling in the center and weighting it down.

It rained hard at times during the night, but we stayed warm and dry, watched Bob Ross for a while, and fell asleep by 10. 🙂

The next morning the clouds were moving along quickly above our camper:

After a breakfast of bagels and coffee, we decided to walk on a trail that started across from the entrance to the campground. Such a beautiful mix of sunshine, clouds, meadows, cornfields, and wildflowers!

Cornflower

There’s an old cemetery to the left of the trail towards the top of the hill. While only a few graves have stones with inscriptions, I noticed a number of field stone markers as well as some flags probably put in by the park service. I wonder how many people are actually buried there?

Further down the hill there was another grave with a headstone, but there were indications of several unmarked graves.

Walking back down through the meadow, a little Chipping Sparrow sang his Sunday morning song for us:

We knew we’d have to leave soon (checkout time is 1:00 pm at most Virginia State Parks), but we made another trip to the James River at Canoe Launch A. SO pretty!!

Wow, I really could have stayed a few more days–walking on the trails, photographing the birds and flowers, relaxing by the river–but we’re so glad we were able to visit beautiful Powhatan State Park for our first camping trip of 2021!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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Powhatan State Park, Powhatan, Virginia – April 11, 2021

We’ve visited most of Virginia’s state parks that are within a couple of hours of our house, but somehow we’d missed this one! With another beautiful spring day on tap, we started our day trip to Powhatan State Park by driving east on I-64.

Like James River State Park (which is about 75 miles to the west), Powhatan State Park is on the James River, and this park has 3 separate canoe launch areas. Our first stop–on River Launch Road–was “Canoe Launch A.” Blessings to the James River. <3

We’d picked up a trail guide at the entrance, and since we were already in the parking area for Canoe Launch A, we decided to walk along the River Trail. Trails in the various state parks are rated as easy, moderate, or difficult, and we tend to go for “easy” trails, like this one.

What a lovely day for a walk in the woods!

Virginia Bluebells

We were totally intrigued by the twisting and turning vines between the trees….

There were more Virginia Bluebells along the trail and lots of wild violets.

Yes, a very nice day for a walk in the woods along the James River!

We were surprised to see Pawpaw trees! LOL, about the only thing I knew about Pawpaws was that they’re mentioned in the Disney song, “The Bare Necessities” from “The Jungle Book”:

“Now when you pick a pawpaw
Or a prickly pear
And you prick a raw paw
Next time beware
Don’t pick the prickly pear by the paw
When you pick a pear
Try to use the claw
But you don’t need to use the claw
When you pick a pear of the big pawpaw”

And–too funny–Wayne remembered a song called “The Pawpaw Patch.”

“Pickin’ up paw paws, put ’em in your pocket
Pickin’ up paw paws, put ’em in your pocket
Pickin’ up paw paws, put ’em in your pocket
Way down yonder in the paw paw patch”

So after seeing real Pawpaws growing along the banks of the James River, we were both able to have visual confirmations of our previously limited musical references. 🙂

https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/blog/its-pawpaw-time

When we came to the end of the River Trail (after passing Canoe Launch B and the primitive campground), we could have turned around and walked back to the Canoe Launch A parking area. A park ranger who was walking down the path said we might enjoy the Gold Dust Trail that goes up to a meadow. Hmm, we were on the “easy” River Trail and The Gold Dust Trail was rated “moderate,” but we decided to give it a try–so up we went.

At some point as we walked up (and up…) the trail we realized that we’d planned a bit poorly. We hadn’t brought water with us, we didn’t have our walking sticks, and Wayne wasn’t wearing the best shoes for something that was starting to resemble a “hike” and not a leisurely “walk” in the woods….

At the top of the hill, the trail came out on Powhatan State Park Road. We turned right–presumably still on Gold Dust Trail–and walked parallel to the road for about a quarter of a mile before turning right again on a trail called (hmmmm….) River Trail.

Unlike the trail along the river, THIS River Trail went through a large meadow. Alrighty….

Looking back across the meadow

It was a pretty walk but a long walk, and when we finally reached the intersection with Turkey Trail (which was closed due to excessive mud), there was a bench. Funny–there were lots of benches along the easy, flat River Trail, but not a bench to be seen on Gold Dust Trail or on the trail through the meadow. So anyhow, when we finally saw a place to sit, yes we sat! (This was point 5 on the map below…)

After resting a bit, we started down the hill towards point 6 and ultimately back to our car at point 1. Going down the hill was a little easier than walking up the hill on Gold Dust Trail, but again I wished we had our walking sticks!

We were both really thirsty by the time we got back to the car, and we quickly finished the little bit of water and coffee that was left in our travel mugs. We knew there would be water available in the campground, so that was our next destination.

Oddly, I didn’t take a single picture of any of the campsites, but they’re wonderful! I was writing down the numbers of our favorite sites (those with some shade) until I realized I’d written down most of them. All are “site specific” and it’s quite likely that the campground will be fully booked on weekends from now to the end of the season…. Pics of the sites at Powhatan State Park can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vastateparksstaff/albums/72157675726041106

After making a couple of loops through the campground, we stopped at the bathhouse to fill up our travel mugs with water. While we were there, we struck up a conversation with a man who was sitting on a bench just outside. A former park ranger, he said that he lived nearby and enjoyed coming to walk his dog and to talk to people. Turns out he lived out our way in the 1980s, and he and Wayne had some friends in common in the Richmond area. Small world. 🙂

After leaving the campground we went to our final stop, Canoe Launch C. Sitting there enjoying the wide and beautiful James River, we agreed that we’d love to camp at Powhatan State Park and that it would also be on the short list for future day trips. I’ve said it before, but Virginia’s state parks are simply wonderful!

Instead of taking the most direct route home (I-64), we meandered northwest on secondary roads. When we got to Scottsville, I impulsively turned towards a cemetery we’d visited previously.

A little over a year ago I’d found the grave of my great-great grandmother’s sister, Elizabeth Columbia Rhodes. She’d married John Walker Clements in 1847, and they’d made their home in Scottsville, VA.

The biggest surprise, however, was when I discovered a census record that showed that Frances “Fannie” Clements, one of their daughters, had been a seamstress at the school where I’ve worked the last 20+ years! There was definitely a sense of connection with this woman (my 1st cousin, 3x removed), and the connection seemed even more significant since several years before I had re-introduced sewing at the school as a week-long class and as a service group. Whenever we’re in the Scottsville area I like to stop by to say hello.

Tired but happy, we continued towards home. What an all around beautiful way to spend a spring day!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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James River State Park, Gladstone, VA – March 21, 2021

One of our favorite places to visit (and to camp) is James River State Park. Blessed with a beautiful early spring day, we set out for yet another day trip to the park. 🙂

When we got to the park, we drove through the campground, first. We were delighted to see several campers there enjoying the spacious, woodsy atmosphere of the campground. How spacious? This is a picture of our amazing campsite at James River in 2019, and this is the blog post I wrote after our camping trip: https://art-rageous.net/artrageousblog/?p=4374

Driving further into the park, we stopped at the visitor’s center before starting up Cabell Trail to the Tye River Overlook.

And I do mean UP the trail…

Looking down the trail to the visitor’s center

While it’s not steep, this trail is mostly uphill. The view, however, is well worth the effort to get there!

The confluence of these rivers is somewhat unusual because the Tye flows into the James at almost a 90-degree angle. Apparently most confluences form a “Y” shape. It’s also interesting to see the different colors of the rivers where they meet. We’ve noticed the same thing at the confluence of the Maury and James Rivers at Glasgow, VA, 50+ miles to the west.

Whoops–someone had left a cell phone on one of the benches at the overlook! When I pressed the home button, the picture that came up was of two dogs. Aha–we’d passed these doggies–and their owners–on our way up the trail as they were walking down. When we were ready to leave, I stuck the phone in my pocket so I’d have it in case the owner was coming back to the overlook to retrieve it. If we didn’t meet on the trail, I’d leave it with the park ranger at the visitor’s center.

We were about halfway down when the lost phone in my pocket rang! The woman who’d lost it said they were staying in one of the cabins and that she’d drive back to the visitor’s center to meet me. She was waiting for us there when we reached the bottom of the trail, happy that she didn’t have to trek all the way back to the overlook. 🙂

Before leaving the visitor’s center, we paused to take in the view. These bare, distant hillsides were previously covered with trees. I know that lumber is a sustainable resource, but it always makes me sad to see areas that have been clear cut. I wonder how many animals are displaced when this happens?

Our next stop was Dixon Landing. This is a “take out” spot for people who kayak or tube from the park’s canoe livery area, which is about two miles upstream. We didn’t see any kayakers this time, just the wide, quiet river. Blessings to the James….

Our final stop in the park this time was the picnic area and the canoe livery (which is still closed).

Over the years–and in every season–we’ve taken “selfies” and made some wonderful memories at James River State Park.

March 2021
July 2019
July 2019
July 2019
January 2019
January 2016
November 2014
February 2014

The 7-mile drive from the park back to Rt. 60 is so pretty…

LOL, it was along this road in 2014 that we met “the singing bull…..”

Do you hear how he was really trying to match the tones that Wayne was singing?!

Instead of following Rt. 60 West all the way back to Rt. 29 North near Amherst, we took a shortcut by turning onto Rt. 657 (Tye River Road). I guess it’s not really a “shortcut” if you stop to take pictures along the way….

It was such a nice day, and we love exploring all of the beautiful places in our state! We look forward to visiting James River State Park again sometime this summer.

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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Seven Bends State Park, Woodstock, VA – March 14, 2021

While looking at a map of the Shenandoah Valley, I noticed a relatively new state park that we hadn’t been to. Seven Bends State Park, near Woodstock, VA, is located on the North Fork Shenandoah River. We always enjoy being near rivers, so we decided to take advantage of a beautiful late winter day to check out this new-to-us park.

Of course for us, getting there (wherever “there” might be) is part of the adventure, so we chose a route consisting of all secondary roads, starting with Rt. 250 West over Afton Mountain.

Once in Waynesboro, VA, we turned onto Rt. 340 North and followed it through the little towns of Grottos, Elkton, and Shenandoah until we were just southwest of Luray, VA.

We turned west on Rt. 211, and this took us over a mountain into the town of New Market. From there we drove north on Rt. 11 until we reached Woodstock.

As we followed the signs towards Seven Bends State Park, we were surprised to see that there were two sections–one on Lupton Road, and the other on Hollingsworth Road. We were even more surprised to find that Hollingsworth turned into a dirt road that went down a very narrow, curvy, steep hill–with no guardrails. Yikes!

The next surprise was that we had to go across a one-lane concrete bridge that was just a couple of feet above the North Fork Shenandoah River!

Crossing the North Fork Shenandoah River

So what wasn’t a surprise was realizing why this is a day use only park. Due to the access roads and the very real potential for flooding, I’m not sure there would ever be a way to build a campground at Seven Bends…. Still, it would be a great place to kayak!

After walking a short distance along the river on the “Bass Bight Trail,” we went back to the car and drove to the other section of the park on Lupton Road. Once again we had to cross a low concrete bridge to gain access to the park.

View of the bridge spanning the North Fork Shenandoah River

We didn’t walk on any of the trails in this section, but we spent more time along the river.

When we left the park to start the drive home, we passed though Edinburg, Mt. Jackson, and others little towns on Rt. 11 before taking even more “secondary” secondary roads across the Valley.

Virginia has 39 state parks. We’ve visited some of them numerous times, but so far we’ve been to less than half of them! We’ll work on this; it’s good to have goals. 🙂

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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Chessie Nature Trail, Lexington VA – March 6, 2021

It was an incredibly beautiful day and we wanted to get outside and enjoy it. I looked up information about a Virginia State Park we hadn’t visited, so maybe we could go there…. Nope–all their trails were temporarily closed. Bummer…. Wayne suggested that we could drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway then cross over to Goshen Pass–but many parts of the Parkway were closed. Well, darn! Where should we go?

We always enjoy being near water, so I started looking up trails along the Maury River near Lexington. One sounded interesting–the Chessie Nature Trail–so I took a quick look at the map to get a general idea of where it was, then we hopped in the car and started down the road.

Since we weren’t in a huge hurry, we opted to head south through the Shenandoah Valley on Rt. 11 instead of on the much busier I-81.

As we arrived in Lexington, I realized I wasn’t exactly sure where the parking area for the trail was, and I hadn’t printed out the map. After we crossed the Maury River, we made a right into Jordan’s Point Park–a place on the Maury that we’d been before. We saw a sign for the Chessie Nature Trail there, but it wasn’t the section where I’d wanted to go. Oh well, no worries–we’d explore this area, first. 🙂

From the parking area, we started walking upstream. I stuck to the path while Wayne explored the rocks along the river.

We then doubled back through the parking area to walk downstream to the “Point” of Jordan’s Point.

There’s a lot of history in Lexington, Virginia, and this area is no exception. We wandered along the short trail loop on the Point, stopping to read the various historical markers and to look at the drawings and photographs of the buildings that used to be on this little bit of land.

So I’m going to pause here to set up a story about what happened next…

Keep in mind that walking on the Chessie Nature Trail was basically option #3 for the day, after a potential visit to a state park and a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway didn’t work out. And also remember that we were on the “wrong” section of the trail and not the part that I’d seen on the map. And after arriving at the “wrong” place, we spent some time exploring a section of the river upstream before officially visiting the “Point” of Jordan’s Point, which is downstream from where we’d parked.

But somehow–as we were apparently moving randomly through time and space–things were falling into place to create a rather extraordinary event:

Wayne and I talk. A lot. Even on extended road trips we talk about the changing scenery, favorite memories, life goals, teaching, spirituality, the state of the world–whatever. We’re ALWAYS talking about one thing or another!

As we were approaching Lexington, our conversation had turned towards our parents (which is a frequent topic of conversation), and I told Wayne that not a day goes by that I don’t think about my mom and dad and how much I miss them. I got teary as I was saying this. I’m not sure what prompted this emotional reaction, but my mom and dad were very much on my mind, and the “missing” was surprisingly intense….

So as we’d almost finished our walk on the short trail loop around Jordan’s Point, I noticed a couple coming up behind us. They were wearing masks, so we put ours on. As they approached we said “Hello,” and as they walked by, I realized that the man was wearing a hat that said, “Crozet Library.” Wait, what?

I got their attention and they stopped and turned around. I said I’d noticed the hat and asked if they were from Crozet and we said that we were. The man said no, he wasn’t from Crozet, but added that he’d given a talk at the Crozet Library several years before and he’d been given the hat then.

I asked what the talk had been about, and he said it was on Claudius Crozet, a French engineer and our town’s namesake.

Well, everything suddenly clicked into place! While I didn’t recognize the man–especially since he was wearing a mask– I’d actually attended this lecture! I was scrambling to remember his name and asked if he was “Mr. Hunter.” I couldn’t hear him well (since we were some distance apart, wearing masks, and had the river near us!) but I heard him say “Dooley,” and that Hunter had been his co-author on a book about Claudius Crozet.

At that point I introduced myself as Bob Barrett’s daughter. Mr. Dooley seemed surprised, and then said, yes, he’d known my dad quite well! They’d talked many, many times while my dad was working on–and then ultimately produced–a video documentary in the mid 1990s on the life of Claudius Crozet.

Limited copies of the DVD are available in my Etsy shop:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/462368859/the-claudius-crozet-story-dvd?ref=shop_home_feat_4&frs=1

And now that I had my bearings regarding who this man was, I also remembered that I’d given Mr. Dooley a DVD after he’d finished his talk! Here’s an article about his lecture at the Crozet Library in 2015: https://www.crozetgazette.com/2015/01/06/claudius-crozet-the-engineer/

As context, my dad was truly fascinated by the life and work of Claudius Crozet. He did slide shows and lectures for years, and then–after he retired from teaching–he produced the video documentary on VHS.

In 2014 when I found my dad’s master copy of the tape, I had a limited number of DVDs made, mainly as a way to preserve his passion and his years of research. While I haven’t marketed the DVDs extensively, I’ve offered them for sale in my Etsy shop.

With the opening of the Blue Ridge Tunnel, there’s been a lot of interest in Claudius Crozet–and in my dad’s documentary. As a result, I only have a few DVDs left, but I’ve planned to have more made. I also hope to be able to offer the video as a digital download, but I just haven’t had (or made) time to get any of this done yet.

So anyhow, after we’d said our goodbyes to the Dooleys, I realized just how incredibly “coincidental” this encounter was! I mean, really–what led Mr. Dooley to wear this particular hat that he’d received in 2015 on this particular day when we “just happened” to be in Lexington, Virginia at a section of the Maury River that we hadn’t planned to visit?! And how incredibly “coincidental”–when I’d just been thinking so much about my father–to run into someone who knew him well! Seriously what are the odds?! (And of course, I have to wonder if this was a little cosmic nudge from my dad. Perhaps I need to get on with having more copies of his documentary made!)

Still thinking about all of this, we finished the short trail loop around Jordan’s Point, then got in the car, drove back over the bridge, took a right and went to the parking area for the Chessie Nature Trail where we’d originally intended to go. 🙂

I am always so amazed by the color of the Maury River….

The trail and the river actually curve here!

This is definitely a trail we’d like to visit again! While I’m not sure we’d be up for walking the full length of 7 miles (we just walked a little over a mile this time), I’d love to follow this beautiful river a little further!

It was late in the afternoon by the time we got back to the parking area and we were both hungry. We stopped at a fast food restaurant, ate in the car, and then started the drive back up the Shenandoah Valley.

While we always enjoy our rambling trips through scenic Virginia, this outing was certainly made even more special by the “chance” encounter by the Maury River with someone who knew my father. In my mind, this seemed to confirm and reaffirm the love and the ongoing bond and connection that I have with my parents. It was a beautiful day….

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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