Archive for the ‘Camping’ Category

Glamping Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

About three months ago we returned from a ten day camping trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway, not forgetting the additional sixty miles of Skyland Drive. When my wife reserved the camp sites, one definite requirement was the provision of showers. Surprisingly this necessity greatly reduced the number of campsites that provided this necessary facility. She managed to find three sites that would coincide with our itinerary, but even then the quality of the campsite varied considerably as the following notes will confirm:

Pigsah Camp Site: rest rooms were very basic. Wearing flip flops in the shower is a necessity. Individual  tent sites were too close together. It did provide a food storage bin. The Pigsah Inn was just across the road, and we enjoyed a very palatable meal there one evening.

Julian Price: Camp site was situated overlooking a lake, and definitely the best location during our trip. However, it had no provision for food storage. One piece of good fortune was the discovery of brand new showers and a gigantic stainless sink to wash dishes.

Sherando Lake: Best camp site in terms of space, privacy, outdoor furniture, and food storage. Unfortunately the rest rooms were disgusting. I guess you can’t have everything.

I make no apologies for this blog. It’s not for you if you have no interest in camping. It’s basically a review of our trip and maybe a useful guide for any readers following in our foot steps. Moving on:

Day 1, Friday May 17th

Mt. Pisgah Campground. Met our friends Tom and Bonnie @ Mt Pisgah Inn-whole trout which was filleted at the table. Noisy neighbors from South Carolina @ campground. Highest elevation @ 6000 feet. We were enjoying the idyllic scenery at one of the many overlooks when we were invaded by a car club!!! Final impression of the campground was being surrounded by  Wailers and cacklers and dealing with a broken concrete table.

Day 2 Saturday

Hiking Graveyard Fields, Upper Falls, Devil’s Courthouse. Theresa attempted to make friends with a Four Inch grasshopper in the ladies shower, but her screams reverberating around the camp site confirmed it was not a successful liaison. Built a fire courtesy of Tom’s wood, cooked brats. In that mountain greenery where God paints the scenery….. Views of rolling hills as the eye can see. Spectacular.

Day 3, Sunday

Visited Tom and Bonnie on our way to next campsite. Popped in at Crabtree Falls-insufficient time to explore. Marker for next time. Stopped at Linville Falls. Orange Moon over Julian Price Lake. Quieter clientele thankfully.

Day 4, Monday

Linville Falls leading to Chimney View and Upper Falls. Picnic at Linville Picnic Area. Cone/Flat Manor was a tedious looking building devoid of any character. Even more tedious was the gift shop. I was quite taken by a wooden bowl until I was informed by a snobby sales assistant that I would have to part with $350 to take it home. Missed Grandfather Mountain hike, but drove across Lincove Viaduct.

Day 5, Tuesday

No hiking today. Drove to Blowing Rock for lunch. Attractive little town not far off the Parkway, suffused with antique and craft stores. Adequate number of bars and restaurants to cater for all tastes. Ate at the Sixpence Pub which has a sister pub of the same name in Savannah. Continued onto Boone which is dominated by Appalachian State University. Bit of a tip really.

Day 6, Wednesday

Breaking camp, welcomed by a cool foggy start to the day. Visited Mabry Mill which was very photogenic. Re-enactment Exhibit at Explore Park closed in 2007 in case your guide book is old like ours. Explore Park has nothing else to offer.

Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia is not as mountainous as North Carolina. Attractive vistas but not as dramatic  at NC. Taking a break from camping, and stayed one night at Peaks Of Otter Lodge. Look out for 3 mountain peaks: Sharp Top (4000 feet,) Flat Top and Harkening Hill. Lodge and adjoining Abbott Lake constructed and opened in 1964. Satisfied our purpose, but I wouldn’t stay longer than one night.

Day 7, Thursday

Said our farewell to the Lodge and visited the James River. Why not? Discovered an historic sluice (1851.) Next stop: Natural Bridge and discovered a dead tree that survived until 1980-1600 years old. Arrived at Sherando Lake Campsite. Best campsite pound for pound. Wildlife spotted so far; turkey, fox, deer and black snake.

Day 8, Friday

Hiked up Humpback Rocks, 700 foot rise in elevation from bottom to top in one mile. Met a brother and sister from Richmond. He had just graduated, and was leaving for Togo for 27 months. Why would anyone elect to spend 27 months in Togo?

Lunch at Blue Mountain Brewery. Found a Kroger in Waynesboro which was its only saving grace.

Day 9, Saturday

Drive to Skyland Lodge, and entered the Shenedoah National Park. Experienced our “first bear jam.” Transition from being in virual wild to noisy civilization can only be described as shock to the system. Sky Lodge: room fine, views great, food and service sucked. Clearly understaffed for Memorial Day Weekend, so service was abysmal and food was deplorable.

Day 10, Sunday

We enjoy a challenge, so we decided to drive the 600 miles home. End of a great adventure.



Carry On Camping

Monday, April 9th, 2018

I had not been camping since the year dot. The last time I spent some time under canvas was when I was a boy scout with the 7th St. Michael’s Troop based in Manselton, Swansea. My lasting memory of my scout camping exploits was setting the tent on fire with an innocuous lighted candle only to be awoken by the screams of young pimply teenagers who were sharing the sleeping quarters  with me. Mercifully the fire was quickly extinguished, and nobody was injured except my ego.

Consequently, it came as a surprise when my wife suggested we go camping. I furtively agreed to give it a try, and she proceeded to acquire the necessary equipment to make the experience as comfortable as possible. By the time we were ready to embark on our first camping trip, she had assembled the following equipment: state of the art tent with fly sheet and ground sheet, two comfortable cots, two specialized pillows, camp stove, a stainless steel whistling kettle, sleeping bags and a portable light.

We left for Vogel State Park in North Georgia where my wife had made sure we had access to water, restrooms and electric outlet. The weather forecast for the first night indicated that the temperature would tumble down to a mere 24 degrees fahrenheit and like a big girl’s blouse I decided to take an electric blanket. That was a great decision.

My wife and I have  different skills to bring to the table; she is the queen of erecting the tent  and I’m a pyromaniac. She had pitched the tent in approximately 15 minutes, and by the same token I had a roaring firing going  ready to roast our hotdogs and samores. We read on Trip Advisor that a little country store sold firewood a couple of miles outside the park. We were undecided about the quantity we should purchase: 10 logs for $5, 50 logs for $20. Would we burn 50 logs over three nights? You can be damn sure we did!!!

We battened down the hatches for the night, and boy was it freezing. My balaclava was a blessing covering every facial feature except my eyes. Harmed with my electric blanket,  I was snug as a bug in a rug until the damn thing decided to turn itself off. I got up in the middle of the night to go to the rest room, and discovered they had provided heaters inside the public conveniences. A thought crossed my mind to stay in there until daylight, but then a guilty conscience got the better of me and I reluctantly returned to the tent.

The morning temperature had not improved much overnight, but I managed to quickly light a fire, and we were soon  drinking coffee and eating bacon butties which improved morale immeasurably. We decided on a 4 mile hiking trail up to Blood Mountain, but it proved a bridge too far for me. It didn’t help wearing four layers of clothing  when the temperature had improved considerably. It appeared at every half mile, I was shedding a layer of clothing and looking and feeling most forlorn and dejected. I had one shred of comfort in as much we reached Blood Mountain Wilderness. Hamburgers were on he dinner menu accompanied by copious amounts of wine.

The next day we embarked on a gentle walk around the lake in the park taking in a “man made” waterfall. We returned to the tent and had a spot of lunch. By 3.00 pm it was raining heavily and we retreated inside. We didn’t leave the tent until 8.00 am the following morning apart from trips to the restrooms and setting up the slow cooker in the tent’s vestibule to provide chili for dinner. Note to  potential campers: a pack of cards and individual kindles are essential requirements for spending several hours in a tent.

It was still raining the next morning which meant dismantling the tent and packing the car with our gear during very unsympathetic weather conditions. A few cross words were exchanged during the process, but within an hour we were ready to hit the road. Not so fast my friend. The car battery was flat, and my wife was forced to use her feminine charm to borrow jump leads from a neighboring camper who kindly hitched his truck to the leads.

Notwithstanding the weather conditions, I had a wonderful time. I can’t wait to go again.