Tuesday, June 19, 2007

VA Highlands Camping Trip

Last week I camped in southwestern Virginia, near Comers Rock in the Jefferson National Forest, for the fourth year in a row with my friend Daryl. On my way I stopped in Mt. Airy, NC and visited the grave of Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous conjoined twins who gave us the term "Siamese Twins." After coming to the U.S. from Siam (present day Thailand) and touring with P.T. Barnum's show, they settled in Mt. Airy and became successful plantation farmers and husbands to a pair of sisters, fathering 21 children between them.

Daryl and his wife Sheila (and their three dogs), Tim from NYC, and I arrived Saturday afternoon. Daryl brought enough food for Saturday night and Sunday morning; we had brats and mets (a Cincinnati localism for a type of sausage) and beans for supper Saturday and scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast for breakfast Sunday.

Tim and Daryl:

Tim departed after breakfast, and Daryl and I rode into Independence to pick up enough groceries for the rest of our time at camp. Sunday night we cooked chicken and dumplings. Monday morning we cooked pancakes and sausage, and then Daryl and I headed out for a day of riding the great twisty mountain roads in the area. Around lunchtime we met Tom from Nashville, and the three of us continued enjoying the local roads on our way back to camp. That evening we cooked beef and noodles with sauteed onions and mushrooms and corn roasted in the shuck. Yum!
Tom and Daryl:

Tuesday Daryl, Tom, and I headed out to Grayson Highlands State Park with the intent of hiking up Mt. Rogers, the highest point in VA, but the weather didn't cooperate; there was a light rain, the sky looked quite threatening, and the biggest concern was the lightning; being on the bald face of a mountain is not the place to be in a lightning storm! We did hike to the first crest and had some good views before we turned around.

We made use of the shower facilities at the park, since where we camp has no such ammenities. The old hair was pretty greasy on day four with no shower, and the shower felt wonderful! We then enjoyed a picnic lunch (that we had planned on enjoying at the summit) and checked out the Rock House Ridge Trail before heading back to camp. Before cooking dinner we all hiked up to the top of Comers Rock. We had gone up the previous two evenings after dark, which is really neat - you can see a million stars up there; but it's a totally different and equally great experience to go up during daylight.

Wednesday we packed up and headed away from Comers Rock. Tom headed back to Nashville, and Daryl, Sheila, and I headed toward a cabin we had rented near Little Switzerland, NC. We took some good roads that led us to the Blue Ridge Parkway and then rode it the rest of the way; I always really enjoy riding that road. Once settled in at the cabin Daryl and I ventured out to a grocery store about 25 miles away and picked up provisions for the next couple of days, including steaks for the evening. We grilled them while Sheila whipped up some of her excellent pan-fried potatoes. Yum! We always eat quite well on this trip. :-)

Creek behind the cabin:

Thursday Daryl and I headed out for a day of waterfall exploring. Our cabin was right between two, each about a mile away. We first visited Setrock Creek Falls, which is accessed through the Black Mountain Campground; we parked outside and then hiked about half a mile to get to the falls.

We then visited Roaring Fork Falls; we parked at the entrance to the Busick Work Center and hiked about half a mile to the falls.

After a lunch break back at the cabin we headed out to visit our third waterfall of the day, Whiteoak Creek Falls; it was about five miles up Highway 80 from our cabin. It can be seen from the dead-end of the road where you park, but we braved the rain and hiked up an abandoned logging road for better views.

That evening we decided to treat ourselves to a restaurant meal, so we headed over to the restaurant at the Little Switzerland lodge right off the parkway. I had trout in a bourbon sauce with roasted pecans and an excellent squash casserole. It was quite good, but honestly, I enjoyed all our campfire food more. :-)

Friday morning we packed up and headed home. I squeezed in one more waterfall, Crabtree Falls, which is accessed through the Crabtree Meadows camping area off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a pretty strenuous 1-mile hike down to the falls, and even more so hiking backup UP on the return trip, but it was well worth it.

View all the photos I took.


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