Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.

Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Huddleston, Va.


While lots of people attended the Hillsville Labor Day Gun Show and Flea Market this past Sunday, we headed off to visit Smith Mountain Lake State Park, located near Huddleston, Va.

As a lake-centric state park, Chris didn’t hold much hope for it. But after hiking on the Turtle Island Interpretive Trail, he declared it, “The best lake state park we’ve ever visited.” Besides the usual boating, swimming and fishing, there are primitive campsites, cabins and miles of trails for hiking or biking.


In all we walked close to 4 miles. The Turtle Island Trail, the first we tackled, is a moist, wooded trail full of fungi. It loops through pines and hardwoods and runs along the shoreline in some places. The interpretive signs educate hikers on forest succession, from pine stands to hardwood mixes. It’s an easy hike and was pretty pleasant. On the trail we saw a box turtle and heard chickadees and, maybe, an osprey. The Turtle Island Trail also includes a small island, where it gets it’s name, which you cross over a little foot bridge to access. I, of course, had to get my feet wet. Now I can say I’ve been in the water sometime this year. 🙂


Next up was the short Opossum Trot Trail, which connects the Turtle Island Trail to a portion of the Tobacco Run Trail. There is a tobacco barn alongside the road (and Tobacco Run Trail) where lots of drivers stopped to take photos. The tobacco trail is also a loop trail, but we took the road up to the Discovery Center, which was closed.

The Discovery Center has playgrounds and picnic tables for visitors. The Lakeview Trail runs behind the center and gives visitors a great view of an osprey nest. There weren’t any osprey around when we checked it out. There’s a camera attached to the perch, though, that provides a live feed to a monitor at the Visitor Center. So if you want to see the osprey up close, especially during nesting season, that would be a place to stop.


Swimming area at the Smith Mountain Lake State Park.

By this time it had started to rain, so we started our way back to the car. On the way back, we tried to find a trail called Beaver Den. We didn’t really find a trail marked for it, but found a short, unmarked loop trail. Back in the car, we drove to the other side of the park to walk the rocky Osprey Point Trail, which is a 0.4 mile-linear trail. Its trailhead is near some picnic tables and the swimming area of the park. The trail follows along an a dry stone wall. We saw a white, black and yellow bird. Maybe a warbler? We also heard a pileated woodpecker in a stand of tall pines.

It was a great trip and I’d definitely recommend a stop or a day trip if you’re ever out that way.

County Parks, Charleston, S.C.

One of the features that impressed us about the Charleston, S.C., area were the many county and municipal parks and their quality. I swear the county parks were like being in a state park. Awesome!

We visited Mount Pleasant Palmetto Islands County ParkNorth Charleston Wannamaker County Park and Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park (where the Mount Pleasant Pier is located). And, in the next county over in Monck’s Corner, Cypress Gardens, which I’ll blog about later.
If we would have had time (and less rain), I would have loved to visit James Island County Park and Folly Beach County Park.
Here’s some photos from Palemetto Islands County Park:

There was a large marsh between the park and neighboring subdivisions.
The park is located among several housing developments.

Sidney on a boardwalk across part of the marsh.

A combination bird-watching tower and playground.

You cross this pond using a bridge to get to the visitors’ center.

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Country Park and Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

While in Greensboro, we visited Country Park and Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.

I used to walk around Country Park’s paved trail during the few months I lived in Greensboro several years ago. The paved trail is hilly and winds around man made lakes.
Many families, walkers, dog owners and bikers use this trail. There are paddle boats, fishing, playgrounds and picnic shelters.

What I consider the main entrance is north of the Natural Science Center’s parking lot on Lawndale Drive, so it was a nice addition to our trip to the science center. (There’s also a second entrance located south of the science center. The park runs behind the center.)
From Country Park, we walked along a trail that connects to the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. This national park has a paved walking, biking and driving trail and some dirt trails through woods on the property.
Throughout the park there are monuments, grave stones and interpretive signs commemorating the Revolutionary War battle here. The Battle of Guilford Courthouse weakened Cornwallis’ army and he surrendered several months later in Yorktown, Va.

Virginia Creeper Trail, Abingdon, Va.

This weekend was absolutely lovely! If you were in the N.C./Va. area, I hope you got outside to enjoy the sunny, warm days.

We took a day trip to Abingdon, Va. on Saturday to walk the Virginia Creeper Trail and to check out Main Street.

This is the trail head off of Pecan Street, Abingdon, Va.

Chris and I had visited Abingdon together before, but it was just a quick evening trip. I’d also been with friends to see “Miracle on 34th Street” at the Barter Theater and to the federal court house to cover a drug trial for work.

So this trip was a special treat.

The Virginia Creeper is off of Pecan Street, which is just down the street from the Martha Washington Hotel and Spa.

The 33-plus mile trail starts (or ends) in Abingdon and heads south to Whitetop, Va., which is in Grayson County and is the state’s highest peak. Lots of people ride bikes from Whitetop to Damascus — all straight down hill. A shuttle in Damascus will carry you up the mountain so you can ride back down.

In Abingdon, the trail is pretty much flat and goes by cow pastures and suburbia, including a large golf course community.

Here’s some shots:

Lots of people were out on the muddy trail Saturday.

This end of the trail is perfect for a good, simple hike, bike ride or stroll. I was glad to see so many people using it.

I’ll write about the businesses in a future post.

Ararat River Greenway

After our visit to the Autumn Leaves Festival, Chris, Sidney and I headed over the Ararat River Greenway.

I like this greenway, though it can get pretty busy. But that’s a good thing! It’s good to see the Mount Airy (N.C.) community using the park facilities and getting some exercise. Just as many people use this trail as they do the Emily B. Taylor Greenway.

Besides a paved trail, which is currently over 2 miles, residents can fish, tube and canoe on the Ararat River. There’s also a playground, skate park and open green space for picnics and ball games.

Here’s some photos from the day’s trip:

Someone stacks rocks up every year along the riverbank.
I love taking photos of water. I loved how the later afternoon sun shone on the river.
One of the boat launching sites.
Another view of the launching site.

Mount Airy’s (N.C.) Emily B. Taylor Greenway

My husband, Chris, often says, “Everybody wants a trail nowadays.” And it seems like that’s true.

Seems like every town is discussing ways to become more walkable and offer passive recreation to residents.

That’s a good thing, in my opinion. I don’t think I ever want to live in a place that doesn’t have miles of trails. I’ve gotten quite spoiled with the wide variety of trails in Southwest Virginia since moving here five years ago.

One of the trails we frequent is the Emily B. Taylor Greenway, located in nearby Mount Airy, N.C. It’s proved useful during the past couple of months since we’re still covered in snow here in Virginia.

This trail is paved, which must contribute to how quickly the snow disappeared on most of the trail, allowing walkers and bikers to take advantage of it during the winter weather. Most of our trails in Hillsville are mulched, dirt or gravel and are still holding onto snow.

Of course, we’ve gotten more snow so that’s most likely the cause. We haven’t seen the grass in our yard, except for a week last month, since before Christmas.

Anyway, back to the greenway. The Emily B. Taylor Greenway is 2 3/8 miles of a paved trail that follows along a creek and U.S. 52 from Worth Street to West Lebanon Street.

Each quarter mile is marked with a granite marker, courtesy of Mount Airy Granite.

Although the photos above are nice areas of the trail, most of the scenery is the highway, industrial buildings and restaurants. And it’s visited by a lot of people. So it’s not that peaceful.

But that doesn’t mean you won’t see wildlife. Below are two pictures I took on a recent walk. On the left is a belted kingfisher and the right is, of course, a white-tailed deer.

Sorry for the quality of the photos. If I had taken Chris’ camera and zoom lens I might have been able to snap closer, clearer and better pictures. Actually, I’m surprised these turned out as well as they did.
We also often see robins, blue birds and sparrows.
Occasionally we’ve seen a heron (I think a great blue). On a walk last year, a friend swore she heard a yellow warbler, which she said is hard to spot and hear because the bird is usually very shy.