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.

Shelley Lake Park, Raleigh, N.C.

Shelley Lake Park in Raleigh, N.C., is a great place to take a stroll or, as many people were on a recent visit, jog.

The small lake is surrounded by trees and a 2+ miles of trails, including sections of a greenway. Walking around the lake we saw ducks, geese, turtles and, possibly, cormorants. The cormorants could also have been herons; the birds were far away and hard to see.

There are also basketball courts, a playground, a boat house and an art center (Sertoma Arts Center) located in the park.

Great place to take a stroll with the family on a weekday afternoon!

(Sorry, no photos to share this time!)

Occoneeche State Park, Va.

On our way to the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, we stopped at Occoneeche State Park, Clarksville, Va. The park is on the John H. Kerr Reservoir (Buggs Island Lake).

The park is designed to appeal to boaters, horseback riders, campers and hikers alike.

While there, we walked on the Big Oak Nature Trail and the Old Plantation Trail where we explored the site of the former Occoneeche Plantation, reading interpretive signs about the home’s foundations, the terrace gardens and cemeteries.

Claytor Lake

On a recent night on the town, we headed to Christiansburg. On the way there, we stopped at Claytor Lake to walk the pup.

A lot of people were out at the park for the day. Boating and fishing, biking and hiking. There were some people camping or staying over in cabins too.

I wasn’t feeling too inspired as far as photos go. I think the next time we stop (we’ve been a total of 3 times already) we should explore the longest trail — Claytor Lake Trail, which is 1.6 miles.
There are 3 miles of trails and we’ve been on most of them and part of the Claytor Lake Trail.
Most of the trails are very easy walking and appropriate for most people. Those people with wheelchairs, strollers or walkers may want to stitch with the Lake Shore Trail, which is paved and runs along the parks roads, serving as a sort of sidewalk. The rest of the trails are dirt.
Here’s some photos:
Wild basil, maybe?

The lake.

Look, the lake! Again. 🙂

One of the trails we took — Poplar Leaf Trail. There are 3 miles of trails at the park.

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.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Wherever we go on vacation, Chris and I love to visit state and national parks. Actually, a lot of vacations are planned so we can visit parks. Florida was no different. The main goal was to visit the Everglades — one of my life time goals!

But we also squeezed in visits to many other parks, such as Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Fla. (I don’t know why, but whenever I hear “Bill Baggs” I think “Bilbo Baggins.” You know, from “Lord of the Rings”  and “The Hobbit.”)

Beach and historic lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park./Photos by E.A. Seagraves & Christopher Brooke
Don’t use photos without permission.

Anyway, we made a stop in Miami to visit Chris’ cousin, Alesia, and her family. She suggested Bill Baggs would be a nice place to spend the day. And it was.

It’s basically a beach and has bike rentals, boating and trails. We spent most of the time playing in the water and sand with Kelly and Edward, Alesia’s two kiddies.

Pelicans we saw on our bike ride.

I’m assuming since there’s a toll to cross the bridge from the main land to Key Biscayne, many people don’t venture to the park. As a result, the beach wasn’t too crowded.

We ate a late lunch at the Lighthouse Cafe. It was a pretty nice meal (Cuban fare) and I really liked being able to sit outside in sight of the water.

After Alesia took off with the kids to put them down for a nap, Chris and I rented bikes and rode around the park. It was hard to tell exactly where the bike path went, but we rode around nonetheless, using the parking lots, roads and what paths we found.

We also walked along some trails. One took us along areas that featured red mangroves and other plants. Pretty cool.

Red mangroves out in the water.

Pretty flower along the trail. Don’t know what it is though.