Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.


A sunny, anniversary walk

Saturdays have become our Sabbath, our day of rest. Last Saturday was our anniversary, so we decided to take a long walk after missing a couple of days due to rain. We went during a break from painting the wheelchair ramp in front of our home.

At Devil’s Den, we saw yellow Eastern tiger swallowtails, fritillaries and several blooms. There were several plants we recognized that did not have blooms yet. The plants we saw included showy orchis, lady slippers, Mayapples, dwarf wild iris, rue anemone, geranium, trillium, bellwort, cutleaf toothwort and bloodroot.

Showy orchis

Showy orchis

A bloodroot leaf (left) and cutleaf toothwort.

A bloodroot leaf (left) and cutleaf toothwort.

Trillium

Trillium

The leaves of dwarf crested irises.

The leaves of dwarf crested irises.

Lady slipper leaves.

Lady slipper leaves.

Many new four-wheeler trails have, unfortunately, been created in the woods. That means there is less places for the trilliums, orchids and other wildflowers to bloom. You’d think people would have more respect for a nature preserve, but they do not. It’s very unfortunate. In years past, the hillside would be covered with trilliums. It was an ethereal sight.

We also visited the Hiwassee end of the New River Trail and saw squirrel corn! It’s the first time I’d ever seen them in person. It looks very similar to Dutchmen’s breeches, except it is round at the top. Great end to the weekend.


Easter wildflower hike

We took our annual Easter wildflower hike last weekend. For the past six years, we’ve spent a few hours Easter Sunday on the Austinville section of the New River Trail State Park.

With notebook and pen, Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and water, we look for now-familiar flowers and identify new ones. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks now, especially since this will be our final Easter walk on the New River Trail. This year, we left Newcomb’s and the notebook at home.We were too tired from painting the ramp in front of our house, so I captured what I could with my point-and-shoot Kodak camera.

The recent cold snaps didn’t hurt the plants as much as we expected they would. Many of the cut leaf toothwort, Dutchmen’s breeches and wild columbine blooms had fallen victim to the cold, but some of the stragglers were budding or in bloom. The weather was perfect — sunny, but not too warm.

In addition to the blooms, we saw a black Eastern tiger swallowtail, a comma or question mark and a female mallard.

Here are some of the plants we found:

Dutchmen's breeches

Dutchmen’s breeches

Wild columbine

Wild columbine

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bellwort

Bellwort

More violets

Violets

Violets

More violets

Star chickweed

Star chickweed

Hepatica with a spring beauty bloom

Hepatica with a spring beauty bloom

Ginger

Ginger

Virginia waterleaf

Virginia waterleaf

Early Mayapples

Early Mayapples


Smart View, Blue Ridge Parkway

We took advantage of the beautiful, sunny weekend to take a nice, long walk at Smart View Recreation Area on Sunday. It’s located near Milepost 155 off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here’s a great post about the area.

The loop trail is about 2.6 miles and loops through a hardwood-pine mix forest and over a small creek. In the middle of the loop is a large picnic area.

Snow trail Smart View

It had been many years since we last visited Smart View, so everything felt new and fresh. Though it had been in the 60s for a couple of days, the shade from the trees had kept the snow from melting. This made several places slick.

Log bridge Smart View

Sidney looked a little unsure about the log bridge posted above, but she didn’t hesitate too long.

Snow bridge Smart View

This stone bridge, further down the trail, is wider and made for easier crossing.

The first section of the trail is fairly moderate with some steep hills. In many places the trail is narrow and we had to walk in single file. On the left were steep drops into the hollow below. There were many great views, easily seen through the bare tree limbs.

Smart View view

The last mile was fairly flat and passed close by the parking lot before circling back around by the road.

Trail Cabin Smart View

This is Trail Cabin, built in the late 1800s. The trail passes behind it. This part of the trail I do remember from several years ago. It’s a popular pull-off where people like to snap photos of the cabin. I remember walking out of the woods and seeing a crowd of people in the parking lot above. It was humorous to see the reactions the people had to us wandering out of the woods. I’m sure we weren’t the wildlife they were expecting to see!

Though it was a nice day, not too many people were out and about on the Parkway Sunday. Because of the snow, the Parkway is closed to visitors. Locals, like us, know the access roads and still visit. On our way back home, we had to get off the Parkway at Highway 8 near Floyd because the remaining snow across the road made it seem impassable. The bicyclist in front of us, however, apparently thought he could do it. Brave man, biking up a steep hill caked in snow and ice.


First Day Hike

Chris, Sidney, and I attended a First Day Hike with our friend, Brenda, and a handful of other folks at the Foster Falls section of the New River Trail State Park. We toured the Foster Falls community, Shot Tower, and the Austinville site, which the park just acquired.

Group photo in front of the entrance to the old mine in Austinville, Va.

Group photo in front of the entrance to the old mine in Austinville, Va.

All state parks in Virginia and North Carolina offered hikes on New Year’s Day, and I’m sure other state parks across the nation did, as well. This was a great way to start the new year. I hope you spent Jan. 1 enjoying great company and doing things you love.

Foster Falls is my favorite section of the New River Trail. It’s the former site of an orphanage and a hotel that served the mining community along the rail line. The trail head features old mill buildings, a pig iron furnace, a livery, bike and canoe rentals and camping. The 57-mile New River Trail lies along a former Norfolk Southern rail line from Pulaski to Galax and Fries.

Shot Tower at Jackson's Ferry, near Foster Falls, Va.

Shot Tower at Jackson’s Ferry, near Foster Falls, Va.

Group inside Shot Tower learning how shot was made from molten lead.

Shot of the group learning how shot was made from molten lead inside Shot Tower.

Foster Falls furnace

Foster Falls furnace

Foster Falls hotel

Foster Falls hotel


Breaks Interstate Park, Breaks, Va.

The last camping trip of the year happened at Breaks Interstate Park, Breaks. Va. It’s located on the border of Virginia and Kentucky, and is one of two interstate parks in the country.

Chris and I were excited to check this park out because we assumed it would be the best one yet. When we arrived it appeared the park had seen its heyday. The facilities were dated and well-used. Check out this outlet in the women’s bathroom in the campground we chose:

Breaks outlet

This is the floor of the shower:

Breaks shower

I didn’t shower. I decided I could wait until we went home the next day.

We did have running water and electricity at our site. Some of the tent sites don’t have water and electricity, so you should get to the park in plenty of time to choose the best spots. There were also a few spots squeezed together, including a couple right beside the camp playground. I wouldn’t want my kids playing next to some random campers.

We were one of three campers in the whole campground that evening. Other campgrounds had a few campers, as well. This was both good and bad. Good, because it was quiet. Bad, because we had visitors during the night. Doesn’t matter how well you clean and store away the dishes and food. If you leave out the dog dish, someone is going to come exploring.

Oops! Someone either got really angry or tripped over the tent.

Oops! Someone either got really angry or tripped over the tent.

I didn’t sleep after our visitor came and went around 1:30 a.m. I longed for 6 a.m. and when it came, I was up and packin’.

The trails, however, were great. Beautiful, rugged, and long. Just the way we like them.

Breaks Trail


Camping at Smith Mountain Lake Park, Huddleston, Va.

After breaking camp at Holliday Lake State Park, we headed to Smith Mountain Lake State Park, which we’ve visited before. We arrived around 10:30 a.m. and set up camp. Rain was forecasted for later in the afternoon, and we wanted to get camp set up and make it to Booker T. Washington National Monument for Harvest Time.

The camp site we selected wasn’t as nice as Holliday Lake State Park’s facility. Many of the tent sites share a parking lot and the pads are located a short distance away. This isn’t too bad, because the vehicles were in sight of the camps. Water was accessed from one shared faucet located in the shared parking lot. Electricity also isn’t offered. If you want, you could pay extra for pads designated for RVs, which have water and electricity. We did see one family with tents set up in an RV pad.

One other disadvantage of Smith Mountain Lake compared to Holliday Lake State Park is the cost of firewood — $4 versus $3 a bundle.

The tent sites have great tree cover, so there will be shade during hot, sunny days. During the rain, the trees helped provide extra cover, too. It was a lot quieter than Holliday Lake State Park, but that’s probably because it rained from 2-9 p.m. and no one could sit outside their tents and RVs.

The bathrooms at Smith Mountain Lake are great. There are five exterior shower rooms in the bathhouse. The showers are very roomy and are kept clean. The bathhouse also has a large sink for washing dishes.

We didn’t stay the next day to walk any trails. We were tired of the rain and ready to head home. So after breakfast, we broke camp and headed home.


Finishing up the camping trip posts

Today I’m working on the rest of the camping trip posts. I’ll spread those out over next week, so please come back to learn about camping at Smith Mountain Lake and the Breaks Interstate Park. I’ll also have some pics from Harvest Time at Booker T. Washington National Park.

While you wait, if you’re interested, go check out other posts I’ve written about Richmond. We went there for a brief visit this week, which makes our third or fourth visit. I don’t remember how many times we’ve visited now. I’m beginning to lose count!