A few days in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia

Fall was in the air when we arrived in Virginia. In just a few days we went from hot and muggy to crisp and cool. Our shorts and tee shirts were traded for jeans and sweatshirts. The air conditioner was turned off and the windows were open to let the fresh air in. And the best part was campfires at night.

We love to stay at Claytor Lake State Park in Dublin, Virginia when we visit our daughter’s family. We had a great time hanging out with our grandkids in their new home and meeting their two new kittens. Watching our granddaughter’s swim team practice and our grandson’s soccer game were the highlights of this trip and the reason we came up here.

Morning walk at Claytor Lake State Park
Morning walk at Claytor Lake State Park



Sadly, we couldn’t spend every minute with the family so we spent some time exploring the area. This was our fifth stay at Claytor Lake and wandering on the many trails in the park is always one of my favorite activities.Trail at Claytor Lake State Park

Trail at Claytor Lake State Park

Wildflowers in the woods at Claytor Lake State Park
Wildflowers in the woods at Claytor Lake State Park
An early morning walk in the woods
An early morning walk in the woods

One day we decided to take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In order to get to our destination, the Rocky Knob Visitor’s Center at milepost 170, we had to drive about 30 miles on a narrow country road through beautiful farmland. After a stop at the visitor’s center to get my National Park Passport stamped we had lunch in the picnic area. A narrow one way road winds through the picnic area which has picnic tables scattered around the hills.

Rocky Knob picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Rocky Knob picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Rocky Knob picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Rocky Knob picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

After lunch we enjoyed our short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The views from the overlooks were spectacular

Blue Ridge Parkway from overlook at Rocky Knob Visiter's Center
Blue Ridge Parkway from overlook at Rocky Knob Visiter’s Center
Buffalo Mountain from the Saddle Overlook on Blue Ridge Parkway
Buffalo Mountain from the Saddle Overlook on Blue Ridge Parkway

We only drove about ten miles on the parkway before exiting to the town of Floyd for a return visit to the Floyd Country Store. I posted about our visit to their Sunday Jam Session in this post from 2013.

Floyd Country Store
Floyd Country Store

Saturday morning before driving to Roanoke to our grandson’s soccer game I walked down to the lake to watch the start of the Claytor Lake Triathlon. An 80 year old man, his 50 year old son and his grandson all participated in the event. After watching the swimmers take off, I walked to the beach to see them exit the water and run to their bikes to begin the bike race.

On our last morning at the state park I woke up to see four deer in the campground.

Deer visited the campground on our last morning at Claytor Lake
Deer visited the campground on our last morning at Claytor Lake
Two fawns in the campground
Two fawns in the campground

On Sunday afternoon our daughter’s family came out for a visit. So much fun sitting by the fire, going for a walk, playing ladderball, and sharing a meal of burgers, hot dogs and of course  s’mores. A perfect end to our stay at Claytor Lake.

Best Campgrounds of the year – 2014

Although we didn’t wander too much in our RV this year our travels took us to some very memorable places. We visited family, camped by lakes and rivers, got together with old friends, visited a distillery, watched barges go by on the Mississippi River, went to 2 Georgia away games, and ate award winning barbeque and tamales.

During our 2014 travels we camped in  8 states and stayed in a total of 17 different parks: 7 state parks, 5 private RV parks, and 5  federal parks.

So here it is, the first ever “Wandering Dawgs best campgrounds of the year” list.

Number 3: Claytor Lake State Park, Dublin, Virginia.

Claytor Lake State Park is our favorite place to stay when visiting family in Virginia. We’ve returned several times and enjoyed each stay.

There are plenty of things to do in the area to keep you busy. The state park has a nice beach and swimming area, hiking trails, a marina, and gift shop with free Wi-Fi. The Blue Ridge Parkway is close enough for a day trip and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg is just a short drive away.

We always stay in one of the big pull through sites in section D. Each site has water and electric, a picnic table, and fire pit. The sites are wide enough that you don’t feel like you are on top of your neighbor. There are no waterfront sites in the park but the lake is just a short walk from the campground.

We visited Claytor Lake State Park in April, 2014 and also in May, 2013.

Number 2: Maumelle COE on the Arkansas River in Little Rock, Arkansas

Maumelle is a popular Corps of Engineers park in Little Rock, Arkansas. This is a very popular park so reservations are recommended especially on the weekends. Our site, just a few steps from the lake, was a large back in with water and electric hookups, a big patio area with a fire pit and picnic table, and a beautiful view of the Arkansas River.

The campground is conveniently located in Little Rock and close to shopping. The park has a boat ramp, playground, basketball court and a picnic area. It is a good home base for exploring the area. We enjoyed a day trip to Petit Jean State Park.

We visited Maumelle Campground in October, 2014.

Number 1: Mississippi River State Park, Marianna, Arkansas

Not only the best campground of 2014, but I would rate this one of the best state park campgrounds ever!

The park is located in the Mississippi Delta on the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway and the Great River Road within the St. Francis National Forest. We stayed in the Beech Point Campground on a peninsula in Bear Creek Lake. There are only 17 sites in the campground with 14 full hookup waterfront sites and 3 tent sites.  Ours was a large pull through with a big patio area for the picnic table and fire ring. Everything was clean and new, the staff at the visitor’s center and the rangers were friendly and helpful, and the view from our site couldn’t be beat.

This is a great place to sit and watch the resident Great Blue Heron and turtles on the lake. The visitor’s center has a very well done and interesting interpretive center about the Mississippi Delta. The lake is a popular fishing destination and if you enjoy scenic drives the Great River Road and Crowley’s Ridge Parkway are both close by. Oh, and award winning barbeque is just a short drive from the campground.

We’re already trying to figure out when we can camp here again!

We visited Mississippi River State Park in October, 2014.

Honorable Mention:

  • Winfield COE on J Strom Thurmond Lake in Appling, Georgia.
  • Lake Chicot State Park, Lake Village, Arkansas.
  • Trail of Tears State Park, Jackson, Missouri.

Where do you think we will wander next year? Stay tuned…

Happy New Year!!

Claytor Lake State Park, Virginia

Our next stop was Claytor Lake State Park. We have camped there several times and enjoyed every one of our visits. On our last morning I saw about 8 deer running through the woods as Blondie and I walked on one of the several hiking trails.

The Redbuds were blooming all through the woods in the park.

You may also like my post about our 2013 visit to Claytor Lake State Park at the beginning of our journey to Alaska.

Waterfalls and Wildflowers at Natural Bridge, Virginia

Natural Bridge, Virginia
Natural Bridge, Virginia

Our mountain journey continued at Virginia’s Natural Bridge where we walked along the nature trail beside Cedar Creek to the Natural Bridge and Lace Falls. The bridge and trail are privately owned and beautifully maintained.

The arch is 215 feet high, 55 feet higher than Niagara Falls. It is 40 feet thick, 100 feet wide, and is 90 feet between the walls. Highway 11 crosses over the bridge.

George Washington surveyed the bridge and the surrounding area in 1750. What is believed to be his initials can be seen high up on one of the walls.

The warm, sunny spring day was perfect for walking along the nature trail.

Wildflowers were blooming all along the trail

We camped for 2 nights at the Natural Bridge KOA, about 5 miles from the Natural Bridge.

Days 2, 3, 4 and 5 – Rainy Days in Southwestern Virginia

Day 2, Friday May 17: We traveled 113 miles from Statesville, NC to Claytor Lake State Park in Dublin, VA. Claytor Lake is a great state park and an easy drive to our daughter’s house. Her family came to the park on Friday night for burgers, hot dogs and s’mores. We started having sprinkles in the afternoon but the weather cooperated and didn’t start raining until after dinner.

Day 3, Saturday, May 18: We watched the rain come down all day, hoping it would stop in time for our grandson’s soccer game. The game was canceled but they were still able to spend the night with us. I picked up a brick oven pizza from MK’s Gourmet Pizzeria – it was delicious! We watched DVD’s, ate pizza, and made s’mores in a drizzle. What a great night!

Day 4, Sunday, May 19: We woke up to more rain so we decided to take the kids to meet their parents in Floyd, VA. We were hoping to take a hike on the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway but again, the weather didn’t cooperate. As it turned out, I’m glad it rained. We really enjoyed the Sunday Jam Session at the Floyd Country Store.

Listening to a jam session at the Floyd Country Store is a great way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon in Southwestern Virginia. You can read about our experience on our daughter’s blog entry Indoor Appalachian entertainment at the Floyd Country Store.

Day 5, Monday, May 20: A day of housekeeping, grocery shopping, and a final visit with family. We said our goodbyes after our granddaughter’s swim team practice. We’re going to miss them!

We didn’t let a little rain spoil our fun!