Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

It was just a quick trip, but well worth it!  We packed up our tent and some gear for car camping.

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From Skyline Drive – Shenandoah N.P.

It was really cool to get a little tent camping in on this trip, even though it was cold and uncomfortable.  Living in an R.V. is making us very spoiled campers – but this time we decided to rough it!

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We stayed at Big Meadows Campground, and arrived just as it got dark.  We popped up our tent real quick and started a nice fire.  It was a full moon, and beautiful night!  We even took the rainfly off the tent so we could see the stars and moon.  We really had a nice setting here!

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Bojack keeping watch

Early the next morning, we heard  warnings of a bear close by!  Someone near us was shouting and blowing an air horn, which had me awake for the morning.  Megan needed to sleep in (can’t forget how hard this nurse works!), so I let her rest while I checked out the situation before getting started on breakfast. Hopefully a bear doesn’t smell the bacon!

After a lazy morning, we jumped in the truck and started some exploring down Skyline Drive.

Most National Parks don’t allow dogs on ANY trails.  Luckily, Shenandoah has a few trails available for our furry friends.  So we made our way northbound, and found a nice place to stretch our legs.

After a short hike, we hopped back in the truck and enjoyed some food from the cooler and cruised Skyline Drive.  There were many places to pull over offering amazing views of the valley.  We enjoyed a slow drive, and eventually started working our way back to camp.  On our way home, I spotted a bear from the truck!  That was SUCH a highlight watching him roam the parking area (from the safety of our vehicle).

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Making use of the campfire grill

Back at camp, we toasted the day with a couple of beers, steak, and some twice baked potatoes I had prepped back at home.  After dinner, we burned up what was left of our firewood, and ducked into the tent for one last night under the stars.

Two nights isn’t enough to scratch the surface of what there is to do here, but we really enjoyed the time we had.

Shenandoah exceeded our expectations and we would love to come back.  Great views, quality camping, and abundant wildlife were the highlights we took home.

Carvins Cove Kayaking & Mountain Biking

Carvins Cove is beautiful, very close to Roanoke, and we are so glad we spent a couple days here!

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Bobby on the kayak

Kayaking – Day 1

Sometimes, you just need a relaxing day on the lake.  Yes.  Exactly that.  Enjoy!

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It’s $3 to get into Carvins Cove.  After that, it’s time to enjoy beautiful outdoors.  Day one, we rented a couple of kayaks and took our time.  We came across fellow kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and small fishing boats.  Even with the diversity, it wasn’t hard to find a place of your own.

Megan and I brought a cooler with some sandwiches and drinks.  It was really easy to pull into one of the many fingers of the lake, providing spectacular views, as well as a little more privacy.  The lake is really easy to navigate, and thanks to restrictions on boat size we experienced very little wake from other water craft.  This was a great way to spend our first day here!

Mountain Bike – Day 2

Carvins Cove is a mountain biking paradise.  The trail system offers something for all levels of experience.  I watched some youtube videos before we left and it made me grit my teeth!  But don’t let that fool you, a novice rider will have a great time on many of the trails here too.

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This is where I wish I brought some PB&Js and a beer

WE HIT THE TRAIL late morning on a Monday.  Carvins Cove had a XC race the day prior and we figured the day after a race is the best day for a trail of your own.  We were right!

The first few miles is easy and wide trail.  There is some climbing though and it will take some time to find the singletrack that makes this area so great.

ALONG COMES A SNAKE!

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If you’re looking for a squishy ride, how about crapping your pants!?

Yes, that is a roughly 8′ long Black Racer snake in the middle of the trail. Yes, I almost ran over it on my mountain bike.  Yes, this is as close as I’d get for a picture!

Mud & Water

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Megan and I are not advanced mountain bikers.  Still, Carvins Cove gave us some obstacles that are both fun, and doable for the everyday rider.  The creek pictured above is a perfect example of just that!

I love riding with Megan because she really likes to soak in the ride.  I am guilty of ripping through the trail as fast as possible, whereas Megan enjoys the sway of the switchback and the beauty that surrounds.

After experiencing Carvins Cove, Megan and I agree that mountain biking is one of our favorite parts of Roanoke and the surrounding area.  We would both suggest to anyone interested in doing a lot of mountain biking in this area, to make Carvins Cove a priority.

Washing it Down

A couple of days in the sun, exploring Carvins Cove by land and water, has made us hungry and thirsty!

Ballast Point Brewery (Daleville, VA) is nearby, and has the goods.  They offered so many varieties of beer, American style food, and has a great view from the patio.  Check them out!

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Thanks for checking us out!

-Megan & Bobby

 

Cycling Virginia – Part 2

Home Base: Buchanan, VA

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Buchanan, VA  is a very small town about 30 miles north of Roanoke, VA.  It’s also only five miles from my campground.  So, I figured this would be a great area to start riding!

I decided to make a solo jaunt into town, then figure out how to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Highway 43 from Buchanan is very low traffic, and offers a very steep, rewarding climb.  At the top  you’ll find the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 5 miles south of the Peaks of Otter.

fullsizeoutput_f13It felt great to hammer out a more serious climb, and considered a few miles of rolling hills to the visitor center.  Instead, I enjoyed a few minutes on the parkway, had a snack, snapped some photos, and made my fast decent!

The Blue Ridge Parkway is an animal of it’s own.  It’s long, 400+ miles acting as the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Cyclist flock here for a reason!  In next months chapter, I will go into more depth on my experiences cycling the BRP.  This ride was only my first taste!

 

Mill Mountain & Mighty Megan

The Roanoke Star stands 100″ tall and sits on the north summit of Mill Mountain.  It overlooks the entire Roanoke metropolis and locals like to call it the “Hollywood of the East”.  Megan and I have already driven up to the star (at night) and decided it’d be a perfect route for biking.  At the time, we didn’t know how right we were!

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Mill Mountain Star – Roanoke, VA

Megan and I parked at Underdog Bikes, unloaded our gear, then introduced ourselves to the staff at the shop.  Shortly after, I was looking at my Garmin display telling me I’m at 11% gradient.  Ouch!  Our goal is a residential road that leads to a short trail, reaching the summit of Mill Mountain.  We could see the star from the bike shop and it was obvious it’s a bit of a climb.  The guy at the shop told us it was steep, Strava later told me that our first 1.2 miles would cover 600 feet at a 9.2% grade.

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Although steep, the road up Mill Mountain was very enjoyable.  Not included in our pictures were some beautiful properties alone the way, and views overlooking the city.   We didn’t get any pictures of the singletrack riding back down because it was a bit more serious than we thought.  Some of the trails were pretty hairy!

 

Fall Riding Begins

Rural southwest Virginia is a place of it’s own.  Beautiful?  Of course!  But every now and then you come across a property that is undeniably terrifying. One minute you’re cruising a rural  road and the next your flanked by rusty barbed wire fence containing property that doesn’t look habitable, but clearly someone resides there.  Especially going into the Halloween season, I’ll go ahead and obey the “no trespassing” signs.

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Megan on backcountry dirt roads
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Yeah!

Megan and I have adventured many of the back roads near our campground.  Some of these dirt roads must only see a handful of cars a day, making it very safe for easy riding.  We’ve also managed to find a dirt road which leads us to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is a great 1,000ft climb from our home.  Honestly, it’s been nice being able to hop on the bike and not worry about the cars.  I’m really looking forward to October as the leaves begin to change!

Coming up next!

Megan and I are saving the best for last in this 3 part series.  Megan has agreed to support me for an epic 85 mile solo ride from Peaks of Otter to Shenandoah National Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Also, we plan to hit Carvins Cove, which is a main attraction for mountain bikers of all skills, will be featured in our next episode.  Roanoke has an amazing scene for cycling!

 

Thanks for reading!

Bobby & Megan

 

Cycling Virginia – Part 1

Of course I’d have a post about cycling!  To be honest, when we left, I had no clue what things would look like in terms of riding my bike.  Megan more or less forced me to bring my road bike (stored in the under storage of the RV) plus we both brought our mountain bikes.  Considering the space all this bike stuff takes up, we have to get out regularly!

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Riding my bike around a campground

First of all, the mountain bikes are perfect for getting around campgrounds.  I’ve toured almost every campground on my bike so far.  It’s just a great way to get some fresh air and spin out my legs especially after traveling.

Our first major ride was in the Poverty Creek trail system, outside of Blacksburg, VA.  Neither Megan or I consider ourselves expert mountain bikers, so we kept it to the “easy” trails.  Easy!?  I think NOT.  We rode an out and back, single track trail for 10 miles, climbing 900ft.  We encountered plenty of obstacles, including large tree roots, rocks, mud, and water.  We had so much fun!  Each of us dumped our bikes one time, reminding us to stay humble even outside of our home state.   This trail system spurred out from Poverty Creek, into more challenging sections.  We decided the easy stuff was enough for us, this time around.  Maybe when we get some more mountain bike experience, or increase our level of “guts”, we’ll give the other trails a go.  Seriously though, very fun trail and definitely recommended!

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Megan making a splash at Poverty Creek Trail

Megan and I continued to visit this trail system a few times.  We even decided to ride our bikes to the trail (5 miles of gravel road from our campground) and then explore the singletrack.  The mountain bikes are such a great way to not only get a work out, but also put a smile on your face!

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SELFIE!

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Road biking in Virginia had me anxious before we left Colorado.  It is no secret that many motorists loathe road bikes, and I wasn’t sure what that picture would look like here.  For certain, I have much more to learn in terms of safe, well traveled routes in this region.  However, I couldn’t have been any luckier with a location just outside of Blacksburg.  The roads here are seldom used, often accessing farm land or other rural homes.  On one occasion, cycling northbound on Spruce Run Rd, I wasn’t overtaken by a car through 5 miles or riding.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that the road was absolutely stunning!  Pictures can’t describe the fresh air, the smell of the roadside vegetation,  and the sounds of a nearby creek.  I can honestly say this was some of the nicest riding I’ve done!  The only downside is the post ride review on strava, listing all the Virginia Tech cyclists records on the same route.  Basically, I’m a snail compared to them!

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Spruce Run Rd – Giles County VA

As indicated in the title of this post, I intend on posting more about cycling in this region.  If anyone has suggestions on routes, or how to find them, please let us know!

With Love,

– The Wrights

Cascade Falls, VA

On our last full day at New River Valley, we decided to take the trip up to Cascade Falls which was highly recommended by the campground owner.  We were not disappointed!

The hike is about four miles round trip, and not terribly difficult at all.  There is an upper and lower trail to get to the falls.  The lower trail was mostly inaccessible due to all the recent rain fall, so we stuck to the upper trail.  However, if I get a second chance to hike here, I’d take the lower as it follows the creek all the way to the falls.

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Bridge connecting the upper and lower trail

Along the trail, we found it to be extremely green and lush.  Many large trees gave us a canopy from the sun, and we found lots of moss, mushrooms, and other interesting vegetation along the way.   We kept Bojack on a short leash out of fear he might eat a mushroom or run through some tick infested brush.

 

 

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Dog friendly, but leash required

After climbing up the trail for 2 miles, we finally reached the falls.  Because it was a weekday, we pretty much were the only ones there.  My understanding from others is you can swim, but it is not suggested at this time due severe undercurrents.  Even though I hike in swim trunks, I heeded the advise of other trail users.

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Bobby chasing Bojack with the leash after his quick swim

This was our first decent hike since arriving, and it was very rewarding.  Absolutely a nice way to finish our time near Blacksburg!

Upon return, we grabbed some lunch at a local sandwich shop and made our way home to pack up.  Overall, a great day!  Highly recommended hike to those interested in exploring the area.

 

 

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The falls are about 65′ tall.  Pictures never do justice!
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Megan and I near the lower trail – the water was so refreshing!