Before I took off down the Crooked Road, I visited Stone Mountain State Park in North Carolina.
It was wet and cold. Even the butterflies were huddling together for warmth.
There are plenty of trails to hike at this park so on Tuesday morning I explored a few.
From the upper parking lot near the campground a short hike will lead you to Stone Mountain Falls. Along with plenty of warning signs.
OK. I got it.
At this point the trail turns to slick granite.
I was nervous about losing my footing, sliding down the rock and breaking through the fence. I walked very carefully. Then the trail changed again.
To stairs. Lots of stairs.
Which led to a viewing platform about 1/3 of the way down the waterfall.
I looked up.
I looked down.
And then walked back up the stairs.
No elevators here. But I did find an old chimney.
I drove down to the lower parking lot in search of the park's namesake rock. Stone Mountain. A 600 foot high hunk of granite. I got lost so I asked a local for directions.
Couldn't quite make out what she said but I found it anyway. After just a few more stairs.
I passed by another local on my way back to camp.
The rain was starting up again so I grabbed my umbrella and walked the 88 sites, of which numbers 40-80 offer water and electricity. Of those, a couple of my favorites were 55 and 75.
40 mph winds blew the rain away on Tuesday night and dropped the temperature into the mid 20's.
Wednesday dawned cold and clear.
I packed up and left, heading north for Virginia. Only one stop in North Carolina right now, but plenty more in the fall along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The roads were nice and crooked, the way I like them.
Turns out I wasn't the only one who thought so.
Banjo music. Hmm.
I glimpsed a nice view of the mountains before I arrived at my first Virginia State Park.
Here is the backstory from the park info sheet.
"Legend has it that when Indians destroyed several settlements on the New River south of the park, Molly Marley and her small child were among the survivors taken to the raiders' base north of the park. Molly and her child eventually escaped, wandering through the wilderness eating berries and tacos. Molly finally collapsed and her child wandered down the creek looking for help. The only words the child could utter were "Hungry Mother". When the search party arrived at the foot of the mountain where she had collapsed, they found Molly dead. Today the mountain is Molly's Knob and the stream Hungry Mother Creek. When the park was developed in the 1930's the creek was dammed to form Hungry Mother Lake."
In her honor, I made a batch of tacos soon after arriving.
Yes, I am wearing my down parka. Supervised by a duck.
Little does he know it's not a far stretch from chicken to duck tacos.
I also found a neat place to hang my lights on the awning.
They are mini Coleman lanterns housing an LED. Had them for years but could never find a place for them on my tent.
I walked the campground Thursday morning because I knew it would be filling up for the Easter Weekend on Friday.
There are 82 sites here in three separate camping areas.
Camp Burson is just below the dam and has full hookup sites sprinkled in the mix.
I liked 37 and 44 best.
I stayed in Camp B which had water and electricity only. Sites 12, 14, 16, and 19 are right alongside Hungry Mother Creek. I nabbed number 14.
This is number 16.
Camp C across the road is geared towards tent campers, offering decks along the hillside, like 4 and 11.
Hungry Mother is both a base and destination campground. It close to the Blue Ridge Parkway and stuffed full with it's own amenities. I checked them out on Friday.
I followed the creek from my campsite down to the lake.
The bridge you see in the middle photo above leads to an island housing the amphitheater.
The bridge also offers a good view of the variety of boat rentals offered.
Nearby is a restaurant, picnic shelters, the beach and a snack bar open in the summer.
There are so many good spots to take a family photo here that I asked one of the rangers what they would suggest for a location.
She said they had a spot just for that.
The campground seems to have everything, even the kitchen sink.
Yep, piping hot water to wash your dishes. There is also wifi and laundry facilities.
It is also expensive. For my three night stay I got back less than a buck in change from a hundred dollar bill.
By Friday afternoon all the creekside spots were full.
I kicked back with Bag O'Laundry (she has lost some weight) and watched my new neighbors build a dam.
Not sure that is allowed but I was a kid once too. I told them to pretend they were beavers if a ranger stopped by.
I lit up my lights as darkness fell.
Here is a hot tip. When you make a reservation at a Virginia State Park it is not site-specific. BUT, starting next year they are implementing a pilot program at a few parks that includes Hungry Mother.
Sites B12, B14, B16, and B19 are now site specific. So if you want to snap up one of these beauties for next year make your reservations NOW.
On Saturday I headed about 80 miles up Interstate 81 to Claytor Lake State Park.
After setting up camp, I watched the sunset through the trees.
With my lights twinkling away. They enjoyed the view as well.
There are 108 sites here in four loops. A, B, and C contain standard sites and loop D has water and electricity for it's 40 sites.
Those 40 sites were full on Sunday (I had made reservations) so I explored the park's features, figuring I would take site photos on Monday when most folks had cleared out.
And there are plenty of features here, centered around the lake.
A fancy picnic area.
A marina, big boat ramp, and store.
A swim house stands watch over a beautiful sandy beach.
The crowd was mostly gone by Monday so I checked out the campground. here are some examples.
Loop A 22.
Loop B 4.
Loop C 6.
Loop D has pull-through sites like number 22.
As well as back-in sites like mine, number 3.
Regards, Park Ranger
That's all for now. Stay tuned for a few more great Virginia campgrounds in next post!