Camp James cabin kitchen and wood stove. I miss this place.
Camp James cabin in Fries, Virginia. It’s located in a hollow which would be very dark and sometimes cold at night. I perfected the art of waking in the deep woods. First: open your eyes. If you can’t see your hand in front of your nose, close them again. Second: Once you can see something exhale. If you can’t see your breath, stay in bed. LOL!
I hike many miles along Virginia’s New River Trail. At 36-miles long, it’s one of America’s premier rail-to-trails along the oldest river in the United States. This is the New River Trail Fries Junction bridge.
If you hiked it in its entirety, you could expect to see cavernous tunnels, such as this one. After crossing the bridge and hiking for awhile I’d come to this tunnel. For some reason I thought it was fun to go through with my eyes closed.
The New River Trail offers many views of the rapids. I was in my glory hiking this trail.
Overlooking the New River is the historic Shot Tower which was built more than 150 years ago to make ammunition for the firearms for the early settlers. Lead from the nearby Austinville Mines was melted in a kettle atop the 75-foot tower and poured through a sieve, falling through the tower and an additional 75-foot shaft beneath the tower into a kettle of water. For a small fee, guests may ascend the tower. But this time I’ve usually done enough walking!
I also enjoy driving to Mabry Mill. Located on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s been photographed and painted many times, and you can see why. It’s enchanting.
Mabry Mill was originally built in 1910, and the historic water-powered grist mill, sawmill and nearby blacksmith shop provide a good view of pioneer life along the Parkway. Self-guided tours include a sorghum mill, soap making kettle, and an “old time” whiskey still being demonstrated by costumed volunteers. Afterwards you can eat buckwheat pancakes at their restaurant.
Virginia City Gem Mine was atop Walker Mountain near Wytheville. Treasure hunters young and old could spend time sifting through the mining past of this 1880s-style frontier town by panning for precious gems. There was sluice mining, picnicking, gift shopping, and exploring the history of gems were all part of the attraction. The scenery was beautiful and well worth the drive. I had a blast getting to sift through the sand to find minerals, gems and fossils, from a bucket I brought at the store.
Sadly, the Virginia City Mercantile was a victim of the economy and has been foreclosed. It was a wonderful family attraction.
Along the New River Trail somewhere in Fries.
Fairy Stone State Park, the largest of Virginia’s six original state parks, is home to “fairy stones.” The Legend of the Fairy Stone: Many hundreds of years before Chief Powhatan’s reign, fairies were dancing around a spring of water, playing with naiads and wood nymphs, when an elfin messenger arrived from a city far away. He brought news of the death of Christ. When these creatures of the forest heard the story of the crucifixion, they wept. As their tears fell upon the earth, they crystallized to form beautiful crosses.
At Wolf Creek Indian Village & Museum, in Bastian, VA, I experienced a re-created Village based on an actual archeological site. The village has been carbon dated to be nearly 800 years old, or around the year 1215 A.D.
And for my fellow Civil War affectionados, I visited the tranquil and beautiful place known as Laurel Hill. Birthplace of Civil War General J.E.B. Stuart, one of the most celebrated heroes of the Civil War, is nestled beneath the Blue Ridge Mountains in Ararat, NC. General Stuart once wrote in a letter to his brother in 1863 “I would give anything to make a pilgrimage to the old place, and when the war is over quietly spend the rest of my days there.” Tragically, on May 12th, 1864 his dream of returning to Laurel Hill ended with his death as a result of the wound he received during the engagement at Yellow Tavern the previous day.
I try to visit the 100′ tall Big Walker Lookout whenever I’m in the area. At an elevation of 3,405 feet, Big Walker Lookout affords one of the most spectacular views of the Appalachian Mountains.
On a clear day, you’ll even be able to see five states from the observation tower. I have!
The Edith Bolling Wison Birthplace opened since my previous visits into Wytheville and I was interested in visiting. She was #7 of 11 children. Both grandparents lived with them and 26 canaries and several dogs. Can you imagine the noise?! She is a direct decendant of Pocahontas and Martha Washington. All 11 children went to college. She was married to a jeweler in DC and after her husband died, she bought herself the first electric car in DC and drove herself to work. Even after marrying, and becoming first lady, she kept the store.
Skeeter’s is a very old, famous hot dog restaurant in downtown Wytheville. Honestly, the hot dogs are average, as is the service, but I went for the experience.
The journey to Beagle Ridge Herb Farm was so bad, I felt as if I needed a chiropractic adjustment afterwards. It was a lovely herb and butterfly garden.
I’ve had a few meals at the historic Log House 1776 Restaurant while in Wytheville. It’s a charming and unique restaurant set in an authentic log house. The oldest room dates from 1776, when the owner had to interrupt construction to go fight the Revolutionary war. It was home to a freed slave and a furniture factory before it became a restaurant.
Country store at Big Walker Mountain