When no words are necessary
Westmoreland State Park, Virginia
Since we are still under self-quarantine, stay at home orders, I am traveling through places we have visited before and would like to visit again. We visited this state park one Saturday after taking a leisurely drive along back roads of the Potomac River. Since it is my goal to stay in every state park in the state of Virginia, this visit does not count towards that adventure. It was my plan to make this park my first stay of the camping season and to actually stay in a cabin this time. Being campers we mostly tent camp, which -by the way is not as ancient and primitive as it use to be. But since the Spring in Virginia can be quite unpredictable with rains, winds and temperatures; a cabin or camper is the most stable way to ‘stay’ in the park in early Spring and late Fall.
This park has some of the best views of the Potomac. While some cabins are secluded in wooded areas, there are many that are overlooking the Potomac with screen porches and this is what I am hoping to capture whenever we get a chance to stay. This park also boasts an olympic-sized pool and beach! It is not a large park but it packs a mighty punch. There are a couple of beaches with one of the beaches being at the end of a mile long trail –downhill. This small beach is called Fossil Beach and is known for ‘sharks teeth’. You will find people walking and searching for them constantly. The beach is also accessible via kayak. The walk down to the beach is not bad unless you carry a lot of stuff with you and have to lug it back up. Trust me, if I can make down there, almost anyone can!! And I lived to tell the story.
There are plenty of trails of varying degrees and an overlook at Turkey Run trail which also intersects with the trail to the beach. Fossil Beach is not a large beach. The main beach is accessible by vehicle and has plenty of parking but do suspect it could get crowded sometimes. Where there is sand and water, Virginians will play all day. There are picnic tables and some trees for a break from the sun, kayak rentals, boat dock, eatery, a picnic shelter over the Potomac and a group cabin –all right there on the beach. I did see people walking to the beach from a cabin. Just be aware that the descent down to this beach is steep and most people drive it.
On this day, we hiked and walked, and sat overlooking the spans of the Potomac River while observing the wildlife. This is a great spot to bird watch if you are into it. I listened and tried to figure out what birds were there by their songs/call. The visitor’s center over looks the Potomac as well and is located on the ridge above the cliffs. There is a really nice play-park for children. This park is shaded and has plenty of picnic areas and is close to the bathrooms. It is also walking distance from the cabins that are overlooking the river.
When this park is re-opened, I plan to hike, walk, swim, picnic, read, blog, sit by a fire, smile at the sunrise, enjoy the laughter and glee of children and families and enjoy the company of my husband of 30 years. Interestingly whenever we camp, he becomes the chef mostly. But if there is electricity, there is always that favorite small appliance called … crock pot or slow cooker.
There is nothing better setting out on an adventure that will take you away from the hustle and bustle of city movement and into the calm of the woods and countryside. You pull out your checklist, you plan, and make sure you will have everything you need to have a successful and fun adventure with all the bells and whistles.
Keep reading as I tell you a story about a man and a woman who did just that.
Once upon a time, there was a woman who decided that since her children were fully mature and considered grown, she would begin to finally live the type of life she had always dreamed. Between military life and exceptional family members, she had to become the person her family needed but that underlying wild and free spirit never died.
Two week prior to the camping trip, they began to check the weather every day. When it was finally 7 days out they could see rain in the forecast. But as the week drew on, they could see that it was not predicted to rain in the area where the campground was located. The rainfall was predicted to be heavy at home but only a little wind at the campsite.
On the day of the trip, they could hardly contain their excitement as they packed the truck the Thursday before and did a last minute Wal-Mart run at 5:00 am. They jetted off to work a half day and then off they were on the two hour drive to the destination –Pocahontas State Park, Virginia!
Just as it was forecasted, they soon ran out of the rain and into crisp blue skies. They would have just enough time to get the tent set up before darkness would fall. Each time they went camping they could define a little more of who would take care of what duties and responsibilities and what needed to be tag teamed. Setting up the tent was a tag team effort as they had a fairly large tent.
Arriving at the park, dusk was settling fast as the days were growing shorter. They stopped for a late lunch so they would not have to cook as soon as they got things set up. The tent was set up in record time now that she could identify the difference in the poles and the proper direction for the fly tarp that goes over the top of the tent. But her favorite part of the setup is glamping out the inside of the tent. His favorite part was building the first huge fire and cooking over it. It is at precisely this point, this early into the adventure that things begin to get interesting. He suddenly remembers that he did not pack the air mattress or the cots and she remembers that the nice heavy quilt is on the back of the couch! Fully dark and with a fire blazing, another trip to Wal-Mart was imminent. They would have to get an air mattress but they had fleece snuggies that would keep them warm for the weekend.
Back from an interesting ride to find the Wal-Mart via Google maps and a new blazing fire and a hot toddy going, they settled in for some soft music and down time. The hour was almost 10 pm, and cloud cover was beginning to cover the stars and occasionally the moon. She decided to go to bed and read a magazine for little while before drifting off to sleep. Sometime later she awakens to her husband gingerly crawling into bed beside her. They lay chatting for a while and planning the next day’s excursions when they noticed that the wind picked up considerably outside and it felt like the temperatures were dropping. Sound of the wind gently swaying the tent soon put them both to sleep. But around 1 am, she woke up freezing! Apparently there was a cold front moving through with some severe winds. He got up and checked the weather again on his phone. In that way that wifey way that wives can read their husband, she knew something was amiss. Turning to her, he asked if she happened to bring any other clothes than her Virginia Beach clothes. She sat up fully alert now and asked said yeah why? Frowning he said, ‘we have a Nor’easter storm blowing through and while there is no rain in the forecast, the winds are expected to be severe and temperatures will get down to 28 degrees.
Doing what the retired military wife does best, … innovate. Leggings under flannel pjs and a cowl neck sweater and fuzzy hat were donned. The picnic blanket made from denim was placed on the bed and the electric heater was set at the foot of the bed. It was cold but they were cozy … until -the wind shifted and the cold northerly winds now blew under the fly tarp and straight into tent. It felt like they were on the ground outside. The husband grew very concerned for his wife and suggested that he take her to a hotel. She refused. After all wasn’t this an adventure? They barely slept but as the day dawned, the winds subsided. He rose to make coffee on the small stove inside the tent and that little stove warmed them considerably. But they would have to come up with a plan if they were going to stay another night as the winds were predicted to continue to blow in gusts throughout the weekend. The final decision was to find a surplus store and buy a huge tarp and some clamps to place over the fly tarp but long enough to reach down the tent so that the wind would not get under it. The plan worked beautifully but the tent looked like they were homeless! When they rode around the campground, they found that only they and the Boy Scouts were foolishly camping in a tent. At least they had electric and water hookups. Everyone else was in some type of an RV. The good thing about that was that the bathhouses were deserted but wonderfully warm and a long supply of hot water. They did enjoy a day of hiking and sight seeing around the park. That evening due to the high winds, no fire was lit but she still had a surprise for her husband. She had purchased a refurbished crock pot while at the surplus store and an electric blanket. She put on a pot of white chicken chili before they went hiking and tent smelled wonderful when they return.
But thy knew they would have to get prepared for night time when the temps were expected to drop into the 30’s and wind gusts would be quite strong. She remade the bed and added the blanket she picked up. It was a blah gray but it would serve its purpose. She also re-positioned the floor mats and rug. He made sure the tent was secure and set up the small propane heater and small propane tanks that he bought a few months earlier and they never used it but they always had it because it was packed with all the other camping equipment. She climbed into bed to read of course and he came to lie down after he finished a few other chores. He snuggled down under the covers and remarked how warm the bed was. He would wake up later that night in a full sweat and started undressing. They turned off the small propane heater aptly named ‘My Buddy’ and she suggested they turn to electric blanket down to low. He had no idea it was an electric blanket. The following morning, they slept in and made a breakfast of shrimp and grits (the perfect camping food right?). They described this trip as awesome and exhilarating and courageous. They learned more about each other and themselves. They also found that they really would like to have an RV -travel trailer. They already know which one but that will be in a follow up post.
After packing everything back into their bins, they would headed back to Virginia Beach where the skies were darker as they arrived and soon they were in full fledged rain and winds. They scrambled inside and made a fire in the fireplace and had pizza while they talked and laughed and reminisced over the memories that were made and the priceless experience that was had. They decided that the only thing they would change about the weekend was … nothing. A few lessons were learned but they had the best time ever!
We love to go camping. About 10 years ago we bought a tent, packed some food and grabbed our teenagers and headed for the nearest state park. Actually it was not the nearest but nonetheless it was less than an hour from home. Well, our teenagers just could not grasp the idea of why we had to actually stay overnight and the fact that it was more work than they anticipated. Fishing was only mildly interesting and walking to the bath house in the middle of the night was insane to them. The dog was not amused either. Every noise had that poor dog on high alert. She did not sleep the entire weekend. So we never went camping again until this year. We (minus the teenager and dogs)packed our 10 year old tent and other rusting camping equipment and headed off to a “safe” park to camp. It was less than an hours drive from home and close to a store yet still having a secluded feeling.
Now that we have been on five camping trips this year, I often find myself pondering why we like camping. This question especially comes to mind when someone asks ‘what did you do this weekend?’ My response would be ‘ oh we went camping.’ Then you get the weird incredible look because as the story develops it’s does sound strange. ‘Wasn’t it raining, cold, windy, hot, humid, deer season, bear activity, bugs, snakes, prowler, murders … you name it, we’ve been asked. So now I began to pose the question to myself, why did you spend quite a bit of money to be comfortable living outside in the woods when you pay a mortgage to ‘not’ be outside in the woods?
My answer is actually quite different from my stud muffin’s answer. I like being outside and I particularly like trees. Yup, I like trees … the tall green plants with leaves and bark. I love walking through creation and noticing all the wonder. I equally like to run away from work-life and adult responsibilities and enjoy some solitude and quiet. No music, tv, radio, noise by phone, nothing. I can sit in my tent with my books and listen to the rain on my tent for an entire weekend without going anywhere or seeing other people. I stare at the wander, I read, I sleep, I eat, I pray, I walk, I ride my bike, I think on lovely things and I stare at my handsome stud. Stud on the other hand enjoys music and constantly moving around flitting from one project to another. I write and reflect. We walk mostly in silence -me in my thoughts and he in his music, hand in hand. I am recharged, I am grateful and refreshed. Ready to head back to civilization for two more weeks before it is time to ‘come away to a quiet place and rest.
When we go camping, we see tons of people camping. We have yet to find another family or friend who likes camping. Either we know some strange people or we ARE the strange people 😂