Jones Run Falls Trail, Shenandoah National Park


It’s been over two months since we’ve had a great mountain hike. So we were chomping at the bit to get back to one of our favorite places to hike, the Shenandoah National Park.  Since we were rusty, we didn’t plan to maximize our time for the hike. But as it turned out, our Lord knew best and HE ordered our steps on this date (September 2, 2015).

We're on Interstate 64, headed from Gordonsville to the Shenandoah National Park

We’re on Interstate 64, headed from Gordonsville to the Shenandoah National Park

We love hiking in this park. We’ve hiked here many times and it may be one of our favorite go to places for excellent hiking. In fact, we’ve driven the entire distance of the scenic Skyline Drive in our truck, pulling our 5th wheel. Read about the start of that trip here.  While we loved the experience, relished the beauty and fabulous panoramic views, we learned it’s not really ideal for RVs for a few reasons. Although we met others in their campers, actually dry camping there and we did think for a few minutes how cool that would be. But we’re addicted to our full hook ups (water, sewer and electricity).

Main reason we wouldn’t do it again or recommend it for motor homes,  are the very winding roads and the impatience of other drivers. The speed limit is normally 35 mph (for 100 mile trip, that’s a bit slow) but people push 45 easily. The Blue Ridge Parkway further south, into North Carolina, is 45 mph for the most part. And it is every bit as beautiful.

A little description about of these scenic drives, as they get mixed up (and we were mixed up) until we drove the entire length of the Skyline (Virginia) and parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina for simplicity). These are certainly some of the most beautiful roads in America! Starting at Front Royal Virginia, just 75 miles from Washington, DC, you drive south west for the next one hundred and five (105) miles down to I-64. This is called the Skyline Drive and is on the “top of the world” in the Shenandoah National Park on top of what’s called the Appalachian Mountains.

The building of the Skyline Drive was started in the middle of the summer in July 1931 and was one of the first scenic highways ever built in the United States. After you drive the 105 miles of The Skyline Drive you will then be on The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) which has a forty five (45) mile-an-hour speed limit and continues south west for the next Four Hundred and seventy (470) miles to Cherokee North Carolina. We’ve only driven and hiked on portions of this fabulous drive. Here we are on a favorite hike at the top of the BRP.

The highest point on the parkway (south of Waynesville, near Mount Pisgah in North Carolina) is 6053 feet or above sea level on Richland Balsam Mountain at Milepost 431

The highest point on the parkway (south of Waynesville, near Mount Pisgah in North Carolina) is 6053 feet or above sea level on Richland Balsam Mountain at Milepost 431

And since I have it handy, one of our clearest days to show the type of panoramic views from a top of the Appalachian Mountains. Sadly, the weather was a bit gloomy to get a great picture on this day.

Our favorite view!

Our favorite view!

For this trip, we really hoped for at least a six mile hike to a beautiful water fall. There are 75 waterfalls off of Skyline Drive, and all are accessed via outstanding hikes. As we were on our way to Mile Post 84, we saw a bolt of lightening. Then we looked at our GPS which shows radar and weather. Thunderstorms predicted by 4 pm. It was only 1:00 so we decided we had time for a good hike, but decided we better not go for a long hike. I quickly looked at the map we were given when we entered the park.  There is a fee to enter the park, but it is FREE for us now that Bill has an “America the Beautiful” pass.  Bill remembered seeing there was a waterfall at Jones Falls Run, Mile Post 81. So we pulled over there as soon as we saw it. At least we would hike to a beautiful, but smaller waterfall at 32′. We had hoped anyway. 

SouthernSkylineDrive

We were aiming for Mile Post 81, but stopped at MP 84

We stopped and examined the trailhead map. One thing we love about this park is how well it’s marked and the quality maps provided when you enter the park. It looked like we would get in at least 4 miles and it was a pretty steep descent, about 1,000 feet, meaning a rough ascent but that is what we like  – a challenge. We prefer to start low and go high, but not today! Either way it is a challenge.

Trailhead for Jones Run Falls

Trailhead for Jones Run Falls

When we arrived at the parking lot, there was a Minnie Winnie Class C motorhome and one car. Hiking during the week means you will see fewer people, which we always love – solitude. So down we began our ascent. Starting out, it was a nice path, but it began to get rocky and lots of roots. That always makes it more challenging. A family of five approached us, a mom, dad and three girls, ages about 8 to 14. They said they couldn’t make it to the falls as they had to get the girls home. They looked pretty beat, so we knew the return hike would be a challenge.

Starting off easy

Starting off easy

It wasn’t long before we saw the owners of the Minnie Winnie, a husband, wife and their dog. They also said they didn’t make it to the falls. We thought this was strange as it was only two miles there. So we kept on, enjoying the solitude. We were approaching two miles when we ran into two college students from Prague, Czechoslovakia. There we on their last holiday before their senior year. They first visited New York City and wanted to hike on this trail! We asked them if they saw the falls. They said they had, but they did the entire hike from MP 84 and saw the Doyles River Falls. By now, we realized the Jones Falls must be dried up! We enjoyed talking to them but they said they needed to finish their trail as they were on a much longer hike and the weather was beginning to turn.

Jones Falls Run

Dried up!

We use “Map my Hike” GPS tracker so it soon advised us we had completed two miles. The falls were supposed to be at 1.7 miles, so we knew it had dried up. We really felt good and decided we would go on at least another 1/2 mile for a full five mile hike. But within a minute, we heard a loud crack of lightening! We’ve been caught in a storm in the past. We were not prepared for this, we we immediately turned and began a fast pace back, up up up the mountain. The lightening kept us motivated. But we hit a few very rocky areas and could only go but so fast.

Bill going strong! But in the very rocky area.

Bill going strong! But i the very rocky area.

Ah, but the ascent caught up to me and had to take a break, just 1/2 mile from the top. And of course, I am praying for the Lord to protect us. We could handle getting wet, but not stuck by lightening!

IMG_7764

Just had to take a quick break! We were flying UP hill!

So in the end, we were a-ok and made it into the car safely. But it wasn’t 10 minutes when the heavens opened up and a serious storm started!

For our complete photo album, click here to Flickr.

“O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever.” Psalms 107:1

The Journey to Bristol, Tennessee and beyond….


We have to include a selfie of us enjoying this day to the fullest!

We have to include a selfie of us enjoying this day in Bristol to the fullest!

We have embraced the full time RV lifestyle. And we appreciate being retired, not being in the daily grind. But for whatever reason, it seems we have been in the daily grind since May 2, 2015 (day our truck was totaled).  However, on April 24, we also received very sad family news. The news helped us keep things in perspective….A dear relative was given the news of a terminal illness with only months to live.  We were so blessed to be in the area twice since then, so we were able to go visit him. And of course, we’re praying for more opportunities….

But since May 2, while it has been all a constant stress and strain, it’s all working out to the good: buying and selling our homes on wheels, having the insurance claim settlement over the wreck of our truck (no injuries), learning how to drive a 40′ Class A motor home, buying a car that can be “flat towed” and not being able to find anyone to configure the car to be towed, taking a two week “side” trip in our car up to Illinois to visit Bill’s family to help begin the process of his mother moving into assisted living…and then about 10 days of our motor home being in and out of the shop for repairs.

So with all that stress, we had hoped after we left Red Bay, we would enjoy our travels to our next destination, and in our dream motor home….And as with most RVers, we prefer to only go 200-250 miles a day. And we’d love to stay at least a week at each location. But there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for this luxury. We at least kept our drive at our limits while we strategically stayed in locations on the way to enjoy the journey.

From Red Bay, AL, to Jasper and Bristol, TN, to Waynesboro, and finally Fredericksburg, VA

From Red Bay, AL, to Jasper and Bristol, TN, to Waynesboro, and finally Fredericksburg, VA. Allegedly 780 miles.

We were heading back to Fredericksburg, Virginia to spend time our grandson, await the birth of our next grandchild (due August 15, 2015) and help our very pregnant daughter and her husband prepare the nursery.

As we wrote in our last blog, ““No More Doubts” we thought we were now comfortable with our new home on wheels. Well, maybe we spoke to soon! Let’s just say, the trip to Bristol was pretty harrowing because of a terrible weather system, coincidently a tropical depression named “Bill.”  Heavy rains and high winds.

After about 100 miles on our way from Jasper to Bristol, Tennessee, we stopped to fill up while we also sought refuge from the weather.  So we also  desperately looked for a campground nearby. It was too grueling to drive in the heavy rains and wind. But we were also short on time….we wanted to get to Bristol as we knew it had lots of great places to hike and explore….so the rain finally let up and Bill said, “let’s press on.” So we did and we were so glad. We found a real gem in Bristol!

We love learning about the history of our nation but also about more current things to help make our country, and it’s landscape, better. We had no idea what we would learn or stumble on in Bristol, Tennessee. Of course, we knew about the National Forests (so great hiking) and the speedway, but fortunately, while Bill is a “car guy” he’s not really into watching races….We love nature and the outdoors, so that is where we focus.  Tennessee is famous for it’s great hikes and water falls. Sadly, there weren’t any hikes close enough for us to try during our short stay. But we discovered something interesting about the Tennessee Valley Authority and where we went, we had a blast!

Bill discovered there was an island nearby – how could we resist seeing an island near mountains? So off we went to Osceola Island….not realizing, it was near a dam and that’s where we found a real gem! So after a stroll around the island, and looking at a strange sight, we learned so much…The strange sight was an earth and rock dam, 285 feet high and 1,600 feet long, with a generating capacity of 38,500 kilowatts.

We had no idea we were in such a strategic location, either.  The South Holston Dam is located 50 miles above the South Fork Holston River’s confluence with the North Fork Holston River (which forms the Holston River proper). The dam site is situated in an area where the river descends out of the Appalachian Mountains and enters the upper Holston Valley. The dam and the Tennessee half of its reservoir are surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest, and the Virginia half of the reservoir is surrounded by the Jefferson National Forest. The reservoir includes parts of Sullivan County in Tennessee and Washington County in Virginia. The city of Bristol straddles the Tennessee-Virginia border a few miles northwest of South Holston Dam. So what is unique about this dam?

In 1991, TVA built a weir (a unique structure that if you arrive at the right time, you will see multiple ‘water falls’ ) below South Holston Dam to add oxygen to the river when the hydropower plant isn’t generating electricity. Oxygen-rich water helps create a sustained habitat for aquatic insects, vegetation, and fish.

South Holston Reservoir is on the South Fork Holston River in northeast Tennessee. It extends 24 miles east of the dam into Virginia. Construction of the dam began in 1942 but was halted in favor of other wartime construction efforts. Building resumed in 1947 and was completed in 1950.

South Holston is operated for several purposes, including flood damage reduction, power production, aquatic ecology, and augmentation of the flow of water during drier periods.

The South Fork Holston River is home to an annual spring migration of white bass. Locals say that when the serviceberry and dogwood bloom, the white bass run.

A footbridge from the parking lot below the dam leads to Osceola Island and its one-mile-loop wildlife trail. Early in the morning or late in the evening are the best times to sight waterfowl, deer, and other wildlife.

We said we will have to come back to this area….we were only there for two nights.  Here are a few pictures from the Shadrack RV campground (and our review), the view when we left church on Sunday, our drive to Osceola Island and finally the South Holston Dam. To see more, click here to see more photos of this beautiful location on Flickr.

After this quick stay, we then headed to Waynesboro, Virginia, approximately 245 miles, where we again stayed for only two nights. Fortunately, even though we traveled on Interstate 85, the beautiful weather made this leg of the journey more tolerable. But Bill has decided he hates being the slowest vehicle on the road and being passed by other vehicles as big and bigger than we are.  At least, this is another great area, near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Mountains. So he had to focus on the prize!

While we thought the campground was pricey, and no discounts, it was satisfactory. To read our review, click here.

This time, we were close enough to some great hikes, so we just decided to look for the best possible hike. We absolutely love the Virginia Appalachian Mountains, because we are so familiar with them and there are such great views and usually great water falls. We selected White Rock Falls Trail, which would be a 5 mile round trip hike. We didn’t realize it also met up with the Torry Ridge Trail, which is where we ended up hiking to. These trails were off of Mile Post 18.5 off the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). We learned you have no cell service or GPS on the BRP so I couldn’t use our “Map My Hike” app.

We have no idea how far we actually hiked as we went beyond the initial Falls Trail we started on. We had a great hike, but the falls were disappointingly small, in fact, we went beyond them because we couldn’t imagine they were the 30′ falls we read in the description of the hike.

We had to find something beautiful, after all, we were in the Appalachian mountains! So up we went and what a work out in the end. And the reward was well worth it. Here are a few pictures of this hike:

 

We didn’t mention, this whole journey also included numerous conversations with Tiffin Service Center. One of the main reasons we felt we needed to upgrade to a motor home was to have a washer and dryer. We are so active and on the go, we need to not waste precious time waiting for washers and dryers! And we had seriously downsized our wardrobe for our “extra lite” and very small 5th wheel. So long story short, while we paid too much to have a 5 year old washer fixed, Tiffin was only trying to save us money. In the end, the aggravation and the fact I did have to wait to do laundry, they refunded us all our money on the repair. We’re now waiting on our special order and we sure hope it works out!

So now our focus is on our arrival to the Fredericksburg, VA area and at least two months with our grandson and his parents! We will help get the nursery ready for his sibling, paint the guest room, and just help around the house while we enjoy our little lad, Colin!

Normally, he comes running when we pick him up from day care. This day, he wanted to keep climbing!

Normally, he comes running when we pick him up from day care. This day, he wanted to keep climbing!

Next up, we will celebrate our one year anniversary as full-timers. We sold our “dream” Florida pool home on July 16, 2014. We don’t miss it at all!

North Fork RV Resort, Front Royal, VA 5/1-5/2/2014


Entrance to the National Park. There is a $10 fee for 7 days use. Once you hit 62, you just pay $10 for a lifetime pass. Something to look forward to....

Entrance to the National Park. There is a $10 fee for 7 days use. Once you hit 62, you just pay $10 for a lifetime pass. Something to look forward to….

We lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia from 1996 – 2004, but never visited this quaint town before now. In fact, we didn’t start really enjoying the Shenandoah Valley or the Appalachian Mountains until our last year there.  We discovered hiking in July 2003 and loved it – but we moved to Florida in November 2004.

So now was our chance to go back and enjoy some great memories and hike!  And we planned to drive the entire Skyline Drive, which we mistakenly thought was also the Blue Ridge Parkway, which near the Virginia/ North Carolina state line.  Our ultimate destination for this trip was to meet friends at Campfire Resorts in Asheville, NC.

The North Fork RV Resort, part of Passport America’s discount program,  so the price was great and the location perfect for what we wanted to do.  BUT we were pretty shocked at the resort and the front office staff when you either call to make your reservation or when you arrive.  They were not friendly or welcoming.  We now see how important this first impression is and how it sets the tone for your stay.  But first a few positive statements: the price was perfect and the location was great – oh, I already said that….OK for the cons:  This is an owner operated resort so we don’t think they really like “visitors.”  We were clumped in one area and there was not much room for parking our truck. Fortunately, it was off season so we had room, but for some reason, our second night there, we had a neighbor right next door and then we saw how there really was not much room!  Funny, there were so many empty spots, why put someone right next to us? And RULES and SIGNS every where telling you what you could and couldn’t do. I should have taken a picture of a few of them….It was more annoying than any thing and we vowed to not stay here again….

Here is a slide-show of our drive there and then at the RV resort:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had a GREAT time as the below slide show reflects.  We were close to the entrance to the National Park which was ideal.  We paid $10 for unlimited entrance to the park for 7 days. It is our plan to drive the Skyline Drive to North Carolina, so we would have had to pay the fee then anyway.

So here are pictures of our first afternoon – the benefit of a short drive to a location!  We had all afternoon to hike! We hiked what is called “Fox Hollow” and Snead Farm, for a total of 5.5 miles! We saw lots of deer and learned more about the history of how the National Park “took” over the homes of about 450 mountain resident families. What we visited at the remains of a barn and root cellar. Learn more here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next day, we decided to visit the Shenandoah Caverns in the morning and hike in the afternoon. We loved the Luray Caverns, so why not? We read the reviews and they said not as nice, but we figured how bad could they be? Maybe a bit pricey and not as cold! We did enjoy them, but Luray Caverns were definitely bigger!  I log how long our hikes are, so even monitored it in the Caverns, which was a total of 1.8 miles!  Then we hiked to the Fort Windham Rocks for another 2.4 miles.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So while we are here, it has only been a day since we saw Colin, we still received an updated picture of him! I think he misses us already!
ColinMay2

Loving being in the mountains!
Psalm 125:2 “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore.”