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. 


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!


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

Shenandoah Crossings Resort, Gordonsville, Virginia

The Lodge

The Lodge – where we checked in.

We really didn’t know what we were getting into when we booked our time here! In our last post, we said we were rusty and yesterday, we could have rusted out! Our next post will explain further and will be about our hike to Jones Falls Trail in the Shenandoah National Park, off of Skyline Drive.

We pre-paid for a four day, three night resort stay in this BlueGreen Vacation property, allegedly located in the foothills of the Shenandoah National Park. We would be “refunded” our money for enduring a two hour presentation about the resort.  It was easy to tell we were not buyers as they had us fill out a questionnaire about our vacation styes and preferences. We have lived on “vacation” for the past two years! So for our punishment, they made us endure a full three hours.  However, we will say that the presentation was excellent – but really more for young families. They missed the mark with us and retirees should exempt from the program. However, we did see lots of retirees here. Maybe they will share it with their families….but for us, it would not be cost effective.

Our view

Our view from our backyard

We were also rusty in that we didn’t really scope out the area. We usually know exactly what we will be able to do when we pick an area to stay. And we usually check the weather so we know when the best days are to hike. But for us, we ended up only being able to hike on our day three due to our obligatory two three hour presentation. It turned out to be a bad weather day we learned once we hit the Shenandoah National Park!

Cabin next door

Cabin next door

To see our complete photo album about Shenandoah Crossings, you can visit it here, on Flickr.

So with that all said, here are the pros, cons and review of the resort and campground.

Pros:  There are a lot of activities on site for children, probably from ages 2 to 17. Most are shown in our photo album on Flickr, but in summary, Putt Putt, swimming pool, splash park, playgrounds, horse back riding, tennis, tether ball, corn hole, horse shoes and more. We did see people on bicycles but they were struggling as it is hilly. There are several laundry rooms, but you probably have to drive to them, unless you are in the campground. Best part, they are FREE! Wow, what a deal.

If you don’t have pets and really don’t appreciate dogs barking and cats meowing (or pigs squealing as our neighbors had last week) this place is for you. We noticed no dog poop to walk around, but then we hit the horse manure….but that’s under the cons….If you love wine and wine tastings, this is also a great location. That’s about the main thing to do close by if you want an outside activity from the resort.

We can speak about our cabin, it has everything you would want for a great cabin camping experience. Really nice towels for bathroom, kitchen and the pool. Comfortable beds with linens and pillows. The kitchen is fully stocked with utensils, dishes, cook ware, outdoor grill with all utensils (they are under the sink), paper towels, dish soap, dishwasher soap, salt and pepper shaker, even two servings of delicious coffee grounds. You just need to bring your own aluminum foil, baggies, etc., condiments and food. Nicely appointed and it looks like a working wood fireplace. We didn’t try it.

Swimming Pools area

Cons:  Our big deal is to be able to take nice walks and long hikes. Our first day here, we didn’t see the on-site hiking or walking trails. It looked like you would have to walk on the road and most vehicles seem to exceed the 15 mph speed limits. Day 2, I was desperate for a walk and said I did see people walking around the laundry area (near the stables). So the good news is that we managed a challenging three mile hike around the campground (where I took most of the photos), but the bad news is that a good stretch of it meant we had to tip toe around horse manure. On day three, we did have to drive to the Shenandoah National Park for a great hike…but it took us 1 1/2 hour to drive 64 miles to the trail head we selected. That was a real bummer as it was advertised as being in the foothills.



If you want to eat out, it was recommended to drive to Charlottesville. It is at least 30 minutes to get there. This is a very rural area, so the speed limits and roads dictate you don’t go anywhere fast. We don’t enjoy eating out, so we had to pick between Walmart Super Store or a Food Lion to shop for groceries. We had no idea they had such a nice grill, so off we went for steaks, etc. It took at least 30 minutes to go 16 miles to go to Walmart. We thought it would have more variety. We were pleased with our rib eye steaks, corn on the cob, baked potatoes (I had a sweet one), mushrooms, onions and fresh salad. For our second night, we brought an easy meal. And our third night, Bill bought a frozen pizza and I had left over homemade manicotti (made by our son in law) with fresh salads.

And of course, if your pets are like your children, you can’t come here. In fact, if pets were allowed, our daughter and family would have joined us for a day or two. We were told, NO PETS. But then when we walked around the campground, we saw several there.

RV Campground:  It looked deluxe, but pricey. All sites were flat, concrete pads, outdoor grills, picnic tables and some had hot tubs (presidential suite). Great area for children and within a short walk to the swimming pools, splash park, Fitness Center, General Store and more.

Campground Site

RV Campground

Would we return here? No, it’s not for us. But was it nice and would we recommend it? Only if you fully understood what you were getting into.  So our lesson learned? Let’s go back to scripture as we usually bathe our travels in prayer….

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.”