2018 – Sightseeing Wytheville, VA and area

Our stay in the Wytheville, VA area was a brief one but we enjoyed looking around the area. We took a short drive to nearby Austinville, VA. This community has a strong Texas connection because it is the birthplace of Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas.” There’s a small park there: the Stephen F. Austin Memorial Park. Austin led the group of families to Texas forming what is known as the “First 300” and he had a major role in Texas becoming a Republic.

Also near Austinville along I77 is Shot Tower Historical State Park. The park itself is small and tours are made by appointment only. According to records it was the first factory to mass produce shot on American soil. The tower is 75 feet tall with a shaft beneath it adding another 75 feet to the structure. Melted lead was pulled to the top of the tower using block and tackle. It was then poured through giant sieves. As it fell it cooled, forming musket “shot.” A tunnel at the bottom of the shaft connected to the nearby river and water from the river cushioned the newly formed lead balls as they fell into a large pot. The musket balls were retrieved by workmen from the bottom, dried and polished either on site or at a nearby town. It operated from 1807-1839.

This area is lush and green from all the rain this summer. We drove one of the many scenic byways, enjoying the forest and winding roads all the way up to the top of Big Walker Mountain, just north of Wytheville. There we looked around a long time tourist attraction, the BW Country Store. It is full of handcrafted items, tourist stuff, and tasty looking food items like jams, salsas, fudge, ice cream and more. On the weekends, the store hosts music performances. There’s a lookout tower but we chose to not go up this one. Really, tower or not, the views were spectacular: we could see for miles down the valleys on either side of the peak of the mountain. It was a great afternoon drive.


See individual photos with captions here.

2018 – Shenandoah Valley Campground – Verona, VA


We only intended on spending three nights at Shenandoah Valley Campground, Verona, VA. It turned out that our stay was shortened by a day. The campground is reasonably near I81, nestled in the Middle River valley. The campground is all about that river, which is a gentle stream, perfect for tubing most of the time. Then, near the popular tenting area is the real gem of the campground: a beautiful waterfall dropping in from the higher ground opposite the campground. Again, our stay was brief and in the week following heavy rains from what was Hurricane Florence. With the river running high (and it was flooding the campground in the days prior to our arrival), the waterfall was stunning.

There is a camping area on the plateau above the large camping area on the river; that’s where we stayed. Really, we were glad to be a bit higher, knowing that the river was pretty full and that more rain was forecast. My thinking was that even if the river overflowed its banks again we would be high enough to be clear of any danger. After the Hurricane Florence related flooding the campground staff worked many hours putting fresh gravel down throughout the large water-front area of the campground which is all gravel – roads and campsites.

This is a destination campground with a large, heated pool and several hot tubs located indoors. There’s also a nice fishing lake and a couple of playgrounds. The kids have a blast bike riding, fishing, tubing, swimming, and feeding the many mostly-tame rabbits.

WiFi is slow and only available in the campground store.  My Verizon signal was poor to zero.  I got a satellite signal but not many people would.  Having a homestyle dish on a tripod let me set up in the only sweet spot, just peeking over the trees to the south of us.  The sites themselves are pretty tight with neighbors very close in on both sides.

As I said, our stay was supposed to be three nights but after a night of rain on Saturday night a staff member knocked on our door telling us that the entire campground was being evicted by the sheriff’s office. The issue wasn’t flooding in the campground. Rather, it was the county road leading to the campground that was in danger of going underwater. We were told that we needed to be out within the hour.

So, we skipped breakfast and gave up on attending church and began preparing to move. It usually takes us a bit less than an hour to be ready to pull out. In this case, we were ready to go in around 40 minutes. The road out was fine, but there is one section that dips down right beside the river for a 100 yards or so. Water was lapping against the pavement as we came through.

For us, it was more of an inconvenience than anything else and we just moved down the highway to our next scheduled stop. I do feel sorry for the campground especially in light of all the work they did to get open again following the flooding.


See individual photos with captions here.

2018 – Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails – Dover, PA


Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails is actually located around 18 miles northeast of the historic town of Gettysburg, but it is, indeed, a farm. There are fields, barns, and lots of farm animals. There are posted petting zoo times for those who want to get up close and personal with many of the animals. The baby goats are a big attraction. In keeping with the farm theme there are wagon rides through the corn field and around the campground and lots of antique pieces of farm equipment on display.

We arrived right at the end of the campground’s second flooding event of the season. Conewago Creek skirts the campground and with all the rain Pennsylvania has had this summer, the creek has gotten out of hand at times. Most of the campsites aren’t impacted by the creek, but one section is right along the creek. It was closed because of the wet conditions all the time we were at Gettysburg Farm. I think those campsites and a few others are the only water/electric only spots in the park. The campground does, though, offer free “honey wagon” service to those without sewer. It was my impression that bigger rigs would fit better in the “city” portion of the campground, wet conditions or no.

The majority of the campground is about equally divided between 30 and 50 amp full hookup back in spots, except for one row of back-to-back sites. In those, the first person to arrive gets what amounts to a pull-through site. The next one has to back in.

Aside from the site differences I just described, I felt that the spots in the campground were pretty much equal with an adequate amount of space and level sites.

As usual, many spots have been leased out to long term residents. That, along with having many creekside sites out of service, caused the remaining sites to be mostly all occupied over the weekends. During the week, though, there were a few vacant spots for travelers.

We arrived the week after Labor Day and the pool was already drained for the winter. There’s a cute mini-golf course and nice basketball/pickleball area. There’s a small store that also serves food.

My Verizon signal was weak but usable most of the time. One afternoon and evening it dropped to the point that it was unusable, but later that night it came back even stronger than before. My guess is that some work was being done on the tower and my phone was trying to pick up a more distant one. I had no problem getting satellite TV.

This being a nice campground that is near some interesting attractions makes, I think, Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails a real winner.


See individual photos with captions here.