Monday, January 1, 2024

Occoneechee State Park First Day Hike

 We decided to make Occoneechee State Park our First Day Hike this year. Arrived and started our hike at 11:48 AM. The Beaver Pond Trail is the one we decided to take and it was rated as moderate.


We both wore our hiking clothes and dressed in layers. The temperature was in the 40's and a slight breeze was blowing. The trail went downhill until we arrived at the lake and then it run along the lake for a short way. The trail then headed back up the hill to the parking lot. 

We came to a place that was not on the trail map, let me explain. The trail that is on the map is called the Beaver Pond Trail and is 4.2 miles long. If you stay on the "Main" trail that is the case, if you take the "Loop Trail" it is over 5 miles long. The "Loop Trail" is pictured on the map, but not referenced properly.
We did stop on the way out to take our selfie in front of the park sign.

Our hike was 5.35 miles and it took us 2 hours and 31 minutes to complete. I highly recommend the Avenza Maps App to track where you are going on the trails at Virginia State Parks. All the Virginia State Parks are free maps to download to your phone. The GPS on my phone tracked us on the map as we walked the trail.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Shenandoah Valley Campground 10/6-10/9 2023

Friday, October 6, 2023

Today was a travel day, and I am glad I took the day off. I always check the tires before pulling out to go anywhere. The bearing buddy on my passenger side of the camper had an issue. The grease fitting had come loose, and I was fortunate to be able to repair before leaving. We left Danville around 11:40 in the morning and headed up 220 North. We stopped at the Plateau and took a break, and Amy grabbed a Blizzard. We headed up 81 to Verona and arrived at the office to check-in at 3pm. It took us about an hour to setup camp and then we just relaxed. We really enjoy staying at Shenandoah Valley Campground, especially since our son lives in Staunton.


I was able to setup our new Ozark Trail Camp Tripod Grill. We used this to cook our two ribeye steaks for dinner. The setup was easy, and the cleanup was not bad either. Tip I will pass on, use Dawn Platinum Spray and a good grill brush. After spraying with the Dawn, the mess just wiped off with a paper towel.


We had the steak with green beans and mashed potatoes. As you can see, Amy Leigh was extremely happy.

After dinner, we had our first of many visits from families wanting to see Santa. The young ladies were a little bashful but it was a lot of fun.

After dark, we sat around the fire and just relaxed. I really enjoy the red lights on the ground, they are not too bright and they enable you to see in the dark. 

Saturday, October 7, 2023


Woke Saturday morning to a light rain, so we cooked breakfast inside, something we rarely do. We had eggs, sausage and fruit. 


While Amy Leigh was getting herself ready for the day, I decided to take a walk along the river. I stopped by a site on the river that a Boy Scout Troop from Yorktown. I had a good conversation with their leaders and continued on my way. There was no one at the waterfall, and I just finished my coffee and admired the beauty of God's handiwork.

We left and drove to the Blue Ridge Tunnel, near Afton VA. We parked at the East Trailhead and header toward the tunnel. 

There is a 1/2 mile hike to the tunnel entrance. 

This is about the halfway point in the tunnel and these are the two entrances, just pinholes of light.


This is the West Entrance, from inside and out.

It was interested to see that one half the tunnel was lined with brick and the other half as cut rock.

We left the tunnel and headed to the Rockfish Gap Country Store. This is Amy Leigh's happy place and we stayed there until time to head back to camp.

Back at camp I started a fire and let it burn for about 2 hours. We took the afternoon and cooked a White Chili over the fire in a soup pot that belonged to my great-grandmother.

White Chili

Serves: 8

1 Onion, Chopped
4 Cloves Garlic Minced
8 Cups Chicken Broth
1 Can of Green Chilies
1 Jalepeno Pepper, Chopped
1-1/2 Tbsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 lb Dried White beans
3 Cups Cooked Rotisserie Chicken
2 Tbsp Corn Meal
1cup Milk

Preparation Steps
1. Cook Until Beans are done
2. Once the beans are done, mix the cornmeal with the milk and add it to the chili.
3. Cook for 10 more minutes, until thickened.
4. Top with Sour Cream, Cheese
5. Serve with Guacomole, Pico de Gallo or Corn Tortillas


While cooking the chili, our company arrived. First was Johnny and Alice Abbott with their grandson Logan. Then our son, Matthew, arrived. 

The chili turned out okay for my first try with this recipe


It turned off windy and cold this evening and I had to bring out the heavy coat. I had fun with Matthew and Amy Leigh, just joking around, talking about different things. All during the evening, I had children and grown-ups stopping by to say high to Santa. One in particular was a young lady named Maisie. She was such a sweet young lady! She was very polite and not bashful about asking questions. Not only that, but she even got to meet Happy, the elf. I wish Maisie all the best in life and keep the magic alive in your heart.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Sunday morning it was really cold and the wind was still blowing outside. I was up early and got cleaned up for church while Amy Leigh slept in. After getting the coffee perked, I started working on my ornament and Amy Leigh did her devotions. 

We had breakfast wraps this morning with egg and chicken. 

We attended worship service at Victory Baptist Church in Staunton this Sunday. Pastor delivered a message from 1 Peter 1: 1-9. You can view the message here. Afterwards, we ate lunch at my wifes favorite place, Cracker Barrell. When we returned to camp, we just took a walk along the river and were amazed at how many folks had left during the day. We went and visited with the Abbotts in their new vintage camper. I really liked the layout inside and Johnny told me what improvements he had made.

We spent the rest of the evening just resting around the fire. We had the occasional visitor to get a candy cane, but one stands out. I had two young men come and ask for a candy cane and then they came back later with milk and cookies for me. That guarantees them a place on the nice list!!



Finished my ornament while sitting around the fire. One last peaceful night in Shenandoah Valley Campground before heading home on Monday.