After staying home for a week, we began to look for another chance to get away from home before the craziness of virtual education began. In mid-August, the temperatures in Virginia dipped back into the human range, with highs around 80 and lows around 60, temperatures that we knew would be great for camping. We had purchased a megladon 10 person tent over the winter that we were looking to try out anyway
The test is big enough that it has “room” partitions that can be set up, creating two “bedrooms” and a kind of foyer area.
We stayed at the Eggleston Springs Campground, which was right on the New River and close to Cascade Falls, which I had never seen before but wanted to visit. One negative about the campground, a negative proactively described on the campground website, was that trains come right through the area, and, because the trains enter a tunnel, the train horn has to be blown. Repeatedly. Having stayed in hotels close to train lines and experienced loud train noises before, I didn’t think this would be a big deal.
What I did not understand was that the train tracks ran on both sides of the campground, creating an amazing Dolby Surround Sound effect of train clanging and horn blowing that recurred about 20,000 times each night.
During the day, we missed out on the train craziness because we were out and about experiencing the area. On the first full day of our visit we went to Cascade Falls, which is one of the most popular natural attractions in Virginia. A few days before, we had experienced a massive amount of rain back in Midlothian, and, while the Pembroke had experienced less rain, they had enough to fill up creeks and waterfalls but not so much that the trail would be submerged. And the hike to and from the falls was a family-friendly length, almost exactly four miles.
The trail to the falls splits into a Lower and Upper Trail, with the Lower Trail being the more scenic of the two, paralleling Little Stony Creek, which flows from the waterfall. As expected, the creek was full.
The downside to hiking the Lower Trail is that it is rockier than the Upper Trail with more ups and downs.
The Lower Trail hike was beautiful, but the payoff of rounding a bend and seeing Cascade Falls is amazing.
The falls were crowded when we arrived, which was right around lunch time, but we were still able to find a rock with a view to sit down and eat.
The pool and falls were impressive, but there were hundreds of flies down on the rocks. Fortunately, they did not have much of a stinging bite and they were incredibly slow and stupid – so slow and stupid that even my speed and agility was enough to kill dozens.
One of the ways that we enticed the girls to go on this hike was that we told them that people could swim and wade in the pool at the base of the falls. We did give them a heads up that the pool would be cold because the falls are spring fed, but they claimed that this did not matter.
Wading more than swimming, they were able to make their way to the base of the falls.
McKenna actually swam part of the way back to our picnic rock, and the cold radiated by her skin informed Tabby that she had made the right choice in not swimming in the pool. We took the easier Upper Trail to return to the car, and we made it back with enough time to swing by nearby Radford University, Laura’s alma mater.
Back at the campsite, we made dinner and then cleaned up for the night. A downside to camping is the handwashing of dishes after meals, and, since McKenna has an un-American opposition toward traditional camping meals like burgers and hotdogs, we had to use more dishes making mac and cheese. Naturally, we had the kids take on this painful chore.
As it turned out, the dishes would have received a natural cleansing that night. A 50% chance of rain turned into a storm that hit us head on. On a previous camping expedition, we had learned that our old tent wasn’t fully waterproof when we were caught in a thunderstorm in Banff. This experience inspired me to waterproof the hell out of our tent back in the spring.
The rain didn’t last too long, and in the morning, we broke camp and packed the car. The last item on our camping trip agenda was to tube on the New River. A company called New River’s Edge offers an “all you can float” deal from 10am to 4pm that is inexpensive, giving us the option to tube, swim, and kayak if we wanted to. They would also allow us to take a dog on the river.
It would seem that people don’t often tube with a dog, as the fact that we were taking a dog was commented on by almost everyone except the guy who ran the place. That guy has apparently seen some stuff, stuff crazy enough that a tubing golden doodle did not phase him, but the majority of people definitely found it questionable.
- People tubing before us: You’re taking the dog with you?
- People when we finished tubing: You took the dog with you?
- Laura’s mom the next day: You took the dog tubing?!
We were shuttled up to a boat launch, where we put in. The boat launch is just upriver from an island that divides the river into mild rapids on the left and what was described to us as a “meat grinder” on the right. At the launch, we had to “backstroke” to the left half of the river to avoid the current that would take us to the “meat grinder.” Having gone white water rafting on the New River in West Virginia about a decade ago, my experience was that “meat grinders” were to be avoided as if my life depended on it, so I backstroked a little too energetically, almost beaching us on the opposite bank.
On the non-meat-grinder side of the river, the rapids were perfect for tubing, so perfect that it almost felt like an amusement park ride. The current was fast, taking us on a bumpy but not crazy ride and shooting us downriver.
We were also warned to paddle out of the fast current before it took us past our exit point, the place where we had gotten on the shuttle that took us to the boat launch. This was a warning that I heeded as overzealously as the initial warning to get to the left side of the river.
We finally escaped eddy purgatory and made it to the exit point. While the tubing trip wasn’t that long, the great thing about New River’s Edge is that they would shuttle us back to the boat launch whenever we wanted, so we could eat lunch, let McKenna and Tabby swim, and then take the shuttle and launch again.