Rains, Trains, and Watermobiles near Virginia’s Cascade Falls.

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

It’s a social distancing tent.

The test is big enough that it has “room” partitions that can be set up, creating two “bedrooms” and a kind of foyer area.

So if, theoretically, one or both of these people went outside the tent idiotically wearing socks without shoes through wet grass and dirt, that would not impact my bedroom. Because, as always, it’s really about what’s good for me.

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.

Plus, I have had a lot of experience tuning out loud noises.

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.

But at least I was suffering through the noise in my own clean room, free of the filth that might have been tracked in by barbarian tweens who didn’t understand how shoes worked.

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.

Which was in the marginally acceptable range for the kids.

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.

Ups and downs made even more of a challenge by a dog who pulls like he’s Max pulling the Grinch’s sleigh

The Lower Trail hike was beautiful, but the payoff of rounding a bend and seeing Cascade Falls is amazing.

And it turns out the experience is even more pleasant when you protect your socks from water and dirt by wearing shoes.

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.

And so slow that Finley ate enough of them that he is actually not begging for food here.

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.

Spoiler alert: it mattered

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.

So she could see the university without the smoky haze of… That is, so that she could see what had changed in two decades.

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.

This was especially painful for people who have not yet mastered loading dishes in a dishwasher.

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 tent successfully kept out 100% of the rainwater and was only 50% contaminated by wet sock traffic.

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 is difficult to say if Finley was more thrilled by the prospect of tubing or by middle-of-the-night train horns and rainstorms.

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?!
Finley questioned the wisdom of taking a dog tubing as well.

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.

My shoulders may never work again from all of the backstroking, but, by God, we avoided the meat grinder.

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.

And that’s how we ended up in an eddy that was infinitely less fun than the fast current.

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.

Finley could not have been more thrilled.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s