Last week, Florian and I seized the day to go on a little road trip before the wackiness of the holidays and the busyness of his next semester.
We had always wanted to check out the hot springs of western Virginia, as well as the amazing-looking New River Gorge National River in West Virginia.
We arrived at Warm Springs, VA Wednesday evening and decided to camp at Lake Moomaw. The great thing about Forest Service campsites this time of year is that no one's there. We had the foggy, chilly place all to ourselves and the dogs loved running around.
The next morning, we set off to explore Warm Springs and the next town South along VA-220--Hot Springs. Although we didn't find the undeveloped hot springs in the middle of a forest somewhere like we were hoping, we did enjoy seeing the steam coming up through the pavement everywhere in Hot Springs.
There's an old place called the Homestead where you can sit in a big hot pool for $17. We didn't do it because we didn't think they'd want three dogs sitting in their gorgeous hot pool, but it looked well worth it!
After exploring the Homestead--and leaving the van door open one second too long, then chasing Fozzie all over the manicured grounds as bemused construction guys looked on (he eventually walked right up to one of said construction guys after eluding us for 20 minutes)--we continued south and west to the New River Gorge National River.
Florian knows how I love stunning scenic vistas and dramatic landscapes, so he thought I would enjoy this National Park site in West Virginia.
This place has everything. First a hike along the Tunnel Trail, about which signs at the Visitor Center said DO NOT, by any means, ever even THINK of going through the tunnels as they are VERY DANGEROUS.
That should give you a good clue as to where we headed first.
Then, a hike on the trail down the side of the gorge, with a rocky craggy cliff face on one side and a steep drop-off all the way down to the river on the other.
There were a couple of moments where my heart stopped in my throat, like when Fozzie and Sandy stood on the very edge of the cliff...and Fozzie gave one of his intense ear-flapping shakes.
When we climbed back up the trail and got towards the top, we got into an area where the trail went through a canopy of rich green rhododendrons.
That foliage--in December--combined with the cool misty weather and the incredible vista, made me feel like I was back in Oregon or Washington.
The following day, after camping in a state park, we checked out the Sandstone Falls, also along the New River.
We finally got some sun for our drive up along the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most stunning drives around. Views for miles and miles, and trails everywhere. We got off to tire the dogs out on one that went up a steep hill next to a waterfall.
We arrived home tired, refreshed, ready for family holiday madness, and grateful for the forward-thinking decisionmakers of yesteryear who set aside large tracts of land for open space, wildlife, ecosystem services, and recreation. May 2012 bring that sort of foresight back to public policy!