Thursday, September 29, 2011

Camping in Verona

One thing our family loves to do is camp.  Well maybe not every family member loves it but they at least go and put on a happy face while mom is around.  So finding a good camp ground is always worth it's weight in gold.  Years back our family was invited to this camp ground.  It was under a different name at the time.  Now it's run as a Good Sam Park and is known as Shenandoah Valley Campground.  Since our first visit we have made the trek a few times to spend either a few days or a week.  Located in Verona Virginia this park is right next to a section of the Middle River.  This river actually supplies the water for some of the fun activities that you can take part in while at the park.  They also have a pool, hot tubs, mini-golf, an arcade and on Saturday nights they do Karaoke.  They also have a small pond you can fish (all catch and release). 

Our last trip we took my mother, father, sister, brother-in-law and of course all the kids in tow.  Actually the last trip only had two children as one was still incubating. 

My sister getting ready to take on the river

The river is not very deep (maybe a foot) through this portion of the park which is good and bad.  The good part was I did not worry about the kids being in the water when I was at our camp site.  Keep in mind my two older kids were over 10 at the time.  The bad part is tubing can really be a pain in the butt.  Literally! The park office rents inner tubes and I would really recommend anyone over 50 pounds to get one of their tubes unless you have a really heavy duty tube.  The floats we used did not provide much protection from the rocks in the river bed.  If you didn't tip over or get hung on a rock and made it to the end you really got a wonderful view of the waterfall. 

The campground has tent camping, RV camping and has a few cabins for rental.  We generally tent camp and found the sites more than big enough.  There are sites right along the river and one site designated as a group site.  The group site is grassy and a little secluded but books up fast.  There is one main bath house with showers and bath rooms.  The mornings and evenings the shower area did get a little congested but not enough that I had a problem getting a shower.  I don't think it was until the third day that I realized there was a smaller bathroom/shower near the concession stand.  They have a pool for adults/larger kids as well as a toddler pool.  My kids spent most of their time there as well as at the playground.  The camp store was well stocked with everything from marsh mellows to bait for fishing. 

Sitting around the fire getting ready to float down the river.

The town of Verona,in Staunton Virginia, is just a quick drive up the road from the camp ground.  When we don't feel like cooking on the grill or fire we load up and go for pizza.  Now does life get any better than that? There is an antiques store close by and either a Family Dollar or Dollar General. 

A quick shot before we leave.

As much as we love going to new places we tend to go back to this one simply because we know that it is a great place to go and relax.  The kids have so many things to do that they never get bored and that gives mom a break!  And we all know a happy mom=a happy family :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Henricus Historical Park

I'm not sure if it is the close proximity or the scenery of this park that keeps me coming back time and time again.  Henricus Historical Park is the site of the second permanent English settlement in the New World.  It is some 400 years old and I like to call it Mini Jamestown.  It has a small city built near the river that you can tour for a small fee.  But the portion of the park that I frequent the most is free to visitors.  There is a loop within the park that is almost 5 miles and really has some gorgeous and unusual sites.

This water is actually in the center of the park and you walk all round it.

The park is right next to the James River and part of the river flows into the park into a sort of moat.  This is apparently due to a dutch technique they used when Henricus was first being formed and thus the name for the area Dutch Gap. 

We call that wild flower Queen Anne's Lace.

Another shot of the water.  The land on the other side is part of the park.

There are some picnic tables and pavilions throughout the park as well as some floating fishing docks.  There are a few benches along the main trail but they are spaced about a mile apart.  One small bridge in the park that you pass over offers a great views.  While at the park you may even spot a balde eagle or two. 

Kayakers heading out to the river.

One wonky tree that made for a great picture.
We love this park for the nature, the history, the price and the time it allows us to spend together.  We bike here, walk here and I've even ran a race here (mud pits were involved).  Maybe I'll share that story some day. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shenandoah National Park

In October of 2010 the Busy Bryants went on the Great October Adventure to the Shenandoah National Park.  The trip was planned for this time of year in order to catch the leaves changing into their beautiful autumn colors.  But like most females Mother Nature is a little unpredictable.  The trip was still pretty amazing even without the autumn blaze.  We were accompanied by my parents, my sister and her hubby and all three kids in tow.  We made the plans about three weeks in advance and gave ourself two days and one night to get up there and back. 

Small town in Culpepper

Part of the fun of this trip was getting up to the northern entrance in Front Royal, VA.  We took mostly scenic routes and went through some small towns in order to get there.  I loved the places we passed through and made a note to come back and visit those places some day.  What I did not love were the curves (me+curves=barf). But a couple of dramamine and some fresh air did the trick and we were on the road soon again.   

Before going into the park we did make a pit stop at Glen Meadow Winery.  Located in Front Royal near the entrance to the park this winery had a nice place to sit and sip the wine while taking in all the beautiful views.  You can sit here and actually see the cars up on the Shenandoah Parkway.  

 Once we had our wine we finally headed for the park.  The Shenandoah National Park is in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and is 105 miles from the start in Front Royal to the end in Wanyesburo.  The fee to enter the park varies depending on time of year and if you plan to be there for more than one day.  But it cost somewhere around $15 per carload for two days.  They provided us with a park map that highlighted the important stops.  For the most part we found the park easy to navigate and the picnic areas marked for visitors.  We had plans to stop along the Skyline Drive and hike at a few of the stops.  I had found the park website was useful in describing which ones had waterfalls or points of interest.  There are also a couple visitor centers that sale books that have the same information, some with better detail.  The visitor centers also have park rangers that can answer questions and will do informational talks to guest about various park subjects.  There is so much history to the park so there was a lot to take in.  And with all the scenic stops there are a lot of sites to see. 

Lunch was a mixture of picnic foods that everyone in the family brought for the trip and was at one of the picnic areas provided by the park.  Plenty of tables with charcoal grills placed through the area.  These areas also have bathrooms for visitors.  I only recall one place to get food within the park.  And I did not see that until day two.  So you would need to exit the park for food unless you bring it in with you.  That was also the same with gasoline.

Before night could set in we exited the park at the Luray entrance/exit and stayed in a motel in the town of Luray.  There is camping in the park but because we were only going to stay overnight we opted for the motel.  Camping in the park is outlined on their website and a few visitors we talked to were happy with the accomodations they offered.  The park also has two hotels/resorts.  From what I could tell on the website you had to exit the park to get to them so I figured any hotel would be just as easy to get in and out of and then back to the park.  There were not as many options with dining in Luray as we had hoped but managed to find a pizzaria with plenty of choices on the menu. 

In the a.m. we headed back for the park to finish off the tour.  Our second day we used the guide books from the visitor center and planned a hike on one of the many trails. Because the park is part of the Appelacian Trail you could seriously hike for days and maybe even then still not reach the end of the park. 

The end of this hiking trail ended with a gorgeous waterfall. 
I think we hiked 1.5 to get down.  Up seemed to feel like 10 miles.

A shot of the hike back up!  Not as easy.
After the hike and a quick picnic we finished the drive along the Skyline Drive.  The end for us was at the Rock Fish Gap exit near Wanyesburo.  This is also where you can enter the Blue Ridge Parkway if you are interested in that trip.  It puts you out on I-64, west of Charlottsville. 

We really enjoyed this trip and plan to continue down to the Blue Ridge Parkway this year.  I do think we will allow more time for this trip because we really wanted to get out and do more hiking and not rush to finish the parkway.  There were so many scenic overlooks in the park it was hard to decide which one to stop at and which drive by.  The park guides and books did help with that by describing what you might find at each one. 

If your interested in visiting in-box me and let me know.  There is so much more I could share about this great Virginia park!   

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Northern Virginia

In August Mr. Busy and myself decided to talk a little weekend trip up to Northern Virginia (NOVA).  More specifically we visited Leesburg in Loudoun County.  This particular city is full of things both old and new, big and small and right next door to some of the best wineries Virginia has to offer.  Also since it's just outside Washington D.C. it has plenty of places to stay and things to do!  This particular trip was for our anniversary so it was pretty low key and not all that much planning was involved. 

We went up on Friday morning, not hitting too much traffic.  We were too early getting there to check in so we had lunch and did some shopping at the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets.  I was happy to find a Pottery Barn outlet but sadly didn't find anything to bring home.  We checked in and stayed at the Best Western Leesburg both Friday and Saturday night.  It was clean and had everything we needed but I can't say it was quiet.  We had dinner at a small spot in the historic part of Leesburg called Georgetown Cafe.  Most of the menu was sandwich type foods with a fish and chips thrown on there but we aren't picky and they served Blue Moon Beer so we were satisfied. 
Saturday morning we had an appointment for a couples massage at Hideaway Massage.  I booked this online and was afraid that something would go wrong....either they wouldn't be able to accommodate us both at the same time or that they wouldn't have saved the appointment.  But the owner called the day before to confirm and everything went very smoothly.  Her instructions on the website got us there perfectly! 
We went shopping in a few antique stores after our massages and hit a small place for lunch.  Puccio's New York Deli hit the spot.  I had the Italian sandwich while hubby had the "Deniro".  So now that we were relaxed and our stomachs full we head for the next adventure.

Fabbioli Cellars

Lost Creek Winery
There are several wineries in NOVA so many are close together and it makes visiting a few in a short period fairly easy.  We visited three wineries on Saturday afternoon.  Fabbioli Cellars, Lost Creek Winery and Hidden Brook Winery.  Each one we visited offered something unique and of course we left with at least a bottle of wine from each.  The Courney's Christmas from Lost Creek would have to be my favorite.  It's like tasting Christmas in a bottle.

After this part of our wine trip we took a break and rested back at the hotel.  And good thing we did.  Saturday evening/night was like a big party.  We headed to the last winery on our trip agenda and that was Tarara Winery. 

Tarara Winery

This place is amazing.  They have an outdoor venue that has a suspended stage that is over a large pond. 
Words don't do it justice and neither do the pictures I snapped.  You can't bring in alcohol but you can bring in chairs/umbrellas/food/blankets.  You can purchase wine there by the bottle or glass.  They also have food there for purchasing.  This particular night the band The Regan Years was playing.  So the 1980s were in full swing. And so was the crowd.   

The stage at Tarara

Mr. and Mrs. Busy

The night ended with the band playing and everyone dancing under the stars.  It was by far one of the more romantic trips we have been on.  We felt recharged and ready to head home by Sunday morning.  I'm sure though that with all the wineries we didn't hit we will be back for a visit soon. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Visiting the Virginia Sea Shore

A couple years back some friends of mine introduced me to First Landing State park.  It's a state park right at the corner of the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay.  The shore has soft yellow sand mixed with shells and the occasional horseshoe crab that washes up.  The waves are perfect for families with smaller children. My older kids did complain that they wanted 'bigger'.  It offers hiking trails, camping (RV, tent and cabins) and of course the beach.  It's a great spot to go for just the day or to stay for a week.  You are close enough to shopping and dining that if you didn't want to cook you could run and grab a bite for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  And since the beach is for the visitors and campers to the park it usually has less of a crowd than if you went further south to the public beach at Virginia Beach. 

This was a shot the weekend right after Labor day and right in the middle of the day. 

Here is the park website: First Landing State Park
I would recommend making reservations well in advance of a trip.  They book up fast especially in the summer!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Living and breathing in Virginia

I have lived in The Commonwealth of Virginia for all of my life.  And even after all of those years (I won't say just how many) I find something new and exciting to do all the time.  I know that as a whole Virginia is just a tiny part of world we all live in.  But even in this tiny cove you can find some adventure to get into on a regular basis.  I wanted to really start the blog to help family see what we have been up to and why we are "The Busy Bryants".  But also so travellers to our little corner can get an idea of what they can expect and find when they arrive.  Virginia, like few other states, is unique in having both sea shores and mountains.  And I'm lucky enough to live smack dab in the middle.  So I hope to post losts of stories and images as we explore the state. I can't wait to share this part of our life with you.