Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Grindstone in September

Our camping trip was just wonderful. There's just something about getting out in that fresh air and away from the day-to-day grind that brings me back to life.

Friday morning it was bright and beautiful as I loaded that last minute items into the car. It clouded up a bit as we left town headed for Grindstone, and I was concerned that the clear weather that had been forecast for the weekend was going to disappear. Luckily, clouds were all we got, though.

We arrived long before check-in time; I told the nice lady who checked us in that I knew we were early but we'd be happy to just visit with my parents (already in the campground) until our spot opened up. She checked her records and found that there was no one on our site, so we could go ahead and set up. They are so very nice there; if you're looking for a great place to camp in southwest Virginia, I heartily recommend Grindstone Campground.

Our camping space was three up the hill from the spot Mom and Dad were camped on (they'd been there since Sunday). Randy asked if we were going to go visit before we set up, and I said that I'd rather get everything set up first, then we could relax.

I had everything up (with Randy helping with the screen tent) except for putting the stakes in the ground and blowing up the air mattress when Mom and Dad appeared in the driveway. Daddy laughed and said that Mom had looked up the hill and said "Somebody's on Dava's spot!" They didn't even know we'd arrived until then. That's something I love about Grindstone; the camping spots are roomy and wooded enough that you feel that you have some privacy from the surrounding campsites.

Since I was nearly finished, Randy walked down to Mom and Dad's site to sit by their fire while I finished up. I drove the stakes and prepared to blow up our air mattress. When I plugged in my electric air pump, I found that I had no power. My heart sank as I looked around the camp site at the tent and screen tent, already set up and staked down, not to mention all the things we'd unloaded onto the picnic table from the car. I'd already been working an hour, and hadn't thought to check to see if the power worked! Luckily, a campground host who was living on the site next to mine was able to fix it. *whew*

Mom and Dad had planned a delicious lunch for us: grilled Cornish hens with just a touch of Cajun seasoning, Mom's homemade potato salad, baked beans, and rolls. After we'd finished lunch, Daddy wanted to go explore a nearby road that was marked "not recommended for passenger vehicles". The road was narrow, rocky, and interesting. My car wouldn't have had enough ground clearance to get over the rocks, but Daddy had no problems with his Durango. He'd been told by a friend that the road went to nearby Whitetop Mountain, but it didn't. Partway up the mountain, we met a couple in a Wagoneer that stopped to talk for a few minutes. They'd been picking blueberries up on the mountain all day and told us that the road ended at "The Scales". We didn't know what that meant, really, but trekked onward.

We soon came to bushes and bushes of blueberries. Mom and Dad had a couple of plastic ice cream buckets in the car, so we hopped out and picked for several minutes. Randy wasn't very interested in picking blueberries, so he wandered about, enjoying the view. He spotted three wild ponies and called to me to come see them. Amazingly enough, they didn't seem startled by us at all. In fact, they didn't even react when Randy whistled to try to get them to raise their heads so I could take their photo!

When Mom decided we had enough berries for a homemade cobbler, we climbed back into the Durango and headed up the mountain again. At the top of the mountain, we came upon a gate (not locked) that allowed us to enter a fenced camping area. It's rustic camping (no water or electricity), but a fairly new outhouse is easily accessible to campers. We admired the view for awhile, then eased our way back down the mountain.

We were more than ready for dinner by the time we arrived at the campground and thoroughly enjoyed grilled burgers. It had been a full day, and Randy and I were happy to find that my small electric heater made the tent warm and cozy for sleeping.

Saturday Randy mentioned that he'd like to go to see a cabin owned by friends of ours, so we explored another forestry road, then went to Sugar Grove for lunch. There's a really good restaurant there; home cooking and reasonable prices. You can tell by watching the waitresses work the room that most of the customers are regulars. After lunch, Daddy drove us to see the cabin; I began to feel ill, as I usually do when I'm a passenger instead of a driver. I've been plagued with motion sickness all my life. Unfortunately, age isn't improving it at ALL.

By the time we got back to the campground, I was so ill I had to lie down in the tent. We were to have dinner with some friends of Mom and Dad's that they'd met camping in Grindstone on an earlier trip. (They were parked directly across from Mom and Dad this trip.) They'd planned a fish fry; I knew I wouldn't be able to eat fish and had planned to eat a pastrami sandwich while everyone ate their fish. Unfortunately, by the time dinner was ready I was still much too ill to think of eating. I visited with them while they enjoyed their meal, which Randy said was delicious.

Luckily, I felt much better when I awoke Sunday. Check-out time was noon, so I got everything packed up and in the car by the deadline. Randy and I went to Mom and Dad's site and visited for a little while before heading out. I'd missed trying Mom's blueberry cobbler when I was ill the night before, so I was able to sample it before going home. It was just wonderful; the berries were sweet and juicy and Mom's cobbler was a perfect complement.

We went across White Top on our way home. The sky was that beautiful sharp blue you seem to find only in the fall. It had been another wonderful camping trip; if only I could train the camping gear to put itself away!

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