This past weekend I had one of the best small-town/weekend trips that I’ve had in a while. My friend and I decided to go “camping” (air-conditioned cabin located within a campground) about an hour and a half west of D.C in the tiny “town” of Bentonville (population 1,700). I put town in quotes because I didn’t see any signs that Bentonville was, in fact, a town; no downtown area or main street, sidewalks or even any small-towny type businesses…just some houses, some big and fancy others vacated and dilapidated and most somewhere in between, sprinkled along wonderfully vegetated scenic mountain roads and along the Shenandoah River. A beautiful place, but not much in the way of a small town.
We decided to camp at Low Water Bridge Campground because I went there last year with some friends (remember the infamous Blonde in a Thong post? It was my number one Google hit for about one month!) and I remembered it had nice views and a good location right on the Shenandoah River. When we got the campground it was cloudy and drizzling and I was feeling a bit disappointed about the lack of sun, but Christine, the very friendly, talkative owner/manager/woman extraordinaire told us there was in fact, only a 50% chance the rain would continue into the afternoon, so we might as well take advantage of our day. So we did. It was nice to get away for a couple of days, forget about the stress of day-to-day life and enjoy being in a beautiful, inviting place, even if it was just a short weekend.
My friend is learning to drive so I decided that a rainy afternoon filled with steep, twisty, unfamiliar mountain roads was the perfect opportunity for him to get some driving practice. Here’s a picture of some cows, hills and raindrops from the passenger side window. Scenes like these are pretty common in the Front Royal/Shenandoah/Mountain region of Virginia.
There’s something a little spooky about gray and rainy afternoons in a rural, mountainous place like northwestern Virginia. This was another one taken from the passenger side window.
The original plan was to go to downtown Luray for dinner/drinks/small town exploration, but the main road into Luray was closed for some event so we took the detour…and never found our way back to Luray. We ended up traveling 40 miles up and down a number of mountains on this tiny one-lane road, the kind of place where you lose cell phone service and can’t help wondering what it must be like to live in a place so far removed from any town or neighbors. Eventually, we saw some signs for wineries and decided to stop at Shenandoah Vineyard and Winery for a tasting. After getting chastised for holding our wine glasses incorrectly (apparently, you need to hold them from the stem), not swirling our wine around enough and not taking small enough sips, we decided to stay for a while. We ended up buying a bottle and spent about an hour and a half talking to another couple of campers (they were much more hardcore than us…back country tent camping in the middle of George Washington Forest in West Virginia). And because I was free of the responsibility of driving, I drank most of the bottle. I was feeling pretty good when we left.
The next day was much nicer. We packed up our things, hit the open road and headed over to Shenandoah River State Park. We were right by Shenandoah National Park but I just wasn’t willing to pay the $15 fee when the state park is just $5.
This was my first time at Shenandoah River State Park and I was pleasantly surprised. There are 28 miles of hiking trails and beautiful views and you can walk right along the Shenandoah River. There’s also a really nice visitor’s center with lovely mountain views and a lovely waterfall pond in front. However, it taxidermied animals freak you out, you should know the visitor center is home to at least a couple dozen taxidermied birds, foxes, cougars, bears, squirrels and other wildlife. Like this owl with creepy eyes.
The view from an overlook at Shenandoah River State Park. I wouldn’t mind having a not-so-little cabin in a clearing in the mountains. The park wasn’t too crowded considering it was very sunny and 75 degrees.
A dandelion off of Buck Mountain road. A friend of mine who lives in Wisconsin was recently in Virginia and said it was so green it was practically glowing. I think that’s a great description of Virginia and much of the east coast in late spring and summer.
I love these bucolic, almost fake-looking vistas. They remind of the illustrations in the children’s books I loved as a child, back when I wanted to be a farmer and live in a red barn (I was a kid and thought I could sleep in the barn with my animals). This was somewhere near Front Royal on a little detour/side-trip we decided to take. When I got back home, I decided to do a little real estate research (another favorite hobby of my in addition to weekend trips) and discovered it’s possible to buy 12 acres of land in Bentonville/Front Royal for under $150,000. Considering a tiny townhouse on 1/8 of an acre costs about $500,000 in my neighborhood, this seems incredible too me. It would be so nice to have a cozy little cabin on an acre of land just an hour and a half from home!
Categories: D.C Side Trips, Outdoors, Parks, Small Towns, Small Towns, U.S Travels, Virginia