We were in no hurry as our trip from Philpott Lake to Sherando Lake campground just outside of Stuarts Draft, Virginia would be about three hours so we decided to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway instead of I -81. With a stop for a picnic and short walk the trip was close to five hours. Our main reason for heading up this way was to see family. We checked in with Steve’s Mom who was visiting his Aunt and Uncle. We also made a trip up to Warrenton to see a close family friend while Steve’s sister, Cathy and her husband Scott drove down from Pennsylvania.
Sherando Lake is a National Forest campground in the George Washington National Forest. There are two camping loops for RVs that have 30/50A service and two primitive loops for tents plus a large group tent site. As with most National Forest campgrounds there is community water so you need to fill your RV tank before setting up. As we had previously experienced in other NF campgrounds there is no cell service which for us meant no internet since we use Verizon’s Jetpack. We are both old enough to remember life before cell phones so this doesn’t send us into seizures. We do however consider this part of “roughing it”. We were fortunate enough to have a place our portable satellite dish could get TV. The park has two small lakes, one for swimming and paddling and another for fishing only. We learned that there are only 1.5 paid employees here and the rest of the work is done by work camper volunteers. They keep the campground is fantastic shape too. Its me, Opal – the dog. I really liked it here. there were place for Mom and me to walk every morning. One afternoon we got Dad to come along on a hike. I was doing fine until a yellow jacket bit me on my left buttock. Man, did that hurt!
High on our “I want” list of things to do here was the Frontier Heritage Cultural Center in Staunton, VA. Steve had been there in the early 1990s when it first opened. The center has expanded a lot since then. They have homes from Africa and Europe showing the lifestyle European frontier settlers left and the influences of those lifestyles on frontier culture. To walk the whole park is about 2 miles but it takes several hours if you go through all of the exhibits. There are carts for rent and free courtesy rides back to the visitor center.We were there on a Sunday so most of the buildings had guides or living history participants. It was fascinating to see the influence of one culture on another to form the melting pot that is the United States. For example, the Irish came from a land that was devoid of forests. So they had no woodworking skills when it came to building with logs. The Germans came from heavily forested areas and are credited with teaching them these skills. At the blacksmith shop a woman was working. Her husband is the chief blacksmith at the park. They just moved here from Williamsburg where he also worked for several years. All of the nails and hardware used in the restorations are made on the property. So are the costumes worn by the docents. We found all of the workers to be very knowledgeable and fun to talk to about the facility. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I have a passion for photographing old and unique windows and doors. So this was a wonderful opportunity for me even if the weather turned cloudy. If eyes are the windows to a person’s soul does that make windows (and doors) the eyes to a person’s home?
As mentioned in a previous entry, we had travelled I-81 through Virginia on many trips to family in Pennsylvania. We’d noticed two other sites in the Staunton, Virginia area we wanted to see but never seemed to have the time. Now we do. So it was off to check out the Cyrus McCormick Farm and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library.
The Cyrus McCormick Farm was bequeathed to Virginia Tech as an agricultural research farm but the original mill and workshop are open to the public. The actual homestead is used for administrative offices and is not open. We were there mid-week and there was nobody around. The exhibits are well documented so you can do a self guided tour. The company started by Cyrus McCormick to build his reapers eventually became what we know today as International Harvester. The part I liked the best was the display of miniatures depicting the original reaper and subsequent improvements through the 1880s.
Then we moved on to the Woodrow Wilson Library. The home is where President Wilson was born although he lived here only two years. There are several other Wilson homes in Georgia and South Carolina as well as the one he occupied in Washington, DC. His father was a Presbyterian minister and they moved frequently throughout the south.The museum next to the home is very interesting as well covering WWI and the league of Nations. We didn’t allow enough time after doing the home tour to see it all. We planned to return the next day but something prevented us from getting back. Here’s a piece of trivia we picked up during the home tour… the term putting something on the back burner came from the then new stoves called ranges (as they had a range of temperatures). By putting something on the back burner it would cook more slowly and could be left alone.
The last tidbit on this area is if you’re in this area do stop in at the Mennonite store in Stuarts Draft called The Cheese Shoppe for a wonderful selection of foods you don’t see everyday.