June 12, 2020
We got a little bit of a later start then we were initially planning, but that seems to be the norm to some degree, though we were only a little late. Luckily we packed a lot of the items the night before since we now have the rooftop cargo box, which makes things easier for sure.
The drive there was pretty straightforward, as it was mainly I-66W to I-81S, and then a turn off onto 93 through West Virginia. Traffic was jammed a bit on 66, and so we stopped for lunch at the Burger King in Strasburg, VA. Unlike a lot of fast food restaurants in the DC area, the restrooms were open so we took a pit stop and filled up on gas as well.
The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful and we made it to our campsite around later afternoon and got everything set up pretty quickly. We did realize that our mattress had not been dried and cleaned properly from our last camping trip, and were glad that we brought a sheet to cover it. During check-in, we had purchased three bundles of firewood. The firewood was in a shed and pretty dry, so making fires was pretty easy. Though, the bundles had some smaller pieces that didn’t allow for heavy fire making, as it would burn pretty quickly. We ended up buying another bundle before we left.
We had campsite #17, which is next to the restrooms. When I was making the reservations, there had only been two sites open. Not knowing the campgrounds well, I decided to opt for the site next to the restrooms rather than next to the road. The restrooms are better than expected for a campground, and we had to work around the Covid-19 closing schedule (seemed it was always closed when we needed it). We really didn’t have any negatives with being so close, except in the mornings when the wind or something pushed the smell into our campsite.
We wanted to check out the rest of the campgrounds, so decided to go for a quick walk before dinner. Sadly, the campground doesn’t have a trail system, or not one that we saw. So we had to walk along the road. This proves to be sketchy, as there are plenty of twists and turns that can make it difficult for cars to see you as they come through. We made it to the ampitheatre, which is a cool structure. The boys played around for a bit, and presented stories for us. One of which had a cement cloud monster. During our walk, we looked at the other sites and made note of some that may be a good spot for the future.
For dinner, we cooked up a few meatball sliders, raw veggies and hummus, and popped some popcorn for dessert. The boys enjoyed eating the variety of snacks and playing on the hammock until it started to get dark. The hammock was still fun, but the glow sticks had become the star of the show. The night ended up being colder than we expected, and I ended up sleeping mostly under a towel as the rest of the sleeping bags were spoken for.
June 13, 2020
The next morning, everyone slept in for a bit and we got a slow start to the day. We ate bagels and cream cheese and then loaded up into the 4Runner to explore the campground further, since we weren’t able to walk it the night before. We made it to the walk-in sites, which have similar facilities but are in a big open field. I think if we had less gear to manage or were with other families, this may be a good option in the future.
We also drove into “town” to see if we could find information concerning activities. We weren’t aware that this is a dead area for cell service. So we weren’t able to search for these activities at the campground. We stopped into Harper’s Old Country Store, which has been in the area since 1902. We picked up a few items and asked about the swimming and fishing. The Discovery Center was closed, so she was able to point us into the right direction. We also went to Yokum’s General Store and Motel, as we were told they had WiFi. It wasn’t working well for me, but we were able to take a couple of pictures of directions to areas we wanted to visit and the weather, as we had heard rain may be possible.
We headed to the river and checked out the swimming hole first. The lady at Harper’s had mentioned that the water would probably still be cold, as it was around 50 degrees when she last checked it. The boys enjoyed throwing rocks into the water and jumping from rock to rock along the river. The water was indeed cold, so we decided swimming may be out of our plans for the weekend. We then went to the fishing area. When researching at home, it had mentioned that fishing was catch and release and lure only. Meaning no live bait. I wasn’t sure why at first, however with the water moving it appears that Fly Fishing is more what they were suggesting. I’ve never done Fly Fishing, and we definitely didn’t have that type of gear, so we nixed fishing for the weekend. We did walk around the area some, stumbling upon a snake in the rocks that quickly slithered to the water.
We drove back to camp and had lunch and put a lot of our gear and wood in shelter, since there was a possibility of rain. With swimming and fishing out, we decided to go on the hike up to Seneca Rocks. It was listed as a 1.3 mile hike one direction, with an almost 900 foot elevation change. It was a steep ascent, with many switchbacks, but well worth the view at the top. The boys did well getting up the hill and we took a family photo at the observation deck. Linda and Eli went further to see the edge of Seneca Rocks and enjoyed the seeing the rock outcropping. Linda mentioned it reminded her of a smaller Angel’s Landing. The walk down should have gone faster, but we took our time and let the boys explore nature more. So we ended up tracking more like 3.3 miles of hiking. This would put Eli over the 75 mile mark in his Hiking Log in ScoutBook. When we got back to the parking lot, we checked out the homestead site and garden before heading back to the campsite.
After the hike, we stopped into Yokum’s for a soda and Cheetos snack for the boys. We then settled in with a grilled sausage and veggie dinner, though Jaxon ended up being too tired to partake and ended up going to be early. So it was just the three of us for dinner and then roasting marshmallows before calling it a night. Walking along the road at night, with all the lights off reminds you just how dark it can get. You can see plenty of stars, though the trees block the more expansive views. We had thrown in an extra blanket prior, so it wasn’t as cold this night, though I did hear some sprinkles in the middle of the night. Our site stayed fairly dry though, thanks to the great tree cover.
June 14, 2020
We woke up at a decent time in the morning and started packing everything away. It started sprinkling, but nothing was really that wet, so we ended up lucky there. Seems we are becoming more efficient in the overall process, as we were able to pack up pretty quickly. We also ended up finishing most of the supplies in the cooler. After a quick breakfast for the boys, Linda and I picked up a warm breakfast at Yokum’s. While I waited for our order, the boys enjoyed watching the many stray cats in the parking lot and looking at all of the different motorcycles.
After breakfast, we decided to head further west and then north to visit Blackwater Falls State Park. The drive was very nice, with a mix of great mountain scenes, farmland, and small towns to drive through. We arrived at the state park just as they were opening, so we visited the store and picked up some souvenirs before visiting the waterfall. These ended up being a good idea, as there was a line later on since they had a max occupancy with the Covid-19 restrictions.
The waterfall was really nice to visit. The boardwalk they had built really optimizes the views and gets you fairly close. We did a little exploring in the woods afterwards, though we didn’t see many other hiking trails. The park itself has a lot of log cabins and the grounds look like a good place to visit in the future. Will have to look into it further and see what other activities they have. It started raining, so we headed back to the 4Runner and got back on the road. This little trip added some time overall, but put us just about in the same timeframe for driving home. So definitely worth the trip.
The trip home was just as uneventful as the drive there. We stopped in Front Royal to fill up on gas and stop in at Spelunker’s for a burger and milkshakes. With the restrictions, the drive through was packed, though the restrooms were open. We ended up parking in the lot and laying out a blanket to eat before getting back on the road.
Notes for Future:
- Site 22 at Seneca Shadows may be a good site for future, it is a double though.
- There are a lot of log cabins in the area and may be a good secondary option.
- Looks like we need to visit Blackwater Falls State Park again, as there are a lot of other hikes in the area including a great overlook on Lindy Point Trail.
- Additional spots to check out around this area, Dolly Sods, Smoke Hole Caverns, and Spruce Knob.
Monongahela National Forest
Seneca Shadows Campground
Blackwater Falls State Park
1584 Blackwater Lodge Road
Davis, WV 26260
Blackwater Falls State Park
116 South Street
Front Royal, VA 22630
Last modified: November 20, 2020