Virginia is for history lovers, nature lovers, all kinds of lovers!

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Virginia is a beautiful state. It has gorgeous mountains, beautiful beaches, history galore, college towns, etc. It also has some of the best-run state parks in the country. We spent the last few days at Claytor Lake State Park in Dublin, Virginia. The campsites are beautiful, level and clean. The staff has been constantly on the move, adding gravel when a puddle occurred near our site, blowing the pine needles away, and always patrolling. There are many hiking and biking trails here which are some of the best maintained and marked trails we’ve ever seen. The town of Blacksburg, a college town that’s home to Virginia Tech, is less than 30 minutes away, as is the Blue Ridge Parkway. If we had known we’d like this camp so much we would have booked more time here. Maybe someday we’ll be camp hosts here!

Claytor Lake State Park, Dublin, VA

While traveling through the state, we were so fortunate to be able to visit with my daughter Laura and her boyfriend, Jim, who lives in Virginia. Jim is a historian who has worked at Gettysburg, Civil War Trust, and has contributed to Civil War Digital Digest. He took us to Cedar Creek Battlefield National Historic Park and we walked one of the battlefields while Jim narrated the events that took place. Before leaving Connecticut, Bob and I had watched the PBS/Ken Burns series “The Civil War,” and Cedar Creek figured prominently in one of the episodes. Click here to see a short video that Jim shot while we were at Cedar Creek:

“In the early morning hours of October 19, 1864 Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early launched a surprise attack on Union forces along Cedar Creek south of Middletown, Virginia. The Federal Army of the Shenandoah was under the command of Major General Philip Sheridan, who had been given orders to rid the Valley of any remaining Confederate forces. It would be the zenith of the 1864 campaign in the Valley, and the outcome of the battle would have far-reaching consequences for both sides…” (Read more at: ) The Union army, which entered the battle with 31,610 men, suffered 5,764 casualties, 569 of whom were killed. The Confederate army, which consisted of 14,091 men at the battle’s outset, suffered approximately 3,060 casualties, 1,860 of whom were reported killed. It was the second bloodiest battle of the Shenandoah valley (the worst being the third battle of Winchester). Walking along the rolling hills of the battlefield it’s hard not to imagine how much blood from husbands and sons of both northern and southern wives and mothers soaked into the dirt. It felt like very hallowed ground.

At Cedar Creek battlefield with Laura and Jim Taub.

We also drove to Appomattox Courthouse and walked the trails around the historic town. We learned that, despite one of the most famous battles being fought there on April 9, 1865 and the subsequent surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, the town was unable to recover and was abandoned a few years later. The McLean house, where General Lee surrendered, was torn down and tourists took pieces as souvenirs before the government took what remained to Washington, D.C. (Original plans were for the house to be reconstructed in D.C., but that never occurred and the house was eventually rebuilt on its original spot.) In 1892, the Appomattox court house burned down; it, the McLean home and a few other buildings were reconstructed in the 1960’s and the property became a National Park.

Scenes from Appomattox Courthouse, VA.

The Civil War was the deadliest war that the USA has ever experienced. A total of 618,222 lives were lost, more than 200,000 to battle and an additional 400,000+ to disease and accidents. 

While in Virginia, we did a day trip along Skyline Drive. A lot of my friends prefer the ocean, but I’m a mountain lover and the scenery from the mountain ridge did not disappoint. I could sit on a porch rocker and feel at peace with mountain views forever! 

Skyline Drive. Top photo, a mountain top peeks through a thick layer of clouds.

We also visited the Natural Bridge, a huge stone arch that was carved over millions of years by the river that runs through it. There is a legend that George Washington came to the natural bridge in as a young surveyor. To support the claim, park staff point out the initials “G.W.” on the wall of the bridge, 23 feet up, that were supposedly carved by the future president. Legend also has it that George Washington threw a rock from the bottom of the gorge, up and over the bridge. In 1927, a large stone was found, also engraved “G.W.” with a surveyor’s cross, which historians accepted as proof that he indeed surveyed the bridge.

Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land including the Natural Bridge from King George III of England for 20 shillings in 1774. He called it “the most Sublime of nature’s works.”

Natural Bridge State Park, Natural Bridge, VA

Tomorrow we pack up and continue south to Tennessee.

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