in Parks and Rec, Reviews, Sports, Travels

High Bridge Trail State Park

High Bridge Trail State Park

I write this from cabin 4 of Twin Lakes State Park, located near Farmville, VA. It’s Saturday evening, November 24th, 2012 around 8:49 PM. Kelly and I are here alone tonight, the kids preferring to sleep in their grandparents’ cabin a few meters away from ours. As there is no Internet access here (nor no phones), I am writing this to post later.

We’ve been here since the day after Thanksgiving, having felt the urge to go camping one more time this year but not having the guts to tough out another camping trip when temperatures dip to the mid-20s in the morning. Cabins proved to be a good compromise, with the added bonus that Twin Lakes is closer to home for we Turners (we spent Thanksgiving with Kelly’s parents in Warrenton this year).

It’s been a busy time here. After visiting Hornbeam Hill Friday afternoon, we arrived here after 4 PM and had enough time to get a quick look around the cabin area before the sun set across the lake from us. Kelly’s brother David’s family and her parents unpacked their things into nearby cabins and joined us at Kelly’s brother’s cabin for a campfire followed by supper. Once the kids had been delivered to Gum and Gup’s cabin, Kelly and I spent a little romantic time sitting on the bench in front of the moonlit lake.

The cabins are cinderblock buildings built around 1949 with some good updates. They have beige interior walls, a fully-equipped kitchen, HVAC, shower, hardwood floors, and two bedrooms containing three bunk beds each. Instead of a big-screen TV being the focus of the living room, a real wood fireplace dominates the wall. While we haven’t had a fire in ours I greatly enjoyed tending the fire in Gum and Gup’s cabin tonight, it having been many years since I had to use those skills.

The cabin sits a couple dozen meters from Prince Edward Lake, one of the two lakes that make up Twin Lakes park. A boat launch for small boats sits across the lake and a modest beach area is to the south of us. Last night the cabins around us were occupied by other guests. Tonight we’ve got the area of six cabins all to ourselves.

I recognized that the photograph on the front of the cabin’s guest services directory was the view of the lake from our cabin. I had a little fun this afternoon recreating this photo.

After waking up around 8 AM, Kelly and I made breakfast before gathering our things (and the dog) and hiking around the lake. We were out to meet the rest of our crew who had gone over to the park’s playground. After finally finding the trail in the woods, we spent a long time working our way down it. Kelly had not been happy with how our dog Rocket has been pulling on the leash, so she spent a lot of time parking him on his butt every time he would pull. Eventually we caught up to our party on their return trip and we all stopped in Kelly’s brother’s cabin to work on some lunch (and a jigsaw puzzle).

Around noon, we headed out to Farmville to visit Virginia’s newest state park, High Bridge Trail State Park. High Bridge Trail is a 35-mile-long rails-to-trails park which spans the Appomatox River with the spectacular High Bridge: a 2,400-foot-long, Civil War-era train trestle now topped with a boardwalk that overlooks the Virginia countryside. We’d seen videos of the bridge and trail and were eager to check it out for ourselves.

Driving into the River Run Ave. parking lot, we were met by Contact Ranger Ken Cordle of the state parks department. He helpfully pointed out which direction the bridge was in and answered any other questions we had. I was quite impressed with Ken’s friendliness, which really reflects well on the kind of people working in Virginia State Parks.

The bridge was about a mile hike down the old railway bed, now a smooth, small-gravel pathway. I opted to leave my jacket in the car which turned out to be a mistake once the winds began to whip across the bridge. I tarried behind the main group in order to take pictures but caught up with them once we got to the bridge.

The bridge itself lived up to my expectations, soaring magestically above the marshy, tree-lined forest below. Dozens of cyclists and pedestrians came and went. I snapped pictures of the side of the span before meeting up with my family at the first overlook area, mid-bridge. We rested at the far end of the bridge before making the long (and cold) trek back to our cars. With a cheerful wave from Ranger Ken, we drove back to our cabins at Twin Lakes.

As a surprise celebration for Kelly and David’s upcoming birthday, their mother Linda served cake and coffee to us all. We then spent the next few hours in front of a roaring fire, playing the “Apples to Apples” and Scrabble board games. After quick bites to eat, the kids got showered and in their pajamas for their delivery to Kelly’s parents’ cabin. Kelly and I said goodnight and spent some time alone on our cabin recording the day’s events.

Tomorrow (Sunday) we will depart our cabin by its 10 AM checkout time and do some more exploring in the area. Then we’ll probably head back to Raleigh in time for some catching up before our week starts again in earnest. It’s been a wonderful stay here at Twin Lakes, and I’m already looking forward to our next visit. Then we can hopefully explore the park and the trail by bicycle.