Gatewood Park (VA)

We rolled south out of the Shenandoah Valley on a road that was much less topographically diverse. After the brake boiling incident we decided it was best to take it easy, even if it wasn’t always the shortest route. That has been challenge for Val (our intrepid navigator) throughout the trip, because Google doesn’t have a setting for a 14-ton behemoth when it comes to choosing the best routes, and if Val doesn’t pay close attention we will be routed down tiny backroads and very steep mountain passes. When we did our cross-country motorcycle trip around 9 years ago, these are the roads we sought out. This trip it is the exact opposite.

We were only slated for two hours of driving, but it quickly turned to three. After pulling off in Pulaski, a tiny town in the Virginia mountains, we started looking for a small park that is maintained by the city. It has great reviews on our app, but it is WAY off the beaten path. We passed through Pulaski and straight ahead of us was a very steep hill full of houses and a 90-degree bend. It didn’t look like fun, so I took a right on the road before, thinking we could connect over. That was not the case, and we ended up on this tiny, winding road for many miles with no place to turn around. It was twisting and turning alongside a creek, and I kept waiting to come to a spot where there was a bridge with a weight restriction. Thank God that never happened, and we eventually wound our way back into Pulaski. This time I followed the directions to Gatewood Park, which is literally in the middle of nowhere. It sits on a reservoir that contains the drinking water for Pulaski, and you take a winding nine-mile road through the thick forest and mountains to get to it. The limbs were low in places and I could hear them smacking the air conditioners on Marty’s roof.

To say we were a little uncertain is an understatement, but when we arrived we were rewarded with a picturesque campsite, right on the lake, with mountains all around us. We were quite isolated, with no real cell service or Internet, but it was well worth it. It is surprisingly cheap, only $30 a night for full hookups including sewer. They also have boat rentals for $3 an hour or $25 a day. We settled in, then went over and rented a small aluminum fishing boat with a trolling motor, as well as a kayak. We motored on over and beached them right next to our campsite, and we used them the whole time we were there. It was fun to just hop in and go explore the lake, do some fishing, or find a hidden spot to sit on the shore and watch the kids throw rocks. Across the lake and a ways from the campground is a primitive campsite in the wilderness. There are no trails, roads, or even paths to the site, it is only accessible by boat. We loaded up our fishing boat with food and went over for a picnic. It was a lot of fun, although while we were eating the boat floated off of the shore and down into a cove, where I was fortunately able to retrieve it. Val really wanted it to float out into the lake so I would have to swim after it, and she had her camera ready to document it.

We loved the place so much that we spent three nights there, our longest single stay of the entire trip. There were cool breezes the entire time and at night there was nothing but peace and quiet. There are tons of animals in the area as well. There is a confirmed bear population, although we didn’t see any while we were there. We did see a lot of deer, a bald eagle, as well as tons of geese that waddled up next to our fire pit every afternoon.

It was a magical place and a good way to wind down our trip. Amazingly, we are only 350 miles from Athens, so we only plan on one more stop before arriving back home.

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