On occasion, we like to stray over the border to see what's happening at the neighbor's house. I'm growing fond of Virginia, so last week, we paid a call to Pocahontas State Park, located just southwest of Richmond.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and donated to the state park system in 19461—a museum stands within the boundaries in its honor—the park has over seven thousand acres and two lakes. As we soon learned, popular activities in this largely forested recreation area include hiking, biking, camping, swimming, and picnicking. Since Churchill Downs is a tad bit too far, bridle trails are available for those seeking a place to let their horses stretch their legs.
Our first stop: a small building just inside the park that houses the office/visitors center/gift shop. There, we picked up a trail map and a brochure that served as park map and facilities guide, and asked questions. The first being, "Which is the most popular hike?" The answer? The 2.56 mile Beaver Lake Trail.
With good reason.
Canada geese honked from a grassy area near the middle of the lake, and a chorus of frogs churged from lily pads nearby. My husband spotted bass, crappy, and blue gill in the brown water. A serene picture we couldn't completely capture with our Nikon.
And apparently, beavers do live there.
I had a sinking feeling, not related to the floating walkway, that this would be the best of the trail, but as we moved on, the park proved me wrong. A short distance from the boardwalk, water rushed over a man-made spillway, creating an attractive cascade. We stopped at various angles to enjoy the sight.
From this point, the trail branched into the woods, though we were never too far from the lake. We immediately noticed the absence of pine trees, so prevalent in eastern North Carolina ("and the idea occurs to me that it is no wonder we are called 'Tar Heels". -2nd Lieutenant William B. A. Lowrance 2). Instead of pine straw, fallen leaves, brown and mottled, covered the forest floor. Sunlight streamed through the leafy branches of tulip poplars, sweet gum and more, giving the woods a green hue, like the atmosphere just after a rain.
We crossed several short bridges, and a boardwalk over wetlands where Jack-in-the-Pulpits were said to grow. There, and in various places along the trail, we spotted violets, spring beauties, blueberry bushes. Ferns covered several gully slopes. Delicate wildflowers decorated the foliage in the wetlands like baby breaths in a bride's hair.
Stopping as we did to explore all this, we managed to turn a two-and-a-half mile hike into a two-hour outing. Fortunately, we had water and snacks in our packs. Visitors, I recommend at least that and bug spray.
Pocahontas State Park is located at 10301 State Park Rd, Chesterfield. There is a small entry fee. Camping, equestrian and other fees apply. For more information on fees, the park, camping, swimming, or canoe rentals, go to www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/poc.shtml