It was wet and chilly when we left Ohiopyle for Sherando Lake in Virginia (near Stuart’s Draft) on August 5. And we were staring into the teeth of a long, 5.5 hour drive, but we (including Mary and John) made it by about 5:30pm.
The campground is in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest, thus the “recreation area” designation (see Ntl. Forest Map above). We were in the Meadow Loop, with electric but no water. Ours was site C-13 and John & Mary were in site C-14. The sites were incredibly level and raked clean when we arrived. Packed, coarse-grain sand was the surface, which became rather a mess when it got wet, and we ended up tracking it all over the place. But it was easy to sweep away when it was dry. Also, it is good to note that, having been spoiled at Ohiopyle with decent cell service, we were completely flatlined at Sherando (and at Douthat, our next/final stop, too).
During the Time of Plague, the other RV camping loop, River Bend, was closed. The tent/unserviced loop (White Oak) was open except for the smaller, uphill section. The lake itself is pretty, with hiking trails around it—and closer to us is the “Upper Lake” which is for fishing only, and that only from the shores.
What caught our notice straight away were the site-specific bear boxes provided for lockup of anything that either has food in it, or in the past might have had food in it (or on it—like camp chairs). A sheet included in the registration packet warns of fines and expulsion if campers don’t follow the rules and inadvertently feed the bears. “The intentional or unintentional feeding of bears is prohibited by LAW. You must secure the following items or you will be ticketed . . .”
The weirdest items on the list, to my mind, were “hand sanitizer,” and “bug spray.” So every night “BEFORE SUNSET” we put the cooler and other miscellaneous items into the “bear box” and locked chairs and tables in the car. Never heard tell of any bear activity while we were there, but they take the potential quite seriously. And with threatened penalties of a $125 fine or eviction from the campground without refund, we did, too.
Our stay at Sherando was a gathering of folks from home: Brad & Ellen and Beth & Dan, and fellow Altoistes from Bedford, Dayna and John. We SWVA folks gathered for a catch-up after our separate dinners. Dan and Beth would have had their new Alto by this time, had it not been for Covid. Instead, and to get some “practice” in with “wheel camping,” they rented this VW “hippy” van knockoff (its actually a trailer) for the weekend, just to get out after their quarantine and to link up safely with friends.
The following day, Thursday, August 6, was also overcast—it was sprinkling off and on all day, and there were several outright downpours. We noticed an unusual visitor on the netting of our Clam—a “walking stick” insect stayed with us for a few days.
I worked to catch up on my blog posts, and everyone else went to play at the Lake with kayaks and paddle boards.
Jack and I headed to Stuart’s Draft (~10 miles) to get the small grill propane bottle filled at Ace hardware, and to find a properly sized bolt with which to fix Jack’s chair (it had broken at Ohiopyle). When we got back, it was still humid and wet, but not steamy at a tolerable 75 degrees.
Brad and Ellen hosted the whole gang down at their site by the creek (C-8?) for a Solo Stove fire, s’mores, and single malt. Everyone was bundled against the cold, because with so many of us, we had to distance from the bonfire so we could distance from one another. Many stories were told. Unfortunately, we all heard the pour of rain coming our way at once, and we all scattered to our various RV shelters.
Friday, August 7: Hashbrowns and patty sausages accompanied a beautiful morning, but unfortunately, Brad and Ellen had to leave us—they tried to find a way to register for one of the empty sites, but had to drive out to get cell service, and never got through before they had to vacate their spot at 11.
We tried to ride the paved roads around the recreation area, but Jack again had issues with his derailleur, and he pulled up. I wanted the exercise, so kept going—and got thoroughly soaked in the rains that came and settled in for the day. I got 8 miles by riding all the paved roads including the camping loops and parking lots. It is a long climb from the entry gate, but is a fun downhill slide.
Right above the CG (at the “group camping” end of the CG Map image) is the small fishing-only “Upper Sherando Lake” and on my ride I climbed the (slippery) steps up to the dam and took a photo of the small lake as well as the view of the campground from the top.
At the dam end of the big lake I could see this strange “rock slide” site across the way, in the face of a nearby mountain. Unsure what it was or how it got there, but since it was strange, I took a photo.
Beth reported that she’d been caught by the rain on her paddleboard, and had tried to seek shelter on an island in the big lake (thank goodness there wasn’t any lightening). But she’d still gotten as soaked as I had. It was a fine ride in the kind of rain that gets you as wet as your going to be all day within the first 40 seconds. But figuring out how to dry my clothes was a challenge. It was warm enough that I could, for the most part, wear my clothes dry.
Jack grilled a Cornish hen for us to split, and the hoped-for group campfire did not happen due to the continuing dicey weather.
Saturday, August 8 dawned damp and cool (65 degrees). We hopped back on our bikes, and Jack continued to figure out what the issue was. When he pulled up to do some diagnostics, I carried on and did the same ~8 mile circuit I’d done in the rain yesterday, but left off a few of the more boring parking lots.
When I finished the first circuit and stopped to see how Jack was doing, he reported possible success—a thick, hard collection of “gunk” was keeping the chain from seating on the two “jockey wheels” of the derailleur. He scraped that stuff off, and we tested the “fix” and he found the bike would stay in the gears he selected, so he joined me for another circuit. So I got nearly 15 miles, and he got the ~8 miles of the one circuit. Afterwards, we racked the bikes and put away the Clam in prep for departure tomorrow.
Dan, Beth, John, Mary, Jack, and I ate our dinners together around our Solo stove, and all agreed that Sherando would be a spot we’d return to after The Time of Plague.
3 thoughts on “Sherando Lake Recreation Area, VA”
Sounds like a nice gathering of folks, even if the rain decided to show up a few times. Have enjoyed reading about your trip, thanks for the write-ups!
Sherando Lake is a nice little campground and is a nice base for some beautiful hikes. You do have to be wary of bear activity though. While tent camping on the outside of White Oak loop last spring, my wife and I were awakened by a bear trying to get into our bear box. It ended up rustling through some things we hurriedly left on the picnic table when a storm kicked up and made off with our coffee which was in a sealed tupperware container, which was inside a sealed storage container. They have very good smellers.
I could swear Sherando Lake campground is the place a friend told me there are a bunch of domestic rabbits living free. No sightings?
Cool pic of the Walking Stick. Joe and I came across one on the trail up to the Devil’s Marbleyard outside of Natural Bridge years ago. Joe being like a curious kid picked it up, at which point it reared up in a big arch and stung him. Glad you admired it front a distance.
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