After judicious planning, based on the advice of family members familiar with the area, we skirt around Greensboro to the west before turning north toward Martinsville, Virginia. The third leg of our longest camping adventure is one of the shortest, only about 80 miles. We are headed from the Stubblefield family farm near Pleasant Garden, North Carolina, to our first Corps of Engineer campground of the trip near Bassett, Virginia, just a few miles past Martinsville.
We roll out of the old Stubblefield farm shortly before 10:00 am and drive the three miles to Hagan-Stone County Park, just outside of Pleasant Garden to use their dump station. A better idea than dumping on the ground at the farm. After all, we'd like to be invited back someday.
Hagan-Stone is a neatly kept local campground that unfortunately for us, is first-come first-served, with no reservations. [Update as of 5-10-2013, Reservations may now be made online for Hagan Stone, but I suggest you search online (Google, or otherwise) for the current web site. Search under guilford parks.
Cousin Bobby had gone out of his way the day before and driven me to the campground and shown me the facility, including how to get to the dump-station. Southern hospitality is no joke.
After using their dump station the next beautiful, quiet Carolina morning, we look around for someone to take our $5.00, but the one white service truck we see drives off the other direction, and there is no one in the park office. So, we take Cousin Steve's advice and head west on I-85/I-73/I-40, to avoid the congested route recommended by Chatty Cathy, at least for a little while.
When we cross the Virginia state line, we notice the price of gasoline drops to under three dollars a gallon. In Martinsville, we find several stations charging in the $2.86 range. This will help our travel budget immensely, but we wonder how long these prices will hold. Really odd as the price of gasoline usually surges at the beginning of the summer vacation season.
The weather is warm and sunny, and the traffic is light. We make a several stops during the leisurely drive north to Philpott Lake, but find ourselves only twelve miles from the campground some four hours ahead of the five o'clock check-in time.
Don't lean back too far! Chock, or wheel lock your trailer
While sitting in a brand-new Walmart parking lot in Martinsville, pondering our campsite arrival time, Ilse calls the main gate. No problem, our reserved site is already vacated and we can check in anytime. We close up the camper, pile the dogs back in the Toyota and an interesting hour later, we check in at the main gate at Goose Point Campground.
The ride from Highway 57 to the campground is memorable. The five mile drive is well maintained, but very twisty. Twisty to the point of being a real driver's test for those driving even medium sized RVs and or hauling trailers over 24 feet or so. This stretch of road would make a really great go-kart track!
Ilse had also asked about a laundromat in the local area when she chatted with the pleasant volunteer manning the front desk as we found out the Goose Point campground does not have washers or dryers, items found in many COE campgrounds. We looked for the local coin-laundromat as we passed the skeletal remains of Bassett Furniture, the former employer of many of the local residents, and many empty buildings only recently abandoned. Empty factories and warehouses strewn though the town attest to the failed policies of moving jobs overseas simply for cheaper labor. Signs of economic woes and despair are everywhere, but the residents of Bassett are doing their best to keep the place clean and well-maintained, even though it is obviously a struggle. We couldn't find the laundromat, or even the drugstore we had been told was a landmark.
|An Assassin Bug toodles across the campsite|
The husband of the volunteer we had talked to laughed and corrected his wife's directions to the laundromat when we checked in. We didn't see it because we weren't on the right road. We decided we would take one day off to relax before heading back into town to wash clothes and try to find an Internet hot-spot connection. He gave us our marked up map and we slowly, and with great trepidation, started up the narrow access road toward loop A and our home for the next two weeks. Wow, this is about as narrow and difficult as I care to drive. Getting out of here will require two sharp turns that are at the steering limit of my Toyota Sequoia, even without the trailer! There is no room for negotiation, only sharp drop-offs. Oh well, I'll worry about it in two weeks, or when we have to go dump our holding tanks, whichever comes first.
While strolling through the visitor's center at Philpott Lake two days later, reading the information plaques scattered around the wall displays, I noticed the lake was named after a Baptist minister. Maybe that explains why not only alcohol is forbidden in all four campgrounds, but also why there are signs posted everywhere stating every container is subject to search for “illegal substances.” We have been to many campgrounds where alcohol is prohibited, but never any that threatened to physically look in my dark blue, plastic cup to see, or perhaps taste, what I was drinking.
The Goose Point Campground is a typically first class Corps of Engineer campground. If I had to say anything negative about the facilities, it would be the lack of showers at the Loop A toilet facilities. Clean, well lighted, and easily accessible, it also only has one commode on the men's side, a little short for the 19 campsites the facility services. The sites, however, have full electric and water hookups, so they may have counted on most campers using their self-contained facilities. There is a second facility further down the steep road just before the tent-camper's B-loop. It has two commodes and four shower stalls on the men's side and four commodes and three showers on the women's side. Again, spotlessly clean.
The “A” loop is also a “hill-top” type campground, high above the lake and the lower two camping loops. As a result, the campsites do not offer the seclusion or distances between sites found at most Corps of Engineers campgrounds as space at the crest of the hill is at a premium. No big campers here, and not much privacy, either. The sites are gravel, level, and well maintained, but they are a little scary if one had small children. The drop-offs that surround the immediate perimeter of each pad are quite steep. Heavily forested, I doubt anyone would roll more than several hundred yards down the steep embankments before being stopped by trees. If you rolled a basketball over the edge, I imagine it would look like a pinball on its journey to the lake far below.
The only other possible improvement I could come up with would be to add the one word that was left out of the campground description, the “Know Before You Go” notes to campers. The description states “Access road and park roads are hilly, winding and narrow and may be difficult for larger RVs to Navigate.” I think they left out the word “extremely'. It should go in front of difficult.
We will be here two weeks. I'll have a full, opinionated blog to post then. With photos.
NEXT: Philpott Lake - Wake-Up Call