11 Days in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland

This post is a little different than our usual in that it is MOSTLY about our travels in Virginia, but we tacked on a couple of days in West Virginia and Maryland since meet ups with friends took us slightly over the border. Our visits with friends and family made this part of our journey super special; however, even without that added bonus, these are NOT miss states for all the beauty and history to explore!

On our first day, we departed the Outer Banks where we had just spent about a week exploring the amazing North Carolina coastal region. Our first stop was technically still in North Carolina: the Grave Digger’s Dungeon. I am not a monster truck aficionado, but Reuben perked right up when he found out where we were going! The “dungeon” is an odd little place with lots of souvenirs to buy but also cooky animals in the yard!

Speaking of cooky animals, our next visit was to the amazing Bunny Hutch! While it’s not much to look at on the outside, just an industrial looking building on a cul-de-sac, it housed the most amazing people and animals inside! The Bunny Hutch is a rescue facility for exotic animals people thought they could keep as pets, but realized they were out of their depth. It is also the home of Junior, the giant bunny, who is famous locally and has even been deputized by the local police department.

 

Next, we headed to First Landing State Park, where we set up camp and hiked the First Landing Loop Trail. The first half of the trail is fairly boring, along an old canal towpath. 

However, it really perks up on the bay side with gorgeous water and wildlife views!

In the afternoon, we visited Cape Henry Lighthouse National Park. The park is adjacent to the First Landing State Park because it is where the Jamestown settlers first landed and erected a now famous cross. The park is also technically on Fort Henry, a military base, so if you want to visit bring an ID to get through security. Once checked, the base offers a shuttle to the historical area including two lighthouses and a replica of the original first landing cross.

In the late afternoon, we returned to First Landing State Park Campground where a storm was brewing! Before the rains came, we got some spectacular pictures on the beach!

 

On our second day, we headed west through Norfolk because Reuben had ordered some beard products to an Amazon Locker for pickup.

While there, we visited the quirky Cementiscope, a public art kaleidoscope made from a cement mixer!

Next we headed north across the Chesepeake Bay to visit Fort Monroe National Monument. We’ve really come to appreciate our US Forts for their differences. This one is interesting in that it was only recently decommissioned and they have started to rent out the old solider quarters. Also, they use their ramparts for pet cemeteries!

Fort Monroe also houses the interesting Casemate Museum. These old casemates were once used as the prison for Jefferson Davis after the Civil War. They are now full of interactive educational displays.

 

That evening we stayed at the highly recommended Colonial Pines Campground. I guess we loved it so much there that we forgot to take pictures! But seriously, with Passport America it’s only $20 to stay and they have a pool, tennis courts, frisbee golf, and more!

On our third day, we were very excited for a 23 mile bike ride along the Colonial Parkway from Jamestown to Yorktown.

We started in Historic Jamestown, home of the first permanent British settlement in the US. These settlers had a REALLY hard time getting started, even succumbing to cannibalism to avoid starvation. However, eventually I guess they pulled it off!

The Jamestown site also includes a Glasshouse where you can watch costumed workers blow glass.

Then came the hard part: the 23 mile ride to Yorktown! Seriously though, it was pretty cool to make the ride, though there were MANY more cars on the historic drive than I would have preferred. It’s only mildly hilly and there are many signs along the way with historical information to stop and read.

 

En route, we also briefly rode through Historic Williamsburg, though it cost too much for us to want to officially visit.

We finished the route along the scenic York River to arrive at the Yorktown Visitors Center, where we enjoyed a little rest to watch the park video and enjoy the exhibits.

Just a short walk from the Visitors Center, you can stroll through historic Yorktown! There is also a free trolley that will take you around the area, including a beach on the York River.

 

After we were done exploring, we called an Uber Back to take us back to our car! 23 miles was enough for one day.

On our fourth day, we explored Richmond, one of the coolest cities I’ve never even thought about visiting! One of the nicest things is that if you’re a walker, it’s very easy to get around by foot. 

We started at St. John’s Church, where they give tours on the half hour. The church is famous for being the location of Patrick Henry’s spoke the famous words: “Give me Liberty or Give me Death.” The tour includes really interesting information about Patrick Henry and those early days of the American Revolution.

 

Nearby, we visited the Edgar Allen Poe Museum. Poe was raised in Richmond by foster parents. This museum details his early life, writing career, and mysterious death. We highly recommend it. It reminded me how much I love Poe!

Right down the street, is the free Virginia Holocaust Museum. We thought it strange that there would be a holocaust museum in Richmond until we discovered that there was quite a community of survivors who settled here. The museum is incredibly well curated and a MUST VISIT site.

The museum leads right out onto the city’s extensive Canal Walk. Along the route, you cross bridges, go through tunnels, visit islands, and explore amazing street art!

Once at Browns Island, you can even cross a pedestrian bridge that takes you all the way across the James River.

Another amazing free place to visit is the Maggie Walker National Historic Site with tours that start at top of the hour. The tour begins with a 20 minute video that they just produced and are quite proud of. It also includes a tour of Maggie Walker’s impressive home.

 

We also visited the Hollywood Cemetery, the final resting place of three presidents and many a confederate soldier. Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, so Jefferson Davis is also buried here. There is a map of a historical trail at the entrance, but it’s best to just follow the blue signs to lead you through. 

 

Nearby, we also visited the free Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The outside was as amazing as the inside!

The museum houses an incredibly diverse and bountiful display of artwork from all over the world and from nearly every time period. I especially loved the Hollar’s Encyclopedic Eye exhibit! They provided magnifying glasses to see the incredible detail of his drawings!

  

We next visited the Grand Kugel, an exhibit outside the Science Museum of Virginia. The description says you can stop the giant floating statue with your hands, but we were unsuccessful. 

Instead, we also decided to go inside and have some fun! There are many games to play at the museum, but make sure you don’t go on a field trip day!

That evening, we spent the night at my mom’s college friend Steve’s house, who kindly invited us to come and stay with him!

On our fifth day, we said goodbye to our new friend Steve and headed east.

First we headed to ride bikes on the High Bridge Trail, that crosses an incredibly scenic bridge over the Appomattox River. It was also the site of the Civil War Battle of High Bridge

We had read about a quirky site called Steins Unlimited, so stopped there en route to visit Appomattox Courthouse. At first, it didn’t seem like much. We had called in advance to schedule our appointment to visit. This kind woman came out to greet us and take us through the garage to a shed in the backyard.

But the unassuming shed held a shocking amount of steins! The owner, George, used to sell antique and rare steins, but now just allows people to come and visit his amazing collection. He spent an hour teaching us all about the different kinds of steins!

To end our day, we visited Appomattox Courthouse, made famous by the signing of the treaty that ended the Civil War. The site includes multiple trails and houses to visit, including an informative video that plays on the hour. Below you can see the McClean House, that still houses the desks where the treaty was signed by Generals Grant and Lee.

On our sixth day, we explored Lynchburg, starting with the Old City Cemetery that actually includes several “museums” like the Pest House, with buttons that explain each of the sites. 

 

Another cool feature of Lynchburg is that the city has developed multiple paved paths. We chose to do about a 6 mile bike ride along the Riverwalk!

 

That night we boondocked at the Oronoco Campground in the George Washington National Forest. Again, no pictures somehow! It was a really lovely spot though!

On our seventh day, we took advantage of our location to hike the nearby Mt. Pleasant Trail. It was really nice to be back in the mountains!

 

That afternoon, we drove a bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway towards Staunton to visit the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library. The cost of admission includes a video, a house tour, and museum entrance. The house tour was very interesting, mostly focusing on Wilson’s parents. His father was a pastor and lived in the house when Wilson was born; however, they only lived there for three years. The museum is more focused on Wilson’s political career.

On our eighth day, we explored the Shenandoah National Park area along Skyline Drive with a hike on the Hazel Falls and Cave Trail. There are MANY great hikes in the area and we’re not sure we’d chose this one again – but it was a fairly easy in and out with a pretty pay off at the end.

That afternoon, we headed towards Winchester, stopping first at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. We happened to arrive on a free admission Wednesday, but would recommend this well curated museum regardless! You can begin your tour with a stroll through the gardens.

 

Entrance also includes museum with detailed history of the Shenandoah Valley area, but also really unique displays, such as a collection of miniatures and treehouse sculptures.

We particularly enjoyed the Lewis Hine exhibit. Hine was instrumental in changing child labor laws through his photography. He also captured Babe Ruth playing on the city streets before he became famous!

On our ninth day, we headed northeast to visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. From the parking lot at the Visitors Center you can either walk or take a shuttle. We chose to take the trail.

Once in the lower town, we explored the historical area. Essentially, Harper’s Ferry is maintained as a historic village where you can go inside each of the buildings for a difference exhibit!

We also took advantage of visiting our old stomping grounds by stopping in at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy HQ. You can reach it by hiking the Appalachian Trail, that goes right through the town. We hiked this same route back in 2007. The staff at the center were more than happy to get the archived thru-hiker photos out for us! Look at how skinny we were!

That evening, we visited with old friends! Josh is a college buddy of Reuben’s and his wife, Natalie, has been developing a curriculum for her second graders around our YouTube videos. They made us an amazing dinner!

On our tenth day, we were so excited to visit Natalie’s Students! They asked great questions. Our favorite part was that they were so excited to meet “famous” people!

In the afternoon, we explored the Baltimore area, starting with a visit to the Fort Henry National Monument, where we learned about this history of the War of 1812 and the adoption of the Star Spangled Banner as our national anthem. 

As we drove into the city, we snapped a quick shot of Edgar Allen Poe’s Grave. There was little parking, so this was as fitting of a tribute as we could muster!

Baltimore is also home to the free Walters Art Museum. We really enjoyed the variety of art displays at the museum and it was the perfect place to be on a rainy afternoon!

  

That evening, we went to Wet City, a super hip and happening bar owned by another of Reuben’s college friends, PJ! It was really fun to catch up and taste the DELICIOUS AND AMAZING FOOD. Seriously, they have a fried deviled egg on the menu!

On our eleventh and final day, we set out for Noland’s Ferry Boat Ramp in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

The plan was to leave our car at the ramp, then ride our bikes along C&O Canal Trail section 1 and section 2 back to the Brunswick Family Campground, where we were staying. 

Once back to our campsite, we parked out bikes and took our kayaks back to the car on the Potomac River! It was a cool 20 mile loop!

  

To end our evening and our adventure, we met up with Mariah, Mia, and Mark, Reuben’s cousins, for dinner.

And that is pretty much a wrap on our phase one camperlife tour of the United States! We are now camping at Reuben’s parents in Williamsport, PA for a bit while we get prepared for our next big adventure: thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail!

We sure to stay tuned for the corresponding videos (video 1 and video 2) for this post!

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