Calico Rock on Philpott Lake

It is a cold, blustery day in Virginia this Saturday. It is my busy season, so I’ve worked every weekend this month. God has, for reasons of His own, taken to giving us winter storms on the weekends so I couldn’t really go out anyway. It looks like this right now, leaving me to remember warmer days.

I know others have it much worse today, but that is not really any comfort.

Snow in the Back Yard

As it happens, I had this post sitting in my drafts file. It is from my last kayaking trip for 2021. Henry County has many excellent programs for people over 50 and one of them is kayaking. Once a month, folks from the county office will take a group out on area lakes and rivers. In October, we went to see Calico Rock on Philpott Lake.

Calico Rock is, well, a little underwhelming. That is why this post was sitting in drafts in the first place. However, all things are relative and, right now, it is breathtaking to me. I feel extremely fortunate to live in a place where I can throw a kayak on top of my car (it actually takes me about 45 minutes to do that) and get out on the water.

Ryans Branch Boat Launch

I get the impression that Ryans Branch boat launch is not well known, even to locals. The ladies at the church didn’t know where it was and my cursory glimpse at Google Maps suggested that it was much further north. It turned out to be just a few minutes north of Fairy Stone Lake.

Ryans Branch Boat Launch

This trip was in late October and the leaves were still working on turning. The weather alternated between sunny and cloudy while we were out. When the sun came out, the leaves just seemed to snap with color … and then another cloud would come by.

Ryans Branch Boat Launch

To get to Calico Rock from the Ryans Branch launch, you turn right and go under the bridge. At the time of this trip, Google Maps had Calico Rock on the other side of the lake. It’s not. Trust me. Turn right and go under the bridge.

Turn Right and Go Under the Bridge

Then you just hug the shoreline. There are no turns needed. It is quite a ways back.

Hugging the Shoreline
More Shoreline Hugging

You’ll know that you are getting close when you see a house on the hill.

Approaching Calico Rock

So, Calico Rock is – unless the fellow from the county was pulling our leg – really just a kind of rock face. I’m not really sure what I was expecting.

Calico Rock

There is something to be said for scale though. The voice in the back of my head that thinks it knows obscure words keeps yelling “escarpment”. Is it? I don’t really know.

Calico Rock Up Close

So, that was Calico Rock. You may be able to see why it stayed in drafts for the past three months. Now, in the dead of winter, you may enjoy it as I do … as proof of fun activities in better weather.

There are other sites to see from Ryans Launch, although I don’t know how you would see Blue Falls without scuba gear. According to the plaque, it is an “historic feature deep under the waters of the lake”. That leaves Emberson Falls. That sounds like a trip for 2022.

More Adventuring Ideas

I hope everyone out there is safe and snug and, if not enjoying the winter weather, persisting.

In a few weeks, the forsythia will bloom. In less than six weeks, the leaves should start at least nubbing out on the trees. Winter, like all trying times, will pass.

Henry County’s Newest Brewery

Scuffle Hill Brewing has been open now for a couple of months. They are the second craft brewery to make Henry County their home and the first in Collinsville. They are located in the Colony Place Shopping Center at 2620 Virginia Avenue.

Colony Place Shopping Center Sign

If you haven’t been yet, they have generous hours*:

Wednesday & Thursday 5 to 9

Friday 4:30 to 10:30

Saturday 2 to10:30

Sunday 2 to 7

*These are their hours as of Halloween 2021, so double check their hours if you are reading this later in the future.

Scuffle Hill Brewing Entrance

They have a good line-up of beers and I overheard some fantastic flavors they are planning on in the future. If you are a fan of domestic beers, it looks like the first three on their list have you covered.

Beer Menu

If you want to try a few of their beers without committing to just one, order a flight. Since this was my first time, that’s what I did. I ordered a flight that included the Campfires and Canteens smoked rauchbier, the Country Inn dark mild, the Dick &Willie oatmeal stout, and the pineapple seltzer. I also lucked out and got a gift certificate to Papa’s Pizzeria (a cute little pizzeria up in Bassett on the banks of the Smith River). Scuffle Hill was awarding the certificates randomly for Halloween.

My flight

I liked the oatmeal stout but I have to say that my favorite has to be one of the first two. Campfires and Canteens has a smoky flavor but is a gentle and smooth beer that is not too unique to be enjoyable. The County Inn mild ale almost has a coffee taste to it but does not actually contain coffee. It’s hard to say which one I’ll order the next time I’m in, except that it will be one of these two.

One of the owners and the man at the bar dressed as a caveman talked with me about how he’s been struggling to get the new brewery listed on Google Maps. He had no trouble getting the business added to Apple Maps but Google keeps insisting that they can’t verify that the business exists. He is continuing to try but, if you are a Google Maps user, you might be able to help him out by asking Google to add the business. (When you pull up Google Maps, hit the 3 horizontal bars on the upper left and select “Add a Missing Place”). If enough of us do it, at some point Google is going to have to admit that this business exists.

A Technologically Advanced Caveman

Scuffle Hill has made some mentions in the Martinsville art world too. They hired local artist Ashley King to paint some beautiful murals on the walls. She did a phenomenal job.

They were busy installing television mounts on Halloween evening and plan to have sports streaming by Wednesday.

If you need any more incentive to go and take a look at Scuffle Hill, there’s one more thing that might just push you over the edge: they have a very healthy Pint It Forward board. The entries on this board represent pints that have been paid for in advance for someone coming in later that is either named or described on the board. You can only get one per visit so, based on the board when I took a picture of it, three firefighters can go in and have a pint a piece, prepaid. One firefighter cannot go in and have three pints.

Take a look and see if there is a description that fits you and you may have the reason you need to go.

Hmmm… I know a lineman who likes breweries. I’ll have to give him a ring.

The Pint It Forward Board

The Very First Henry County Fair

We recently saw the very first Henry County Fair. At least, I think it was the very first county fair. Comments on one of the local paper’s Facebook page sugggested that with questions like “Since when have we had a county fair?”.

It was pulled off beautifully and, if this had been a normal year, I think it would have been a big hit. However, this was not a normal year. The annual Martinsville Oktoberfest that was to be held just a week later was cancelled over Covid concerns. From the comments I saw, there was just a general confusion over why sometimes Covid is treated as a concern and sometimes it is not.

The fair was held Wednesday through Saturday at the Martinsville Speedway. A friend and I went on Friday, September 24th, shortly after it opened at 4 o’clock. The Valley Star Credit Union 300 was to be held the next day so the track itself was busy and loud until 6 o’clock. That gave us a couple of hours to kill before the shows started.

Infinity Acres Petting Zoo

Infinity Acres had a petting zoo set up on the lawn just off of the fair grounds. Handlers walked around with the llamas and I’ve seen photos of the camel actually touring the fair.

An Infinity Acres Llama

For 25ยข you could get a Dixie cup of food for the goats. Stand too close to them and they’ll pretty much each anything (like purses, camera bag straps, etc). They would stretch their necks out hopefully whenever anyone came close.

Hungry Goats
An Infinity Acres Camel

After the petting zoo, there was a tent of the typical judged entries – canned goods, quilts, art, crafts, etc. I got so absorbed in the variety of the entries that I completely forgot about my penchant for taking photos. That rarely happens.

We watched them setting up the soundstage.

Setting Up the Soundstage

There was a tent offering covid vaccines.

The Moderna Vaccination Tent

We bought some fried oreos and lemonade. I don’t think that my friend cared much for the fried oreos.

Fried Oreos and Lemonade

And we rode some rides.

Finally, 6 o’clock rolled around. The cars on the track stopped and the shows started.

The first show was the Great Lakes Timber Show. They demonstrated a lot of what you could see in competitive lumberjacking. In one of the first feats, they used a chain saw to quickly whip up a number of small chairs that they handed out to the audience.

Timber Lakes Show Hands Out Little Chairs Cut by Chainsaw

They called on an audience member and showed how incredibly quickly they could saw through a log.

An Audience Member Helped with the Two-Person Saw

And then another audience member was invited up to try to log roll.

An Audience Member Attempts to Log Roll

In the finale, one of the team got up and performed a fantastic log roll perfectly scripted for laughs.

Next up was Circus Shane’s Rock-N-Circus. He juggled. He did acrobatics. He invited kids up to be part of the act.

And then he jumped off a 65 foot platform. It was a very high-adrenaline show.

Circus Shane’s Jumps from 65 Feet Up

The last show was Josh Shilling and Mountain Heart. A Martinsville native, Josh and Mountain Heart put on a brilliant show. Josh is a local boy who went out and has made his way in the music world and there was a tangible excitement to hear him play for us. He and Mountain Heart did not disappoint. He is an excellent pianist and then he stood up and took up a guitar. Judging by the instruments, you know they played a little bluegrass.

Josh Shilling and Mountain Heart

By the end of the night, my camera was dying and we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The sequence of shows would start up again later in the evening. We kept waiting and hoping for crowds to show up but the turnout seemed meager compared to what we expected. I don’t know if there was some political drama that kept crowds away or if there was a fear of covid or something else entirely.

I do hope that they have the fair again next year. Although I failed to get any pictures inside the Exhibit Hall, both my friend and I are excited for next year and are thinking of what we do well enough to be able to enter. She’s got what it takes to enter several categories.