Fall Leaves at Beaver Creek Reservoir

Our peek leaf color for 2021 was in November. If asked, I would normally tell you to expect it the second week of October but that certainly wasn’t the case this past year.

On November 14th, the Homestead Hikers hit the trail at Beaver Creek Reservoir and we caught some breathtaking color. The Homestead Hikers is a hiking group through the College for Older Adults with the Reynolds Homestead. Annual dues in 2021 were $10 and it’s a very fun and friendly good. There’s probably not a better investment in fun in the area.

Beaver Creek Reservoir Trail Head

First off, our Beaver Creek Reservoir is NOT the reservoir built in 1964 for the town of Crozet. That one is about three hours northeast of here, just east of Staunton, Virginia. (This is not the only place in Henry County with a more famous counterpart, so you have to pay attention).

The Martinsville Reservoir is 174 acres and is about 8 minutes from downtown Martinsville. It has a fishery maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The game fish population includes largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, catfish and yellow perch.

It also has a beautiful trail that is just incredible when the leaves change.

Meeting Up at the Trail Head

Now that we’ve established that there is some confusion over the name of this place, I’m going to call it the Martinsville Reservoir going forward. That’s how the state has it.

Both the trail and the reservoir are open for public use only on the weekends between sunrise and sunset. They are very literal about this. Memorial Day and Labor Day Mondays do not count and you will arrive only find the entrance barred by a metal gateway.

When open, there are two entrances to the park but either will get you to the trail head.

Starting the Trail

The trail is easy for all ages and abilities. It wanders all around, snaking its way down to the shoreline of the lake and then back again. If you take a gander at the Homestead Hiker’s Facebook page, Betty Kirkpatrick took an absolutely stunning photo of the group all gathered on a point that juts out into the lake a little, canopied by bright yellow and orange leaves.

The Upper Part of the Reservoir Through the Trees

It was a fun hike out and back, starting from the picnic shelter.

Picnic Facilities at Martinsville Reservoir

The picnic shelter accommodates sixty (60) people, has restroom facilities, water access, three grills, four large trash cans, and electric outlets. It can be rented from the city for $50 for the day or $30 for a half day. Check the Martinsville Parks & Rentals page for more info (and, pro tip, the area code is 276).

Just below it is the boat launch/parking area.

The Boat Launch at Martinsville Reservoir

We crossed the road after having circled back to the picnic pavilion and continued along a trail that was less obvious and more densely wooded. The trees are blazed so you should be able to find your way. The walk through fall foliage was gorgeous.

Walking Through Fall Foliage

This trail crested at a spot that overlooks that reservoir and has features left over from some previous use. I asked a private Facebook group that specializes in area history if anyone knew what the history of these were and the consensus was that this used to be a picnic area.

An Old Spigot at the Old Picnic Area

Thanks to them, I can now see that the picture below is of an old grill. I imagine that there would have been a metal grate over it back in the day. The stonework is beautiful. I can see where the black metal grills on poles are probably safer but they lack the character of this one.

Someone mentioned that there used to be numbered picnic areas here so there may be more stonework grills like this tucked away in the woods. It’s something to look for if you decide to try to follow the blazed trees on this side of the road.

An Old Stonework Grill

The trail eventually leads down to the banks of the reservoir, not far from the dam. The PHCC Loop Trail, so named because of its connection with Patrick & Henry Community College, approaches the dam from the other side. Our hike leader said that extensions to the existing trails are planned.

The Dam at Martinsville Reservoir

From there, it is a short walk to the boat launch and picnic area. The open metal shelter visible on the boat launch houses kayaks that are available to the public for kayaking from April through October. The rental for a kayak/canoe is $10 a day plus there is a $10 refundable deposit for the key needed to unlock them. There is a Canoe Rental Form available on the city’s website here.

Martinsville Reservoir Boat Launch

Non-gasoline powered boats are allowed on the reservoir but must have a permit. The permit fee posted to the Virginia DWR webpage in February of 2022 is $3 a day or $15 for a calendar year. This water is the water supply for the City of Martinsville so there may be other restrictions on what kinds of motors or boats will be permitted. The Lake Warden can answer more specific questions.

Boating fees for active, retired and disabled military veterans are waived.

If you like to fish, you might be interested in the 2020 video below where they show the construction and launch of “fish attractors” along the banks of the reservoir. They put in twenty in 2019 and another thirty-four in 2020. The attractors are made out of concrete and corrugated drainage pipe so that the fish have some structures that won’t be as prone to snag hooks as other materials might be.

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