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.

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.