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Mabry Mill - Stella's Day Trips

Monday June 3, 2019

“Stella’s Day Trips

        Mabry Mill.


There isn’t a season or an hour on the clock that Mabry Mill is more beautiful than others.  It always looks like a postcard, perfect to frame.  The pond, flat and filled with life, mirrors the grist mill, every slab of textured wood, in tint and shade, reflects days of old, as things were.


Restored buildings live along the paths—some hardtop, others raised decking and bridges---lining the wooden millrace.  The Blacksmith shop, scented of fresh shaped iron tools, the family cabin where weavers make chairs and spin wool.


Winter is frozen.  The wheel stops in its spin, covered in still water, thick and opaque.  Ice surfaces the channeled creek, rushing below, breaking through—occasionally—bubbling methodically to the rapid wings of little fat snowbirds.


Spring smells damp and earthy and of daffodils.  Quiet moments of serenity—a silence where life springs in subtle stages—variegated foliage—oak, maple, and tulip poplar paint the backdrop where regal pines tower.


Summer is lush and stirring with fluffy tailed squirrels, chattering finches, and ducks that glide to the water’s edge, taking bread crumbs from visitors and naps on the lawn.  Breezes are warm and soft as the mill’s wheel loudly turns the creek into splashes.


Autumn changes the air to crisp winds and dyes leaves so colorful they star in the skyline and draw tourists to witness their fall.   The Mill is alive with apple butter making, old-timey banjo bluegrass, and the serve-breakfast-all-day seasonal restaurant.  


The pancakes are recommended along with a gift shop visit for souvenirs.


Directions: from Roanoke, go south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to mile marker 176.  

From Stuart, take 58 West Business to Meadows of Dan.  Enter the Parkway and go north for one mile to milepost 176.


Email questions/suggestions to: Stella Lane---email:



Groundhog Mountain - Stella's Day Trips

Monday June 3, 2019

“Stella’s Day Trips”

Groundhog Mountain


Groundhog Mountain, from late spring to early fall, is a perfect place for family reunions.  Time is pleasant there, and distant views—clouded in pale, lightly overcast skies—reach the edges of what is possible to see.  Visitors will cherish the fresh air and feed their famished eyes on layers of green against blue skylines, across and down the valley.  


To the right of the large parking area and bathroom, there are many and many more picnic tables, landscaped naturally under the shade of massive oak trees.  A few small walking paths wind through the area and trail off into the forest. To the left is Floyd, Virginia’s Buffalo Mountain, and straight ahead lies North Carolina.


Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, is sketched faintly on the horizon through haze-like watercolor strokes.  It observes the land below and peers sternly at the rugged observation tower standing on Groundhog Mountain.  The tower leans and creaks. Its narrow steps are uneven, steep, and uncertain. Ascending stairs to the viewing deck is an adventure, though, one that mostly children will enjoy.  


All sights, however, can be safely appreciated at ground level.  This park is seasonal, and the gates are locked when closed.


A tenth of a mile south passed Groundhog Mountain sits Puckett Cabin on the side of the road.  This historical landmark features the home of a lady from the 1830s who served as a midwife to the locals.  The rustic cabin and outbuilding are neatly manicured on simple terrain, an easy excursion to add depth to the day’s events.


Directions: from Roanoke, Virginia, go south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to milepost 189.


Email questions/suggestions to: Stella Lane---email:

Philpott Dam - Stella's Day Trips

Monday June 3, 2019

“Stella’s Day Trips”

Philpott Dam.


The sight is majestic to feel—a concrete wall massively towers high above a rushing river of aqua green.   It is strong and solid and holds Philpott Lake, which seems touched only by the hands of nature, lush forests, mountains, birds and sky.


Endless views surround the park, from mountain level to the water’s edge.  Beauty is abundant, scented of cool water and sunshine and warm dried pine needles. The earth is damp, blooming burgundy trillium, ferns, and swallowtail butterflies.


Philpott Dam’s stately barrier releases the Smith River from confinement through a small channel at its base.  The loud, splashing roar quickly smooths within the rocky shore banks that glitter of fool’s gold and shimmering mica.   


The river’s flow freshens the air and quickly mellows its course, gently lapping broken boulders and washing sand to the river’s depths.  Among rhododendron groves, weathered foot paths carefully trail through serene escapes and scale the scene through short, steep switchbacks.


All outdoor recreational activities are accessible at Philpott Dam: camping, fishing, bird watching, hiking and biking.  People of all ability levels can enjoy the visit, with or without their dog companion.


A visitor’s center features the history of the man-made masterpiece as well as local wildlife information.  Parking, bathrooms, picnic tables, benches, shelters and a playground are all on site.


Good gripping shoes are recommended.


Directions:  from Roanoke, take 220 South to VA-57 West/Fairystone Park Highway at Bassett.  Turn right onto Philpott Dam Road to reach the Philpott Dam Visitors Center, 1058 Philpott Dam Rd, Bassett, VA.


Email questions/suggestions to: Stella Lane---email:

Fred Clifton Park - Stella's Day Trips

Monday June 3, 2019

“Stella’s Day Trips”

Fred Clifton Park.


This humble park stands above Lover’s Leap Wayside, perching on the well-known site.  It soars high over Woolwine and rests at an elevation of two-thousand nine hundred and thirty feet.  From up there, birds spread wings wide like the view, falling free and far on the wind.

Several windows to the north reveal Bedford’s Peaks of Otter, the farthest distance visible on the pale gray horizon of the Blue Ridge.  Short trails wind easily around groves of rhododendron and rustic picnic tables, interspersed with tall shade trees that reach skyward to the sun, swaying slightly with the breeze.  The air is new, clean, and refreshingly clear.

One rugged course descends quickly and is not well-traveled.  It levels at the Lover’s Leap Wayside overlook, adjacent Jeb Stuart Highway.  The rock ledge underscores the beauty, all framed by clouds and blue and peace.  A panoramic masterpiece.

The hardtop road leads back up to the park where children curve along simple paths. The settled and shy-footed can arrange a serving table at the trail head for a warm weather potluck gathering with family and friends.

Located in Patrick County, this park is easily accessed.  From Roanoke, take US 220 South to Stuart, then 58 West toward Meadows of Dan, Virginia.  At Lover’s Leap Wayside, turn right at the Fred Clifton Park sign. Parking is at the top of the hill.  A single bathroom stands beside the parking lot.

From the Blue Ridge Parkway, take the exit at Meadows of Dan at milepost 177.7, then 58 East for five and a half miles.  Turn left before the Lover’s Leap overlook at the sign for Fred Clifton Park.

Fred Clifton Park

US 58 West

8550 Jeb Stuart Highway

Meadows of Dan, VA 24120

Email questions/suggestions to: Stella Lane---email: