Cave Mountain Lake Virginia

“You are not in the mountains. The mountains are in you.” -John Muir

Our adventure today is in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Cave Mountain Lake in the Jefferson National Forest. Just a little over one hour north of Roanoke past Natural Bridge, VA, crossing the James River, passing through Arnold’s Valley, past the general store, past an old Buffalo farm, up the mountain, we revisited an old National Park Campground with its quaint trout-filled seven-acre creek feed lake. Trust me everything I said is true, you just can’t make things like this up.

I have camped at Cave Mountain Lake since I was old enough to walk. I camped there with my parents, siblings, and with my family. All in all, 3 generations from my family have camped here over the last half-century with lots of great memories.

As I write this, tons of memories are rushing through my head. I remember turning over rocks to get nightcrawlers for fishing. I remember playing in the creek. I remember riding bikes through the campsite. I remember gathering wood for the fire. I remember one of the buffalo from down in the valley got loose and came up to the campground. Ranger “Slick” had to shoot the Buffalo for the safety of the campground. You never knew what adventure might occur while camping.

Cave Mountain Lake gets part of its name from the lake. The lake was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which used the naturally found rock, to form the 35-foot dam. Since the lake is creek feed, the water is always cold and crystal clear. The campground has 41 campsites that are spacious, private, and wooded.

Beach Area of Lake
Otters and Trout share the lake What a Beautiful View
Salamander seen through the lake Water

The CCC also built the log picnic shelter using trees and rocks from the area. Its rustic design includes a large stone fireplace and rough-hewn beams and shaker shingles.

Picnic Shelter– Yours for a Rental of $25 a day
The Stone Fireplace with left to right, Melissa, Mama and Missy
Shaker shingles covered in Moss

Our good friends, Ronnie and Melissa, are the campground hosts at Cave Mountain Lake. We had a nice picnic lunch with grilled hamburgers and potato salad while reminiscing and laughing about old adventures camping with the crackle from the fire in the stone fireplace popping in our ears.

Ronnie Grilling Hamburgers

Throughout the campground, there are wooded pathways with bridges to cross the babbling creek, and two trails you can hike, Wildcat Mountain and Panther Knob.

Picnic Area
One of Many Pedestrian Bridges
LISTEN! Sounds of Creek

I learned several things today while visiting the campground. Persimmon trees were growing nearby and Ronnie was telling us how a seed split from a persimmon predicted the winter weather by looking at the shape of the split kernel.

If the kernel is spoon-shaped, expect plenty of snow to shovel.

If it is fork-shaped, plan on a mild winter with powdery, or light snow.

If it is Knife-shaped, expect frigid winds that will “cut” like a blade.

We cut open several persimmon seeds to verify they all were the same…and you guessed it, spoon-shaped. Get your shovels out, you heard it from me first.

Can you see the spoon?

Next, I learned of PawPaw trees that grow near the creek leading into the lake. Pawpaws are an old fruit that I had heard of but never have seen in our area.

Paw-paw tree

The Pawpaw fruit reminds me of papaya with a mango-banana taste. Pawpaw trees are the largest edible fruit trees native to North America. Keywords Native to North America. The fruit is usually ripe when it is falling off the tree. They are used in cooking, puddings, mixed in drinks, and even to flavor ice cream. For me, the best way to eat one is to tear open the skin and spoon the meat out.

Finally, I learned that there is a tree that supposedly Robert E. Lee carved his name in 1854 or 1864. General Lee died in 1870, just down the road apiece in Lexington, Virginia. We had never seen this in all our years of coming here. The tree is off the road next to the creek. The signature is fairly high up on the tree from either tree growth or he was saddled on his horse “Traveler”. Traveler died in 1871 in Lexington too. Just down the road in Natural Bridge we supposedly have George Washington’s initials carved into the rock. There’s so much Early American history in these mountains.

Robert E. Lee

Cave Mountain Lake is a quiet haven while being a place to disconnect and immerse in nature while listening to the creek with the frog’s croaking to the wind whistling through the trees to the snap, crackle, pop of a campfire. It is truly an undiscovered gem in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. There aren’t many places we can go in today’s world where there is such beauty and solitude.

For those interested, day-use only costs $8 a day per car, camping is $20 a night. I remember when camping was $8 a night. There is running water and bathrooms with showers throughout the campground. There isn’t electricity and they don’t allow boats on the lake.

Camping in these mountains, you feel as if you are far far away from the city. You truly live with the other campers and wildlife upon these protected woodlands. While camping we would have to put away all food and trash. I remember looking outside my tent to seeing a raccoon eating dog food. I remember an owl hooting in the tree. Years ago the trash cans were down in the ground at each campsite with a closeable lid to keep the bears out. Many times black bears would be dumpster diving. Today Ronnie was on the lookout for a black snake.

Today, in 2021, Cave Mountain Lake looks the same as it did 50 years ago. Some upgrades look to fit the timeline of 1934. I am sure the insects, animals, wind, frogs, and the crackling fire all sound the same as they did 87 years ago!

As a kid, I do remember with the heavy tree canopy how dark it got in the campground at night. It was always fun to get the lantern out to walk to the bathhouse at night. We would get back to the site and as we did today, and have smores. Everyone would sit by the campfire and act silly, telling ghost stories, playing cards, etc. We could just let our imagination run wild. I remember waking up when the sun came up to the smell of coffee, bacon, and eggs, or sausage gravy biscuits all cooked over an open firepit. Discussing what we would have to eat for lunch and dinner, as we always ate good while camping. Oh, I long for those days again.

We often take for granted what we are used to seeing, but today I saw these mountains as if I might never see them again. I left no footprint but took lots of memories.

There’s something about being in the wild of nature, that every time you come if you pay attention and listen to the land it will teach you something as it did for me today. We will see if the winter weather prediction comes true?

Our friends Ronnie and Melissa are responsible for the awesome upkeep over many years to the campground. They are great hosts as well. Thanks for keeping the memories alive! We had a fun day!


One thought on “Cave Mountain Lake Virginia

  1. Just lovely Jimbob. After all the sad news of deaths we received last night and this morning, I was just saying how life is short and we need to slow down and enjoy each other and the simple things…make memories. I love your story telling… I learn something every time & it always makes me smile. Now I gotta go tell Big D to pull the snow shovels to the front of the shed😁😄💖

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s