Using the Web to Get Back to Nature with Virginia State Parks This Fall
Planning a trip to enjoy a last bit of summer or looking ahead to fall? Starting on the web is a great first step to getting away from it all.
Virginia State Parks are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year. The park system opened six parks (Douthat, Fairy Stone, Hungry Mother, Seashore, Staunton River and Westmoreland) on the same day in 1936. The park facilities were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as one of the first non-Federal project undertaken by this New Deal jobs program. The park system has grown to 35 state parks that cross the commonwealth from the Beach (First Landing) to the mountains (Douthat); from Northern Virginia (Sky Meadows and Mason Neck) to the Roanoke highlands (Wilderness Road and Natural Tunnel).
The state parks have a very rich website that has information about park locations, amenities, history and events. You can start off with only a vague idea of a perfect weekend. Let's say you want to enjoy a fishing weekend by camping near the water in the Shenandoah Valley. You want to have options for the whole group, so swimming would be good along with some hiking. Cabins or campground are both ok with you, but having options to consider is ideal. You can use the amenity search and find that Douthat State Park is the park for you. They even have photos on flickr for you to get a sense of what the park has to offer. You see that pets are welcome at some cabins and that the trails are ideal for biking or even a hike to a waterfall.
Next you can check availability. The state uses Reserve America to handle campsite and cabin reservations. As this is a popular state park, it looks like most weekends are already reserved. You could wait until November when rates drop but swimming is no longer on the agenda or you could opt instead to go for a midweek getaway in this last week of August as a last hurrah for summer. Click on an available cabin and you will get a description of the cabin and its amenities. You can then reserve online.
The State Parks also can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter which will keep you up to date on park happenings, contests and cabin rental discounts. They have a YouTube channel and a Flickr account to help you get a better sense of the parks before you commit to a particular one.
Of course, once you get to the park, be prepared to unplug. Most parks do not have internet access or even good cellphone service. So log on to find the perfect getaway so you can log off and enjoy a technology free escape.