November 08, 2015

On the Banks of the Shenandoah

"Well I come from the valley, I'm a rebel boy.
Born on the banks of the Shenandoah.
In '61, I went to the war,
To win one for Virginia!
Ya, my brother went first and they called me, too.
I was green as clover in the morning dew.
So I marched to the drum, and I sang to the tune.
Carry me back to Virginia!"
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "Carry Me Back to Virginia"

When it comes to summer pastimes in Virginia, tubing is king. Although we're relatively new to the tubing scene, having only launched our maiden voyage in the summer of 2013, we have acquired a respectable amount of gear and equipment that would make any redneck yacht club green with envy.

Our most frequented river is the James, which runs west to east through central Virginia and eventually spilling into the Chesapeake Bay, due to living within 15 minutes of its banks. Whenever we're unable to get away for a whole weekend, we'll spend a Saturday or Sunday floating the five miles between the Cartersville and West View landings in Goochland and Cumberland counties. If the river is high (5 feet or above), the float generally takes about 2-3 hours, but if it's below four feet, you could be floating for 4.5-6 hours! Those are the days when drinks and sunscreen run out before you finally reach the take-out point!

But by far our favorite float trips are found on the Shenandoah River through the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains north of Charlottesville in the towns of Luray and Shenandoah. This is rural Virginia at its finest.

In July we rented a beautiful log cabin situated on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in the general proximity of the Grove Hill public access point. As soon as we saw the cabin, we were in love. Sycamore Landing was appointed with all the comforts of home, and the owners went above and beyond to stock snacks for us to take out on the river!

Tubin' in style
Despite forecasts of a hot and sunny day, Saturday dawned cool and cloudy after an early morning thunder-burst of rain. We went out on the river anyway, floating the 1 mile stretch from the nearest public access point to the cabin. By the end of it, my goosebumps seemed permanently tattooed on my arms, but it was a great ride! There was a long, quiet stretch of water followed by a series of riffles and baby rapids that necessitated our maneuvering around rocks barely covered by the water flow.

After a quick break for lunch, the sun finally broke clear, and we were back out on the water! This time we spotted a family of deer, and the fishermen were pulling out a decent catch.

Blurred action shot
Our passion for tubing still not satiated, we drove even further up-river and parked alongside the road to risk breaking our necks going down a 90° incline to facilitate an even longer trip back to the cabin. The risk was worth the trip, though. It began with even more powerful rapids than the other stretch, and at some points we were amazed that we didn't popped a tube on a rock! But we made it back to the cabin in one piece and with only a few casualties: a soaked iPhone, a destroyed e-Cigarette, lost sunglasses, and epic sunburns.

The trip was a blast, and I can't wait to do it again! It's not really a safe stretch for little ones, though, so the arrival of Baby Gypsy may delay a return trip longer than we'd like.

Have you ever gone tubing? Where is your favorite place to go and what equipment do you bring? 

What We Brought (For 5 People):
2 "Double Tubes" also called floating couches
1 Single Tube (and sometimes a back-up)
2 Cooler Tubes
Beverages and snacks
Sunscreen, an umbrella, and flip-flops or water shoes

Where We Floated:
Our shortest trip utilized the Grove Hill Public Access Point, but the longer trip (where we scrambled down the river bank) was from the Grove Hill Bridge to roughly Ingham (exact location of landing point not shown to respect the privacy of the rental home). It was approximately 2 miles and took a little over 2 hours.


  1. I think there are plastic coverings or some sort of protective thing to take iPhones into water with you. Not totally positive on that, since I haven't done it yet, but I've heard things...! Tubing is super fun and the cabin getaway sounds amazing! Have fun with final baby preparations! :)

  2. I haven't gone "floating" in years! I would love to do it again this coming summer closer to home. It really is a Virginia tradition!

  3. You should go to the Czech Republic sometime - they seem to have an incredible fascination with tubing and canoeing and you'll see them on the river in the summer wearing funny sailing suits and going down the river with inflatable ducks and stuff hanging off whatever they're floating in...
    That's what came to mind when I read this post.
    Frank (bbqboy)


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