Tag Archives: Russell County

Kayaking Laurel Bed Lake

My son and I spent his birthday on an all-day kayaking trip to Laurel Bed Lake, one of the most remote lakes in Virginia.  Laurel Bed Lake is about 330 acres and is located in the center of the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Virginia’s second largest such area.

9.11.15 Kayak
Preparing to Kayak into Perfect Reflections at 3000′

The trip to the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area takes a while to get to from anywhere.  From Abingdon, it’s about 35-40 minutes.

Once at the CMWMA, the drive up to the lake takes about another 35-40 minutes, because you have to drive up Clinch Mountain.  There is a map of the CMWMA available on the VDGIF website (it is located here).

While the gravel roads are maintained, you should have a four wheel drive vehicle (in fact, the road is often closed in winter).  There are several significant switchbacks.  The vertical climb from the entrance to the lake is about 1300′, most of it along Big Tumbling Creek, a boulder-strewn creek with numerous waterfalls.

9.11.15 Isaac
Taking in the view from the weedless shoreline

There are smallmouth bass and brook trout in the lake, although we did not have any luck fishing on this day.  We did, however, spend about three hours kayaking around the lake:  this is a large lake, at least by comparison to the other high mountain lakes in the Southern Appalachians.  For example, this lake is much larger than nearby Hidden Valley Lake or Hungry Mother Lake in Virginia, or Julian Price Lake near Blowing Rock, NC.

9.11.15 Half way

I would estimate that the lake takes about 3-4 hours to circumnavigate.  Other than two boat docks, the lake is surrounded by wilderness.  No camping is allowed near the lake, so the shoreline is undisturbed and pristine.  Paddling on this lake, you can easily imagine yourself somewhere in the remote wilderness of Canada or Maine.

9.11.15 Sun
Afternoon sunlight. This view is looking back toward the boat dock. The sun is over the area where we launched our kayaks.

We stopped in a couple of spots to rest and enjoy the sun.  We saw all manner of wildlife:  jumping fish, hundreds of frogs, ducks, blue herons, a hawk, other birds we could not identify, deer, and a lone bald eagle soaring high in the sky above the lake.  There were also signs of beaver along the shoreline.

Generally speaking, one side of the lake features rhododendron and has a steeper bank, while the other side features more wetland areas.  The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has set up some bird nest areas along the wetland side of the lake.

9.11.15 Mini Sasquatch
Not a Sasquatch

This is a gem of a lake, one we would like to visit again in the fall when the colors are changing.  We were there during a weekday, but the trip to the lake takes so long that I doubt it is ever extremely busy.  At one point there were about four boats on the lake, but by the evening we literally had the lake to ourselves.  It’s pretty amazing in this day and age that you can have a 330 acre lake to yourself on a nice day.

This is, however, a place you really want to have to visit, as it’s very much out-of-the-way compared to many other outdoor spots in Southwest Virginia.  But if you have the time, it’s a worthwhile trip.  I know we’ll be back.

Clinch Mountain’s Southern Spine

Because of its prominence, Clinch Mountain affords some of the best views over the Holston River and Clinch River watersheds.  The best views are available during the winter when there is no foliage.  On clear winter days you can see almost 100 miles south. On Saturday, February 22, 2014, I drove to the Hidden Valley Management Area and hiked the southeastern section of Clinch Mountain on access roads and trails in that area.

Southern Spine of Clinch Mountain
Southern Spine of Clinch Mountain

Clinch Mountain overlooks the small community of Hansonville and Moccasin Creek.  Clinch Mountain divides two significant river basins:  the three forks of the Holston River drain the valleys to the east and south of the mountain (which is to the left of the ridge in the photos), and the Clinch River to the west and north of the mountain (which is to the right in the photos).

South View Panorama
South View Panorama

In the photo above, the view shows the spine of Clinch Mountain to the southwest, and further to the south the valley through which I-81 travels, with the Iron Mountains (and Holston Mountain) bordering the other side of the valley, with the much higher Unaka Mountains (including Roan Mountain) on the horizon.

Long range views to the south
Long Range Views to the South, including the Unaka Mountains

The western side of Clinch Mountain hase similarly long range vistas, with some cliff outcroppings.   On this hike, however, I stayed on the southeastern side of the mountain.

Big Moccasin Creek drainage
Big Moccasin Creek

In the photo above, Clinch Mountain is on the left, and the much smaller hill on the right is Big Moccasin Ridge.  Together they frame in the Big Moccasin Creek and the valley.

Hidden Valley Reflections

Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  During this time we often reminisce and reflect on what’s happened in the past year and give thanks for the good things we have in our lives.  Along the themes of reminiscence and reflection, here are some tranquil, reflective photos from a trip my son Karl and I took to Hidden Valley Lake one evening in this November.

Reflections on Hidden Valley Lake

We approached the eastern side of the lake just as a series of interesting cloud formations developed in the otherwise clear evening sky.  The lake was very still—there was no wind—and the reflections looking back toward the sun were magnificent.  (Click on any of these photos to enlarge them.)

Shoreline Reflections

The leaves had already mostly fallen, but as can be seen in the above photo, there were still oaks on the far side of the lake that clung to some of their dark auburn foliage. 

Surrounded by Clouds

We were the only two people in the valley.  There was absolute quiet except for the sound of the rushing water in the distance at the dam. 

The air was crisp and had a unique, slightly sweet scent.  I have since come to learn that Hidden Valley at one time may have been a high elevation bog.  There are some unusual plants in the valley that give off the unique scent in the late fall.  I have discussed with Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries that it may be Possum Haw aka Shawnee Haw or Nanny Berry, or it may even be the bark from some of the trees after the leaves have fallen and they are more exposed to the air and sun.

Karl and I went for a hike to explore upper Brumley Creek.  The creek’s headwaters are formed from the lake’s drainage, high elevation springs, and smaller creeks in the valley.

Upon our return, most of the clouds had rolled away.  In the stillness of evening, the lake made an almost perfect reflecting pool.  Faint light and muted features caused the scene to look like an impressionist painting:

Reflecting back on this year, I’ve spent a lot of time in the outdoors with my family.  That’s one thing, among many other things, for which I am thankful.