Practice Camping Trip #3: Roanoke, VA

dog at soaring ridge brewery

mcafee knob near roanoke

Campground

We spent the weekend at Dixie Caverns Campground, in Salem, VA. It seemed run-down, but safe. We do not recommend using the campground bathrooms, even to wash your hands. They refill propane tanks, the wifi was fine, and the TV channel selection was good, but overall it seemed overpriced.

Exploring the Roanoke Area

We really enjoyed our weekend in the Roanoke area hiking and eating and drinking local food and beer. The details of our eating and drinking from a local, sustainable perspective are on in this post on our responsible consumerism blog; here we’ll talk more generally about what we enjoyed in and around Roanoke.

We arrived at the campground around lunchtime Friday and (after making the mistake of unhooking and starting to set up camp before checking the “heated” spigot) found a spot with a working city water supply (it was below freezing all weekend). Because it’s winter, the campground wasn’t crowded, so we were able to spread out into the neighboring spot and test our new dog fencing. After seeing some of the sweet dog-yard setups at the Richmond campground, we ordered two dog exercise pens to use as fencing along the side of the Airstream. We’re hoping to use the fence as a clothes drying rack too–classy!

Friday evening we hit a couple breweries. First was Parkway Brewing Co, just a few minutes from the campground. Good beer, good atmosphere, and DOGS ARE ALLOWED IN THE TASTING ROOM! We didn’t find that out until we were leaving, so Bugsy stayed in the car in her cozy crate. We enjoyed beer flights, almost got tacos from the taco and milkshake truck parked outside (and regretted not doing so later), and moved on.

tasting flight at parkway brewing co

Next stop was Big Lick Brewing Company, which felt more like a regular bar than a tasting room–it’s not a big warehouse like most breweries. Big Lick is a nanobrewery: the quantities they produce only serve the tasting room; they are not enough to bottle or can. We had a couple beers, ordered some food from the visiting caterer in the corner, and enjoyed the Friday post-work people-watching. We found out later that well-behaved dogs can come inside here too (Bugsy does not necessarily fall into that category).

big lick brewing company roanoke

Saturday we got up early to hit the hiking trail. There are a few excellent hikes very close to Roanoke, and the hike we wanted to do is very popular, which can be annoying. It’s especially annoying with your dog is neurotic. Fortunately(?), with the wind chill Saturday morning, the temperature was close to zero degrees F, so McAfee Knob was, for once, sparsely populated. It’s an easy 4 or 4.5 miles to a rocky outcropping over the valley, for one of the iconic Appalachian Trail photo ops.

mcafee knob roanoke

We celebrated not freezing to death with our first trip to Camping World to pick up a few gadgets, and further rewarded ourselves with beers at Soaring Ridge Brewing Company. This was our favorite brewery of the weekend. Bugsy got to come in for a while, and we both (humans) enjoyed each beer in our flights. I bet Soaring Ridge is a great place to hang out in warmer weather: the wall on the street side is made of glass garage doors. Even on our frigid day we were warm sitting in front of the glass.

dog at soaring ridge brewery

Lunch was at a farm-to-table restaurant called Local Roots in Grandin Village, a neat collection of shops and restaurants in Roanoke. When I visit a new town I google for local food in that town, and am rarely disappointed with any recommendations I find. Local Roots was no exception–creative dishes from local ingredients in a homey atmosphere.

local roots restaurant in roanoke

Across the street from Local Roots is an outpost of Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op, in which I would have gone on a shopping spree had we been on the real trip, and not camping just for the weekend. It’s packed with local produce, meat, and dairy, and organic wellness products and bulk foods.

produce at roanoke natural foods co-op

We went home to watch the UVA – Duke basketball game on our little TV (thank you for having ESPN, Dixie Caverns) (Grayson Allen totally traveled).

Sunday morning we winterized the Airstream for hopefully the last time this winter, as in 2 weeks we start heading south into warmer climes!

We had a great time camping near Roanoke. The beer, food, and hiking were all high-quality. But the most important takeaway from our weekend in Roanoke, for a traveling-with-dog site, is: Dogs can go inside brewery tasting rooms around Roanoke!!!

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