On Friday I drove across the beautiful commonwealth of Virginia for a family reunion with my mom’s family.  We get together every year on my uncle’s gorgeous piece of property along the North Fork of the Holston River.  It provides the perfect setting for us to catch up and reminisce!


The river has been dammed up to provide a swimming hole on the upper side, but still allows for plenty of water to flow downstream.


Awww, the soothing sound of water flowing across rocks…


And there go some of my cousins’ children floating down the river…


I discovered the best water shoes for hiking in a rocky river!  My old Asics running shoes that had outlived their running days were perfect!  They provide pretty good traction on slippery river rocks and protect against sharp rocks that always seem to find the bottoms of my feet!


After a delicious picnic of grilled burgers, dogs, and more side dishes and desserts than humanly possible to eat (although I gave it my best shot), my cousins and I went on a hike up Big Spring Branch.  It’s a natural spring that flows out of the mountain into the river near where we had had our reunion.

The water in the river is typical river temperature for that area in July… refreshing, yet not cold.  As soon as you step near where the spring water flows into the river, the air temperature get delightfully cool and the water gets ice cold.  Keep in mind that once we start our hike up the falls, we are walking in ice cold water!  Brrrr!


Because of the overgrowth on both sides of the water, and the risk of running into a surly rattlesnake or a copperhead with an attitude, we hiked in the water or on the rocks right next to the water.  During the winter (when the snakes aren’t out) we could hike up along side of the water and it would be a much easier hike.


There are pools of water up to five feet deep between each set of water falls.  We had to swim through the water or brave the stinging nettle along the side of this pool to get to the next set of moss steps.  My cousin knocked down the nettle with his walking stick and we clung to the side of the hill to walk around this pool.  It was an outstanding core workout!


The moss covered stones were mostly soft to walk on, but occasionally very slippery…


Looking back down from one of the deep pools of water to another one…


Of course the kids had to jump into the pools of water!


We had to turn around before we got to the spring at the head of the branch because it got too overgrown and hard to navigate.  Here’s about half of our group picking their way back down and around one of the pools…


There were many “cup holders” formed in the rocks from years of water rushing in and carving out a circle in the rocks.  My cousin and I mused that with the ice water rushing over them, it would make the perfect place to chill drinks!


Here was one final look back up before we headed back out to the river…


The remnants of this stone wall along the water just upstream of the where the spring flows into the river was just beautiful.  I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to build, and can’t help but wonder who built it and when…


And finally, what picnic is complete without roasting marshmallows!  I promise that no little boys were injured taking this picture!  Look closely to the right of my marshmallow…


And just for fun, here’s a picture of my brother and me hiking up the branch to the spring when I was eight years old!


  • Questions:
  • Where’s your favorite place to hike?
  • Does your family have reunions?
  • Do you like roasted marshmallow?  S’mores?