One of the meanings for the word Goshen is ‘land of peace’ and that certainly is true for my experiences there. Six of the past ten summers I have had the pleasure of spending a week camping and hiking in the beautiful 4,500 acres of Goshen Scout Reservation. Protected by the Goshen Pass Natural Area Preserve established by the state of Virginia, Goshen is deep in the Appalachian Mountains, near George Washington National Forest, and Shenandoah National Park. Its six camps are centered around a 450 acre lake and dam with a tremendous variety of activities taking advantage of the rugged terrain including more than 50 miles of hiking trails within the camp boundaries alone and immediate access to the Tuscarora Trail network. Crews also come in from all over the mid-Atlantic to take advantage of the Lenhok’sin High Adventure program which is set up similar to Philmont in New Mexico offering 5 – 10 days of hiking with themed outpost stops to learn about Civil War life, caving, blacksmithing, black powder shooting and so on.
But the heart of Goshen is the land itself, the beauty of this area once described as the loveliest spot in Virginia.
Sunset view from Viewing Rock on Little North Mountain Maury River from Swinging Bridge
Getting There from the South
One of the pleasures in the Land of Goshen is the actual drive in from the south along VA Route 39 from Interstate 81, a twisting, turning, roller-coaster ride through farms and past the Virginia Horse Center north of Lexington, Virginia. But once you get through the blink and it’s gone, hamlet of Rockbridge Baths, start watching on the right. The road will leave the flat little vale and rise to the deeply forested v-shaped valley in the distance twisting precariously while drawing your eye to the right.
Rt. 39 keeps climbing up the Goshen Pass following the 3.7 mile Maury River gorge which thank goodness, has several pull-offs because you will definitely feel the need to stop and admire the views. The thick forest parts here, showing rhododendron bushes on the hillside, dramatic rock formations, and vistas up and down the gorge. If you can, stop and spend time here picnicking, hiking, tubing, kayaking, rafting, climbing, and fishing depending upon the season you visit.
Goshen Pass, Maury River with some of the climbing areas visible
Swinging Bridge - Trailhead to eastern section of Goshen Pass and great swim hole
About 1/10 of a mile before Rt. 39 meets Rt. 601 you will see a dirt road turn-off to the right. This leads to a parking lot and the Swinging Bridge, a well-known local swimming hole and trailhead for many hikes leading up into the eastern section of the Goshen Pass Natural Area Preserve, especially for non-Scouts wishing to hike up to Little North Mountain, Viewing Rock, Jump Mountain, Chambers Ridge and Forge Mountain
Little North Mountain isn't so little at over 2300 ft and 24 miles long
If you’re heading into Goshen Scout Reservation you need to drive a little bit further on Rt. 39 and then turn onto Rt. 601 and soon you’ll see this tremendous vista. Stop the car and take it all in for a few moments. Now you know you’re in the Land of Goshen. This panorama can only hint at the possibilities. CLICK TO ENLARGE FOR FULL IMPACT.
Land of Goshen, Land of Peace
What is the Land of Goshen?
Most everyone knows the Boy Scout camp stereotypes and stories so I wanted to pick some shots that show the quieter side of Goshen; the moments that stand out in my mind as what Goshen will always be to me!
This place takes me completely away from whatever is going on in my life at home; all I have to do is walk along a path, any path;
or stop to watch some ants at their level................
Or stop at the lake..................................
Taken at that perfect photo hour with Great North Mountain in the distance and the waterfront of Camp Bowman at rest
...................and watch clouds move across the lake like pillows across a satin sheet.
Even though the Little Calfpasture River runs through Lake Merriweather it often appears as smooth as glass.
Everywhere I turn there are rising mountains around me beautiful with the
Sunset and Bratton Mountain (3130 ft.)
changing scene of early morn mist and chill, then warming sun comes giving way to heat of the afternoon.
By evening after a campfire
An impromptu troop campfire the final night campfires and mountains beyond
you have the stars to guide your walk through the woods and a wonderful chill to drive you into your sleeping bag. The kids wiggle flashlights wildly around in the dark but I prefer to tread silently enjoying that rare absence of ambient light. Finally the week comes to a close with the last campfire along the lake
sunset over Knob Mountain followed by taps
Each day has been different and wonderfully unpredictable here. Hopefully some of the places here might inspire you to hike the trails in the Land of Goshen or go back to your own Land of Goshen.
The Times They Are A Changin’
If you are a Scouter you may already know about the big plans for Goshen Reservation to be the site of the 2013 National Scout Jamboree (currently held at Fort A.P. Hill in Port Royal, VA) and jamborees thereafter bringing in up to 240,000 people a day for 10 days every few years. Meetings are currently being held with the local communities concerning impact upon the environment, infrastructure etc. and can be followed in the news.
Goshen Reservation is also tentatively scheduled to become a full, national high adventure center like Philmont is for the western states. This of course, means no more normal summer camp as our council has known it since 1967. I am not taking sides here on either issue but I’m glad to have known ‘The Land of Goshen’ as a ‘place of peace.’
External LinksMoving the Scout Jamboree to Goshen Reservation
(Google search) or try:
Times Dispatch article
Map, Flora, Fauna and More for Goshen Pass Area Preserve
Goshen Pass Natural Area Preserve Information