This time I was looking for a less rugged camping experience. At Laurel Hill, I stayed in one of eight camping cottages at the north end of the well established camp ground. The cottages were situated within the sight line of one and other, making privacy during the day sparse. Each cottage is furnished with one double bed, three single bunks a few chairs and a picnic table. It is just like camping but without the tent or the rain. At these sites the campfire is still the center of activity, as there is no cooking inside the cottage.
We launched the kayaks from the main boat launch near dam at the south end of Laurel Hill Lake. The kayak trek was easy. kayaked from one end of the small 63 acre lake to the other very easily in the late afternoon. We reached the bridge where the main park road crosses the outlet of the Laurel Hill Creek into the lake. We pulled the kayaks up onto the left shore of the creek and hiked the Hemlock Trail, a loop through the Virgin Hemlock Natural Area, a six acre tract along side the creek with towering behemoth trees rising over one hundred feet into the blue sky. Many of the trees were several feet around at their bases. An easy trail wound up the hill side up and through the old growth portion at the north end. As you reach the end of the tract the trail reveals a newer forest on a demarcation line. The differences are obvious, the old growth forest has virtually no ground cover, only smaller hemlocks and evergreen ground cover. The younger forest has several types of ground cover and small trees including ferns and maples. Hiking along the creek reveals a network of trails etched out between the towering pines providing access for fishing the creek.
The return kayak trip yielded many striking reflections of the tree covered hillsides just hinting at the beginning of the autumn in the Appalachian Mountains.