Trees are in abundance for shade, a small pond plays host to area frogs, rocks from an old spring house form campfire rings, a small branch of water bubbles its way through the forest and a grassy area lies in wait for someone to play Frisbee or throw a ball around. The perfect places for relaxing, hanging a hammock or just resting in between sight-seeing, trail hiking or vineyard visiting.
All rest below the watchful eye of the new camp store and bathrooms of Byrd’s Branch Campground just across the Wilkes County line in the Pleasant Hill community of Elkin on a portion of 50 acres of land owned by Jerry and Sarah Byrd, and in the direct pathway of the Stone Mountain to Elkin trail that is part of the Mountains to Sea Trail and the vineyard loop trail, both being developed by the Elkin Valley Trails Association.
“We bought the property around 1990. It was my great-great-great-grandfather’s. He had about 60 acres and we bought all but 10 back,” said Sarah Byrd of the history of the area along Martin Byrd Road. The property that is now known as Byrd’s Branch Campground sits just before the intersection of Martin Byrd Road and Pleasant Ridge Road.
“It used to have a spring house on it and a nice spring,” said Byrd of the campground site. “I planted two willows after we bought it, and the roots got into the spring and ruined it. So last year, Jerry started digging on the spring to find its origin and there were about six.”
With so many springs, the couple opted to have a man come in with a backhoe and dig a small pond instead. It is very shallow with a rock base, and is aptly named Frog Smooching Pond, because Byrd said the frogs love it.
The pond, with a picnic table and bench for relaxing, lies on the same side of the road as the camp store and three tent camping sites, each with a campfire ring, picnic table and shared water source.
Across Martin Byrd Road, seven sites with water and electric area available for campers to back into along the winding branch and tree line, each with its own picnic table and grassy area.
Campers also can rent two sites that are available about a quarter mile east on Martin Byrd Road that are full-hookup, pull-through sites.
During the development of the campground area, Byrd said, “The more we cleaned up, we kept thinking it’s really pretty down there.”
She and her granddaughter, Emma Jolly, visited Elkin Municipal Park one day this past fall and were musing over a display of old photos of areas up Big Elkin Creek and its falls.
“Bob Hillyer of the trail association walked up and got to talking to us and asking about the location of things and the trail,” said Byrd. “They were considering bringing the trail through 13 acres of white pines we set out on our property.”
With the trail coming right through their property, the Byrds decided to build a little campground, and Byrd’s Branch Campground started growing.
The power was turned on Friday, and the campground had its first paid guests — Matt and Emily Holcomb — stay on a water/electric site over the weekend. Reservations have been made for a site for this coming weekend and a week-long reservation is set in October.
“We’ve had a lot of interest,” said Byrd.
One of the biggest draws to the campground, Byrd thinks, will be the hand-dipped ice cream they will offer. She said the cooler is to be delivered Friday, and ice cream is being supplied by Mooresville Ice Cream.
The camp store will offer a few camping and hiking supplies, drinks and snacks, T-shirts and local creations by area artisans and crafters, including unique walking sticks made by Jonesville’s Mark Walker and productions of Pam McLean, a Yadkin County painter and artist.
“When I was growing up, I always wanted to help at Sylvia Norman’s Corner Store,” said Byrd, who seemed excited to have a small store of her own. The counter in the store was made locally out of the wood salvaged from the spring house.
Byrd said the campground is a great starting place for hikers as well. It is one and a half miles from the campground to Grassy Creek Vineyard, with the trail to be completed soon. A bridge is being constructed along the trail now.
It is a five-mile trek from the campground south to Elkin Park, with the property being a quarter of the way from Elkin to Stone Mountain.
“This trail system, I’m just so proud to be part of that,” said Byrd, whose husband Jerry is helping cut the trail.
The campground is a labor of love. The couple has cleared all the property for the sites themselves, and continue to work on cutting the trail through their property that will be part of the Elkin to Stone Mountain trail.
“We want to give a legacy to hand down to my granddaughter,” said Byrd.
There could be opportunities for the campground to expand some in the future. Every three months, depending on the water usage by the facility, they can apply to add more sites.
Also, the Byrds plan to build a covered picnic shelter near the pond that can be used for church gatherings, reunions and other events.
For more information on Byrd’s Branch Campground, visit www.byrdsbranchcampground.com, call 336-366-9955 or email [email protected] The campground is located at 225 Martin Byrd Road.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.