Andrew and I had the opportunity to take a brief trip on Friday and Saturday so we decided to head one more time to the mountains. This time we were going to the Abingdon/Damascus, Virginia, region where Andrew often bikes the Virginia Creeper trail. When the train stopped running along this line, they turned it into a fun place for people to walk, jog, or ride bikes! A few years ago I rode the Whitetop-to-Damascus line, and since then Andrew has bought his own bike (or three), and we've come up a few times. With Susie's Shuttle Service, he's good to go! I often drop him off at Green Cove or Whitetop station, and meet him in Damascus. Or we start out from Damascus, and I meet him in Abingdon. Each section is about 17 miles or so. The Whitetop-to-Damascus line is pretty much down hill the whole time so it's really popular. The other line is shaped more like a bowl. I hear it goes through some pretty farmland and maybe subdivisions where farmland used to be.
More on that later, but for now, we left home a bit after seven, and went towards Sparta in Alleghany County. We didn't quite go all the way into Sparta before getting on the Blue Ridge Parkway just past Roaring Gap. I had looked on the map the night before, and decided we'd head south. If you go far enough you'd end up in that region of the parkway where we bike/hike/ride often (Boone/Blowing Rock area), but we weren't going quite that far.
Earlier this summer we rediscovered the Doughton Park region, and I wanted to go there again. Bluff Mountain was a lot of fun because the hike was relatively easy, and it was very open (which I have grown to love more this year).
I remember it having some fun rocks and trees, and the last time we were there, we had to walk by cows because we were in their grazing area!
Also, it's not very crowded compared to the Julian Price area of the parkway. We had fun climbing trees and rocks, and pondering.
|the trail looks like this|
|We named this Ponder Rock|
This is a view from one of the grassy trails we took. Alleghany County has a lot of Christmas trees!
We found some very climbable rocks on the face of Bluff Mountain. There is the parkway below on the right.
We met a lady who told us about a thru hiker. Instead of hiking the Appalachian Trail she is hiking the Mountain to Sea Trail. The MST is only about 900 miles as opposed to the AT's over 2,000. The hiker is from Oregon, and she did not have 6 months to devote to hiking so she chose the MST.
After we hiked there for awhile, we ate a snack and headed south for a few more minutes.
Then we got off the parkway and onto Hwy. 18 which took us past some more Christmas tree farms and pumpkin fields, and we ended up in Virginia. We were headed for Whitetop Mountain which is another place we discovered just this year. You can drive up a gravel road to this second-highest-mountain in Virginia, which I know, is a small hill compared to those in the western United States and other places around the world. Part of the Appalachian Trail runs through Whitetop Mountain, and after a short walk through the "green tunnel" (i.e., trees), it opens up to a lovely 360-degree view. The first time we did it back in the spring, we heard a German thru-hiker using his phone to speak to his wife back in his home country. Back then everything was green. This time, most leaves had lost their leaves so even the trail looked wide open. It looked desolate.
This is looking back over the area where we had come from. We came through a trail through those mostly-leafless trees on the right.
After we left there, we went to Whitetop Station where Andrew started riding the Creeper Trail down to Damascus. I left soon after him, stopped at a gas station because gas was $1.89 per gallon (twenty cents higher in Damascus), and made it down to Damascus by car only about 20 minutes before he did. It's a slow-going drive down parts of that winding Jeb Stuart Highway, let me tell you.
I did take a few pictures in Damascus, of course. The Appalachian Trail runs through this town, and around mid-May they have a big weekend event for those thru-hikers who want to join them.
Andrew after he came down the mountain. He was getting ready to head out for Abingdon with hopes of getting there before dark.
There he goes! This was around 5:00 PM, and he made it by around 6:20.
I stayed for a few minutes to get pictures of the river before I left for Abingdon. It takes about twenty minutes to drive there.