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Monday, November 19, 2012

Bike the Virginia Creeper Trail



The Virginia Creeper Trail/Patricia Leslie

It's called "the best rail-trail in the east" and "among the best in the U.S.," and I'll bike to that.

The Virginia Creeper is a lovely trail, down in southwest Virginia, about 360 miles or six fast hours (with few breaks) from Washington, D.C., close to the N.C. border.  It's headquartered in Damascus where you bike round and round, down and down from Whitetop Station.

The Virginia Creeper Trail starts here at Whitetop Station, home of baby Christmas trees/Patricia Leslie

It took us about 3.5 leisurely hours to bike 17 miles from Whitetop to Damascus (stopping by woods for lunch and for other picturesque scenes) which is half the trail, with the remainder stretching to Abingdon.

The Virginia Creeper Trail/Patricia Leslie

You don't find any of the racers like those serious types who like to sport their latest dress and zoom along the W and OD Trail. Virginia Creeper may have too much nature for them.

It was mid-fall when practically all the leaves are down, and those remaining are not real bright but mostly browns and dull oranges without those flashy yellows and reds you associate with this time of year, but we weren't beholden to leaves anyway since it was the ride down Whitetop that took us there, and it was gorgeous even without much color.

Even over icy bridges.  Yeekers, yikers.  (Wear a helmet! Provided at the Damascus shops if you don't have one and are renting a bike.)  I hung on the handle bars and sailed over that ice like I was a biker on ice which, strange, I guess I was.

 
Icy bridges on the Virginia Creeper Trail/Patricia Leslie


It's not only ice which forces both hands on the handle bars, but look out for large rocks, too, and keep your eyes on the path or you might wind up underneath one of the bridges like the recent rider who missed a bridge entrance, careened down the ravine into the creek, cracked her skull, and had to be airlifted out, but she's okay now, our shuttle bus driver on oxygen, who lifted all 14 bikes off the rack, told us.
It's important to ride eyes open wide and keep your head down at times on the Virginia Creeper Trail/Patricia Leslie

Look out and listen for falling timber on the Virginia Creeper Trail/Patricia Leslie

The view from above on the Virginia Creeper Trail which had quite a bit of snow left from Hurricane Sandy/Patricia Leslie


Along the way maps on plaques describe the history of the area including information about one area surveyor named Peter Jefferson, the father of the president.

In-season, ample snack shops along the way provide nourishment, and you won't starve off-season either, but you're better off taking your own treats. The trail has plenty of restrooms, too (excluding the outdoor ones).
The leader of our pack was a seven-year-old who made no complaints about anything the whole day and served as excellent guide when it came time to finding just the right picnic spot.

 
Lunch on the Virginia Creeper Trail.  That's our trail leader, Will Burris, on the right, with his grandmother, Anne Burris, and friend Nancy who almost missed lunch due to a falling limb/Patricia Leslie

This is a ride made for those who enjoy scenics and chatting along the way. It was a glorious afternoon made gloriouser by the sounds of rushing water from the adjoining creek which followed us most of the way down Virginia Creeper.
The Virginia Creeper Trail/Patricia Leslie
Time for respite on the Virginia Creeper Trail/Patricia Leslie
Along the Virginia Creeper Trail/Patricia Leslie


Bikes are available for rent throughout Damascus, a biker's vacation dream spot with lots of big vans and racks to cart riders and bikes up to Whitetop on a 30-minute shuttle ride before riders embark on the downhill slope. Damascus has plenty of free nearby parking.

We were unable to get reservations during leaf peak in October but given the crowds, we probably enjoyed the trail more in early November anyway.

What: The Virginia Creeper Trail

When: Bike all year, seven days a week

Where: Damascus, Virginia ("Trail Town USA")

How much: $26 for a bike rental (with water and helmet) and a shuttle ride from Damascus to Whitetop Station with weekday discounts.  Of course, you can arrange your own transportation and take your own bike and not pay anything, but without the shuttle, it would be a pain. (The $15 for the shuttle is well worth it.) Prices run about the same from one shop to another, but reservations are highly recommended, especially if you are coming from a distance.  patricialesli@gmail.com


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great article, We had a near perfect day. Nice to ride with you again, Patricia. Maybe Spring AND Fall next year...what do ya say? Nancy and Andy

Patricia Leslie said...

It sounds like a great idea, Nancy and Andy! Just say when and Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for writing, Patricia

Amy said...

You've let the cat out of the bag! Damascus is an amazing little town, also home to Appalachian Trail Days in May. I grew up near there and have a place justoff the trail. It's our escape from Great Falls/ McLean to time with family. Great post. Glad you enjoyed your time. I hope you got a meal at the Dairy King while you were there.

Patricia Leslie said...

Hello Amy, thank you for commenting. We were a party of 10 and missed the Dairy King but plan to return next spring and fall when we'll definitely check it out. What a gem the whole area is, hidden in southwest Virginia. (Shhhh...)It is always so much fun and beautiful, too. You are lucky to have an escape pad right there.