At the borders of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia is Whitetop Station, VA. This is the beginning of a 34.3 mile downhill multi-use path called the Virginia Creeper Trail. This trail was once a footpath for Native Americans and explorers like Daniel Boone and became a part of the Norfolk & Western Railway in the 1800s. The trains transported lumber and the line was nicknamed “The Virginia Creeper” due to the sluggish speed at which it travelled up and down the steep mountain grades. Along the route grows the prolific ivy-like vine also named the Virginia Creeper. Now the former rail track is the Virginia Creeper Trail, thank you Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.The VCT is tucked into a sparsely populated corner of Virginia and runs between Abingdon and Whitetop Mountain. At times the trail parallels Whitetop Laurel Creek through a deep narrow gorge where there are some whitewater rapids. The trail crosses 47 trestles, all numbered, some of which are more than 500 feet above the river and have beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately for us, we got stuck in a pattern of thunderstorms that kept us from making too many photo stops. We did stop some though and enjoyed the views in the rain. The path is shared by equestrians and hikers and at times is part of the Appalachian Trail. On the upside, the rainy weather let us enjoy the path with no others in site, except for a few brave hikers on the AT. We tracked our downhill adventure via the Relive app and our descent was epic…only needed to pedal a few times, here is the link to our 17 mile ride: https://www.relive.cc/view/rt10005612023The halfway point is the town of Damascus. This town’s slogan is The Friendliest Town on the Trails. It has been a favorite stop on the AT for over 50 years and the Virginia Creeper Trail since 1984. There are also several other multi use trails in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
We were soaked and filthy when we stopped for a bite to eat in Damascus. On the menu, AT caviar. OK! What’s that? It is a medley of beans, chopped tomatoes, corn, avocado and some spices…yes please. We decided to call the shuttle and return on a dry day to bike the last 16 miles and 21 trestles to Abingdon. It was a wise decision considering the rain did not let up.
Fortunately, after we cleaned up from our ride, the sun broke through and we were able to explore Abingdon on foot. The area was originally named Wolf Hills after wolves attacked Daniel Boone’s dog. Now the wolf is the symbol of the town of Abingdon and there are many decorative wolves around town. Almost all the buildings along Main Street are brick and beautiful. There are lovely restaurants and shops, a farmers market and artist galleries. There is also Virginia‘s theater, the Barter. The theater, in existence from the late 1930s, would accept food or other goods as a barter for tickets. Today, the tickets are market value and credit cards or cash is required. There are several stages with all types of productions. Shrek the Musical was on stage when we were in town.
We will be back to see the fall colors and possibly the spring blooms. This quiet corner of Virginia is a place that has so much to see one visit is not enough for us.