Thursday, April 17, 2014

Virginia Creeper Trail

When we got back from Marion last night it was still almost 50* in my RV so I just crawled into bed and didn’t turn on the furnace or anything.  I was rewarded with a quiet night, no alarms!  I was paranoid the whole night though and kept thinking it was going to go off!  I even attempted to disable the alarm by pulling the battery disconnect, however since I was plugged into shore power the alarm remained on. 

It was a cold morning, however, not as cold as yesterday! I had both the furnace and the ceramic heater going and it was quite toasty and nice!  Until the LP/CO2 alarm went off.  Again.  Hmmmm… Maybe this isn’t the malfunction that I thought it was.  I sat down and tried to remember all the times that it’s gone off…I could come up with 6 times it’s gone off and 4 of those the furnace had been running.  The RV is easy to get fresh air into so I’m not genuinely worried, just not gonna run the furnace in the evenings (when CO2/propane whatever can build up before bed) and planning to make an appointment ASAP to get it looked at.

Today we were planning to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail! The Creeper Trail is a Rails to Trails Trail and I do believe it’s one of the best! In August of 2004 we were in Damascus and “discovered” the trail.  At that time my Dad, my Uncle and I got a shuttle to the top and rode down.  It was the best bike ride ever because it was all downhill!  We saw folks riding up, and at the time I thought they were crazy!  When I was driving home from Colorado last summer and thinking about getting a bike I started planning to ride my bike (that I didn’t own yet) up , and then down, The Creeper Trail in Damascus, VA!  The trail is 34 miles from Whitetop Station to Abingdon, with Damascus in the middle.  It’s 17 miles (and 1700 ft of elevation change) between Whitetop Station and Damascus, while the other 17 miles to Abingdon is more rolling.

Since it was cold and predicted to warm up Dad and I hung out at the campground until mid-morning before we headed into Damascus to get started!  The biggest question was what to wear?  It was already warming up in Damascus, and were about to ride 17 miles UP hill, we knew we’d get warm.  However, it was going to be cold at the top and then the trip down was going to be cold!  We ended up taking a ton of clothes and headed out. 

Our first stop was Blue Blaze Bicycle and Shuttle Service because Dad needed some chain lube.  The guy in the store was quite helpful!  Told Dad all about the chain lube he was going to buy, then popped Dad’s bike on the rack, cleaned his chain and put some chain lube on it! 

It was 11:30 before we headed up the trail!  The trail is crushed cinders and gravel, and rocks.  It’s mostly smooth, but it’s not “street” smooth.  At first I really felt like I was working hard to pedal because of the surface of the path, but I got used to it!  I was "very glad I’d purchased a more rugged bike as opposed to a road bike! 


One of the best parts of the Creeper Trail is the that it follows a river and has more than 20 trestles to cross which give you excellent views of the water, small cascades, rhodendron, and rocks!


P1080772The advantage of riding up is that you are going slower and can enjoy the scenery more!  I didn’t stop and take my pictures though!

As you get further up the trail it moves away from the creek and the scenery is more farm land.


The first 11 miles up weren’t so bad.  The trail is an old railroad, that means the grade wasn’t too bad, however, the last 7 miles were a bit steeper than the first part.  This was hard because we’d already ridden up 11 mile and we were getting tired.  We stopped for lunch about five miles from Whitetop Station, then we rode two more miles and got to Green Cove and we both ate another snack.  Then the final push, the last 3 miles to Whitetop Station.  That was the hardest and longest 3 miles ever.  My thighs were burning.  My butt hurt.  I was still hungry.  And the trail would not end.  

Finally however…



P1080778You could see the summit of Whitetop Mountain from Whitetop Station

P1080777  The trip down was fast, and chilly, and painful!   The top part was steeper and I didn’t enjoy it as much, I was paranoid about going to fast & hitting a rock or something.  My legs hurt when I was coasting, but I couldn’t pedal because I’d go too fast.  We stopped at Green Cove again to use the pit toilet and put on more layers.  Not only was it cold, it was getting late in the day and the sun was sinking behind the mountains. 

After the first seven miles down the trail leveled out a bit, it was still downhill but I was pedaling and going fast!  By this time I’d gotten used to the rocks and uneven terrain was putting my basic mountain biking skills I’d learned in Keystone to good use!  The scenery was flying by and I’m glad I’d had the time to enjoy it on the way up! 

Finally we made it back to Damascus!  My body was sore all over!  Walking felt very nice! 

It was already 5:00 and since we had a 45 min drive back to the campground and then we’d have to make dinner and since dinner was a disaster last night, we opted to grab a pizza at The Blue Blaze Cafe.  Aside from a long wait for the pizza to arrive, it was AMAZING!  I suppose though that fresh, homemade pizza that good comes with a long wait!  We were just starving and tired!

Another neat thing about The Creeper Trail is that the AT joins up with it in several places! Now, having ridden the portion of AT that is on the C&O Canal Towpath and the section that is on the Creeper Trail, I think I’ve biked all the sections of the AT that you can bike!

I’m very glad we did the ride on a “chilly” day as it did get hot riding up!  Next time I ride up though I’m going to stop at mile 11 (just after the high trestles) since that’s where it stopped being fun going up and started being fun coming down!

We made it back to the campground in time for Jeopardy! and two Big Bang Theory Re-runs before I fell asleep! 

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