rainy riding & wild ponies
A few days late in posting this. Took a trip last weekend to the western mountains of Virginia, to bike the Virginia Creeper Trail and to do a little hiking/camping in Grayson Highlands State Park. Unfortunately the weather didn’t seem to want to cooperate. Wonderful low pressure system with plenty of rain was on the menu.
Arrived at Grayson on Thursday evening. Rain. On Friday the plan was to ride the Creeper Trail – which is an absolutely lovely ride, part of the Rails-to-Trails system. The trail runs thirty-five miles from Whitetop, VA (on the NC border) through Damascus, to Abingdon. A nice gradual downhill grade from top to bottom, with numerous trestle bridges crossing a beautiful mountain whitewater river. Many shuttle services are available to drop you off at the top, allowing easy downhill riding for the youngest to oldest of cyclists. Over the years, it’s become one of our favorite places to ride – a 3+ hour drive from home.
We intially wanted to ride from bottom (Abingdon) to top (Whitetop) and back down again, forgoing a shuttle. But given the weather conditions, we decided to ride up from Damascus (not quite mid-point), back down, and see if things would clear up and we could ride the lower portion to Abingdon – and back up to Damascus. In Damascus we stopped at one of the local outfitters where they had weather radar pulled up on a laptop, and it looked like the worst of the system was moving out of the area. Apparently, the radar lied.
We spent over 2 hours slogging 18 miles up to the top through non-stop rain, Even with rain-gear (but no shoe covers), we were soaked and covered in trail grit – a nice crushed stone/cinder(?) black mess. By the time we got back down to Damascus, we’d had enough. Just wanted to rinse off, dry off, and get clean dry clothes and shoes on. So much for our Creeper Trail plans.
It was so wet (and I was so filthy), I didn’t even try to mess with my camera – which is sad, because it’s such a beautiful trail. This site has some nice photos – from days when the weather is more agreeable.
On Saturday, the weather seemed to be improving, so we headed out for a hike to Mt. Rogers – the highest point in VA. The Appalachian Trail connects with several of the Grayson/Mt. Rogers rec area trails, and offers gorgeous open views of the mountains. Saw lots of backpackers and dayhikers. Grayson Highlands S.P. is also home to herds of wild ponies, which roam the mountains throughout the year, and each autumn they hold a round-up to auction off a few ponies to keep the population in check. It’s always incredibly fun to hike along and be greeted by the ponies – who are very tame, curious, and people-friendly.
We had initially planned to backpack/overnight for one night up on Mt. Rogers, eventually scrapped the idea for various reasons. It was nice to day hike, packing up only our lunch and the camera. Fortunately, the weather cooperated. More pictures are up on my Flickr site. (Yes, I was told I took too many pony pictures … I just couldn’t help myself).
It may not have turned out the way we had planned – from bike weather to backpacking plans – but we still really enjoyed the weekend, and highly recommend a trip to this lovely area.
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