Tuesday, October 25, 2011

creeping in va

Warning: This blog post is a doozie. If you want the re-cap, it's the first part. If you want to know how not to be an inconvenient tourist on the Creeper Trail, that's the middle. If you want our itinerary and info on making your own trip, that's the end. You've been warned.

Since Hubby and I were otherwise occupied when our 30th birthdays arrived this year, we opted to spend a Saturday biking the Creeper Trail in southwest Virginia. Actually, it's something I got in my mind that would be fun for us to do together and  Hubby is a good sport with these ideas - plus, this was actually a reasonable fit for us - not like the kangaroo adventure of a couple years earlier.

The Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile trail, follows the Virginia Creeper rail line - thus named for the slow chugging of early steam engines attempting to get up the steep grades. It's also the name of a vine that grows throughout the area. When the original Creeper ran its last train in 1977, the area became a quiet community in Southwest Virginia. Thanks to the revitalization efforts, the Creeper Trail of today for bikers, walkers and equestrians, brings around 250,000 visitors to the area annually.

Little E went to the grandparents for the day. We set out at 7:30 AM to make the 3-hour drive to Abigdon, VA and our shuttle to the top of the trail at Whitetop, VA. Initially, we thought we would do the full 34 miles (downhill!) while we were there, but it took us the full 2.5 hours to make it to the mid-point in Damascus, VA (making it 2:30 PM) so we decided to call it a day so we could get back home at a reasonable time.

We had high hopes that the colors would be at their peak, but it looked like we missed it by a couple weeks. No matter. It was still a beautful, 17-mile ride (downhill). Waterfalls, rivers, colorful trees, great weather and some good riding shorts made a perfect day. There are outlooks, side trails to picturesque vistas and easy access to the water for kids to splash in and have stick races. We had some entertaining observations but nothing that spoiled the new experience.


It's advertised for any ages, any level of riders and we did see all ages and all levels of riders. It is also a walking and equestrian trail so there's a lot going on at any time. Having said that, I pass along the following thoughts/observations/suggestions for anyone interested in venturing forth (and I highly recommend a venture).

*The upper level is noticeably bumpy in several places (I learned very quickly if I wanted to preserve my hoo-ha, I needed to stand up on the bike over the bumps - a skill I had forgotten from younger days but... it's like riding a bike). Though we did see small children attached to the back of parents' bikes in carriers, it seemed a bit more up-and-down than we would do to take Little E. Of course, we were also riding a lot faster - maybe when you slow down it's not so bad.

*Definitely a great family-friendly adventure. There are small towns along the way for food and relaxing. There are streams, bridges and the great outdoors for all sorts of adventure and mischief - just keep your children close and teach them about trail etiquette.

*Don't stand on a bridge - particularly with large groups. The bridges are narrow and by taking up a lane you risk causing an accident for those who are bicycling in both directions. It's risky for you and for others using the trail. If you want to take a picture, send one person to snap a quick one - not the entire family.

*Don't stop in the middle of the trail. This was obvious to most people but apparently there are a still a few of you out there who, like when you're driving, think its ok to just stop and mind your business in the middle of a driving/riding lane. It's not. It's dangerous, again, for you and for the other's using the trail. Stop to the side and make sure your bicycle is completely off the trail.


If you're interested, here's a general idea of what we did.

We arrived in Abingdon around 10:00 for a 10:30 meet time at our shuttle spot.

Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop provided our 11:00 shuttle to Whitetop Station, VA. (We were very pleased with their service - though we would recommend getting your reservation for an earlier time - which, incidentally, means making your reservation well in advance).

And, we started at about Noon....

17 miles later (about 2:30 PM) we were in Damascus, VA.

Damascus, VA

Our pick-up point - hard to miss!

And we opted to be picked up in Damascus and save the rest of the Trail (back into Abingdon) for another time - maybe with Little E!

Had a great time and Hubby is excited to go back with perhaps a more experienced and less sore rider, and I'm looking forward to an adventure with Little E on the flat part of the trail in a couple years.

Highly Recommend!

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