We have been in Asheville since Friday afternoon.  We put out an S.O.S. call to our friend Keri and she drove an hour, roughly 60 miles over a 3,800 ft gap.  We’ve had our fill of gaps in the Appalachians for awhile.

We have a bit of catching up to do before we tell you what we’ve been up to in Asheville and what our plans are for the coming weeks.

We left Galax, VA after milking the hotel room for as long as we could.  We stocked up on groceries to cover us for the next 4-5 days and headed south towards the Virginia Creeper Trail in the town of Whitetop.  We pedaled about 40 miles and camped in the forest near Grayson Highlands State  Park.  When we first read the name of the state park we figured it would be a climb, but it didn’t prepare us for the last 2 miles we pushed our bikes up the steep grade.  We almost ran out of daylight but at least the traffic was light.  There are interesting factors when biking this time of year.  We are limited with our daylight hours and camping in cool temps is a struggle, especially with a 35 deg  synthetic sleeping bag.

On Wednesday we started our morning with a descent that managed to go almost the entire day.  We went downhill from Grayson Highlands, a 3.5 mile descent down into a frosty valley. Things evened out for a mile or so and then we began a poky climb up to the community of Whitetop, VA where one end of the Virginia Creeper Trail (VCT) begins.  On our way to Whitetop we were in the midst of Christmas tree country and harvest time.  We had to share the road with trucks chock full of wrapped cut trees.  The smell was lovely.  In the surrounding areas the Christmas tree farms provide trees to about twelve other states.  In Whitetop, there was a wonderful little general store  that had cheap coffee and rocking chairs on the porch which were in full sun.   We soaked it up for a bit before getting on the trail.  The VCT is a 34 mile long Rails to Trails path which used to be a logging and mining railroad with steep grades through the woods and local hills.  There is very little left of the original railroad save for the numerous wooden trestles.  Riding over a long wooden trestle on a fairly steep grade is awesome! It’s unique in that both terminus’s are at high elevations with the town of Damascus in the middle.  There are numerous shuttle services that will take folks to either top to coast down to Damascus.  It was an amazing ride.  We seriously went downhill for 17 miles.  It was so fun, especially with the weight of our gear on the bikes.

Just a small piece of the quilt of Christmas tree farms

Whitetop terminus of the VCT

3 barns sit quietly alongside the trail

Debi surveys the scene with a wooden trestle in the background

Bryan doesn't need to get off the bike for a view

Flying down the trail, Bryan is the fuzzy dot in the middle

We got to Damascus around 3pm.  We were sad to have to depart the VCT.  If we had time we would have done it from the Abington terminus as well. It is definitely on the top of our list of Virginia attractions that we wouldn’t mind revisiting.

We took a smoothie and internet break in a little coffee shop in Damascus.  It seems like a neat town and touts itself as Trail Town USA, and it also seemed to have a ridiculous amount of outdoor outfitters.  The Appalachian trail passes through town and we spotted some rugged  southbound thru hikers as well.  A few miles outside of town we entered into the Cherokee National Forest and Tennessee.  We camped for the night at Backbone Rock Recreation Area.  We were the only campers for the night and it was half price, $5.

We woke up the next morning, Thursday and left the campground.  We were surprised to ride about 1/4 mile and see this around the corner.

Old Railroad tunnel

We slowly climbed through the Cherokee National Forest along Route 91.  There was water flowing next to us most of the morning.  A windy climb brought us to Shady Valley at a major motorcycle crossroad.  It was so chilly and windy that we headed into a General Store and had some coffee and treats.  We learned that we were going to pass Route 421, “The Snake”, a road that motorcyclists try to conquer with 411 curves in 12 miles.  We were certainly glad that we weren’t going that way!

Yeah, buddy!

After leaving Shady Valley we climbed up over a reasonable gap where we met Randy and Allison who were getting out on the AT for a bit of a hike.  We chatted with them and learned they were artists who live nearby.  From the top of the gap we rode an exhilarating 12 mile descent down some of twistiest turns yet. (Think Stowe side of the notch but with super elevated curves and a forest that drops away completely on one side).

We camped in the forest again on Thursday evening and then we connected with our friends Keri and Ira to pick us up on Friday afternoon in Erwin, Tennessee.  We spent Friday in a sunny spot in Erwin in front of the public library which was an old train station.

We will have more from Asheville shortly.


Bryan and Debi


8 Responses to “Appalachia”

  1. 1 Dad

    Neat lawn tractor!!!!!!!!

  2. 3 Terri

    soo enjoying your blog and pictures….continued safe journey love you! Terri

  3. Wow- what an adventure! So great to hear you are in Ash-Vegas! Live it up for me– I love it down there!


    • 6 thrubike

      We have had a grand time in Arteville, NC!! We managed to get to the Woolworth walk and many other galleries and studios during the River Art Stroll they have in June and November! A lot of street art around too! We will have more photos soon!

      Thanks for reading!

  4. 7 John Friedrichs

    Hello folks……..Ira and I returned on Sunday 6pm and home was warm and dry.Good to be back after being outside for most of a week in varying weathers.We traveled 215 miles while on the trail and we were approaching being on the “functionally sore ” side of life,meaning we had to keep going ,but taking our time was a good option.I learned alot from Ira on the use of the whisperlite stove and other Outward Bound experiences.Im thinking of upgrading to a sprung Brooks saddle in the near future,anything to give a bit of flexibility to the rear portions,ya know??…also developed a bit of soreness in my right knee,but that has passed with rest and time…..So glad to know that youve gotten to A’ville and are with I&K…..Id wished after youd called that i could have seen the reunion in Irwin Tn when Keri arrived for the pickup……The flexibility youve both shown in knowing your limits will serve you both well in the coming years!!Good for you !!!………Ill close now Warmly,Your Friend……….John

    • 8 thrubike

      Thanks John!

      Glad to hear you had a great time on your trip! It sounded as if Ira had a good time too! Someday I will get back to that area and ride through as you both did! Bravo on a successful trip!

      Take Care

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