Virginia trail offers beautiful cruise

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 4, 2011

By Glenn Hudson
For the Salisbury Post
Biking isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you are trying to beat the heat this summer.
But it all depends on where you do the pedaling that really makes a difference. If you head 125 miles north to the Virginia Creeper Trail, you’ll enjoy cooler temperatures, beautiful scenery and plenty of places to stop and relax along the way.
The Virginia Creeper Trail is an old railway line that was discontinued in 1977. It starts in Whitetop Station, and winds down approximately 2,000 feet in elevation, 34 miles, through the forest canopy and along the beautiful South Holston River to Damascus. From there the trail is flat to Abindgon.
This time of year, most cyclists choose to quite literally glide the 17 miles to Damascus and end there rather than actually pedaling through the hotter, flatter section of the trail to Abingdon. You can count me as one of the gliders. It was 15 degrees cooler in Whitetop than Salisbury on the day we rode the trail. In fact, there were several hardcore athletes cycling the trail backwards, climbing the whole way. That was impressive.
But I don’t know how you can possibly enjoy the scenery when you are working that hard with all that sweat in your eyes. It seems counterintuitive to me. Then again, I was going a lot faster than you. So maybe you had more time to look around?
The Virginia Creeper Trail is truly a multi-use trail. That means you will encounter hikers, bikers, and even horseback riders. And some of them will be coming at you rather than overtaking you. That means that there are legitimate chances of injury to yourself or others despite the fact that this is truly the easiest and most beautiful biking trail that I have ever ridden.
I believe it may have also been the first trail I have ever ridden. But I digress.
There will be times when bikes will be flying past you on your left on a trail that is only a few feet wide. If you are a wobbly biker, then you need to be careful. There are plenty of places where a child can ride right off the trail and down a steep embankment if he is not careful. This is not a trail for beginning bikers.
When you approach horses you need to use extreme caution as well. Spooking a horse can be extremely dangerous for yourself or the person on the horse’s back.
Really, this trail is all about common sense. If the trail is clear, ride as fast as you want and good luck. The beautiful scenery will stop you when you lose control. And you better be wearing a helmet.
But if the trail is crowded then you really need to slow down around other bikers, pass on the left, announce your intentions loudly ahead of time and be careful.
But there will be plenty of times where you can just glide along up to whatever speed you are comfortable and get a good breeze along the way.
Other precautions include taking care around rocks along the trail as well as the transitions on and off the many trestle bridges that cross the South Holston River.
The most important advice I can give to anyone riding the trail is that you make sure you are on a bike that enables you to be comfortable for several hours of riding. Some bike seats can be quite disagreeable to the male anatomy. Next time, I’m riding a beach bike with a big, fat, cushy seat.
Glenn Hudson is a freelance fishing writer based in Salisbury. Contact him at