This spring our travels took us south along (basically) the East Coast. We headed to Tennessee by way of Pennsylvania and West Virginia to see grandboys, and then back north, through Virginia on our way home to New England. We were able to bring our adaptive tandem bicycle with us, and although we did not saddle up every day, we got a number of wonderful rides in on some really scenic rail trails. The New River Trail State Park was one of the highlights of our spring sojourn. The packed stone dust rail trail (it follows the path of a former rail bed) is a Virginia linear state park, fifty-seven miles in length. We were impressed by the carefully maintained trail surfaces. Branches and fallen trees had been removed making for a relaxed, enjoyable visit. For much of the ten miles (twenty miles round trip) we traveled we could hear, and often see the river right next to the trail.
The New River itself is remarkable because its headwaters are in North Carolina, heads north (most, but certainly not all rivers flow south), crosses the Appalachian mountains from east to west, and ultimately flows all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. We pedaled alongside the river as it headed downstream in a series of cascades, which offered a continual soundscape in an otherwise quiet path through the woods.
While we traveled well with our Tear drop camper, we wished we had had a tent with us, since the state park, at least where we stopped at Foster Falls, does not allow RV parking. The tenting area is directly next to the river, a gorgeous spot to spend the night before hitting the trail. Lucky for us, we found a nearby RV campground and were able to get out on the trail early the next morning.
We spent four hours, about twenty miles round trip, riding, stopping, taking pictures, and making use of strategically placed port a potties along the way. We brought our lunch, and enjoyed it at a picnic table next to the river.
Kiosks along the way offered pictures and explanations of industry that had been part of everyday life here in the past. Ammunition used by early settlers in the 1800s was manufactured using a “shot tower”. Informational kiosks and photos help visitors understand the process used to make this important product.
The geology of the area is intriguing, with limestone cliffs, weathered rock standing upright in the middle of the river, and hints of mining in the area.
While we passed through only one tunnel, there is another one on this trail. That will have to wait for another trip. This trail is likely to be quite busy in warmer months. We visited on a weekday, and it was spring, not the busier summer months, so we had the trail almost all to ourselves. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My liturgy of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in everyday (and some very strange) Places.
She has written for numerous local, regional, and national publications over the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.