Galax, VA > Hiltons, VA > Knoxville, TN
Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
32Trip End Jul 12, 2009
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We headed to Galax, VA for the first night and found our campsite in the worst campground ever, River Views, but, hey, the view of the New River in the Blue Ridge Mountains was dramatic with its reflection of the trees and morning mist-and we saw an Eastern Kingbird on a tree overhanging the water. No need to detail all the campground problems, but it was scary driving the camper up the hill on a one-lane road, and I was not fond of the wasps that chose to welcome us again and again.
DAY 2 Galax, VA--FABULOUS day riding bikes on the New River Trail. We rode from downtown Galax to the New River along Chestnut Creek for 26 miles round-trip. The trail is one of the top 10 bike trails in the country, only 2% grade, on an old rail bed, gravel, shaded in most areas. There were waterfalls, old trestle bridges, and even a tunnel. Wildlife included cattle, horses, goats, and plenty of whitetail deer, including a three- legged one. We had lunch where the creek joined the river. The return trip was a challenge, but we were two tired old folks pedaling uphill after already riding 13 miles. Mike's knees were suffering, and our bottoms will remember the trip for days even though we had wonderful gel seats. We would recommend the bike shop in downtown Galax for rentals or bike purchases; their customer service was incredible. They even chased us down in town to return the water bottle I left behind.
Our second night in Galax, we attended the Rex Theater, one of the stops on the Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail, where every Friday night the Blue Ridge Backroads Radio Show is broadcast live. Can you imagine old time music as played by a Finn? The band was Kari Makinen and Friends, and included a Finnish musician, Kari Makinen , accompanied by local traditional old time string musicians, playing old time Appalachian music, including Doc Watson, his favorite, and even Johnny Cash . Interesting, and immensely enjoyable.
DAY 3 Hiltons, VA--Driving west of Galax, past Independence, we found the major source of Christmas trees in Virginia. We rode past many tree farms, rushing mountain streams, through rural Virginia where yet the trees had no leaves. There were horseback riding camps, many mobile homes, and rhododendron growing everywhere on the way to Damascus in Grayson County. The road through Jefferson National Forest was curvy with hair-raising switchbacks. Mount Rogers National Recreation Area has more rhododendron, trout fishing, and trails. We came out of the mountains at Damascus, the site of the Virginia Creeper Trail, one of the best hiking and biking trails in the country. Here you can ride a shuttle to White Top Station and bike downhill for 17 miles back to Damascus-sounds easy compared to our ride on the New River Trail. We traveled the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail past the Dominion Hybrid coal-fired power station. Alternate 58 cut through the mountains at times with a 7% grade, past the Mobile Home Super Store and the coal town of Norton with its trailer homes.
On to the Southwest Virginia Museum in Big Stone Gap, a quaint "Virginia State Park", with interesting exhibits about the history and development of Southwest Virginia-quilts, old household implements, sporting uniforms in an interesting Victorian mansion donated to the state. Down Route 23 Country Music Highway where most of the homes started out as doublewide trailers, but a few newer brick homes had been built. Roads to "hollows" ran from the main road, and one can imagine the homes up in the hills. The Cumberland Gap opened to the Wilderness Trail, the migration path through to Tennessee and Kentucky cut through by Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap. It was origininally the path for migration of buffalo, and then the Native American tribes, and was called the "Great Warrior Path".Scores of redbud trees in bloom seemed to grow out of the rocky cliffs. Past the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail and the Clinch River to A. P. Carter Highway to Hiltons, Virginia, home of the Carter Family Fold, another stop on the Crooked Road. We camped in the parking lot there and attended the show with the Big Country Bluegrass, one the best bluegrass bands around. The band currently has the number one single on the bluegrass charts, and the number seven album. Lots of country dancing-flat-foot, clogging, two-step, and buck-stomping????
DAY 4 Knoxville, Tennessee and Crossfield, Tennessee--A rainy, miserable traveling day found us crossing into Tennessee where we saw the huge orange basket ball at the top of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and visited the Frank H. McClung Museum on the University of Tennessee campus. The museum was a gem of a stop with its exhibits of Egypt, fossils, bird prints, early Tennessee native Americans, and even gold discovered in burial mounds in Panama. "Sandy" is the mascot; he's a sandstone figure discovered in Tennessee by a farmer plowing his field. We passed the Clinch River Power Station and ended up at a nice campground Spring Lake RV resort in Crossfield, just outside of Nashville. It rained all day Sunday, but we hope the weather will be gradually improving as the week goes on.