Appalachian Trail and Biking

Trip Start Jan 09, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Virginia
Thursday, July 26, 2012

Doing a 180 on an opinion makes people call you wishy-washy. Making a U turn in many places will get you a hefty traffic ticket. Having huge temperature changes in a short time spawns tornadoes. 

 A visit to Damascus, Va (aka) "Trail Town USA" is a U-Turn from a visit to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. What a whirlwind last week was. So much fun. Rock climbing walls, rope climbing, swimming, hiking, museums, shows, dinners, amusement rides.....the list goes on. Gatlinburg was early in the day until late at night for an entire week. 

A 150 mile drive and we arrive in Damascus, a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Trans-America Bicycle Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail, the Crooked Road Musical Heritage Trail, Virginia's Birding and Wildlife Trail all traverse this little town. Within a short distance are hundreds of miles of other hiking, horse, and biking trails. Canoeing and rafting and other water sports are big favorites here, also.

 We pull into town and drive down the main street. It seems so sleepy and peaceful. We are driving on the Appalachian Trail (AT). Actually, the trail comes through town down the sidewalks. The AT is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The precise length of the trail changes over time as trails are modified or added. The total length is approximately 2,200 miles long. The trail passes through 14 states.

 Someday I want to hike the AT. I would love to be a thru-hiker, hike from start to finish. I should have a chance to talk to some thru-hikers while here. 

We stop at a hostel for thru-hikers. The lady running the hostel talks to us for a while and although we are not hiking the trail, agrees to let us stay at the hostel, once I have explained my interest in the hike. There is one thru-hiker that checks in later in the day and we have a good chat about the thru-hiker experience.

I take this hungry teen-ager to eat and then we go to check on bike rental shops. We find lots of them around this small town and we rent two bikes for early tomorrow morning. They all run shuttles up the mountain on the Virginia Creeper Trail and the bikers just have to ride DOWN the mountain. We want to ride UP the mountain and then back down. We need to leave early tormorrow morning before the bike shop opens. They discuss it and offer to let us take the bikes today with no additional charge. This is great news and we mount up and go for an afternoon ride on the trail.

The trail extends 34 miles from Abingdon, through Watauga, Alvarado, Damascus, Straight Branch, Taylors Valley, Creek Junction, Green Cove and Whitetop. The elevation of the trail drops approximately 300 feet from Abingdon to the South Holston River and then climbs nearly 2,000 feet to Whitetop. Today we ride one half of the trail and arrive back at the hostel by dark.
We have time for a swim in the pool in the town park. 

 Early the next morning we are up and on our bikes. We ride over creeks and through forests. The trail is in very good shape and very scenic. It a sharper climb the closer we get to Whitetop. It's a very nice day and we are having a lot of fun. The bikes are very good bikes and we make the trip just fine, with a few rest stops thrown in for the views and snack breaks.

After arriving back in Damascus later in the day, we stopped at the local ice-cream parlor before turning the bikes in. It was a good ride and we met some other riders that were very nice, but they all rode only DOWN the mountain. We were glad we rode both ways.

We only had a couple of days in this wonderful little town. On the way home I asked Kyle which part of the vacation he enjoyed most. "The Biking", he said. I think I agree.

It was a super good trip and I love my nephew and the time we spend together.
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