GOAL!!

It may have taken all summer, but yesterday we achieved our goal of hiking the entire (57.7 miles) New River Trail!

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Some people can bike it in a day, some can hike it in a day or two, but for a couple of seniors – one with a bum knee and one with a bum shoulder – we were pretty proud to have accomplished this goal.  And to make it even better, the weather yesterday was outstanding!  75 degrees, sunshine, low humidity, who could ask for more?

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The final leg took us to the trail end (or beginning, depending on where you live) in Galax, VA at mile marker 51.

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Now that we have hiked the entire trail, we both agreed that our favorite stretch was from the junction where the trail splits off, to either Galax or Fries.  Both had the closest proximity to the river and offered some of these splendid sites.

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Today’s trip was about 10 miles.  Adding to the challenge, I woke up with knee issues and had to wear my knee brace. We discovered that when you know you are going to walk a certain distance, your mind doesn’t let you get tired until you know you are close to the end.  Whether it is 5 miles, 10 miles or more, your body adapts to what the mind tells it. So the aches and pains didn’t become noticeable until we were about 2 miles from the end.

However, we were treated to a wonderful surprise that made us forget those issues for a moment.  We could hear rushing water up ahead and were delighted to discover this stunning waterfall!

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In order to get the perfect shot – JG walked down a path and climbed on a couple of rocks.

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Being a holiday weekend, the trail was filled with bikers – making it a little noisier than what we’ve been used to; since we normally go early on Sunday mornings.  But we were happy to see the trail being enjoyed by college students and families and plenty of seniors like us.

A quick summary of this trail.  Our favorite restaurant on the trail is located inside the Draper Mercantile – The Blue Door Cafe.  The service is not always the best, but the food is usually worth the wait.  The bike shop next door is a great stop too if you are a hiker or a biker.

Even though we may have found the last portion the most picturesque, the leg from Pulaski to Draper offers some interesting sites like the Ghost Train.

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Each section had its own uniqueness and there were just a couple of spots that we thought were a little boring.

However,

Three tunnels and many bridges, lots of nature, enjoying the flow of the river, the peacefulness of hiking early morning, being outdoors with your favorite hiking partner, and going 57.7 miles and only seeing one snake? Priceless!!

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Such a wonderful resource, please come enjoy it with me sometime!

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Back on the Trail!

A break in the heat, led to an early morning hike today.  Continuing our trek on the New River Trail, we hiked from Fries (pronounced Freeze???) to Byllesby Dam.  We have now completed 45 miles of the 57 mile trail.

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The trail beginning in Fries.

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The first part of the trail was so beautiful that we had to stop about every 5 minutes so JG could take pictures.

DSCN4181DSCN4182Noticing all the rocks in the river, we decided it would NOT be ideal for kayaking.

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We got to Fries Junction – where the trail branches off into two trails.

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Once we passed the junction, the trail got a little creepy.  First there was this:

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Somehow, I managed to walk right beside it and not even see it until JG said “well that’s a snake.”  Fortunately, it was dead.  I’ve been hiking for 5 years and this is the first time I’ve seen a snake.  But of course, I was much more alert for the rest of the hike.

Shortly after seeing the snake, we heard some unidentifiable noises coming from the woods.  Most likely birds, but we were a little on edge so it seemed creepier than it probably was.

The river became slower as we neared the dam and that made for ideal breeding ground for whatever likes to grow in marshy areas.  We did spot this stoic heron.

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And this sophisticated web.

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But then it got a little boring, and we were happy to see the car waiting for us at the dam.

Going back to Fries to pick up the other car, we decided to eat at this little diner that we discovered on a previous trip.

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Maybe the bread was a little stale, and the tomato not totally fresh, but we were so hungry that we happily ate our BLT’s and watched the rain come.  One thing I’ve learned, is that if you want to do something in Southwest Virginia, you have to do it early in the morning or you will have to battle Mother Nature.

Early Morning Mist

Continuing with our goal to walk the New River Trail in sections this summer, we sat down Saturday and tried to map out the rest of our walks.  Finding access points to get on the trail was tricky since the map we have is from ’93 when the trail was not yet completed.

We decided to scope out the access points, so hopped in the car and headed South.  I thought we had explored all the back roads in Southwest Virginia but I was wrong.  We tried trusting the car’s GPS, but instinct made us turn the opposite direction and after being lost and confused, we were thrilled when we finally came upon a familiar road. We did accomplish our goal of locating starting points.

Sunday, we went back to Byllesby Dam, which we found the night before and walked to Ivanhoe (5 1/2 miles).

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Probably a good thing it was a short day – we started out early to get the hike in between rain showers.  Although my hubby says anyone can hike in nice weather, and we should really hike in rain and fog once in a while.

We reached the trail at about 8:30 and here are some things I learned about hiking so early in the morning:

a) You are the first to go through the spider webs – ugh!

b) You have the trial to yourself – yay.

c) Hiking when the fog hasn’t lifted and the humidity is high, makes for achy knees.

d) You are the first to discover what appears to be bear scat?  Can anyone confirm?

Mystery scat?

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Got a nice peek at the New River between the trees.

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Buck Dam had roosting Vultures, looking for breakfast.

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This sign was almost hidden.

 

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We saw a lot of signs from horses along the trail.

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This leg of the trail showed more horse activity than usual. And why do we make people pick up after their dogs, but not their horses?  Because it was a cloudy, muggy day, the horse smell was at its worst.

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Just as we approached Ivanhoe, we came upon a campsite filled with horse trailers and campers. This is a tiny representation of the massive invasion of horses and campers. Turns out there was a horse show this weekend.  That explains it.

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Sorry for the “poo” pictures, but it seemed to be the theme of the day.

Over Half Way To Goal

I have great respect for long distance runners and long trail hikers.  Maybe if I had discovered hiking in my youth (instead of at the ripe old age of 59) I would have tried hiking the Appalachian Trail.  But as it is, I’m grateful for every hike and every walk through the woods, especially considering that just a few years ago I had trouble walking to my car.

I set a goal for the summer of walking all of the New River Trail – 57 miles of abandoned railroad – in sections.  Today we crossed the halfway mark and made it to mile marker 31!

We did 6.7 miles today and 6.7 miles on Saturday – each trip taking just at 2 hours. Today’s hike was a little more scenic – Ivanhoe to the Shot Tower.

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31 down – 26 to go, can’t wait!

 

Before the Rain

You know how it goes, you have plans for the weekend and then Mother Nature promises cloudy days and rain.  So, do you take a chance and see if you can beat the weather clock?  Absolutely!

We had planned to walk the next leg of the New River Trail this morning, but the weather was calling for rain and when we got up it was cool and cloudy and a few drops were already in the air.  However, the weather channel said the rain wouldn’t be here until late afternoon, so we went for it.  And so glad we did, because we got in 6 miles of the trail (walking from Allisonia to Draper) before the rain started. . . just barely.  Even though we didn’t get a downpour, there was definitely enough precipitation to have made the walk uncomfortable if it had started any sooner.

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A couple of very friendly dogs, got us started on today’s journey – they walked with us for the first mile.

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Even though it was a cloudy day, the greenery on the trail was beautiful.

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Hubby, looking relaxed. . .

Me, patiently waiting for him.

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No idea what this is, but it was unusual, so picture worthy.

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The New River Trail

 

The New River Trail is 57 miles of what used to be a railway and is now a beautiful hiking, biking and horse back riding trail that goes through Southwest Virginia from Pulaski to Galax.  This week I was lucky to have walked on it twice.  First on Thursday with my hiking buddies and again today with hubby.  My goal is to walk all 57 miles in stages, by the end of the summer.

On Thursday, four of my friends and I hiked 5 miles – 2.5 out and back from Draper.

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Then we had lunch at the Blue Door Cafe, which is a lovely restaurant located inside the Draper Mercantile.  It is so fun to get in a good workout and then eat a guilt free lunch.

Today, hubby and I started at downtown Pulaski where the trail begins,

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and walked to Draper – about 5.8 miles to where we had lunch on Thursday.

Here is just a glimpse of what we saw today.

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There’s really no need to travel very far when we have so much to see in our own backyard.