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Wednesday, 25 October 2017 15:34

Stay calm and creep on

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Two years in a row — for this Hendershot family that’s like a tradition. We pedaled the Virginia Creeper Trail again this year for my bride’s birthday. We did it last year and you can read about it here: www.smokymountainnews.com/archives/item/18877-creep-on.

The Creeper trail is cool. It’s 34 miles long and runs — top to bottom — from just inside North Carolina near Whitetop Station to Abingdon, Va. It follows the bed of the Virginia-Carolina Railroad from Abingdon to Whitetop. We did the most popular section last year — the 17-mile descent from Whitetop to Damascus. Don’t let the 17 miles fool you; all you need to know is how to sit on a bike without falling off and where the brakes are. But the ride is gorgeous; most of it follows Whitetop Laurel Creek through the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.

This year we decided to try something different — like actually pedaling — and to see a different part of the trail. We had tried to do a bit of the lower trail between Abingdon and Damascus years ago when Izzy was just big enough to pedal and Maddie was still in a stroller. We rented a stroller for Maddie, to tow behind one of our bikes, but Maddie was having no part of it. So Denise and Izzy rode and I strapped Maddie in our auto and we tried to catch them at different intersections. This was quite a “throw-back” adventure in its own right — using maps and estimating time of travel to try and coordinate meet-ups.

But the thing that registered most deeply with Denise was the beauty of the rolling Virginia farmlands they pedaled through. So this year we arranged for our shuttle — Blue Blaze — to drop us at Old Alvarado Station and we would pedal back to Damascus. Old Alvarado is eight miles from Damascus and about halfway between Abingdon and Damascus.

OK so I know you bikers out there are going — an eight-mile bike ride, that’s half an hour. But our buildup to the Creeper every year is a week we spend on Isle of Palms where we do a 3-mile loop once or twice a day for a week. I’ve learned in my short tenure in this life that an exercise that turns out easier than anticipated gets a much more favorable review than an exercise that was harder than anticipated. So, confident that we could do the eight miles back to Damascus, without calling search and rescue, I scheduled our shuttle.

When we got to Alvarado Station, Denise says. “Oh, I remember this,” and starts detailing the trip long ago with Izzy. It’s Mom’s birthday and she’s pretty convincing so we follow along.

Guess what? She’s right. Less than two miles back towards Abingdon we crossed a bridge at the confluence of the south and middle forks of the Holston River and dived into the rolling farmlands Denise remembered. It was bucolic. We rode on a little enjoying the scenery — but then nervous about our now nearly 10-mile ride back to Damascus turned around.

We were in no hurry, had packed water and snacks and enjoyed a leisurely ride back to Damascus. Maybe it was too easy? We are considering going all the way from Abingdon to Damascus next year? But we’ve also heard of a “Galax Trail” in Virginia that might require some research.

(Don Hendershot is a naturalist and a writer who lives in Haywood County. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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