Thursday, August 28, 2014

#67 Natural Tunnel State Park

A friend of Ronnie's sister mentioned to us that we would enjoy Virginia's Natural Tunnel State Park.  To learn more about this natural wonder, how the cave was formed, discovered by Daniel Boone and the train that travels through it, click the link.  We knew we would be near this state park while here in Big Stone Gap so we made plans to spend an afternoon.  We took a picnic lunch, enjoyed the hike down to the tunnel and we were even treated to the train moving through the tunnel itself.  There are other attractions at the Natural Tunnel State Park but we decided to spend our time just exploring this massive naturally formed cave.
The hike down to the tunnel is only .3 miles but hiking back up it sure seems a lot longer.  The trail is very steep.
Notice at the bottom of the photo near the center, you can see the RR tracks.  There are several overlooks with good views down into the tunnel.
 You are not allowed to walk down the RR tracks but the train does not run one day of the year so folks can walk the tunnel safely.  The air down at this cave was cool and it had a damp smell.
The noise created by the train's brakes was extremely loud, we had to keep fingers in our ears while it passed.
Now this was strange..seeing the train disappear into a hole in the ground.
The surrounding cliffs create an amphitheater-type effect and looking up you think, what an amazing place.

Of course, we have been exploring the surrounding area of Big Stone Gap and have found some great overlooks with scenic views.

This is a panoramic photo of the Powell Valley.  Big Stone Gap is located at it's western end.
 We visited High Knob Observation Tower on an especially clear day.  
The town of Big Stone Gap is located between the two mountain ridges on the photo's left.
We were invited by one of the locals here to visit the June Tolliver House to enjoy a wine/dessert tasting and attend the last performance of the season of the Outdoor Drama Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

 After the tasty desserts and a couple of glasses of wine from Mountain Rose Vineyards we decided to see the play and it was pretty good.  During the intro-audience-participation part of the play Ron and I won the Fairystone for traveling the farthest to see this performance.  Why sure, we used our original North Carolina address.
Photos are not allowed during the performance.  There was a delightful bluegrass band performing on stage for the pre-entertainment.

What a nice discovery to find southwestern Virginia filled with such interesting places to visit, scenic vistas, a variety of great rail-to-trails parks, good food, the friendliest folks and cool temperatures.  We think we need to extend our visit here a bit longer to enjoy these new we decided to stay here at Jessie Lea RV Park in Big Stone Gap for a month!

So...there will be more later.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

#66 Big Stone Gap, VA

We are located at Jessie Lea RV Park and Campground in Big Stone Gap, VA.  The RV park is clean, spacious and located right on the Greenbelt Trail.  This bike/walking trail winds along part of the Powell River and through the town of Big Stone Gap.
You can see our motorhome located in the lower left area of this photo.
When we pulled in to the RV park, we found this cool, welcoming porch complete with rocking chairs.
The Greenbelt Trail is about 2.5 miles in length. 

The RV park owner is a woodcarver.  Some of his work can be viewed along the Greenbelt Trail.

Notice the overflowing Powell River.  Yes, it has been raining here a lot.
Big Stone Gap is located about 75 miles west of Wytheville and Marion, VA.  We enjoyed the scenic drive here and saw little traffic compared to that on Interstate 81. 
It seems Big Stone Gap has an interesting history.

In my research of attractions in the area, I discovered that a movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, Ashley Judd and Patrick Wilson was filmed here last fall.  The movie title is Big Stone Gap
and it is based on the best selling novel "Home to Big Stone Gap" by local native Adrianna Trigiani.  I understand the movie has not yet been released.  Also, American author John Fox Jr, who wrote Trail of the Lonesome Pine, was also from Big Stone Gap.  This book was made into a movie in 1936 which starred Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurry.  You can read more about that movie at this website.
There is even an outdoor drama here, Trail of the Lonesome Pine. It's produced through the months of July and August.

I can understand how these authors were inspired to write these creative and inspirational stories, the mountains surrounding this area and the town are just beautiful.  It looks like we have found another interesting place to explore.
I'll be adding more later.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

# 65 The Virginia Creeper Trail

Note: I apologize for the last post that may have been displayed, I accidentally hit publish instead of saving it and signing out.  It was a very rough draft.

We have been located at Fort Chiswell RV Park in Max Meadows for the past 3 months.  Our intentions were to visit family and then ease on down the road.  We have always heard that full-time RVers make plans that are in "jello" meaning that plans are never firm and can change at a moment's notice.  That is exactly what happened to us and in this circumstance, it was good that we could extend our stay for as long as we wanted.

When I decided to begin this blog, it was to document our travels, especially highlighting the places we enjoyed.  I also know we have family and friends that we do not see very often, they learn how we are getting along by reading our blog.  After we arrived in Christiansburg to visit Ronnie's Mom, sister and brother-in-law we realized that Ronnie's Mom was not doing well.  We made the decision to stay and spend as much time as we could with her.  Ronnie and I are so sad to say she recently passed away.  We continued our stay in the area for her memorial service and to help Ronnie's sister with some tasks.  We have so many cherished and special memories of her.  We will hold them in our hearts always.

We left Max Meadows and traveled just 30 miles south to the Interstate Campground in Chilhowie, VA.  Our plans were to bike the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail.  We had researched the trail and knew we wanted to bike the upper section which is 17 miles, mostly all downhill.  The weather forecast predicted rain so we packed our rain gear and headed towards Damascus.  We caught a shuttle there which took us up to the start of the trail at Whitetop Station.
We arrived around 12:30pm.  No rain so far.

Whitetop Station is the beginning of the trail.  This is the highest point at 3576 ft.
This sign describes how the trail is the old railroad bed of the Carolina-Virginia Railroad.
The trail ride was cool and a little damp from yesterday's rain.  We saw just a few bikers so it was quiet and peaceful.  We also saw 4 deer and heard a turkey's call.

Green Cove Station just celebrated it's centennial anniversary.  Inside were interesting displays of history, artifacts from when the Station was in use and a gift shop.
There are 100 trestles and bridges along the entire trail.  I lost count how many we rode over on this section.
The sun came out and it was a nice day after all. Part of the Appalachian Trail travels along the Creeper Trail too.
The trail travels along a mountain stream with many waterfalls. 
Along the bike trail, we came across the Creeper Trail Cafe. We just had to stop and enjoy "the world's best" chocolate cake.  It was delicious.
We hardly peddled as the trail was all downhill.
This is the last trestle before you reach Damascus.
Whew...   We made it back in one piece around 5:30.  I don't know why we felt so tired as we hardly peddled at all.  Without a doubt, this was the best bike trail we have ever enjoyed.  Would we bike it again?  You bet, but not until about next week, it is our backsides that need the rest.
More later..