As we approached our 37th wedding anniversary, we decided that we would ‘gift’ ourselves with a 3 day exploration of southwestern Virginia. Most of our recent forays into that portion of the state had been right along I-81 to its interchange with I-77. From there it was the super slab all the way to the Cleveland area where our son and his family used to live…
So I planned a route off the beaten path in Virginia wandering 2-lane highways for the most part, eventually arriving in Roanoke where we spent a couple of nights.
We jumped off of I-81 at Abingdon Virginia and took US Hwy. 58 east toward the Blue Ridge Parkway. I wouldn’t recommend parts of this highway to anyone driving or pulling a big recreational vehicle… It winds and twists through the mountains in several areas.
The Green Cove Railroad Station serves as a U.S. Forest Service Visitor Center and trailhead for the Virginia Creeper Trail. The Green Cove Station is the only original remaining depot building along the Virginia Creeper Trail. The depot has also served as a post office, general store, and freight office. Green Cove Station was built by the Norfolk and Western Railroad in 1914. This rail line became known as the Virginia Creeper because of the train’s slow speed as they went up and over the mountains.
This photograph engraved in stone sits near the front of the Green Cove Station. It is copied from an original photo by O. Winston Links who is famous for capturing the end of the ‘golden age’ of the railroads in the USA.
The last train that stopped here, an excursion train, was back in 1977. In that year flooding severely damaged the line and it was never repaired. Today, the Virginia Creeper Trail is a 35-mile multi-purpose ‘rail trail’ that stretches from Abingdon to Whitetop Virginia…through National Forest and crossing numerous restored trestles as well as the Appalachian Trail. There was a large group of bicyclists at the depot, (which wasn’t open), when we stopped by.
To learn more about the Virginia Creeper ‘rail trail’ just go to http://www.vacreepertrail.com/.
One sight of note as we drove along the flanks of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area was the large number of Christmas tree farms! It was unexpected, that’s for sure. When I checked on the Internet, I was amazed at the number of members listed on the roster of the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association. Check it out at http://www.virginiachristmastrees.org/farmlisting/.
One rarely sees a split rail fence like this in this day and age… They are sometimes also referred to as a zigzag fence, worm fence or snake fence. These fences are very simple in their construction, and can be assembled with few tools even on hard or rocky ground. They also can be built without using any nails or other hardware. This hardware was often scarce and expensive in frontier areas. They were particularly popular in very rocky areas where post hole digging is almost impossible.
The scenery along US Hwy. 58 is just beautiful! As I mentioned above, the highway passes through the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. The highest point in this national recreation area and in the state of Virginia is, appropriately enough, Mt. Rogers at 5,729 feet.
The Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area is 1 of only 18 in the USA. It covers almost 200,000 acres, contains 4 federally designated Wilderness Areas, has 11 camp sites, (4 of which are set up as horse camps), and over 500 miles of hiking trails. For those of us who aren’t into hiking, there is also the Mt. Rogers Scenic Byway. This federally protected area has over 1,000,000 visitors each year.
We love waterfalls, even modest man-made versions. This peaceful low rise dam is on a tributary of the New River near Independence Virginia.
The Grayson County Courthouse is located in Independence Virginia. This ‘new’ courthouse was built in 1908 to replace an 1850 building. To say that this structure is eclectic would be an understatement. Note the Flemish gable flanked by turrets.
In 1979 the county opened a new courthouse. This 1908 building now serves as an area art and cultural center. It is operated by the Historic 1908 Courthouse Foundation, and houses the Grayson Crossroads Museum, Baldwin Auditorium, Treasury Gift Shop, and some business offices as well.
The population of Independence was only 947 at the 2010 census. The town is home to a major town celebration on July 4 every year, which is held in front of the courthouse. It features bluegrass and old-time music and dance, food, crafts and a wild pony sale. The courthouse is also the location of the Mountain Foliage Festival. That fall festival features a parade, crafts, arts and music, as well as a race in which contestants use outhouses…i.e., “The Grand Privy Race”.
That’s about it for now… Just click on the photos if you’d like to enlarge them.
Thanks for stopping by for a drive through the mountains!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave