Oldy, Moldy Rollers on the Even Older New   Leave a comment

What should be the true “Old man river”, the New River is considered the second or third oldest continuously flowing river on the planet, perhaps 300 million years old.

Whenever involved in a project we are really good at plowing through the first 97 percent.  That last 3 percent can be a problem, however.  We remodeled our bathroom,”finished” some months ago, but still have not replaced the ceiling light and vent combo.  The old one still sits there, cover gone who knows where enjoying the apparently unlimited postponement to its removal and exile unto the great landfill in the sky.  So it is with the trip from this summer.  I still have posts to make on that.  I swear, someday they will be done.  Or I will be dead.  This may be a closer race than I would like to think it would be.  Be that as it may be, such as it is, so be it, que sera, sera or something like that, I really got sidetracked by the Olympics.  I am an addict.  I think back, how did I ever really enjoy it when I could not simultaneously record on 4 channels with my DVR and then scan 30 hours of broadcast a day to condense it down to a manageable 8 hours of viewing?  Heaven forbid I miss any of the air rifle competition!!  So I was thinking, I need to get back on track.  And we did!  Though not necessarily the right one, in terms of finishing what I had started.  Railroad track was more like it, or at least where track used to run.  Now that we had our bicycles, see previous posts for the Mickelson, Myra Canyon, Galena and the Hiawatha trails, we decided on Friday to go to the New River Trail State Park up the road in Virginia.  The park averages 80 feet across but runs for about 57 miles.  Its claim to fame is that it follows the New River or Chestnut Creek along a very well maintained rails-to-trail multiuse trail.

OK, we didn’t do every mile of this trail, only about 25 plus a couple of miles off the main trail.  We will cover the rest on later visits.  We aired up, saddled up and began our ride after paying for a shuttle from Foster Falls to Cliffview, just outside of Galax, Virginia.  This is a beautiful area with rolling hills, some deep valleys and waterways lined with forest or cliffs.  This is still the home of bluegrass music, but don’t fret ( Get it? Llike frets on a guitar?  Nevermind!), this is not a scene out of Deliverance.  The trail is moderately used so your body would still be warm when found if anything happened, but it won’t!

We started at Cliffview. Kinda wimped out, saved two miles by not starting in Galax. We had not done over 18 miles and were a little nervous, needlessly as it turns out.

Rails from near the trail that is rails-to-trails.

We start off down Chestnut Creek.  You very quickly come upon a park, Dannelly Park,  next to the park that has camping and would be a great place for a picnic, as well.  Very soon you have the feeling that you are many miles from civilization.  Some might think that anywhere in this part of Virginia would be many miles from civilization.  Wrong.  It can be very rural but there is plenty of civilization.  Along this stretch you see a few farms and homes but mostly, it is just a mixed eastern forest.  We have to come back when the leaves turn this fall.  It must be beautiful.  A few miles in you cross a bridge that has an excellent view of a small waterfall along the Creek.  The trail almost forces you to stop every now and then because of the scenery or some attraction.  It keeps you from turning this into a forced march.

Chestnut Creek Falls. Small but very pretty!

Nana sets the pace! My view for 27 miles. Not bad!

There are some remnants of the old railroad along the way, including some crossties sticking through the trail, evidence of locations where water towers had been, a few leftover pieces of equipment and even the outline of a turntable at what at one point had been the end of the line near Cliffview.  Mostly, though, forest, stream and sky.

A couple of guinea hens, I think, along the trail. Not really wild. We did see deer and many birds. Bears sometimes come down from the mountains. 

Along Chestnut Creek.

Nana scouts a tunnel downstream from Gambetta.

Emerging from the first tunnel.

Railcut through cliffs along Chestnut Creek.

You cross a small road at Gambetta.  Unfortunately, you can see where a development is in place across the creek.  I didn’t see any houses but the road and utilities were in.  This was sad to see.  A line of houses along the river here, or anywhere, rather ruins the near wilderness atmosphere that exists along most of the trail.    A bit farther along, at a little over nine miles, you arrive at a bridge that crosses the New River just nest to where Chestnut Creek merges gently into the main watercourse.  The New starts up near Boone in North Carolina.  The name give more than a clue as to the types of people that came through this area.  Farther down stream there is Austinville, the birthplace of Stephen F. Austin.  By the time the New River gets to this point it can be quite wide at times, though usually not very deep.  There are places where when the water is low, one can almost walk across.  After heavy rains it can have moderate class rapids in places.  Many canoe the New or kayak.  The trail itself is often used by those on horseback.

Trestle bridge at Fries Junction.

Fisherman at the confluence of the New River and Chestnut Creek.

The New is not a free flowing river as there are many dams that generate hydroelectric power.  As a result, there are sections that are actually lakes with submerged shorelines often dense with aquatic vegetation.  I don’t really know but I bet there is some pretty good fishing along here.  We was quite a few small boats and some fished from the banks.  You pass two dams along the trail in this section, Byllesby and Buck dams.  They are placed in an are where the river narrows as it passes through the ancient remains of a towering mountain range, the Iron Mountains.  There are many high cliffs in this area.

Buck Dam generates electricity.

While we had a picnic lunch near Buck dam, by sitting in one place we had a better idea of how many people use the trail.  Many came by in a short time.  Very young children on tiny bikes with their parents to fully decked out in cyclist clothing, grey haired women who were wonderfully not acting their age!  While resting and checking out the moist wooded area near us we spotted and Easter Newt.  Fortunately, I didn’t handle him before lunch as he excretes poison through his skin.  The version we saw is also known as the red eft.  This is the middle period in the life cycle of these little guys where they wander about trying to find new water sources before they become fully aquatic adults.  They stay in this terrestrial stage for about three years.  They can live up to fifteen years.

A red eft, an Eastern Newt in its terrestrial stage. Sort of like adolescence! Like human adolescents, better not to mess with them. These can excrete a poison onto their skin.

So on we went.  Our legs felt pretty good but after 17 or 18 miles the booty began to get a little sore.  A little hard on the prostate, too.  We passed near Austinville which in times past was a center for lead and zinc mining.  You can still see remnants of the mining hear, abandoned sidetracks and tunnel entrances.  The mines went as far as 1100 feet below the surface.  The lead was used before and during the civil war to produce lead shot.  Near the end of the portion of the trail we road, Interstate 77 passes overhead and just past this is what is called the Shot Tower.  Lead would be taken to the top, melted and drops allowed to fall 150 feet, hardening into a sphere on the way down, dropping into water to cool and then exited out to the river banks through a tunnel, in those early times, by slaves.

The second tunnel along the trail.

View from the bridge near Ivanhoe that crosses back to the right side of the New River.

Closed mine entrance along the trail. Lead and zinc were extracted here.

Interstate 77 passes over the trail, crosses the New River.

The Shot Tower near Foster Falls.

Our journey ended just past the Shot Tower at Foster Falls, where we began our shuttle to Cliffview.  Foster Falls has beautiful camping spots.  No driving in to the campsite.  Load your stuff up on little yellow carts and pull it in!  Most of the campsites are very near the water with beautiful view to a small island or the series of rapids over angled rock that forms the falls.  No huge drops, just a series of small drops that form a linear pattern across the river.  Cliffs rise up in the distance.  On the park property is a furnace used for smelting iron ore, also found in the area, and many old building.  One old building, that had been used as an orphanage, is being slow converted into a bed and breakfast.  Something to look forward to!  After we finished the trail portion, which actually extends many more miles to Polanski, we wandered about here looking at the old buildings, watching children wade far out into the river, canoists arriving, and a train of horses taking visitors off into the forests along the river.  I hope the people who live in this area and Virginia, generally,  appreciate what a gem they have here.  I might note also that the staff there was friendly and helpful.  A perfect day on the go for Papa and Nana.

Old smelting furnace.

Hard to see from this angle, but one of the small drops along the New River at Foster Falls.

The river is very shallow here at this time of year. Children and fishermen wade far out into the river.

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