We awoke to our first frost of the year, in Abingdon, VA, having to defrost windows for the first time in years (avoided frosty windshields by wintering in south Texas). Today’s agenda included completing the Virginia Creeper Trail, driving to Fries, and riding a portion of the New River Trail. I opted to ride the lower portion of the trail, almost 16 miles, from Abingdon to Damascus; it was 39° at the trailhead, the lowest temperature at which I had ever ridden.
At about the 3 mile mark, pedaling became quite difficult; the back tire was nearly flat. Slowly, after removing a couple layers of clothes, the tube was changed, and the ride resumed.
The trail was pleasant enough, though much less scenic than the upper portion. It was slightly downhill the first half, slightly uphill the second half, and relatively smooth, but cold headwinds made pedaling a bit tough, and forced me to continually wipe watering eyes and blow a runny nose. There were several gates across the trail since much of this portion of the trail is on private land, much of which is used for grazing. After about two hours, and despite a flat tire, I pedaled into Damascus, having completed the Virginia Creeper Trail.
From Damascus, our trip took us to Fries, VA, to a trailhead of the New River Trail. New River Trail State Park is a 57.7-mile (92.9 km) rail trail and state park located entirely in southwest Virginia, extending from the trail’s northeastern terminus in Pulaski to its southern terminus in Galax, with a 5.5-mile (8.9 km) spur from Fries Junction on the main trail to Fries. Designated a National Recreation Trail, the linear follows 39 miles (63 km) of the New River, which is one of the five oldest rivers in the world.
Because the trail followed the New River, I opted to ride downstream, thus downhill, and because the portion from Galax to Fries Junction was less scenic, I began in Fries.
The ride proved to be a bit strenuous because of headwinds and rough trail conditions. The trail was pocked marked by horse tracks, had a number of small fallen branches, and was surfaced with crushed limestone up to about 3 inches, all disguised by a light leaf covering. The New River was much larger than perceived, resembling the upper White River in both appearance and character. The almost constant roar of the river provided a bit of diversion from the cold wind and rough road.
Two dams were at trail side, and both looked worse for wear. Also notable was a short tunnel. Several walkers, cyclists, and horseback riders were on the trail.
I missed the pickup point at Shot Tower, riding to Foster Falls before turning around and riding back to meet Kay. I enjoyed the ride, but this trail is the least favorite of all ridden.