Sunday, May 27, 2018

Virginia Creeper Trail Video

In addition to the photos that we shared in our previous post, we had some video shorts from our two days on the Virginia Creeper Trail. 

So, Nicole spliced them all together and added a few captions.  We hope that you enjoy it.

We are doing our best to get caught up on our blogging while spending time with family in Pennsylvania. 

Stay tuned... we've got more to share.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Two Days Of Creepin'

In the small town of Damascus, VA we awoke on a blissfully cool morning, next to a tumbling creek, grabbed some breakfast and then set to getting Hop-a-long and Boneless unwrapped, unloaded and ready for their next adventure

on the Virginia Creeper Trail.

For our first experience on this trail we opted to venture eastward from Damascus toward Whitetop.

Starting in Damascus and going in the direction we did meant that we started the trail on a long, beautiful trestle.

It spans Laurel Creek and the view from it gave us a good indication of what was to come.

Right from the start we noticed that the Rhododendron were blooming and

we had to pause for slug crossing.   A Limax maximus, perhaps?

The Creeper is 34 miles long and hosts 47 trestles.  That's a lot of bridges!

So, it probably goes without saying (but we'll say it anyway) that we have a lot of photos of trestles

and the water that runs under them.

The ride from Damascus eastward to Whitetop not only takes you through the beautiful forest next to a fast moving river but it makes a constant and steady climb.  In that 17 miles the elevation rises 1600 feet.

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Although difficult to tell from this photo, this is not your typically sized iris.  It is a Dwarf Crested Iris - Iris cristata - which top out at 6 inches tall.  They were blooming in several locations throughout the ride.

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The Trilliums on the other hand had not yet bloomed.

Hey, look!  A trestle bridge

and some water going underneath!

Look!  Another trestle.  HA HA  You'd think we would grow tired of seeing them but each one is different in length and character and the water underneath is different in how it moves and sounds.  So, it is actually exciting when you see another show up around a bend or on the straight.

Sometimes the bridges even present critters to look at like this Leaf-footed Bug who was sitting on the railing admiring his own shadow.

The VA Creeper Trail runs on a rail right-of-way dating to the 1880s. 

The rail line carried heavy loads of lumber, iron ore, supplies, and passengers.

Its name was inspired by the plant of the same name that grows along the path. 

A steam engine laboring up mountain grades in VA could also a be considered a "Virginia creeper".

The name suits us just fine as one would be hard pressed to find us doing anything other than creeping along;

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especially when nature is involved.

Speaking of nature... the Fire Pinks - Silene virginica - were blooming and looking quite pretty.

Speaking of creeping along... On this particular day there was an older gentleman walking on the trail.  As we neared him he kept looking back to see when we were going to pass him but it wasn't happening.  Surely he was quite puzzled as he kept an eye behind him.  Eventually, we actually did pass him and rode on for a brief bit (probably thirty seconds or so) before we saw something interesting and had to pull over to investigate.  Here he comes strolling on past us and chuckling.  "In all my years, I've never passed someone on a bicycle!", he says.  We never did pass him again.  There was just too much to look at.

Also blooming along the trail was the Fringed Milkwort (Polygala paucifolia).  It was a tiny, two petal flower we had not seen before.

While Nicole was off bird-spotting, Darlene caught sight of this cute little buttercup on the side of the trail.

We had a pleasant first morning on the Creeper Trail and, with exception to a few riders who enjoy the challenge of climbing up for 17 miles, we had the trail mostly to ourselves.

About six miles into our peaceful journey the first wave of "the others" made their appearance and everything shifted.  Since the path we were on goes up, up, up the whole way to Whitetop those who accept the challenge are greatly rewarded with a continual 17 miles of downhill to finish off their day. 

Or you could opt instead to avoid the work and pay for your reward in cash! 

There are numerous shops in Damascus who, for a fee, will shuttle you and your bike (or one of their rental bikes) up to Whitetop so that all you have to do is coast the whole way back downhill.

It is a thriving business which was made evident by the twenty people that barreled head on toward us for the next mile at which point we decided that our peaceful journey was sufficiently disturbed and chose to turn around.  We crept home at our usual rate and took in the nature as best we could in between the multiple groups of 15 or so people each that would zip up behind us yelling "On the left" or "Passing".  

We enjoyed this ride on the VA Creeper; though we were happy we had gotten most of it in before the shuttles started running.

End of day one.  A lovely ride and fourteen miles under our belt.

For Day Two on The Creeper we pointed Boneless and Hop-a-long in the opposite direction and headed west from Damascus toward Abingdon.

This ride was different in many ways.

Though we could see it often we were not as close to the water on this ride. 

It was more farmland and fields than forest.

Less tree cover meant that it was drier and warmer.

We appreciated the diversity from the previous day though.

It gave us new things to look at and experience like this moth we have not yet identified.

One of the first things that we saw on this trail was a section of the original tracks.  That was a first for us on a rail trail and pretty cool to see.

We saw some tree swallows in the bushes

and some Columbine Flowers on the rocks.

Along the Creeper Trail we discovered three new creepers of a different variety.

Inchworm Group

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Armyworm Group

This still unidentified wiggler was literally hanging from a thread and working on climbing back up.

Scenic river picture interlude...

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We spotted two new-to-us butterflies - the Zabulon Skipper.

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Scientifically known as Poanes zabulon, it is yet another cute little skipper to add to our growing list of sightings.

IMG_6051 - Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis)  (9)
And, this is Chlosyne nycteis -

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the Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly.

The Mayapple Flowers (Podophyllum peltatum) were blooming under the shade of their large leaves.

Although we've been racking up the new butterflies, caterpillars and bugs we haven't seen too many new birds.

Until now... This is an Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens) - LIFER!!!!

A8 means Eight Miles to Abingdon and half way from Damascus.  We've reached our turn-around point but decided to head up to that opening in the trees to eat lunch.

We found a bench at the beginning of trestle #12.

This South Holston Lake Trestle is the longest on the trail at just over 620' long.

We spent some time walking on it before turning around and riding back to Damascus.

On the way home we encountered some very friendly wildlife.

Seventeen miles added to the tally brings an end to two great days on the Virginia Creeper Trail.

See ya later...