Creeper Trail – Abingdon – Washington County. The 35-mile trail runs from Abingdon to Whitetop. While hilly closer to Whitetop Mountain (the route follows an old railroad bed where trains had to ‘creep’ up the mountain), we took on a very flat stretch near Abingdon. One of the touristy things you can do is rent a bike and start at the top of the mountain, and then have a van pick you up at the bottom. After I backed out of doing zip lining one day, we went to the bike shop, but it was closed.
BREAK AWAY 5K Race Gate City – Scott County. We got our first taste of extremely curvy mountainous roads as I took what I thought would be a short cut through the Jefferson Forest. My phone navigator added to the “will we make it there in time?” tension by saying “GPS signal lost” at one critical point, and telling us to turn when the road sign said stay straight at another.
The race benefited a local group dealing with domestic violence issues. Despite being a very well organized event, the turnout was just over 100 runners on a dry but foggy morning. The course had its share of hills, but not too bad. Col finished third in her age group. She tried to act unimpressed, but in reality I think she was delighted.
Norton (city). We attempted to drive up to High Knob Tower, but between the curves, the incline and the fog, I chickened out. I likely was 200 yards from the top when I made the 180. I tried running on a trail that climbed up the side of High Knob, but ran out of steam after about 100 yards. I settled on a run in downtown Norton. I didn’t completely avoid running on hills, but at least I wasn’t attempting to run up the side of a large mountain. Norton is the least populous city in the state (population under 4,000). High Knob is supposed to be relatively flat at the top and has a sizable lake. Maybe I’ll try to go back on another trip.
Cumberland Gap – Lee County. So the rangers that took us on a cave tour said that if we wanted to get to the spot where Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia come together, it was better to start on the Tennessee side. But it was only a mile and a half from the Virginia side, so how bad could it be? The answer is, it was the steepest 1.5 mile stretch I’ve ever done.
The Cumberland Gap is a narrow path through the Appalachian Mountains used by more than a quarter million earlier settlers to get to the promised land of Kentucky and beyond. A highway went through the gap until 1996, when a tunnel opened. Since then, the National Park Service has been working to restore the area to how it looked in the time of Daniel Boone.
Big Stone Gap – Wise County. When we got to Big Stone Gap, I was looking everywhere for the state park. After all, a place called Big Stone Gap should have a state park. At one point, I pulled over near a rundown house and tried to find it on the map or get some directions on my phone. An older woman came out of the house and started shooting us a mean look. We moved on.
Turns out, Big Stone Gap doesn’t have a state park. It has a couple of museums and the state’s official outdoor drama that runs during the tourist season, but no state park. Thanks to some dumb luck, I found the Greenbelt Trail. The flat, paved trail along the Powell River was greatly appreciated after doing the Cumberland Gap earlier in the day.