Mother has always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. At seventy, and after two years of little to no activity, the move to Virginia has reawakened her desire to get on the Trail. We aren’t that far from it and the section through Virginia is supposed to be one of the most accessible, according to her. She’s found a section hike that is just under five miles, round trip, within a short drive and it looks like this is something that is going to have to at least be attempted. No one just dives into the Appalachian Trail though so we’ll have to work up to it.
There is no shortage of local trails to take in first while we are building up muscles (maybe?) and stamina. Before the unseasonably warm temperatures drove us indoors to hide, we went to the Gravely Nature Preserver in Ridgeway. It’s a 75-acre preserve with a variety of trails that wind through the thickly wooded land.
The trail is easy, without a lot of ups and downs until you get to the end, where you go downhill at a pretty decent grade. It’s not treacherous at all but it’s worth going down it instead of up.
There are multiple trails to walk in the preserve, all of them starting off of the main trail loop, the Cliff Jones trail, and there are a few points of interest along the way. The Cliff Jones Trail is only about a mile long and is entirely shaded. About midway along the trail, there is the Burgess Family Cemetery.
It is a reasonably large family cemetery but the tombstones are in fairly bad shape, many having fallen over and beginning to crumble. There is a lot of deadwood along the whole trail, leaving a question about how well the trail is maintained or if the focus is just on the natural state of unkempt woodland. It was still worth the visit.
The trail itself is well marked and clear of debris. There was almost no litter. One of the side trails, the Rhododendron Trail, is supposed to lead through a “tunnel” of the woodland shrubs which flower in May. We didn’t attempt that trail on this excursion because it was marked as moderately difficult and the rhododendron had long stopped flowering by the time we were there. It is something that, along with the Burgess home site trail, we hope to catch next spring.
The Gravely Preserve is off of the beaten track and there is little chance that a tourist is going to stumble across it accidentally. It is a nice attraction for the town of Ridgeway though and I hope that more people do make the effort to check it out.