I had started this year hoping to really get in some local hikes but, as they say, the best laid plans oft go astray. I did succeed in finding a fantastic local hiking group connected to the Reynolds Homestead, The Homestead Hikers, and joined them on their inaugural hike for the 2017 year – The Silverbell Trail.
The Silverbell Trail is a short boardwalk trail that joins the Uptown Connection Trail in Martinsville just off of the Dick & Willie Rail Trail and ends, somewhat abruptly, at Church Street, across the street from the YMCA. Even in January, when all of the leaves are on the ground and a coat is required, this is a beautiful trail.
There are several small metal statues hidden along the trail. Well, most are hidden. The snake is quite easy to find. I was able to find the turtle, the frog, and the trout. I did not see the dove, the bunny, the grasshopper, or the quail. I would love to see the trout when there was a little more water running through the park. It looks like it might be just underwater at times.
The Silverbell Trail ends abruptly at Church Street, which is a fairly major road in Martinsville. It is actually Highway 58-Business. Across the street is the Martinsville YMCA, Virginia Natural History Museum, and Frank Wilson Park.
It is worth mentioning that there were several historic homes along the street here that were for sale in January and are still for sale now. They are older so I asked about them because a) I know the Realtor handling them and b) the prices are SO low. I’m told that, while they need some TLC, there is nothing absurdly wrong with them. They would make perfect B&B’s or professional offices.
It’s easy to cross Church Street and we did, heading into J. Frank Wilson Memorial Park, just behind the YMCA.
This is a big park with a lot of activities. One of the hikers lives nearby and said that it is a relatively quiet park even though it hosts a skate park and a disc golf course in addition to the standard park features of pavilions and walking paths.
J. Frank Wilson Memorial Park is not especially flat. It has a pretty rolling topography. One of the hiking group members had come out beforehand to make sure that it would be an easy climb up one side of the trail that does get rather steep. This part of the path might not be manageable for someone who has trouble walking or is in a wheelchair.
There is a pavilion here that is literally nestled in the park, surrounded by tall trees. It has an otherworldly air to it in January, when it is covered with fallen leaves.
There is a steep set of stairs that leads up from the park to the Virginia Natural History Museum. This is a fantastic museum and almost seems anachronistic for a small, sleepy community like Martinsville. They have a lot of displays inside and activities throughout the year.
This particular hike also featured some local architecture as we made our way back to the Uptown Connection Trail parking lot. Starling Avenue, as well as several of the streets that lead into Uptown, is where the historic homes meet up with the uptown area. There are quite a few historic homes that have been made into commercial offices.
Martinsville truly has some stunning architecture in and near the Uptown area. The Martinsville Middle School on the corner of Brown and Cleveland Streets is a sprawling campus now with several buildings. The original school facing Cleveland street first opened in 1939.
Another unique sight in Uptown Martinsville is the DeShazo Silo. It is visible from Clay Street in uptown and from along the Uptown Connection Trail where there is a plaque explaining its history. It is, in fact, not a silo. It is an incinerator that was used by a the DeShazo Lumber Company until it closed in 1971.
For more information on local area hiking, be sure to check out these links: