Who knew that rail trails would eventually become a thing? Just recently, we went out to bicycle down the Virginia Creeper Rail Trail in Damascus and I’ve blogged about a 5K/10K on the Dick & Willie Rail Trail in Martinsville. This weekend was the annual Apple Dumpling Festival in downtown Stuart and this year it was kicked off by a 5K on Stuart’s rail trail, the Mayo River Rail Trail. Continue reading “Stuart’s Rail Trail & Apple Dumpling Festival”
If you are looking for a fun, quick, and inexpensive way to make wonderful memories over a weekend (or a weekday), we have FOUND it.
Damascus, Virginia is about a 3 to 3.5 hour drive west from Henry County. It’s a possible day trip but six hours on the road deserves a little bit of rest along with the fun, so we opted to take a leisurely drive out to Damascus on a Saturday, ride the Virginia Creeper Trail on Sunday morning , and then be back home by that afternoon. Continue reading “Day Trip Down The Virginia Creeper”
We don’t go to a lot places in the evening because we have chickens. If you don’t have chickens, you probably would never think of this but just about everything else in the world wants to eat them. In order to protect them from nighttime predators, you have to lock the coop up behind them after they go in to roost. If you are a chicken owner, that means that you absolutely must be home by dark.
The Rogues were scheduled to play in a street dance fundraiser for the renovation of the Fieldale Recreation Center last Saturday evening, so we thought that we’d go catch a few songs and check out the Textile Heritage Trail. We caught the full act of the warm up group, Heart Strings, before we had to go and we had a great time.
This was one of many fundraisers to help revitalize the Fieldale Recreation Center. Fieldale is a jewel of city, well, a town, in Henry County. Like everything else here, it has struggled in the post-NAFTA economy and seems to have been all but forgotten, lost in time. This, despite the fact that there is a Smith River access within walking distance of the downtown, plus the Fieldale Walking Trail that runs along the river, the Textile Heritage Loop Trail, and a beautiful city park. It really is an incredible destination to an outsider. Fieldcrest towels were made here, once upon a time.
In a larger economy, a developer would have swooped in and claimed the small but quaint downtown area for their own. It is a small oval-shaped commercial district with early twentieth century brick storefronts, anchored now by the Fieldale Cafe and a beautifully restored Shell station that is actually an antiques store. Given the river access for kayaking and trout fishing, it would seem like an outfitter would do well here. The Virginia Home Inn consistently gets great reviews on TripAdvisor. Reviews of the Fieldale Cafe call it “the ultimate local diner” and a “hidden gem”. Obviously, Fieldale is not wholly undiscovered.
We went a little early because Mother had not yet seen the Textile Heritage Trail that is nestled next to the City Park, across the street from the Smith River. I had taken some photos of it back in 2014 but I wanted a chance to snap some more shots of it.
The trail is short, only about a quarter of a mile, but features a variety of walking surfaces. It starts and ends as a crushed rock trail, it has some bare earth lengths along the way, and there is a raised boardwalk in the middle.
Much of the trail winds. It makes for some gorgeous shots. It is almost all shaded, with dappled light changing every potential shot as clouds and leaves above shift with the breeze.
There are placards all along the trail that explain the history of the textile industry in Martinsville and Henry County, so the trail can be as educational as you want it to be. Even without the placards, it is a truly beautiful trail.
I uploaded several of my shots to Instagram and have been pleased that they have been popular there (@lifeinmhc). I couldn’t decide between two boardwalk shots and all of the filters in Instagram are just outstanding with the trail photos.
Our walk and the concert that Saturday were both fun but now I’m more anxious for fall than ever. I also want to go back to Fieldale in particular to get more shots. Fieldale Walking Trail is just across the street from this one and meanders along the river. I can just imagine shots of the Smith in the fall colors.
Where do you go for fall colors?
The main reason why I’ve never run the Martinsville Harvest Moon race before now was that it was a 10K that started at 7PM and I have never been able to complete a 10K in under an hour. I was afraid I would end up a lone straggler limping along the Dick and Willie Trail after dark. According to Athlinks, my best time ever was 1 hour and 9 minutes (when I was in good shape). This year they added a 5K and a virtual race. The 5K meant that I could expect to finish before sunset so I couldn’t resist the chance to see the Dick and Willie Rail Trail.
The race actually starts on the Uptown Connection Trail and goes down .6 miles to join with the Dick & Willie. Mother and I got there early and had time to walk from the start of the race down to see the intersection with the actual Dick & Willie Rail Trail and back.
There are interesting things to see along the way on this part of the trail. DeShazo’s Silo has a placard along the Uptown Connection Trail explaining how, although it is called a silo, it was actually an incinerator for the DeShazo Lumber Company which closed in 1971.
The Uptown Connection Trail intersects with the Silverbell Trail just before meeting up with the actual Dick & Willie Trail. The Silverbell Trail is a short trail, half a mile, but we didn’t have time to see it and the artwork that is supposed to be along the way. That would have to wait for another day.
At the end of the Uptown Connection Trail, you can continue onto the Dick & Willie Trail but we turned around and headed back to get ready for the race.
I usually carry a small point and click with me when I run but I knew that light conditions would be too poor for that so I took a couple of pictures before the race with my phone.
Weather was perfect. They had two beer selections, Coors Light and something from Devil’s Backbone, and music played on a PA system.
When it was time for the race, they brought out a map to be sure that the 5K’ers and 10K’ers, who would start at the same time, understood which way to go for their particular race.
The path was easy for the 5K. They had a water station where the Uptown Connection Trail met the Dick & Willie Trail that would point people in the right direction at the right time and there was a volunteer at a cone that was the 5K turnaround that made sure that we all turned when we were supposed to (the 10K’ers had higher number bibs).
I finished before the sun set and then caught this blurry shot a little while later of a runner crossing the finish line. They had an event photographer at the finish to take everyone’s photo. His photos are posted on the Miles In Martinsville Facebook Page.
It was a good race and I would highly recommend it if you are considering running it in a future year. The Dick & Willie Trail is beautiful and fun to run with some company like this. For more information on The Dick & Willie Trail, check out “Virginia Rail Trails: Crossing The Commonwealth”.
If you like small town races with local flavor, the next one coming up is the Run With The Cows 5K at the Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail in Reidsville, NC. Unlike most 5K’s, this one is on a Sunday afternoon. While this is down in North Carolina, the history of the property there has some regional roots.
Here in Henry County, we are very close (about 3 miles, depending on where you are standing) from the North Carolina border. In fact, when I head to the Ridgeway library, I actually cross the border into North Carolina and back into Virginia on my way.
Ever since we moved here, a neighbor who became a very close friend has been telling us that we had to go check out the waterfall on DeShazo Road. From what he was saying, I was picturing a smaller stream with an abandoned falling-down mill and an arduous hike but I really couldn’t have been more wrong.
The falls are quite pretty. Like so many things around here, I find a larger version by the same name in another state. There is a Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee. These are not those falls. These falls are actually part of the Mayo River State Park, a new park in North Carolina. Per Wikipedia, the Mayo River State Park owns over two thousand acres along the Mayo River corridor but the current park only has trails along about 400 acres of it down near the town of Mayodan.
The only access to the waterfall is along DeShazo Road, where a trailhead prevents access by ATVs with pylons across the entrance. People park alongside the road to make the short hike down to the falls. When we visited shortly after a rain, we passed two gentlemen coming up from the falls as we were entering and a lady out walking her dog coming in as we were leaving.
The trail is clearly marked and mostly level until you actually get to the falls. There was no litter. The trail floor is natural earth so it probably has the potential to be muddy although it is the type of soil that is abundant here and drains well.
It is a very short hike to the waterfall. I’m guessing it is about a quarter of a mile. Some people say that you can see the footings of an old mill at the top of the waterfall. For me, it is hard to distinguish stone footings from natural rocks. We felt that the channel in the foreground of the picture below might be intentionally carved by human hands but there is no way to be sure.
The only bit of the trail that was difficult at all was the bit going down to the base of the falls. There were two paths – one dangerously close to the edge of a drop off and another maybe twelve feet away that was pretty steep. We did this trail before Mother had a walking stick and she was wearing open toed sandals. Even at that, she didn’t have much trouble with it, only requiring a gentle push up the hill as we were leaving.
I am hoping that there will eventually be trails leading from the Mayo State River Park up to the falls but it will be a good hike, distance-wise. In the meantime, the falls are reasonably accessible and quite beautiful.