The Silverbell Trail – A Walk Through Martinsville

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.   Continue reading “The Silverbell Trail – A Walk Through Martinsville”

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Fall Creek Falls, North Carolina

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Gravely Preserve

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.