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Virginia

Bike Virginia Creeper Trail: Nature in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Bike the Virginia Creeper Trail — a rail trail through forest and over restored trestles. Learn about ecology and historic towns, and attend a performance at Barter Theatre.
Rating (5)
Program No. 11662RJ
Length
6 days
Starts at
829
Virginia

Bike Virginia Creeper Trail: Nature in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Bike the Virginia Creeper Trail — a rail trail through forest and over restored trestles. Learn about ecology and historic towns, and attend a performance at Barter Theatre.
Length
6 days
Starts at
829
Program No. 11662 RJ
climate
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At a Glance

Ride the beautiful Blue Ridge highlands of Virginia on expert-led bicycle rides to experience rich history and its variety of nature. Bike through cool forests and over high, wooden railroad bridges on the Virginia Creeper Trail, a scenic retired corridor of the Virginia-Carolina Railroad.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Bike the entire 35-mile Virginia Creeper Trail, plus enjoy a ride amid the mountain bogs of Shady Valley, Tenn.
  • Attend a professional theatre performance at Barter Theatre, the State Theatre of Virginia.
  • Enjoy the historic and culturally-rich town of Abingdon, Virginia.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event and a value-priced single room.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Virginia Rail Trails: Crossing the Commonwealth
by Joe Tennis
These classic rail lines of Virginia that were once only accessible to train engineers or a few lucky passengers can now be enjoyed by anyone looking for a scenic hike or bike ride. The trails highlight the natural beauty of Old Dominion, from the sunrise side of the Eastern Shore to the setting sun at the Cumberland gap, and each trail, with names like the "Virginia Creeper" and the "Dick & Willie," has a personality and grandeur all its own.
The Virginia Creeper Trail Companion
by Edward H. Davis & Edward B. Morgan
With photos, historic train schedules, and detailed maps, this guidebook enables the user to understand the Virginia Creeper Trail’s origin as an important railroad. Also included are essays on the region’s geology, trees, wildflowers, fish, birds, and mammals. The combination of the historical perspective and the modern natural science in The Companion will enhance the trail experience for anyone who travels the Virginia Creeper Trail. This book is available at the SWVA 4-H Educational Center to read.
Abingdon, Virginia - Then and Now
by Donna Gayle Akers
This book contains around 200 historic photographs taken over the past century of Abingdon’s many well-known town entities, personalities, and businesses. The Stonewall Jackson Female Institute, Martha Washington Inn, and the Barter Theatre are all included in this beautiful celebration of Abingdon’s heritage.
Washington County
by Donna Akers Warmuth
Washington County provides an intricate visit to yesteryear, with over 200 historic scenes of this rural region. Highlights include beautiful photos of The Virginia Creeper trains and the communities of Damascus, Meadowview, and Glade Spring.
Virginia Creeper Trail Companion The: Nature and History Along Southwest Virginia's National Recreation Trail
by Edward Davis & Edward Morgan
This guidebook will enable the user to understand the trails origin as an important railroad and the natural world encountered along this scenic route. With photos, old train schedules, detailed maps, and es-says on geology, trees, wildflowers, fish, birds, and mammals, the companion will enhance the trail experience for anyone who travels this route.
Back in the Frame: How to get back on your bike, whatever life throws at you
by Jools Walker
Jools Walker re-discovered cycling aged twenty-eight after a ten-year absence from the saddle. When she started blogging about her cycle adventures under the alias Lady Vélo, a whole world was opened up to her. But it's hard to find space in an industry not traditionally open to women - especially women of color. Shortly after getting back on two wheels, Jools was diagnosed with depression and then, in her early thirties, hit by a mini-stroke. Yet, through all of these punctures, one constant remained: Jools' love of cycling.
Virginia Highlands
by Susan J. Harrington
This book highlights the history of the local region, including Wythe, Smyth, Grayson, and Washington Counties.
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Abingdon, VA
D
Southwest Virginia 4-H Educational Center

Activity note: Check-in available from 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 4:00-5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the upstairs lobby in the Dickenson Conference Center (DCC) to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: In the 4-H Center Dining Hall, we’ll have a buffet dinner with a salad bar and dessert plus beverage choices of coffee, tea, water. There is also a soda vending machine on the downstairs level.

Evening: Orientation: 7:00 p.m. The Group Leaders will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a Road Scholar Retreats program. Our programming at Retreat locations includes opportunities for light morning exercise, interaction with members of the local community, a farm-to-table meal, and evening entertainment. We will be followed by a sag wagon during biking field trips. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Following the Orientation session, continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Bike Whitetop Station to Damascus, VA Creeper Trail Talk
Abingdon, VA
B,L,D
Southwest Virginia 4-H Educational Center

Activity note: Getting in/out of vans; driving about 13 miles to bike fitter, approximately 1/2 hour; about 18 miles to trail head, approximately 1/2 hour. Biking 17 miles, approximately 3 to 3.5 hours; biking from 4,520 feet elevation to 2,100 feet elevation; well-groomed, shady national forest trail. Early morning temperatures at higher elevations average in the 40s Fahrenheit; expect temperature increases throughout the day as we drop in elevation; dress in layers, wear gloves.

Breakfast: In the 4-H Center Dining Hall, choose what you like from the breakfast buffet that includes rotating choices such as eggs, breakfast casseroles, pancakes, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, oatmeal, yogurt, cereals, and beverage choices of milk, juice, coffee, tea water. We will also make our own bag lunches from a variety of sandwich meats, cheeses, spreads, and breads plus snacks such as chips, cookies, vegetables, granola bars, fruit.

Morning: Optional early morning Center trail walk for participants. We will hop in the van and ride to the bike outfitter to be fitted for bikes and helmets. We will then shuttle up to Whitetop Station and begin our biking adventure on the Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail, considered the best rail-trail in the eastern U.S. From there, we’ll begin our 17-mile biking field trip to Damascus. The trail winds through beautiful scenery. We will make stops along the way for expert commentary.

Lunch: At a scenic spot on the trail, we’ll have the bag lunches we made for ourselves this morning.

Afternoon: We will shuttle back to the 4-H Center with some time to freshen up and relax. Later in the afternoon, we’ll gather in the downstairs level conference room for a presentation by a member of the Virginia Creeper Trail Club and get a historical overview of the trail.

Dinner: Dining Hall buffet.

Evening: We will hop aboard vans and ride to the Holston Mountain Artisans Co-op in the town of Abingdon. There, we will meet and interact with members of the local wood carvers group and spend time in the Co-op to see examples of fine craftsmanship.

DAY
3
Yoga, Bike Abingdon to Damascus, Local Musicians
Abingdon, VA
B,L,D
Southwest Virginia 4-H Educational Center

Activity note: Early risers yoga. Getting in/out of vans; driving approximately 10 minutes to trail head. Biking 17 miles, approximately 4 hours; mostly level terrain, steady grade; temperature will increase throughout the day if sunny.

Breakfast: Dining Hall buffet. We will also make our own bag lunches.

Morning: Early risers yoga is available to participants at 7:00 a.m. We’ll board the vans and shuttle to Abingdon where we’ll begin our 17-mile biking field trip to Damascus along another section of the trail through farmland and fields with views from high railroad trestles. We will make stops along the way for expert commentary and to tour treehouses that can be seen from the trail.

Lunch: At a scenic spot on the trail, we’ll have the bag lunches we made for ourselves this morning.

Afternoon: Returning to the 4-H Center, the remainder of the afternoon is free. You might like to take a walk around the grounds, go into downtown Abingdon, read a book, or just relax.

Dinner: Dining Hall buffet.

Evening: We’ll be joined by local musicians for a concert exclusively for our Road Scholar group.

DAY
4
Winery Tour, Shady Valley, Backbone Rock; Harvest Table
Abingdon, VA
B,L,D
Southwest Virginia 4-H Educational Center

Activity note: Early risers can enjoy a center informational walk on the 4-H Center grounds before breakfast. Getting in/out of vans; driving about 26 miles, approximately 40 minutes to trail head. Biking 18 miles, approximately 3 hours; rural roads, mostly level with a few short hills, light traffic.

Breakfast: Dining Hall buffet. We will also make our own bag lunches.

Morning: Participants who would like to can participate in a 7:15 a.m. Center informational walk around the 4-H Center campus with a staff member. We will board a shuttle van and ride to Shady Valley, Tennessee, where we’ll begin our 18-mile biking field trip. The route will take us through the valley along rural roads, past old cranberry bogs, and beautiful river rock cabins. We’ll stop along the way to walk over Backbone Rock, called the world’s shortest tunnel, a relic left behind by the railroad industry. The van will follow behind to serve as a buffer between bikers and traffic.

Lunch: At Backbone Rock, we’ll have the bag lunches we made for ourselves this morning.

Afternoon: Return to the 4-H Center, participants have some free time to freshen up and relax. Later in the afternoon, participants will head to Abingdon Winery for a tasting and a barrel room tour.

Dinner: We will ride in vans to the nationally celebrated Harvest Table Restaurant in Meadowview, Virginia, about 4 miles from the 4-H Center, where we’ll have a farm-to-table plated meal including dessert and order from the menu with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. The Harvest Table has its own farm and also features seasonal produce and meats from other local and regional sources, all prepared in healthy ways.

Evening: Returning to the 4-H Center, the remainder of the evening is at leisure.

DAY
5
Bike Whitetop Station to Abingdon, Yoga, Barter Theatre
Abingdon, VA
B,L,D
Southwest Virginia 4-H Educational Center

Activity note: Getting in/out of vans; driving about 31 miles, approximately 1 hour to trail head. Elective choice of biking 17 miles or entire 34 miles of the trail. Afternoon yoga.

Breakfast: Dining Hall buffet. We will also make our own bag lunches.

Morning: We’ll board a shuttle van and ride to Whitetop Station where we’ll begin our 17-mile biking field trip to Damascus. Now that you’re familiar with this section, let loose and ride as hard — or as easy — as you like. This easy downhill section of the trail always reveals more beauty on the second pass.

Lunch: At a scenic spot on the trail, we’ll have the bag lunches we made for ourselves this morning.

Afternoon: For those who elect to do so, we will bike the remaining 17 miles of the Virginia Creeper Trail from Damascus to Abingdon. Alternatively, those who would like a break from biking will ride to the Abingdon Winery for an opportunity to relax in a beautiful setting. Returning to the 4-H Center, we’ll have a yoga class designed for Road Scholar bikers.

Dinner: Dining Hall buffet

Evening: We will ride in to Abingdon and attend a professional theater performance at the renowned Barter Theatre, the State Theater of Virginia. Our program was planned far in advance when details of performances were not available. When confirmed, the information will be posted on the Road Scholar website under this program number and will also be included in preparatory materials sent following enrollment. Founded in 1933 during the Great Depression, it was called the Barter Theatre because so few people had money to spare and could pay the equivalent of 40 cents in bartered goods for admission. Today, it is one of the few remaining professional resident repertory theaters in the U.S. operating year-round. Returning to the 4-H Center, prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
6
Program Concludes
Abingdon, VA
B

Activity note: Check-out 10:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Dining Hall buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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