April 28 High Bridge Trail State Park
Not wanting to rush things overmuch, we had a leisurely morning at camp, then loaded the bikes on the car-carrier, and headed to Farmville to pick up the High Bridge Trail. You might remember my travels on this Rails-to-Trails conversion and state park back in March 22, 2016, when we had tackled on the Eastern half, where the High Bridge itself is located, and where a traveler finds historic markers and other points of interest in addition to the amazing High Bridge itself, along the way.
Last year, we had been warned off the western half, due to the reports that it’s a climb the whole way out, which is often true of R2T conversions since they follow old rail beds where there is usually a small but steady incline headed one direction and a small but steady decline headed the opposite direction. Then, as now, we shrugged our shoulders and asked, “So what?”
It was unexplored territory, so we undertook the “dreaded” westward side, beginning around 11:30A on a very hot and humid day.
I remember that the fellow at the outfitters, when we stopped in last year to chat about the Trail, reported that it was a 6 percent grade all the way up the western-headed direction, and almost a coast back down.
Six percent is actually significant for a rail line.
I had hoped for a bit of distraction along the way west — in the form of historic markers or nice views. But not only did we find exactly 4 other peeps using the entire 15+ miles of the western side of the trail, but a straight-as-a-blade path without much shade and basically zero to recommend it.
I figure that engineers driving the trains of the Richmond and Danville Railroad, back in the day, set aside this length of their drive for a nap. With hardly a curve, and nothing to see, few road crossings and only a possible halfway stop at “Prospect” Virginia (which was not, in fact, much of a prospect at all) to drop and pick up mail, the drive would be deadly boring. As was our ride.
After passing through the burgh of Prospect, the Trail parallels Rt. 460 and there is quite a lot of traffic noise. Oddly, there’s a long stretch, maybe 4 miles of the entirety, that is washboarded. We first thought it might be from the rain, but it was so evenly wrinkled over such a long stretch that we hypothesized the cause to be the trail-builders did not remove the dirt to grade when converting; only removed the rail ties and filled in the gravel underbed. Thus, settling happened between where the ties used to be, and not where the ties themselves had packed the ground beneath them hard, resulting in the very evenly spaced washboarding on the top. Boy, was that annoying and we spent some miles cursing the sloth of the trail construction company.
The single item of interest we saw along the way was a small (probably corn) snake that Jack tried to kill, to keep the landscape evenly boring and without interest. Just kidding — Jack would never intentionally kill a snake, not even a venomous one, unless it was threatening hearth and home. But he did hit this little corn snake, believing it to be merely another stick across the path.
The impact did not, apparently, hurt it overmuch. I tried to grab a photo of the only thing along the way that was of any interest at all, but it skidded into the verge so quickly I was unable to catch its image.
Even at the end of our 15 mile (actually it worked out to be closer to 17 miles from the parking lot) ride out, there was a pile of gravel and an abandoned parking lot to greet our effort. No picnic table, shelter, or privy. And no shade.
We returned to the last privy stop we’d passed and ate some trail mix, drank some water, and cooled off a bit. It had, indeed, been a strenuous uphill slog into the wind the entire way. After my “climbing training” from the day before, my legs were very, very tired. Both of us had emptied our water bottles en route.
There had been one small item of interest that appeared when we were about 2 miles from Farmville proper: a hen turkey came out of the woods at our left, ran down the “runway” of the trail until it could get some flight height, pumped its ungainly self up into the air high enough to glide back down straight along the trail in front of us, landing on the right side and skittering into the woods to disappear by the time we caught up with it.
It was, indeed, much easier pedaling back, though it certainly wasn’t any kind of an easy downhill glide. It must have been in the 90s by the time we arrived back in Farmville.
Cycling stats: 3 hours of ride time, 32.88 miles, average speed 10.8MPH (it was a mere 9MPH on the outbound lap); and here’s the kick-butt statistic: 405 ft of ascent. Remember, when riding the “climbing training” canoe launch hills in camp, I logged 500 ft. of ascent. Rough dayn.
Our first stop was a dive of a convenience store where we picked up some Gatorade and salty snacks (the trail mix had been mostly dried fruit so we didn’t want anything additional sweet, although the Snickers bars in the store did call out to me).
We also searched for and finally found Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, a very strange place at the end of a difficult-to-find gravel lane. We even had some trouble figuring out where to get into the building, once we found it.
But they apparently were set up to receive guests on a Friday night, and people were around to draw draughts or sell quart bottles or fill growlers. We tasted a couple of their IPA-style offerings and decided on their Nuclear Nugget IPA, about 8% alcohol (if I recall correctly their reader board). It (of course) wasn’t one of those on offer among the bottled beers for sale, so we had to fill a growler of the stuff. We were most definitely not in shape to be enjoying a pint on their sunny patio — not if we intended to drive back to camp, that is.
So we partook of their less-than beer in an expensive purchase that will be difficult to store properly in camp — but hey. It’s the experience, no?
Back at camp and after a much-needed and enjoyed shower, we were frankly, too tired to do much more than fix sandwiches for dinner, and it was far too late to build a campfire, so we postponed the hoped-for “birthday grilled steak” dinner until Sunday night, when it can also serve as a “final dinner of the trip” celebration event.
Tomorrow, we head to Williamsburg to the Boyle Society luncheon and our exclusive tour of the Integrated Science Center on the campus — newly-completed and full of interesting scientific research and teaching/learning.