Sometimes it seems, the places we discover that we will treasure most, are the the ones we had no intentions of seeing in the first place. On a cloudy, cool, clammy day in mid to late October, my fiancé and I were simply heading to Abingdon, Va for the day. The GPS chose a route from NC, that took us through Boone, then into Tennessee to Mountain City, then to Into Virginia through a small but very cool town named Damascus. We chose the route that ran along what is known as the Virginia Creeper Trail, a very cool 34 mile bike trail that runs from Abingdon, Va to Whitetop, Va. Damascus is right in the middle of it and is known as “The Heart of the Va Creeper”. It is somewhat of a “bike town” with all kinds of places to rent bikes and equipment, get shuttle rides, you name it. There are a number of cool novelty gift shops around, some nice looking restaurants and some old train carts on display that used to run along the Va Creeper back in a time when it served a much more important purpose… Oh yes, I almost forgot, the Appalachian trail comes into Damascus along side the beautiful Laurel Creek. This Damascus also has the nickname of “AT Trailtown” and famous for its annual “Trail Days”, a large festival for hikers each year. Oh my, what have I discovered??
I will have to put the 34 mile bike ride and Trail Days Festival on hold for now as we were simply driving through. We did have a little time to kill and at an intersection in Damascus, was a sign pointing left to something called “Backbone Rock”. The name alone caught our attention, and after a short google search on the trusty iphone, we read that it was just 5 miles down the road with a short trail and even a waterfall. Now we are talking my language!! A left turn we made. We had been in Virginia a few miles now, so I was surprised that this short route took us back into Tennessee. We were greeted at Backbone Rock by driving under the main attraction, a hole blasted through a 10 foot thick wall of rock. As it turns out, this area was once blasted, to build the railroad through, to get from Damascus to Shady Valley. There is a part at the top of the tunnel that was hand chiseled to allow passage of the tall smokestack. Now, it is simply a tourist attraction. There is a short 1/3 mile or so trail that walks to the top of the rock, then the trail crosses the highway, and comes down a little ways on the other side. The views today with the peak leaf colors were spectacular, even with the cloudy skies. This trail is pretty flat on top with some rocks here and there to maneuver around and through. There are views looking either direction, to the surrounding Holston Mountain, highway, parking lot, and the Beaver Dam Creek which comes in on one side of Back Bone Rock and bends around it to go the opposite way.
These were some shots from the ground level, then it was time for the climb…. It was short, maybe a tad steep for some, but short is the key word. The peak height from the highway maybe 100 feet or so.
As you can see, the colors, mainly golds with a few reds for some contrast were quite nice. I would have like some blue sky thrown in there, but…….two out three ain’t bad. Once back down, there was this waterfall thing. Did I have enough time to make a short 0.2 hike? Just barely, so off I went. The
trail starts straight up, but the key here is again…short. After a leveling off and crossing
across the top, the trail heads down to the base. This is a forty foot waterfall called Backbone Falls. I have now seen some very nice photos of it. Mine are NOT….lol. It was very dark in here with unfortunately, a very low water flow, almost a trickle. Oh well, this means I have to come back after a good rain!