When you think of cities in Virginia, you may think of Roanoke, Richmond, or Arlington. Those are a couple of big ones I can name of the top of my head, at least. From where we're located in Western North Carolina, all of those cities are quite a ways away - they'd need a minimum two days to explore. Lucky for us, we are very close to Abingdon, Virginia, which, it turns out, makes for a spectacular day trip that includes bikes, beers, and balls of yarn. Who could ask for anything more?
We had been hearing about Abingdon for quite some time, as it is an endpoint (or starting point, depending on how you want to look at it), to the Virginia Creeper bike trail. 'The Creeper,' as it nicknamed, is a 34 mile multi-use trail that was formerly a rail bed. Coincidentally, the weekend we drove up to Virginia, they were celebrating the 30th anniversary of the trail.
Before heading up, we did a little research. The Creeper is most often used in one direction, from Whitetop Station (the highest point along the trail), through Damascus (known as the 'Heart of the VA Creeper), and on to Abingdon. Some people, like us for instance, only bike half the trail - from Whitetop down to Damascus. This 17-mile portion is mostly downhill, mostly through National Forest land, and mostly alongside streams and creeks. It's awesome.
Although we bought bikes years ago, we soon realized that bike trails in Western North Carolina are quite hilly (mountainous even), so our bikes have gathered a fair amount of dust over the years. Couple that with the fact that our current vehicle doesn't have a bicycle rack. Needless to say, we decided to rent bikes in Damascus. There are several outfitters along The Creeper that rent bikes as well as shuttle you to various points along the trail. We went with Adventure Damascus. The cost of two bike rentals and two shuttle rides to Whitetop Station came in just over $50. A pretty good deal, if you ask me!
The bike ride was nothing short of spectacular. Although the temperature did inch into the 90s, we barely broke a sweat. We took our time riding, stopped to take pictures along the trail, and even hiked a bit on the Appalachian Trail, which intersects the Creeper multiple times. There were a fair amount of people on the trail, but the numbers didn't bother us so much. It was a beautiful Saturday, after all, who could blame anyone for wanting to be outside! The ride to Damascus is said to take anywhere between two and a half to three hours - we took a full three.
Fall is the most popular time to do the ride, and I can imagine why - the foliage must be out of this world. We'll have to venture back up in the coming months to see for ourselves. That being said, I have the feeling that no matter when you decide to do The Creeper (it's open year-round), you will not be disappointed.
Balls of Yarn
Any great day trip is made spectacular with a stitch and/or stretch stop factored in. So, while Damascus was a great little town to walk around in for a bit, we soon hopped in the car to make our way to Abingdon. (Next time, we should just ride the entire 34 mile Creeper Trail!)
A Likely Yarn is an adorable little yarn shop in the heart of Abingdon, just a couple blocks from West Main Street. I didn't have anything in mind when we went in for a look, but there was plenty to see.
The shop, a converted craftsman style home with beautiful outdoor landscaping, was extremely welcoming, as were the women inside. I was informed that the yarns were laid out by weight, with fingering starting in one room along with sport and DK, and then heavier, chunkier weighted yarns in another room. (So smart!)
The first question I like to ask a yarn shop when visiting a new town is if they carry any local yarns. I was brought to a selection of Miss Babs yarn, from Mountain City, TN, which is about a 40 minute drive from Abingdon. I looked at the various color schemes of Miss Babs in differing weights, but I couldn't find any colors summery enough. I'll have to stock up when we go back to do The Creeper in the fall!
Dylan had fun looking at the different knitting kits they had for sale, and he brought my attention to the knit-along project that they were highlighting for May - the Themeda Shawl. I asked the saleslady, who was oh-so-helpful (I wish I got her name!) what level of expertise was needed for the shawl. I told her the truth, that I was just learning. When she asked what types of things I've knit so far, she said that the shawl would be a good level of challenging for me. She then pointed out the prepackaged yarn kits in differing colors. I was hooked.
Although I will not have the benefit of going to the knit-along for camaraderie and help with knitting the shawl, I still feel part of a collective in knitting it at the same time! It's been great so far. I absolutely adore the yarn - Classic Elite Yarn, Cerro - a mixture of 85% cotton, 15% alpaca. It's a dream to work with, and I have the feeling I will be looking for more projects to use with this yarn. I am just to the point in the shawl pattern that I will be venturing outside my comfort zone into a knit lace, wish me luck!
All in all, I give the experience at A Likely Yarn a 10/10. I highly recommend a visit to the sweet ladies and charming shop. They've got yarn for every need, and a lot of inspiration floating around in there. I will be back!
The trip to Abingdon was not only for the yarn shop (although that's as good a reason as any to go somewhere new!). There was also a brewery that we were wanting to visit - Wolf Hills Brewing Co. After a three hour bicycle ride on a hot day, there's nothing more refreshing than a tall, cold pint of beer. Am I right?
The brewery is inside a big garage/hangar type building. All of the doors were open, fans were on, and there was a nice breeze blowing through. Although there are usually food trucks on site, the day that we visited, all the food trucks were at the 30th anniversary of The Creeper festival.
I don't have a very adventurous beer palate. I like wheat beers, blondes, reds and ambers. And that's about it. Luckily, they had two wheat beers on tap. They also had porter, barleywine, pilsner, IPA, stout, cream ale, other ales, and more. Quite the selection! I gravitated to the Whitetop Wheat, since we had just been to Whitetop. It was great. Dylan will literally drink any beer (so much harder to choose!). I can't remember what he ordered - it's that dark one in the pic above. Needless to say, he was not disappointed.
We sat at a barrel table and relaxed for the first time that day. What a day it was! The trip to Abingdon (via Whitetop Station and Damascus) was extraordinary. Since we were also celebrating our five year anniversary, it was also extra special. Surely you can make a weekend trip out of the many things to do in the area, but even just day tripping with bikes, beers and balls of yarn, you'll be delighted. Just as the brewery's motto says, this trip has left us 'howling for more.'
What makes a day trip extraordinary in your eyes? I'd love to know!