As earlier stated, I decided to take the drive to Fort Knox for my summer internship a little slowly by stopping in the mountains in western Virginia for some hiking/cycling/running.
It was a very good decision.
I left Friday morning and made the four-hour drive to Buena Vista, VA, where I hiked the Appalachian Trail up and over 4054′ Mt. Pleasant. It was a great day weather-wise and the scenery was immaculate.
There weren’t that many people out, but I did pass a southbound thru-hiker. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him, but he must have left Maine crazy early; SOBOs wouldn’t normally be passing through the area for another couple months, to say the least.
I did about four hours of hiking out-and-back, drove in to Buena Vista to scout out where I could leave my car the next morning, and then drove back into the George Washington National Forest, where I found and followed an obscure gravel path into the mountains.
About five miles later, I came across pretty much the perfect camping area, right next to this bridge.
There was on other family there, but things were pretty quiet initially. After killing the time reading by the river, I fell asleep wicked early. Around 4:30 am, I woke up and decided I didn’t really want to sleep anymore (perhaps the other family did too, as they had a raging bonfire going at that hour…), so I packed up in the dark and drove into Buena Vista, catching the sunrise along the way.
After waiting for it to become light enough, I abandoned the car in a grocery store parking lot, prepped the bike, and started cycling up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Easier said than done.
Getting to the Parkway from town meant cycling four miles uphill with an eight percent grade. It was probably the toughest part of the day, but that way it felt like I’d earned the views once I got up there.
I did about 20 miles out and back on the parkway. It was mostly downhill on the way out, and mostly uphill on the way back. Turned around where the parkway goes over the James River.
Traffic was quite light due to the early hour; in fact, I probably saw more cyclists than cars. The parkway is definitely something of a cycling mecca: low traffic and speed limit, even road surface, and nice descents and climbs.
Once I got back to Route 60 and got off the Parkway, it was all downhill to Buena Vista. In fact, I think I averaged 35 mph without pedaling once. Quite the exciting ride; lots of twists and turns and I was pretty much going the speed limit, so I just took the lane and cruised. Very nice.