Tag Archives: Abingdon

Seeing Red on Labor Day

Tropical Storm Lee has been slowly moving towards Southwest Virginia.  Its precursor precipitation bands arrived Sunday afternoon, and it rained most of Sunday night.  The Doppler radar weather map Monday morning looked like it was painted green, with just a small area around Washington County not showing rain.  It was a small decent-weather window in which to labor through one last long run on the Virginia Creeper Trail before the Blue Ridge Relay race later this week. 

With the rainy weather, it is surprising that the color that is in forefront of my mind today is red.  Running through the matte lighting on the misty trail this morning, I saw more red in the outdoors than anytime this summer:

  • The falling and fallen leaves that are finally turning red (in addition to yellow), signaling the onset of autumn and the fantastic color changes we will be witnessing once again across the mountains very soon;
  • The beautiful orange-red color pattern of an Eastern box turtle that was slowly crossing the trail.  Its brilliantly-colored head was raised high as it scouted the area; and
  • The long, lithesome body and outstretched tail of an auburn-colored red fox darting over the trail only 100 feet in front of me.

All of this was on a four-mile stretch of the trail from the Abingdon trailhead. 

On this website, I usually don’t cover too much about the Virginia Creeper Trail, in part because it’s covered extensively on other sites, and on this site I seek to provide information about some of the less-known outdoor activities near Abingdon.  That said, it is true that sometimes we take for granted that which is closest to us.  The Virginia Creeper Trail is really something quite special; a solitary trip at an unusual time is sometimes the best way to reawaken awareness of how fortunate we are to have this awesome natural resource literally in our backyard.

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Abingdon Cupola and Steeple

This photograph was taken on the morning of Sunday, June 26, 2011.  I awoke early to get ready for the first of several paddling trips we have taken this summer on the New River.  In each trip, we left Abingdon early in the morning and witnessed a great sunrise as a sort of prologue to the adventures ahead of us on the river. 

On the first morning, as I prepared our fishing tackle and provisions in the kitchen I noticed the sky was a brilliant pink and purple in the East as the sun began to rise.  I drove to Main Street and took some quick photographs of the scenic skyline of Abingdon.  Note you can see right through the shutter-adorned window of the Washington County Courthouse cupola.  In the foreground is the Sinking Springs Presbyterian Church steeple.

The photo below shows more of the skyline.  The purple periphery framed the pink background of the rooftops.  The dramatic sunrise was an auspicious start to our first trip to the New River this year.

Southwest Virginia Fly Fishing

This weekend was a fly fishing marathon of sorts.  My son and I covered three different streams in three days, shopped for fishing gear and talked fishing with numerous people about fly fishing, researched fishing opportunities around the region, and caught some nice fish while escaping the oppressive heat that seems to have taken the nation hostage this summer.  On Sunday afternoon, I caught my first large rainbow trout since purchasing a new fly rod. 

Southwest Virginia Rainbow Trout
Beautiful Rainbow on a Sunny Afternoon

As you can see from the photo above, this fish was about as long as my forearm from elbow to the middle of my hand.  We estimated him about 15 inches and about 2 pounds.  I caught him with a nymph in about 1 1/2 feet of water near a cut bank.  My rod was a 5 wt, and I was using 6X tippet.   He jumped once and ran twice, the second time pulling line out from the reel.  We enjoyed that sweet whine of the drag as the trout pulled the line as he straight-lined it up river.  We had about a five minute fight to get him close enough to bring him in, and we promptly released him.

The Catch
 

The Release

This is a great time of the year to get up into the mountains for recreation since it has been so hot lately.  We enjoyed temperatures in the low to mid 70s most of the time we have been fishing this weekend.  That said, the water is extremely low, so the fish may not be as responsive as at other times of the year.  The heat puts a lot of additional stress on trout, who require the colder water to survive.  We therefore have minimized the length of fights or playing the fish out too long, as in the heat it is difficult for them to recover.

Fly Fishing Somewhere in Southwest Virginia

The Southern Appalachians boast some of the best fly fishing in the Eastern United States.  That declaration, while seeming strange on its face—fishing for trout, a cold water fish, in The South?actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it.  Streams and rivers originating from springs and filtered runoff from mountains, relatively remote pockets of forestland, and steep valleys providing lots of cover and protection from the heat of the sun combine to make the streams of this region good for trout.  Within a 60-mile radius from Abingdon there are numerous “blue ribbon” trout streams in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee that provide first class fly fishing opportunities.  Many are tight creeks and smaller streams, but there is definitely some wonderful fly fishing in this area.

Little Southwest Virginia Rainbow

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is a good place to start to get some basic information on regulations and fishing locations in Southwest Virginia.  Abingdon is fortunate to have an excellent and well-equipped fly fishing shop, Virginia Creeper Fly Shop, whose owner Bruce Wankel is always welcoming, provides useful information, and also guides local waters.  Mountain Sports, Ltd. in Bristol also sells fly fishing specific gear and has knowledgable staff about fly fishing in the region. 

Here is a map of the major trout streams in far Southwest Virginia(including the Abingdon area) and a map of the major trout streams in the area to the north and east in Southwest Virginia (including Wythe and Grayson counties).

All photos in this article taken by Karl Thiessen.

New Alvarado Station

Tommorrow the Town of Abingdon will officially open the new Alvarado Station on the Virginia Creeper Trail during a ceremony at the site of its construction.  Earlier this week I drove out to Alvarado for an evening run and an inspection of the new facility.  Painted white with green trim, the new Alvarado Station matches the design and colors of the restored train stations further up the trail at Green Cove and at Whitetop.

Approaching Alvarado Station from Abingdon on the VCT

The new Alvarado Station has restrooms and has a nice parking lot that will accommodate more vehicles at this area of the trail.  The additional parking at this section of the trail will hopefully take some pressure off the parking areas at Watauga Road and in Abingdon on busy weekends.

Over the years Alvarado has become a more interesting spot on the trail.  The Abingdon Vineyard and Winery, a small winery across the South Fork of the Holston River, is a day-trip destination in and of itself.  While personally I am usually too engaged in exercise on the trail to stop for a glass of wine, it would be a pleasant break if you were taking a more leisurely ride on the trail.  The winery is located less than a half-mile down the road from the Virginia Creeper Trail.  You could easily ride your bike there from the trail.  The wine tasting room is at the junction of a small creek and the South Fork of the Holston River.

There is also a small store/restaurant called the Old Avarado Station that is right next to the Town-owned, new facility.  The store has cold drinks, snacks, baked goods, and barbecue.  The location of this store is the “last stop” when you are travelling from Damascus to Abingdon on the trail, or is the first stop on the way from Abingdon to Damascus that has food or drinks. 

Directions

Alvarado Station with Parking Lot

For those unfamiliar with the area, Alvarado is a locality on the Virginia Creeper Trail about 8 miles from Abingdon and 5 miles from Damascus.  By car it is reached by taking Route 58 east in the direction of Damascus. 

About 6 miles from Abingdon, turn right on Osceola Road, aka County Road 722.  After a mile or two Osceola Road turns into Alvarado Road, aka County Road 710, which crosses the North Fork of the Holston River.  About 100 yards past the bridge there is the parking lot and new Alvarado Station.

Sunday Evening Post-Storm Sunset

 On Sunday, May 22, 2011, a set of late evening thunderstorms came through Abingdon.  They left in their wake an unusual reddish hue in the sky, more of an Alpenglow than we ordinarily have in this region (especially for this time of the year).  From our house you could see the sky change from dark grey, to burgundy, to red, eventually to a reddish orange.  My son Karl and I hopped in the car and hastily drove to some vista points to capture the post-storm sunset, as there were only about five minutes left in the evening to capture the skylight.

Taken from a ridge on the outskirts of Abingdon, this photo overlooks the ragged ridgeline of Clinch Mountain southwest of town. Mist and steam created from the fast moving storm rises from the valley. Click to enlarge.

Landscape photography is something I have always enjoyed and is an interest my son and I have shared for the last year or so.  This winter he received a camera which he has been using on our trips outside.  In addition, we have become fans of From the Edge, a photography show on The Weather Channel with landscape photographer Peter Lik.  In From the Edge, Lik travels to beautiful areas of the United States, primarily our National Parks, and demonstrates photographic techniques.  The show at times is a bit over the top, and Lik may exaggerate somewhat how dangerous some of the situations are, but the man is exuberant, the show is entertaining, and the photography and cinematography are gorgeous.

This photo is looking west. Remnants of storm clouds hover and reflect the evening sunlight. Click to enlarge.
 
Dark purple storm clouds above Clinch Mountain. Click to enlarge. The snaggle-toothed ridgeline of Clinch Mountain that divides Washington and Scott counties is visible in the enlargement.

On this evening Karl and I were able to have our own “Peter Lik” moment inside of town limits as we raced to the west side of Abingdon to get these shots before the light changed.  As the photos show, to the west the sky was a fiery red with heavier cloud cover framing a shrouded sunset.

Young photographer adjusts camera on tripod to get the "perfect shot."