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Mountain Biking Made Easy

July 7, 2011

Mountain biking with a large family isn’t always easy. There are different speeds to consider, questions of endurance, child seats perched on the back of bikes versus toddler-sized carriages, and of course, those who don’t even care to bike. It is because there are so many factors that the location becomes imperative. Biking with friends, I found the perfect place that not only met everyone’s needs, but proved to be enjoyable even for non-bikers. It was a place as unique as its name: The Virginia Creeper Trail.
Our journey began at a small Damascus shuttle service. We parked our car, rented bikes, loaded them on a trailer, and rode in vans to   White Top Mountain. The 34.3-mile creeper trail runs from Abingdon Va., to about a mile east of the Virginia-North Carolina border and is open for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding. We took the upper section of the trail, which is about 17 miles and runs from White Top to Damascus. It proved to be family friendly.
Passing through Damascus, I was struck by the quaintness of the town. Truly, it was made for bikers. Most of the traffic consisted of spandex-clad helmet-wearers pedaling furiously enough to put cars to shame. Trails ran parallel to the road, and bike shops populated every corner. It was only after passing through the town that we began to climb Great Knobs Mountain. With curves sharp enough to ensure van passengers were comfortable with one another, the 30-minute route to White Top was a scenic one. Bikes unloaded, we pushed off and began.
Handles clenched, feet perched on pedals, and bandanna tied to my handgrip, I easily guided my bike down the trail, crunching gravel under my tires the whole way. As I balanced over the front handle bar and felt the wind in my hair, I realized I had no need to pedal. I entrusted myself to gravity and enjoyed the rustic beauty before me.
Running along Laurel Creek, the trail goes through some of the most rugged terrain while still allowing bikers to leisurely coast through. Much of the Creeper goes through private land that surprises riders by sprouting picturesque barns in open valleys.
Looking behind me, I saw friends happily pulling cozy bike carts, both their child and dog living the luxurious life. Always eager to partake in strenuous activity, I shifted up a few gears and pedaled to pass the couple ahead calling out, “Coming left!” according to biker etiquette.
With more than 100 trestles and bridges, the trail provides enough jumps for those willing to reach high enough speeds and defy gravity. After enjoying ourselves, we found a place to stop, catch our breath and wait for the rest of our group.
    Pit stops were always enjoyable. Not only are there three visitor centers providing restrooms and refreshments, but the unplanned stops also allowed us to reenergize, snack and enjoy the scenery.
While small children played in water up to their knees, I nimbly balanced on a rock to watch the resting bikers below. It was the perfect photo-op as riders pulled out cameras and snapped shots of the sun-lit stream and trees — trying to capture a fraction of the beauty they experienced first hand.
Splitting the trail into as many sections as needed, the bike rests kept everyone refreshed and allowed us to avoid ill tempers and stiff bodies.
    Our journey ended where it began when we coasted back through Damascus, past the Appalachian Trail and to our car. As we loaded up for the two hour drive back to North Carolina, I noticed everyone was happy. Though our butts would inevitably be sore, something about gravity guiding us through such a peaceful trek left us with smiles.
The Creeper Trail let us momentarily forget the bike as a mode of transportation and see it as the tool of adventure and enjoyment it was intended to be.
    More information on The Virginia Creeper Trail can be found at www.vacreepertrail.org/.    
Jordan Moses, 19, is from Hickory. She is a journalism major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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