By Lynn R. Mitchell
Sunday afternoon road trip! With mostly-sunny skies and temps in the 80s, we headed out to meet friends for lunch and do a little roaming along the mountains. Driving from Staunton to Afton where Ron King’s Gourmet Popcorn food truck was open for business, we continued down Rt. 250 to Rt. 6, following the curvy mountain road into the Rockfish Valley where we turned onto Route 151, the scenic byway that offers three breweries (Blue Mountain, Devil’s Backbone, Wild Wolf), six wineries (Afton Mountain Vineyards, Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery, Flying Fox Vineyard and Winery, Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, Pollak Vineyards and Winery, and Veritas Vineyard), a cidery (Bold Rock Hard Cider), and a distillery (Silverback) as well as farm fresh produce, restaurants, shops, inns, and the entry to Wintergreen Resort.
The Blue Ridge Mountains dominate the scenery in that part of Virginia. From Rt. 151, we turned onto Rt. 6 for the final leg cutting over to Rt. 29 where we turned south to Lynchburg, then west on Rt. 460 to Bedford County and, finally, Rt. 501 north.
… Eagle Eyrie Baptist Conference Center on Rt. 501 west of Lynchburg. As a child growing up at Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond, many youth retreats were held at Eagle Eyrie just outside Lynchburg and at Massanetta Springs outside Harrisonburg.
This is the James River near Big Island, Virginia, named for an uninhabited island in the river.
“At Big Island the James River emerges from the Blue Ridge Mountains and flows to the southeast across basement rocks of the Blue Ridge anticlinorium. Although the James drops 50 meters in the 30 kilometers from Big Island to Lynchburg, much of that drop is consumed behind five dams that block the river over this section.” —The Geology of Virginia
The James River at the Rt. 501 bridge (see Road trip: The mighty James River as it passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains).
This is the lowest point along the parkway at 650 feet above sea level (Milepost 64). The adjacent James River Visitor Center offers picnic tables and a pedestrian walkway beneath this bridge that connects the visitor center with the restored Battery Creek Lock left over from the days when the Kanawha Canal. Three miles north is Otter Creek Campground.
Whetstone Ridge Visitor Center along the BRP is located in Rockbridge County near Rt. 56. A ranger office is there as well as restrooms and picnic tables, and a hiking trail: “The Whetstone Ridge Trail is one of the longest trails on the Glenwood and Pedlar Ranger Districts, running end-to-end with the northern trailhead on the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 29 and the southern trailhead on Irish Creek Road (State Route 603). This trail runs along Whetstone Ridge near Adams Peak, and along South Mountain Ridge following an old tramway from past logging operations. Whetstone Ridge Trail is notable for views of Three Ridges Wilderness, Priest Wilderness, and Adams Peak.” Here’s a first-hand hiker’s account of the trail.
Instead of following the parkway all the way to Afton, we decided to hop off on Rt. 56 that would put us out at the southern end of Augusta County. At that stop sign, turning right went to Vesuvius and Augusta County; turning left went to Montibello and Crabtree Falls.
Just off the parkway on Rt. 56 is the Sugar Tree Inn, owned by friends who offer rustic mountain comfort on the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Accommodations include the log lodge and rooms in rustic and log houses.
After winding our way through Vesuvius, we turned onto Rt. 11 north toward Staunton … but wait! We turned left onto Rt. 620 toward Spottswood to wind our way toward the western side of Augusta County through farm land and past ball fields, Ruritan clubs, and ponds.
This bridge on Spottswood Road (Rt. 620) as it crossed over I-81 was named in memory of Lance Cpl. Daniel Todd Morris who, at the age of 19, was killed in Iraq on February 14, 2007, during Operation Iraqi Freedom (see A community honors a fallen hero and A community wraps its arms around a fallen hero’s family and Obituary: Lance Cpt. Daniel T. Morris). He is one of three 19-year-old Marines from Augusta County — Morris, Lance Corporal Jason Redifer, and Lance Corporal Daniel Bubb — who gave their lives for their country during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Redifer is honored by the Rt. 608 bridge over I-64 in Fishersville, and Bubb is honored with the Rt. 256 bridge over I-81 in Weyers Cave.
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
August 2, 2015