Trip to Va. Creeper Trail worth the effort

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By Terri Likens, Editor

Whitetop Mountain. 
A bicycle.
Those in the know will realize these are references to the Virginia Creeper Trail — 34 miles of bike path between Damascus and Abingdon in the Old Dominion state.
 I’m hurtling downhill toward a slick, frost-covered, wooden trestle. One application of the brakes or a single moment of imbalance while crossing it and the consequences could be dire.
Sounds like it could be a metaphor for my life, but let’s not go there.
Two weeks ago, I joined my hiking group on a camping/bicycling venture in Southwest Virginia. Many of them had committed and made the necessary reservations months before, but I’m bad about making plans far in advance. I threw my hat in for the trip less than a week before when a couple of others couldn’t make it.
On Friday evening , it was dark when I pulled into the Beartree Campground in the Jefferson National Forest. The temperatures were already in the 30s, so I threw on my down coat and started pulling gear from the back of my well-loaded Pontiac Vibe. I emptied the bag with my tent and fly in it. A separate bag had the stakes.
But as I got down to business, I realized I had left the tent poles behind.
No problem, I thought to myself. The back seats in my Vibe fold over, and I knew I could sleep in the back.
My cohorts had already polished off a big pot of chili and were enjoying a warm campfire, but I decided to turn in early.
We had to be on the road to Abingdon by 7:30 the next morning, and I knew I’d be moving sluggishly from the cold.
We had a hard frost overnight. Even with the cold-weather gear I’d brought, I was unprepared for the added chill factor of speeding downhill.
I’d worn cotton instead of wool socks and my bike shoes were mesh.
 My feet were cold. My face was cold. Even my shins were cold.
It took a good hour of riding even on that sunny morning for things to warm up, but by the end of the ride, I felt a warm glow that wasn’t just about overused muscles.
This I’ll do again.