Over the River and Through the Wood...

    Over the River and Through the Wood...

    By Kris Stein

    While visiting my grandparents for Thanksgiving I got some time to escape the normal holiday activities of catching up with family or frenzied shopping and eating to explore on my bike.  Fortunate for me they live in the valley below the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive so I do have some great escapes that are hard to beat.  Seeing a glowing sunrise silhouette the mountains or looking out from the BRP at a bed of fog reminds me how lucky I am to be able to ride and see these sights.  

    You can see a couple of the sights I found this year from Wintergreen Ski Resort and Jarman's Gap.  Jarman's Gap is a well known gravel climb to Skyline Drive, which I've actually never done before.  I knew it was gravel and others have done it on road bikes, so I figured it was my turn for the experience.  What I didn't know was that I would have to pull over and get passed five times on the way up (including by a U-Haul size delivery truck) and narrowly avoid an oncoming car since it was a narrow, one lane road.  Riding there on US250 had less traffic that morning!  Once I reached the top and figured out which "road" took me to Skyline I really learned that I was going "through the woods" on a trail (that still showed as a road on maps/GPS).  Trail is much more appropriate since my bike and I got to climb over a gigantic tree that had fallen across the path (as the photo evidence shows).  It sure felt great to finally see the smooth pavement of Skyline Dr after all that!

    A few miles south along the (newly paved) BRP (just before the 14 mile marker) you can rocket down Reeds Gap (15%) to the entrance of Wintergreen Ski Resort and then climb up much higher than the BRP to have commanding views of the surrounding mountains.  This I've done countless times and I highly recommend.  Even the cloudy day I was greeted with made for a nice photograph though.  The iconic Blue Ridges in the distance with what looked to be a cloud ceiling immediately overhead.  Another great thing about a visit to Wintergreen is the fun descent.  You definitely don't want to get caught behind cars on this one with sweeping turns and amazing views.  

    Well, by this point I had made it over the river (I also went hiking) and through the wood, so it was time to visit grandfather and the rest of the family!