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Old 10-18-2013, 08:33 AM   #31
FarmBoyBrad
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error cooled,
I sent you a pm sir.

also, thanks for the extra info about the Walker Mountain rd, I am fascinated with that road as well like you said that you are...and a quick question, at the tight swicthback near the ridge of the mountain (close to the halfway point of the entire road), there is a road/trail that heads away in what I believe (if I recall correctly) would be a northeasterly direction. I have tried to zoom in and follow it on the google sattelite image and it looks like it ends after a short distance, is that correct from what info you have gathered so far? I thought about parking several of the Jeeps just off the path near the switchback the day we go and maybe all of us load up in two or three and see where/how far it goes.

FarmBoyBrad screwed with this post 10-18-2013 at 08:42 AM
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Old 10-22-2013, 10:04 AM   #32
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error cooled,
PM responded. Net/net is I would be really cautious taking a group through the east side.

Here are some more interesting nuggets on the road:


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You have probably heard of the Old South. If youíve not spent much time here, the term probably conjures up images from ďGone with the WindĒ where women are wearing hoop skirts, men are decked out in riding breeches and panama hats, and their slaves are out in the field picking cotton.

But let me tell you, it still exists. I live in Bland County, Virginia. Its history actually traces back to the days leading up to the Civil War. Just before voting Ė for the third and last time - on whether to secede from the Union, the Virginia legislature passed a law in 1861 creating the county of Bland. So it goes way back.

My home was built on property that was once owned by a Captain in the Confederate army. Before the war, he was a miller. Both his mill and his home are still standing in the valley below my house.

And there are other tangible links to the Old South, if youíre willing to look for them. Raleigh Grayson Turnpike, the road that leads to my place, was carved out of the local landscape in the 1840ís. It snakes around my property and works its way up the mountain, across the ridge, and, twelve miles later, down again. An old fella in the area once told me that when he was a child (heís in his 80ís), the turnpike was the only route from the village of Bland to the nearest town, Wytheville. He told me about the special day-long journeys his family would make over the mountain in the mule-drawn wagon in order to buy supplies. Iíve traveled this route. In places, high up on the mountain, the passage narrows. It is sometimes so narrow that if you stray off the road at all, youíre faced with a precipitate drop of hundreds of feet. I get a little nervous riding this road on my ATV. They made this trek in the old days in a mule drawn wagon.

Iím told the turnpike was built with slave labor. And oxen were used for the heavy lifting. There is evidence readily seen, all along the route, of boulders that were cleared from the roadbed and dragged to the side. Massive boulders. How the slaves must have worked at it. How many years it must have taken them.

Iíll let you in on a well-kept secret. The road was still in use until 1972 when the state of Virginia opened up the last section of I-77, an interstate highway that will take you from Cleveland to Charlotte and beyond. The last section involved a tunnel cut right through Big Walker Mountain, my mountain. Hereís the secret. When I-77 was completed, the state of Virginia abandoned that portion of the old Raleigh Grayson Turnpike that runs from my property to the mountaintop and along the ridge. Itís still there. But it hasnít been upgraded in years. It is as it was. The roadbed is in poor condition. Itís probably not much worse than it was a century ago but itís still a rugged ride for someone with a weak stomach. It was never paved. Truth be known, much of it is dirt. The more luxurious stretches contain a layer of rocks, most of which are the size of a dinner plate. The only vehicle traffic on the pike now involves the occasional logging truck and lots of hunters on all-terrain vehicles

It is here on the pike that the Old South comes alive. A walk up the mountain is a journey into the past. On any given day, if you keep an eye out while you labor up the old trail, you can find treasure lying in the roadway. This Spring Paula and I were walking back from a hike up the mountain when suddenly she noticed, half buried in the dirt, an old horseshoe. Paula pulled it out of the road and immediately noticed that it was too big to have come from a horse (most folks here in the mountains didnít own large draft horses; Belgians and the like required too much forage in an area where grazing land was at a premium). It had to be a mule shoe. Oneís imagination runs to thoughts of Colonel Tolandís Yankee raid that came up the pike in 1864. It could have come off of one of their pack mules. It's also possible that it simply came from a mule belonging to one of the local residents a long, long time ago. We put the mule shoe back where we found it. It is again making history.

We have found plenty of other treasure along the turnpike. Included in our cache are pieces of harness, lots of pottery shards, pieces of plates and cups (some with beautiful design patterns), a belt buckle, and a few shotgun shells from more recent times. The area where many of the artifacts can be found is right at the base of the mountain, which would lead one to believe that the remains are some of the loot confiscated from local villagers by Yankee marauders 160 years ago and discarded - in an effort to shed heavy baggage - when the soldiers involved saw the climb they were about to face. We havenít come upon any gold coins yet but I keep looking.

The best part of the story is that it will always be as it is, as it was. Iíd invite you to take a journey into history with us but first I have a warning. Be careful. There is a saying that I heard a number of years ago. If you come to our tiny corner of the Old South to walk the Raleigh Grayson Turnpike, ďtake but a picture; leave but a footprint.Ē
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The Upper New River Valley, a natural cul-de-sac, was difficult to reach from the days of earliest settlement. By the mid-ante-bellum period the situation was little better. State governments in Virginia and North Carolina were anxious to connect the regions with the remainder of their states. This problem was easier to overcome in Virginia with the construction of the Grayson-Raleigh Turnpike. The Raleigh-Grayson Turnpike followed roughly the late 20th century route of U.S. Highway 21 from Wytheville, through the Elk Creek Valley to Independence to the North Carolina line. The Grayson County portion was approximately 20 miles in length and cost, at the time, the incredible sum of $425 per mile, or nearly $9,000. The specifications for this road were 16 feet in width, Macdamized ditches along each side, and to have all trees, rocks and stumps removed from the road path, a revolution in Mountain road-building. The Raleigh-Grayson turnpike was not, however, paved, and during the rainy, snowy winters and springs of Appalchia, the road became nearly impassible due to mud. Sharp, narrow wagon tires wore deep ruts in the road, and constant repair was requisite to keep the investment from being lost. Despite its faults, the Raleigh-Grayson Turnpike became the key route in and out of the New River Valley in the late ante-bellum period. This road was the route that Grayson County's soldier marched off to war through. This was the road that Upper New River products were shipped out on and the way that news of the outside world came in on. There was no telegraph office anywhere in the Upper New River Valley until well after the Civil War was over.

The Raleigh-Grayson Turnpike intersected with the Virginia-Tennessee Railway near Wytheville and became the main thorough-fare in and out of the Upper New River Valley. In North Carolina there were several proposals to advance transportation into the Northwest section of the Old North State. The most promising project was a proposed railway from Salisbury through Deep Gap in Watauga County and through that section, down the Watauga River and to connect with the Virginia- Tennessee Railway in East Tennessee. This project had a rival, and a more southern route through Swannanoa Gap. The Southern route, though longer, had fewer engineering difficulties and was the chosen route. This railway was the key reason for the growth of Asheville in Buncombe County in Southwest North Carolina. Many have speculated that a more northerly railway would have spurred the same to similar growth in Northwest North Carolina.

Wagon and horse transportation remained problematic in the Lost Provinces of North Carolina. Winter snows and spring rains tended to destroy the summer's construction of roads up the Blue Ridge from Wilkes County. After several attempts the effort was virtually abandoned and transportation tended to follow the natural land contours, which led through Virginia, along the New River. This situation was not changed to any appreciable degree until the 1930's.

During the latter part of the 19th century some North Carolinians from Fayetteville realized the mineral wealth of the Upper New River Valley and proposed construction of transportation spurs into the region. The financing for the proposal never materialized and the idea was dropped and the region continued to be connected to the outside world primarily via the Grayson-Raleigh turnpike.


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Old 10-22-2013, 11:00 AM   #33
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error cooled,
you are the man!

That is some incredible info. Thanks for the time you have put into gathering the story behind this piece of "road artwork".
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Old 10-24-2013, 09:04 AM   #34
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I stumbled upon this youtube video from a guy who calls himself vafr206 on Youtube. This video shows the lower side of Walker Mountain Road (VA forest road 206, like the guys name), he calls it Big Bend because it runs past the Big Bend picnic area near the upper end of the road (not shown in video). This takes you from the bottom (off of Little Creek Hwy) up to the big switchback at the top of the ridge, where he cuts off the camera. This shows the toughest/most technical portion of the trail/road. Here is the link to the video...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDCN1QVsuPY

If you watch it, let me know if you are able to keep from ducking your head or dodging to one side or the other. I couldn't. Anyway, if you haven't ridden this road yet and are thinking about it, this video will give you a great idea of how tough it is in certain spots, and what you are getting yourself into. If you stop at the Big Walker store at the upper end of it, make sure you get one of their ice cream cones. That alone is worth the trip.
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Old 11-02-2013, 11:24 AM   #35
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Pics of Jeep ride across Walker Mtn Rd

http://s956.photobucket.com/user/xbrad9r/slideshow/

Lots of pics from our Jeep ride on Oct 6th. Planning on going with a couple of other Jeeps on election day (Tues Nov 5th). Will give an update on road conditions after that ride.
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Old 11-09-2013, 05:44 AM   #36
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[QUOTE=FarmBoyBrad;22691560. Planning on going with a couple of other Jeeps on election day (Tues Nov 5th). Will give an update on road conditions after that ride.[/QUOTE]

So Brad,

Did you get to make this trip? How about the dual sport guys you mentioned?

Tom
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Old 11-09-2013, 06:31 AM   #37
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So Brad,

Did you get to make this trip? How about the dual sport guys you mentioned?

Tom
Hey Tom,
We did make the ride across on Tuesday. Two Jeeps loaded up with people. I did not have to use the chainsaw this time (nice improvement) and didn't have to trim/snap a lot of limbs either. Overall road conditions were pretty good and there were four or five hunters parked on the top side off the trail in a few different spots. The big issue is the volume of leaves covering the road and making it look flat/smooth in places where there are holes/rocks/washout/etc. If you ride this road or any trail you are not 100% familiar with this time of year, use caution and assume that there could be rocks/holes and ride accordingly.

I spoke with the dual sport group near me (about one hour from Walker mountain) and told them about this road, he doesn't have a date set for their next trip, but said he would let me know in advance so I can plan to go with them. I will post on here or send you a PM in case it works out that you could join us.
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Old 01-10-2014, 06:42 AM   #38
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A friend and myself are going to be heading up that way tomorrow in a Taco and my Jeep. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures if it's open!
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Old 01-10-2014, 01:46 PM   #39
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Hey Tom,
I will post on here or send you a PM in case it works out that you could join us.
Brad,

Somehow I missed this portion of your post, sorry. By all means, if you go up on a bike and know in advance, please let me know.

Thanks,

Tom
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Old 01-10-2014, 01:52 PM   #40
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maquette,
I will let you know whenever I head that way on two wheels.

red04Cobra,
If you don't mind scratches on the Jeep, you will have a blast!
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Old 01-10-2014, 03:28 PM   #41
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maquette,
I will let you know whenever I head that way on two wheels.

red04Cobra,
If you don't mind scratches on the Jeep, you will have a blast!

Nah, you should see what I drive it through behind my house! I added you on Facebook too. I'm Donald. Will post pictures on there after I get back.
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Old 01-12-2014, 08:10 PM   #42
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Thanks for adding me on FB. Great pics and the video was great too.
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Old 01-13-2014, 04:50 AM   #43
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Nah, you should see what I drive it through behind my house! I added you on Facebook too. I'm Donald. Will post pictures on there after I get back.
Donald,

Enjoyed the video! Did you start up by the store at the lookout, or did you finish there? Can't wait to get up there on the bike in the spring.

Thanks,

Tom
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Old 01-14-2014, 01:01 PM   #44
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Maquette (Tom),
To answer the question for Donald. In the video he shared on FB, it looks like he started recording somewhere between one or two miles in from the Little Creek highway side (bottom side) working up the mountain toward Big Walker Lookout on the opposite end. The video ends at the big switchback which is about 9 more miles away from where it comes out/ends at the store at the lookout. That video is probably about three or four miles worth of the lower side of the road. It also doesn't really do justice to the inclines and declines in certain places and the depth of the ruts.
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Old 01-14-2014, 04:02 PM   #45
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Maquette (Tom),
To answer the question for Donald. In the video he shared on FB, it looks like he started recording somewhere between one or two miles in from the Little Creek highway side (bottom side) working up the mountain toward Big Walker Lookout on the opposite end. It also doesn't really do justice to the inclines and declines in certain places and the depth of the ruts.
Thanks Brad. I hope to get my own video of it this spring on the bike. I'll probably go from the Lookout down to the Church, but may do it in both directions time permitting. That's assuming I don't bust my butt in the process!

Tom
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