Getting UnPlugged in Southern Virgina

August in North Carolina has been hot. So we were looking for ways to beat the heat and unplug before Anna started her new school. I’ve written about the importance of getting ‘unplugged’ before, and frankly, don’t take my own advice often enough. Our trip to Southern Virginia turned out to be just the ticket for beating the heat and getting away from technology, like email, cell phones and the iPod.

We’ve camped in Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area before, and Hurricane Campground in Sugar Mountain, VA is our favorite. Although Ed, our campground host asked me to keep it a secret, Hurricane has been listed in National Geographic as one of the 10 most beautiful campgrounds in America. With an elevation of 2,800 feet, tall trees and a stream flowing through the campground, it is cool at night and comfortable during the day. Nice bath houses and clean camp areas offer enough creature comforts. There is no electricity and fortunately, you can’t get a cell phone signal there.

On Friday night, we ventured down to Abingdon, VA, about a 35 minute ride just off Interstate 81. We surprised Anna with tickets to see Annie at the Barter Theater. Founded in 1933, the theater is an intimate and welcoming place with a capacity of just over 500 patrons.

The name of the theater comes from the founder, Robert Porterfield and his innovative idea of trading produce and animals with local farmers for admission to the shows. It was a huge success, and to this day, you can ‘barter’ for admission at least once a year, with donations supporting the local food bank (Maybe we could trade them cookies for tickets – we’ll give that a try next time). After the show, we enjoyed some dessert in the theater café before heading back to the campground.

Saturday morning, we headed back to Abingdon and stopped at the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop. It’s a family owned business with a friendly staff that will outfit you for a pleasant ride down the trail. They offer a shuttle service throughout the day to ferry bikers up the mountain for a ride down the trail. You can start at White Top Mountain or Damascus, VA and ride back to the bike shop, located at the end of the trail. The ride from White Top to Abingdon is 34 miles and Damascus is right in the middle, so you have a couple of options for selecting the type of terrain and distance you want to cover.

The trail from White Top to Damascus is mostly downhill and is an easy ride. There were families with children of all ages (yes there were a few riders with baby carriers) on the trail. There are plenty of places to stop along the way to take in the view, grab a snack, a meal, or some ice cream. The trail is very well maintained, includes 40+ bridges and winds through dense forest and open farmland.

We planned on riding all the way to Abingdon, but were ready to pack it in by the time we reached Damascus. We started late in the day and the ride from Damascus to Abingdon is flat to slightly up hill, so we opted to catch the shuttle back to the bike shop. If you’re going to ride the full way, you’ll want to start early in the morning.

This was our first family mountain bike adventure and hopefully not the last. One of the secrets to staying connected to family and friends is to take time to swap the noise of technology for the sounds of nature. We love baking cookies, to be sure, but taking a break is vital to staying passionate and motivated. Southern Virginia is now one of my favorite places to disconnect, rejuvenate and in turn, re-connect.

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