Tuesday, November 10, 2015
A few weeks back we went with our friend Will to an area we hadn't explored all that much: the New River Trail, south of Wytheville, Virginia. I thought that there was just "one" New River Trail State Park, but along this old river that oddly flows north, there are several parks with the same name. And where we planned to walk was actually the Foster Falls Recreation Area.
So what's so special about the Foster Falls Recreation Area? I assumed, rightly, that since it was a part of the New River Trail, a "rails to trails" project, that the walk would be fairly level, a great idea for a wounded knee, twisted and stressed more than once in the last year. And Foster Falls, with its tidy green and white old depot that now stays open as a gift shop, was once part of a somewhat bustling little town!
The driving force behind the little town was the iron industry. An iron furnace was built by the Foster Falls Mining and Manufacturing Company during 1880-1881. It employed 70-80 people and shipped pig iron via railroad to huge cities that could use it, like Baltimore, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. The New River was important to the Foster Falls business, and this business also encouraged the opening of a hotel, a symmetrical structure we walked by, as well as a dry goods store, distillery, and 100 homes. We only saw the depot and old hotel and a few farms nearby, but a friend in Pulaski told me she had kin who lived next to this "recreation area" till very recently.
The falls themselves are off a trail that winds by and then away from the New River. Foster Falls are actually very low to the surface of the water falls, that really look more like several big riffles or tiny rapids in the river. My husband wanted Will and myself to hurry up and take some pictures so he could actually hike the trail. Along the way a ground hog scurried in front of us and under a building that said "Discovery Center" (which was closed), and a raven hovered overhead in an updraft. We actually reached a dead end on a wooded trail near the river, so we backtracked and eventually got on another trail. That STILL wasn't the right one as it was only a few feet from the river. Would railroad track be laid that close to churning waters? I think not.
Eventually we found we had to backtrack (again) to discover a fairly level, wide trail, going along a steep hillside, not too much color to greet us on this fall day. Will had to get into his gadget, his smart phone, and we looked up directions later to a log cabin restaurant maybe a half hour's drive, in Wytheville. But it was Sunday-- it was closed! So we gorged ourselves on turkey dinners at the chain restaurant Bob Evans, instead. Man, was that good!
Fall is a time to try to relax with nature, give it one more try, a last hurrah of positive interaction and reflection, before the cold and sometimes dreary isolation of winter, when we all stay inside way too much, becoming like bears without planning on it. Sometimes, when there is a winter thaw or it isn't too windy, winter walks can be interesting. But they never have the red, yellows, and oranges of autumn to greet us on our outdoor sojourn.
All in all, visiting Foster Falls Recreation Area (which also has camping, canoeing and picnicking we didn't have time for), was an interesting fall side trip along the New River Trail going south.