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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Cumberland Knob

Posted June 29, 2009 10:02 a.m. EDT

This past weekend was a splashing success thanks to a strenuous hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway. How many of you have tried The Gully Creek Trail at Cumberland Knob? You’ll find it in Alleghany County up near the Virginia state line. The trail will wear you out if you’re not ready for it. It’s not particularly long – just 2.5 miles but it’s a steep trail. Everyone we passed had some complaint about how long and difficult the trail was. After hiking Gully Creek several times I’ve concluded the best way to hike it is backwards. Begin to the right of the old information station instead of the left. This way you’ll hit the hard part first and on the way down.

Gully Creek was gushing with lots of water this weekend. I love the sound of an active creek. Everyone gets to do a little river dance at the bottom where the rhododendron grows as thick as mountain fog. It’s fun skipping across the rocks as the trail crisscrosses the mountain stream. The climb back up the switchbacks of this trail will give your calf muscles a solid workout. I tried to savor each step instead of lunging forward in my mind to the end. My t-shirt was soaked in sweat by the time I finished.

Some interesting history. Did you know that Cumberland Knob is where crews started work on the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1935? The first recreation area of the 469 mile federal road was constructed here. There used to be a staffed information center here but it closed several years ago. My good friend Ray Lundquist worked there for several years. Ray is quite the storyteller.

Cumberland Knob was abuzz with activity from family picnics to birthday parties. It’s a great place to have fun and get in touch with nature.  You can find solitude just by walking a few hundred feet.

What is your favorite trail, overlook or segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway? Please share your picks