Thursday is cloudy and cooler with a chance of showers, just perfect for an easy day of odds and ends. I have two smaller trails to complete and certain sites I hope to check for fall color. Clarence and I can call it quits at any time should the weather become too drippy, but with rain gear and umbrellas at hand, it’s going to have to get might darn drippy to dissuade us. We are headed west out Little River Road.
Two of our trails are past the Townsend Wye. The forest surrounding Little River Road is incredibly beautiful, aglow with warm yellows and reds. One could stop virtually anywhere along the scenic drive and take a gorgeous fall photo. After so many brightly sunny days, the diffuse light from a cloudy sky is a welcome relief.
The trails book talks of wildlife and mushrooms, but I see none of either. It’s not a good time of year to go mushroom hunting. Many are in decline if not gone by now and the leaf litter obscures their form and color. Wildlife is scarce too. Their food supply is disappointingly low this year. We saw a few red oak acorns on Grapeyard Ridge yesterday but virtually nothing elsewhere.
Clarence and I arrive at the junction with Anthony Creek at 3:33:33, marvel at that bit of timing, and return the way we came. It begins to sprinkle as we drive to the next trail on my list, Metcalf Bottoms. Given the lateness of the day and the damp conditions, no one is at the picnic area. We grab our umbrellas and prepare to knock out the tiny 0.7 mile trail.
Like a burr under my saddle, I’ve carried the irritation of failing to do this snippet when Allen and I hiked Little Brier Gap Trail in the snow 21 months ago. Metcalf Bottoms Trail is also a wide road (and thankfully smooth) much of the way, passing the water tower that serves the picnic grounds restroom. Low stone retaining walls and spiky Yucca plants flanking what were stone steps are all that remains of a long gone home to welcome visitors. The trail narrows to a small path winding through the forest and crosses Little Brier Branch. It emerges on the back side of the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse.
Built in 1881, with assistance from John Walker, father of the Walker Sisters whose cabin is nearby, the school’s first class was New Year’s Day 1882. It doubled as a Primitive Baptist Church for over 40 years. Early photos show a small belfry that is no longer part of the structure. Up from the school’s front door is a small cemetery enclosed in a weathered picket fence. Many of the original, upright rock slab headstones are no longer legible. In front of several of these old lichen covered stones are small rectangular blocks of granite, each carved with the deceased’s name. They look quite new.
We head back to my car, crossing the Wear Gap Road bridge spanning Little River. In the misty drizzle and darkening skies, trees lining the shallow stream are richly colored and frame a barely visible mountain (Meigs?). The drive back up Little River Road is just as lovely, perhaps more so in the gathering dusk.