January 4: Read Mountain loop. 5 miles.
It must be an indication of the increasing popularity of this relatively new (and easy) set of trails that on this coldish day, there were at least a half dozen other hiking parties out on the Read Mountain trails, and two or three up in the Buzzard Rocks area as we ate lunch, including wacky dude who went out onto the closest thing to a precipice and asked us to take his picture, after which he proceeded to talk to us about area hiking as if perhaps he were the first and only person to have undertaken them.
January 11: The Riverway and town loop, Radford. About 6.5 miles.
With a visit to a Claytor Lake cabin scheduled for early in the day, we got the chance to walk a new-to-us trail. One terminus of the Riverway is near the Dedmon Center of Radford University, which is where we began. The paved walkway then parallels (closely) the New River for 1.7 miles before turning away from it at Bisset Park, where it rises toward town and then enters Wildwood Park, where we saw a historical marker that could make a guy feel old. The marker noted the Wildwood swimming area, which I remember visiting as a boy spending summers at my grandparents; house, and which closed down in, uh, 1964. Not too far past that marker, we took one of the trails connecting to the Radford neighborhood where my grandparents lived. We walked through the high school and past the fields where I got to play ball as a boy, and then past my grandparents’ house at the corner of 4th and Harvey. From there we went down the still-steep hill to the West End business district, and then on toward East End, where The Day Hiker was immensely pleased that Sharkey’s was open for lunch. The beer was good, the food almost as good, and the crowd decidedly pro-Cowboys in the Green Bay-Dallas football playoff game available on the approximately 42 giant TVs all around the friendly room.
January 18: Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail. 5.4 miles.
A nearby favorite populated by walkers and runners, some from cars at the Chestnut Ridge Overlook and others coming in from the connector trails to South Roanoke. As easy a 5.4 as we know about.
January 25: Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail. 5.4 miles.
A nearby favorite . . . no wait, this is a week later. We were accompanied by sons Ben and Eric and their kids Tyler, 7, Reese, 3, and Ava, 1. Tyler walked the whole way; Reese was on Daddy’s shoulders or neck or back or side or all over the place for maybe half the way, and Ava rode quietly and peacefully—with a little nap built in—on Eric’s back, in a pretty-snuggy pack built for the purose. Lunch was a little more than halfway through the loop, at a picnic table in the not-in-use Roanoke Mountain Campground tent-camping area.