This pretty easy loop brought us into contact with more horses – at least a dozen – than we'd seen at Carvins Cove in all our previous walks there combined. They were being ridden by polite people who all offered thanks for our yielding to them. We crossed all of them on the forest-road-wide Brushy Mountain Trail, and while there seemed to be plenty of room for all, the horses were pretty big up that close – especially the one that balked briefly at passing us.
The few bicyclists we saw went on by, as they do.
The big news at the preserve on this day seemed to be the increase in permit enforcement, occasioned, according to the boys in Just The Right Gear bike shop who sell the hall passes, by a city official riding into the Bennett Springs parking area and finding only 11 of 32 cars with permits displayed. Plus, they said, rangers are likely to come right up to you and ask you for your little piece of paper saying you can be there. Twenty-five dollar fines, they report, are being handed out like crazy, mostly to cyclists – lawless lot that they are.
All of which easy to completely forget about when you're walking on nice, open trails with views of McAfee Knob to one side and glimpses of Carvins Cove Reservoir to the other.
In Carvins Cove Nature Preserve, loop over HiDeeHo, Brushy Mountain, Buck and Hotel trails. About 6 miles.
How to get there: Out Va. 311 from Salem to Bennett Springs Road and its parking area.