The Blue Ridge Parkway is seeking comment on a new trail plan for the Roanoke Valley section of the parkway. See it here: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/roanokevalleytrailplan
The plan, in conjunction with a letter to the editor in the Roanoke paper protesting the plan's proposed closing of one small piece of trail (among 42 such proposed closings, totaling 4.1 miles), sent us out to walk on a small section of a trail we didn't know about aside from the name – the Roanoke Valley Horse Trail – which parallels the parkway near Roanoke for about 10 miles. We entered it from the end of the Wolf Creek Greenway, and headed south to find the 100-foot piece of trail between Mountain View Road and the parkway that occasioned the letter. As we arrived, three cyclists were paused at the path's intersection with the parkway, as if to display the apparent innocuousness of the connection; it's simply a narrow path through some trees from one road to another, with each in full view from the other.
The parkway's stance in proposing to close it is that "unauthorized trails and access points are undesirable and could cause resource damage and enforcement issues," with some of the specifics including lack of signage and lack of parking needed to make it a standard parkway access point.
We walked beyond this spot – being uncertain if we had found the letter writer's path – to Va. 24 before turning around.
On our approximately two miles of the well-maintained, hard-packed horse trail, we saw only one other person, though the sounds of the parkway were always present.
Near Stewarts Knob, we turned up the mountain on another piece of trail the parkway wants to close, and walked until we felt we were atop Stewarts Knob, though the climb seemed not to be sufficient to get to its 2,400-foot summit. The Day Hiker, always on odd alert when we are not on a trail with blazes – as if the forest creatures know we're not necessarily supposed to be there and thus have extra bravery and license – was pretty sure a bear was going to show up and eat us, or at least our lunch. As it happened, we awakened from a brief nap to see six or eight vultures circling above, a happenstance that had me checking later to learn that they find their carrion through smell rather than seeing still animals and then swooping around waiting for them to die.
So try as we did, we found no threat, and made our way back down the mountain, along the horse trail, over the greenway to the car and its perils so exponentially far beyond those of the woods.
Wolf Creek Greenway from William Byrd High to Roanoke Valley Horse Trail briefly south and then north to Stewarts Knob overlook and up Stewarts Knob Trail and back. About 5 miles.
How to get there: The Wolf Creek Greenway has several parking areas, including at its intersection with Hardy Road, Va. 24 and the Byrd High School area. Or park and enter the horse trail where Mountain View Road passes under the parkway (approximately MP 111.5).