Weekend Getaway: The Virginia Creeper Trail
I can't imagine a better way to spend a weekend in April or May than to bike the Virginia Creeper trail in southwestern Virginia. Mostly flat and passing through picturesque farms and forests and alongside rivers, the Creeper runs between Abingdon and the Whitetop Station, with Damascus sitting half way in between.
If you're in need of a weekend getaway that involves more than lounging on a beach with a mimosa IV in your arm, this is definitely the way to go. The trail between Damascus and Abingdon consists of long, straight stretches broken up by a few rolling hills, which drops you a few steps from downtown.
Abingdon is pretty in a very early-America kind of way, but I'd suggest staying in Damascus, for one very good reason: the Damascus Old Mill Inn. I was so impressed with the folks at the Inn. The proprietor was warm, helpful, and friendly in a way that seemed more like a local befriending you at a pub than a manager trying to earn a positive Yelp review.
The hotel bar has been converted into a mini craft beer bar, with hyperlocal choices from The Damascus Brewery and alongside other East Coast microbrews. Our room was large, comfortable, and quiet, with an second door opening onto a shared porch overlooking a small waterfall.
If you're coming in from Knoxville, drive up on Friday night and get a head start on your comprehensive tour of local beers at the inn. Take advantage of the free breakfast on Saturday morning (though the buffet doesn't have a huge vegan selection, you'll at least get a bagel and some coffee) and hit the Virginia Creeper early to bike the 16-ish miles to Abingdon.
When you arrive, head to 128 Pecan for lunch. It's mercifully near the trailhead, and you can sit on the porch so you don't offend your fellow patrons with your bike sweat.
Many of the items on the menu are vegetarian and can be modified, and the staff seemed happy to accommodate special requests. Our server plopped right down on the bench next to me to talk about my order. Enjoy a beer, but pace yourself, because Wolf Hills Brewing is just a few blocks away.
After lunch, ride your bike over to Wolf Hills, grab a beer flight (don't miss the Creeper Trail Amber Ale!), and rest your legs for a little while longer before you head back to Damascus. The brewery doubles as a venue, so you can always come back later and see who's playing. I did confirm with them that all their beers are vegan, by the way, so no worries there.
When you've made your way back to Damascus and taken a very long shower, head downstairs for dinner. When I asked about vegan options, they checked with the chef and he said he could make any of the vegetarian options vegan for me.
I chose the root vegetable risotto, and it was delicious (and literally beet-red). The chef came out to check on us as the evening was winding down, and I could have hugged the guy for giving me a more interesting option than yet another dinner-sized garden salad.
Damascus is an ideal weekend trip from Knoxville, and if you're in the mood for a little outdoorsy fun paired with a local craft brew, check it out!