What do you get when you mix railroad lore with American Civil War history and throw in a smidge of historical restoration stirred with outdoor activities? You get a new state park with over 1000 acres and 31 miles of multi-use trail in the heart of Virginia between Burkeville and Farmville. Need a vacation? How about a day trip or a weekend getaway?
There’s a reason it’s called High Bridge Trail. A restored wooden bridge, 2400 ft long, is the center of attraction and site of historical significance, if you like that kind of thing. If not, no problem. It’s also a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Without knowing a thing about the park, I recently joined Rick Hancock and a group of bicyclists for a weekend getaway to Farmville. Rick is an avid outdoor enthusiast and has organized hikes and bike rides for Tidewater Appalachian Trail Club for almost 28 years. I was mainly interested in cycling, but discovered much more. We arrived at a local motel in Burkeville, where we parked, then rode about 4 miles to the trail head off Orchard Rd. From there it took at least an hour to ride to the bridge.
Sitting on one end of the bridge, under a blue tent, were Waverly Garner from AmeriCorp and Bob Flippen, Virginia State Park Education Specialist. Bob was handing out flyers about the state parks and filling our heads with captivating tales of the highlights of High Bridge. There were battles, bridge burnings, stand-offs and reconstructions galore! Who knew one little bridge could have so much history? Well, Bob did, and his chronicles expertly held our attention.
We continued our ride to Farmville, which is about midway between the beginning and end of the 31 mile trail. It was the perfect place to enjoy lunch and that we did at one of the many restaurants. After lunch you have the choice to retrace your steps and return to your vehicle or continue to the end of the trail and then turn around. Or you could spend the night in Farmville or Burkeville. There are plenty of motels.
The trail is beautifully graded, with attention to drainage. Crushed limestone offers a safe surface appropriate for hybrid or mountain bikes, horses or pedestrians. And if you’re concerned at all about elevation. Don’t worry. It’s as flat as the blades of a ceiling fan. Not even a suggestion of a hill. There are several places to park your vehicle and access the trail along the way.
The story could end here, except that the ride back to my car from Farmville was long. Just remember that. The way back is always longer. It’s a good idea to be prepared for a variety of weather conditions and carry your own water, because it’s not provided.
If you’re looking for more information about High Bridge Trail or other Virginia State Parks, visit www.virginiastateparks.gov or call 800-933-PARK
Bob says he plans to hang around the bridge quite a bit on weekends. I hope you get to meet him and I hope you are as fascinated by his stories as I was. Bob commented that, “High Bridge had a mystique, partly due to the fact that you couldn’t get to it.” He said, “Now it belongs to the people of Virginia and everyone can see it.”
Rick Hancock’s goal is to offer fun events that most people won’t try on their own. To get more info, you can connect with Rick at the Tidewater ATC meetup or contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org