By Bob Heafner © 1983-2012
Issue: October 1983
This month’s BACKROADS will be in Patrick County, Virginia, except for the last few miles, which will be in Floyd County. We’ll pass trout streams, historic landmarks, orchards, beautiful old homes and picturesque mountains, valleys and ridges. Our trip will consist of a total of 51.7 miles and will take a minimum of 1 1/2 hours, but two hours would be more enjoyable. The area we’ll be traveling through is noted for its orchards so if you like fresh fruit come prepared to buy.
If you don’t bring your camera, more than likely you’ll regret it since the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful in this area.
Be on the lookout for wildlife, especially deer, since this section has a high population of wild critters. The day we took this tour, we saw a doe and two yearlings on Route 8 between old Compton’s Motel and Tuggles Gap Motel and Restaurant. They didn’t run but just perked up their ears and stared at us for a moment before resuming their grazing in the roadside meadow.
BACKROADS tours always make a complete loop back to the point where we started. The underlined numbers at the beginning of each paragraph indicate the total number of miles we've traveled from our point of beginning. The numbers in parenthesis ( ) indicate the distance from the last point of interest that we passed.
This is an exceptionally pretty drive especially in the fall and it’s one of our favorites. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have.
We will begin at the intersection of US 58 Business and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Our mileage reading will start at 00.0 at this point.
00.0 (0.0) From the overpass where the Blue Ridge Parkway crosses US 58 Business in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, we will head east on US 58 Business toward Stuart, Virginia.
04.0 (4.0) The old Vesta Post Office was once in the small building on the right. This building also housed a community store for many years.
05.0 (1.0) The entrance to the Blue Ridge Zoo is on our left.
06.7 (1.7) Lover’s Leap Wayside is on our left. If you pull over here and look at the valley below, you will see the Woolwine, Virginia area. Our tour will take us through this area.
10.5 (3.8) Here we turn left off US 58 onto State Road 640.
10.6 (0.1) The old store building on the right is the old Hopkins Store. The small church to the right beyond the store is the Bouldin Memorial Presbyterian Church.
10.8 (0.2) To the left you will see two large old homes facing each other. These were once the dormitories for the old Central Academy which was a Presbyterian sponsored school between 1910 and 1932.
The well maintained home on the right was once the boys dormitory and the other was the girls. The Academy stood at the end of the driveway which leads to these two buildings. The only remaining signs of the Academy are some large concrete pillars which supported the front porch.
The Academy was quite a building in its day, measuring 130 feet by 70 feet with three floors. The Academy was, “modeled after the old State House in New Haven, Connecticut.” On the roof was a bandstand where the American flag once waved and the Brass Band once played. The Band was organized in October of 1910 by the Reverend William E. Todd and disbanded in 1914. Once the band was honored to march and play at the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson. That must have been quite a trip for the young people of that time to go to Washington, D.C.
Mrs. Beulah Wright Hopkins and the members of Bouldin Memorial Presbyterian Church have compiled a book about the school’s history. It is titled, “A Historical Sketch of Central Academy School - 1910-1932.” If you ever get a chance to read this book, I’m sure you will enjoy it. It contains much information and many old photographs. This area was once known as “Howell, Virginia at Crossroads.”
Central Academy burned December 7, 1932 and to those who attended it, it was the passing of an era. Many who attended the Academy were to go on to become leaders in their communities all across the nation. It was an old school where characters were forged and futures shaped. Without a doubt, it left a lasting impression on all who were there, teachers and students alike.
On the right of State Road 640 is a large white house which was once the school and church manse.
13.2 (2.4) Turn left onto Route 8 at this stop sign.
16.7 (3.5) On the right is the old I. M. Akers General Store.
17.4 (0.7) Here we turn left off Route 8 onto State Road 613.
20.3 (2.9) Here we cross a bridge and on our left is a beautiful old home and an old water powered mill.
21.4 (1.1) Here State Road 613 bears to the left and State Road 616 bears to the right. We will continue on 613 to our left. If you look closely at the ridge, you can see Lover’s Leap on US 58.
21.7 (0.3) Here we will turn left on State Road 620.
22.2 (0.5) The beautiful orchards we are driving through are Worley’s Orchard.
22.5 (0.3) Here State Road 811 turns to the right but we will continue on State Road 620. We have been told that once three families lived at the end of State Road 811, and between the three families there were a total of 34 children.
23.3 (0.8) At this stop sign, we will turn to our left back onto State Road 613.
23.5 (0.2) Here we will bear to our right on State Road 616.
24.6 (1.1) Here State Road 723 turns right but we will continue to go straight ahead on State Road 616.
26.2 (1.6) Here State Road 616 turns left but we will go straight ahead on State Road 615.
27.5 (1.3) On our left is Jack’s Creek Primitive Baptist Church and the old Jack’s Creek covered bridge.
27.6 (0.1) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto Route 8.
29.4 (1.8) The Patrick County Fruit Growers Co-op is on our right and the Woolwine, Virginia Post Office is on our left.
30.0 (0.6) This beautiful little community is Woolwine, Virginia.
30.1 (0.1) The small building on the right is the old Woolwine Post Office.
32.2 (2.1) Handy’s Orchards are on our left. The driveway leading off Route 8 into the orchard was once a main road known as the “Bramer Spur.” It climbed the mountain and came out on State Road 609 in the Belcher Mountain section of Meadows of Dan. These days it is doubtful if it is passable by four wheel drive.
33.1 (0.9) We will continue on Route 8 but State Road 605 (which turns to our left here) leads to the Rock Castle Gorge recreational area. It consists of over 4,000 acres of public lands, complete with primitive camping and miles of well marked trails and native trout streams. For further information, you may inquire at the Rocky Knob Information Station on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We will go by there at mileage reading 41.2 on this tour.
36.4 (3.3) The old Compton’s Motel is on our right and we have just entered Floyd County.
36.6 (0.2) Tuggle’s Gap Motel and Restaurant is on our right. If you like skillet fried pork chops or chicken, I’d suggest you stop; theirs can’t be beat and the folks are extra nice.
36.8 (0.2) We have just driven under the Blue Ridge Parkway overpass and will turn right onto the entrance to the Parkway.
36.9 (0.1) At the stop sign, we turn right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and head south.
39.9 (3.0) Turn left here to reach the Saddle Overlook. From here you can see Rock Castle Gorge and Route 8 leading into Woolwine and as far as the eye can see beyond. Circle back to the Parkway whenever you’re ready.
40.2 (0.3) Leaving the Saddle Overlook we will turn left back onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.
41.2 (1.0) Rocky Knob Picnic Area and Information Station is on our right.
46.5 (5.3) Turn left on State Road 758 toward Rocky Knob Cabins.
47.4 (0.9) We follow State Road 758 which bears sharp to the right. State Road 726 turns left and Rocky Knob Cabins are straight down the driveway ahead. This driveway is also the entrance to Rock Castle Gorge. There is a trail which leads off the Rocky Knob Cabins driveway and ends up on State Road 605, which we passed a while ago near Woolwine.
47.6 (0.2) At this fork in the road, we will bear to our right and stay on State Road 758. The pretty woods on our right were once the old Ballard Fourth of July Celebration Grounds.
49.0 (1.4) Here on our right is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Boyd. Mrs. Boyd has the most beautiful flower gardens lining both sides of the road leading down the hill by their home. I love to drive this road when Mrs. Boyd’s flowers are blooming.
50.6 (1.6) At this stop sign, we turn right onto US Highway 58. Directly across from the stop sign is the Meadows of Dan, Virginia Post Office.
[Update 2012 – Exit US 58 to the left and follow US 58 Business toward the Blue Ridge Parkway.]
51.7 (1.1) Here we are back in Meadows of Dan, at our point of beginning.
We hope you have enjoyed this drive through “The Heart of the Blue Ridge” as much as we have!