By Bob Heafner © 1984-2012
Issue: June 1984
This month our BACKROADS tour is one of the longest and most beautiful ever. It will require a minimum of three hours and will cover 59.3 miles, provided you don’t take any side trips. Personally I could spend a lifetime along this route and never tire of its breathtaking natural beauty. From spectacular views to miles of fast flowing mountain trout streams, those who follow this route will be in for an unforgettable trip.
We will begin at the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and US Highway 58 Business in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. There are plenty of places to enjoy a picnic along the way and for the trout fishermen and women, you might as well carry your fishing gear along because you’ll regret it if you don’t. A wildflower book and a camera are also recommended.
This month the town of Stuart is celebrating its 100th anniversary and local merchants, along with Stuart’s two weekly newspapers, The Bull Mountain Bugle and The Enterprise, are planning special events. Stuart was once the center of commerce for a large part of this area of, “The Heart of the Blue Ridge.”
Prior to World War II, there was a railroad here and wagon loads of chestnuts and other farm products were shipped from here to the larger cities eastward. The railway has been gone for many years as well as the chestnuts, but the small town of Stuart has clung to its little town ways and even today, most of the businesses close at noon on Wednesday and Saturdays. It is a refreshing place to spend time just window shopping on Main Street and might prove to be an enjoyable interlude on this month’s tour.
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.
00.0 (0.0) We will begin at the stop sign where the east side exit ramp from the Blue Ridge Parkway enters US Highway 58 Business at Meadows of Dan, Virginia. From here we will turn right toward Meadows of Dan, heading east on US 58 Business.
00.5 (0.5) Meadows of Dan elementary School is on our left at this point.
01.6 (1.1) Here we cross the Dan River which flows south into the Dan River Gorge.
03.9 (2.3) This is Vesta, Virginia and the Vesta Post Office is on our Right.
05.0 (1.1) The Blue Ridge Zoo is on our left at this point.
06.2 (1.2) The building on our left here was once the Lover’s Leap Tavern and was run for many years by the late Garver Reynolds and his wife Lee. Garver was featured along with his bother Prentis on the front cover of our April 1984 edition.
06.6 (0.4) This is Lovers Leap with its breathtaking view of Woolwine and the area around Martinsville and Collinsville, Virginia.
10.4 (3.8) The road turning right here is the Trot Valley Road. It dead ends in a mile or so and would make an interesting side trip if you have the time. It is a beautiful area.
11.9 (1.5) Here we cross the Mayo River and as we proceed, it will follow the left side of US 58 into Stuart, Virginia.
[Update 2011 – Since this BACKROADS tour was written US Highway 58 has been rerouted to bypass Stuart, Virginia. But as you approach Stuart follow the signs to Blue Ridge Street and downtown Stuart.]
15.3 (3.4) Here we turn right onto Buena Vista Avenue just as we enter Stuart.
15.4 (0.1) The small white building on our left here is the Patrick County Historical Museum. They have many interesting exhibits and are open from 2-4 pm on Wednesdays and Sundays.
15.5 (0.1) Just beyond the museum, we will turn left onto State Road T1006 (Main Street) of Stuart, Virginia.
15.8 (0.3) Here Main Street makes a sharp turn to the left but we will go straight on State Road T631. This is known as Dobyns Road and the Dobyns community is certainly one of Patrick County’s most beautiful areas.
16.4 (0.6) State Road 1001 turns right but we will follow the curve to our left and continue on State Road 631. The famous Woods Brothers of NASCAR Racing fame have their garage here on the right just before we cross the bridge on 631.
17.3 (0.9) On our left at this point is the South Fork of the Mayo River. This is a stocked trout stream and from here on, just settle back and witnesses some of the most beautiful streams and countryside you’ve ever seen.
21.0 (3.7) The old Vipperman Store and Mill are on our left here.
22.9 (1.9) There is a beautiful view of Busted Rock to our right. From the top of this range of mountains is a wide flat plateau which drops off to the west into the Dan River Gorge. From this point there is also picturesque view of the valley ahead.
23.4 (0.5) Here State Road 631 turns right, but we will continue straight ahead on what is now State Road 647.
23.5 (0.1) This beautiful little church on our right is the Mary Horner Walker Memorial Church.
25.2 (1.7) Here the road number changes again but we will just continue straight ahead on the paved road which is now State Road 646.
29.8 (4.6) At this stop sign, we will turn right onto State Road 103.
30.3 (0.5) We are now entering the Claudville community.
30.5 (0.2) At this point, we will turn right onto State Road 773 heading toward Ararat, Virginia.
31.9 (1.4) Turn right here onto State Road 648. This road leads into Kibler Valley and the lower mouth of the Dan River Gorge.
32.5 (0.6) We will continue straight ahead on State Road 648, but notice the little road turning right here (State Road 631). At one time, this was the main road that wound its way to the top of the mountain up Rainy Gap to the Busted Rock section.
33.4 (0.9) From here on until the road dead ends at the end of Kibler Valley, we will be following the Dan River upstream to the gorge.
38.4 (5.0) This is the end of the road and we must turn around and head back downstream. The Hydro Electric Plant is small by modern comparison and was built by the City of Danville in the early 1930’s. The small group of homes located at the end of the road belongs to the city and they are the residences of the plant personnel. This has to be one of the most picturesque places in the eastern United States.
43.7 (5.3) Backtracking the way we came, we will take a shortcut here and turn right onto State Road 631 which is unpaved.
45.6 (1.9) The old road turning up through the woods to the right here was once a public road. Mr. Coy O. Yeatts remembers riding with his Pa down this road from Mayberry many years ago on a two horse wagon.
46.7 (1.1) At this stop sign, we will turn right onto State Road 614
48.2 (1.5) Here a small stream cascades down the mountain side on our left.
51.1 (2.9) To our right is a beautiful view of the Dan River Gorge.
52.1 (1.0) Here the road forks on either side of the Bell Spur Primitive Baptist Church. We take the right fork and continue on State Road 614.
52.9 (0.8) At this intersection, we take a sharp right and continue on State Road 614.
54.6 (1.7) Here State Road 724 turns right. This road was once a part of the Appalachian Trail and leads to the Pinnacles of Dan. We will not turn but will continue on State Road 614.
55.2 (0.6) The home of the late John R. Barnard is on our left. Mr. Barnard was one of the Appalachian Trails first supporters in this area. For many years he kept the trail marked and provided overnight accommodations for Trail travelers.
55.9 (0.7) The old Pinnacle View School once stood on the road bank to our left. Just beyond the school site, State Road 602 turns left toward Mayberry and right toward the “Lower Dam.” We will continue on state road 614.
58.6 (2.7) Here State Road 601 turns right toward the “Upper Dam.” Both of these dams are owned by the City of Danville, Virginia and are a part of their Kibler Valley Hydro Electric Project. Both of these lakes are located in the Dan River Gorge. We will continue straight ahead on State Road 614.
59.3 (0.7) We are now back to our point of beginning at Meadows of Dan, Virginia.
I hope you have enjoyed the tour as much as we have.