The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Day In The Heart Of The Blue Ridge - Backroads Tour

By Bob Heafner © 1983-2011

Issue: August, 1983

From the entrance ramp to the Blue Ridge Parkway at the junction of US 58 Business in Meadows of Dan, Virginia we will go north from this point on the Blue Ridge Parkway toward Mabry Mill and Roanoke. Our mileage reading here is 00.0.

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.

The entire trip will take 52.7 miles and a minimum of two and a half hours. If you relax and enjoy, it could take all day. We invite you to do this and perhaps bring a picnic lunch or enjoy one of the area’s good home cooking restaurants. The BACKROADS will be different this month. We will be going to town. For those of you who enjoy browsing through shops in new areas, we have listed merchants along this route in both the Floyd and Meadows of Dan areas. This trip combines what we think is the best of our area in combining both country lanes and our historic old township of Floyd.

00.0 (0.0) Begin at the entrance ramp to the Blue Ridge Parkway at the junction of US 58 Business, in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Turn north towards Roanoke.

01.6 (1.6) Mabry Mill is on the right.

05.6 (4.0) On the hillside to your left you can see rows of posts. These post support grapevines and will be part of the Woolwine Winery, which is planned for this area.

06.0 (0.4) On your left you can see a hillside covered with large rocks. This is the site of the winery which is already being built just out of view to your left.

10.1 (4.1) On our right is the Saddle Overlook with the breathtaking view of Rock Castle Gorge. The gorge has over 4,200 acres and hiking trails cover it. One of the trails starts at the Saddle Overlook.

13.0 (2.9) Turn left off the Blue Ridge Parkway onto the exit ramp leading to Route 8.

13.2 (0.2) You are now at the stop sign at Route 8, in Tuggle’s Gap, Virginia. If you turn left, about 500 yards down Route 8 will be the Tuggle’s Gap Motel and Restaurant. They sell gasoline and they feature pan fried chicken and pork chops which are delicious. It is owned by Mr. George Spangler and run by him and his family. But for our BACKROADS tour, we will turn right onto Route 8 and head for Floyd, Virginia.

19.1 (5.9) We have now entered the city limits of Floyd, Virginia.

19.4 (0.3) At this stop light, you are in the center of Floyd, Virginia. The courthouse is on your right and businesses surround you. I don’t know a lot of the history of Floyd. I have lived in these parts for over ten years and I’ve always enjoyed going to Floyd but I’ve enjoyed it for what it is; a small town much like the one I grew up in North Carolina, 35 years ago. Floyd is still that way. The shopkeepers are still friendly. The courthouse sits right in the center of the square where folks still occasionally back up a pick up truck beside the courthouse sidewalk curb and sell plants and produce. There is a statue of a Confederate Soldier that was erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1904. The present courthouse was built in 1951. It replaced the courthouse that stood here for 116 years. When Floyd was originally incorporated in 1850, it was called Jacksonville, but the name was officially changed in 1890 to Floyd. There is parking around the courthouse and along most of the streets. If you have time, you would enjoy getting out and walking around. You could read the inscription on the Confederate Memorial or visit the businesses. There is a natural foods store on one side of Locust Street called the Harvest Moon and across from it is Conner’s General Store, an old time country store much like it has been for the last 50 years.

It is a beautiful little town. Explore and meet the people. Folks are friendly here and you will find a smile on their faces and feel like you are among friends. Enjoy Floyd.

When you are ready to leave Floyd, from the stop light where you came into town, you will turn left onto Highway 221 South, going towards Hillsville, Virginia.

23.5 (4.1) There is an old steam sawmill on your left. It sits in the edge of a pasture. It is rusty from lack of use, but be sure to take a peek at it as you go by and see a part of history that was day to day living. Just past the sawmill is the old Huff Cannery. I’m not sure how long its been here or how long it was in use but you can tell from the looks of it that’s its been around quite a while.

24.6 (1.1) Midway Grocery Store is on our right. They are one of two places in Floyd County which sell hunting and fishing licenses.

26.5 (1.9) We are driving through the Topeka Community. There is beautiful farmland all through this area. Some pretty, old buildings and some attractive new ones are blended together through here. Just settle back and enjoy looking at some of the rolling hillsides of Floyd County.

30.5 (4.0) Now we are in the center of Willis, Virginia. Here we turn left on state road 799. You’ll have to look closely for it because it turns back sharply to your left behind the Shell service station.

39.8 (9.3) You are back at the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 174. Here we will turn right.

39.9 (0.1) Turn left on State Road 758 towards Rocky Knob Cabins.

40.1 (0.2) The rock church we can see on the hill to our left is the Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church. It was built by the folks in this community with the help of Reverend Robert Childress, who the book, The Man Who Moved A Mountain was written about.

41.1 (1.0) There used to be an old store building at this corner. It burned several years back but it served this community for many years. If you hear people in this community refer to the “Old Edward’s Store,” this was its location. Here we will bear around to the right on State Road 758 which is paved.

41.4 (0.3) Here we are at an intersection. On the right in the clear patch of woods is where the old Ballard Fourth of July Celebration was held. Those woods used to be full of people every Fourth of July for the biggest event of the year. At this intersection, State Road 758 forks right but we will take the left fork, State Road 604 (paved). A short distance down this road the number will change to 610 but just continue on this paved road.

41.7 (0.3) On our right is the former home of the Reverend Rufus Wood. It is for sale and is advertised in this month’s issue of the Mountain Laurel.

42.1 (0.4) On the left are commercial cabbage fields. We think the best cabbage in the world is raised in our area. Everybody (including myself) says that it has a sweeter flavor than cabbage raised anywhere else.

42.8 (0.7) On our right are the headwaters of the Dan River.

43.5 (0.7) Here State Road 611 turns to the right. There is an old farmhouse up this road a short way, the first one on the left; this is the home of The Mountain Laurel. This is where we live, where we paste up the paper, where we get it ready to print; where we eat, where we sleep, and live Mountain Laurels and the mountain way of life.

43.7 (0.2) Still on State Road 610, look off the road to the left and you will see what looks like an old pond site. It is the old Langhorne Mill. As you drive down the road you will come to an intersection. Look to the left and you will see rock work that was once a part of the old mill. There used to be a water wheel here that ground cornmeal and buckwheat flour for the people of this part of the county. The Langhorne family received this land through a grant from King George a great many years ago and that’s a story in itself. The last male Langhorne heir drowned in this pond. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, that’s another story we hope to publish in a future issue of the Mountain Laurel.

44.2 (0.5) On the left behind the little red house was the original homesite of the Langhorne family.

45.3 (1.1) At this intersection we will continue on State Road 610 which is paved.

45.6 (0.3) Go straight. State Road 610 is not paved from this point. Along this section of the road you will see pastures filled with wildflowers and wonderful views of mountains and valleys. Look for our wildflower described in this month’s issue of the Mountain Laurel, Yarrow. It grows in abundance here.

47.8 (2.2) At this stop sign, the entrance to the Blue Ridge Zoo will be seen on our left. We will turn right on US 58.

48.7 (0.9) Vesta Supply is the large building on your left and out the little gravel road beside it is the Vesta Community Building. Here the Vesta Rescue Squad sponsors the annual Fourth of July celebration every year, continuing the tradition set in this area many generations ago.

48.9 (0.2) On your left is the Vesta Post Office. Mrs. Eva Phillips is the postmaster here.

50.4 (1.5) Mountain Mercantile is on our right. It is an old store building and currently only open on weekends. It was a general store for many years and is currently an outlet for local craftsmen and their wares.

51.0 (0.6) On our right is the old Cockram Mill Pond. It was established in 1864.

51.6 (0.6) The Meadows of Dan Post Office is on our left.

[Update: Watch for the sign to turn left to Meadows of Dan and the Blue Ridge Parkway on US 58 Business.]

52.4 (0.8) The Meadows of Dan Elementary School is on our right.

52.4 (0.0) The Meadows of Dan Community Building and Volunteer Fire Department is on our left. Every October the Meadows of Dan Ruritan Club and the Meadows of Dan Volunteer Fire Department has a special pancake days event on the 2nd, 3rd, and sometimes the 4th Sunday of the month. They serve 500 pounds of fresh, homemade sausage as well as your choice of buckwheat or regular flour pancakes and sausage gravy all day each of those Sundays. We will print the hours and prices in the October issue but you might like to keep it in mind for a fall outing.

52.6 (0.2) This is home, the place we love.

52.7 (0.1) If you turn left onto the Blue Ridge Parkway ramp, you will be right back where we started.

We hope you have enjoyed your day in the Heart of the Blue Ridge.