The Cascades (Jefferson National Forest)
I ordered several more topographic maps from Amazon and was studying the Blacksburg/New River Valley one when I found a place interestingly labeled The Cascades. I was intreged, given that it was almost in the middle of nowhere. A quick Google search later and I find an image of the most remarkable waterfall. I think I may have even double-taked, going back to make sure that was I was looking at was actually based in Virginia. It was. So I set out on Black Friday to find it.
It was not looking to be a very warm Friday, with a high in 43 degrees in Lynchburg. I was heading into the mountains, west of Blacksburg. As I arrived into the JNF down 460, I started seeing the most interesting thing for a Virginia November - a sprinkle of snow on the ground. I think I actually laughed a bit. I kept on 460 until I reached the road to the trailhead. The snow kept showing, and then I crossed over Little Stony Creek and saw the ice built up on the logs. It was remarkable. Soon enough, I was parked and on the trail, headed into the woods.
The Cascades isn’t the usual sort of thing I’m seeking out - I don’t generally care for popular areas, especially anything with a parking lot or a bathroom. This one had a parking fee! I was a little suprised to find this all at the trailhead, but I didn’t really do any extensive research. I got started on the trail and immedidately noticed how well maintained it was. They’ve been spending that parking fee wisely! The trail runs down Little Stony Creek the entire way, which is breathtaking and is an attraction seperate from the falls that is worth the trip alone! 2 miles down the the “Lower Trail”, which was more rugged and exciting. The snow gradually got a little thicker (but not too thick) and some parts of the trail were slippery, but it was totally worth it to the see the hundreds of icicles in the creek. Later on, the geography changed some more and included some small waterfalls that trumpted the ones I’ve driven over an hour to see in the past! Finally, I see a glimpse of main falls past some trees and continue onward. It was awesome! The snow melting down the mountain created lots of little streams of water flowing down everywhere. The walkway was just totally ice around the falls. The falls weren’t frozen, but well surrounded with ice and snow. I stuck around a bit, tried my Steripen for the first time (snow melt water: yuck!), took some pictures of people, and enjoyed the sights before heading own. I decided against going for Barney’s Wall and the smaller falls upstream because I was by myself and had another adventure to pursue.
I took the fire road back because it was a bit quicker, but it decended a bit and since I’m still new to hauling my pack, that was not too fun on the knees. But I got new insoles last week and my feet are doing great this week! The fire road (also known as the upper trail) was not as scenic but certainly wasn’t uninteresting. It was a great walk in the woods! Driving out of the lot, I realized how awesome it is to have a waterfall like that with in a hundred miles of Lynchburg.
I then headed to the Mountain Lake Lodge just to see what it looked like. I saw this on my map as well and was really confused because it was also in the middle of nowhere. It turns out that Dirty Dancing was filmed here! Driving up the mountainous road, which was pretty narrow was fun, and then the lodge just appears out of nowhere. I drove around looking for parking and then realized almost every piece of aspault there was laced with ice. Winter certainly hit them early! I took a few pictures and walked around and it was an absolutely beautiful hotel, with the exception of the lake, which was dried up. It seems like they have lots of neat trails, and I really hope to spend a few days there sometime!
Overall, Pembroke has a bunch of neat things to offer that are still within the Virginia borders. It was a bit of driving to get out there, but totally paid off with its sights. Highly recommended, but I’d wait until it gets warm so you can go swimming underneath that beautiful waterfall.