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long distance multi-use non-motorized trails

Heritage on the Trail

by Joey Bane

My parents would occasionally take myself and my three brothers on walks up the tracks on Saturday or Sunday evening strolls when I was a child.  This was in the mid to late 70s and 80s so the line was still active which meant that we had to occasionally step aside to allow a freight train to pass.  We would wave at the engineer, and he would sometimes respond with a short tug on the horn.  We would also wave to the gentleman in the caboose (if anyone can remember when they were always on the end of a train), and usually get a kind wave in response.

South Boston VA Tree in Rock

Tree in the Rock. South Boston VA Tobacco Heritage Trail

There were several landmarks to look for as we walked westward.  Not far from our house was the signal for the grade crossing with the Norfolk and Western RR.  It faced westward on the line, and glowed yellow (as long as no one had thrown a rock and broken the lens).  Next we would cross the dirt road leading to the river bottom where usually you would find corn growing in the summer.  Those fields use to be an airport. My dad could remember the planes down there.  Further up the line, we would pass Diamond Hill.  Often in the cooler months we would climb the hill to look for the “diamonds”.  It was actually quartz crystals that you could find on the ground there.  Once in awhile you could find one that looked just like a cut diamond.  A little farther, we would walk past the slave cemetery for the Bruce plantation or better known as Berry Hill.  We didn’t mess around there much….no need in disturbing anyone.  We would often stop at Pond Branch to throw rocks into the water. Indian Springs was the next stop.  This has been a bit of a mystery to me.  I assume when the rail line was put through here in the mid 1800s, maybe this was a good source of cool water for the workers.  A very small trickle of water came from an iron pipe and fell into a small basin.  I have no idea what was on the other side of the pipe.  Usually the basin was full of dirt and other debris from the hillside above.  Mama would usually clean the basin out, and remove the moss that would grow down from the end of the pipe.  The last time I looked around, there was still an old plastic cup that I believe she used to hang from a nearby tree.  It may not be there now.  As far as the name of the spring, I couldn’t tell you where that came from either.  As long as my dad has been around, he has known it to be Indian Springs…. he’s been around since 1929.  The highlight of the trip was “tree in the rock”.  That was our destination.  I reckon to people today, it wouldn’t be very much of a destination.  It is a geological feature in a wall of stone on the north bank of the railroad where the railroad came within easy sight of the Dan River.  It is a unique vain of white quartz that meanders through the stone, and if you used your imagination enough, you might be able to visualize a tree….maybe.  After sitting awhile and eating a small snack and having a little bit to drink, we would head back home.  It seemed like a lot longer walk back then.

For me personally, the great thing about this trail is that it covers the entire distance that we would take on those afternoon and evening strolls. Some things have changed a lot over the years.  The poles and wires are long gone.  The signal was pushed down years ago.  All the railroad signs have been removed, and of course no rails.  But I have a daughter now.  With this trail here, I now have the chance to take her on those strolls.  Right now its in a stroller, but when the time comes, we will as my mother would say “hoof it” on up the track.  I hope she will enjoy it as much as I did.  I hope when she gets older, she will fondly remember some of the same landmarks I remember from my childhood, along with some newer ones along the way.  Thank you for making it possible.

One Comment

  1. Christopher Love
    Posted October 27, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    I recently walked from La Crosse at milepost 18.5 to the east of Brodnax at milepost 13.5 and back. What an enjoyable walk! The trail is unpaved from Brodnax eastward. There it is very comfortable-on-the-feet to walk. The scenery is beautiful.

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