Favorite Trail Rerouted, Improved
RATC, Roanoke Cement upgrade Andy Layne
The walk up to Tinker Cliffs from Va. 779 is now a less rutted, less treacherous trek. The new kiosk and tree plantings add to the new-mix climb.
a long-time Roanoke-area favorite hike – up the Andy Layne Trail for 3.1 miles to the Appalachian Trail on up to Tinker Cliffs – has undergone some significant upgrades recently, courtesy of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club and Roanoke Cement, which owns much of the land on the lower portions of the Andy Layne route.
A new sign for the parking area and new kiosk to introduce the walk provide a welcoming start to the trail.
“We put about 500 hours into the work,” says Mike Vaughn, president of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, “in eight or nine work hikes.”
The lower part of the Andy Layne was re-routed away from the creek at both spots in the first mile where it paralleled, and now takes a less-erosion-prone route slightly upland. The ladder styles are gone, and the trail crosses the field just shy of the bridge across Catawba Creek, where Roanoke Cement planted some 20,000 trees of five varieties.
“In four or five years,” Vaughn says, “when the containers are gone and the trees have matured, that will be a pretty stretch. Roanoke Cement is very environmentally conscious.”
With all the new views on the lower part of the trail, perhaps the most hiker-friendly improvement is the addition of about 100 steps and waterbars to the two dreaded “steeps” of the Andy Layne, where hikers previously relied on roots and tree-grabs to get up and down.
Vaughn says the removal of the ladder styles on the Andy Layne is part of RATC’s work to remove all such crossings from the 120 miles of AT maintained by the club.
“There were 22, including the four on the Andy Layne,” he says. “We’re down to two left to remove.” –Kurt Rheinheimer
Huckleberry Trail to Extend
The lengthened pathway will connect NRV towns.
Blacksburg is looking to significantly expand its trail systems in the near and middle futures, listing 12 new trails as high priorities in its comprehensive plan and more than 20 other trails resting on the back burner. Foremost among the improvements is the expansion of the popular Huckleberry Trail, which runs six miles through the town and the Virginia Tech campus.
When it’s finished, the Huckleberry will extend along the 460 Bypass to the Hethwood community and toward Gateway Park, an additional two miles.
Bill Ellenbogen of Friends of the Huckleberry Trail says the first mile of existing trail has undergone paving and widening. A $1 million bridge over Va. 114 was recently completed. Ellenbogen says that ultimately the system of trails will connect the population centers in the New River Valley for hikers and bikers. huckleberrytrail.org. –Dan Smith