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Thursday, March 15, 2012

POST 570; 03/15/12: IRON GATE - CLIFTON FORGE, VA

Goofed again. This photograph should be near the end of my day's excitement/discoveries.

Please say HELLO to Donnie, whom I met while he and I were both walking the back roads from Covington into Clifton Forge.

Donnie is a life-time local, retired, and walks like a professional.

Donnie and I chatted for 30 minutes or so as we returned to downtown Clifton Forge...Donnie waving and "hello-ing" every other person / car we passed by. From Donnie, I received confirmation of the walking instructions received from James (see below).

No, says Donnie...it is not true that mosquitoes and no-see-ems avoid Orange clothing !


Please say HELLO to Starlet (L.) and Nova, both of whom met SPIA and me as we drove into Iron Gate, VA. before Sun up this morning.

We were allowed to park at their Convenience Store, the Rusty Hinge, while I walked.

Long before daylight, I decided to drive SPIA into Iron Gate, so as to begin walking at the break of dawn. The road was very narrow. It was pitch black dark. A 18-wheeler was pushing us through the twisting hilly Highway 220.

I was extremely happy to finally pull off the road, where we sat parked for 30 minutes before I regained my wits about me enough to continue into town where we found Starlet and Nova.






My map is a bit crumpled = bad photograph.

Find US 220 (lower right) and Iron Gate...our starting point this morning.

Walked from 7:30 until 1:00 pm (yes, after lunch), taking time to really see the sights, visit with a number of folks, and even time out for a bite.

Reached the village of Low Moor, where I turned back to SPIA.

Drove SPIA into Covington, where we have once again found our nesting place for the night in the WAL-MART parking lot.

US 60, our intended walking route, was incorporated into I-64 which does not allow pedestrians; so, had to walk narrow - and dangerous - country roads more or less paralleling I-64.


Convenience Store - The Rusty Hinge, Iron Gate, VA.


US 220 leading out of Iron Gate through the "Gorge" and on to the town of Clifton Forge, VA.

These two small towns, together with a couple additional nearby villages, were, in the early 1800's, the center for Iron Smelting and Forging.

Coal for the furnaces was (still is) plentiful from nearby mines; iron ore is also plentiful in the local hills - actually, the Allegheny Mountains.

The manufactured iron forgings were then loaded on river barges, which were floated down the nearby Jackson River - which at Iron Gate becomes the James River - all the way to Norfolk on the Chesapeake Bay.


Looking back (South) from US 220 onto Iron Gate, VA.


US 220 as it passes through the Jackson River Gorge above Iron Gate.


...and, another view.


Reaching the head of the Gorge is this picturesque scene...Jackson River flowing South to Iron Gate unseen at the bottom of the distant converging mountains.


Clifton Forge lies a couple miles West from the previous pic.

At the turn of the 1800's, Clifton Forge began the production of Iron. The original forge smokestack still stands over the extensive railroad yards, which nearly a century later, became a major hub for the C & O - Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.



Old US 60 drops down into Clifton Forge.


Please say HELLO to James Statham.

James stopped when I hailed him just outside town, asking for directions to the continuance of US 60, which seemed to have disappeared.

James, a life-long local, confirmed that I-64 swallowed up US 60 from Clifton Forge all the way to Covington - about 10 miles West. To walk to Convington, one must take country roads - no road signs to be found - which more or less parallel I-64.


Clifton Forge was obviously once a rich and thriving city. Like most towns all over America, it is bypassed by Interstate Highways and industry has long ago moved on.

Clifton Forge, however, seems to be taking the Bull by the Horns. A modern off-ramp system has been built to funnel I-64 traffic back into town. City Center buildings are ALL being renovated, as is the street system...all designed to bring back the tourist trade to enjoy the rich history and modern conveniences to be found.


Street corner business in a renovated building.

The old Iron Forge (Iron Mill). Locals tell that nearby towns also have old Iron Forge Mills with buildings - mostly red brick - and tall smoke chimneys quietly watching the generations go by ... still towering over the surrounding mountains.



Clifton Forge has two main business streets...old US 60 sports the above elegant clock.


Please say HELLO to Jim (Owner) and Mary (customer/friend) in Jim's Old Forge Coffee Company.

I stopped in to look around; Jim, whipped up a toasted egg sandwich to go with my cup of coffee.

Moments later, Mary dropped in and we all had a lively conversation before I moved on.


Clifton Forge once, many years ago, had extensive service shops for the C & O - Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad - originally created, I am informed, by George Washington (see Mural above).

The maintenance and service shops have all moved on, but extensive rail yard activities remain...and in fact, are once again growing.


View of the C & O rail yard. Note the long string of coal cars, which I learned come out of West Virginia, heading for Norfolk and export to foreign countries.

As an aside, my own town, Bellingham, Washington (State) is just now struggling with approval/disapproval to ship Washington coal to CHINA, via the Port of Bellingham.

Coal, it appears has become a viable export item for the good ol' US of A.


A closer look into one of the loaded coal cars.


Showpiece of the C & O rail yard is this recently renovated Steam Locomotive No. 614, complete with Pullman Sleeper Cars.

Another aside: In 1952, I rode from San Francisco to Dallas Texas in a Pullman Sleeper Car...an interesting story in itself - perhaps for another day.


Old No. 614 pictured with the C & O ticket / baggage offices.


Please say HELLO to Charity (l.), Courtney (c.), and their Mom, Sharon.

These ladies, together with brothers, another sister, father and other extended family hail from nearby Covington, VA (my destination for tonight).

During the recent economic disaster - and it IS a national disaster from all that I have found - the entire family lost their various jobs; joining as a family, they moved back to the family home(s), pooled their remaining $$, found a small suitable building, gutted and renovated it entirely, and have only months ago, opened The Red Caboose Restaurant...brothers working the kitchen...ladies out front.

For the record, we spoke for only an hour or so - mostly Sharon and I -, so my information is limited.

Even tho past serving time, I was prepared a special egg/potato/coffee "lunch"...which again, became cold - but excellent - as Sharon and I chatted.


A local home.


A local church.


Many such neat homes line US 60 near and through Clifton Forge, VA.


...down the way a bit, stands this easy-on-the-eyes apartment house overlooking the vast rail yards below.


Some of my favorites: Palatial Old Home and Proud Old Tree.


Jackson River as it runs the rapids through the Gorge down to Iron Gate, VA.


Jackson River in more tranquil moments.


Please say HELLO to Wendy.

I met Wendy walking US 220 Business Bypass back to Iron Gate.

Wendy impressed me as she is the one and ONLY roadside "gleaner" (picking up trash) that I have seen in all the USA since I began walking March 20, 2010 (2 years ago).

As Wendy was busy and I was rushing to beat an advancing rain squall, we chatted for only a few moments...but, perhaps memorable moments for us both.


Wendy was out picking up the roadway trash as part of the Adoption of US 220 by Jack Mason's Tavern in Clifton Forge.

I know how much effort it takes...as I did the same on Highway 12 on OBX (Outer Banks).



A bit of History.

I did beat the rain by a full 2 minutes...it rained for the next hour on and off, as I drove SPIA on the mysterious back roads - had already walked over half way - to Covington.

Now after 6:00 pm, still parked in WAL-MART, Covington. Before finding WAL-MART, we drove out (West) on old US 60, parked while I spent one hour climbing the first of the steep hills leading toward the West Virginia border.

In the morning, will drive SPIA back to old US 60, park, and tackle the monster hills for real.

Looks to be a tough road to hoe (walk) for the next few days.

Hope I am up to it.

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