Grayson County, VA and Environs

I’ve been here in Fries, VA since Sunday, leaving Friday. It’s been a nice stop, in the southwest corner of Virginia snug up against the Blue Ridge Mountains; good weather with cool nights and some sunshine. The main feature of the town of Fries is the New River which flows broad and leisurely beside the town.



Some geologists think this might be the oldest river in the world. Based on the way if flows it may have existed before the upthrust that formed the Appalachian range.

There once was a cotton mill here but it closed some years back and it’s hard to see much prosperity now.

Grayson County has a population of about 16,000.  First thing I noticed was a bunch of churches. I found a list that contained about 85 churches in the county, so about 1 church for every 200 people. You can sho nuff get your hallelujah on around here.

The primary reason for stopping in this neck of the woods was to catch up with my pal from high school and college. Scott and I met in the 9th grade, almost 50 years ago. He was a good soul and a great friend then, and he still is today. He showed me some of the sights and took me to near the top of Whitetop Mountain.


Elevation here was about 5500 feet.


Mile high geezers.

Scott is quite the naturalist, especially as regards birds. He was a cofounder of the nonprofit Blue Ridge Discovery Center and has been heavily involved in its mission from the beginning. ( He’s also a woodworker by profession. I told him if I get back here next autumn he’ll have to take on an apprentice.

They are big on the ole time country music around here. Fiddles and banjos and stuff. On the Blue Ridge Parkway nearby they have a very interesting exhibit on the roots and development of traditional American music.


Admission is free, so it’s definitely worth a pass through. As part of their program they have a lot of music performance.


Who doesn’t love a ride on the “Wabash Cannonball”? And I find it hard to resist taking a picture of some stranger taking a picture. Puckish sense of humor or personality defect? You make the call.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is another of the regions precious resources. It was built beginning in the 30s (how many great American icons have their genesis in the 30s?) and runs 469 miles along the western ends of North Carolina and Virginia. It is no behemoth thoroughfare: 2 narrow lanes, no shoulder.


But it offers interesting vistas, from the sublime to the unexpected.






There is some agriculture around here but I’m surprised there’s not more.




This is about the highest point along this stretch of the Parkway.


The most interesting stop of the day was at the Brinegar cabin right along the Parkway.








It’s fascinating to me how these folks lived. The Brinegars were subsistence farmers and made money from the cottage industry of spinning yarn and making shoes. The scene now is a bit misleading: one would think these folks were hermits up on the mountain. But apparently they were part of a community of 20 or 30 other families, it’s just that their homestead has been preserved. The base of knowledge and the skills possessed by these people is so different from what most of us know today. One had to be clever, rugged and industrious in ways most of us can’t contemplate nowadays.

So, after that bit of historical and cultural immersion it was time to return to the 21st century, sort of. I stopped in Sparta, NC at a Mexican restaurant. Believe me, this stop was mainly for research purposes because I did not expect anything like the Mexican food I am accustomed to. I ordered pork tostadas and the owner came out and offered samples of 2 kinds of pork: one in a Mexican style and the other in a Bolivian style (where his wife is from). They were both delicious and I chose Bolivia (it’s the Butch Cassidy in me). Turned out to be very good.


Fresh ingredients tastily prepared and served simply is a hard combo to beat.




2 thoughts on “Grayson County, VA and Environs”

  1. I applaud Steve’s approach to road tripping, taking in the combination of nature, culture, food and experimentation. If I were retired and not tied down in so many other ways, I would accept an invitation to share some of the road with him. He, as I told him, is living ‘my dream’. And, most importantly, it was truly fine to reconnect with a good, old friend. Go Steve!!


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