A Day With Shay – Part 3 Grundy - A Real Southern "Gap Adventure"
Written by Shay Wilson, Breaks Interstate Park
I’ve been to Grundy several times since I’ve moved here, mostly to marvel at their three-floored Walmart, but I hadn’t realized there were so many things to do and see! I ran out of day in Buchanan County before I ran out of adventure. Here’s what I did check off of my to-do list this visit.
If you haven’t noticed from previous posts, there’s a somewhat common theme in my travel days… starting with the best place for breakfast. That’s pretty ironic considering I never eat breakfast at home! Luckily for me, right next to Grundy’s Walmart is a little shopping center and, to my delight, there is a Donut Connection! The first of only two Donut Connections in the Heart of Appalachia region, the other located in St. Paul, I had to give them a try. They have all the classic donut essentials – glazed, chocolate-covered, jelly-filled, even eclairs. Honestly, the best surprise for me was seeing all the new, interesting flavor combinations they offer. They had Red Velvet, Toasted Coconut, and, drum roll please… a Fruity Pebbles covered donut! Needless to say, I had to snag the donut covered in Fruity Pebbles cereal for the fruity crunch, and five minutes of childhood nostalgia it gave me. I loved it! They have great coffee choices too. I settled on a regular cup of joe to balance out my donut delight.
After breakfast, I headed up to Poplar Gap Park. Perched atop a former strip mining site at 2061 ft. above sea level, Poplar Gap has great views and it is a visitor’s paradise. The park contains a fairgrounds, amphitheater, football field, two baseball/softball fields, and a fantastic playground. I didn’t go play on any of the three jungle gyms even though I was tempted to, but I did find out it’s a great place for kids, local music events in the amphitheater, and any-occasion picnicking! There’s more. It’s also adjacent to the Spearhead Trails Coal Canyon ATV Trail System! If you’ve followed my explorations, you may recall my experience on Spearhead’s Stone Mountain Trails in Pennington Gap. This 60+ miles of trails offer a combination of beginner, intermediate, and expert trails with wooded but mostly wide open routes with superior views. I found out these trails are also considered multi-use, so mountain bikers and hikers are also welcome. Today, trail riding wasn’t in my plan; maybe next time!
Just across the road from Poplar Gap Park, I met up with the folks at the future home of Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure. Now I say future home because it’s close but not completely finished. I can’t begin to describe how impressed I was by what they are building! I thought I was going to see a campground and a few cabins. I was blown away by what they are creating. Not even close to what I expected, Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure is opening this summer and they will have a full-service Visitor Center with gift shop and Elk viewing station, an on-site outfitter including ATV rentals, camping, fabulous cabins and a host of organized activities like all-season tubing, a rock climbing wall, archery tag, elk tours and more.
I got an exclusive look inside the cabins and they are some of the coolest little homes-away-from-home you’ll ever see! Lofts for sleeping, efficiency kitchens, and the best views ever! Right in front of the cabins is a cliff with this wide expanse of land below. It is a common feeding area for the reintroduced Elk! So, you’ll be able to spend your evenings watching the sun set behind the mountains while listening to the Elk bugle off into the night. Southern Gap is at the top of my list to visit when it opens to the public! If you’re in the area, I suggest taking time to check it out; 1124 Chipping Sparrow Road. Make sure you check out their Facebook for updates!
This wouldn’t be a proper travel day without lunch. My hosts took me to this cool restaurant called Serendipity Café. Being a young 24-year-old, I’m always curious as to what people my age do for fun or where they go to eat. Well, Serendipity is the place! Located hardly 100 feet across from the Appalachian School of Law, Serendipity is the prime spot for all the college kids. It looks like a house on the outside, but the inside has this cool, laid back vibe that’s always common in college towns. Their menu has a lot of American classics: chicken salad croissant, Philly Cheesesteak, steaks, ribs, and burgers, not to mentions their specials like Teriyaki Stir Fry. Check out their desert and adult beverage menu too! It was great, somewhere to relax and take a breather from the hectic daily grind. The one regret I had was not going back for Karaoke night, having a couple of drinks, making new friends, and spending the night singing off key to classic hits like Cher’s “Believe” or Aladdin’s “A Whole New World.” Even if karaoke isn’t your thing, your night will be well spent listening to the local talent in Grundy. They also host live bands and musical entertainment on Saturday nights. I’ll be back!
Next stop was the Bull Creek Pedestrian and Bike Trail. It’s a fabulous 1.5-mile crushed stone rail-trail and perfect for walking off the lunch I’d just consumed. The trail follows the route of a former Norfolk Southern coal train and winds along the wooded Bull Creek tributary of the Levisa Fork River between the communities of Harman and Maxie. It’s the perfect place to take a morning run or an evening stroll year-round.
I could’ve spent my afternoon walking off my lunch along Bull Creek, but I decided to hit the movies! Grundy’s Community Center is home to the Cinema 3. If you’re like me and gripe about the ever-rising prices of movie tickets and refreshments, the Grundy Community Center is the place you’ve been dreaming of. Try to go to the 2 o’clock showing of whatever movie you’re interested in and I guarantee your jaw will drop at the price. I’ve been here before and loved it. I got a movie ticket, small popcorn, and a large drink for less than $10! I promise I’m not joking! I’m not sure how they choose what movies will be playing, but every time I’ve gone, it’s always a movie that’s just came out and, somehow, it’s always a movie that I want to see. If you end up going on Saturday or Sunday for their evening showings, expect a crowd, but the theaters are set up so no matter where you choose to sit, it’s like you’ve picked the perfect seat.
Hopefully, my daytrip in Buchanan County and the unique town that is Grundy got you pumped up to visit! Every month this year, I plan on going somewhere new until I’ve visited every single county in the Heart of Appalachia. If you’ve read all three blogs and see that I’m clearly missing out on visiting somewhere extra cool and exciting, please feel free to message us on our Facebook page! Let us know if you’ve started your own exploring in the Heart by tagging us in your photos on Facebook or Instagram!
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