Virginia Crossroads Journey to Flag Rock - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Virginia Crossroads Journey to Flag Rock

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Many thanks to Keith Simpson of Clifton Forge who helped set up the story and whose wife Jeannie accompanied us all the way to the end of the trek. To view a photo montage from the trek, please click here.

It's almost impossible to miss as you drive along the highway just outside the town of Iron Gate.  An American flag flying on an outcropping known both as Devil's Backbone and appropriately, Flag Rock.

It looks impossible to get there, but we went looking for a way.

Wallace Persinger has owned the property that adjoins the rock since 1955.

"From the time I've moved in here there's always been a flag on the rock out there," said Persinger.

Wallace has never been to the flag – but his son Mike has.  He agreed to take us.

First, over several miles in a four wheel vehicle over some pretty rough terrain, as the truck followed first a dirt road on Persinger's land, and then a power line access road.

What follows is a string of commentary describing the trek to the rock.

Carlin in Truck:  "We've got a lot of hills going back.  Should be interesting.  The truck ride may be more interesting than the rock climbing."

That turned out not to be true. More on the rock climbing in a moment.

Carlin: "We've just parked the truck and now we've got to head off through the woods here a little bit and pretty soon – just a little ways – we'll be looking at that rock formation."

Carlin in woods:  "We've been hiking for about 10-15 minutes on the side of the mountain and it's been pretty steep.  Mike has gone ahead to make sure we go to the correct outcropping."

Carlin at the base of a 10-12 foot wall that essentially goes straight up: "We almost at the flag.  We've got to go up this 10 foot section of rock right here and when we get up there, they tell me you can see the flag."

And so up I went, following Jeannie Simpson, a local triathlete who has always wanted to visit the flag.

Carlin, now atop Devil's Backbone, about 100 feet from the flag:  "Ok, We're up here.  The rock is only about that wide, but I can see the flag.  I'm going to take a picture of it.  That's where we have to go to get out to the flag all of this right here in front of us – that's it."

This last 100 feet was just plain scary.  We climbed and scooted over the rock formation with zero room for error.

Carlin panning camera right and left: "We are about 30 feet from the flag but to the right and to the left there is nothing but down."

Mike and Jeannie made it first.

"I'm excited.  I can't wait to call the kids to let ‘em know I've done it and every time I ride by this rock on Route 220, it will be, ‘Wow, I did this!'" said Simpson.

Carlin at the base of the flag:  All Right – we made it down that out cropping which was a little adventurous.  No ropes nothing like that.  I would have thought twice if I had known what this was like,  but I'm glad I'm here, so there is a bucket list moment.  I don't recommend this .  It's not for the faint of heart but it is beautiful and so glad that somebody endeavors to take care of this flag so when people drive on 220 below they look over the Jackson River and see the flag.

No one knows how long the flag has been there -- some say since the 30's but we know at least since the 50's.

It's no one person's responsibility – but whenever the flag becomes weathered and tattered, someone always makes that trek to make sure that flag rock continues a proud Allegheny Highlands tradition.


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