Coordinated by DRBA board member Ellen Jessee, an avid outdoorswoman and wildflower expert, the hike will begin at the trailhead, 200 Wells Hollow Road, Bassett, VA (GPS 36.770553, -80.005383). Jessee comments, "Love the river, the rock cliffs, and the native plants along this trail. And Papa's Pizza nearby is another big plus!"
Although few wildflowers are blooming this time of year, the preserve is noted for spring flowers such as trilliums, dwarf crested iris, and showy orchids. Rocky outcrops along the river hide Jack-in-the-Pulpits and Indian pipes. Even in late autumn, huge beech trees clinging to the outcrops and hillside, as well as beautiful sycamores along the riverbanks, create peaceful, stately surroundings.
The natural-surface trail begins with a moderately strenuous section featuring multiple switchbacks as it angles upward to the top of the ridge. From there hikers will overlook the historic Bassett Furniture Plant, now part of Vaughan-Bassett Company. The trail then descends to parallel the Smith River with an easy, level path as it returns to the trailhead.
Lauren Mountain is in a conservation preserve owned by former DRBA board member Dr. David Jones, a prominent Martinsville orthodontist and conservationist, and is named in honor of his daughter, Lauren. Future plans for the property include a Trout Park and handicapped fishing infrastructure. This section of the Smith River includes the Bassett Canoe Access and the Horseshoe Bend of the Smith, a favorite of Brown Trout fly fishermen.
The region's heritage and current industrial use are evident in the remaining buildings of Bassett Furniture Industry. Once the world's largest manufacturer of wooden furniture, the company was started in 1900 by John D. Bassett. It grew to encompass several plants in the region, including J. D. Bassett Plant #5, the Chair Factory, located across the river from Lauren Mountain Preserve.
Nearly half of the buildings on the site were destroyed in a 2011 fire. However, the water tank that escaped the fire still stands. The following year John D. Bassett III, founder of Vaughan-Bassett Company, purchased the vacant factory, using money he received as the result of a successful anti-dumping case he had won against a Chinese competitor. The factory is now part of Vaughan-Bassett Company.
For years, factory houses took up much of the land alongside the river. Remnants of pens the factory workers built for their livestock are still evident as timbers along the trail.
Much of the company's history is described in Beth Macy's best-selling Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local-and Helped Save an American Town.
Participants in the hike are asked to dress in layers of wool or synthetic fabric, wear hiking boots, and be prepared for rain or wind. Each participant is asked to sign a waiver. Bring a hiking stick, water, and snacks or lunch.
To reach Lauren Mountain Preserve, drive to Bassett, Virginia on Route 57. At the intersection with Trent Hill Drive (Route 666) beside Papa's Pizza, take Trent Hill Drive across the Smith River twice. Turn left onto Wells Hollow Road (Route 735). Lauren Mountain Preserve parking area is on the left within a quarter mile.
Outings and meetings of the Dan River Basin Association are open to the public free of charge.
For more information, contact Ellen Jessee, firstname.lastname@example.org, 276-734-1317.