TAKE A HIKE
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Couples that have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail together offer advice.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT EURO NYMPHING
Pull some serious trout with this European fly fishing technique.
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9 | BIG STEPS
Heather Anderson sets a speed record in Shenandoah National Park.
GO THE DISTANCE
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The South has many great long trails that aren’t the A.T.
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Hit the trail with our picks for the best new hiking gear.
A trip in the Great Balsam Mountains is full of rookie mistakes.
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What I learned riding a cheap hardtail.
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Walk, bike or hike throughout our Blackwater Creek Trail System, or travel a few minutes down the road to access the Blue Ridge Parkway. Top off your outdoor adventure by paddling down and fishing our section of the James River. Whatever your adventure, LYH welcomes you with open arms and invites you to be part of our story.
BOBCATS, BEARS, AND BIGGER DREAMS
Heather Anderson Sets a New Shenandoah FKT
BY BETH RASIN
ON THE FIRST DAY OF HEATHER
Anderson’s Fastest Known Time (FKT) run on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) through Shenandoah National Park in May, about 20 miles north of Rockfish Gap, she stopped briefly on the trail. She had just a fleeting glimpse, but she knew right away she was looking at a bobcat.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen one on the trail,” she says. “It was certainly a nice way to start the run.”
Firsts are rare for Anderson, who’s hiked thousands of miles in the wild. She’s finished the entire Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide trails three times. In 2018, she completed all three within one year, becoming the first woman to do so. She also holds the female self-supported FKT on the A.T., set in 2015, and the P.C.T., set in 2013.
“I’m infinitely curious about my abilities, and I also just enjoy movement in the outdoors,” says Anderson, who discovered her love of hiking while working a summer job at the Grand Canyon after her first year attending Anderson University in South Carolina.
An author of three books, professional speaker, and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, Anderson knocked out two FKTs in close succession this past spring when she accomplished first the 250-mile Pennsylvania portion of the A.T. in 4 days, 14 hours, 9 minutes, and 9 seconds, and then just two weeks later, she clinched the time on the 110-mile Shenandoah portion of the A.T. in 1 day, 11 hours, 8 minutes, and 5 seconds.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and I felt like I was in good condition and in the mental space to do it,” she says. “It’s always cool to travel someplace you’ve been before but do it differently, and I’d always wanted to run the Shenandoah and see what it’s like.”
With her daypack, snacks, water, filter and jacket, she hit the trail. “I’ve not run one since 2015 or 2016, so it was nice to see I could still do that, to execute a plan,” she says.
The bobcat wasn’t her only wildlife encounter on the trip: She also came around a corner while running at night, and her headlamp spotlighted a bear on the trail. It quickly ran off, likely scared by the light.
She spent 28 weeks over the winter and early spring preparing for the Pennsylvania project in her home state, running six days a week, 6 to 16 miles each day. She also added in yoga and strength training, for an average of three hours conditioning per day, but sometimes logging as many as six hours. She completed several multi-day backpacking
trips as her Pennsylvania date approached. Then she recovered as much as possible before hitting the Virginia section, which she started on May 25.
“I’d been feeling burnt out, not feeling like pushing myself since 2018, and then last year I spent 10 weeks in Scotland backpacking,” she says. “It was a heavy pack; I was mostly camping, and it was very challenging. I realized I was feeling like my old self, that I could cope with a heavy pack, that I was recovered from my mental and physical burnout.”
So last fall she selected her missions, and she pulled them off despite suffering from heat sickness on her second day in Shenandoah. “I thought it could happen because it’s hotter than Pennsylvania, and I’m not acclimated to it,” she says, describing how she pushed through the nausea. “I got to a spring and drank a lot of water, and I was able to eat again after that.”
When she’s tackling a trail, Anderson says she’s usually focused on the task at hand, taking
in the sights and sounds around her. “I feel like my experiences are reminders of the real world that we all tend to be more or less disconnected from in our daily lives,” she says. “I am happiest when I’m connected to and immersed in that real world and hope that by sharing my experiences that others will choose to seek that experience out for themselves as well.”
Anderson, who was 41 at the time of her FKTs this year, offers training and mentoring to hikers who want to attempt a goal of their own. Her books—"Thirst: 2600 Miles To Home”; “Mud, Rocks, Blazes: Letting Go On The Appalachian Trail” and “Adventure Ready”—also explain what she’s learned from her expeditions that she attempts to share with others.
“It’s important to always go for something bigger than you think you can do, not to put unnecessary limits on yourself, or to try to keep us safe, within our comfort zones,” she says. “[When you push beyond those zones], you experience beautiful things and have a lot of growth.”
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 7
PHOTO COURTESY OF HEATHER ANDERSON
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BY LAUREN STEPP
Thru-Hiking Couples Offer Tips on Tackling the Appalachian Trail Together
BRIANNA AND SAMUEL ABERNATHY. PHOTO BY JUSTIN P. GOODHART
10 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
LOOKING TO FOLLOW THE WHITE BLAZE WITH YOUR BEAU? HEED THESE FOUR TIPS. PHOTO BY DAVE PIDGEON, COURTESY OF THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL CONSERVANCY
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Brianna “Sea Legs” Abernathy felt like she was dying. Her chest tightened and her vision blurred as gale-force winds threatened to shove her off the exposed spine of Saddleback Mountain in southern Maine.
She thought about turning around and following the footpath back to the mountain’s base. But descending would be even more treacherous. The only way through was up. Fortunately, she wouldn’t have to do it alone. Her spouse, Samuel “Owl” Abernathy, would be with her every step of the way.
“I’ve always had a minor fear of heights when hiking, but I’d never had a full-blown panic attack like I did on this section of trail,” says Brianna. “The wind was blowing so hard it pushed my feet out from under me. I was so thankful to have Owl there.”
Both native Oklahomans, Brianna and Samuel began hiking the Appalachian Trail together on April 12, 2022. The next six months were fraught with challenges: aching knees, wrong turns, exhaustion. But difficult times brought the two closer together. “We learned to meet each other where they are—good days, bad days, and everything in between,” says Samuel.
Logging 2,190 miles with a significant other has some interesting dynamics, so, in addition to insights from the Abernathys, BRO also interviewed two more thru-hiking couples about their time on the trail. Here are their top four tips for conquering the A.T. together.
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 11
Not just breathtaking. Mood lifting.
Blackwater Falls State Park
Tip 1: Practice unabashed vulnerability.
Julia “Footloose” Urh pooped in front of her husband in Pennsylvania. It was an accident, really.
After noshing on greasy town food during their thru-hike last April, she and her beau, Justin “Humo” Nolen, headed back to the A.T. Half an hour later, Urh stepped a few feet off the trail and squatted to pee. That’s when things went awry. “I quickly realized I needed to do more than pee. Except, I didn’t have my trowel or toilet paper,” Urh says sheepishly.
Stranded in the woods with her pants down, Urh had no choice but to request assistance from her husband of less than three months.
this has literal applications (e.g., asking your hubby for help amid an unexpected number two). Other times, being vulnerable involves sharing your primal fears or expressing your needs in a raw, honest way.
Tip 2: DHWH (don’t hike while hangry).
According to the American Council on Hangriness, low blood sugar is the leading cause of divorce. Just kidding. But it can lead to needless bickering during a thru-hike.
“Justin and I got really good at noticing when the other was hangry,” Urh laughs. But since telling your lover to shove trail mix down their gullet and stop being such a jerk will probably cause more harm
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 13 VisitHarrisonburgVa.com Virginia’s First Culinary District Refuel in Harrisonburg
AUSTIN AND MADISON GARREN AT
OF THEIR JOURNEY. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GARRENS
Nolen agrees. “Everything on the trail is amplified by hunger or tiredness,” he says. “So, supporting each other really comes down to having a little extra patience than you would in regular life.”
Long story short, if your partner is disgruntled during your thru-hike, feeding them a granola bar or bowl of ramen can do wonders. “But sometimes,” says Nolen, “the best way you can support your partner is to just let them ‘sit in the stink’ and be grumpy.”
Tip 3: Plan for setbacks.
In a perfect world, both you and your spouse would summit Mount Katahdin unscathed. But injuries and illnesses do happen, so it’s important to “talk about what hiking the trail looks like for each of you before your feet hit the dirt,” says Samuel.
For instance, let’s say your better half develops a gnarly case of giardia. Do you both spend a week camped out in a hostel? Or do you forge ahead while he recuperates? What if running water and two-ply toilet paper lure him back to the “real” world? Do you keep hiking?
When North Carolina native Madison “Squirrel” Garren developed tendonitis in her foot in the Great Smoky Mountains last year, she and her husband Austin “Boojum” Garren began asking these tough questions. After much debate, they agreed to take a short respite. However, if Madison’s tendonitis persisted, Austin would continue the northward journey alone.
“We wouldn’t have both quit. I would have done my best to
14 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
AND MADISON GARREN SUMMITING MOUNT KATAHDIN. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GARRENS
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encourage Austin to continue,” says Madison. Luckily, her foot made a speedy recovery and they were able to finish hand in hand on October 6, 2022.
Tip 4: Cherish your time together.
As high school sweethearts, Madison and Austin have spent virtually every second together since freshman year. (For reference, they are both now in their late 20s.) But spending every second together in the woods for six months, exhausted and un-showered, is a whole different beast.
“We definitely had a few bad days,” says Austin.
This seems to be the case for most thru-hiking couples. When you’re tired, sore, and in desperate need of a hot meal, the miles drag. The littlest things infuriate you, from your partner’s loud chewing to their incessant flatulence, and you start to wonder why you embarked on this journey in the first place.
These emotions are natural, says Austin. “Once the initial thrill and infatuation of thru-hiking wears off, and especially as you near the end, it is easy to start taking it for granted and even wish the time away,” he notes.
Be that as it may, you must remember to cherish each mile with your better half, even those filled with hangriness and anxiety.
“This is a very unique time in your life, the likes of which you may never see again,” Austin advises. “Every second is highly valuable; don't let the moments slip away.”
16 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
JULIA URH AND JUSTIN NOLEN.
PHOTO COURTESY OF URH AND NOLEN
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18 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 19 kentuckytourism.com
What to Know about Euro Nymphing
BY NICK CARTER
With this fly fishing technique you can catch more trout, more efficiently
GRANT HAWSE, A TROUT GUIDE FROM SYLVA, N.C., FISHES A EURO NYMPH RIG ON THE TAILWATER STRETCH OF NORTH CAROLINA’S NANTAHALA RIVER. ALL PHOTOS BY NICK CARTER
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IF YOU’VE SPENT MUCH TIME in fly shops or trout streams over the last decade, you’ve likely heard about Euro nymphing. It’s a style of fly fishing that flatout catches fish, and its rise in popularity is a testament to its effectiveness.
A Euro nympher is the angler you see standing over a run like a heron, meticulously fishing the water directly in front of him with a long flimsy rod and an extra-long parti-colored leader. Chances are that angler is catching a lot more fish than you are.
You—the traditional fly fisher— might look cool and have a lot of fun with your long casts and tight loops, but you should know there is a more efficient way to take advantage of the following three truths about trout: a vast majority of their feeding is done subsurface, they eat insects drifting naturally with the current, and there are usually a lot more fish down there than you think.
Euro nymphing is a more effective way to catch numbers of fish in most circumstances. If
a traditional fly fisher is like an artist with a canvas and brushes, a Euro nympher is a carpenter hanging siding with a nail gun…or an engineer analyzing variables to achieve a specific result. The technique has proven itself over the years by dominating the world of competitive fly fishing, where victories are awarded to anglers who catch the most fish.
As the name implies, Euro nymphing originated in Europe, where fly fishing tournaments are a big deal. The technique’s relatively recent rise in the U.S. can be attributed to American anglers who brought it back from international competition.
Grant Hawse is one of those anglers. He’s a 24-year-old fishing guide from Sylva, N.C., who guides for Fish Tales Outfitters in Franklin. He’s a former member of the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing Team and one of the six anglers who represented the U.S. in the World Youth Fly Fishing Championships in Spain and Slovenia in 2016 and 2017. In Slovenia, Hawse placed in the top 10 worldwide, leading the
U.S. team to a strong third-place finish under very tough drought conditions.
Hawse knows a lot about Euro nymphing and fishing in general. He showed me his gear and rigging and allowed me to pick his brain while we sat at a picnic table on the bank of the Nantahala River. We were both eager to get on the water, and our attention wavered each time a juicy mayfly floated past on the breeze, but he was just as eager to share his theories on fly fishing.
“My time with the U.S. team was awesome. The amount of information we learned and the people we got to fish with was incredible,” Hawse said. “I think that’s why we learned so much so fast… the people we fished with.
“Every country has its own style, and that’s where it all came from,” he continued. “The Czechs, the French, all of them do it differently, and we took some from all their styles. A lot of what I learned is you can always learn from anyone. I even learn things from my clients sometimes.”
Hawse fishes dry flies when fish are actively rising to the surface, but when they aren’t looking up, he uses specialized Euro nymph rods and rigs to fish subsurface. Later, on the water, he showed me just how effective the technique can be.
Trout—in most places, in most weather and water conditions— spend most of their time feeding on aquatic insects adrift in the current below the surface. Fish prefer to hover near river bottoms, where current is slowed as it drags across obstacles. They dart up to snatch morsels out of the flow.
With polarized glasses, you can see this behavior as a flash of silver sunlight reflecting off a trout’s side when it turns to grab a bug from the current. In clear water, you might even see fish hanging almost motionless over the streambed. If you see one fish, there are likely others, sometimes many others, right there in the same area.
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 23
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“You want to grid the river out and fish from the bottom of a run to the top and from the top of the water column to the bottom,” Hawse said. “Sometimes the biggest fish sit in the tail outs. You know it when you step into it and spook them.”
By gridding the river out, Hawse meant actually visualizing a three-dimensional grid and using numerous casts to systematically drift a nymph rig through each part of it. Traditional anglers can sort of achieve this by fishing nymphs under an indicator and laboriously adjusting depth or even swinging their rod tip with the current to drift heavy nymphs on a tight line. A Euro rig is more efficient. An angler proficient with the technique can fish every inch of water within reach with precision, absolute depth control, and limited drag. That equates to a more naturallooking drift of the nymph in every part of a run at every depth in the water column. This is why Euro nymphing consistently produces more fish. By fishing meticulously, an angler can put the fly on the nose of every fish in a run, whether
fish are visible or not.
This presentation requires some specialized gear and techniques. It involves making short, repetitive casts with a super-long leader, and the fly line never leaves the reel in most situations.
“Some people hate Euro nymphing because they think it’s not fly fishing,” Hawse said. “But it’s just another tool you can use to catch fish, and that’s the point, right?”
Euro Nymphing Gear
At the core of fly fishing is the concept that the angler is casting the fly line, rather than the weight of a lure. The momentum of the line pulls the fly to the target. In Euro nymphing, fly line is not a primary consideration. With a leader that is 30 feet or longer, the main fly line usually doesn’t even leave the reel.
The angler uses a long rod and the weight of a heavy nymph on light line to simply flick out short casts. Then the rod is used to lead the drift and control the depth of the fly. On the drift, the technique is akin to walking a good dog that doesn’t pull at the leash. The angler
is always in loose contact with the fly, which allows for depth control, sensitive bite detection, and hook sets that should be as quick as a snake bite.
Hawse said anglers develop their own personal preferences for rods, reels, lines, and leaders, and his competition rig strays from the norm. He uses a 10-foot, 2-weight Reddington Strike Euro Nymph rod, and said the reel doesn’t matter, as long as its weight balances out the setup. A 3- or-4-weight rod is a more typical choice for Euro nymphing, but Hawse feels the flexible 2-weight rod protects his light tippet when battling large fish. Believe it or not, he’s brought 30-inch fish to net with this setup.
His main line is specialized to Euro nymphing. It is very thin coated braid, similar to fly line backing. From there, his leader is built with 30 feet of 4-pound-test monofilament ice fishing line. The ice fishing line is bright yellow, which is highly visible and serves the same purpose of a sighter in a more conventional Euro nymphing rig. On the end, he ties in 4 feet of
7x mono tippet, on which he’ll fish either a single or tandem nymph rig. All line-to-line connections are made with blood knots.
For beginners, Hawse suggests spooling up with normal floating fly line because it’s less expensive, it rarely leaves the reel when Euro nymphing, and it allows for versatility if you’d rather sling dry flies. For about $300, you can get a 10’ 6” Cortland Nymph Series rod in 2-weight to 4-weight, depending on the size of the river and fish you expect to encounter. Again, the reel doesn’t matter except as a weight balance. Hawse displayed the balance of his rig by placing two fingers under the handle and lifting the rod. It teetered briefly before balancing like a set of scales with his fingers as the fulcrum. This balance is important for your comfort on the water because of the repetitive nature of the technique.
Here’s a basic leader recipe: 10 feet of 8-lb. mono, 6 feet of 6-lb. mono, 6 feet of 4-lb. mono, 2 feet of 6x sighter, and 4 feet of 6x tippet. Sighter is brightly colored leader material that allows the
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 25
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angler to see exactly where their line is and what it’s doing. Obviously, you’ll be fishing nymphs with your Euro nymph rig. The choice is yours on what you want to fish, from big heavy stoneflies down to tiny size 20 midge or Frenchie nymphs. Throw whatever matches the bugs you find under a rock or the subsurface version of the flies you see in the air. Or tie in a garishly bright attractor pattern. Importantly, the point fly in your rig should have some weight. Hawse said he likes nymphs tied with a tungsten head or a few wraps of lead. This weight helps with casting and control, and it also gets your flies down near the bottom quickly.
Hawse usually fishes just a single nymph, but when he fishes a tandem rig he ties the heaviest nymph to the end of the rig and another on the tag end of a blood knot, maybe 2 feet up the line. This heavier nymph is the point fly, and it should drift closer to the bottom and be the point
of contact all the way up the leader to the rod and angler. This constant contact is the primary benefit of the technique. With very little slack in the entire system, the angler can control the drift while maintaining natural presentation of the nymph. Bite detection and hook sets can be instant.
If all this sounds way too technical for your taste, know that it gets even more technical. However, like any pursuit or profession, the jargon makes relatively simple concepts seem unintelligible to an outsider. On the water, while watching Hawse pick apart runs, the technique seemed much easier to grasp.
Hawse began his drifts standing on the bank. The lower Nantahala was high, as water generating electricity at the powerhouse careened through the gorge, carrying hooting tourists in brightly colored rafts on whitewater adventures. The
26 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
EXPLORE HAWSE USES A BLOOD KNOT TO CONNECT SECTIONS OF BRIGHTLY COLORED TIPPET IN A 30-FOOT-LONG LEADER. SPECIALIZED RIGGING HELPS ANGLERS FISH NYMPHS MORE EFFECTIVELY.
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fish don’t mind the rafts. If they spooked at every raft, they would starve to death.
An overhanging tree shaded the upstream side of a large eddy that swirled off swift water along the opposite bank. Hawse worked the tail of the run with a quick sequence of flicked casts and short drifts before he even stepped into the shallows. Obviously, there’s more to it, but Euro nymphing looks a lot like fishing with a long cane pole. You just lob that nymph out and then swing the rod tip smoothly to lead the drift.
“You control the depth with the angle of your rod,” Hawse explained. He pitched his nymph to the shallower bank side of the run, and with the rod tip held high, used the same sweeping motion to lead the drift downstream at the same pace as the current. On subsequent casts and drifts, the angle of his rod in relation to the water closed—he held his rod tip lower—as he worked out toward the deep blue-green seam at the edge of the swift water.
Snap! With a twitch of his
28 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
PLAN YOUR TRIP
forearm, Hawse set the hook but missed. “Did you see him?” he said looking back at me. “Man, they’re quick today.”
Hawse fished the lower end of the run, covering every inch of water quickly and efficiently with a couple more missed hook sets before taking a couple steps upstream to begin the process again in fresh water. With a more traditional indicator rig, it would have taken numerous depth and weight adjustments to be so thorough, and the subtle strikes would probably have gone unnoticed because of the slack inherent in the system. Fishing with an indicator requires line mending and slack line, which also creates drag and presentations that are unnatural in the eyes of trout.
There is almost no slack line in Euro nymphing. The whole idea is to remain in contact with your nymph and to lead it smoothly downstream with the current. Hawse showed me a stripping technique he called a vector pull, which sounds complex, but it’s a simple method of retrieving line smoothly through the drift while
retaining contact with the nymph. He also showed me a tuck cast, which piles the leader up on top of the nymph as it enters the water, so everything sinks faster. Like any style of fishing, there are countless tips and tricks and variations on the technique. The learning could go on for a lifetime, but becoming proficient is not too difficult with time spent on the water.
“Everyone wants to hold their arm out and lean forward,” said Hawse. His posture seemed relaxed, like he was leaning on a fence post, but his attention was rapt on the line where it entered the water. “I want to do it too, and sometimes you need to, but you can save your back and arm through a day of fishing if you stand up straight and keep your elbow at your side. I tell beginners to stand close to what they’re fishing and to fish what’s in front of them.”
As he spoke, he snapped the rod tip up with another quick hook set and came tight on a little wild rainbow trout, the first of the morning. He stripped it in quickly and scooped it with a giant net he
ETSU Go Beyond the ordinary.
SPECIALIZED GEAR IS ALSO NEEDED FOR EURO NYMPHING. LONG, LIMBER RODS ARE OFTEN PAIRED WITH OUTSIZED REELS, WHICH BALANCES THE SYSTEM.
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32 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
guides, shops, and fly fishing schools that
lessons in Euro nymphing. Georgia: Hulsey
South Carolina: Chattooga
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Elk River Inn & Cabins, Slaty Fork, W. Va.
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North Carolina: Fish Tales Outfitters, Franklin,
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Chasing the Wild
National Geographic Wildlife Photographer Drew Rush shares his secrets
BY RIVER HARLAN
DREW RUSH SHOOTS BEARS. He has shot dozens across the country, including grizzlies.
Of course, as a National Geographic photographer, Rush shoots them with a camera. And what sets Rush apart from most other professional photographers is his use of motion-triggered
wildlife cameras. Rush specializes in wildlife photography using camera traps that he sets up in some of the country’s most remote and challenging locations. He hikes miles through vast forests and rugged terrain, placing cameras in caves and on cliffs.
Anyone can buy a cheap wildlife camera for $40 on Amazon, but most folks don’t know how to use a wildlife camera to its full potential. Rush intensely studies the species he is seeking. Then he searches maps and landscapes for ideal locations and hikes deep into the wilderness,
where he sets up lighting and cameras days or weeks before his subject arrives.
Along the way, he’s had some close calls, including a couple of grizzly encounters. Rush talked with BRO about his scariest moments with wildlife, best beginner tips, and his favorite animal to photograph.
36 BLUE RIDGE
DREW RUSH CRAWLS LIKE A MOUNTAIN LION TO SET UP THE SHOT FOR HIS WILDLIFE CAMERA TRAP.
PHOTO BY DREW RUSH
BRO: What exactly is a camera trap?
DR: A camera trap is a motionsensing camera that you leave out on a landscape so that an animal will trigger it and basically take its own picture. The cameras can take short videos, too. There are different kinds of camera traps: simple little wildlife cameras and bigger, more elaborate camera traps with lights. I use both. I use the smaller ones for social media, and the larger ones for advanced photographic projects.
BRO: How did you get into camera trapping?
DR: I was looking at National Geographic all the time as a kid and studying what the professionals were doing. I knew that some were using camera traps for wildlife, so I really tried to source it out and see what equipment they relied on. I got my first assistant gig for National Geographic because I researched a lot about camera trapping beforehand.
BRO: How do you learn about the species you are shooting?
DR: For a lot of the big projects, I work with researchers to help find patterns for where these animals will be. But a lot of the time, I am out there in the wild by myself trying to figure out where the animals are. I do a ton of hiking— lots of crisscrossing landscapes looking for places that animals might be using. They often leave scat, tracks, or other signs.
BRO: Any scary encounters?
DR: I had a couple grizzly bear encounters. The first time, I was on an assignment looking to photograph wolves when I accidentally came upon a bear that had just killed an elk calf. It was not happy to see me. It bluff-charged me several times. Then it stood up on its hind legs and snapped its jaws. Then it got back on all-fours and ran the other direction. Then it would sway, turn back, and charge again. I eventually made it back to my truck. As soon as I closed the truck door, the bear ran right in front of me.
The second encounter
on a story about pine beetles. National Geographic needed pictures of grizzlies feeding on red squirrel caches, so I set up a camera trap in a squirrel midden where they store nuts and pinecone seeds. When I returned to check the camera later, a grizzly had been there feeding and then fell asleep. As I walked up to the camera, the bear caught my scent and jumped up. It started charging at me through the forest. I couldn’t see it clearly, but the sound was terrifying. I didn’t have time for bear spray or a pistol, so I started screaming to try and scare it off. The brush finally settled. I was lucky it turned around.
BR: Do you have any tips for beginner wildlife photographers? DR: No matter what camera you are using, think about and learn about the species you want to photograph. I do a lot of research for all the species I photograph. Find out everything that might be useful about the animal: what they eat, how they travel and sleep,
most of the time I put my camera at eye level with the species I am photographing. Do your homework and know as much as you can about the animals you want to photograph.
When it comes to equipment, I tell folks: buy nice or buy twice. As much as your budget allows, invest in quality, or you will end up buying better equipment later and often spending more money.
BRO: How do you set up your shots? DR: I don’t really try to disguise the camera that much. Animals can already tell most of the time from smell that it’s there. If you leave it out long enough, the smell will eventually go away and it will just become a part of the landscape as animals pass by.
I used to set up artificial lights in my camera traps to capture the exact shot I wanted. The results were great, but it’s not natural. Now I am trying to really shoot natural light and find places with a lot of it.
Grizzly bears are really curious
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 37
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Fall is a beautiful season in Chesapeake, Virginia. With miles of colorful fall foliage along our trails and waterways, you can bike, hike, paddle, or stroll through the season. Have fun on our farms and explore pumpkin patches, corn mazes, homemade pies, and jams. Revel in one of our many fall events ranging from oyster fests to wine festivals. Make Chesapeake your fall getaway.
my camera traps. Wolves have chewed on cameras in the past. A lot of people can set up a camera trap and it will go off and capture something. But really learning about the animal, its habitat, and its behavior is crucial in capturing a quality image.
BRO: What is the hardest part about wildlife photography?
DR: The hardest part is finding good long-term projects that I can sink my teeth into. A lot of photography is short-term projects, which makes it difficult to find bigger material. I spent a lot of time with bears and learned so much about them and their habitat. It is really hard to find situations like that, but when you can learn about and deeply engage with a subject, it makes the photography much better.
BRO: What is your favorite animal to photograph?
DR: I love looking for mountain lions.
I am photographing mountain lions for projects, but I also just seek out mountain lions when I am out there shooting on my own. I love spending time learning about mountain lions and getting to know them.
BRO: Where are your favorite places to shoot?
DR: I’ve worked all over the world—in India, Africa, and South America. My favorite places for setting up cameras are in alpine regions, looking for large predators like grizzly bears, wolves, and mountain lions. I spend a lot of time on public lands. They’re open to everyone, regardless of background, nationality, or socioeconomic status. These places are so important, and it’s imperative that we all do everything that we can to help protect them.
38 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
Follow Drew Rush’s work on instagram at @drewtrush.
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PHOTO BY DREW RUSH
We Have a Winner
Here’s this year’s top image in Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine’s annual Adventure Critter Pet Photo Contest.
BY SHANNON MCGOWAN
Every year our animal-loving readers enter Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine’s annual Adventure Critter Pet Photo Contest, sponsored by Dominion RiverRock. Our inbox is flooded with inspiring images of pets—furry, feathered, spiked, and scaley—who love to go outside and play. After receiving hundreds of submissions and thousands of votes for the 10 finalists, we’re excited to showcase this year’s winner.
First place goes to photographer Luke Gover, who submitted the top image of his 10-month-old kitty, Cheez-It P. Gover, seen in the picture enjoying
scenery of the Shenandoah Valley in Luray, Va.
Cheez-It is a Polydactyl, meaning he has extra toes (23 to be exact) to put to work while hiking the trails or climbing trees. Luke Gover says adopting him was one of the best things he’s ever done.
“He brings a sense of calmness and an abundance of love wherever he goes,” Gover says of his adventure buddy. “I think that he is the epitome of ‘what is meant for you won’t pass you by’ as we were unsure if we’d be able to adopt him, but now he fits perfectly into our lives.”
The “P” in Cheez-It P. Gover’s name is
in honor of Luke and his fianceé’s older cat Patches, who passed away shortly after the couple adopted Cheez-It. Once home, the couple decided to introduce him to a harness and leash while he was still at a young age, taking him out into their backyard to explore. Thanks to the early introduction and tips from the book “Adventure Cats,” Cheez-It has grown to be quite the adventurer, with his favorite places being their back deck to bird watch and Eden Mill Nature Center in Maryland where he can walk on numerous trails.
Cheez-It P. Gover PHOTOGRAPHER LUKE GOVER
Cooler temperatures and a canvas of breathtaking colors make autumn the perfect season for a hiking adventure in the Blue Ridge. Enjoy the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows by foot, as you wander through some of the most scenic trails the Southeast has to offer. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual nature lover, there is something for everyone in this hiking adventure guide.
PEAKS AND PATHS IN CHARLOTTESVILLE & ALBEMARLE COUNTY, VA
The Blue Ridge Mountains provide endless opportunities for scenic hikes, spectacular views, and lasting memories. Nestled in the foothills, Charlottesville and Albemarle County offer access to our favorite mountains and more, with various natural areas, city paths, and forest preserves to explore.
A BASECAMP FOR TRAILBLAZING REST, RELAX AND UNWIND
Just a short 30 minute drive from where the Blue Ridge Parkway meets with Shenandoah National Park, it is a nobrainer to use Charlottesville as a basecamp for your Appalachian hiking adventures. The famed Appalachian Trail meanders through both the Parkway and the Park, where you can also find great day hikes with summit views at Humpback Rocks and Blackrock
Explore Charlottesville’s natural beauty at Ragged Mountain Natural Area, a stone’s throw from downtown. With a 6-mile loop around the reservoir offering captivating views, it’s perfect for nature enthusiasts. Just outside Charlottesville, Ivy Creek Natural Area and River View Farm integrate history into a hike. The area was once owned by Hugh Carr, a former slave, and now spans 125 acres and showcases the family barn on weekends. Discover the property’s historical roads and springs, making for a rich outdoor experience. Experience a National Park-like hike at Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve, with challenging ascents at the base of the Blue Ridge. The Little Flat
Mountain loop, reaching 2,300 feet, offers stunning valley views. Its entrance monument honors Shenandoah National Park’s displaced families, a project by Albemarle Blue Ridge Heritage.
The Rivanna Trail is great for a leisurely hike within the city that passes by great breweries, restaurants, and cafes. Circumventing the city of Charlottesville, hikers can trek the whole 20+- mile trail or smaller segments, and grab some refreshments afterward. The historic pedestrian Downtown Mall is another excellent place in the city to dine outdoors, enjoy live music, and spend the night.
Sip world class wines at the 40+ wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail, all within 25 miles of Charlottesville. Visitors can experience Virginia winemaking, with a backdrop of the bucolic countryside and mountain silhouettes. Plan for a midweek stay, which will provide more options in fall, as weekends tend to get busy! Choose from plenty of bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels, historic inns, and relaxing resorts.
Heyward Community Forest, which surrounds Ragged Mountain Natural Area, features a serene stream trail with cascading water flowing into multiple pools.
RAGGED MOUNTAIN RESERVOIR (CREDIT: SANJAY SUCHAK)
RIVANNA TRAIL (CREDIT: CITY OF CHARLOTTESVILLE)
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
TOTIER CREEK PARK (CREDIT: ALBEMARLE COUNTY)
VENTURING BY FOOT IN VIRGINIA STATE PARKS
Virginia is one of the few places where you can hike scenic mountains, rolling hills, and sandy coastal beaches, while still having access to beautiful downtowns and sprawling urban centers. The 41 state parks make it easy for hikers to see as much of Virginia as possible, with endless miles of trails and shared public space to delight in.
The mountains are calling, and so is Hungry Mother State Park!
Reaching 3,270 feet above sea level, this park contains an 108-acre lake encircled by 17 miles of trails, including the legendary Molly’s Knob Trail. Iconic among serious hikers, this two-mile trail takes travelers up steep and narrow terrain before reaching the summit.
Access the Appalachian Trail at 5,000 feet! Deep in the heart of Grayson Highlands State Park, Twin Pinnacles Trail is a moderate 1.33-mile hike that offers two stunning overlooks, Big Pinnacle and Little Pinnacle. On clear days, hikers get gorgeous views of the Highlands and can see into the neighboring states, North Carolina and Tennessee. Experienced hikers
can use this park as an access point for the Appalachian Trail to unlock even more hiking bliss. Get the kids moving at Shenandoah River State Park! The Redtail Ridge Trail is about a mile long and offers several overlooks of the river, perfect for the little ones. The Cottonwood Trail is about 1.3 miles of easy hiking, with wheelchair accessibility, and an elevated boardwalk finish. These two hikes make up just a small portion of the 24 miles of hiking trails in the park, but are plenty of fun.
Sometimes the middle is the best part! Central Virginia is home to many great hikes like Rolling Meadows Trail in Sky Meadows State Park. This trail is a moderate,
2.5-mile trek on a grassy path, and for more of a challenge, detour onto the 2.2-mile Lost Mountain Trail. The park has 10 hiking trails covering 13 miles, and access to the Appalachian Trail.
Travel to the second largest freshwater lake in the state for a relaxing hiking retreat. Smith Mountain Lake State Park offers access to the lake and 17 easy to moderate trails, including Turtle Island Trail. This shaded, easy 1.5mile trail leads to a beautiful view of Smith Mountain Lake, and continues to the 3.1-mile Striper Cove Trail, which is the park’s longest trail.
The eastern seas are not just for swimming. Just a half an hour from Washington D.C., Mason Neck State Park offers more than nine miles of
hiking and multiuse trails. Bay View Trail is an easy one-mile loop, where you can enjoy the natural sights of the bay. Kiptopeke State Park is another great coastal option, with more than 5 miles of hiking trails in hardwood forests and boardwalks.
Take a hike right in the heart of urban Virginia Beach at First Landing State Park, a 2,888-acre oasis of cyprus swamps, undisturbed natural areas and sandy beaches. Cape Henry Trail is a popular option out of all 10 trails, with 10.1 miles of flat and wide walkway.
Quest is a self-paced program that rewards you for visiting a park, and worth looking into as well! Plan ahead and stay the night! Many of Virginia’s parks have overnight accommodations with nearly 300 cabins, 47 yurts and more than 2,000 campsites. Fourteen parks also have lodges as an option to lay your head at night.
Before embarking on any hiking adventure, be sure to wear proper apparel, bring food and water, and check the weather and Virginia State Parks website to ensure a pleasant and safe experience. Trail
Baywoods Trail at Kiptopeke State Park connects to the southern beach where visitors can explore the park’s dune formation!
STAY SAFE AND STAY THE NIGHT A CENTRAL FOCUS
BAYWOODS TRAIL AT KIPTOPEKE STATE PARK MOLLY’S KNOB TRAIL AT HUNGRY MOTHER STATE PARK
MOUNTAIN LAKE STATE PARK
TWIN PINNACLES TRAIL GRAYSON HIGHLANDS STATE PARK
CHASING WATERFALLS AT AMICALOLA FALLS STATE PARK & LODGE, GA
As the highest cascading waterfall in Georgia, Amicalola Falls is the crowning jewel of Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, Georgia. With its towering cascades and pristine wilderness, this park is a haven for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers seeking an unforgettable adventure in the heart of the North Georgia Mountains.
STATELINE TREKS IN DANVILLE, VA
Virginians and North Carolinians
ACCESS TO THE APPALACHIAN WILDERNESS
Situated just 8 miles from the start of the Appalachian Trail, and within the dense Chattahoochee National Forest, Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge holds a great amount of significance in the outdoor community. More than half of the northbound thru-hikers begin their journey at the park, due to its scenic beauty and accommodations. Rest assured, those not interested in hiking 2,200 miles can also enjoy the plentiful trails and scenic views that the park has to offer.
The park’s signature trail, the Amicalola Falls Trail, takes hikers to the 729-foot falls, whose name is derived from a Cherokee word meaning “tumbling waters”. The trail is relatively short, but does have some steep staircases, making it a moderately challenging hike. Or, escape to the lush forests on the Spring Trail, perfect for families. For a more challenging trek, consider the Appalachian Approach Trail, an 8.5-mile hike that leads to the southernmost terminus of the famous longdistance trail.
Be one of the first to experience the new state-of-the-art visitors center at the park, and learn about the history of the Appalachian Trail! Inside the center, guests can interact with a trail map which showcases the trek from Georgia to Maine, hang out with reptiles in enhanced exhibits, and find the perfect memento in a spacious gift shop. Before heading out, refuel and enjoy a tasty treat at the Falls Cafe
AN OUTDOOR ADVENTURE LODGE
Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge is your ultimate Appalachian adventure command post. Offering a range of accommodations, from mountain resorts to cozy cabins and camping options, excitement awaits with thrilling zip-lining experiences and guided hikes for nature enthusiasts. The State Park staff’s Birds of Prey Show provides insights into local wildlife, and GPS scavenger hunts, 3-D archery, and survivalist camps make the experience even more exhilarating. The Lodge also doubles as a charming bed and breakfast for travelers exploring the beauty of North Georgia’s wilderness.
will delight in knowing that there are bountiful hikes, right on their border! Located in south-central Virginia, Danville and Pittsylvania County are within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the nation’s population, and offer an extensive array of hiking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts of all places.
HIKE THE HILLS, RIVERS, AND RAILS A CHARMING CULTURE
While not technically in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Danville still has plenty of rolling hills, wonderful woodlands, and lush riverbanks to explore by trail. At Anglers Ridge Trails, mountain bikers and hikers harmonize to create a welcoming trail environment. These award-winning hiking trails traverse through hilly terrain and rocky paths, which provide a more challenging experience for those who crave it. There is no shortage of trails with water views too. Situated to the northwest of Danville, Smith Mountain Lake State Park has hikes with stunning views of Smith Mountain Lake, and for hikers of all abilities. Or, stick around town and take the Riverwalk Trail, which is located in downtown Danville and runs along both sides of the Dan River.
Not ready to head inside quite yet? Discover farmland fun at Owen Farm , Funky Fleece Farm , and Infinity Acres Ranch . Each offers their own unique farm experience to include pumpkin picking, fall festivals, alpaca snuggling, and camel petting! Once ready to go inside, the Danville Science Center is a space where adults and kids alike can learn something new, while River District Golf and Social offers a unique setting to unwind and kick back.
The West Ridge Falls Access Trail provides an ADAaccessible route to reach the heart of the falls. For a more relaxed hike to enjoy the waterfall’s beauty, you can opt for the East Ridge Access Trail, which is also less strenuous.
Ride the rails, or hike them! The Ringgold Rail Trail is a scenic recreational trail in Pittsylvania County that was built upon an abandoned railway line. Travel through the rural Virginia countryside and scenic farmland by foot or bike on this 5.5 mile flat pathway.
End the day with a tasty meal and brew. Danville and Pittsylvania County offer a wide variety of food and beverage spots, with a focus on southern cooking. Places like 2 Witches , Ballad Brewing , Jack’s Quick Snack , Mama Possums , Dell’Anno’s Pizza Kitchen , Buck’s Roadside Grill , and Riverside Lanes will be sure to have you coming back for more.
The Riverwalk Trail in Danville is a great way to connect to various points of interest within the city including parks, historic sites, and local businesses.
WITCHES WINERY AND BREWERY
DANVILLE RIVERWALK TRAIL
COME WANDER THE MOUNTAIN TRAILS IN HARDY COUNTY, WV
Hardy County’s mountain trails offer some of WV’s best hiking! Visit Lost River State Park and hike the 23 miles of trails through the historic park, built by the CCC in the 1930’s, or experience the trails on horseback with a guide from Hidden Trails Stables. Climb White Oak Trail to the impressive Cranny Crow Overlook where you will also find a few rustic camping sites in case you would like to stargaze in the skies above the mountain vista. Further down the ridge top towards Miller’s Rock is the historic fire tower (a preservation effort is underway) and the restored fire-keeper’s cabin.
There are 26 cabins available in the park, many of which are open all year. The cabins are surrounded by numerous hiking trails of varying difficulty including the family-friendly Loblolly Trail. When you’re not on the trails, enjoy the naturalist’s programs, disc golf tournament, and other events held in the park. Join Lost River
Trails Coalition for their Lost River Classic Gravel Race in August and the Lost River Trail Run in May. The funds raised from the Coalition’s events support the building of mountain bike trails in the park and their youth mountain bike team.
Hike and bike the trails in nearby George Washington National Forest to spectacular mountain vistas. The Lee Ranger District of GWNF, straddling West Virginia and Virginia, is home to the Trout Pond Recreation Area. Trails surround the 17-acre Rock Cliff Lake and Trout Pond which, while diminutive, is West Virginia’s only natural lake. Hiking trails abound in the forest with camping sites at Trout Pond and primitive sites throughout the district. While Trout Pond area is open seasonally, the Wolf Gap Recreation Area can be enjoyed all year. The Big Schloss Overlook, with views of the mountains in both states, is one of many popular destinations. Wolf Gap is the site of a 1930’s African American Civilian Conservation Corps Camp.
Explored the trails and looking for something else to do? Travel our country roads to see the Hardy County Barn Quilt Trail. Follow the Hardy County Historic Schoolhouse Trail or the Civil War Trails markers to the many historic sites in the county. In Moorefield, tee-off at Valley View Golf Club or visit West-Whitehill Winery for a tour and tasting. Enjoy performances at McCoy’s Grand Theater, a movie at South Branch Cinema 6, or bowling at Potomac Lanes. See glass blowing demonstrations at Dakota Glass
Works and visit WordPlay, an independent bookstore in Wardensville. Explore Lost River Artists Marketplace, South Fork General Store, Lost River General Store, Our Roots, and Lost River Trading Post, for WV-made products and artwork, antiques, made-to-order food, and beverages.
Stop at Drifters Café for breakfast or lunch or take a midday break at Kac Ka Pon or Marina’s Pizza in Wardensville. In Moorefield stop for lunch or dinner at Sweets & Treats on Main or Gennaro’s Italian Restaurant, for a steak at O’Neill’s, or a burger at Better
Times. End your day with dinner and music at Mullins 1847 or Lost River Grill. Dine by candlelight or in their casual bar at Guesthouse Lost River , enjoy a farm to table dinner at Mack’s Bingo Kitchen , or visit Lost + Found Pizza & Provisions for a wood-fire pizza to enjoy while you plan your next day’s adventure.
Visit Hardy for the day, but plan to spend the night!
Whether you stay in a cozy inn, a mountain cabin or sleep under the stars, there are plenty of adventures left over to keep you busy the next day and the day after, too.
IN TOWN OR OUT
HIKES FOR ALL SKILL LEVELS IN MERCER COUNTY, WV
The Appalachian Mountains of southern West Virginia is a haven for hikers. Only one hour from the newest National Park in West Virginia, and with three state parks within county lines, Mercer County offers a range of hiking experiences. From serene riverside strolls to challenging ascents, Mercer County’s trails cater to all levels of outdoor enthusiasts.
HIKING IN THE HEART OF VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE
Lace up your hiking boots, grab your rucksack, and get ready to explore over 700 miles of hiking trails in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. The iconic Roanoke Region, with its rolling blue-hued mountains, pristine rivers, and urban treks offer a treasure trove of trails that wind through some of the most captivating landscapes on the East Coast.
EXPLORE THE STATE PARKS
Unsure of what hike to take first in Mercer County?
The three state parks are a great place to start! Camp Creek State Park is a great way to discover the diverse flora and fauna of the Appalachian wilderness. This state park is renowned for its picturesque trails, pristine creeks, and serene woodlands, making it a sought-after destination for hikers of all skill levels.
Advanced hikers can tackle Horse Creek Trail’s steep ascents, leading to scenic Horse Creek Lake for a waterside picnic.
ecosystems to discover.
Pinnacle Rock Trail allows hikers to see unique sandstone formations, lush forests, and, at the summit, breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
TUMBLING WATERS AND RUMBLING ENGINES
For a more casual hiking experience, with gorgeous waterfalls included, take the family to Mash Fork, Campbell Falls, and Brush Creek Falls. All are easily accessible for any level of hiker, and can even accommodate strollers! If you’re looking for more thrill, the Hatfield McCoy ATV Trails welcome riders to rip through the backwoods. Bring your own ATV, UTV, and dirtbike, or rent one from nearby trailheads and campgrounds.
Sharing its wonder with neighboring Summers County, Pipestem Resort State Park is another great option for both leisurely strolls and strenuous treks. A popular family-friendly hike is the Mountain Creek Trail, which is an easy and short stroll through the woods. For a moderate hike, the 4.5-mile Buffalo Creek Trail leads to the historic Buffalo Creek Train Depot and offers a glimpse into the park’s history. Pinnacle Rock State Park rounds out our list, with unique rock formations and diverse VisitMercerCounty.com
Once you’re ready to wind down, check out the Mercer Street Grassroots District for restaurants and entertainment, like the Sophisticated Hound. Or, try craft beers at The RailYard and catch a show at The Granada Theater in the Depot District in Historic Downtown Bluefield.
A must-do for serious hiking enthusiasts is the Virginia Triple Crown , which showcases three of the most iconic hikes on the Appalachian Trail - Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob , and Tinker Cliffs . All three of these hikes provide scenic views of the surrounding mountain landscape, and are a great way to see the autumnal colors. McAfee Knob, in particular, is a popular hike that offers unique photo opportunities thanks to its large rock outcroppings. Due to overcrowding, it is recommended to take the special shuttle service to the parking area. This is an important new initiative and service that is helping to prevent congestion at the trailhead.
There are plenty of easy hiking trails for kids as well! Roaring Run Recreation Area in Botetourt County, Waid Recreation Park in Franklin County, and Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail in Salem are great places for leisurely, family friendly strolls.
As the largest metropolitan area in western Virginia, the Roanoke region offers plenty of outdoor recreation, in addition to hiking. Over 1,000 miles of trails also offer excellent biking and paddling opportunities, and fall is a great time to get on the water. Paddle scenic spots like the Upper James River Water Trail, Roanoke River Blueway, and Smith Mountain Lake to see the changing leaves from a different perspective. For a weekend family getaway, Roanoke County’s Explore Park has access to the Roanoke River, abundant trails, ziplining at Treetop Quest, dining at Twin Creeks Brewpub, and campsites and cabins for an overnight stay. Make it a true metro mountain adventure by discovering Downtown Salem, which is easily accessible from all three Triple Crown hikes. Enjoy great craft beer at Parkway Brewing Company and Olde Salem Brewing Company, check out the delicious food & cocktails at the new Brood Restaurant & Bar, and book an overnight stay at one of the two boutique hotels located downtown – The Lofts at Downtown Salem and The Rowland Hotel
Enjoy stunning views and fall foliage along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which makes its way through the Roanoke Region and features a great network of hiking trails and scenic overlooks.
Grab your cameras! Pinnacle Rock State Park’s iconic sandstone pinnacle, which rises dramatically from the surrounding landscape, provides a stunning backdrop for photos.
TOP-TIER TREKS A METRO MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE
MCAFEE KNOB – PHOTO COURTESY: ROCHELLE MASUDAL – VISIT VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE
PARKWAY BREWING COMPANY & OLDE SALEM BREWING COMPANY –SALEM, VA
FALL ON THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY – PHOTO COURTESY: SAM DEAN – VISIT VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE
CAMP CREEK STATE PARK AND FOREST
PINNACLE ROCK STATE PARK
PINNACLE ROCK STATE PARK
FALL INTO FUN IN BRISTOL, TN/VA
Because of its location in the foothills of the gorgeous Appalachian Mountains, the scenery in Bristol is always worthy of a visit, but when fall rolls around, it reaches its peak. Whether you’re more of a casual leaf-looker or a hardcore hiker during the autumn months, Bristol offers an abundance of sites you can visit to enjoy the area’s vibrant colors.
THE HOME OF MANY HIKES
South Holston Lake is one of the premier spots in Bristol to enjoy an autumn hike – and for a breathtaking view of the fall foliage, head up to South Holston Dam. From that viewpoint, you’ll be surrounded by pristine water and hundreds of miles of untouched shoreline filled with a kaleidoscope of trees dressed in brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. Fall at the Lake also means plenty of boating and kayaking activity, as well as fishing, camping, and biking.
Steele Creek Park, which encompasses more than 2,200 acres and is Tennessee’s third-largest municipal park, takes autumn awesomeness to an all-new level. The popular park features a 52-acre lake
surrounded by knobs and hills that turn into an artist’s palate in late October and November. Opt for an easy hike around Steele Creek Lake, or take on the Ridge Runner Trail, which takes you through hilly terrain and offers panoramic views of the fall foliage.The autumn scenery is also the perfect backdrop for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, golf, disc golf, and biking.
The picturesque 400-acre Sugar Hollow Park also offers more incredible fall foliage views. Whether playing soccer, enjoying some fall baseball, disc golf or camping, biking or hiking, the park is picture perfect and a beautiful spot to spend some time with Mother Nature as she shows off her fall colors.
The Mendota Trail , a 12.5-mile hiking and biking
recreational corridor, is another stunning location to enjoy autumn’s vibrant hues. One of the prettiest spots along the trail features a beautiful trestle known as “Abrams Creek Crossing.” When the colors of autumn are at their peak in Bristol, the trail is an ideal photo location.
BEYOND THE BEATEN PATH
While you’re in Bristol breathing in the beauty of autumn, there are plenty of awesome attractions you should visit on your fall adventure. Be sure to stop by the Birthplace
of Country Music Museum, a Smithsonian Institute affiliate, which tells the history of Bristol’s place in music history. If you’re into NASCAR or NHRA racing, a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway is a must so you can check out two of the most revered racing facilities in the world. One of Bristol’s newest and most exciting ventures is the Bristol Casino - Future Home of Hard Rock Hotel. By next summer, the casino will have more than 1,500 slot machines, 75 gaming tables, a poker room, and a 300-room hotel.
While taking in the beauty
of Bristol during the autumn months, also be sure to visit The Pinnacle, the region’s largest outdoor shopping center, historic Downtown Bristol, which features more than two dozen locally owned restaurants, breweries, shopping, etc., and The Falls, home of several recently opened restaurants and shopping opportunities.
For those looking for a longer hike, the South Holston Lake area is close to the famous Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail!
PHOTO CREDITS: JARED KREISS
APPALACHIAN ESCAPES IN ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, VA
From the Blue Ridge to the Alleghenys lies one of the best places to hike mystical mountains, wild woodlands, and scenic valleys. Rockingham County, Virginia is the best of both worlds when it comes to exploring different Appalachian ranges, and everything in between.
WILD AND WONDERFUL TRAILS IN TUCKER COUNTY, WV
When it comes to unforgettable hikes, the Allegheny Mountains are not to be overlooked. Situated in eastern West Virginia, Tucker County offers access to the alluring Alleghenys, the lush Monongahela National Forest, and quaint mountain towns to create lasting memories.
PARKS, FORESTS, AND RIVERS
Bounded by Shenandoah National Park to the East and the George Washington National Forest to the West, Rockingham County offers over 177,000 acres of public lands for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to explore. A popular hike in the famed National Park is Blackrock Summit, which is a moderately challenging one-mile loop to a rocky summit. A similar hike is Bearfence Mountain, which is another one-mile journey to a beautiful rocky summit, but slightly more challenging. High Top Mountain is a lesser known gem, which provides just as amazing views, especially with the changing colors of fall.
In George Washington National Forest, the 71-mile Massanutten Trail offers rugged terrain and sweeping vistas, ideal for panoramic views, ridge exploration, and thru-hiking. Nearby, Massanutten Resort features the 4.5-mile Massanutten Ridge Trail, offering a challenging hike and a sneak peek at winter slopes. After your hike, enjoy refreshments at the
High Top Mountain has a long and short route, based on how adventurous you’re feeling. Park just off of Skyline Drive for a short 2.3-mile out-and-back hike, or start from Swift Run Gap for a 5.6-mile trek.
Resort and explore various lodging options for an overnight stay.
The North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River meander through the county, and also present great hiking opportunities!
OFFROAD AND ON THE FARM
Take an Offroad Jeep tour through the Forest with Terra Overland, or attend one of the many fall festivals and events in the county. Or, spend some time in the fields at White Oak Lavender Farm, Back Home-on the Farm, Mulberry Hills Farm Pumpkin Patch, or Showalter’s Orchard for fall-inspired activities like apple picking, corn mazes, and hay rides.
Make your way to Elkton Brewing Co, Cave Hill Farms Brewery, BrewHaHa Brewing Co, or White Oak Lavender Farm for some tasty craft brews and snacks. The Village Inn, in Harrisonburg, offers guests the chance to spend the night in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. The new Rivers Edge Campground will begin taking reservations in November, and offer RV sites, primitive tent sites, glamping tents, and cabins in 2024.
AN AUTUMNAL ESCAPE
Whether you’re seeking the tranquility of reflective lakeside paths or the thrill of summiting a scenic peak, Tucker County’s autumn hikes promise an unforgettable journey through the heart of Appalachia’s fall splendor. Blackwater Falls State Park is a great place to take in the seasonal changes, as it offers over 20 miles of hiking trails and a 57-foot cascading waterfall as a centerpiece. A popular easy hike is to Lindy Point Overlook , which is a less than a mile out-and-back trek to a picturesque view of Blackwater Canyon. Explore over 47 miles of trails in Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Mighty Monongahela National Forest
This natural area leads you through a diverse range of ecosystems, from open meadows to dense forests, and provides opportunities to discover the region’s unique ecosystems. The Rocky Ridge Trail is a good option for intermediate hikers, as this moderate one-way route leads you over plateaus and offers gorgeous glimpses of the Canaan Valley.
Another great option in Monongahela National Forest is Table Rock Trail , which is a hidden gem, waiting for discovery. This 2.4 mile out-and-back trek leads to 200 degree views of the Red Run Valley and is a great spot to watch a sunrise.
For more scenic views, get a lift from a scenic chair ride to access Bald Knob at Canaan Valley Ski Resort. From the top of the lift, it is just a short, rocky walk to the summit.
Tucker County is also home to excellent biking, fishing, climbing, and other outdoor recreation. Try horseback riding for a unique way to peep the fall foliage, or tear through the vibrant blurs of reds, yellows, and oranges by mountain bike. End your fall outdoor adventures with a stop in one of the many quaint mountain towns in the county. The towns of Davis, Thomas, and Parsons all offer their own taste of West Virginia, with welcoming restaurants, breweries, and places to stay.
The chair ride at Bald Knob covers over 700 vertical feet, that you don’t have to! Take in all the natural wonder on your way up, before ending at 4,308 feet of elevation on the summit.
A METRO MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE
LEISURELY STROLLS AND SERIOUS TREKS IN FRANKFORT, KY
For those who love the outdoors, Kentucky’s capital city invites you to “take a hike.” There are over 40 miles of hiking trails scattered throughout Franklin County. Whether you’re a casual stroller, a brisk walker or a serious hiker, there’s bound to be a trail just for you.
For the casual stroller with art interests, the trails at Josephine Sculpture Park offer an easy walk with outdoor art exhibits. If you are more interested in nature than art, the .5-mile Vaughn Branch Nature Preserve Trail begins in the parking lot and ends at the large sycamore tree – a symbol of the preserve’s forest ecosystem.
Those wanting a bit of a longer hike have several options. Fort Hill in Leslie Morris Park has fascinating features. The 1.2-mile Fort Hill Loop takes hikers on a trek through Civil War history, passing a cave and at the highest elevation, revealing a beautiful view of the city.
Thorobred Trail (1.8 miles) is a scenic paved trail that is great for dog walking and bird
watching. Another place to do a little bird watching while you walk is on the network of trails at Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary. The trails meander through 370 acres of woodlands and meadows bordering the Kentucky River.
INTERMEDIATE AND EXPERT HIKES
For intermediate hikes, you have the Riverview Park Trail and the Lakeview Park Trail. The 1.9-mile Lakeview Trail is relatively easy, with some small hills along the way.
The 1.4-mile Riverview Park Trail is known for its picturesque views of the Kentucky River, running from Ward Oates Amphitheater to Buffalo Trace Distillery. You can plan to end your hike with a tour and tasting at Kentucky’s oldest continuously operating distillery.
For hikers with more time to
spare, consider exploring longer trails like those found at Cove Spring Park, Salato Wildlife Center, Capital View Park Mountain Bike Trail, and West Sixth Farm. Cove Spring Park, spanning 240 acres of wetlands, streams, springs, waterfalls, forested ravines, and 6.7 miles of hiking trails, is a beloved natural playground in Frankfort. The longest trails include Lower Holly Loop, Holly and Osage Loop, and Boardwalk and Creekside Trail, each offering hikes of up to 1.9 miles.
Salato Wildlife Center is a wildlife viewing haven featuring
elk, deer, bison, black bear, bobcats, wild turkey, and bald eagles. It also boasts four miles of hiking trails suitable for all hiker levels. The favorite hike here is the 2.41-mile Pea Ridge Loop, known for its primitive path through cedar and oak/maple/hickory forests, featuring several ascents and descents and described as “moderately to extremely strenuous.”
At West Sixth Farm, you’ll discover four miles of hiking trails alongside hop fields used by West Sixth Brewing. These trails cater mostly to intermediate and expert hikers, but there’s a more
accessible 0.7-mile Farm Loop Trail for a scenic stroll. Additionally, the trails are open for running, hiking, and mountain biking, with the option of enjoying cornhole and disc golf as alternative activities. Whatever your choice of activity, don’t leave without stopping in at the taproom for a cold, local brew and some food from their food truck, West Sixth Cantina!
In addition to the hiking trails, Salato has two fully stocked lakes for fishing, and 12 miles of trails open for both hiking and biking at Capitol View Park. As a bonus, some of the trails provide an excellent view of the Kentucky State Capitol Building!
TRAIL TRANQUILITY IN CAMPBELL COUNTY, VA
Looking for a trail that is unique, accessible, historic, or great for wildlife viewing? Look no further, because Campbell County, Virginia has you covered. With the James River to the north, and the Staunton River to the south, there is plenty to do in between. The terrain is hilly, but not too steep, making for perfect, easy to moderate day hikes in Lynchburg’s Southern Neighbor.
LUSH LANDSCAPES IN CALVERT COUNTY, MD
Tidal wetlands, freshwater marshes, sandy cliffs, meadows and forests are beckoning for exploration in Calvert County, Maryland. The smallest county in the state packs a big punch, as it offers hikers an eclectic assortment of trails to choose from.
PROTECTING OUR TRAILS
Learn about conservation and get free access to 22 miles of trails across a 3,400acre preserve at American Chestnut Land Trust (ACLT). This not-for-profit organization has been dedicated to preserving and caring for Parkers Creek and Governor’s Run watersheds since 1986, and for generations to come. Hike from dawn to dusk everyday throughout the year, and book seasonal guided nature hikes, led by ACLT Master Naturalists and volunteers. Try the newest trail, Holly Hill Trail, for 2.26 miles of blazing with moderate inclines. For more of a challenge, the PF2Bay Trail offers 6.1 miles of forest, ridge tops, and stream valleys to cross, and ends with an overlook of the scenic Chesapeake Bay. Kids and adults alike will love the 2.2-mile North-South Trail, which includes a pulley-system raft across Parkers Creek and six stream crossings!
Catch a glimpse of the Cliffs! Calvert Cliffs State Park is a short drive away from the Land Trust, and includes a portion of the
massive cliffs that dominate the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay for roughly 24 county miles. Formed over 10 to 20 million years ago, the cliffs now reveal the remains of prehistoric species like sharks, whales, rays, and seabirds the size of small airplanes. What was once a prehistoric hotspot, still is for humans! This day-use park features a sandy beach, an accessible recycled tire playground, fishing opportunities, freshwater and tidal marshlands, and 13 miles of hiking trails. Where else can you swim, hike, and look for fossils?
Calvert County has plenty of unique trails for adventurers to delight in. Adults will enjoy the Calvert County Wine & Ale Trail, which has six participating wineries and breweries to visit. The youngins, and those with a sweet tooth, will get a kick out of the Calvert County Sweet Treat Trail From fresh berries and smoothies to baked goods, custard, and kettle corn, your sugar cravings are sure to be satisfied.
With all these options for trails, every kind of hiker is guaranteed to leave Calvert County with lasting memories and a full stomach.
Help the ACLT by volunteering, or attending one of their many special events, guided hikes, canoe trips, or trail runs!
MANY WAYS TO EXPLORE
Before tackling the trails, check out the new Campbell County Outdoor Guide, which highlights recreational activities all around the county. This resource, which can be found on campbellvirginia.com/get-outside, is excellent for discovering the best hiking trails like the new Campbell Caches GeoTrail! This challenge-based activity just opened in September, and gives hikers/ hunters the opportunity to receive a custom challenge coin. The 20 caches can be found around the county along trails, at parks, and in other outdoorsy locations like outfitters and golf courses.
area. For the history-buffs, the half-mile Quarter Place Trail at Patrick Henry’s Red Hill features historical exhibits, foundations of early cabins, and a tobacco curing barn.
On the Campbell County side of Candlers Mountain is Liberty Mountain Trail System, which is a haven for hikers and mountain bikers alike. Explore over 65 miles of single and double track trails and logging roads, which encompass over 5,000 acres and 1,360 feet of elevation. Some trails even offer panoramic views of the City of Lynchburg!
Nature-lovers will enjoy Long Island Park, which is home to a series of trails, including one that winds alongside the Stanton River. The quiet, tranquil setting makes it the perfect environment for bird and wildlife viewing. Also along the River is a wheelchair-accessible paved trail at Altavista’s English Park. Here you can catch glimpses of people fishing and kayaking, and a LOVEWorks installation in the parking CampbellVirginia.com
After a day of hiking, try out the new 18-hole disc golf course at Timbrook Park, or replenish your lost calories at Rosie’s Cozy Kitchen in Gladys, which is a local hidden gem with homemade desserts from banana breads, cookies, and a full range of freshly-baked pies. Get out there and start exploring Campbell County’s greatness on and off the trail.
Don’t forget your furry friends! At Altavista’s English Park, there is a dog-friendly area with doggie waste stations at trailheads.
Hikes at Mill Creek and Cascade Falls also offer excellent fishing opportunities, so be sure to bring your bait and tackle!
NEW TRAILS IN GILES COUNTY, VA
Embark on a trip to Virginia’s Mountain Playground®, where mountains and back roads lead to world-class adventures. Giles County, Virginia is home to 37 miles of the New River and over 65 miles of the Appalachian Trail, so you are sure to never run out of trails to blaze here.
Take in stunning views of the New River Valley on Bald Knob Trail that begins behind Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Virginia. This one-mile out-and-back trail offers plenty of unobstructed views and outcrops to explore, perfect for sunset photo ops. Soon, visitors will be able to visit the Giles Destination Center, which will be located near the Bald Knob trailhead, and utilize the new ADA-accessible path on the trail itself.
For more mountain fun, head to Mill Creek
Nature Park in Narrows, Virginia. Explore 140+ acres full of hiking trails and up to four waterfalls. Cascade Falls is another Giles County hiking hotspot, and for good reason. A scenic 4-mile round trip trail leads hikers to a tumbling 69-foot waterfall, making for a perfect day hike.
Stay at award winning lodging like Mountain Lake Lodge, where Dirty Dancing was filmed, or the internationally known romantic bed and breakfast, Lilly Valley Inn. Hikers have ranked Woods Hole Hostel as the best lodging on the A.T., and it’s also the oldest continuous hostel on the trail!
From the trailheads to the five small downtowns in Giles, this is the destination for adventure seeking, off the beaten path, family-friendly travelers! VirginiasMtnPlayground.com
Grab your binoculars and field guides! Seven Bends State Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with opportunities to spot various bird species along the trails and by the river.
AT MUSE VINEYARDS,
WINE AND WANDERLUST
The Shenandoah Valley has some of the best views in the Blue Ridge, and the best wine! Voted the Best Winery in Shenandoah County, Muse Vineyards is a place where wine and outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy world class beverages and scenic hikes, all in one spot.
Located just 2-miles from Interstate 81, and on the scenic Seven Bends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, this hidden vineyard oasis sits at an elevation of 1,000 feet and rests on Virginia shale and rocky red clay soils. Explore the grounds on a 1.8-mile self-guided trail on the property, or take a trip down to the river for more hiking options.
The Shenandoah River contributes to
the richness of the soil for winemaking, and provides endless fun for outdoor-lovers. Muse is just a half of a mile away from the entrance to Seven Bends State Park, where hikers can tackle trails like the 1.5-mile Bass Bight Trail for an easy hike along the river banks, and the Pawpaw Hollow Trail for a more challenging trek to the 74-mile Massanutten Trail loop.
Once ready to refuel, explore the lunch options and sample a flight of award-winning wine with gorgeous views. Open everyday, and with dinners on Thursdays and Fridays, everyday is a great day to visit one of Virginia’s finest vineyards. MuseVineyards.com
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 49 CONNECT WITH OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS IN OUR DECEMBER-JANUARY DOUBLE WINTER ISSUE! DEADLINE: NOVEMBER 1 Featuring: • Winter Escapes • Gear for the New Year • Winter/ Spring Outdoor Happenings Race and Event Guide • The Perfect Winter Guide (Advertorial) • Peak Pursuits: The 2024 Adventure Wishlist (Advertorial) RESERVE YOUR SPACE TODAY ADVERTISE@BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM/ADVERTISE
BALD KNOB HIKE IS A SHORT OUT AND BACK THAT LEADS TO TOTALLY UNOBSTRUCTED VIEWS FROM THE HIGHEST POINT IN GILES.
Becoming Backpackers in the Great Balsam Mountains
For some novice backpackers, the fall scenery was beautiful, but otherwise this adventure wasn’t pretty.
BY MIKE BEZEMEK
50 BLUE RIDGE
PHOTO BY MIKE BEZEMEK
LEAVES CRUNCHED UNDER our boots as we hiked along Flat Laurel Creek Trail. It was midOctober, and the fall colors were somewhat late and muted for the time of year. Luckily, some pockets of foliage throughout the forest were putting on a scenic show.
We were high in the Great Balsam Mountains on the first afternoon of a two-night backpacking trip. This subrange of the Blue Ridge mostly falls within Pisgah National Forest, roughly between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Brevard, N.C. I was leading the way like I used to as a college wilderness guide. This was my wife Ina’s second time backpacking; her first trip was the previous May, in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Our friends, married couple Boberts and Bridget, had never been backpacking, so
we’d loaned them old packs to give it a try.
In recent years, Boberts and I had done a lot of multiday bike trips. Ina is from Germany and her village just happens to be in a narrow river gorge on a famous long-distance cycling route. This inspired us to pick up two hybrid bikes for traditional touring with racks and panniers. With Boberts and Ina alternating between trips, we’d ridden thousands of kilometers on many top routes across the country, including the Rhine Gorge, the old East-West Inner Border, and the foothills of the Alps.
During one such trip, Boberts and I found ourselves on singletrack trails like those we rode back in the States. This inspired us to join the growing sport of bike-packing by outfitting our mountain bikes with bags for the frame, seat post, and
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 51
TAKING A BREAK TO VIEW A SCENIC WATERFALL. PHOTO
handlebars. One day, while riding together, a thought struck me.
“Boberts,” I blurted. “Have you ever been backpacking? The sport that bike-packing evolved from?”
“You know, I haven’t,” he mused, seemingly surprised by the oversight. “But I’d like to.”
So we decided it was time to swap bikes for boots. Of course, by now I’d learned a lot about Boberts’ adventure quirks. While he’s a beast on a mountain bike, he is—how do I say this—less than graceful on two feet. He’s also a classic over-packer. One day while bike touring along Lake Constance, shortly before climbing into the Alps, he braked hard at a yard sale and began collecting Bavarian beer mugs. I convinced him not to smash four hunks of heavy glass inside his paniers, and I don’t think he ever forgave me.
Sure enough, when we met up at the Flat Laurel Creek trailhead near the Blue Ridge Parkway, Boberts quickly filled my old college pack. All seventy liters, plus the fifteen-liter extender, which is meant for long-distance thruhikes, not mellow weekend outings.
“Sure you need all that stuff?” I inquired innocently, warning him against taking things just because there’s space.
Boberts glared at me and muttered a yes, so off we went. We hiked a leisurely three miles to camp, stopping often to chat, adjust packs, and admire sights like Wildcat Falls. A grunting Boberts drifted toward the back, frequently doing the backpacker shimmy under the shoulder straps, trying to get balanced and comfortable. My best guess was he had four sets of clothes, a beach towel and umbrella, and maybe a set of encyclopedias.
We picked a nice campsite above the creek in a wooded valley between Sam Knob and Little Sam Knob. While building tents, we heard a loud group approach, possibly dragging logs. Turned out to be a plastic rolling cooler bouncing over rocks with the 12-ounce contents sloshing inside. Despite our lack of cooler, our jealous group had a fun night. Eating dehydrated meals. Taking snorts of whiskey. Chatting about trips and plans for tomorrow.
Guide Tricks, Bald Peaks, and Tent Couples
On Saturday morning we followed the creek past its headwaters and ascended to Black Balsam Knob Road. By now, Boberts was ready to shed weight. Recalling an old guiding trick, I’d planned our route like a figure eight, so that we passed our truck on the second morning. That way, anyone could off-load anything they regretted taking. With lightened loads, we turned uphill.
A mile ascent on the Art Loeb Trail, with 400 feet in elevation gain, led us up Black Balsam Knob to a panorama of rolling mountains and ridges. The reason for the wide-open view is that this peak is an Appalachian bald, a summit mysteriously free of trees and mostly covered by grass or shrubs. It’s unclear why some peaks are bald while others nearby are wooded. Various origin theories propose megafauna, human clearing, stock grazing, or a combination of factors. Continuing over a mile along a high ridge took us atop Tennent Mountain. Descending the backside, another mile led to Ivestor Gap where we turned into the Shining Rock Wilderness on Greasy Creek Trail.
It was 5 PM, and I increasingly found myself out ahead. The others were moving slowly, perfectly normal for a first or second trip. They took frequent breaks to rest or pump water from side creeks. My goal had been to reach the East Fork Pigeon River. But the strained faces suggested my planned six-mile day wasn’t realistic. If Boberts’ quirk is overpacking, mine is chronically over-estimating how much mileage can be covered in a day.
With dusk approaching, we surveyed our water containers and found we had enough to dry camp. Reluctantly, we diverted into a grotto in dense foliage, and we broke into tent couples. Their strategy was to set up together, involving a great deal of debate about things like equitably orienting the doors, sliding in poles without stabbing each other, and finding the bag of stakes that were here a moment ago.
Ina and I used to set up our tent that way, and I’m surprised the fabric
PHOTO BY MIKE BEZEMEK
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 53
didn’t melt from all the friction. We eventually found, at least for us, that it goes much better if I build the tent. Then she goes in and sets up the bedding. I was drinking whiskey in my camp chair before Boberts had his rainfly right side out.
“Jealous?” I joked.
“Very,” he declared from under a pile of nylon.
Despite the makeshift camp, it was another fun night in the woods. Our wives smartly went to bed early while Boberts and I stayed up way too late, brainstorming plans for new adventures.
Creek Crossing and Parkway Hitching
Setting out on our final morning, an easy half-mile downhill led to several pristine campsites by a
rushing creek. Had we pushed 20 minutes farther yesterday evening, one could’ve been ours. Instead, a solo backpacker swung in a hammock with the picturesque place to himself.
The original plan was to hike two miles out to a trailhead off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then we’d turn uphill on a four-mile section of the cross-state Mountains-to-Sea Trail along Graveyard Ridge above the Graveyard Fields. To me it still seemed possible. The others had a different perspective.
“Kill me now.”
“Think any graves are available in those fields?”
Message received. Regardless, the decision was settled at our final creek crossing. Bridget had brought trekking poles, which were a big
help the day before when stepping across wet rocks. Ina and I agreed we’d do the same next time. But this final crossing had a fast chute, so I decided to jump. Once across, I was dropping my pack when I heard shouts. Boberts had lost his footing. Now Bridget and Ina were clutching his pack, while he dangled with his legs in the current.
It was a comical position but not dangerous, given the smooth chute dropped into a shallow pool. I had to think quickly. Grab my camera or go help? Sadly, the guide instinct kicked in, and I missed the shot. The only option was what kayakers call a wet exit. Boberts squirmed out of the shoulder straps and slid into the pool, where he landed standing in knee deep water.
“If only you could clip into the ground,” I lamented.
Given Boberts’ soggy boots, the best choice was to hike to the road and hitch to our vehicles. For whitewater paddlers like us, thumbing a ride next to a river is pretty common. But up on the busy Blue Ridge Parkway around milepost 417 during a mid-October Sunday, this didn’t go so well. The first few drivers just stared or rolled up their windows. One guy quietly shook his head. An alarmed family that I approached literally peeled out in front of me with tires squealing. Boberts and I joked that we should have carried PFDs to sling over our shoulders, a common signal between paddlers looking for a ride. Eventually some friendly hikers took pity and let me and Boberts hop in.
We were all backpackers now. Hitchhikers, too.
54 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
BACKPACKERS CREST A GRASSY BALD IN THE GREAT BALSAM RANGE. PHOTO BY MIKE BEZEMEK
Access: 1.7 mile trail
Access: 1.5 mile trail
Access: 1.4 mile trail
Access: short walk or by boat
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 55 This material is based upon work supported under a grant by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in the material are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Appalachian Regional Commission. Explore All the Falls on The Kentucky Wildlands Waterfall Trail: exploreKYwildlands.com or scan
In The Kentucky Wildlands, you’ll find many paths that lead through pristine ancient forests and over mountains rewarding you with spectacular natural wonders, such as the ones on The Kentucky Wildlands Waterfall Trail. VANHOOK FALLS Amazing how the rushing water makes you do the opposite.
Photo: Steve Poynter
Photo: Dustin Robinson
Photo: Steve Poynter
Photo: Rodney Hendrickson
Photo: Jim Ledford
The Long Way
Five Lesser-Known Distance Trails in the Southeast
BY MALEE OOT
SURE, EVERYONE’S HEARD OF the Appalachian Trail—the famous footpath that draws almost three million hikers a year. But it’s not the only long-distance trail in our neck of the woods. The Southeast is crisscrossed with plenty of other lengthy paths, and most of them don’t see many thru-hikers. Here are five options for long hikes with little foot traffic.
56 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
FOOTHILLS TRAIL. PHOTO BY MALEE OOT
Foothills Trail, North Carolina and South Carolina
Winding through northwestern South Carolina and western North Carolina, the Foothills Trail is an extended highlight reel, packed with some of the most spectacular natural wonders in the Carolinas. Bookended by state parks, the 77mile route stretches from Oconee State Park to Table Rock State Park, tracing a stretch of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River, skirting the northern reaches of Lake Jocassee, and perforating the Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area at Jocassee Gorges.
The route is especially rich in flora and fauna, particularly the Jocassee Gorges region, a botanical wonderland renowned for wildflower displays, headlined by seasonally blooming trout lilies, lady slippers, and endemic Oconee bells. The main Foothills Trail is also splintered with more than 35 miles of side trails and spurs, including the 14-mile offshoot linking Sassafras Mountain and
Caesar’s Head State Park, which tops out on 3,553-foot Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina’s highest peak.
Massanutten Trail, Virginia
Located just 75 miles from Washington, D.C., in the George Washington National Forest, Virginia’s Massanutten Trail is an easy weekend getaway—but the 70-mile circuit can also be done as an extended excursion. Created in 2002, through a partnership between the United States Forest Service (USFS), the nonprofit Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, and a handful of local trail organizations, the trail forms a loop around the northern section of Massanutten Mountain, a 50mile long massif that bisects the Shenandoah Valley and splits the Shenandoah River into its north and south forks.
The bulk of the route traces Massanutten’s ridgelines, notched with panoramic promontories offering views of Fort Valley, Great Mountain, and the silhouetted peaks of the Blue Ridge. The loop also
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Hike and explore serene trails with amazing waterfront views. For a full list of hiking trails, visit www.VisitCalvert.com/Hike
RUTH LEADS A HIKE ON THE NORTH FORK MOUNTAIN TRAIL. PHOTO BY MALEE OOT
provides a snapshot of the region’s history. Much of the recreational infrastructure on the eastern side of Massanutten Mountain was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, including stretches of what is now the Massanutten Trail. But portions of the route are hewn from colonial roads used during the American Revolution, and Signal Knob, one of the trail’s overlooks, was also a vantage point used by both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War.
While road access to the route is limited, there are three seasonal USFS campsites along the route, including the Little Fort Campground, the Elizabeth Furnace Family Campground, and the Camp Roosevelt Campground, the location of the country’s first Civilian Conservation Corps camp, established in the spring of 1933. During warm-weather hikes, try
North Fork Mountain Trail, West Virginia
The North Fork Mountain Trail traverses one of the highest ridgelines in West Virginia, tracing the spine of eponymous North Fork Mountain in the Monongahela National Forest. The 25-mile route extends north from Judy Gap to Chimney Top, navigating a patchwork of globally rare plant communities. The mountain is one of the driest peaks in the eastern United States, thanks largely to the summits and ridges of the Alleghenies, which shield North Fork Mountain from weather systems arriving from the West. The dry conditions foster the peak’s floral diversity, which includes red oak forests and ancient barrens studded with pitch and table pines, warped by the winds whipping the
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Conservancy started buying parcels of land on North Fork Mountain in the early 1980s and now manages more than 4,500 acres on the peak, including the Panther Knob Preserve and the Pike Knob Preserve. Beyond the biodiversity, the North Fork Mountain Trail also dishes up some of the most spectacular views in the Mountain State. The western edge of the Great North Mountain is buttressed by a vertiginous wall of Tuscarora quartzite, reaching heights of more than 200 feet and offering expansive views of Seneca Rocks, Germany Valley, and Spruce Knob, West Virginia’s highest peak.
Pine Mountain Trail, Kentucky and Virginia
Traversing one of the most biodiverse peaks in the central Appalachians, the Pine Mountain Trail is slated to become a 120-mile hiking route, linking Breaks Interstate Park and Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. So far, the approximately 80-mile stretch from Breaks Interstate Park to Kingdom Come State Park is complete,
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 59
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NORTH FORK MOUNTAIN TRAIL. PHOTO BY MALEE OOT
and it includes four shelters and five backcountry campsites for thruhikers.
Forming a portion of the 1,800mile Great Eastern Trail, the footpath follows the crest of Pine Mountain, weaving through a patchwork of wildlands, including parks, wildlife management areas, and nature preserves. Today, almost half of Pine Mountain is protected, the result of an effort to create a contiguous conservation corridor extending the entire length of the whaleback ridge, spearheaded by the nonprofit Kentucky Natural Lands Trust. And thanks to this ongoing conservation effort, most of Pine Mountain is still blanketed with contiguous forest, providing critical habitat for native wildlife. Eliminated from Kentucky by the early 1900s, American black bears used the patchwork of habitat on Pine Mountain to recolonize the state, arriving from Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. Today, Pine Mountain is also a critical summer stopover for migratory birds and Rocky Mountain elk, reintroduced to Kentucky from 1997 through 2002.
The 26-mile stretch from Breaks
Interstate Park, appropriately nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the South, to Pound Gap tops out at 3,144 feet on Birch Knob, a promontory studded with an observation deck providing expansive views extending into four different states.
Sheltowee Trace, Kentucky and Tennessee
Conceived as a way for backpackers to trek the entire length of the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Sheltowee Trace was dreamed up by Verne Orndorff, a landscape architect for the US Forest Service tasked with constructing trails and overlooks. The trail was named for pioneer and long-hunter Daniel Boone, who was given the nickname Sheltowee, or Big Turtle, by the Chillicothe branch of the Shawnee. Officially recognized as a National Recreation Trail in 1979, the 343-mile footpath now forms the spine of Daniel Boone National Forest, extending from the protected area’s northern edge to the southern boundary of
the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
Along the way, the interstate trail links a handful of state parks, skirts two massive lakes, and showcases rock arches and secluded backcountry waterfalls. If possible, plan to camp near 68foot Cumberland Falls in southern
Kentucky, a little more than 200 miles from the Sheltowee Trace’s northern terminus. The boxy cascade is about 125 feet wide, and beneath a full moon, the volume of water creates a moonbow, a rare optical phenomenon only observable in a handful of places around the world.
60 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
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THE TIME TRAVELER’S BIKE
BY GRAHAM AVERILL
I DISCOVERED TIME TRAVEL LAST weekend. I was riding bikes with my son at this new bike park 20 minutes outside of town. I was pedaling my plush, full-suspension rig, and my 14-year-old was riding the budgetfriendly hardtail I bought him at the beginning of the pandemic. It fit him perfectly back then, but he’s a foot taller now, so it was like watching a clown ride a tricycle. Needless to say, he was having a hard time keeping up with the group on his toy bike, so at the top of a two-mile long downhill, I switched whips with him so he could let loose and enjoy the descent. He took my full-suspension, I took his hardtail. I’m a good dad like that. Not a great dad who buys his kid a bike that fits, but good enough.
The minute I pointed that hardtail downhill and let the antiquated geometry and 30mm of travel have at the gnarly trail ahead, I knew something was amiss. It was as if I pedaled through some sort of wormhole in the space-time continuum and was instantly taken back to when I first started mountain biking, riding trails on what was basically a glorified ten speed.
The thing about mountain biking back in the 90s—when tires were skinny, suspension was what you got at school, and the handlebars were located right above your front tire—is that you could die at any moment. Those bikes were twitchy and prone to bucking you ass over tits. My son’s crappy hardtail offered the exact same qualities, so it was like stepping back in time, experiencing the near-death rush of the brand-new sport all over again. With just a few pedal strokes, I was in my early 20s again, soaring down the mountain, teetering on the edge of catastrophe. I might as well have been wearing baggie cargo shorts and thinking about scoring tickets to the next Dave Mathews Band show.
It’s amazing how much easier mountain biking is now. I haven’t
gotten any better, mind you, but the gear I use has improved significantly. In 2023, bikes— good bikes, not the kind I buy for my family—do half the work for you. Cushy suspension front and back, mid-fat tires that add traction, bigger wheels that roll over obstacles and carry momentum, dropper posts to lower your center of gravity on the downhills…these machines are state of the art and they make pedaling up and down mountains so much easier.
I haven’t always relied on top of the line gear. There was a time when I actively chose the most rudimentary tools for the job at hand. With mountain biking, I went through a period when I would only ride single speeds. Then I got a bit deeper into the art of suffering and rode fixed gear bikes. For a time, I was obsessed with learning how to telemark ski, but I wanted to learn the most graceful turn in sports on super light cross-country gear—skinny skis with no bindings, no edges, and soft boots that offered no structural support whatsoever. Successfully executing a telemark
turn on this sort of gear requires a mix of sheer athletic ability and the pure, uncompromised heart of a poet. Riding technical singletrack on a fixed gear bike demands Zen-like thoughtlessness. Try it and you will either understand the true nature of the universe or ride straight into a tree.
I rode into a lot of trees.
Was I seeking enlightenment by using these basic tools? Maybe. I certainly tell my kids there’s wisdom to be gained through difficulty, and riding singletrack on a primitive bike with technology from the 1800s is certainly difficult. I don’t know that I’m any wiser from the practice, though.
People who can ski difficult terrain on skinny cross-country skis are badass. People who can ride singlespeeds and fixed gear bikes up and down mountains are badass. But I’m not sure that they know more about themselves or the world than the rest of us. And where’s the line between badass and stupid? If a climber sends a multi-pitch route using pitons, a hammer, and a static line, are they
badass or stupid? What if I went on a five-day backpacking trip carrying all my gear in a sack on the end of a stick, like a hobo from the 30s? Am I badass or stupid?
What did my son learn by riding the bike park on what is essentially a kid’s bike from Walmart? He probably learned that his dad is cheap and needs to upgrade the family’s gear. I did one lap on the thing and promptly called it quits, cutting the day short by a few laps. During my brief time on that primitive bike, I learned that time travel can be dangerous. I learned that it’s a miracle that I made it through the 90s riding essentially the same bike for years before the technology improved. I learned that there are advancements in gear for a reason. I learned I need to buy my son a new bike, so he’ll stop riding my full suspension. Or better yet, he can have my full suspension, and I can get a brand new one for myself.
So yeah, maybe I am a little wiser from riding this old bike. Maybe, for me, enlightenment looks like a brand new full squish whip that will cover up my lack of mountain biking skill.
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 61
AND BACK THROWBACK LESSONS
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR
62 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS Barracks Road Shopping Center Charlottesville GreatOutdoorProvision.com Achieve a Trail Goal! go trail running donate to a land trust climb a rock face go hiking with my dog camp overnight spot some wildlife roast marshmallows take a new trail with the kids start a thru-hike participate in a trail cleanup hike to a waterfall
BY DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN
Ousel Mid Waterproof
Comfy straight out of the box and designed for sloppy conditions these women’s mid hikers are a do-it-all shoe—whether you are striking out on a quick day hike or packing in for a few days. Oboz’s proprietary B-Dry membrane offers up waterproof powers and breathes like a champ (and it’s 100% recyclable). Best of all, the brand plants a tree for each pair of shoes it sells. $165; oboz.com
Rush 2 GTX
Imparting all the guts of a trail runner in a hiking shoe, this baby is the choice for those who want to move fast out on the trails. But don’t think that means it’s not cushy and stable: A recycled mesh upper beefed up with Gore-tex to keep things dry works in conjunction with a pliable outsole that sticks to rocks and roots. The real confidence booster, however, is the DST frame design that keeps your heel in place even in rocky conditions. $199; us.scarpa.com
We just love the way this shoe breathes— making it the kind of kick we don’t mind wearing
even when we are done hiking. Chalk that dreamy fit up to the knitted mesh upper that’s reinforced with Kevlar cables (translation: casual feel with a backbone). Meanwhile, the Pomoca speed hiker outsole propels you forward and rolls down the dirt like a trail runner. $150; salewa.com
Trek Evo GTX Mid
This supercharged boot is just the ticket for rocky scrambles and lighting-strike backpacking adventures. It provides all the DNA of a burly shoe with plenty of ankle support and a sturdy Vibram Rock Trac Sense outsole, but Lowa found ways to cut weight (it’s just 22 ounces per shoe) without sacrificing that hardcore performance. And when it gets messy out there, a Gore-tex liner keeps the muck out. $340; lowaboots.com
Just launched in the U.S., Italian brand UYN is dedicated to using virtually nothing but recycled and all-natural materials in its footwear and apparel. This versatile light hiker proves that
approach shoes can be both comfortable and strong. The merino wool upper wraps around the foot like a sock with breathable superpowers and the supportive sole can take on even the nastiest terrain. $239; uynsports.com
Socks are the greatest pieces of hiking gear we never talk about. (Maybe because they are considered boring Christmas gifts?) There’s nothing dull here: These cush merino socks cool your dogs when you are on the move but stay toasty even when you get them wet or sweaty. $22; swiftwick.com
Aeon LT 25
The perfect pack for a fall day hike, this 1-pound5-ounce hauler can hold all the gear you need for variable weather conditions but won’t weigh you down. Perfectly balanced and easy to adjust thanks to a nifty double-sternum-strap system and mesh ventilation back, it moves with you effortlessly as you sashay down the trail. We also give it big ups for being built with 50% recycled nylon. $140; rab.equipment
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 63 THE GOODS HIKING AND BACKPACKING
Hit the trails hard this fall and be outfitted with the right gear for success. To help you knock out those miles and stay comfy, we present our favorites for hiking and backpacking.
Here’s the perfect pack for both those gearintensive day trips (think hiking into climbing or fly fishing the backcountry with waders) or fast-andlight backpacking excursions. But what we love so much about it is just how good this pack feels on our backs without the bulk of an excessive suspension system. Don’t worry about stuffing it full of gear, either—a central zipper allows you access to anything in the pack. Plus, big outer pockets hold fly rods, trekking poles, and other random gear. $249; mysteryranch.com
Atmos AG 65
Ready for that multi-day backpacking adventure?
Osprey’s Anti-gravity suspension ensures heavy loads stay close to the torso and well balanced, while plus mesh moves air in and sweat out against your back. Smart pockets inside and out help you organize everything from sleeping pads to trekking poles to hydration bladders. Best of all, Osprey’s products are Bluesign certified, meaning they pass stringent sustainability guidelines for both materials and working conditions. $340; osprey.com
Want to run (or just hike in a hurry) over long distances in the backcountry? This well-balanced 12-liter-capacity vest, which weighs just 11 ounces, is going to be your best friend whether you are racing an ultra, training, or just enjoying yourself on the trails. Not only does it fit without shaking and jangling, it’s designed with tapered back panels that wick away sweat. $200; nathansports.com
Aspire Super Stretch
The perfect women’s shell for fall hikes when the weather might get nasty, this light, stretchy shell shucks off precipitation without sweating you out. Credit that performance to the Gore’s Paclite material, made to handle the rigors of athletic movement but still provide the requisite waterproof/breathable pedigree. $300; outdoorresearch.com
MC-2 G Mirror Compass
Don’t make navigation a lost art. Sure, all those apps can help you find and analyze your wilderness paths, but there's no substitute for a good compass. Enter this high-end sighting compass that helps you determine your location and set off towards objectives anywhere on the planet. The clinometer helps you figure out slope angles and a built-in ruler lets you plot accurately on a map. Luddites rejoice! $95; suunto.com
Ganesha Cookstove Project
Tipping the scales at just 7.8 ounces and folding up smaller than this magazine, this clever biomass stove burns sticks and twigs into a contained blaze that boils water in no time. Plus, you won’t have to carry fuel. Beyond camping, the stove can make a big impact in communities across the globe that rely on often dangerous and inefficient wood stoves. $100; ganeshacookstoveproject.com
This startup creating "Latin backpacking food for adventurers with great taste and strong values" offers three hearty, healthy meal
options: Charge-up Chilaquiles, Campsite Lentejas (lentils), and Sunset Caldo (soup). They're easy to rehydrate: We clocked just about 8 minutes until perfect when on a multi-day mountain-running trip. Packed with all the protein, calories, and nutrients we need on big endeavors, they taste amazing— and authentic. $12.50–$35; itacatefoods.com
Whether you are on a big day hike or backpacking, water takes up most of the weight in your pack. Having a water bottle with a built-in filter means you can reduce the amount of H2O you carry and keep yourself protected from contaminants. This stainless steel beauty serves as a fine bottle on its own and the carbon and microfilters get rid of microorganisms and odors. Bonus: LifeStraw funds a child drinking water for a year for each purchase. $60; lifestraw.com
Lite Bathroom Kit
Everybody poops in the woods and having the right equipment to do it with Leave No Trace principles is key. Designed for backpacking (and even day hikes), this smart kit includes a light, low-profile trowel with the mycelium wipes and tablets that fit into the shovel handle. The mushroom-based wipe expands when wet to create a wet wipe, which cleans so much better than toilet paper and actually helps break down the human waste along with the tablets. $35; pactoutdoors.com
64 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
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OUR FAVORITE SONGS IN OCTOBER
New Music from the Blue Ridge and Beyond
BY JEDD FERRIS AND DAVE STALLARD
EVERY MONTH OUR EDITORS
curate a playlist of new music, mainly focusing on independent artists from the South. In October we’re highlighting new tunes from Explosions in the Sky and Wilco.
EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY
Despite the name of this single and their new album (“The End”), the members of post-rock heroes Explosions in the Sky insist they’re not breaking up. And frankly, “Moving On” doesn’t sound like something that would come from a group ready to call it quits, as the cathartic instrumental rock tune builds with layers of tension and release and ultimately crests with an anthemic, optimistic peak. It fits with the best of the band’s catalog, including the beloved tracks from the Friday Night Lights soundtrack. – J.F.
“The Village is Dead”
Greenwich Village just ain’t what it used to be, according to Jonathan Wilson. The folk-rocker and prolific producer (known for his work with Father John Misty and Dawes) laments what happens when the creative class gets priced out of vibrant cultural hubs in this track from his new album, “Eat the Worm.” Despite being bummed out by gentrification, Wilson keeps the song’s arrangement upbeat, with a vintage disco groove and sweeping strings carrying his rousing tribute to displaced artists. – J.F.
SPARKLEHORSE “Evening Star Supercharger”
The musical world was shocked by the 2010 suicide of Mark Linkous, the founder and multi-instrumental pulse
of Sparklehorse. In 2009, not long before his death, Linkous recorded a set of tunes that have, until recently, been obsessed over by fans of the critically acclaimed artist. Released last month, the album features “Evening Star Supercharger,” a tune sublime in both melody and vocal delivery that showcases the genius of a songwriter who tragically left us too soon. – D.S.
Wilco can’t miss these days. After last year’s sprawling epic, “Cruel Country,” the band is back with yet another album, “Cousin,” which came out at the end of last month. The lead single has a comforting breeziness, even if it’s about losing favor with a lover. “I’m evicted from your heart/I deserve it,” sings Jeff Tweedy, as his hushed vocals get sun-kissed by Nels Cline’s shimmering guitar fills. The new album was produced by revered Welsh artist Cate Le Bon. – J.F.
BUTCHER BROWN “This Side of Sunshine”
For over a decade, Richmond’s Butcher Brown have been blending jazz, funk, and soul into their own style of cosmic “solar music,” which happens to be the title of their latest release. Fans of phonk and low-key instrumental grooves should be all over the band’s take on Roy Ayers’ seminal jazz/funk masterpiece “This
Side of Sunshine.” The groove is smooth and laden with keys, horns, and a subtle melodious callback to Ayers’ vocals as the song draws to a close, making the song a perfect backdrop for most any sunny summertime pleasure. – D.S.
BILLY STRINGS AND MOLLY TUTTLE
“Listen to the Radio”
Young bluegrass phenoms Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle honor Nanci Griffith with a heartfelt take on the late songwriter’s “Listen to the Radio.” Tuttle takes lead vocals on the earnest tune about music being an ever-present balm for loneliness, while Strings adds harmony vocals and fleet-fingered guitar runs. The cover comes from the new compilation More Than a Whisper: Celebrating the Music of Nanci Griffith, which also features contributions from Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris. Griffith, who won multiple Grammy Awards and had songs cut by the likes of Dolly Parton, passed away in 2021 at age 68. – J.F.
“Stop Giving Your Heart Away”
Cruz Contreras ventured into a solo career after stepping away from his band the Black Lillies in 2019. “Stop
Giving Your Heart Away” is a strong offering from “Cosmico,” his debut solo release. With vocals delivered over an echoing, reverb-laden guitar line, Contreras beautifully captures the struggle between hope and sadness in a relationship bound for dissolution. Longtime fans will certainly be happy with this new music that has been some four years in the making. – D.S.
LONESOME ACE STRINGBAND “Praying For Rain”
Much of the United States’ eastern seaboard has been plagued by Canadian wildfires in recent months. Those fires, and the drought that exacerbated them, were a bit more immediate for bassist Max Malone. After relocating to rural Canada, Malone and his wife were confronted with an extended dry spell and blazing temperatures. Malone quickly penned “Praying For Rain,” using clawhammer banjo and fiddle and old time harmonies to plead for relief from the crippling heat and lack of rain. The desperation is palpable as Malone and his neighbors deal with the effects of a changing climate. – D.S.
To hear these songs and more, follow the Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Trail Mix playlist on Spotify.
66 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS TRAIL MIX FRESH TRACKS
WILCO RELEASED THE NEW ALBUM “COUSIN” IN LATE SEPTEMBER. PHOTO BY PETER CROSBY
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Crafted by conditions, sharpened by every step. Our mountain gear gives you absolute protection, comfort and mobility, when you really need it.
OCTOBER 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 67
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