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Climbers and scientists team up to protect peregrine falcons.
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New hiking gear for your favorite Blue Ridge trails.
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11 | IF YOU GIVE A TOWN A TRAIL
The pandemic has made many people fully appreciate access to outdoor recreation. With that in mind, we offer a look at new trail projects in motion across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.
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We hope you’re thirsty. BRO’s craft beverage guide features beer, cider, spirits, and wine made in the Blue Ridge.
42 | GOING GREEN
With the demand for CBD continuing to grow, hemp farming is gaining a foothold in Appalachia.
52 | COMMON GROUND
Two hiking friends from Richmond, Virginia, form a group to get more people of color on the trails.
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56 | THE GOODS
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RELYING ON ROCKS BIOLOGISTS AND ROCK CLIMBERS TEAM UP TO PROTECT PEREGRINE FALCONS BY NOAH POULOS
ope? Check. Carabiners? Check. Helmet? Check. Epic rock face? Check. Endangered species nesting on my route? Wait a second… Western North Carolina boasts some of the best rock climbing in the Southeast, but we aren’t the only creatures that use the revered cliffs. Peregrine falcons, the fastest animal on the planet, capable of diving up to 200 miles per hour, rely on steep cliffs and high rock faces to nest each spring. While most peregrines breed farther north or out west, western North Carolina hosts a small population of breeding falcons that nest on some of the most popular climbing hotspots in the region. The intersection between conservation and recreation on these rocks has led to collaboration between the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission (NCWRC) and the Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC), who work together to promote conservation, stewardship, and responsible recreation to protect this sensitive species. Peregrine falcon populations took a nose dive in the second half of the 20th century, largely from the
Peregrine falcon populations took a nose dive in the second half of the 20th century, largely from the use of pesticides like DDT, up until the 1970s. Despite recovering nationally and being removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999, peregrine falcons are still considered endangered in North Carolina due to their small population.
use of pesticides like DDT, up until the 1970s. Despite recovering nationally and being removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999, peregrine falcons are still considered endangered in North Carolina due to their small population. “Peregrines are extremely territorial, so one rock face can only host one breeding pair each year,” says Chris Kelly, an avian biologist with NCWRC, who has been studying the peregrine falcon population in western North Carolina for 15 years. In a review conducted by NCWRC of peregrine falcon nesting results for the 13 years following federal delisting, it was clear that, despite a healthy population of mating pairs, western North Carolina had a problem with nest success. “There could be a variety of causes for this, from predation to competition to a cold rainy spring to disturbance to inexperienced birds to disease
T W O P E R E G R I N E N E S T L I N G S P E R C H E D O N A C L I F F, J U S T D AY S AWAY F R O M T H E I R F I R S T F L I G H T. P H O T O B Y C H R I S K E L L Y
or pests,” says Kelly. “Of those, we really can only influence human disturbance and maybe protect nests from the elements. That brought a new focus to our work and we needed the insights of the CCC.” Mike Reardon, president of the CCC, was excited to foster a partnership. “CCC and NCWRC have communicated about peregrine closures for decades. The recent uptick in this relationship has been the on-the-ground collaboration between us,” Reardon says. This work has taken place at some of the most popular cliffs in North Carolina. At Moore’s Wall in Hanging Rock State Park, “through an unprecedented collaboration, NCWRC trained several volunteer climbers to monitor the north end of Moore’s. The nesting site there was unknown over the past few years. After many monitoring sessions, biologists and trained volunteers confirmed that there was not a nesting site and could therefore be open." In Linville Gorge, an eastern mecca for climbing, the CCC help monitor and assess potential and existing nest sites. After determining that a pair of adult falcons were attempting to nest near Apricot Buttress, “the NC Wall closure was expanded to include Apricot and The Camel features to give the nesting pair a slightly larger buffer during breeding,” Reardon explains. Also in the gorge, “the peregrines OCTOBER 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 9
T OF TH
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( A B O V E ) S TAT E B I O L O G I S T S A N D CLIMBERS ASSESSING MOORE’S WA L L F O R R O U T E C L O S U R E S . PHOTO BY FIXED LINE MEDIA AN ADULT MALE PEREGRINE PERCHES ON A SNAG JUST NEXT T O T H E R O C K FA C E . A D U LT PEREGRINES ARE ABOUT THE SIZE OF CROWS. PHOTO BY CHRIS KELLY
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that breed on Short Off moved their nest to a different part of the cliff. We worked with NCWRC to confirm that the new nesting location did not affect climbing areas and therefore the old closure zone, which did affect climbing areas, was lifted.” The CCC’s conservation efforts are a big part of what they do as an organization. This includes educating their members. “We have had events surrounding conservation, educational flyers about peregrines, [and] climbing guidebooks that focus on conservation elements of climbing,” Reardon explains. “We try to instill a strong LNT (Leave No Trace) ethic in all climbers.” In western North Carolina climbers face a unique set of opportunities and challenges when it comes to getting out on a rock face. “Although we are blessed with many climbing areas, each one is unique and our ‘climbing season’ is temperamental here in N.C.,” says Reardon. Even though the additional route closures, sometimes up to six months, for peregrines, can be frustrating for eager climbers, Reardon believes that as outdoors enthusiasts, most climbers understand the importance of conservation. Kelly agrees, and says, “No one likes to be told that an area is closed and they can’t climb, but most of the climbers who contact me seem excited to report a peregrine sighting. They often express awe and thank us for the work we’re doing.” “As climbers, we share those spaces with other species that are not necessarily used to human interaction,” Reardon adds. “When performed thoughtfully, human interaction does not have to be harmful to those species. Peregrines, and the closure system we have in place, is a great example of that.” 10
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FO O D A N D D R I N K PEO P LE DESTI N ATI O N S B US I N ES S ES EV EN TS National Park | National Forest | State Park | Hiking Trail | Running Trail | Biking Trail | Bike Park Urban Park/ Greenway | Waterfall | Swimming Hole | Lake | Whitewater | Fishing Spot | Climbing Crag Overlook | Place to Watch the Sunset | Birdwatching Spot | Place to Stargaze | Instagrammable Spot Ski Run | Terrain Park | Campsite/ Campground | Kid-friendly Adventure | Pet-friendly Adventure Place for outdoor singles to live |Place to raise an outdoor family | Summit | Instagram-worthy photo spot ADA Outdoor Escape | Adventurer of the Year | Regional Athlete | Fly Fishing Guide | Raft Guide Environmentalist | Physical Therapist | Sports Doc | Bike Mechanic | Coach \ Brewmaster/ Distiller/ Winemaker Food Personality | Photographer/ Videographer | Regional Instagram Account | Regional Solo Artist Regional Band | Regional Outdoor Podcast | Youtube Personality | Ski Resort | Raft Guide Company | Zip Line Fly Fishing Outfitter | Climbing Guide Company | Climbing Gym | Running Store | Bike Shop | Outdoor Shop Resort | Budget-Friendly Lodging | Spa or Wellness Center | Mind/ Body Studio Outdoor Start-Up (Started in 2018 or Later) | Outdoor Club | Educational Outdoor Rec Program Environmental Organization | Outdoor Job | Outdoor Company to Work For | Locally Made Gear | CBD Music Festival (Overall) | Family Friendly Festival | Rowdiest Festival | Weirdest Festival | Costumed Event Toughest Race | Mud Run/ Adventure Race | Running Event (Under 13.1 Miles) | Running Event (Over 13.1 Miles) Triathlon | Bike Race | Climbing Event | Paddling Event | Fly Fishing Event Post-Adventure Hangout Brewery/ Brewhouse | Vineyard/ Winery | Distillery | Cidery | Canned Cocktail | Wine | Beer | Spirit | Cider Beer/ Wine/ Spirits Trail | Local Non-Alcoholic Beverage | Restaurant | Farm-to-Table Restaurant Brunch Spot | Coffee Shop | Burrito or Tacos | Burger | Barbecue | Pizza | Vegetarian Restaurant Beer List | Food Truck | Festival Food | Ice Cream | Farmers’ Market
IF YOU GIVE A TOWN A
CO M MU NIT IES ACRO SS T H E M ID-AT LA NT IC A ND SO U T H E AST AR E BU ILDING MO RE TRA I L S THA N EV ER AS CIT IZ ENS LO O K AHE AD TO TH E F U TU RE O F LO CAL O U T DO O R RECREAT I O N . BY ELLEN KANZINGER
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hen Ben Braman moved to Perry County, Ky., four years ago, he was used to wideopen spaces and miles of trail. “I grew up in Michigan, moved to Colorado, lived in Montana,” he said. “Those are traditionally places where outdoor adventure is just a way of life. When we moved here, the mountains are absolutely gorgeous, but we have very limited access. Everything was developed for one reason, and that was to mine coal. There wasn’t a lot of city planning or community planning for actually getting out and recreating for non-motorized use in this area.” In early 2016, Perry County received a Recreational Trail Program grant. The county was responsible for matching the $100,000 grant with in-kind labor, materials, and professional services to build a 3.1-mile trail system at Perry County Park. Braman quickly got involved with the project, helping to design the trails and develop volunteer teams. The trail project became a collaboration between county HIKERS AND BIKERS EXPLORE HERRING RUN TRAIL IN BALTIMORE, M D . P H O T O B Y S I D E A P H O T O G R A P H Y, C O U R T E S Y O F R A I L S - T O T R A I L S C O N S E R VA N C Y
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officials, the community, and Pathfinders of Perry County, a local nonprofit dedicated to community engagement and outdoor recreation, which Braman now chairs. “It’s a labor of love,” he said. “It really started with just an absolute need to get out and stretch my legs.” Due to quick, widespread community support, Perry County was able to stretch the original 3.1mile trail system into six miles. “I’ve lived in a lot of different communities,” Braman said. “Southeast Kentucky gets a bad rap. But there are a tremendous amount of people working to change that. This community really is behind it. And the kids are behind it. What‘s very exciting is to see the youth that are out there helping day in and day out with all sorts of tasks. That’s the big buy in.” Members of the Perry community contributed to the trail development in a variety of ways, from donations and providing meals to backbreaking physical labor cutting natural surface trails through the Appalachian Mountains. With COVID-19 highlighting the need for close-tohome recreation opportunities, investments like this are more important than ever. Trails and greenways
Trails and greenways are seeing increased use across the country as walkers, runners, and bikers seek out recreation spots they don’t have to drive hours to reach.
are seeing increased use across the country as walkers, runners, and bikers seek out recreation spots they don’t have to drive hours to reach. In addition to building the trails, the county also applied to the Kentucky Trail Town program offered by the Kentucky Department of Tourism. Seth Wheat, the state’s director of tourism development, said the program is similar to those that created the Great Allegheny Passage Trail Towns and national park gateway communities. From a tourism standpoint, it’s all about connecting outdoor recreation opportunities with nearby towns to create a significant economic impact. But it’s also beneficial for the people who live in the towns. “We've seen people in the community become
more aware of what's in their own backyard,” Wheat said. “We're seeing folks utilize these things, which is vitally important. First and foremost, if you are going to be doing these things, it should benefit the local community before benefitting visitors.” The program is also designed to encourage trail communities to work together on regional projects. “If I have a trail town down on a river or a creek, working with the people that are upstream and downstream of me makes a coordinated effort, so that we're all singing from the same hymnal providing complementary services,” Wheat said. Programs like Kentucky Trail Towns are just one way towns
Discover Your Backyard
and states are leveraging outdoor recreation to promote jobs, tourism, and a healthier lifestyle. With the opening of the trail system last year, Perry County started offering boat rentals on the North Fork Kentucky River. “In our first year, we had over 200 people rent kayaks and float our little section to the park,” Braman said. “So there is a need here. We never had that recreational infrastructure that we’re working so hard right now to develop.” But Perry County isn’t satisfied with just six miles of trails. Now they’re focusing on a rails-to-trails system that would start in downtown Hazard and run six miles outside of town, connecting downtown amenities, subdivisions, and the technical college to recreational spots. “We’re all trying to work together to give people more of an option when they come down to southeastern Kentucky,” Braman said. “We have a ton of land, beautiful land. We’re only an hour from Red River Gorge. It’s really just about land access right now, educating people
While many trail projects aiming to enhance local communities are in development, there are currently plenty of multi-use paths to explore around the region. Will Skelton Greenway, Tenn. This paved greenway connects several natural areas in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness along the Tennessee River, including Island Home Park, Ijams Nature Center, and Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area. Hike another 12 miles of natural surface trails at the nature center, or check out the climbing crag, a river boardwalk, and picnic spots.
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Take The Path Less Traveled Get Outside in Norton, Virginia
Get Outside in Norton for your next road trip! Nestled beneath High Knob, the highest point in the Cumberland Mountains, Norton is a short drive from more than 100 miles of hiking trails spanning the city’s Flag Rock Recreation Area and the Jefferson National Forest. Learn more at www.nortonva.gov/ hiking.
Instagram: @nortonvirginia OCTOBER 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
that we can come through your private piece of land if you’re not using it and protect you from liability.”
CONNECTING CITIES AND REGIONS
As more cities implement this type of infrastructure project, advocates are looking beyond the recreational benefits of trails. Before joining the Rails to Trails Conservancy, Ethan Abbott was a recreation programmer for Baltimore City Recreation and Parks. “At outdoor rec, we really tried to address the city’s most disenfranchised communities,” he said. “They have recreational opportunities around them, or close to them, but for some reason or another they don’t feel like they’re made for them or designed for them.” Now as the Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition Project Manager, Abbot is continuing his work to bring outdoor recreation to more of the city’s residents. The greenway project aims to connect the city’s neighborhoods, amenities, and parks through existing trail infrastructure and new corridors. Of the 35 miles needed to link the entire city, 25 miles already exist as established trail systems on their own. Once the final 10 miles are completed, Abbott estimates the trail network will link about 80 neighborhoods, 4,000 acres ( L E F T ) T H E S I T E O F T H E N E W H E Y WA R D C O M M U N I T Y F O R E S T I N C H A R L O T T E S V I L L E , VA . P H O T O B Y E L L E N K A N Z I N G E R ( R I G H T ) H E R R I N G R U N , A S E C T I O N O F T H E B A L T I M O R E G R E E N WAY T R A I L S , O F F E R S A N A L T E R N AT I V E T R A N S P O R TAT I O N M E T H O D F O R R E S I D E N T S . P H O T O B Y S I D E A P H O T O G R A P H Y, C O U R T E S Y O F R A I L S - T O - T R A I L S C O N S E R VA N C Y
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of green space, universities, the Inner Harbor, and countless other destinations around Baltimore. In addition to the recreational benefits, the completed greenway system would improve current transportation infrastructure within the city. “The bus system, which is pretty extensive, happens to be a bit overworked and may not be that reliable all the time,” Abbott said. “We have an outdated metro system, which in the past few years has seen a need for maintenance but also dwindling ridership numbers. We have a light rail system that only goes north and south, which is great if you’re trying to travel in those directions. But the problem with that is north and south is largely along the economic center line that goes from downtown straight north into the suburbs. It eclipses literally all of east and west Baltimore, which are your lower income neighborhoods. So it really does disenfranchise a lot of the city.” Those working on this project see the trail network as an opportunity to address some of
Discover Your Backyard Pennypack Trail, Pa. Follow Pennypack Creek for 16 miles on this rail trail with something for everyone along the way. Walk, run, bike, or crosscountry ski over hills and through multiple parks in the Greater Philadelphia Area. The trail ends at the Delaware River where you can fish off the pier.
the systemic issues that have left many of the city’s residents out of the loop for decades. Abbott said of the city’s 600,000+ residents, roughly a third do not own a vehicle. “That’s quite a significant amount that does not have a reliable method of personal transportation,” he said. If it were easier and safer to walk or bike to work, residents would have another option for commuting. Throughout the entire planning process, coalition members have based their plans around community input. “Not just community input from communities that have high dollars, which translates to more talking power and clout, but really any community,” Abbott
Enoree Passage, S.C. This section of the Palmetto Trail takes hikers and bikers 36 miles through Sumter National Forest. Keep your eyes out for a beaver pond, multiple lakes, and views of the Enoree River as you travel the corridor.
PHOTO BY BRAD DEEL
From cool mountain streams to sweeping scenic vistas, find your WanderLove in Scott County.
OCTOBER 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
Discover Your Backyard
“There’s no turning back after this,” Abbott said. “Going forward, it’s a significant change in how people interact and live on a daily basis. I think this trail project is ready for that.”
said. “The onus is on us to actually go out and make sure that outreach happens. That’s one of the overarching themes of this whole thing is the power of listening and amplifying voices.” That means connecting with everyone, even residents who might not support the project. Whether the greenway network takes a few years or a few decades to be completed, Abbott said COVID has altered the way local governments are thinking about and prioritizing recreation and transportation infrastructure. As more residents turn to the outdoors for physical activity, there is potential in existing amenities as well as those still in the planning process. “There’s no turning back after this,” Abbott said. “Going forward, it’s a significant change in how people interact and live on a daily basis. I think this trail project is ready for that.” In other places, trail advocates are looking at broader, regional trail planning. Tristan Winkler,
Oconee Rivers Greenway System, Ga. A mixture of paved, multiuse paths, and natural surface hiking routes make up this network of trails. From the University of Georgia’s campus in Athens to extensive swamps with winding boardwalks, you’ll experience a variety of terrain along the way. White Oak Rail Trail, W.Va. A true connector route, this eight-mile rail trail links the three central West Virginia communities of Oak Hill, Summerlee, and Carlisle along a paved and packed gravel path. You’ll find more trails nearby in the New River Gorge.
K E N T U C K Y ' S M A M M O T H C AV E N AT I O N A L PA R K H A S G R E A T H I K E S F O R T H E W H O L E F A M I L Y. P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F K E N T U C K Y D E PA R T M E N T O F TOURISM
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INCORPORATING TECHNOLOGY INTO THE TRAIL For many, trails offer an escape from the modern technologies that dominate our dayto-day lives. But two Virginia trail systems are looking to technology as a way to enhance engagement with natural spaces.
E N J O Y T H E V I E W S F R O M H O G G O V E R L O O K I N L E T C H E R C O U N T Y, K Y. P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F K E N T U C K Y D E PA R T M E N T O F T O U R I S M
director of the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, is working on the Hellbender Trail. The plan is to connect five counties in western North Carolina, including the communities of Asheville, Hendersonville, and Brevard, through 150 miles of greenways. “It bubbled up from the local levels,” Winkler said. “There have been a lot of bicycle, pedestrian, and greenway plans done in the different municipalities and jurisdictions in our region. We looked at all of these local plans and saw if you start to stitch them together, you really start to put together a big regional system.” Other multi-use long distance trails in the region, like the C&O Canal Towpath and Virginia Creeper Trail, have proven to be big draws for recreationalists looking for multi-day adventures. The Hellbender Trail 18
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
focuses on connections across county lines, a sort of interstate system for pedestrians and cyclists. “A lot of the data that we see is suggesting that our region is becoming more and more regional,” Winkler said. “The number of people living and working within their own counties is decreasing across the board. We're seeing more and more people crossing jurisdictional lines to get to work.” Although the Hellbender Trail will take years to complete, as each locality has to find the funding to actually put in the trails, there is momentum for community development projects around recreation. “We have seen a lot of people turn to walking, biking around as kind of an outlet,” Winkler said. “I think the safer infrastructure we can provide, the more we might see that carryover post-pandemic. A lot of places in our region have similar visions. And so the Hellbender kind of helps to recognize that your community is not alone in that push.”
At the State Arboretum of Virginia in Boyce, a new geocache trail takes visitors on a scavenger hunt through the unique ecosystems of the property. Jack Monstead, the arboretum’s assistant curator, said the goal of the new trail is to get people out to places they might never have experienced. “We have a lot of really cool natural areas, especially some nice woodlands and meadows that people just don’t visit because they are away from the core, main area of the arboretum,” he said. “We wanted to give people a reason to go out and explore some of these cool natural features that we have.” Solving the puzzle at each location unlocks information about that site and gives users clues that will lead them to the next stop. “We wanted to find a way to engage people and help people think about nature and ecology in a more interactive way,” Monstead said. “A lot of the places that you go to will have some interesting natural phenomenons happening, whether it's a really impressive fallen tree or a meadow that naturally arose in an area.” Just down the road in Charlottesville, trails at the new Heyward Community Forest will connect existing pathways at Ragged Mountain Natural Area, Foxhaven Farm, and Birdwood Golf Course. It’s what Charlottesville Parks and Trails Planner Chris Gensic refers to as the missing link that will fill in the donut hole. Although Charlottesville is less than an hour from Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, the community forest is an important piece in creating local destinations for residents. “Not everyone has the means to get out to Shenandoah,” Gensic said. “Even though you can see it from here doesn’t mean you have a car or have time to get all the way out there before you even start hiking.” One stipulation of the grant used to purchase the property is that plans include an environmental education component to teach visitors about the importance of forests in ecosystems. “Trails are being designed to go close enough to rock outcrops or special areas of trees, without messing with those ecosystems, to get people close enough to see them and educate themselves about the geology, ecology, and human history there,” Gensic said. Over the winter, they will start planning a series of educational posts along the trail. Instead of a traditional information kiosk, the posts would have a QR code that hikers could scan with their smartphones to learn more about the area. Building out the text online would allow the parks department to easily update the information or add interactive elements. If the posts are a success at the community forest, Gensic said they might look at implementing similar components at other city parks.
pedal forward B I K I N G A DVO CAT E DONNA IANNICELLI DISCUSSES B R E A K I N G R AC E BARRIERS IN COMPETITIVE CYC L I N G BY ELLEN KANZINGER
onna Iannicelli has always been fascinated with bikes— particularly tricked-out downhill rigs that test limits on steep trails. Growing up, she had a friend who followed extreme sports. That’s how she first learned about Missy “The Missile” Giove, a downhill racer and one of America’s first mountain bike stars. The more she read about the sport, the more Iannicelli began to get into the technology behind the bikes and crave the adrenaline that comes with barreling down the mountain. “Cycling is euphoric and empowering,” Iannicelli said. “You and your bike become one mind, body, and spirit.” Yet when she told people she wanted to be a downhill mountain biker, Iannicelli said people didn’t understand her desire. “Why don’t you go play basketball?” she said was a frequent response. So the rebellious part of Iannicelli was attracted to the idea of breaking barriers in the world of extreme sports. “The lack of African American women—there are none in this industry that are elite level athletes,” she said. But in the wake of the country’s widespread reckoning with systemic racism, that could hopefully start to change. In August, USA Cycling announced a new partnership with Black Girls Do Bike. With over 90 chapters across the country, the partnership includes racing, coaching, and event support for Black Girls Do Bike members. “Black Girls Do Bike is an amazing organization because they are spread across so many different levels of the sport,” said Bouker Pool, USA Cycling’s chief commercial officer. “Managing our Olympic and national teams, we can utilize our resources
to help them get a racing team that reflects their objective.” One initiative is to create a feeder program for kids to see themselves as cyclists. "If you named the Black professional racers, you could probably do it on one hand currently," said Monica Garrison, founder of Black Girls Do Bike. "If you don’t see people who look like you accomplish something at an elite level, somewhere in the back of your mind you assume that maybe you can’t do it or people don’t want you to do it." At the beginning of 2020, Ayesha McGowan became the first African American female pro road cyclist. But Iannicelli said there isn’t anyone like that on the competitive downhill racing side. “Just getting girls interested in sports and keeping them interested will be a challenge because the role models are not there outside of the WNBA, women’s boxing, and a few other sports,” she said. “There are no mainstream role models in cycling.” Although she doesn’t see herself reaching the competitive level, Iannicelli is working to educate the public on the challenges and barriers to getting into this sport. She talked with BRO about her experience and the world of downhill mountain biking. BRO: What do you think is important for readers to understand about you and your desire to race competitively? Iannicelli: I work a blue-collar, manual labor job that doesn’t pay very well. Most of the money I earn has to go to my rent and my expenses. So there really isn’t any disposable time
or income left over to participate in anything outside of riding my bike in the street at the recreational level. Anything outside of that, taking any risk, that’s unlikely. I need my limbs to work because I lift boxes for a living. If I take a risk and I injure myself, then I have to eat that. That’s on me. I have to be fully responsible for what I’m doing. You’re dealing with a sport that has a high injury threshold. You need to have access to resources. BRO: A number of organizations, including Black Girls Do Bike and All Mountain Brothers, have popped up in the last decade encouraging more people to get out on bikes. How does recreational cycling differ from the competitive side of cycling? Iannicelli: That’s cool if you want to just ride your bike around the street or if you want to hang out with your friends. That’s all fine and dandy. But if you’re talking about becoming an elite-level athlete, or even just a basic competitor, you’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars in training, coaching, diet, health insurance, because you’re going to fall and get injured. There are entry fees for racing. You need money to travel to these races. You need a place to live while you’re doing this. All of that has to be supported. If you don’t have that, you’re not going to be able to move up in an industry like that. You need a sizable chunk of disposable income even if you’re just doing something like this as a hobby.
B I K I N G A D V O C AT E D O N N A I A N N I C E L L I D I S C O V E R E D H E R L O V E O F B I K I N G AT A N E A R L Y A G E . P H O T O COURTESY OF IANNICELLI
people to understand the barriers in downhill mountain biking? Iannicelli: There’s a lack of community education as far as what the public understands about downhill mountain bike racing, general mountain biking, and extreme sports. It’s hard to explain that to a person where they don’t even know where to begin with a topic like that. They think downhill mountain bike racing is road cycling. They think it’s like the Tour de France. It’s not just hopping on a bike and going to a race. There are so many things that need to be handled before you do something like that. This is the part usually where most folks do not want to acknowledge what the issues are.
BRO: How do you see cycling, especially on the competitive side, becoming a more inclusive and welcoming space? Iannicelli: Inner city youth from marginalized, disadvantaged communities would have to get access to competition-level equipment and the cycling infrastructure itself. The infrastructure consists of coaching, mentors, professional equipment, bike training facilities, bike mechanics, cross training, strength and conditioning, health insurance, and resources for travel and lodging. These changes would have to be addressed and implemented through the USA Cycling governing body, and its high-ranking officials and affiliates BRO: What do you see as one of the that control the cycling industry. biggest challenges in getting more OCTOBER 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 19
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BACKCOUNTRY BEVERAGES A DV E N T URE - RE ADY CRAFT BE E R , C I DE R, S P IRITS , AN D WI N E F R OM THE BLU E RID GE B Y G R A H A M AV E R I L L
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veryone knows that the Southern Appalachians are stacked with world-class outdoor adventure, but within the last decade a craft beverage scene has set roots in the same mountains we love to explore. Finding a craft brewery or distillery in a small mountain town is no longer a novelty; it’s an established part of your adventure. It might be difficult to visit some of those breweries right now, but you can still enjoy their products in the wild. Here are some of our favorite local beverages that are perfect for the backcountry, whether you’re sipping from a flask during a backpacking trip, or having cold beer at the trailhead after a singletrack session.
Rising Haze IPA
Highland Brewing, North Carolina With new breweries popping up all over the region at a steady clip, it’s easy to overlook standard-bearers like Highland Brewing, which has been making outstanding beers in Asheville for more than 20 years. Highland revamped their IPAs a few years ago, and their newest, Rising Haze, is the culmination of those efforts. It’s a New England style hazy IPA that leans heavily into citrus like mandarin oranges. It goes down smooth, but watch yourself; this beer is a stealth 7% ABV.
Air Drummer New England IPA
Starr Hill Brewery, Virginia Another old-school brewery that has reinvented itself in recent years, Starr Hill releases the smooth and slightly malty Festie every fall, but the Virginia
brewery is also making some of my favorite IPAs right now. Their year-round Northern Lights IPA is a testament to balance, but for something on the hazy side of the spectrum, check out their new, limited release Air Drummer. The 7.2% juice bomb is soft and pillowy and rooted firmly in a Florida citrus grove. Bonus: it’s packaged in big boy 16-oz. cans.
Goodwood Brewery, Kentucky Louisville Lager is the only beer grown with 100% Kentucky-grown grains, which is cool in its own right, but what truly separates this beer from other lagers is the fact that it’s aged on white ash, the same wood Louisville Slugger uses in their legendary bats. The results are far more complex than your typical lager as there’s an almost wintergreen element working its way through the beer, but it’s still an easy drinking 4.2%.
The Veil Brewing Co., Virginia The Veil is known for their super fruity, pretty high ABV double IPAs, which are incredible, but not necessarily the thing you want to pair with an adventure. Because you know, safety. Enter Vein, a new Pilsner that uses the traditional Saaz and Tettnaang hops to deliver a crisp, light beer that will make you think it was imported straight from the Czech Republic. H I G H L A N D B R E W I N G WA S O N E O F T H E B L U E R I D G E ' S F I R S T C R A F T B R E W E R I E S . A L L P H O T O S B Y G R A H A M AV E R I L L
Classic Belgian Style Ale
Blackberry Farm Brewery, Tennessee Blackberry Farm has been making incredible Belgian style beers in big format bottles for years. They are delicate beers in fancy bottles that I have a hard time drinking outside of a special occasion. But now the brewery is putting many of their beers in adventure-friendly cans. I’ve never had a bad beer from Blackberry Farm, but you should start with their flagship, Classic Belgian-Style Ale, a light and bready Saison that tastes like summer. Seriously.
Westbrook Brewing Company, South Carolina Westbrook, a coastal South Carolina brewery, is singlehandedly responsible for my love of Gose beers, an old school, slightly sour style that has enjoyed a resurgence in the US during the last few years. Now, the brewery is putting their spin on another ancient German style, the Helles Lager, a golden-colored lager that plays up the malt, making it the perfect beer for a slightly chilly fall day. Westbrook’s version is an act of subtlety—not particularly crisp or bitter, just smooth caramel and a post-adventure friendly 4.2% ABV.
Astral Body Imperial Stout
The Eighth State Brewing Company, South Carolina Here’s what’s great about the craft beer world in 2020: “Pastry Stout,” dessert-like dark beers, is a
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legitimate category. And Eighth State, in Greenville, South Carolina, is a master at the rich, sweet style. Their new collaboration with Modern Times hits the sweet spot of the “pastry” category by delivering delicious notes of vanilla and coconut. Some drinkers say it tastes like a candy bar, and that’s ok with us. Just remember that this candy bar is actually an imperial stout with a 13.3% ABV. It’s also released in a big bottle format, so maybe this is the special beer you stash in the cooler while car camping.
Lay Low IPA
Reclaimed Rye Amber Ale
Creature Comforts Brewing Co., Georgia The amber ale is an interesting category because it’s so damn easygoing that it has become a sort of gateway beer for newbie craft beer drinkers. New Belgium’s Fat Tire is the best example—a beer that has been wooing people away from Big Beer for decades. Reclaimed Rye, from Creature Comforts, has that mass appeal quality, but is also far more interesting than the standard amber ale because it’s aged on French oak. In addition to the toasted bread and vanilla notes that make ambers so popular, you also get some spice and tannins from the wood, making it perfect for fall campfires. And it’s just 5.5%, so you can have more than one.
Monday Night Brewing, Georgia There was a carefree time in my life when I sought out beers with significant ABV, but these days I’m super curious about the low-ABV craze. Because I have kids and I have to work in the morning. Enter Lay Low, a diet-friendly IPA that comes in at a scant 3.2% ABV and just 90 calories. That’s like drinking a Bud Light, but so much tastier. Think crisp and light, without a lot of depth, but plenty of hop zing. Oskar Blues, North Carolina You can’t talk about beers in the backcountry without giving a nod to Oskar Blues, the brewery that created the category with Dales Pale Ale, the first craft beer to be distributed in a can. Thanks to Dales, we no longer had to take crappy beer in the woods with us. The brewery also helped usher in the session IPA craze with Pinner, a 4.9% IPA that hasn’t been on the market since this time last year. They’re bringing the popular beer back this fall inside 12 Packs O Bliss, a variety pack that also has cans of Can-O-Bliss Rotator, Can-O-Bliss Resinous, and Double COB Can-O-Bliss.
Noble Cidery, North Carolina There are two kinds of people in the world—cider lovers and the people who haven’t tried the right cider yet. Some ciders can be too sweet, but Noble is an Asheville-based cidery that presses their own juice from local apples and cuts the residual sugar, so the product is more balanced than some other options. Golden Arrow also uses fresh ginger for a spice that helps balance the apple’s natural sweetness. The result is dry, effervescent, and damn good.
Copper Mug Mule
Bold Rock Hard Cider, Virginia Bold Rock’s ciders have become a staple throughout the Southern Appalachians, but their new line of canned cocktails is even more promising. The Copper Mug is a twist on the Moscow Mule, using ginger beer, an American-made vodka, and lime juice. The Mule is one of the most versatile cocktails on the menu; it’s tasty and refreshing regardless of the season, and having that cocktail in a can chilling in my cooler makes it all the easier to enjoy. C R E AT U R E C O M F O R T S M A K E S P O P U L A R B R E W S , L I K E R E C L A I M E D R Y E A M B E R A L E , I N AT H E N S , G A .
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Stroll through history at the Old City Cemetery then debrief with a pint at Starr Hill on Main!
This is Lynchburg. In Lynchburg, we love to spend our time outside along the shaded paths and creeks of our 40 miles of urban trails, and refueling with yummy chef-inspired fare or sipping locally brewed goodness. Come see why our local adventurers love this city so much. lynchburgvirginia.org
Find your MAD WanderLOVE, the strong desire to travel to and through Madison. Take a road trip! Come for the hiking, history, artisans, scenery, fishing, breweries, wineries and more. Stay in a B&B, cabin, camper, RV, lodge, vacation rental house, tent or even a yurt!
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Catoctin Creek Distillery, Virginia Yes, beer is the typical backcountry beverage, but a flask full of whiskey is standard operating procedure, especially if you’re backpacking and looking to shave weight. I’ve been filling my flask with Roundstone Rye, an 80-proof made by Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, Virginia, that can hold its own against any of the big-boy producers out of Kentucky. It has enough spice to stand up in all sorts of cocktails, but is well-balanced enough to drink neat while sitting by a campfire in the middle of a backpacking trip.
Blanc de Blanc
Muse Vineyards, Virginia Muse Vineyards is a worthy diversion on its own, thanks to its location in the Shenandoah Valley near Seven Bends State Park and the nearly two miles of hiking trails that meander through the European-style vineyard. Don’t fret if you can’t make it to Muse in person at the moment; a chilled bottle of their Blanc de Blanc (which won gold at last year’s Shenandoah Cup) is the perfect accompaniment to that romantic sunset hike. Bring a blanket, some charcuterie and let this Chardonnay work its magic.
Enjoy a post-adventure beer or cocktail with this clutch gear. RovR KeepR Think of the Keepr as a picnic basket for booze. A handful of lined compartments make it easy to transport bottles without banging them around, while the center of the KeepR holds an insulated ice bucket that keeps ice cold for hours. The KeepR has singlehandedly transformed cocktail hour, whether my wife and I are strolling to the end of the neighborhood for a sunset view or car camping on the edge of a lake. Just because you’re in the woods doesn’t mean you can’t have a cocktail. You’re not an animal, after all. ($139; rovrproducts.com) Icemule Traveler Large rotomolded coolers are heavy, cumbersome and overkill unless you’re camping for days on end. For quick excursions and post-ride beers, I prefer the Traveler, a soft-sided cooler that holds 25 liters of beer and ice in a small package you can actually handle without the help of a buddy. There’s even a shoulder harness if you want to hike with the cooler on your back. ($199; icemulecoolers.com)
TRANSPORT YOUR BACKCOUNTRY BEVERAGE OF CHOICE IN THE I N N O VAT I V E R O V R K E E P R .
Hydro Flask Cooler Cup This is the most versatile piece of equipment in my kit. It works as a coffee mug, a koozie or a cocktail tumbler depending on the time of day and beverage at hand. It holds 12 oz. of hot or cold liquid or can handle cans or bottles. ($25; hydroflask.com) High Camp Firelight Flask Don’t think of the Firelight as a standard flask. Think of it as cocktail hour to go. The stainless steel container holds 750ml of liquid and has two tumblers that magnetically attach to each of its ends. I load the Firelight with a pre-batched cocktail, like a Negroni, and can backpack a couple of civilized drinks deep into the backcountry. ($125; highcampflasks.com) VSSL Flask VSSL makes emergency kits packed into strong, waterproof military-grade aluminum tubes. You can customize the gear you tuck inside, or you can go with the flask setup, which includes a bottle opener, two collapsible shot glasses, and space for a few ounces of booze. You also get a compass and flashlight, because safety first. ($67; vsslgear.com) OCTOBER 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
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Paddle Lake Jocassee in the fall for views of the changing leaves. Photo courtesy Lake Hartwell County
L A K E H A RT W E L L C O U NTRY, SC
PHOTO COURTESY GETTY IMAGES
Tucked away in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of South Carolina, Lake Hartwell Country is home to sweeping vistas, powerful rivers, and refreshing lakes. Take in the grandeur of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, or the Blue Wall, where the mountains drop a dramatic 2,000 feet in less than half a mile to the foothills below. Due to this drastic change in elevation, the area has a higher concentration of waterfalls than anywhere else in the country. Choose from a variety of hikes, ranging from easy to strenuous, to see the tumbling cascades up close. From mountain streams and waterfalls to the peaks of nearby mountains, hike miles of trail at Table Rock State Park. Encounter wildlife and quiet mountain trails at Oconee State Park. Both parks provide additional access for fishing, paddling, and camping. Traverse the escarpment along the Foothills Trail, a 77mile trail connecting the Table Rock and Oconee state parks. Along the way, you’ll cross through the Jocassee Gorges where streams cut these rugged gorges over thousands of years. Delight in the views of more than 130 species of wildflowers in bloom at Nine Times Preserve. In the spring, keep your eye out for the rare Oconee Bell flowers at Devils Fork State Park. Cross the natural bridge and take in the views of the lake at Keowee-Toxaway State Park. There are so many other spots to explore when you visit Lake Hartwell Country, including paddling Lake Jocassee, Keowee, and Hartwell, whitewater rafting the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River, and driving the picturesque and winding backroads. Stop by the Chattooga River Fly Shop for gear rentals, flies, and more while you’re in the area.
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AP R ÈS HIK E Try Belle’s Bistro for a midday meal featuring delicious sandwiches and cheeses made in house. Grab a slice of artisan pizza to go from Humble Pie. Sample a little bit of everything at Pumpkintown Mountain Opry, from smoothies and local roasts to mouthwatering barbecue. Finish up your day with a taste of the South Carolina mountains. Order a craft beer from Jocassee Valley Brewing Company or Appalachian Ale House as you snack on pub food and listen to live music. Head to Lazy Bear Winery and Victoria Valley Vineyards for a wine tasting or a bottle to go. Find peace and adventure in the land by the Blue Wall when you getaway to Lake Hartwell Country. South Carolina is just right! LakeHartwellCountry.com
ALLEGA NY C OU NTY, MD Take a trip to the Mountain Side of Maryland where you’ll find hundreds of miles to hike in Allegany County. Situated among the Appalachian Ridge and Valley province and Allegheny Mountains, there are plenty of places to play as 60,000 acres, or one in every four acres in the county, are public land. Whether you’re looking for an easy day hike or an overnight backpacking experience, Green Ridge State Forest has more than 50 miles of hiking trails to explore. The trail system connects with the C&O Canal Towpath, a 184.5-mile trail from Georgetown to Cumberland, Md., and part of the National Park System. Follow the loop around Lake Habeeb at Rocky Gap State Park for beautiful views of the changing leaves. The park offers plenty of other paddling, fishing, and mountain biking opportunities, plus campsites, cabins, and yurts for an extended stay. Find additional fishing, picnicking, and camping spots at Dans Mountain State Park. While primarily known as biking trails, the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath are also great options for hiking as the two long-distance trails meet in Cumberland, Md. There are hundreds of miles of rail trails to explore from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Washington, D.C. The nearby Potomac River offers several river access points for fishing, paddling, and floating. For a more primitive backpacking experience, the Great Eastern Trail is a 1,600-mile hiking trail stretching from Alabama to New York. Pass through Maryland by way of the C&O Canal Towpath and Green Ridge State Forest trail system before crossing into Pennsylvania. Get Out and Play Outfitters is your one-stop shop for all things adventure in Allegany County. Sign up for canoe and kayak rentals and bike shuttles to make the most out of your trip. For all things biking, including rentals, maintenance, and transport, Cumberland Trail Connection has you covered. They also supply everything you need to brew your own beer at home. APRÈS H I KE End your day with a refreshing drink and mountain views. Visit some of the area’s awardwinning wineries, breweries, and distilleries on the Mountain Maryland Tap and Pour Craft Beverage Tour, and be sure to visit the many area restaurants, including the open-air dining in downtown Cumberland. Conveniently located a short drive from major East Coast cities like Pittsburgh, Pa., Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., hike all day in Allegany County, Md., this fall. MDMountainSide.com
Whether you’re looking for an easy day hike or an overnight backpacking experience, Green Ridge State Forest has more than 50 miles of hiking trails to explore. Photo courtesy Allegany County Tourism
The best time to see the elk in Buchanan County is sunrise or sunset when these magniﬁcent animals are the most active. Photo courtesy Buchanan County
BUCHANAN C O U NTY, VA From the scenic mountains and lush forestland to the flowing waters, Buchanan County, Va. is the perfect fall getaway for hiking and wildlife viewing. The Coal Canyon Trail System offers 114 miles of multi-use trails. Hikers, bikers, and UTV drivers can expect a variety of easy, moderate, and hard trails to get outside and test their skills. This system boasts a total of more than 200 connected miles of trail around the county and surrounding area for multiple full days of fun. Straddling the Virginia-Kentucky border, you’ll find an additional 25 miles of hiking trails at Breaks Interstate Park. Referred to as the Grand Canyon of the South, take in the wonder of the Russell Fork running through the five-mile gorge. Discover other activities in the park, including mountain bike rentals, geocaching, fishing, and more. While you’re in the area, take some time to watch the elk from one of the public wildlife viewing shelters near the Southern Gap Visitor Center. In 2012, 71 elk were reintroduced to the area after an almost 100-year absence. Today, that population has expanded to several hundred elk. The best time to visit is sunrise or sunset when these magnificent animals are the most active. Don’t forget about the Southern Gap Elk Fest, celebrating all things wildlife and mountain culture, October 14-17, 2020.
Stop by the new visitor center for interactive wildlife displays and an observation deck with panoramic views of the mountains. Additionally, several all-purpose trails start from the parking lot, giving nature lovers the chance to watch for the 220 bird species that call the county home and beautiful views of the night sky. Cabins, RV hookups, and campsites are open for those who want to stay close to the action. The waters of Buchanan County offer a variety of recreational opportunities. Head to the Levisa River for some terrific smallmouth bass fishing from the river’s banks or Dismal Creek for stocked rainbow trout. Kayak or whitewater raft sections of the Russell Fork that feature class V rapids on the weekends of October. AP R ÈS HIK E Head into the town of Grundy at the end of the day for a variety of delicious dining options. This fall, immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of “Wild” Buchanan County and experience the natural wonder of the mountains. WildBuchanan.com OCTOBER 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
Climb through the rhododendron, ferns, and wildflowers up the switchbacks on Molly’s Knob and Vista Trail to the stunning 180-degree views at the top. Photos courtesy Virginia State Parks
VI RGINIA STAT E PAR KS From the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay to the peaks and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains, discover the best hiking trails at a Virginia State Park. With 38 parks around the commonwealth, you can find a trail that fits your speed. Whether you prefer challenging mountain climbs or nature strolls perfect for the whole family, get outside this fall at a Virginia State Park. In the southwestern corner of Virginia, Hungry Mother State Park features more than 17 miles of trails open all year for hiking and biking. As one of the original six state parks, Hungry Mother is known for its woodlands and a peaceful mountain lake. Climb through the rhododendron, ferns, and wildflowers up the switchbacks on Molly’s Knob and Vista Trail to the stunning 180-degree views at the top. Clyburn Ridge Loop Trail is a four-mile, multi-use trail offering an amazing view of Hungry Mother Lake. when you’re done on the trails, paddle the 108-acre lake or fish for bass, channel catfish, walleye, and more. Reserve a cabin, lodge, yurt, or campsite throughout the park for an overnight stay. Head into the mountains near the Virginia-West Virginia border to Douthat State Park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ranging from easy to difficult, hike more than 40 miles throughout the park to waterfalls and scenic overlooks. Most trails are also open to mountain bikers. Mountain Top Trail follows several ridges to a lookout while also connecting visitors with more miles of trails in the George Washington National Forest. Blue Suck Falls Trail offers beautiful views of the falling water and whirlpool at the base of the waterfall. Kids will enjoy the special fishing area just below the dammed section of Wilson Creek as they try their hand at catching trout before moving up to the 50-acre Douthat Lake for largemouth bass, sunfish, and
crappie. Spend the night at one of the park’s cabins or campsites. Located in central Virginia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, James River State Park provides 22 miles of hiking through quiet forests and along the river. Tye River Overlook, a trail made of smooth, crushed gravel, leads to the park’s most iconic view of the James River. River Trail parallels the river for 3.1 miles. Keep a lookout for deer, beavers, otters, and various waterfowl along the water and in the wetland. Tye River Overlook, Green Hill Pond Trail, and the fishing pier are wheelchair-accessible. Test your mountain biking skills on the well-maintained trails or float eight miles of the river. Choose from a primitive campsite, cabin, or lodge for a night near the James River. On Virginia’s coast, York River State Park protects a rare estuarine environment where freshwater and saltwater meet. Designated a Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, hike more than 30 miles of trails to experience the diverse delicate ecosystems and marine life for yourself. Backbone Trail to Riverview Trail is a longer hike to the York River with a lookout at the end. Look for ospreys and great blue herons at one of the observation decks along Taskinas Creek Trail. Search for signs of the past at Fossil Beach and walk over marshes on Mattaponi Trail. Horseback riders of all abilities will enjoy the fields of wild flora and secluded forests along the Meh Te Kos Bridle Trail or can take on the difficult terrain on the Challenge Loop. Plan your next hiking trip at a Virginia State Park to experience the best the commonwealth has to offer. VirginiaStateParks.gov
Completely surrounded by forestland, experience fall at Bark Camp Lake in Scott County. Photo by Pam Cox.
S COTT C OUNTY, VA From mountain creek trails to sweeping high-country scenic vistas, Scott County offers a variety of hiking options in the southwestern tip of Virginia. The county’s most popular hike, The Devil’s Bathtub, is located within the Jefferson National Forest. Choose from two different hikes—a seven-mile round trip along Devil’s Fork Loop or the two-mile trek to the Bathtub. Be prepared with the right shoes for 13 creek crossings and slippery rocks. A hike to Little Stony Falls is a photographer’s dream. With three waterfalls, this 2.8-mile trail follows Little Stony Creek through a 400-foot deep and 1,700-foot wide gorge featuring large outcrops, rock ledges, and boulders. The highlight of the trip is the 27-foot waterfall at the top, offering the perfect swimming hole or spot to cast a line for trophy trout. At 19 miles, the Chief Benge Scout Trail creates the perfect tour of the High Knob land formation. Starting at the High Knob Lookout Tower near Norton and ending at the Hanging Rock Recreation Area, the trail passes everything from sweeping 360-degree vistas of five states to rugged mountain stream gorges, waterfalls, two high elevation lakes, and dense hardwood forests. You’ll find seven trails of varying lengths and difficulty at Natural Tunnel State Park. The most popular, Lover’s Leap, is only .36 miles and provides hikers the
ROCKINGH AM CO U NTY, VA Between the Alleghany and Blue Ridge mountains, Rockingham, Va. rests just minutes from the George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah National Park. Nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, you’ll find plenty to do just two hours from Washington, D.C. Whether you’re planning for a day, weekend, or week-long trip, immerse yourself in the outdoors, cultural amenities, inviting small towns, historical attractions, and farm-totable dining opportunities that abound in Rockingham County. In George Washington National Forest, hike to the High Knob Fire Tower on the Virginia-West Virginia border for views of the valley. In Shenandoah National Park, Bearfence Mountain, Blackrock Summit, and Hightop Mountain provide a variety of trail lengths and difficulties featuring rock scrambles and panoramic vistas. Located just seven miles from the Appalachian Trail, stop by Appalachian Trail Outfitters for all of your apparel, footwear, and gear needs out in the woods. Massanutten Resort offers outdoor recreation and relaxation opportunities around every corner. Hike Massanutten Ridge Trail for views of the mountain, resort area, and central Shenandoah Valley. Bring your mountain bike for the lift access bike park or ride the backcountry trails at the Western Slope. Explore the rest of the resort with ziplining, go-cart racing, and more. Choose from a number of lodging options to stay close to the action. When you’re done on the trail, fish Lake Shenandoah for largemouth bass, channel catfish, and musky. Head underground at Endless Caverns and Grand Caverns for one of a kind geological formations like the Cathederal Room and the Rainbow Room. APRÈS H I KE Through the end of October, jump into some fall fun at Back Home-on the Farm, including a corn maze, pumpkin patch, and campfires. Pick out the perfect pumpkin from Every Soul Acres, plus freshly picked sunflowers. Head into one of the seven small towns within the county for a meal and a drink at the end of the day. From biscuit mixes to some of Virginia’s finest ham, Fulks Run Grocery stocks everything you need to make a delicious dinner. Order specialty burgers and sandwiches from Cracked Pillar Pub or build your own burger at Old 33 Beer & Burger Grill. Dive deep into Rockingham’s lore at Elkton Brewing Company where the craft beers are named for local landmarks and stories. Located on a sixth generation-owned farm, try one of the seasonal beers on tap at Cave Hill Farms Brewery. VisitRockingham.com
opportunity to gaze down to the that was naturally-carved through a limestone ridge over thousands of years. Additionally, the park offers great camping sites and four primitive yurts. AP R ÈS HIK E The entire family will enjoy an outing to Creation Kingdom Zoo, an interactive habitat for rare and endangered species. This fall, kids will also enjoy a trip to the Punkin’ Patch for a stroll through the corn maze or ride on the hay wagon. Grab a bite to eat at one of the county’s many iconic restaurants, such as the Hob Nob, Campus Drive-in, Teddy’s, ChuBeez, or Front Porch Store and Deli. No trip to Scott County is complete without a visit to The Family Bakery for the world’s best cupcakes. For an overnight stay, check out Appalachian Mountain Cabins, Estilville Bed & Breakfast, Roberts Mills Suites, Boone Pointe Cabins, or Happy Trails Cottage. Or pitch a tent along the Clinch River at SomeThing Squatchy or Camp Clinch. WanderLove is calling you to Scott County, Va. ExploreScottCountyVA.org
In George Washington National Forest, hike to the High Knob Fire Tower on the VirginiaWest Virginia border for views of the valley. Photo by Loir Mier
Hike the Appalachian Trail to Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliﬀs for three of the most iconic viewpoints in Virginia. Photo by Rochelle Masudal
VI RGINIA’ S BLU E R I D G E This fall, visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge to take in the stunning fall colors from the soaring mountain peaks surrounding the Roanoke Valley. This metro mountain destination will keep you busy all day with more than 1,000 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and paddling. The Virginia Triple Crown is a must-see while you’re in the area. Hike the Appalachian Trail to Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs for three of the most iconic viewpoints in Virginia. They are the perfect spots for a challenging hike with views of the changing leaves. Explore the region by way of the Roanoke Valley Greenways. More than 30 miles of trails connect Downtown Roanoke, parks, and nearby waterways. These paved and natural surface trails are perfect for a casual walk, run, or bike ride close to town. Stop at Green Hill Park for picnic spots and access to the Roanoke River. Discover more trails on foot or bike at Carvins Cove. Known as one of the best mountain biking trail systems in America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital, you’ll find more than 60 miles of trail, ranging in difficulty, to ride. You can also fish or paddle the 600-acre reservoir for a new perspective of the natural reserve. With a location in Downtown Roanoke and the Valley View Mall, Walkabout Outfitters is a one-stop-shop for everything you need out on the trail. Whether you’re
looking for something you forgot to pack or need tips on the best hikes in the area, these local outdoor enthusiasts have you covered. Conveniently located near Carvins Cove, Just the Right Gear Bike Shop has you covered for a day in the saddle, including gear, apparel, and advice. Take Virginia’s Blue Ridge Stay Safe Pledge when you visit the area to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following social distancing guidelines and wearing a mask when around others. AP R ÈS HIK E After time spent climbing mountains, head underground at Dixie Caverns for views of unique, towering formations. Stop into the antique store and rock shop for a souvenir to remind you of your trip. At the end of the day, head into the City of Salem for family-friendly patio dining at El Jefe Taqueria or Mac and Bob’s. If you’re looking for craft beer and good times, stop by Olde Salem Brewing Company and Parkway Brewing Company for a taste of the mountains. VisitVBR.com | VisitSalemVA.com
R U SSEL L C O U NTY, VA As one of the most beautiful areas in the world, discover all that the mountains of southwestern Virginia have to offer when you hike Russell County. The Cleveland Barrens, Pinnacle, and Channels natural area preserves provide a gateway to one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the country. View unique geological formations, rare species, and the Clinch River from the winding trails. Traverse an open bald, walk past blooming wildflowers, and take in panoramic views on the Sugar Hill Loop Trail. Piece trails together to experience more natural wonders in the town of St. Paul and Bluebell Island Preserve within the larger trail system. Choose from a steep climb or a gravel service road to take in the incredible sights from the Mendota Fire Tower and Overlook. For a longer excursion, the Brumley Mountain Trail is a 14.6mile route marked by towering boulders, slot canyons, and switchbacks through a unique landscape.
At just a half mile, Tank Hollow Falls is a great hike for all skill levels to enjoy Russell County. Photo by Preston Ball Photography, courtesy of Russell County
AP RÈ S H IKE When you get off the trail, check out the local restaurants, breweries, and wineries in the nearby towns of St. Paul, Lebanon, Honaker, and the community of Castlewood. Getaway and hike all day in Russell County, Va. ExperienceRussell.com
Hike for a few hours or days on the Appalachian Trail as it traverses the ridges and valleys of Bland County. Photo courtesy Bland County
Take in the wonder that is the Natural Bridge when you visit Lexington. Photo courtesy of Lexington
BLAND C OUNT Y, VA
L E X I N GTON , VA
Located in the mountains of southwest Virginia and surrounded by Jefferson National Forest, immerse yourself in the scenic vistas of Bland County. Hike for a few hours or days on the Appalachian Trail as it traverses the ridges and valleys of the county. Summit Chestnut Knob for stunning views of Burke’s Garden or stop by the Brushy Mountain Outpost for a delicious meal right off the trail. The Wolf Creek Indian Village and Museum is open for walking tours with short trails and picnic shelters around the village. Climb the 100-foot tower at Big Walker Lookout for views of five states, plus load up on local jams, coffee, and ice cream.
Conveniently located at the interchange of Interstate 81 and 64, Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County sit at the southern gateway to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. An iconic local landmark, hike House Mountain for sweeping views of the mountains and valleys. Walk or run the Chessie Trail as it parallels the Maury River for seven miles from Lexington to Buena Vista. Hike seven miles of trails at Natural Bridge State Park and bring the kiddos to the new Children’s Discovery Area and Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom. Take the time to check off some bucket list items with a hike on the Appalachian Trail or a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Head to Walkabout Outfitter, Lex Running Shop, and Journey Outdoors for all of your outdoor needs while in town.
APRÈS H I KE Relax at Eupepsia Wellness Resort, voted the number two health and wellness resort in the nation. Their restaurant offers lovely al fresco dining with meals made from vegetables grown on-site. Grab a delicious meal for you and your furry friend from Harners Old Country Store. Several hostels in the area, including Lickskillet Hostel and Weary Feet Hostel, provide a place to rest after a long day of hiking. Rent a room at Big Walker Motel or a full cabin from Dismal Falls Trading Co. BlandCountyVA.gov
AP R ÈS HIK E Refuel at one of the laid-back eateries, including JJ’s Meat Shack, Pink Cadillac Diner, Salerno Wood Fired Pizza & Taphouse, and TAPS. Follow the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail for a post-adventure craft beer or visit a vineyard or cidery. For a bit of nostalgia, catch a movie at Hull’s Drive-In through October. Check into The Georges, a restored 200-year-old inn offering designer accommodations, for a restful night’s sleep. RockbridgeOutdoors.com
Take in the high elevation views at the Highland Wildlife Management Area. Photo by Meghan Marchetti/DWR
VI RGINIA D EPARTMENT O F WI LDL I F E RE S O UR C E S The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) maintains more than 225,000 acres of public land on 46 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) around Virginia. More rugged and “wild” than a state park, a WMA offers excellent opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and experiencing nature. Regardless of the type of terrain you like, there’s a WMA to suit—coastal plains, mountains, and in between. Many of them also host portions of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail (VBWT). In the coastal areas, on WMAs like Hog Island and Princess Anne, bird-watching is quite popular. The Mockhorn Island WMA is an Atlantic coastal island of over 7,000 acres of prime tidal marsh and includes a loop of the VBWT. In Fauquier County, the Thompson WMA features seven miles of the Appalachian Trail. Thompson WMA is famous for a remarkable display of largeflowered trilliums that blanket almost two square miles of forest floor in the spring, accessible via the Trillium Trail. In southwest Virginia, spanning Smyth, Washington, Russell, and Tazewell counties, Clinch Mountain WMA is the most biologically diverse WMA in Virginia. It encompasses 25,477 acres of mountain forest along Clinch Mountain, contains Laurel Bed Lake, and spans elevations from 2,200 feet along Big Tumbling Creek
to its highest point at 4,700 feet on Beartown Mountain. The naturalist can wander through mature-growth forests predominantly wooded by oak and hickory, rhododendron thickets, beaver ponds, a lake, meadows, shrublands, managed forests and prescribed burns, and even red spruce forest atop Beartown Mountain. In Northwest Virginia, Highland WMA is located in Highland County, which is generally regarded as having the highest average elevation of any county east of the Mississippi River. The management area offers an array of trails for hikers, 20 miles of road, and a cable suspension footbridge across the Bullpasture River at Bullpasture Gorge just north of Williamsville. WMA lands are purchased and maintained with funds from the purchase of hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses and through Wildlife Restoration Funds. To access a WMA, you’ll need to have purchased one of the following: a Virginia hunting, fishing, or trapping license; a Virginia boat registration; a DWR access permit; or a DWR Restore the Wild membership. Keep in mind that some WMAs are open for hunting at certain times of the year. Find information, including descriptions, WMA maps, facilities available, and more at VirginiaWildlife.gov/wma
Located on the bank of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, Muse Vineyards is the perfect fall getaway in Virginia. Photo by Appeal Photography LLC.
Bordered by the Potomac River to the west and Patuxent River to the east with more than 20,000 acres of parkland and miles of trail to explore, Charles County, Md. is a hiker’s paradise. Photo courtesy Charles County Government
CH ARLES C O U NTY, MD
M U SE VINEYAR DS, VA
Bordered by the Potomac River to the west and Patuxent River to the east with more than 20,000 acres of parkland and miles of trail to explore, Charles County, Md. is a hiker’s paradise. Charles County has plenty of parks and outdoor recreation for you to enjoy. Experience the wonder of the marshes and coastal woodlands at Chapman State Park. This park offers a scenic vista of the Potomac, making it a great location to fish for largemouth bass, sunfish, or birdwatch in an Important Bird Area. Just down the river, Smallwood State Park offers a little bit of everything for visitors. The park has a marina, hiking trails, boat ramp, picnicking facilities, campsites, and rich history dating back to the Revolutionary War. Chapel Point State Park is another pristine park that offers more than 3,000 feet of shoreline to view the Port Tobacco River. Experience the natural areas of Charles County on the Indian Head Rail Trail. Hikers, bikers, and nature lovers alike will enjoy passing through a variety of ecosystems on this 13-mile paved trail. Enjoy Thomas Stone National Historic Site to witness 109 species of birds within their natural habitat. From open fields and beaches to wooded areas and steep terrain, Maxwell Hall Park has 14.2 miles of diverse trails on the Patuxent. The tranquil Port Tobacco River Park features an additional three miles of walking trails and several observation platforms to take in the local flora, fauna, and Bald Eagle’s Nest. Just down the road, take a scenic walk, and enjoy the quaint Friendship Farm Park along the Nanjemoy Creek.
Located on the bank of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, Muse Vineyards is the perfect fall getaway in Virginia. Enjoy a flight of five different wines or order a bottle as you soak up the views of the Shenandoah Valley. From the tasting room and patio to the swinging bridge and river, take the 1.8-mile self-guided tour through the vineyard. Less than a mile down the road, discover the beauty of Seven Bends State Park. Follow the seven bends of the Shenandoah River or hike the trails up the western slope of Powell Mountain. Talus Trail connects with Massanutten Trail for an additional 70 miles of hiking in George Washington National Forest. Paddle three miles of the river or wade into the water to fish for smallmouth bass. Reserve the Muse Vineyards Farmhouse so you won’t have to walk far when you’re ready to turn in for the night. From the screened porch to the in-ground pool, find your spot to relax and unwind in this 225-year old restored farmhouse. Combine the award-winning wines from Muse Vineyards with the abundance of nearby hiking trails for a relaxing vacation in the mountains. MuseVineyards.com
APRÈ S H I KE For farm to table cuisine with a taste of southern Maryland, The Charles is the place to be with mouthwatering choices on-the-go or in their expansive terrace. Experience the rolling hills of the local Serenity Farm and buy fresh produce and meats. The farm offers a variety of fall activities, including hayrides, a petting zoo, face painting, hay bale maze, and a pumpkin patch. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a scoop from Landon’s Ices and Creams, serving up delicious homemade ice cream flavors like snickerdoodle and red velvet cream cheese. Or enjoy fall specialty cupcakes, including caramel apple, maple bacon, and chocolate peppermint, from Michelle’s Cakes. Then take a shopping break at the St. Charles Towne Center Mall. Get outside and soak in the allure of Charles County, Md. with great outdoors and waterways. ExploreCharlesCounty.com
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loyd Landis strolls with Amish farmer, Ben King, through a one-acre patch of six- and sevenfoot-tall organically grown Cannabis sativa plants in Pennsylvania’s southern Lancaster County. The retired road cyclist and disqualified Tour de France winner palpates a thick, bright-green cola, smells his fingertips and grins at business manager, Jake Sitler, also a former pro bicyclist. “She’s just about ready,” says Landis. The tableau smacks of a Cheech & Chong film, but this is totally legal. Known as hemp, the plants are the same species that yields marijuana, but have been bred to produce low THC (the psychoactive compound responsible for the mind-altering effects of marijuana), and large concentrations of cannabidiol, or CBD. They’ll be harvested in about two weeks and taken to a Columbia processing facility, where the chemical will be extracted. The CBD is used to make a range of value-added products, including tinctures, creams, balms, tonics, gummies, and more. They’re sold at a new storefront café in nearby Lancaster and online. The crop is one of many: Landis’s company, Floyd’s of Leadville, has contracted with about 85 local farmers to grow more than 255 acres of hemp annually. “Doing this here is attractive because the hemp grows much better [in this region] than it does out west,” says Landis, who has sourced from U.S. farmers since launching Floyd’s in Colorado in 2016. There, mature plants are about a third smaller. That means farmers like King could gross
HEMP PLANTS ARE BEING GROWN ON F A R M L A N D S A C R O S S A P PA L A C H I A . P H O T O COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES
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upward of $20,000 per acre. No small feat, considering corn brings just $570. But Landis, who has long lived in Colorado, was inspired to return to Pennsylvania by more than profits. Raised in a Mennonite farming community near Lancaster, he saw the devastation wreaked by a declining dairy industry—120 farms closed statewide in 2018 alone. Like tobacco, growing hemp for CBD can bring big profits, but requires close monitoring and is labor intensive. Additionally, the oil in the plants jams up industrial machinery. It seemed a perfect fit for groups like the Amish. “These folks know how to work hard and still do pretty much everything by hand the old-fashioned way,” says Landis. “Their emphasis is on premium quality goods and produce, which meets our needs exactly.” Partnering with local farmers seemed a win-win scenario. To minimize farmers’ risk, Floyd’s paid
for seedstock and offered a buyer’s guarantee. The first crops were sown and harvested in 2019. Landis’s Lancaster café opened in January 2020. Like sister shops in Oregon and Colorado, it caters to athletes and physically active adults, coupling a bike showroom, coffee shop, and healthfoods bistro with a comprehensive CBD outlet. Landis is one of many entrepreneurs driving a new and fast-growing hemp industry. He hopes businesses throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic will adapt similar, locally focused seed-to-shop models. If that happens, resulting market stability could easily transform the Blue Ridge into a hemp-growing mecca. Farmers like King say that’s good news indeed. “When I was a kid, tobacco was a big thing for small farms,” says Landis. Planting a few acres annually could bring cash for new equipment and other expenses. Now that tobacco has essentially vanished, “We think hemp can fill that gap, and in a big way.”
ut CBD isn’t the only product fueling a hemp farming renaissance. There’s opportunity around edible seeds and industrial fiber as well. “The funny thing about it is, this is something that’s both new to us and really historical,” says James Madison University (JMU) professor Sam Morton. He helps direct the school’s hemp research program, which focuses on seed and fiber production. Hemp was vital to colonial and early American life. It arrived in Virginia in the mid-18th century and grew so well it birthed major industries. The plant was used in everything from the first blue jeans, to sails and cordage for U.S. Navy warships, to high-end poultry fodder, to culinary applications. By the early 19th century, the Shenandoah Valley, where JMU is located, had become the U.S. hemp-growing capital. Processing and distribution hubs soon sprang up in Kentucky and Tennessee as well. OCTOBER 2020
RETIRED PRO CYCLIST FLOYD LANDIS, A P E N N S Y L VA N I A N AT I V E , S E L L S C B D P R O D U C T S AT H I S R E C E N T L Y O P E N E D F L O Y D ' S C A F E I N LANCASTER. PHOTO COURTESY OF FLOYD'S OF LEADVILLE
Eventually, improvements to the cotton gin and increased availability of cheap fiber from Asia led to declines in the 1860s. When U.S. government prohibitions on marijuana—which, outside of special permitting, included industrial hemp— went into effect in 1937, the industry faded further. Heightened federal drug legislation passed in 1970 finished it off. Changing public sentiments around marijuana and increased interest in the health benefits of CBD led to nationwide reforms in the mid-2010s, and federal legislation was passed in 2014 authorizing agricultural research and development for hemp production conducted with university oversight. Morton helped to launch JMU’s research program a year later. Another boost came in 2018, when commodity hemp production was legalized at the federal level. | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 45
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“On one hand, having a regional growing history like ours was encouraging, because you knew the crop used to thrive here,” says Morton. That said, hemp hadn’t been cultivated at scale in the Shenandoah Valley for at least a century. By 2015, knowledge around best practices had long since been lost. Still, Rockingham County was—and remains—Virginia’s largest agricultural producer. If there was a place to start reinventing the wheel, it was here. But there was a catch. “Back then, pretty much all the research was focused on CBD production,” says Morton. And for good reason: Related domestic markets reached about $1.3 billion in 2019 and are projected to grow to upward of $11.3 billion by 2024. That’s good news for farmers, as it takes about 100 pounds of cured female flowers to make just one liter of CBD oil, and an acre of hemp produces roughly 1,305 pounds of flowers. Sales from seeds and fiber, though, are even more substantial: The U.S. market reached $3.3 billion in 2019 and is expected to swell to about $15 I T TA K E S A P P R O X I M AT E L Y 1 0 0 P O U N D S O F C U R E D FLOWERS FROM HEMP PLANTS TO MAKE ONE LITER OF CBD OIL. PHOTO BY SAMUEL MORTON
billion by 2025. “It’s a considerable niche with a lot of room for growth,” says Morton. While CBD plots rarely exceed more than an acre of land, farmers cultivating fiber or seed crops need to grow larger amounts. To understand their unique needs, Morton and his JMU colleagues partnered with experimentally inclined area farmers for plantings ranging from five to 15 acres. “We’re looking at things like which varieties grow and yield the best in this climate, when are the ideal planting and harvesting times, what sort of pests do we have to look out for, what are the preferred soil conditions, can we adapt machinery for harvesting,” and so on, says Morton. The process has been challenging for a number of reasons. For starters, locally adapted varieties of hemp no longer exist. Precedent research was mostly based out of China and Eastern Europe, and was decades old. “It’s been a lot of educated guessing, a lot of trial and error,” says Morton. For instance, while Ukrainian hemp outcompetes weeds and requires few herbicides, there is a magic window for planting in Virginia. Miss it and weeds will swarm and kill seedlings.
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book on how to do this the right way,” says Morton. The goal is to create seed-toshelf guidelines that will give farmers the information they need to make educated decisions around what is currently a high-risk market. “What we don’t want is people literally betting their farm on a bunch of hype,” says Morton. “We need to put them in a position to succeed.”
A N A R R AY O F C B D P R O D U C T S OFFERED BY FLOYD'S OF LEADVILLE. PHOTO COURTESY OF FLOYD'S OF LEADVILLE
There’s also the issue of a shaky market. Recent legalization, regulatory uncertainty around quality controls, and international competition can make it tough to secure buyers. Last year, farmers flocked to the promise of a new cash crop and created a supply glut, which led nonprenegotiated prices to drop by upwards of 75 percent. But Morton says progress is being made. Virginia’s first cooperative processing plant—which handles seeds, fiber, and CBD extraction— launched in Wythe County in late 2019. Others have followed near Harrisonburg and in Richmond. Affordable processing is a vital piece of the puzzle and a big step toward economic viability, says Morton. Companies that rely on profit-sharing
agreements with farmers, instead of charging flat fees, help streamline the production of marketable products. For instance, when seeds can be sold at farmer’s markets and healthfoods stores, or used as high-protein and fatty acid fodder for organic poultry and swine. “Basically, we’re trying to write the
or his part, Landis got interested in hemp after discovering the health benefits of CBD in the late 2000s. By then, a debilitating joint condition had necessitated a hip replacement and effectively ended his pro cycling career. Meanwhile, he was embroiled in legal controversies surrounding former USPS teammate Lance Armstrong and the squad’s systemic use of performanceenhancing drugs. Landis was prescribed opiates for
pain following surgery. With his life spiraling into a nightmare, he became addicted. A friend suggested CBD to help him kick the habit. “And it worked,” says Landis. He started using it for recovery after rides, to ease anxiety, and alleviate pain. Astounded by the results, he began researching production, which soon led to investment. “I wanted to do something different with my life,” says Landis. Given his history around doping and elite sports, he thought it would be interesting to create a bike-shopmeets-café, with a focus on all-natural CBD supplements and pain relievers. When Landis co-founded Floyd’s of Leadville in 2016, he was among the vanguard of a new industry. Today the company’s products are sold in more than 3,000 convenience stores and 800 bikes shops and by 2,000-plus bike parts distributors. It grosses more than $25 million annually. He hopes other companies will follow in the footsteps of Floyd’s of Leadville and offer similar opportunities to struggling farmers. “For me, this was a new beginning,” says Landis. “It’s been very, very positive.”
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Come, Ride in Floyd and Patrick Counties
WanderLove is calling. Explore beyond your own backyard this fall on a road trip to Floyd and Patrick County, offering over 50 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, countless scenic back roads for off and on road riding, numerous campgrounds, hiking trails, kayaking, ďŹ shing and other endless outdoor recreation. Plan your next road trip to Floyd and Patrick Counties, Virginia. VisitFloydVA.com | VisitPatrickCounty.org
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OCTOBER 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
THE POWER OF AN INVITATION ON THE TRAILS WITH BLACK GIRLS HIKE RVA
BY ELLEN KANZINGER
e all have that one person who first took us hiking and helped nurture our love for the natural world—a family member, a friend, an author. For Narshara Tucker, that person was Nicole Boyd. The two educators developed a deep friendship over the years teaching eighth graders. When Boyd planned to hike Virginia’s idyllic Crabtree Falls last year for her birthday, she invited Tucker along. After that first outing, Tucker was in love. “I hike to heal,” she said. “Sometime while I’m hiking, I might cry. Or I might think about something that was bothering me. When I’m done with the hike, I leave it there. So it’s very therapeutic. It can really help you stay balanced and grounded, especially during COVID where your mental stability is really rocked because life has changed so much.” As they continued to hike trails across Virginia together, the friends noticed they were often the only Black people at the trailhead. Last May Boyd and Tucker launched Black Girls Hike RVA on Instagram. “With COVID, you have so much time to think and really focus on what is important,” Boyd said. “Being in the outdoors, we noticed that we were the only ones that looked like us. It was important for us to make sure we let people know that there are other people out here that look like you that love hiking and being outdoors.” A 2018 report from the George Wright Forum found less than two percent of national park visitors were Black. Groups like Black Girls Hike RVA are essential in changing the misconception that “Black people don’t hike.” They host monthly meetups across Virginia, from hikes close to Richmond at Dutch Gap and Pocahontas State Park to trips into the Blue Ridge Mountains. Several of the hikes have been in Shenandoah National Park where facilities weren’t fully integrated until 1950. Along the way, Boyd and Tucker are helping other women of color discover the joy of the trail one hike at a time. As they establish the group, Boyd and Tucker hope to start offering more programming for kids in the area, introducing them to the wealth of natural resources in Virginia. In September, they led their first hike for black preteens and teenagers with the Jack and Jill Hampton Chapter at York River State Park. In addition to discussing the benefits of hiking, a therapist worked with the students on some coping mechanisms and how to unpack stresses, especially during the pandemic.
THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media platforms tend to get a bad rap today, whether it’s for spreading misinformation or the countless hours users spend endlessly scrolling. But A GROUP HIKE TO HUMPBACK ROCKS IN VIRGINIA. PHOTO COURTESY O F B L A C K G I R L S H I K E R VA
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
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when used as networking tools, these platforms can help connect people across the world. When COVID-19 hit, Sam Thibodeaux started looking for a local hiking group in the Richmond area. She wanted to get outside but knew she didn’t want to be exploring a place in the middle of nowhere on her own. When she found Black Girls Hike RVA on Instagram, right in her own backyard, she knew she had found her group. “I don’t know how else I would have found them,” Thibodeaux said. “There are a lot of groups out there. One of the appeals is that this group wanted to see Black and brown women out there. You don’t feel like you’re out there as the only Black or brown person.” Since joining that first hike, Thibodeaux has attended every meetup and formed new friendships with other hikers. It helps that Boyd and Tucker provide consistent programming planned in advance. “I appreciate their leadership and their drive that brings everybody else into it and excited about it,” Thibodeaux said. But with an online presence, Black Girls Hike RVA’s reach extends beyond Richmond. Gina Knox is a long time hiker prepping for a potential 2021 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Although she usually hikes solo, Knox traveled from her home in Hampton, Va., to meet the women of Black Girls Hike RVA. “At any given time, I was the only Black person,” she said. “I thought it was important to meet them, seeing that the goal they had was the same as mine—to get other Black people out to hike. I thought it was admirable and important during a time where Black people are polarized in this country.” After the A.T., Knox plans to go for the Triple Crown with thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails. Although thru-hiking tends to be a more solitary endeavor, Knox said hiking in a group gave her a new perspective on the trail. “When you’re hiking by yourself, you have your own individual thoughts and your own individual goal,” she said. “It’s more about how it makes you feel. But when you’re in a group, it kind of forces you to pace yourself and be more
outward about the group and the group’s needs.” Boyd and Tucker’s work has inspired other people to reach out and contribute to their communities. When Mercedes Walters decided to run the 120 miles of the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park, she planned to do so in protest of the natural gas pipelines being built in the area. But when she found Black Girls Hike RVA on Instagram, Walters started examining the intersectionality of environmentalism and antiracism work more deeply. “It’s one thing to post on social media, donate, and vote,” she said. “Those things are important. But I think that getting out in your community and taking action is a huge part of creating change. I want to inspire other trail runners. We spend so much time in the outdoors and so much time on the trails that I think it’s our responsibility to speak up, act out, and to lift others up that don’t have the opportunities that we do.” In addition to spreading the word about these important issues, Walters is donating a dollar to the Virginia Sierra Club Chapter and a dollar to Black Girls Hike RVA for every mile that she runs.
ENCOURAGEMENT IN EVERY STEP
Whether hikers connect with Black Girls Hike RVA online or in person, everyone will get plenty of encouragement. “We’re going to support you no matter how long it takes,” Boyd said. “While we want to do longer hikes to challenge the thru-hikers and the people who are avid hikers, we also want to encourage more people of color to be in outdoor spaces. No matter what your physical ability or skill set is, the goal is just to get out there.” Through their hikes, Boyd and Tucker want to emphasize that at its most basic form, hiking is just walking. “You don’t really need a bunch of stuff,” Tucker said. “Yes, it is cool and it looks good. But it’s not a necessity. Water is a necessity. During COVID, hand sanitizer is a necessity. When we first started hiking, we would hike in tennis shoes and wear a bookbag. We see people do it all the time.” In creating this community, Black Girls Hike RVA is extending the invitation into the outdoors to everyone. “I’m tired of being the first Black or the only Black,” Boyd said. “It should get to the point where we shouldn’t still be hitting firsts. You deserve to be out here, and you have the right to be out here as well.” OCTOBER 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 55
DANNER RIDGE ARCTIC SHADOW
THE AIR IS CRISP AND THE TRAILS ARE CALLING. BEAT THE BLAHS OF ZOOM MEETINGS AND BEING STUCK AT HOME BY HIKING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE THIS FALL. HERE ARE OUR PICKS FOR EXCURSIONS IN THE HILLS.
VASQUE SUNDOWNOWNER GTX
B Y D O U G S C H N I T Z S PA H N
SHOES Best in Test
Salewa Wildfire Edge Mid Here’s the shoe for those who are serious about adventure. The grippy Pomoca sole offers outstanding edging for lowlevel climbs and scrambles when you don’t want or need to wear technical climbing shoes. But the shocker is just how comfortable these shoes feel hiking anywhere. The stable platform is outstanding on loose descents; the cuff provides plenty of ankle support; and the sole feels just like an everyday hiker when you are pounding out rocky trail miles. $220; salewa.com
Work and Play
Oboz Sypes Low This comfy, versatile kick is ready for action straight out of the box and can take on everything from casual outings with the dogs to long hikes. Credit that comfort to a sole that offers traction but isn’t too stiff. Eco bonus: The laces feature recycled material and Oboz plants a tree for every pair of shoes it sells. $145; obozfootwear.com
Vasque Sundowner GTX This new take on an old classic shows off retro style but provides modern performance on the trail. 56
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
MERRELL MQM FLEX 2
MISHMI TAKIN JAMPUI
SALEWA WILDFIRE EDGE MID
NORTHSIDE ROCKFORD MID OBOZ SYPES LOW
The waterproof, leather shoe features a Gore-Tex membrane to breathe and keep out wet weather, and a bomber outsole withstands punishment on big backpacking excursions. It’s the perfect boot for those who love that slow break-in and perfect fit of leather. $220; vasque.com
Danner Ridge Arctic Shadow Built right here in the U.S.A., this sturdy boot is the ideal urban winter tromper. Featuring a Gore-Tex membrane that keeps slush at bay and 200 grams of
Thinsulate insulation, this shoe is ready for winter action. It’s perfect for a little ramble after work on the trails or in town and feels comfy all day long. $390; danner.com
membrane keeps it waterproof and breathable but stays flexible thanks to technology that bonds directly to the upper rather than including an extra layer. $110; merrell.com
2 pounds per pair, the Jampui can pound the backcountry thanks to a supple-but-strong Vibram Tubava sole. $175; mishmitakin.com
Northside Rockford Mid Ringing in at a price that fits into tight budgets in these challenging times, this boot can tackle all the slop and wet of fall and winter hiking. A waterproof upper makes it a fine choice for nasty winter conditions and a durable outsole offers plenty of shock absorption. This boot will get you through the winter. $85; nothsideusa.com
Merrell MQM Flex 2 A trail runner by trade, this light (1 pound, 9 ounces) shoe is just the ticket for those who like to go fast and light. It never feels out of its element on gnarly terrain thanks in good part to a rock plate and tough outsole that rolls over rocks and provides plenty of confidence on loose steps. Best of all, a Gore Invisible Fit
Mishmi Takin Jampui Thanks to a waterproof and very breathable eVent membrane, this sturdy boot can tackle the trails all season long. It has the guts to shuck off winter slop—but it’s not so heavy and insulated that it sweats you out on fairweather backpacking jaunts. Tipping the scales at just over
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LEKI MCT 12 VARIO
Gregory Citro 24 Lightweight and streamlined, this is the pack you want to keep near the door that’s ready to stuff with essentials and snacks for any day hike. And if you need to bring a bit more warmth, the 2-pound hauler features a nifty front stash pocket that can carry a layer you want to keep handy. $120: gregorypacks.com Casio PRTB50T-7 Part of Casio’s Pro Trek series, this snazzy watch looks good on a dinner date but also provides key information— altitude, temperature, barometric pressure, compass bearings—when you are out in the wild. Synch it via Bluetooth to your phone to keep it accurate and download data. $330; casio.com Farm to Feet Blue Ridge Hiker Your socks are key to comfort on the trail. These plushbut-not-too-bulky merino wool hikers will keep your dogs from barking, and they connect to the Blue Ridge region, not just because of their featured artwork but also because the company sources the materials in the U.S. and all manufacturing takes place in the Carolinas. $23; farmtofeet.com
RAB PULSE NORRØNA SVALBARD
Leki MCT 12 Vario Hiking poles are not just a solid idea for those with aching knees. Light, strong options like these in Leki’s Cross Trail series keep athletic hikers and trail runners moving with aplomb through tricky terrain. At just 7 ounces per pole, they pack down and adjust on the fly, and feature streamlined grips as well as minimalist trail running tips. $250; leeki.com
for cool days when we want to fit a hike into a day of intown activities. But the denim in these pants can take on anything from a mountain bike ride to a winter hike: It features organic cotton and tough Cordura, as well as a polyester backer that makes it stretchy and able to endure abuse. $229; norrona.com
Norrøna Svalbard Denim may not be our choice for big endeavors on the trail, but we love the fabric
Rab Pulse Meet your new favorite trail shirt. This light (just 4 ounces) top offers up surprising
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
FARM TO FEET BLUE RIDGE HIKER
warmth and dries out in a hurry. That makes it the ideal piece whether you are on a multi-day backpacking journey, bagging a peak, or just out for a hike on a fall day. And a Polygiene fabric treatment keeps it from picking up sweat stink. $80; rab.equipment Somewear It’s important to get off the grid, but it’s also a good idea to be able to stay in contact with family and friends in
case there’s an emergency back home. Enter this small, handy, and easy-tooperate satellite device. Synch it to your phone via an app and you can send text messages when you are out of cell range on the Iridium satellite network anywhere on the planet. An emergency SOS button will call in the cavalry if you get in trouble. $350; somewearlabs.com
GREGORY CITRO 24
VOTE FOR THE OUTDOORS
PUBLIC LANDS ARE POLITICAL (BUT NOT NECESSARILY PARTISAN) BY WILL HARLAN
go to nature to escape from the noisy world of people. The outdoors transcends my little life and its pesky problems, and for a while at least, I can immerse myself in a world without people or conflict. Back at the crowded trailhead, however, I must acknowledge a hard truth: people call the shots, even over the natural world. You and I are the co-owners of 640 million acres of public lands. It is one of our greatest opportunities and responsibilities as Americans. Not only do we get to explore and enjoy these awe-inspiring landscapes, but we also decide how they will be managed and protected for future generations. For a long time, I assumed that public lands were permanently protected. But the green spaces on the map are constantly under attack. Uranium mining is proposed for the Grand Canyon. Titanium mining is slated for the Okefenokee Swamp. Most of Bears Ears National Monument has been opened to oil and gas drilling. Logging has been proposed for the oldgrowth of the Tongass—the world’s largest temperate rain forest. Pipelines can cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail. Our public lands are perpetually targeted by people who want to profit from them. We must constantly play defense against much wealthier and more influential mining, logging, and fossil fuel corporations. Yet most Americans agree with this basic truth: Extractive industries do not belong on our public lands. No one group should be able to plunder publicly owned forests, mountains, and rivers. Our public lands are far too valuable for the rest of us. Public lands protect most of the country’s drinking water, clean our air, shelter thousands of rare species, and provide endless opportunities for adventure. Protecting public lands is the cheapest and easiest way to combat climate change—and also the best way 60
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
to revitalize rural communities. Outdoor recreation on public lands generates more jobs and revenue than coal, oil, and gas combined. Our publicly owned forests are far more valuable standing than cut down. And our public lands generate far more long-term revenue and jobs than any short-term profits from drilling, logging, and mining them. Some folks think we should keep politics out of our pages, and I understand where they are coming from. The outdoor experience transcends politics. Everyone loves to walk in the woods, breathe fresh air, and hear the sound of cascading water. I certainly get it: sometimes I just want to go for a run and not think about politics. My time on the trail is sacred. But afterward, when I return to the concrete world, can I give something back to the places that have given me so much? Now more than ever, public lands need our voice. The current administration is responsible for the largest reduction of public lands in history. It has also gutted the Endangered Species Act, Clean Power Plan, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Clean Water Rule— and also rolled back the Clean Air Act and health standards for mercury, methane, coal ash, and ozone pollution. It has proposed opening Atlantic coastal waters to offshore drilling. This administration has declared war on public lands and public health. Like it or not, the future of our forests depends wholly on whom we elect. Public lands are political— because people ultimately decide their fate. However, public lands aren’t necessarily partisan. Both parties have been champions of public lands and conservation. Republicans created the first national park and the first national forest reserves. Richard Nixon established the EPA and signed into law the Endangered Species Act, NEPA, and the Clean Air Act. George H.W. Bush strengthened the Clean Air Act to combat acid rain and signed the first United Nations Convention Framework on Climate Change. Conservatives care deeply about conservation. Lately, though, it seems the Republican party has abandoned them. Republicans have introduced bills to sell millions of acres of public lands to private owners. In 2017, the Republican-led Congress voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling for the first time. Leasing of other public lands for oil and gas drilling, including national forests, is accelerating across the country.
But there is hope: this summer, a bipartisan Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which permanently provides $900 million each year to acquire and protect public lands. It also provides $9 billion to support maintenance of existing national parks. November offers an unprecedented opportunity to make public lands a political priority: We can expand our parks and forests. We can strengthen our conservation laws. Our public lands can provide the bedrock that unites us. The pandemic has revealed even more clearly the value of public lands. Americans of all backgrounds have flocked to national forests, parks, and rivers during these tough times. Public lands have become increasingly vital to the health of our country. Public lands do not have to be divisive. They are places where we can come together. The most patriotic thing we can do as Americans is to protect the dirt beneath our boots. These lands belong to us all, for everyone to enjoy—not just a few corporations who can profit from them. Forests, rivers, and the species they shelter don’t get to vote. But you do. If you care about wild places, then vote for them and speak for them. They are a legacy that we all share— liberals and conservatives, rural folks and city slickers, old-timers and newcomers. In this fractured time, the land beneath our feet may literally be the only common ground we can find.
THE PEOPLE BEFORE THE PARKS We also must collectively own up to the racist, genocidal history of our public lands. The parks and forests where we hike and bike once belonged to native peoples who were systematically exterminated in a holocaust that many Americans rarely acknowledge. The scars of these wounds remain. Reparations are needed, and so is a re-examination of place names across the landscape. In Appalachia, plans are already underway to change the name of Mount Mitchell—named after slave owner and avowed racist Elisha Mitchell. At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest mountain in the East, and a sacred site for the Cherokee people. One possible name being considered as a replacement is the mountain’s original Cherokee name, Attakulla.
PHOTO COURTESY GETTY IMAGES
Adventure is the destination. WanderLove is about reconnecting with what you love: the crisp mountain air, the breathtaking views, and the winding roads in between. Plan your next road trip at virginia.org/wanderlove