Blue Ridge Outdoors February 2023

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BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM FEBRUARY 2023 FREE! + PACKRAFTING THE NANTAHALA + CUMBERLAND ISLAND’S SOLITUDE IN JEOPARDY + SWEETEST STATE PARKS FOR TRAIL RUNNING GET READY TO RACE Top Rides and Runs in the South LOCAL GEAR READERS CHOOSE TOP VIEWS, BREWS, TRAILS, AND ADVENTURES IN THE REGION FEAR FACTOR: TAKING ADVENTURE RISKS Best of the Blue Ridge

Maryland Coast Bike Festival

Join us on one of the three amazing routes exploring Maryland’s scenic coastal region. The event also offers the opportunity to benefit the Ulman Foundation. Start, finish and celebrate at the waterfront festival in West Ocean City’s famous harbor. Three enhanced routes this year with Assateague Island vistas! Robust beach-themed rest stops. SATURDAY, MAY 6TH, 2023
marylandcoastbikefestival.com
800-933-PARK (7275) | www.virginiastateparks.gov | Know Before You Go — Recreate Responsibly POCAHONTAS STATE PARK VIRGINIA STATE PARKS

PRESIDENT BLAKE DEMASO blake@blueridgeoutdoors.com

EDITOR IN CHIEF JEDD FERRIS jedd@blueridgeoutdoors.com PUBLISHER LEAH WOODY leah@blueridgeoutdoors.com

ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER KATIE HARTWELL katie@blueridgeoutdoors.com

CREATIVE DIRECTOR MELISSA KENNELLY m.kennelly@blueridgeoutdoors.com

EDITORIAL & PRODUCTION

SENIOR EDITOR WILL HARLAN will@blueridgeoutdoors.com

GEAR EDITOR DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN doug@elevationoutdoors.com

DESIGNER/ART MANAGER REBECCA CENCEWIZKI art@blueridgeoutdoors.com

EDITORIAL INTERN JENNY HELLWIG intern@blueridgeoutdoors.com

ADVERTISING & BUSINESS

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE HANNAH COOPER hannah@blueridgeoutdoors.com

ADVERTISING CONTENT COORDINATOR AMANDA LIVERETTE amanda@blueridgeoutdoors.com

BUSINESS MANAGER MELISSA GESSLER melissa@blueridgeoutdoors.com

DIGITAL MEDIA

ONLINE DIRECTOR CRAIG SNODGRASS webdir@blueridgeoutdoors.com

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FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 5
CONTRIBUTORS COPY EDITORS JULIA GREEN, ROBERT MCGEE DAVE STALLARD GRAHAM AVERILL ELLEN KANZINGER LAUREN STEPP MARY BETH SKYLIS MIKE BEZEMEK GOT A STORY IDEA OR COMMENT? submit@blueridgeoutdoors.com BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM SUMMIT PUBLISHING 977 SEMINOLE TR PMB294 CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA 22901 ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM ©2022 Summit Publishing, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED FEATURES 10 | BEST OF THE BLUE RIDGE Readers pick the region’s top trails, views, and brews. 29 | GET READY TO RACE Start training for these great rides and runs in the South. 40 | A PACKRAFTER PUSHES THE LIMITS Up the Appalachian Trail and down the Nantahala River in a day. 46 | LABOR OF LOVE Building woodpiles could be the lost art of courtship. February 2023 CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS 7 | THE STUDIO A mother and daughter interpret nature through a shared love of watercolor. 52 | THE OUT AND BACK An adventurer assesses risks. 54 | THE GOODS Great gear from the Blue Ridge and new essentials for runners. PHOTO BY BRIAN WELLS/COURTESY OF VISIT VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE 43 | THE QUIET CORNER A call to protect the solitude of Cumberland Island, a wild, pristine seashore in southeast Georgia that could soon get noisy and crowded. 58 | TRAIL MIX New music from Vulfpeck and City and Colour. 29 34 | THE SOUTHEAST’S BEST STATE PARKS FOR TRAIL RUNNERS Lace up and pile on the miles at these scenic gems. 15
PHOTO BY JESSE KOKOTEK ON THE COVER
ADVERTISING INQUIRIES advertise@blueridgeoutdoors.com
EAST FORK OVERLOOK ON THE SOUTHERN END OF THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY, THIS YEAR'S WINNER OF OUR ANNUAL PHOTO CONTEST. PHOTO BY LESLIE RESTIVO (@LESLIE_RESTIVO)

With six distinctive ski areas within fifty miles of Elkins, Randolph County is the ideal destination for a winter vacation in the heart of West Virginia Ski Country. Spend your days exploring breathtaking landscapes and your nights cozied up in a secluded cabin. Explore more at WVtourism.com/ElkinsRandolph

Cozy up to a heavenly stay.
Kumbrabow State Forest

NATURAL PROGRESSION

A Shared Love of Watercolor Runs in the Family

HOLLY WACH WAS IN THE FOURTH grade when her mother, Delia, decided to get serious about her art. The house was soon filled with fancy brushes, fun paints, and other supplies and books. Holly tagged along with mom to her art classes, both learning from masters of the craft as they explored their own styles.

Mother and daughter started attending art shows together, leaving Friday nights after school, showing Delia’s watercolor paintings on Saturdays, and driving back home on Sundays. “She grew up putting up the tent and building the walls,” Delia said of her daughter. “Holly could not help but be around discussions of watercoloring, framing, and matting.” In addition to selling her original artwork, Delia and her husband, Marty, wrote and illustrated nine children’s books featuring Delia’s distinct watercolors.

Holly followed a similar path, pursuing art through college and grad school. However, unlike her mother’s light and whimsical watercolor style, Holly was primarily interested in acrylics, oils, pastels, and charcoal. “Then, six years ago I discovered birds,” she said. “I pulled out an old watercolor set, took one class from my mom, and fell in love with the medium.”

Both artists find a sense of freedom in the watercolors that allow them to play around with movement and undefined edges as they capture the vibrant beauty of the natural world. Their shared love of watercolors is a frequent topic of conversation on their weekly catchup calls as they share ideas and help each other solve problems. “Most of all we continue to push

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 7 THE STUDIO
OF ART
GENERATIONS
WILDFLOWERS FROM MARTY’S GARDEN PAINTED BY DELIA WACH

each other artistically,” Holly said. It hasn’t always been an easy journey. Like anyone making things for a living, Delia and Holly have both had their share of successes and hardships. But it’s their ability to stick with their craft, even when it’s not turning out how they envisioned it, that makes for a long-lasting love affair with art. “You have to be as involved in the process as in the endpoint,” Delia said. “I can’t tell you how many rabbit holes I went down that weren’t successful. But all those rabbit holes are part of what I do now.”

The Magic of Nature

Most of Holly’s work focuses on avian subjects and the relationships she has built with these species through observation, investigation, and curiosity. “Each time I sit down, I get excited to get to know these birds and share them,” Holly said. “The more I paint them, the more I learn and the more fascinated I

become.

Holly is also working on a piece for the Google Quantum AI and DRAWEVERYWHERE partnership, a project that will celebrate the intersection of art and technology with 13 ten-foot by four-foot paintings of UNESCO sites done by different artists that will each wrap around a Quantum computer. “I have been doing a lot of research on the Smoky Mountains and taking a crash course in Quantum physics,” she said. “The work will be my largest painting to date. Weaving this area's magic together in a single image has been challenging but exciting.”

Delia’s current passion is creating art in her bullet journals, filling the pages with to-do lists, goals, and sketches of mushrooms and flowers. “I’ve done some of my best work in my bullet journals when there’s no pressure to perform,” she said. Each journal takes her about nine months to fill, a part of her daily art practice that

allows her to work through ideas and experiment with techniques.

Delia and Marty are also working on their next book—a guide on their writing process, how they got published, and the ways they weave their personal experiences into their work.

Both artists' work can be found hanging at Wach’s Gallery and Garden in Davis, W.Va. It’s a whole family affair with beautiful watercolors of flora and fauna by Delia and Holly, slab wood furniture built by Marty, and little trinkets they have collected from their travels over the years. “The best is when someone buys both of our work together for their home,” Holly said.

Wandering through the front rooms of the Wach’s home, there’s an eclectic mix of treasures on display. Rusty, the Wach’s six-yearold ridgeback hound and the official gallery greeter, will undoubtedly

come to say hello during a visit, and, out back, Marty has an impressive pollinator garden.

Just down the street from the gallery you can walk Camp 70 Road along the Blackwater River, one of the Wach’s favorite spots to find inspiration. “We’re both really wildflower-obsessed right now,” Delia said. “The intensity of the color of flowers up here is so different. It’s like a fireworks show.”

Many of those same wildflowers show up in Holly’s bird collections and Delia’s woodblock paintings.

“It's been so fun to see our different approaches and connect on doing what we love most,” Holly said.

The tradition has been passed on to the next generation as Holly now attends art shows with her 11-year-old daughter. Just like she did all those years ago, Holly’s daughter helps her set up the booth and share her art with the world.

8 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
THE STUDIO GENERATIONS OF ART
(LEFT) HOLLY, LEFT, AND DELIA WACH PAINT WILDFLOWERS TOGETHER. (RIGHT) GOLDFINCHES PAINTED BY HOLLY WACH. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS
FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 9 LIVE YOUR METRO MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE. TRAILSETTER: f fo ow trends. Create them. BE A #TRAILSETTER VisitVBR.com | 800.635.5535 VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE CONGRATULATIONS TO THESE BEST OF THE BLUE RIDGE BUSINESSES IN VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE: ROANOKE WON BEST PLACE TO RAISE AN OUTDOOR FAMILY IN THE ANNUAL BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS “BEST OF THE BLUE RIDGE”CONTEST Best Running Event The Blue Ridge Marathon Best Hiking Trail McAfee Knob Best Public Lands Blue Ridge Parkway Best Gym River Rock Climbing Best Drink Get Bent Grapefruit IPA (Parkway Brewing Company) Best Distillery Twin Creek Distillery Best Family Friendly Festival GoFest Best Tri Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge Best Brewery Parkway Brewing Best Drink Peg Hatcher’s Straight Whiskey (Twin Creeks Distillery) Best Coffee Shop Sweet Donkey Best Running Shop RunAbout Sports Best Bike Race GoCross Cyclocross Best Bike Shop Cardinal Bicycle Best Biking Trail Carvins Cove Best Restaurant River and Rail

Best of the Blue Ridge 2023

OUR REGION IS FULL OF AMAZING ADVENTURES—ALL MADE possible by the South’s challenging trails, stunning scenery, fun events, and local businesses that shape outdoor culture. In our annual Best of the Blue Ridge Awards, we once again asked you to cast your votes for your favorite places, races, and wide-open spaces in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Read on to learn more about this year’s favorites.

Our Annual Readers’ Choice Awards
THE “CREEPER KEEPERS” OF THE VIRGINIA CREEPER TRAIL CONSERVANCY WATCH OVER THIS 34.3-MILE PATH.
PHOTO BY JESSE KOKOTEK

DESTINATIONS

BEST PUBLIC LANDS (NATIONAL PARK/ FOREST)

Blue Ridge Parkway – NC/VA

Of all the public land gems in the Blue Ridge, maybe the best is the road that links so many of those gems together. As anyone who lives near it knows, a drive on the Parkway is its own must-go destination. But the 469-mile byway that connects two of the southeast’s most popular National Parks has plenty of mountain peaks, waterfalls, and historic landmarks along the way that make a quick venture from the car worthwhile. What’s best is that much of that scenic beauty lies just feet from the road—making the BRP one of the most accessible routes to pristine nature in the country.

- C.R.

RUNNERS UP

Blackwater Falls State Park - Tucker County, W.Va.

Fairy Stone State Park - Stuart, Va.

BEST HIKING TRAIL

McAfee Knob – Virginia

Search for the most photogenic hikes along the Appalachian Trail and you’ll find McAfee Knob. McAfee’s spectacular summit ledge sits about 2,000 feet above the Catawba Valley floor, and makes photos of this hike a favorite for magazines, guidebooks, and limitless Instagram posts. McAfee is relatively accessible too—the 3.9-mile trail is well-maintained and gradually rises 1,747 feet to the summit. The easy access (and all those Instagram posts) have made this hike a popular one, so avoid the bustle by going on a weekday or by using the new parking lot near the Catawba Greenway trail.

- C.R.

RUNNERS UP

North Fork Mountain Trail - West Virginia Art Loeb Trail – North Carolina

BEST BIKING TRAIL

Virginia Creeper Trail –Virginia

Biking any 34-mile stretch in the highlands of southern Virginia is bound to be great, but it’ll be better if all those miles are downhill. That’s part of what’s made the Virginia Creeper Trail a classic for bikers of all skill levels nationwide—bikers are free to bike both ways, but most take advantage of one of several local outfitters that offer shuttles to the top of Whitetop Mountain. From there, riders can cruise 17 miles to Damascus, or the full 34 to Abingdon. Locals say that peak tourist season in the fall is starting earlier and ending later every year. To avoid crowds, plan a ride in the early summer and take advantage of numerous trailside swimming holes. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Great Allegheny Passage – Maryland Carvins Cove Natural Reserve trails - Virginia

BEST WATERFALL Cascades – Virginia

At 66 feet tall, Cascades Falls in Jefferson National Forest is an impressive torrent and the perfect place to spend a muggy

summer afternoon. To access this Virginia waterfall, you’ll need to hike Cascades National Recreation Trail, a four-mile, out-and-back that flanks Little Stony Creek. Along the way, have a picnic on a moss-strewn rock or cast a line into native trout waters. Once you arrive at the falls, you can either admire the chute from afar or get up close and personal, taking a dip in the pool below. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Blackwater Falls – West Virginia Crabtree Falls – North Carolina

BEST SWIMMING HOLE

Sliding Rock – North Carolina

Are you looking to cool off after peak-bagging in Pisgah National Forest? If so, look no further than Sliding Rock. Located a few miles outside of Brevard on U.S. Highway 276, Sliding Rock is a 60foot cascade fueled by more than 11,000 gallons of water per minute. Think of it like Mother Nature’s slip and slide. Each summer, thousands of sunscreen-slathered visitors line up for their chance to descend

this slippery granite chute. Though the wait can be lengthy, patient patrons are rewarded with uberfast speeds and an ice-cold dunk in an eight-foot-deep pool. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Saint Mary’s Wilderness – Virginia Grassy Creek - Kentucky

BEST LAKE

Lake Moomaw – Covington, Va.

Tucked into the Alleghany Highlands of western Virginia, Lake Moomaw is an angler’s paradise. According to biologists, this 2,530acre reservoir offers “two-story” sport fishery. That means the man-made lake, which is fed by the Jackson River, is deep enough to support cold water species like trout as well as warm water species like bass, catfish, and crappie. But there’s much more to do at Lake Moomaw than cast a line. Visitors can also swim, boat, hike, and even camp. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Philpott Lake - Henry County, Va.

Summersville Lake - Summersville, W.Va.

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 11
THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY IN VIRGINIA. PHOTO BY CHRIS RITTER

BEST WHITEWATER

New River – West Virginia

Despite its name, West Virginia’s New River is one of the continent’s oldest waterways. It’s one of the wildest too. Though the southern part of the river is rather tame, the northern section near Fayetteville dishes up raging rapids ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V. Kayakers and rafters must also compete with massive boulders, powerful crosscurrents, tricky hydraulics, and an unrelenting sieve called the Meat Grinder. Accordingly, the New River is perfect for wild-eyed whitewater enthusiasts with a thirst for adrenaline. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Nantahala River - North Carolina

James River - Virginia

BEST FISHING SPOT (PUBLIC OR PRIVATE)

Mossy Creek – Virginia

Snaking through fertile farmland in the Shenandoah Valley, Mossy Creek is one of Virginia’s most iconic fly fishing destinations. According to the state’s Department of Wildlife Resources, this limestone creek has regularly been stocked

with fingerling brown trout since the 1970s. Thanks to a careful fishery management plan, there are now monsters lurking in Mossy Creek’s waters. But since no wading is allowed, it takes tons of technique to hook a big one. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Davidson River - North Carolina Catawba River - South Carolina

BEST CLIMBING CRAG Seneca Rocks – West Virginia

Located in Monongahela National Forest, Seneca Rocks is a white Tuscarora quartzite formation rising 900 feet from the valley floor. This massive crag is known for its multi-pitch trad climbs that range from beginner-friendly to downright spine-chilling. Since Seneca Rocks offers an alpine-like experience, it’s perfect for folks who want a taste of West Coast climbing without all the travel. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Looking Glass – North Carolina New River Gorge – West Virginia

BEST OVERLOOK

Grandfather Mountain –North Carolina

The Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain State Park in North Carolina isn’t for the faint of heart. Spanning an 80-foot chasm at 5,280 feet in elevation, this suspension bridge can make the bravest of people squirm. But if you can work up the chutzpah, you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping, 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On a clear day, you can even glimpse the Charlotte skyline more than 80 miles away. Of course, there are plenty of other fantastic viewpoints in the park. Calloway Peak, for instance, offers stunning panoramas for those willing to hike eight strenuous miles. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Dan Ingalls Overlook – Virginia

Table Rock Mountain Overlook – North Carolina

BEST CAMPGROUND Douthat State Park – Virginia

Finding a good campground is easier said than done. Some are so noisy and packed you feel like you’re roughing it in a Walmart parking lot while others are eerily barren. Luckily, Whispering Pines Campground at Douthat State Park offers the best of both worlds. Situated near Clifton Forge, Va.,

Whispering Pines is clean and quiet with no shortage of luxurious amenities. If you prefer glamping, stay in a historic cabin. If you’d rather reconvene with nature, bring your RV or pitch a tent. Either way, you’ll have the chance to enjoy Douthat Lake—a 50-acre reservoir regularly stocked with trout—and hike more than 40 miles of nearby trails. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Rocky Gap State Park – Flintstone, Md. Devils Backbone Camp - Roseland, Va.

BEST KID-FRIENDLY ADVENTURE SPOT

ACE Adventure Resort – Oak Hill, W.Va.

Sure, you could take your kids on another camping trip this year and spend the whole time listening to them whine about being bored. Or, you could take them to ACE Adventure Resort. Located near the New River Gorge in West Virginia, ACE Adventure Resort takes the hassle out of keeping your whippersnappers entertained. After settling into your luxe rental cabin, you and your kiddos can spend the weekend ziplining, rappelling, mountain biking, riding ATVs, whitewater rafting, and even playing

12 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
THE NEW RIVER IN WEST VIRGINIA OFFERS A WILD RIDE. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WEST VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM
FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 13 Waynesboro, Virginia Winner Best Fly Fishing Shop South River Fly Shop Winner Best Bike Race Tour De Valley Winner Best Beer/Wine/Spirits Trail Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail Runner-up Best Drink in the Blue Ridge Blue Ridge Bucha Discover the Best of the Blue Ridge in Waynesboro, VA
The Blue Ridge Parkway, voted best Public Lands National Park, is only 3 miles from Historic Downtown Waynesboro! VisitWaynesboro.com
Located at the intersection of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Appalachian Trail, Waynesboro is divinely placed among the adventure. Whether your tastes run toward biking, hiking and scenic drives, or paddling and fly fishing in the trout-stocked waters of the South River, you can plan your perfect adventure at visitwaynesboro.com.

TAKE THE

scenic route

Pick up the pace and explore Frederick County on two wheels. Glide along country roads through picturesque covered bridges or hit the mountain bike trails in State and local parks. Cool off with a craft beverage at dozens of breweries. Our terrain offers routes and trails for every rider.

visitfrederick.org • 800-999-3613

It makes no difference if you’re born in July or December, near the beach or the mountains – when you step into skis or a board for the first time, you might need a little help. Help from a mountain with terrain for every skill level, a snowmaking backbone to make sure the conditions are always on-point, and from a host of skilled and welcoming instructors.

Welcome to Snowshoe.

snowshoemtn.com

14 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

paintball. Honestly, there’s so much to do that it can be hard to choose, but ACE Adventure Resort offers pre-planned itineraries designed for young adventurers. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Mountain Lake Lodge - Pembroke, Va. Nantahala Outdoor Center Zip Line Adventure Park - Bryson City, N.C.

BEST PET-FRIENDLY ADVENTURE Massanutten Resort –Massanutten, Va.

Massanutten recently made some upgrades for pet owners, and our readers have taken notice. Last year the resort added new dog-friendly lodging options at three areas around the sprawling 6,000acre resort in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The ‘Nut allows guests to bring two dogs, 70 pounds or under, per reservation, and in addition to giving furry friends plenty of space to roam, the resort also provides a dog bed, food, and water bowls. - J.F.

RUNNERS UP

Peaks of Otter Lodge - Bedford County, Va. Chetola Resort - Blowing Rock, N.C.

BEST ADA OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE

New River Trail State Park –Virginia

Few trails in the Blue Ridge are as long and consistently accessible to folks of all abilities than the New River Trail. Every one of the trail’s 57 miles are ADA accessible, with a mix of gradually graded wide dirt paths and wooden bridges. In addition to accessible restrooms and information facilities along the trail, the Virginia State Park Service provides a photo showcase so those unable to climb nearly 75 feet of stairs can still experience the park’s 200-year-old ammunition tower. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

BEST BEER/WINE/ SPIRITS TRAIL Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail – Virginia

Eighteen breweries can be found throughout the pastoral scenery of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and they’re all connected via the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail. For craft beer lovers, options range from the sprawling outdoor property of Great Valley Farm Brewery and Winery in Natural

Bridge to the cool downtown taproom of Pale Fire Brewing Co. in Harrisonburg. All breweries on the trail (beerwerkstrail.com) are located within an hour’s drive from one other. - J.F.

RUNNERS UP

BEST PLACE FOR OUTDOOR SINGLES TO LIVE

Charlottesville, Va.

With a vibrant arts scene, a thriving research institute, and a growing number of craft breweries and locally unique eateries, Charlottesville checks many of the typical boxes that make any midsize college town a great place for a solo traveler to move. Few are as intrinsically outdoorsy as Cville, though—a pedestrian-only mall full of bars, restaurants, and shops dominates the city’s downtown, to say nothing of Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside city limits. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

Boone, N.C. Harrisonburg, Va.

BEST PLACE TO RAISE AN OUTDOOR FAMILY Roanoke, Va.

Many cities near the Blue Ridge host a wide variety of outdoor opportunities. But Roanoke in particular has the means to welcome the whole family to those opportunities. The Blue Ridge Parkway, the city’s famous Greenway, and the iconic Roanoke Star are staples for getting the family outside for the first time. Additionally, Roanoke has wellestablished facilities for outdoor sports like rock climbing and disc golf, and the town also offers classes for more adventurous endeavors like caving. With so many opportunities to start kids off right outside, it’s no wonder Roanoke has won our Best Place to Raise an Outdoor Family distinction for the 4th year in a row. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP Brevard, N.C. Gaston County, N.C.

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 15
C&O Canal National Historical Park –Maryland The Park at Flat Rock – North Carolina Nelson 151 – Virginia Asheville Ale Trail – North Carolina WHETHER YOU’RE LOOKING FOR FLOWY DESCENTS OR CHUNKY GNAR, MASSANUTTEN RESORT DELIVERS. PHOTO COURTESY OF MASSANUTTEN RESORT
16 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS TO OUR 13 LOCAL NOMINEES + WINNERS! TINY TOWN TONS TO DO BEST ZIP LINE IN THE BLUE RIDGE! Take A Ride On The Wild Side Start planning your trip today at VisitFloydVA.com Ages 3 and up Check availability, book online at BuffaloMountainZiplines.com | 540.200.5234 Congratulations Runner up

BEST SKI RESORT

Snowshoe Mountain Resort –Snowshoe, W.Va.

Southern skiers flock to Snowshoe because it offers a big West Coast-style resort experience in the high elevations of West Virginia. The mountain features 60-plus trails and five terrain parks, with highlights including the epic Cupp Run, which was designed by Olympian Jean-Claude Killy. And all that amazing terrain gets plenty of powder, as lake effect storms help bring more than 150 inches of snow to the resort area each year. After a day on the slopes, it’s fun to hang out in the Mountaintop Village, grabbing a bite or a drink at longtime staples like Foxfire Grill or the Junction Ale House. - J.F.

RUNNERS UP

Massanutten Resort – Massanutten, Va.

Wintergreen Resort – Nellysford, Va.

BEST RAFT GUIDE COMPANY

Twin River Outfitters –Buchanan, Va.

If you want to explore the upper section of the James River but are new to paddling, check out Twin River Outfitters. Stationed about 20 miles north of Roanoke, this small business has been offering paddling services since 1978. Nowadays, they provide Virginia locals and visitors with everything from hour-long tubing trips to five-day, expeditionstyle rafting adventures. The company can also hook you up with glamping accommodations right on the river. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Nantahala Outdoor Center Wildwater

BEST BIKE PARK Massanutten Resort – Virginia

In the colder months, Massanutten Resort in Virginia is a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts. But when temperatures warm up, the mountain bikers roll in. At Massanutten, riders can either stick to the downhill bike park,

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 17 BUSINESSES
SENECA ROCKS IS KNOWN FOR ITS MULTI-PITCH TRAD CLIMBS. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WEST VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM ALL WINNERS! IN PATRICK COUNTY, WE’RE Find yourself here Visit the Patrick County Visitors Center at 126 N. Main St, Stuart, VA We are excited to feature a few winners from our county. Whether you come here to unplug, soak in luxury stays, attend festivals, conquer the outdoors, or sample our farms from a basket or wine glass, we have something for everyone. From the rugged outdoors to 5-Star luxury, there is so much to discover here. visitpatrickcounty.org OUR RUNNERS-UP: Fairy Stone State Park - Public Lands Stanburn Winery - Winery Stuart Farmers Market - Farmers Market OUR NOMINEES: Front Porch Fest - Family Friendly Festival Pickle & Ash - Restaurant Primitive Coffee - Coffee Shop Stuart Spooktacular - Unique Festival Congratulations to all of our Best of Blue Ridge Winners, runners-up, and nominees! Best Wellness Center: Primland Resort Best Music Festival: FloydFest
18 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS Enjoy #UniquelyAlleghany moments at award winning places. VisitAlleghanyHighlands.com 540-962-2178 · 888-430-5786 #UniquelyAlleghany Congratulations for being voted Best of the Blue Ridge by the readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine: #BestoftheBlueRidge #FallingSpringFalls WINNERS: Lake Moomaw for Best Lake Douthat State Park for Best Campground RUNNER UP: Agony in the Alleghanies Gran Fondo for Best Bike Race Douthat State Park for Best Public Lands Falling Springs Falls for Best Waterfall Jackson River for Best Fishing Spot Jackson River Scenic Trail for Best Biking Trail NOMINEES: Alleghany Highlands for Best Place to Raise an Outdoor Family Thank you for voting us Best Bike Shop! Downtown 722 Preston Ave. 434.529.6514 Shop Online 24/7 @ blueridgecyclery.com Hollymead 300 Connor Dr. 434.995.2453 NEW! 19 Main Street 540.341.7702 CHARLOTTESVILLE WARRENTON YourFriendly L ocal BikeShop

which is fun, flowy, and screamingly fast. Or they can saunter over to Massanutten’s Western Slope. Designed for intermediate to advanced riders, this trail system dishes up delicious, cross-country gnar. Even better, you can lengthen your adventure by connecting to trails in the nearby George Washington National Forest. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Snowshoe Mountain Resort – Snowshoe, W.Va. Riveter – Fletcher, N.C.

BEST ZIPLINE

Adventures on the Gorge –Lansing, W.Va.

The ziplines at Adventures on the Gorge are fast. Like, really freaking fast. Visitors who opt for the Gravity Ziplines tour will fly above West Virginia hills and hollers at 65 miles per hour. Of course, if you’d rather slow down and savor the experience, the outdoor outfitter also offers a TreeTops Canopy Tour with swinging bridges, a 35-foot rappel, and plenty of opportunities to learn about local flora. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Buffalo Mountain Ziplines – Floyd, Va.

Massanutten Resort – Massanutten, Va.

BEST FLY FISHING SHOP South River Fly Shop

– Waynesboro, Va.

From the outside, South River Fly Shop is unassuming. Tucked into a small brick building in downtown Waynesboro, this Virginia outfitter doesn’t look like much. But once you step inside, you’ll realize why local anglers come here year after year. Stocked with poppers, flies, streamers, and everything in between, this full-service shop carries all the gear you need to land a massive trout. Even better, the store provides guided trips on the South, Jackson, Shenandoah, and James rivers. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Due South Outfitters – Boone, N.C. Fly Fishing the Smokies – Bryson City, N.C.

Blue Ridge Mountain Guides – Charlottesville, Va.

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 19
BEST CLIMBING GUIDE COMPANY
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With instructors based in a wide range of locales, Blue Ridge Mountain Guides’ programming spans from beginner rock climbing trips in Shenandoah National Park to backcountry skiing and avalanche safety in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. BRMG does well to make the most of the Southeast, though—check out BRMG instruction on technical multi-pitch ascents in West Virginia’s Seneca Rocks or, if weather permits, highly coveted Virginia ice climbing near sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

New River Mountain Guides – Fayetteville, W.Va.

Fox Mountain Guides – Brevard, N.C.

BEST GYM

River Rock Climbing – Roanoke, Va.

A stalwart of the southwest Virginia climbing scene, there’s a reason Roanoke’s River Rock has won our Best Gym distinction for the second year in a row. For a relatively

small gym, River Rock boasts a robust mix of climbs. Easy boulders and mellow auto-belay routes will engage first time climbers, while stiffly rated, outdoor-inspired boulder problems and roped routes will get veteran gym rats ready for outside. All-level yoga classes and Slackline Sundays highlight River Rock’s non-climbing offerings, making the gym a hub for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. Maybe its best feature—day passes at River Rock start at just $13, making it one of the most affordable gyms in the Southeast. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

Rocky Top Climbing – Charlottesville, Va. McHone Performance Training – Asheville, N.C.

BEST RUNNING SHOP

Ragged Mountain Running & Walking Shop – Charlottesville, Va.

Ragged Mountain is a pillar of the thriving running community in Charlottesville, Va. A four-decade family business located across from

the University of Virginia, the shop owners not only put runners (and walkers) in the right shoes, they also organize races, lead training programs, and provide resources on the best spots to pile on the miles in central Virginia. – J.F.

RUNNERS UP Outdoor 76 – Franklin, N.C. Runabout Sports – Roanoke and Blacksburg, Va.

BEST BIKE SHOP

Blue Ridge Cyclery – Charlottesville and Warrenton, Va.

Shawn Tevendale, a mainstay in the central Virginia biking scene, opened Blue Ridge Cyclery back in 2010 and now the popular local shop has three locations in the area ( two in Charlottesville and one in Warrenton). In addition to stocking top rides from Trek and Surly, Tevendale and his crew lead regular group rides for all levels of cyclists and mountain bikers. – J.F.

RUNNERS UP Cardinal Bicycle –

BEST OUTDOOR STORE

Great Outdoor Provision Co. – North Carolina and Virginia

In a world filled with big box and online options, it’s refreshing to see an independent outdoor retailer like Great Outdoor Provision Co. thriving. Opened in 1972, the outfitter started in a 120-squarefoot space in the back of a bike shop in Carrboro, N.C., and they’ve since expanded to nine locations across Virginia and North Carolina. And they’re still growing: a new flagship store is set to open in Charlottesville, Va., this year. – J.F.

RUNNERS UP

Marion Outdoors – Marion, Va. Second Gear – Asheville, N.C.

BEST LODGING

The

Merry Inn – Marion, Va.

The Merry Inn isn’t your typical A.T. hostel. Located in the upstairs of a gear shop in quaint downtown Marion, it’s a tailor-made hub for a growing outdoor community. Seeing that many thru-hikers were spending nights just outside of town, Amanda and Andrew Livingston decided to open up a hostel above their shop downtown. Besides playing host to 8 bunks and 2 private rooms available to tired adventurers, the Inn offers guided backpacking trips and day hikes for locals and visitors alike. Be sure to tune into the Inn’s Instagram (@marion_outdoors) as well, where Andrew, a former actor at nearby Abingdon’s Barter Theater, stars in spunky and informative videos sharing local outdoor wisdom. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabins – Asheville, N.C.

The Schoolhouse Hotel – White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

BEST WELLNESS CENTER

Primland Resort Spa –

Meadows of Dan, Va.

For those who like a few

20 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
Roanoke, Va. Adventure Damascus and Sundog Outfitter – Damascus, Va. ON A CLEAR DAY, YOU CAN SEE ALL THE WAY TO CHARLOTTE FROM GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN STEWARDSHIP FOUNDATION

Allegany County, the Mountain Side of Maryland, prides itself in its top-notch selection of creators, and that includes the artisans in the kitchens and the baristas behind the controls. Our Donut and Go, Donut and Coffee Trail is our newest hyperlocal food trail that celebrates coffee and donuts with 10 stops laid out across 12.5 miles. Plus, it features Basecamp Coffee Co., this year’s recipient of Blue Ridge Outdoors ‘Best Coffee Shop’ in the Blue Ridge.

THE TRAIL STARTS HERE.

Visit MDMOUNTAINSIDE.COM/STARTSHERE
looking for local flavor? WE’VE GOT A TRAIL FOR THAT!

creature comforts with their trips into nature, Primland Resort in Virginia’s Meadows of Dan offers several wellness-focused packages to accommodate the well-pampered traveler. In addition to its full suite of body therapy and skin care options, Primland incorporates its remote mountain location into its wellness programs. Yoga classes take place in front of sweeping vistas, and, after days of hiking, guests can spend the night in tree house suites overlooking the Dan River Gorge. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

Mountainside Holistic Clinic – Floyd, Va. Just Breathe Yoga & Bodywork – Martinsville, Va.

BEST OUTDOOR CLUB

Marion Outdoors Group Hikes –

Marion, Va.

Situated near the Appalachian Trail, Marion Outdoors is an independent outfitter where thruhikers can purchase last-minute gear and catch some shuteye in the hostel upstairs. But the shop also engages the local community with its calendar of guided day

hikes. Led by store manager Tracy “GoAT” York, the outfitter’s hiking group, recently renamed Hiking with Friends, explores places like Molly’s Knob in Hungry Mother State Park and Gentry Creek Falls in Cherokee National Forest. In the past, the store has even hosted midnight hikes. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Appalachian Trail Conservancy – Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Camp Mont Shenandoah – Millboro, Va.

BEST ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATION

Virginia Creeper Trail Conservancy – Abingdon, Va.

If you’re none the wiser, a “Creeper Keeper” might sound like a macabre monster. However, the moniker actually refers to the dedicated men and women of the Virginia Creeper Trail Conservancy. These volunteers are responsible for maintaining the 34.3-mile rail trail that stretches from Abington, Va., into the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Conservation efforts range from picking up trash to spiffing up benches. Many members are also involved

in behind-the-scenes work like fundraising and public relations. No matter the task, the Creeper Keepers work hard to ensure all visitors enjoy their time on the trail. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

James River Association – Richmond, Va. Keep Virginia Cozy – Richmond, Va.

BEST LOCAL GEAR BRAND

Eagles Nest Outfitters – Asheville, N.C.

In the summer of 1999, brothers Peter and Paul Pinholster piled into a rickety van and took to the road with one goal in mind: to revolutionize the way people relax outdoors. They started in their home state of Florida, selling ultra-light and conveniently transportable hammocks at festivals. Soon enough, the idea took off. Today, Eagles Nest Outfitters—better known as ENO—is a household brand rooted in Asheville, N.C. Besides hammocks, ENO sells blankets, rain tarps, chairs, bags, packs, and lots of other quality gear that’ll make your next camping trip super comfy. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Farm to Feet – Mount Airy, N.C. SylvanSport – Brevard, N.C.

FOOD & DRINK

BEST DRINK IN THE BLUE RIDGE

Get Bent IPA – Parkway Brewing Co.

– Salem, Va.

Based in Salem, Va., Parkway has become a mainstay in the Roanoke Valley beer scene since opening a decade ago. The brewery’s well-distributed and perhaps best-known beer is this well-balanced IPA that hits all the right notes for those who love the style’s classic West Coast roots. It’s citrusy and piney with some bitter hop character and a malty backbone that ties it all together—a perfect refresher after spins on the Blue Ridge Parkway or Carvins Cove. - J.F.

RUNNERS UP

Peg Hatcher’s Straight Whiskey – Twin Creeks Distillery – Rocky Mount, Va. Bluegrass Kombucha – Blue Ridge Bucha –Waynesboro, Va.

BEST BREWERY

Blue Mountain Brewery – Afton, Va.

Blue Mountain helped put craft beer on the map in central Virginia, opening its scenic outpost in rural Nelson County back in 2007. A decade and a half later, the brewery is still thriving, its sprawling outdoor patio often packed with folks enjoying scenic mountain views and a lengthy list of tasty brews. Musttries include Full Nelson Pale Ale, a long-running regional staple that’s perfect for hop heads, and Dark Hollow, a beast of an imperial stout that’s aged in bourbon barrels. - J.F.

RUNNERS UP

Parkway Brewing Company – Salem, Va.

Appalachian Mountain Brewery – Boone, N.C.

BEST WINERY

Chateau Morrisette – Floyd, Va.

This year marks 45 years in business for Chateau Morrisette, one of Virginia’s oldest wineries, which continues to source many of its grapes from the state itself. While the pandemic may have closed the winery’s famed restaurant (though the winery’s website hints at a reopening in the works), Chateau Morrisette itself remains open and hosts events like concerts on the ground’s scenic courtyard, showcasing Floyd’s vibrant musical community. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

Veritas Winery – Afton, Va. Stanburn Winery – Stuart, Va.

BEST DISTILLERY

Twin Creek Distillery – Rocky Mount, Va.

Homemade spirits are a family business at Twin Creek Distillery. Owner Chris Prillaman is a descendent of Blue Ridge bootleggers who made moonshine in the Virginia mountains, and now his daughter is carrying the torch forward, making legal spirits at Twin Creeks’ outpost in Rocky Mount, Va. Favorites include the 1st Sugar Moonshine, Blackberry Brandy, and Peg Hatcher’s Straight Whiskey.J.F.

RUNNERS UP

5 Mile Mountain Distillery – Floyd, Va. Bootleggers Distillery – Hartford, Tenn.

22 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
NEED A CAFFEINE FIX? BASECAMP COFFEE COMPANY HAS GOT YOU COVERED. PHOTO COURTESY OF BASECAMP COFFEE COMPANY

BEST CIDERY

Potter’s Craft Cider –Charlottesville, Va.

With an impressive cider fleet led by their Farmhouse Dry and Grapefruit Hibiscus, Potter’s has garnered enough popularity to expand their reach to 39 states. There’ll be plenty to enjoy close to home too—late last summer, Potter’s acquired a new location in the Woolen Mills neighborhood in Charlottesville, where they hope to open a new tasting room in addition to their incredibly scenic location just south of town. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

Hawk Knob Cidery – Lewisburg, W.Va. Ciders from Mars – Staunton, Va.

BEST RESTAURANT

Floyd Country Store – Floyd,

Va.

Whether you’re right in town or live miles away, the Floyd Country Store is worth the trip to Downtown Floyd for any number of reasons. Maybe it's for the sweets like the carrot cake or quick bread, or classic meals like their hearty Brunswick stew and cornbread— in the quaint store and cafe, you’ll hear locals chatting about all their usual favorites. It’s surprising that food is almost a secondary reason to come here, though. At this country store, music takes center stage. The tables get cleared out every Friday night for a weekly jamboree, and the store boasts a full calendar of events that showcase Floyd’s rich local music scene. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

BEST DISH Pizza at Pies and Pints –Multiple locations

If you’re tired of boring pizza, check out Pies and Pints. With locations across the South, this regional chain is known for its cold beer and bizarre flavor combinations. The street corn pizza, for instance, features seasoned corn, jalapenos, parmesan, chipotle crema, and a generous dusting of Tajín. Then there’s the Thai pie with shrimp, toasted coconut, and curry sauce. There’s even a pizza with grapes and gorgonzola. Basically, if you can dream it, they can make it into a pizza. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Fried Green Tomatoes – Tupelo Honey Café –Asheville, N.C.

Greg Brady Burger – Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger – Multiple Locations

BEST COFFEE SHOP

Basecamp Coffee Co. – Cumberland,

Md.

Fuel up for an adventure with a strong cup of Joe from Basecamp Coffee Company. Founded in 2015 by Hayden Ort-Ulm, this Maryland micro-roastery offers a robust lineup of jolting blends. Locals love “The Original,” a super drinkable medium roast with sweet notes of fruit. If you’re looking for something a smidge stronger, opt for an espresso drink kissed with housemade syrup. Either way, you’ll have tons of energy to explore nearby Wills Mountain State Park. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Sweet Donkey Coffee House – Roanoke, Va.

Red Rooster Coffee – Floyd, Va.

BEST FARMERS MARKET

Harrisonburg Farmers Market

– Harrisonburg, Va.

While some produce markets close in winter months, the Harrisonburg Farmers Market supplies local folks and travelers alike with fresh fruit and vegetables year-round. Benefitting from a strong agricultural community in Rockingham County, the market boasts vendors who needn’t travel far to sell their goods, meaning produce stays fresh and on the cheaper end. Be on the lookout for local pottery, honey, and lavender products from one of several nearby lavender farms. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

Stuart Farmers Market – Stuart, Va.

North Asheville Tailgate Market – Asheville, N.C.

EVENTS & RACES

BEST MUSIC FESTIVAL

FloydFest – Floyd, Va.

Hosted each summer in southwestern Virginia, this five-day music festival features a vibrant lineup of nearly 100 artists. Slated for July 26 to 30, this year’s event will see heavy hitters like The Black Crowes and Goose alongside

(TOP PHOTO) THE FLOYD COUNTRY STORE.

PHOTO BY CHRIS RITTER

(BOTTOM PHOTO) NEARLY 100 ARTISTS ARE SLATED TO PERFORM AT THE 2023 FLOYDFEST.

PHOTO BY THOMAS BECK PHOTOGRAPHY

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 23
The French Goat – Lewisburg, W.Va. River and Rail Restaurant – Roanoke, Va.

WONDERS NEVER CEASE

No matter the season, Brevard and Transylvania County invite you to discover our magic.

explorebrevard.com

regional talents like Into The Fog, a genre-jumping string band from North Carolina, and indie hip-hop duo Little Stranger. But there’s more to do than jam out. With guided hikes, group mountain bike rides, hula hoop workshops, and disc golf tournaments, there’s something for everyone at FloydFest. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

Red Wing Roots Music Festival – Mt. Solon, Va. DelFest – Cumberland, Md.

BEST FAMILY FRIENDLY FESTIVAL

Trail Days – Damascus, Va.

Trail Days is like an eccentric family reunion for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers. Each spring, thousands flock to the sleepy-eyed hamlet of Damascus, Va., to listen to honkytonk, compete in chili contests and talent shows, and attend workshops on everything from trail stewardship to hot weather hiking. Of course, the main event is the Trail Days Hiker Parade. During this much-anticipated march, goat-legged thru-hikers don

ridiculous regalia and strut down Laurel Avenue while townies hoot, holler, and drench participants with super-soakers. It’s wet, wild, and tons of fun. To experience it firsthand this year, be sure to block off May 19 to 21. - L.S.

RUNNERS UP

LEAF – Black Mountain, N.C. Go Outside Festival – Roanoke, Va.

BEST UNIQUE FESTIVAL

Highland

County Maple

Festival – Highland County, Va.

People who think great maple syrup only comes from New England have probably never heard of Highland County. The pristine and sparsely populated county in a northwest corner of Virginia is known for its spectacular countryside, and, for two weekends in March, for showcasing a deep history of making world class maple syrup. Take a sugar camp tour to hear stories from families who have tapped the Highland maples for

centuries, see your pick of local craft shows, and yes, eat. Maple doughnuts are a must, but don’t miss gems like the Bolar Ruritan Club’s all-you-can-eat feast of pancakes and buckwheat cakes— best when drenched in syrup, of course. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

BEST RUNNING EVENT

Blue Ridge Marathon – Roanoke, Va.

With over 7,000 feet of elevation gain, the Blue Ridge Marathon more than earns its reputation as America’s toughest road marathon. But it might also be the prettiest— with all that climbing comes sweet summit views, and the current race route climbs to Roanoke’s famed Star atop Mill Mountain as well as Roanoke Mountain, with an ascent that crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway twice. Not up for the full 26.2? Not

to worry, the event also includes a half marathon and 10K, both of which also climb to the Roanoke Star. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

Rim to River 100 – New River Gorge, W.Va. Baltimore Running Festival – Baltimore, Md.

BEST TRIATHLON King of the James – Richmond, Va.

King of the James is truly an outdoor adventurer’s triathlon. Instead of the run-bike-swim combo typical of most triathlons, King of the James moves the running to a trail, trades the road cycle for a mountain bike, and ditches swimming for shooting the Falls of the James River in a whitewater kayak. The race is a tough off-road test, but it’s a struggle you can feel good about enduring—money raised by the race benefits the James River Park System, which is dedicated to providing easily accessed outdoor space near Virginia’s capital. - C.R.

RUNNERS

UP

Ironman 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge – Roanoke, Va. Lake Logan Triathlon – Canton, N.C.

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Beaver Dam Sunflower Festival – Buchanan, Va. West Virginia Roadkill Cookoff and Autumn Harvest Festival – Marlinton, W.Va. THINK OF TRAIL DAYS LIKE AN ECCENTRIC FAMILY REUNION FOR THRU-HIKERS. PHOTO BY JESSE KOKOTEK
26 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS Miles of trail to explore with friends and family For two or four wheels Easy to access but a journey to find…. Cascades Falls - WINNER for Best Waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountain Lake Lodge - RUNNER UP for Best Kid Friendly Adventure Cherokee Flats - NOMINEE for Best ADA Outdoor Experience VirginiasMtnPlayground.com Thank you for voting for these Giles County destinations! e peaceful back roads offer stunning mountain views. e great food, outdoor adventure and exceptional hospitality turn a weekend getaway into an epic road trip. at’s a Made in Bath County experience. BATH magical Journeys.
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Camp Mont Shenandoah Best Educational Outdoor Recreation Program

BEST BIKE RACE

Tour de Valley – Waynesboro, Va.

Starting in Constitution Park in downtown Waynesboro, the Tour de Valley has led cyclists winding through some of the most scenic countryside in the region for 34 years. The 100-mile route links the foot of the Blue Ridge at Waynesboro and Stuarts Draft across the valley to Goshen Pass and Rockbridge County’s spectacular northwest corner. It’s never been easier for beginner riders to experience a chunk of that beauty too— in 2022, a 25-mile route was added to the 40-, 62-, and 100-mile options. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

Virginia’s Blue Ridge Go Cross Cyclocross –Roanoke, Va. Agony in the Alleghanies Gran Fondo - Clifton Forge, Va.

BEST CLIMBING EVENT

New River Gorge AAC Craggin Classic – New River Gorge, W.Va.

An arts festival, competition, skills clinic, and outdoor stewardship event all-in-one, the Craggin Classic is the ultimate community event for people who climb southeastern rock. For a weekend in the early fall, the American Alpine Club comes to the world-class crags in the New to gather climbers and give back to the local community. After days spent climbing and helping the New River Alliance of Climbers clean up the area, attendees can participate in a zany mix of activities—last year’s festival included a talent show and a Texas Hold‘em tournament. - C.R.

RUNNERS UP

Triangle

BEST PADDLING EVENT Gauleyfest – Summersville,

W.Va.

The largest paddling festival in the world turns 40 this year. Every fall kayakers and rafters flock to West Virginia to run the class V rapids of the mighty Gauley, and many of them also head to Nicholas County Memorial Park in Summersville for this big party for the boating community. The event, a showcase for steadfast river access group American Whitewater, features a vendor marketplace, lots of live tunes, and plenty of paddling. - J.F.

RUNNERS UP

Kibler Valley River Run - Ararat, Va.

Green River Narrows Race - Flat Rock, N.C.

BEST FLY FISHING EVENT

VA Fly Fishing & Wine Festival - Doswell, Va.

Anglers, both experienced and aspiring, from across the country head to Meadow Event Park every year for this unique event that combines a range of educational fly fishing lectures and speakers with wine and craft beer tastings. Attendees can take casting classes, learn about mountain trout tactics, and unwind with the best offerings from regional wineries. – J.F.

RUNNERS UP

Greenbrier Fly Fishing Classic - Lewisburg, W.Va.

So Fly Fest - Warm Springs, Va.

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 27
Rock Club Competition - Richmond, Va. Hound Ears - Banner Elk, N.C.
SINGLE-HANDEDLY CHANGED HOW WE RELAX OUTDOORS.
EAGLES NEST OUTFITTERS
ENO
PHOTO COURTESY OF

Get Ready to Race

Start Training and Prepare to Toe the Line at These Top Southern Runs and Rides

LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION TO GET IN SHAPE, PUSH YOURSELF TO the limits, or simply enjoy a bit of friendly competition in a beautiful mountain setting? The Blue Ridge region is chock full of great races. From subterranean half-marathons to mountaintop triathlons, plus one of the most grueling backcountry mountain biking races in the U.S., our 2023 list has everything you need to quench your thirst for competition.

Harpers Ferry Half Marathon & 5K Harpers Ferry, West Virginia May

20

Get your run on in one of the coolest and most scenic trail towns in the Blue Ridge. The tiny burg of Harpers Ferry sits on a hilly peninsula between the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers surrounded by mountains and national forest. Its riverside district is part of an eponymous national park, and brims with restored 18th and 19th century buildings. The Appalachian Trail passes through the center of town and briefly converges with the 185-mile C&O Canal Towpath bikeway.

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 29
THE FINISH LINE OF THE CARILION CLINIC IRONMAN 70.3 VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE TRIATHLON. PHOTO COURTESY OF VISIT VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE

Race participants can take their pick between a half-marathon or 5K (a sister marathon and 10K are held annually in October), with proceeds benefitting the local community. Courses are designed to provide incredible views of the town, rivers, and mountains, and showcase the best of the area’s breathtaking natural scenery.

harpersferryhalf.org

RockStar Challenge Grand Depart

Harrisonburg, Virginia April 22

The Rockstar Challenge holds a special place in the hearts, minds—and fears—of Shenandoah Valley mountain biking enthusiasts. The grueling, fourday, 270-mile race carries riders from downtown Harrisonburg to downtown Roanoke, traversing some of the toughest backcountry single-track and tallest peaks in Virginia.

The course features nearly 40,000 feet of climbing and passes through legendary MTB riding areas like Stokesville Campground, 4,500-foot Reddish Knob, the Shenandoah Mountain Ridge, Douthat State Park, and Carvins Cove. The ride is broken up into 70-mile days and racers have the option of camping in off-the-beaten-path areas or catching a shuttle to prearranged lodging. Most of the riding takes place on trails, with connector stretches of gravel and asphalt here and there.

cyclingva.com/events/rockstar-challenge

30 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
GRAVISTA Join us for a gravel race in the Blue Ridge Mountains Buena Vista, VA May 13th, 2023 Registration : www bikereg com/gravista SCAN ME Coming Soon March 2023
A RUNNER COMPETES AT THE QUEST FOR THE CREST. PHOTO COURTESY OF RUN BUM RACES

Carilion Clinic Ironman 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge Triathlon Roanoke, Virginia

June 4

This epic event has won international acclaim as a showcase for some of the most fantastic natural beauty on the Ironman circuit. The race starts with a 1.2-mile lap in the high, clear, spring-fed waters of Carvins Cove reservoir within a 12,500-acre natural reserve punctuated by 3,500-foot Brushy Mountain. Participants then hop on their cycles for a 56-mile jaunt through the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway, which includes an infamous five-mile climb up Route 43, jaw-dropping views of the Roanoke Valley, and a blazing 21-mile descent into the town of Vinton. The event concludes with a 13.1-mile run through the city along the Roanoke River Greenway that begins and ends in the heart of downtown at River’s Edge Park. Competition is broken into 12 different age groups ranging from 18 to 80, with awards for each.

ironman.com/im703-virginia-blue-ridge

Quest for the Crest 10K & 50K

Burnsville, North Carolina

May 21-22

The Quest is held about 30 miles northeast of Asheville in 4,800-acre Mount Mitchell State Park and is widely regarded as one of the most intense trail races in the Southeast. Its 50K option features three separate, highly

Sometimes you have to disconnect to reconnect.

Escape the daily hustle and bustle and relax and recharge in Berkeley County. Explore wide-open expanses, dine on local delicacies or catch up with family and friends in a cozy cottage. Winter in West Virginia is sure to bring new inspiration.

WVtourism.com/Martinsburg

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 31
CYCLISTS RIDE THE COURSE OF THE CARILION CLINIC IRONMAN 70.3 VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE TRIATHLON. PHOTO BY BRIAN WELLS/COURTESY OF VISIT VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE Beacon Trail Overlook

technical ascents to 6,000-plus-foot summits along the Black Mountain Crest, including 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

A word to the wise: The Quest is not for the casual day-tripper. Racers will haul themselves up goat-steep paths using fixed ropes, refill water bottles from a remote mountain spring, navigate multiple steep, rocky descents with sharp drop-offs, and more.

But the payoff is worth it. You’ll pass through vast swaths of Pisgah National Forest backcountry and catch near-constant unrivaled views from some of the most fabled peaks in the state and greater Appalachia. And if you make it to the finish line? That’s some hardcore bragging rights.

runbumtours.com/questforthecrest

Pisgah Stage Race

Brevard, North Carolina

April 10-15

The Pisgah Stage Race highlights the best of more than 400 miles of ripping mountain biking trails in western North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. The five-day, 130-mile shred-fest brings more than 20,000 feet of elevation gain and has a reputation as one of the top MTB endurance races in the U.S. The course is made up of a whopping 76 percent single-track, with 19 percent dirt road, and just five percent asphalt.

The 7,500-person town of Brevard is nestled along the entrance to the riding area, offering riders uncanny basecamp convenience and killer amenities. Individual stages span from about 15 to just over 30 miles, with

32 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
Find Your Trail
PHOTO COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES
www.ExploreElkin.com

average completion times of 2.5 to 3.5 hours.

Participants can expect to enjoy an unmatched sampler of some the nation’s best single-track, all while slicing and dicing their way through beautiful Appalachian woodlands and 5,000-plus-foot mountains. blueridgeadventures.net/pisgah-stage-race

Race to the Cave Half Marathon & 10K

Woodville, Alabama

March 19

This unique event carries racers to the 500-acre Cathedral Caverns State Park in northeast Alabama. Both the half-marathon and 10K end on a 1.2-mile dash through the caverns with highlights including expansive, natural amphitheater rooms and a jaw-dropping three-plus-acre stalactite forest.

Early on, routes wind through dense, hilly forests along state park roads and hiking trails. For the most part, gradients are pretty gentle, but past participants are quick to point out a couple of short but brutally steep climbs that come just before passing underground.

The competition is split into age groups ranging from 7-70 and above, with awards for each. Runners are encouraged to stay at the newly renovated resort lodge overlooking the water at nearby Lake Guntersville State Park. Proceeds benefit Alabama State Parks and the Land Trust of North Alabama. alapark.com/parks/cathedral-caverns-state-park/race-cave-halfmarathon

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 33
PHOTO COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES PHOTO
COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES

The Southeast’s Best State Parks for Trail Runners

Lace up and pile on the miles at these scenic gems

WITH SOME OF THE OLDEST MOUNTAINS ON EARTH, AND TRAVERSED BY long distance footpaths like the Appalachian Trail, Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and the Pinhoti Trail, the Southeast is a spectacular destination for trail runners to log miles, especially in the region’s state parks. Here are just a few of the best places to hit the trails.

Pickett CCC Memorial State Park, Tennessee

Stashed away in a rugged corner of the Cumberland Plateau, Pickett CCC Memorial State Park is a portal to an extensive regional trail network. Engulfed by the Pickett State Forest, the park borders both the Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area and the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, the backdrop for a handful of trail races and ultramarathons, including the No Business 100.

The first protected area in the Southeast to earn a Silver-tier designation from the International Dark Sky Association, in 2015 the park was also assimilated into the Picket-Pogue International Dark Sky Park, with amenities added for stargazers. By daylight, though, there are 58 runnable miles of trails in the park and adjacent state forest. And, for the ultra-runners, the 354-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail connects the trail system in Pickett State Park with the footpaths traversing the 125,000-acre Big South Fork National Recreation Area. For an overnight getaway, there are campsites perfect for aspiring astronomers, along with a variety of cabins for rent, including historic wood shingle and stone cabins constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia

Holding the highest peak in Virginia, the alpine meadows quilting the higher reaches of Grayson Highlands State Park are a wonderland for trail runners. And,

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in the park’s high country, runners frequently share the trail with a herd of resident wild ponies, the sturdy descendants of animals introduced to the mountainous region by local ranchers in the early 1900s, who later provided natural landscaping for the treeless summits crowning the park, also called balds.

There are more than 27 miles of trails inside the park, including long-distance routes like the Appalachian Trail and the 68-mile Virginia Highlands Horse Trail. For runners unfazed by gritty climbs, the protected area regularly hosts the Grayson Highlands 50 mile/50K/HalfMarathon. The protected area also serves as a gateway to the 200,000-acre Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, a high-elevation swath of the Jefferson National Forest traversed by more than 500 miles of trails. For plenty of wide-open country, run the 0.8-mile Appalachian Spur Trail to the Appalachian Trail and head north into the Mount Rogers NRA traversing Wilburn Ridge, an upland crest named for prolific local wolf and bear hunter Wilburn Waters, who lived on White Top Mountain in the mid-1800s. Just remember, park elevations top out at more than 5,000 feet, so plan for chilly weather. For a multiday adventure, the park has campsites, yurts, and a 14-person bunkhouse, available seasonally from May 1 to October 31.

Rocky Gap State Park, Maryland

Spread over an expanse of countryside that was once a dairy farm, the terrain at Rocky Gap State Park offers a smorgasbord for trail runners. The backdrop for the Rocky Trail 25K, 50K & Relay Race, the park is overshadowed by Evitt’s Mountain and anchored by 243-acre Lake Habeeb. And, in the western portion of the park, Rocky Gap Run slices through a mile-long sandstone gorge with walls rising more than 350 feet.

For a sampling of the scenery, the 5.3-mile Lakeside Loop cruises through hemlock forests fringed with rhododendron and mountain laurel,

and functions as the heart of the park’s trail network. Craving a climb? The 2.5-mile Evitt’s Mountain Trail scales the eponymous peak, ascending more than 1,200 feet to the top of the whaleback ridge, and passes a 300-year-old homestead, built around 1730.

The park’s campsites and eight-person yurt are bookable year-round, and mini-cabins are available seasonally, from April through November. For even cushier accommodations, there’s also an onsite resort, with a spa for post-run recovery. The park is also a strategic basecamp for other regional routes, including

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 37
GRAYSON HIGHLANDS STATE PARK. PHOTO BY MALEE OOT
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a trio of runnable rail-trails: the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, the Great Allegheny Passage, and the Western Maryland Rail Trail. Just 15 miles east of the state park, the 49,000-acre Green Ridge State Forest is another gem for runners. The largest interconnected expanse of public land in Maryland, the state forest is etched with more than 80 miles of trails.

Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

The highest cascade in West Virginia, Blackwater Falls has been luring outdoorsy visitors since the late 1800s. Tumbling 57 feet into the Blackwater Canyon, the flume is the centerpiece of Blackwater Falls State Park and

the protected area’s main attraction, but for runners the park’s trail system is the real draw.

Cradled by the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and an isolated, high-elevation swath of the Monongahela National Forest, the state park’s buffet of runnable routes includes everything from wilderness rambles to easyrolling rail-trails. The park itself is etched with more than 20 miles of trails, and there are plenty of ways to connect to other regional routes. Named for a popular 19th century lodge, the Dobbin House Trail connects the park with footpaths in the Monongahela National Forest for photogenic backcountry tours. For easier cruising, the 1.6-mile Town Trail connects the park to the town of Davis. Need a little more distance? The 10.7-mile Blackwater Canyon Trail originates in Thomas, four miles north of the state park, and connects to the 26-mile Allegheny Highlands Trail.

For a multi-day run-cation, the park offers a variety of accommodations, including cabins, rooms in the onsite lodge, seasonal campsites, and hike-in Tentrr sites, equipped with canvas tents, queen beds, heaters, and solar showers.

Oak Mountain State Park, Alabama

A century ago, Double Oak Mountain was on the radar of the newly formed National Park

Service. The agency acquired more than 8,000 acres outside Birmingham, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) were enlisted to build recreational infrastructure on the mountain. However, the initiative was discontinued in the 1940s, and the federal government’s acreage was turned over to the Oak Mountain State Park.

Today, the 9,940-acre protected area is the largest state park in Alabama, and with more than 50 miles of trails and almost endless route options for runners. Covering the southeastern portion of Double Oak Mountain, the park offers everything from easy-to-navigate lake loops to extended backcountry rambles with punishing elevation gain. As a sweet reward for runners, 65foot Peavine Falls is perched atop the protected area’s highest ridgeline. The rugged park also hosts a regular rotation of trail races, including the XTERRA Americas Trail Run Championship for 2023.

For an easy leg-stretcher, the Red Road Trail is a converted forest road originally used by the Civilian Conservation Corps, while the park’s White and Yellow trails traverse Maggie’s Glen, a stream-threaded hollow burrowed into the eastern corner of the park. For overnight getaways, the park’s campground is nestled beside Beaver Lake, and the cabins clustered beside Lake Tranquility are available to rent year-round.

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TOUGH CLIMBS AND STUNNING SCENERY AT GRAVISTA

Riding the Toughest Gravel Bike Race in the Region

It was dark out by the time my partner, Quinn, and I arrived in Buena Vista, Virginia. I love coming to this area, whether it be for hiking the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway, or exploring Natural Bridge State Park, there’s no shortage of outdoor recreation in Rockbridge County. This time, I was there to try something new—Gravista.

I had been looking forward to this race for months. Known for its gruesome yet satisfyingly challenging course, Gravista is one of the most difficult and scenic gravel bike races in the Shenandoah Valley. The race offers two routes for riders that incorporate the Blue Ridge Parkway—the Worthy 30 and the Stoked 60. Both living up to the event’s reputation of having big bad climbs and spectacular sites, the routes showcase views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Stoked 60 event is tougher—a 68-mile loop sending riders on a course with an elevation gain of 8,524 feet and chasing the A.T. around Wiggins Springs past Cole Mountain. Quinn and I signed up for the Worthy 30, the 34-mile route with 4,400 feet of climbing with the idea that we would do the “easier” ride, but with more than 130 feet per mile of climbing, we soon realized that Gravista is many things, and easy was not one of them.

We set up camp near the start/ finish line at Glen Maury Park and

fell asleep to the sounds of the Maury River. The next morning the soundscape had shifted to the buzz of race day—people excitedly greeting each other as they emerged from their tents, hype 80’s music playing in the background, bikes pedaling in every direction, and laughter as riders struggled to put their chamois on. The morning air was cool and perfect for a day in the saddle.

The Stoked 60 started first. Lined up at the front of the pack were multiple racers from all over our region including members of the Melanin Base Miles team, a BIPOC gravel racing team based out of Washington D.C, and the elite all-women’s gravel team, Velocio // Exploro, who also hosted a spin-out ride the day after the race.

The sun and stoke were high as Cynthia Frazier, Gravista’s race promoter, walked up with the microphone to send them off.

“Thank you everyone for being here, I really appreciate you all,” she said to the racers as they clapped and cheered her name from the starting line. “Three! Two! One! Roll it!”

Now it was our turn to line up on the starting line. Frazier gave us the countdown and we were off! We kept up with the pack at first, zig-zagging through the streets that were leading us to the stunning peaks that were now in view. Our slow roll soon quickly turned into

a steady sprint as we approached the mountain that would challenge us with our first and second-biggest climbs of the day up Robinson Gap. We kept a steady pace through the ascents, but 20 minutes in I was already drenched in sweat.

Pedal stroke after pedal stroke we pushed ourselves up each climb— having our spirits almost broken but then gaining an exhilarating rush of accomplishment at the top of every peak. As laborious as the uphill sections were, they offered beautiful views of the lush forest, filled with flourishing green ferns and trees.

When we got to the overlooks, we would rest briefly to take it all

in. House Mountain Overlook was my personal favorite view—to look out and see the elevation you’ve gained with your own two wheels was a feeling of accomplishment and gratitude that I will never forget. Then came an exhilarating descent back down the mountain past Panther Falls to the finish line.

Cooling off in the Maury River with friends and a beer in hand after the race was the perfect ending to the day. My memories from the race are beautiful—the lush greenery, the stunning overlooks, and the big smiles that could be seen on riders’ faces even during the toughest sections. There was a part of me

that was worried I wouldn’t finish it, but the pride that comes with completing this challenging race left me thinking, “what else can I do?”

The answer? Register for the Stoked 60 in May of 2023 and plan an extra day to explore Lexington, Buena Vista and Rockbridge County!

Shannon McGowan is a travel writer, photographer, and videographer based in Richmond, Va PHOTO CREDIT: SHANNON MCGOWANGLEN MAURY PARK
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PHOTO CREDIT: SHANNON MCGOWAN

Up the Appalachian Trail and Down the Nantahala River in a Day?

Pushing limits on a dawn-to-dusk packrafting adventure

WE LEFT THE NANTAHALA Outdoor Center bunkhouse just after sunrise. It was our first time on the Appalachian Trail, which we followed steeply uphill above the Nantahala River as the sky brightened. My wife was joining me for the hiking portion of my first packrafting adventure. A shakedown day trip to get a feel for the sport. The plan had seemed challenging but manageable when I proposed the idea months before. But with every high step atop another rock or root, I began to wonder if, yet again, I was trying to do too much.

The goal was eight miles up the A.T. to Cheoah Bald, with 4,000 feet of elevation gain, followed by a similar descent on the Bartram Trail for six miles to the river. My wife planned to skip the Nantahala’s cold water and read a book at the put-in, while I completed a leisurely eight-mile float down the swift class II+ river back to the NOC. I’d retrieve the truck. We’d go out for dinner. Toss in hot showers, cold beers, and a second night in a private bunkroom. The whole thing seemed downright civilized. Unlike other trips, there was no intention of any dirtbag hijinks like frantically

paddling through a storm before nightfall, hitchhiking, or gas station sandwiches. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, our morning went great, filled with plenty of classic A.T. experiences. We met a thru-hiking “family” who had been nicknamed the K-pack, given the “mom” and “dad” both had names starting with K. Meanwhile, their cat—carried in a baby sling—had a name starting with a hard-sounding Ch. Close enough.

“We need trail names,” I declared, referring to the common A.T. tradition. What were our most distinctive characteristics? I was carrying a packraft crammed into my daypack, while my wife carried our lunch, leftover pizza. I extended my sweaty hand to an imaginary hiker. “I’m Loop Raftwalker, and this is my wife, Mozzarella.”

“Mozzarella?” asked my unconvinced wife, proudly blowing a snot rocket.

“Well, your payload is pizza,” I reasoned. “What about Mozzarella Rocket?”

“Ooh, Rocket. I like.”

Henceforth, we felt like real Appalachian Trail hikers. The feeling slightly diminished when we met a real southbound thru-hiker.

THE AUTHOR HIKES THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA. PHOTO BY INA SEETHALER

About 70 years old, the man was finishing up the final few hundred miles of what he’d started last year. Next, we encountered a real trail hog—a rattlesnake that refused to move aside despite us clearly having the uphill right-of-way. We soon stumbled across one of those classic western North Carolina waterfalls, with crystal-clear water pouring over moss-draped rocks.

As the hours mounted—five hours up to Cheoah Bald, a scenic half-hour lunch break, and three hours down—we began to wonder: why are we doing this? Our legs went from “good!” to “fine!” to “FINE” to “tired” to “dead” to “who built this trail anyways? This is way too steep of a trail.”

On the Bartram descent, we crossed paths with two backpackers hiking entirely naked. When they saw us coming, these two anti-chafing experts hurriedly tucked bandanas over their waist straps. I foolishly tried to ease the awkwardness with a casual, “How much further?” The front dude swung around to the rear dude, giving us a view of what river runners call a sketchy horizon line.

And so, after nine hours of hiking—not six or seven like I’d hoped—on two ridiculously scenic and steep trails, we reached the put-in. At 4 p.m. The NOC restaurant closed at 7 p.m., and if we missed that, we’d have to drive all the way to Bryson City—a ghastly 20 minutes. I quickly pumped up the

boat. A half hour later, I bid goodbye to my wife, reading by the river, and I pushed off into the current. Luckily, I’d practiced paddling my new packraft a few times, so I didn’t expect any delays on this speedy stretch. A day prior, I’d run laps through Nantahala Falls and taken it to Surfing Rapid to get a feel for how it handled in whitewater. A bit like a cross between an ultra-light ducky and a squat river-running hardshell.

After a mile or so, I paddled into fog hovering ominously above the water. A moment later came the loud crack and rumble of thunder. When the rain began, the temperature plummeted. My wife had raingear and layers, but with limited shelter at the put-in, this wasn’t ideal. I vowed to drop my head and dig in with every paddle stroke, ignoring any and all distractions—like the big one I'd encountered yesterday.

I’d done a quick lap in my hardshell, and halfway down, I’d bumped into four self-guided visitors in a rental raft with the stern mildly wrapped against a driftwood log. My attempt to help quickly devolved into a comedy of errors. Each time I said, “Move forward,” the four young men rocked their torsos forward, like they were students in an impromptu dance class.

“No, move your whole bodies forward,” I clarified. They craned their whole bodies forward even farther, but they didn’t actually change seats. I pointed at the two guys in the rear compartment. “I

mean physically move into the front of the boat!”

And then, for some reason, the rear-seated guys swapped positions with the two sitting up front.

“No, you guys stay put,” I blurted, trying to stop the chaos. But it was too late. All four were now in the exact same predicament but sitting in opposite places.

“You all need to be in the front of the boat,” I said, paddling next to them.

And, finally, they did it! They came free of the log and floated downstream with the current. But all four of them stayed in the front compartment of the raft, which was now front-loaded and spinning out of control down the Nantahala.

“And now you need to move back!” I shouted, immediately regretting it. All four of them started moving to the rear of the raft.

“I mean!” I practically screamed, adopting my old raft guide person. “You need to return to your original positions, each at roughly the corners of the raft, and you all must face the same direction, and oh f*** it! I’m sorry! I have to meet my wife for dinner!”

I left the foursome spinning down the Nanty (an extremely safe river), like a satellite falling from orbit and made it just in time for dinner, which I guess is kind of my thing.

But now I was racing in my packraft through a developing rainstorm. My wife was probably

dripping wet at the put-in. My body ached from exertion. Dusk was approaching. I had to get to my truck, pick her up at put-in, and—oh wait! Suddenly, just ahead was Surfing Rapid. I zipped into the eddy and looked left and right. Would one little surf be that bad? I ignored a flash of lightning, followed by the crack of thunder four seconds later. I vowed to afterward drop my head even lower and dig in even more with every stroke to make up for just one little surf.

I kept my word about the first two parts after lingering for the shortest session of a half dozen surfs, tops. The storm soon ended, and I reached the take-out at the NOC around 6:15 p.m.. I was surprised to see my wife sitting patiently in a lounge chair on shore. She told me about her own adventure. At take-out, around 4:45 p.m., she’d watched the sky suspiciously and decided to hitch with a pair of dirtbag college kayakers. They took her on a roundabout quest, for 30 minutes, to find a gas station with $5 sandwiches. Then they dropped her at the NOC. When it came to the question of hiking up the A.T. and paddling down the Nanty in a day, the answer was a resounding sorry about that, babe. With a hiss, I deflated first my packraft and then my pride. After quickly changing into dry clothes, I strolled with my wife into the NOC restaurant, with an easy 20 minutes to spare.

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 41
THE
THE AUTHOR NAVIGATES SURFING RAPID
ON
NANTAHALA RIVER. PHOTO BY INA
SEETHALER
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The Quiet Corner

IN MS. FARON’S FIRST GRADE CLASS, I OFTEN ended up in the Quiet Corner. Once, I shot a paper ball into the trash can from my desk in three-point land. Another time, when it was my turn to read the next paragraph, I decided to read it as loudly as possible.

Looking back, I have to admit I kind of liked being sent to the Quiet Corner. It was calm and peaceful there. A breeze trickled through the window, and birds often flitted past. The Quiet Corner was both a punishment and a privilege.

Years later, I was living in Atlanta, working long hours, commuting through hellish traffic, and slowly dying inside. So I sought out my own quiet corner. Late one night, I hopped in the car with my backpack and drove to the southeast corner of Georgia, headed for the most remote island on the map: Cumberland Island.

Cumberland is a national seashore tucked away from the world. Accessible only by a ferry, the island is the largest barrier island wilderness in the country, with windswept marshes, oldgrowth live oak forests, and a wild, pristine beach.

The island is home to dozens of rare and endangered species. Manatees forage along the marsh rim, and wood storks glide over alligatorfilled lakes. Endangered shorebirds—including red knots and piping plovers—flock by the thousands on its southern shores. Four species of endangered sea turtles nest on Cumberland Island, including the loggerhead sea turtle. More loggerhead sea turtles nest in this corner of the world than anywhere else on the planet.

On my first visit, while soaking in a starry night on the empty beach, I watched a loggerhead sea turtle crawl ashore to nest. She heaved her 300-pound body into the dunes, stopping every few minutes to catch her breath. After she dug a hole in the sand with her rear flippers, she deposited around 100 ping-pong-ball shaped eggs, buried them, and lumbered back toward the ocean, entrusting her offspring to the island. A sliver of moonlight glistened on her shell as she slowly disappeared into the wild waters. It was—and still is—the most magical and powerful natural phenomenon I have witnessed.

It’s not just sea turtles who depend on

Cumberland. Thousands of worn-down, workweary humans like me are nourished by the island. We seek out its wildness, solitude, and, perhaps most of all, its silence. On the island, the only sounds are the ocean lapping the shore, the staccato calls of flocks of shorebirds, and the wind trickling through the Spanish-moss beards of ancient live oaks.

Unfortunately, those sounds could soon be drowned out by motorboats, concession stands, and big crowds.

The National Park Service is proposing a management plan that would allow an unlimited number of motorized boats to access the island. The plans include the construction of docks, developments, and infrastructure to accommodate a massive influx of powerboats, yachts, catamarans, and even cruise ships.

The motorized access developments on Cumberland Island would be constructed in the worst possible places: in the exact spots where manatees are known to forage, sea turtles regularly nest, and endangered piping plovers flock.

Right now, manatees are dying of starvation

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 43
Cumberland Island—a wild, pristine seashore in southeast Georgia—could soon get noisy and crowded
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in record numbers as their seagrass foraging habitat disappears. Biologists have desperately resorted to feeding manatees lettuce to sustain them through the lean winter months. In addition to loss of foraging habitat, boat strikes are the other leading cause of manatee mortality. Nearly every manatee is scarred by multiple propeller strikes. The motorized access proposal for Cumberland Island would flood the manatee foraging areas with boats and further threaten their survival.

Manatees won’t be the only victims. The motorboat development area is also part of loggerhead sea turtles’ critical nesting habitat. Turtles who crawl ashore on Cumberland Island were born there decades ago. After they leave the island, sea turtles migrate 10,000 miles across the Atlantic to mature, and then return to the same beaches where they were born to nest. Pregnant sea turtles returning from a trans-Atlantic journey to nest on Cumberland Island will find a massive boat landing instead.

Even more worrisome are the North Atlantic right whales who also migrate just offshore from Cumberland Island each year. The waters near Cumberland Island are the only known calving grounds for North Atlantic right whales—the most endangered whale in the world. Fewer than 100 reproducing females remain, and they all journey to Cumberland Island’s offshore waters to give birth and raise their young.

Why would we fill those waters with unlimited and unregulated numbers of motorboats?

Right whales have blowholes with a distinct, V-shaped spout. Their unique double jets of water spray are visible from the offshore waters of Cumberland Island—at least for now. With fewer whales and more boat traffic proposed in their only known calving grounds, North Atlantic right whales and their calves are more endangered than ever.

The proposed plan would also dramatically increase the number of visitors to the island and allow motorbikes and commercial stores in the park. It would open the island to increased development, crowded beaches, and buzzing motorboats.

Is this the direction we want the country’s

wildest national seashore to be headed?

Don’t get me wrong: I want more people to experience Cumberland Island as I have. But there are ways to improve visitation and access without motorboat traffic and beach development. Better and more affordable ferry access to the island would be a good first step, and it would be far more inclusive and equitable than allowing unlimited private motorized access to the island from yachts and cruise liners.

Will Cumberland become another crowded, developed, motorized beach along the Eastern coast? Or can we keep one special island unmarred and unspoiled? There are plenty of other beaches for yachts and development, including Jekyll Island and St. Simon’s Island just north of Cumberland and Fernandina Beach directly south. Cumberland is one of the last wild islands left.

Encourage the Park Service to manage Cumberland Island for the greatest good: the protection of this global biodiversity sanctuary— and a refuge for humans, too. You are co-owner of this island oasis. Even if you never step foot on Cumberland, this Quiet Corner belongs to you, and your voice is more important than ever in deciding its future.

Get loud to protect this Quiet Corner: Email comments to Cumberland Island National Seashore Superintendent Gary Ingram at gary_ingram@nps.gov.

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 45

laziness, drunkenness, possibly all of these.

- No woodpile: No spouse.

I have no idea if the man my aunt rebuffed was a student of Scandinavian lore, but he began to court his fetching new neighbor by transporting premium seasoned oak to her porch. I have to wonder if this woman was warmed each time she glimpsed her thoughtful suitor rolling into view. I like to imagine that, by the time spring arrived, they fell in love and hitched their wagons for life. In my movie version, they tend a large garden and live simply, ecstatically; and, though they age, they never grow cold.

Thoreau also said that firewood logs warmed him twice: ‘once while splitting them and again as they burned’. The famous hermit himself might have enjoyed a bit more company than he is thought to have sought had he discovered and embraced this other benefit from being prepared for whatever weather may come. Maybe instead of the soulless courtship of dating apps, we should build woodpiles.

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Gaston County is a great place to spend the weekend. Whether you love the outdoors or need a getaway, a great adventure awaits you. Come explore Gaston County.

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Hikes and Flights at MUSE VINEYARDS,

VA TRAIL ADVENTURE GUIDE

From hiking and biking to paddling and swimming, the trails of the southeast will lead you to places you’ll never forget, and leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. Discover rushing waterfalls, awe-inspiring views, and rugged terrain, plus some of the best craft beverages that our region has to offer. Please check with locations prior to travel for local guidelines or use this guide for future trips!

Located on the bank of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, Muse Vineyards is the perfect wine and hike getaway in Virginia. Enjoy a flight of five different wines or order a bottle as you soak up the views of the Shenandoah Valley.

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. The Talus Trail connects the State Park with the Massanutten Trail for an additional 70 miles of hiking in George Washington National Forest and spectacular views from the Woodstock Lookout Tower. Paddle three miles of river or wade into the water to fish for smallmouth bass.

Just 15 minutes south of the vineyard are additional trailheads to the renowned Massanutten mountain trails, managed by the US Forest Service. Head 20 minutes

west to our friendly neighbors, the Allegheny Mountains, to hike Wolf Gap Recreation Area trails like Big Schloss and Tibbet Knob and discover more breathtaking views!

If you prefer to stay close to the wine, take the 1.8-mile self-guided tour through the vineyard, from the Muse Vineyards tasting room and patio to the swinging bridge and river. 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 structure.

Combine the award-winning wines from Muse Vineyards with the abundance of nearby trails for a relaxing vacation in the mountains.

MuseVineyards.com

“A Trail of Two Cities” in ABINGDON & DAMASCUS, Waterfalls on Waterfalls in GILES COUNTY, VA

What could be better than famous trails and friendly towns? Check out 2022 Top Adventure Town winners Abingdon and Damascus, Virginia for some of the best trails in the Southeast, and stay for the southern charm.

A rail-trail that has it all, the Virginia Creeper Trail (VCT), offers countless adventures for the whole family and different skill levels. Running 34.3 miles from Abingdon through Damascus to the VA-NC border at Whitetop Station, this “hub and spoke” trail connects to some of the best trail recreation in the Southeast. To make life easier, there are eight local bike outfitters who provide shuttle services! Biking, hiking, trail running, and even cross country skiing are just some of the activities found on this multi-award winning route. The VCT also offers trailside access to trout streams and swimming holes from Whitetop Laurel to South Holston Lake.

At the eastern end of the VCT, check out Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, which has over 500 miles of trails to explore, including Mount Rogers itself, at an altitude of more than 5,700 feet. Continue your trek through Grayson Highlands State Park, where you’ll meet wild ponies in the Wilburn Ridge area, and admire the surrounding alpine-like peaks. Nearby, drive or hike up Whitetop mountain, the second highest mountain in Virginia at 5,520 feet high. Or, if you’re up for a challenge, bike the whole 34 mile trail from Whitetop to Abingdon. For some serious adventure, consider the various

connecting trails to make longer loops for multi-day backpacking and bikepacking routes.

When your ride is complete, explore Abingdon’s award winning “Best Small Town Food Scene” at restaurants like the new Summers–Rooftop and Wine Cellar, Abingdon’s first rooftop dining experience. Speaking of wine, Abingdon Vineyards, located just across the river from the Alvarado section of the VCT, is the perfect place to stop and sip.

In Damascus, the “Friendliest Town on the Trail”, the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) runs right along the sidewalk downtown. Before your adventure, head to Damascus Diner for a comforting breakfast, and end the day with local spirits at Appalachian Heritage Distillery

Rest up at the plentiful lodging opportunities in the area, or sleep under the stars at Hidden Valley Lake and Backbone Rock. Both towns are designated “A.T. Communities”, so be sure to stop by their visitor and trail centers for information and recommendations!

Get out and discover the welcoming trails and culture in and around Abingdon and Damascus, Virginia. We promise you’ll want to return again and again!

VisitAbingdonVirginia.com VisitDamascus.org

Head down to the border of the Virginias for scenic views, rushing water, and relaxing getaways. “Virginia’s Mountain Playground’’, Giles County, Virginia has over 65 miles of the Appalachian Trail and 37 miles of the New River Water Trail to explore.

Before your trailblazing adventures, stop by Tangent Outfitters to rent or buy equipment for your upcoming hiking, kayaking, or camping trip. Once you are well supplied, it’s trail time!

A stunning 66-foot waterfall awaits you in the Jefferson National Forest on the Cascades Falls Trail. With a 4.8 out of 5 trail rating, this easy to moderate out and back trail is a great place to begin your trip. Go any time of year to experience its wonder, as the frozen falls in winter are a sight to behold. Continue past the falls to Barney’s Wall to see 700-foot sheer cliffs with views of the New River Valley. If you are less eager to venture far off the beaten path, the Dismal Falls trail takes about four minutes to complete and is an easy way to take in water-over-rock scenery. Mill Creek Nature Park is also home to many waterfalls and offers miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.

Need more water? The New River Water Trail offers countless activities including awardwinning fishing, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, SUP, and swimming. It also connects with hiking

trails for wildlife viewing, lodging, and dining options. Enhance your river trail experience by reaching out to local guides at New River Outdoor Company or New River’s Edge Sprinkled along the nearby Appalachian Trail are plenty of scenic overlooks full of breathtaking views. The risk is worth the reward on more challenging outlook routes such as Angel’s Rest, Kelly Knob, and Bald Knob. Take it easy on the 2.6 mile War Spur Trail and you can experience equally spectacular scenery without breaking as much sweat.

If you’re tired from gawking at waterfalls and scenic views all day, grab some grub at The Palisades Restaurant, Bluegrass BBQ, or The Bad Apple near the towns of Eggleston and Pembroke. Make it a multi-day experience and stay at Kairos Resort, where you can camp and tear through the trails on your dirt bike, ATV, or side-by-side! Mountain Lake Lodge, Inn at Riverbend, or one of the many cozy cabins in the area are also great options to hunker down in Giles.

Get out there and experience the waters and spectacular views Giles County has to offer!

Fine–tune Your Skills in PATRICK COUNTY, How to Play in VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE VA

Fun and accessible bike trails for all abilities can be few and far between. But, this is no problem for Patrick County, Virginia, where families, beginners and experts can all find the flow.

Pack up the entire family and journey to the Mayo River Rail Trail in Stuart, Virginia, where you’ll find a 1.8-mile route that runs along the historic Danville and Western Railway. People of all abilities can enjoy this scenic trail, which offers ample handicapaccessible parking and a smooth and wide asphalt pathway that is ideal for strollers, wheelchairs, recumbent bikes and training wheels. The trail winds along the Mayo River, and features a sculpture created by a local artist through the County’s Trail H.A.N.D.S program. Cruise over to the Stuart Uptown Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for a cup of coffee at Uptown Stagecoach and stroll through town to discover beautiful architecture, museums, and many unique shopping experiences. For a special treat, head over to the 2023 Best of the Blue Ridge Nominee for best restaurant, Pickle and Ash!

Whether you are an amateur biker or just crave a leisurely ride, Patrick County’s beginner trails will have you viewing spectacular scenery

while perfecting your skills. The Oak Hickory Trail at Fairy Stone State Park is a 1.1-mile trail that is ideal for beginners learning to navigate off of paved roads. This loop doubles as a self-guided nature tour, with signs along the way identifying local plants, trees, and wildlife. At the Little Mountain Trail System in the park, intermediate to advanced riders can try a mix of moderate to highly technical rides while taking in spectacular views of waterfalls, mountain vistas and lake shores. Those not ready for a technical ride can stay behind to search for the park’s iconic fairy stones.

Searching for singletrack? Shred over 15 miles of challenging trails at the I.C. DeHart Mountain Bike Trail System in Woolwine, Virginia. This expert trail network contains two loops worth of rigorous rock gardens, moderate climbs, and other fun technical trail features that’ll keep even the most seasoned riders on their toes. Once you’ve worked up a sweat, take a 10 minute drive to Crossroads Cafe for a tasty sandwich and fresh smoothie to cool you down.

Perfect your riding technique or explore with the family on the biking trails in Patrick, County, Virginia!

VisitPatrickCounty.org

With over 1,000 miles to hike, bike, and paddle, Virginia’s Blue Ridge is the ultimate trail destination. This year, several destinations in the region took home top honors in the 2023 Best of the Blue Ridge Awards. Discover the top spots to explore in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Roanoke - Best Place to Raise an Outdoor Family

Roanoke invites adventurers of all ages to get out and explore the area. From the Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Jefferson National Forest to Carvins Cove and Smith Mountain Lake, you’ll find there’s no shortage of places and ways to get outside with your family, and all of these destinations are within an hour’s drive from the city’s center. Just outside of Roanoke is McAfee Knob, one of the most photographed points on the entire Appalachian Trail, and 2023 Best of the Blue Ridge winner for “Best Hiking Trail”!

Explore Park - Kid-Friendly Adventures

Take the family to Roanoke County’s Explore Park, located at Milepost 115 along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Featuring trails for hiking and mountain biking, water access to the Roanoke River, and an aerial adventure course called Treetop Quest, this is your one-stop-shop for all things outdoors. Plus, with food and beverages

available at the Twin Creeks Brewpub, and cabins and campsites offering overnight lodging, you and the kids will have everything you need for a relaxing weekend getaway.

Roanoke Valley Greenways - Walking, Biking, Running, Fishing, Paddling

There’s no need to venture far to enjoy the sights along the Roanoke Valley Greenways. Over 30 miles of trails showcase many unique local communities as you walk, run, or bike past some of the area’s most recognized landmarks, including Mill Mountain and the Roanoke Star. Several access points to the Roanoke River and local creeks also make this a great destination for paddling and fishing.

VBR Cheers Trail - Extra Miles

When you’ve had your fill of exploring, check out the stops along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheers Trail. This craft beverage trail showcases more than 25 breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the area. In the city of Salem, Parkway Brewing Company and Olde Salem Brewing Co. are great options for a post-trail beer while in Roanoke, Starr Hill Pilot Brewery and Twisted Track Brewpub always have something fun brewing.

Plan your next metro mountain adventure!

VisitVBR.com

ROANOKE COUNTY’S EXPLORE PARK –COURTESY OF ROANOKE COUNTY PARKS, RECREATION & TOURISM MCAFEE KNOB – VOTED BEST HIKING TRAIL. PHOTO CREDIT: WILLIAM MCKENZIE | VISIT VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE PHOTO CREDIT JENNIFER GRIFFIN | VISIT VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE

Eat, Drink, and Love in NELSON COUNTY,

VA

Taste and trek as you drink in the scenery and award-winning craft beverages in Nelson County. Home to The Brew Ridge Trail –Virginia’s original beer trail, and the iconic Nelson 151 and Nelson 29 craft beverage trails, Nelson County boasts 12 wineries, 3 distilleries, 3 cideries and 6 breweries with some of the most stunning views and access to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

On the EAT. DRINK. LOVE. Trail, you can visit Nelson County like a local by signing up for the EAT. DRINK. LOVE. Pass – a mobile passport that connects you with local producers of craft spirits, wine, cider, beer as well as the most loved eateries in Nelson County. As a bonus, the pass awards prizes based on the amount of

participating location check-ins!

With this pass, you can check in at one of Nelson County’s most loved places, Wintergreen Resort, to explore over 11,000 acres of winding trails, cascading streams and lush forests. While you’re there, drive down the Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway where you can find challenging hikes with rewarding views at Humpback Rock, natural pools and rushing water at White Rock Falls, and a historical railway at the Blue Ridge Tunnel!

From tasting exceptional food and drink to exploring the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, Nelson County is an outdoor recreation lover’s dream vacation.

NelsonCounty.com/Eat-Drink-Love

Find your Flow at MASSANUTTEN RESORT,

Singletrack and switchbacks full of berms and other fun trail features await you at Massanutten Resort. Home of the Best of the Blue Ridge winner for “Best Bike Park” and “Best Pet-Friendly Adventure”, you’ll never want to leave!

With over 30 miles of mountain bike trails suitable for beginners to advanced riders, it is easy to see why the Western Slope is the heart of cross-country riding at the Resort. The Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition works in partnership with the Resort to fund, build, and maintain these trails for Resort property owners, guests, employees, and current Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition pass holders. 100 percent of trail pass donations go back to the Coalition and your trails! Save your legs and hop on the Western Slope Shuttle, open spring through fall, to take on beginner trails like Creekside, Lower Quarantine and Virginia ‘54. Technical climbs, drops, and rock gardens await you on more challenging trails like 2000 Hours (2K) and Special K. These black diamond trails are not only great for experts, but they also offer the perfect training ground for more intermediate riders.

A Trail for Everyone in

A trail that includes wine, ice cream and a waterfall? Sign us up! Elkin, North Carolina is a mecca for unique trails that everyone can enjoy.

Hike the numerous trails linked to NC’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail that passes through Elkin on its way to the coast. At the Grassy Creek to Byrd’s Branch section, you can adventure through enchanted forests for ice cream at Byrd’s Campground, listen to the tumbling water at Carter Falls, and sip wine in Grassy Creek Vineyard’s tasting room Soak it all in and experience what Japanese call “shinrin yoku”, or therapy in nature, at a Forest Bathing Trail located within the vineyard’s estate.

ELKIN,

NC

Interested in sport activities? Paddle, fish, or kayak on the Yadkin River Paddle Trail, with easy access from Crater Park, or check out the variety of mountain bike trails alongside Elkin Creek, launching from the Elkin Municipal Park. Follow the footsteps of Revolutionary War militia by bike or foot on the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, and learn about the pivotal Battle of King’s Mountain. All trailheads are located within the Elkin town area! Stop at the Yadkin Valley Heritage and Trail Visitors Center to pick up maps and get information.

Celebrate all of Elkin’s trails NC Trail Days Festival (NCTrailDays.com), hosted in Elkin the first weekend of June! ExploreElkin.com.

The Massanutten Bike Park is quite the treasure, literally! Listed as a “Virginia Treasure” in the Virginia Treasures Program recognizing public recreational lands in the Commonwealth, you will be sure to have a blast. This lift-served

Bike Park is ideal for all skill levels and features a beginner-friendly introduction to downhill mountain biking with trails like Peanut and Pistachio. In Summer 2023, riders can look forward to a new high-speed lift that will reduce ride time to the advanced terrain on the upper mountain down to less than five minutes. To boost your confidence and skills, Massanutten offers a Ride School with private, personally-tailored lessons designed to fit students’ goals, riding experience, and bike handling abilities. For more bang for your buck, there are seasonal lesson packages available!

Stay close to the trails, and grab a bite or a brew at Base Camp, located right next to the Bike Park and featuring outdoor dining and a full umbrella bar, or at Campfire Grill, which is a short drive away, near the Resort Overlook parking lot by the Western Slope. Other onsite restaurants include Virginia BBQ & Pizza Co., and Splash’s Bar & Grill, the newest restaurant opening soon at Massanutten WaterPark! For those looking for the latest threads or gifts, head to The General Store, or The Market, both onsite at the Resort.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to find your flow on the trails at Massanutten Resort?

MassResort.com PHOTO COURTESY OF VIRGINIA TOURISM CORPORATION

RISKY BUSINESS

I THINK IT’S TIME TO PUSH MY son off the roof.

That sounds bad. Let me explain.

I’m not a natural-born risk taker. Never have been. I was a careful kid who watched his two older brothers take chances and break bones. I usually opted for keeping my feet planted on the ground and wearing any available safety gear. There’s a picture of me napping while wearing a football helmet. In high school, asking out a girl was a multi-month process involving research and targeted, but subtle, flirting that only ended when I was 99 percent sure the intended girl would say yes. It took me 12 years to propose to my wife, not because I was reluctant to settle down, but because I couldn’t handle possible rejection.

My risk aversion hasn’t gotten better with age. There’s a certain amount of risk in my job, but I’ve gravitated towards the endurance side of adventure sports because the injuries are usually of the “nagging” variety, as opposed to the “shattering.” At some point when my two kids were toddlers, I told myself I’d stop doing risky things in the outdoors altogether. I’d just had a bad experience during a relatively routine bushwhack through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It should’ve been a mundane adventure—hike for a few hours in a little-known section of the park and check out the scenery. I had a 7pm dinner reservation back in town. But shit went south—we got turned around, misjudged the time it would take to traverse the terrain, and made a series of bad decisions, until at one point I found myself hanging from the root of a rhododendron off the side of a cliff and thinking, “I’m not gonna make that dinner reservation.” It ended up well enough; I downclimbed some rocks to get off that cliff and we eventually made it back to a trail around 1am, hungry but alive.

Since then, I’ve tried not to do

anything with a high probability of death. Sometimes, it’s hard to avoid because I’m not particularly adept at climbing or paddling or skiing or biking, and risk lies at that intersection where terrain meets a lack of skill. I seem to hang out at that intersection a lot, not because I’m seeking out risk, but because I’m bad at my chosen vocation.

If anything, I wish I took more risks. I’m jealous of the athletes who seem so at ease with danger. Honestly, it’s not so much death that scares me. It’s getting hurt. The prospect of knocking my teeth out or breaking a collar bone, or even just a pinkie finger, scares me and holds me back in many ways.

Take dirt jumps. My son and I have spent the last year practicing a variety of dirt jumps at the local jump park. I’ve gotten better. I can catch decent air on tabletops. But I’ve plateaued because I can’t make myself take the next step and hit gap jumps. There’s more risk involved with gaps because you have to send it. If you fall short on a gap jump, you’re going to eat shit.

I can’t convince myself to take that risk. Maybe that’s fine because I’m a middle-aged man who really has no business hitting gap jumps anyway, but my son refuses to take that next step too.

I’ve been modeling overly cautious behavior and he’s adopted

it for himself. As an isolated issue, this isn’t much of a problem. Not being able to hit gap jumps isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but not taking healthy risks in life is a big deal. Trying a new sport, asking a girl to the dance, choosing a college that’s far from home… youth is full of risks. Adulthood too.

It’s possible there’s some genetic disposition that determines if a person is more likely to display risky behavior. Just like me, my son has always been overly cautious. When he was really little, he'd make his twin sister try everything first. He’d only hit the slide after she made it down and survived. So maybe we come from a long line of fraidy cats. But I also think risk-taking is a skill set that can be developed. There’s even a Master Class on it called, “How to Take Risks.”

Which brings me back to the roof of my house and pushing my son off it. Not literally, but metaphorically. When I was 9 or 10, my older brothers convinced me to jump off our roof. I watched them do it a couple of times, landing and rolling in the grass just like our favorite TV hero Magnum, and after several minutes of taunts from my brothers below, I worked up the nerve to make the jump myself. It was one of the defining moments of my childhood, right up there with

getting beat up by Jody Parker and seeing boobies for the first time between the scrambled lines on Cinemax. I can still remember the sense of exhilaration I felt when my feet left the shingles. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to flying. Looking back, my only regret is I didn’t jump off the roof more often. If I had kept at it, maybe I’d be a braver man today. Maybe I would’ve popped the question to my wife in just five years instead of 12.

It's probably too late for me to start jumping off the roof. I’m brittle. But there’s still hope for my son. He’s only 13. That’s prime roofjumping age. If I can convince him to take the leap, and keep taking that leap, maybe he’ll be more prepared for the inevitable risks ahead of him. Then again, if something goes wrong, and he gets hurt, his mother will kill me. I don’t care how many times I jumped off the roof as a kid, or how many Master Classes I take on risk, nothing will convince me that upsetting my wife is a good idea. The reward is never worth the risk in that scenario.

There I go again, avoiding risk. It’s possible that I have this all backwards. Instead of trying to teach my son to be brave, which I obviously know nothing about, perhaps I should focus on conveying the one skill that I’ve truly mastered: self-preservation.

52 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
THE OUT AND BACK FEAR FACTOR
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR
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MOVE IT

Scarpa

Ribelle Run GTX

Designed for the type of loose, wet, rocky, rooty, and generally tough terrain that’s par for course when trail running in the Blue Ridge, this shoe serves up stability and confidence. The 4mm drop is just enough for a bit of cushion without subtracting feel and the solid Presa outsole sticks to all that ugly stuff underfoot. And the Gore-Tex liner and sock fit keep out at least some of the wet elements.

$199; scarpa.com

Hoka

Mafate Speed 4

You can always count on Hoka to deliver underfoot comfort, and this sleek shoe for those who like to hit it hard on the trail is no exception. The low-profile cushion bed is not as plush as some of the brand’s other offerings, making the shoe more quick and responsive, and the Profly+ midsole delivers explosive performance on tricky trail surfaces. Also, a Vibram Megagrip outsole provides plenty of traction.

$185; hoka.com

Scott Ultra Carbon RC

Designed for the rigors of ultra racing and training, this carbon-plated shoe combines the lightweight and durability necessary to tackle day-long distances. Built with an innovative swallowtail design, that carbon plate actually stiffens as you run faster and eases up when you slow down. That kind of responsiveness in a shoe not only helps you keep pace and navigate tough terrain, it also helps prevent injury. Add a bit of rocker for more roll on your foot strike and you have the perfect weapon for long-distance endeavors.

$230; scott-sports.com

Altra

Rivera

3

This road runner brings trail ingenuity to the pavement. It’s the ideal shoe for those who want to mix in some road training with trail running or just want to get out for a run a few days a week.

The Altra Ego midsole and balanced cushioning makes it comfy and bouncy with each step. And breathable mesh keeps your dogs cool when you are pounding out miles.

$140; altrarunning.com

Roark

Alta Light Men's Shorts

You don’t want to have to think about your running shorts. With four-way stretch and a moisture-wicking brief liner, these babies both breathe and refuse to sweat out. Thoughtfully designed, the super-light shorts feature a water resistant finish on the seat and a flat, jacquard elastic single-ply waistband to ensure they stay where you want them while you are on the move.

$89; roark.com

Tracksmith

Thaw Long Sleeve

Merino is the key to the cozy feel and high performance of this long-sleeve running shirt. Bolstered by a wicking eco-friendly finish that sheds mud and wet, it’s made for those cold ugly days when you are just getting back in your training groove or refusing to be kept from your run by bad weather.

$118; tracksmith.com

Tailwind

Active Hydration

Every runner knows that hydration and nutrition are the all-important back-end necessities of the sport. Tailwind gives you both in this tasty mix— flavors include cherry acai, strawberry lemonade, tangerine grapefruit, and tropical orange—with electrolytes, collagen, and vitamin C. Hydrate pre-run or load up your bottle for long rambles.

$21; tailwindnutrition.com

54 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS THE GOODS RUNNING GEAR
It’s time to shake off the winter blues and hit the ground running. Let us help you find the right gear for where you most want to rack up some miles this year.
SCARPA HOKA SCOTT ALTRA ROARK TRACKSMITH TAILWIND
OPENING THIS SPRING! ADVENTURE CRITTERS PET PHOTO CONTEST February 24, 2023 SUBMIT YOUR PET PHOTOS BEFORE ANY PET CAN BE ENTERED TO WIN PRIZE INCLUDES • BRO Subscription for 1 year • Chewy Gift Card • Dominion Energy Riverrock Prize Pack • Winning pet will be featured in a future issue of BRO! adventurecritters.com Finalists will be chosen by BRO staff and then voted on by our readers

LOCAL FAVORITES

Recover Brands

Eco Polo

This North Carolina-based brand prides itself on keeping its entire supply chain within 250 miles of its Charlotte headquarters. This polo serves up all the high-performance attributes of Recover’s recycled-PET fabric, which feels surprisingly soft for something made from old water bottles, and looks snazzy when you transition from trail to brew pub.

$45; recoverbrands.com

Kitsbow

Icon Denim Shirt for Women

Kitsbow moved down to the small textile town of Old Fort, N.C., simply because it saw the promise and potential of making apparel in the small Southern town. That decision has pumped cash into the community and cemented the authentic attitude of the brand in the core outdoor community in the region. In 2022, employees and local investors took over ownership of the brand. This sharp denim shirt shows off how a bike brand with that mindset can make a shirt ideal for a night on the town, trail, or sitting on the porch.

$259; kitsbow.com

Astral Loyak

Founded in 2002 by local paddler Philip Curry, Asheville’s Astral Designs has a well-earned reputation for producing hardcore paddling gear. And its technical footwear impresses both guides and weekend warriors with know-how gained on long days on the river. With a self-draining, grippy outsole, the Loyak shines when you are trying to haul gear in and out of a raft—but its low volume and tread are just as welcome on a wet hike or even just kicking around the house.

$95; astraldesigns.com

ENO

Lounger DL

Asheville-based Eagles Nest Outfitters has helped define the casual end of the Southern outdoor scene. Its hammocks encourage lazing around no matter where you set up camp—from Pisgah to the porch. You will find that portable comfort in its easy-to-stow, easy-to-set-up camp chair, the aptly-named Lounger DL, which takes inspiration from its beloved hammocks. And the Dead Heads among us all covet the tie-dye print. $140–$150; eaglesnestoutfitters.com

Appalachian Gear Company

All-Paca Poncho

Textile pros John Gage and Mike Hawkins wanted to champion American manufacturing and the resilience and beauty of the Appalachian mountains, so they invested in alpacas, the South American pack animals, then set up shop in Charlotte and started spinning fabric to make U.S. apparel with a new twist. With style and intelligence from the Andes, this surprisingly versatile poncho keeps you warm but breathes and is the ideal garb for festival season.

$175; appalachiangearcompany.com

SylvanSport

Loft Rooftop Tent

Founded in 2004 in Brevard, N.C., SylvanSport shook up the camper market with its light, easyto-stow yet super-classy Go Trailer. For those of us who don’t want to commit to a full trailer right now, the car-top tent is an outstanding option, giving you the ability to camp almost anywhere and then revert your vehicle back to daily duties when you get back home. Better yet, you can also set up the ultra-light tent on the brand’s Go Easy kayak trailer.

$2,795; sylvansport.com

Waterbird Spirits

Ranch Water

Founded in 2019 in BRO ’s home base of Charlottesville, Va., Waterbird helps you bring a bit of sophistication to car camping, backpacking, or a summit hike (just please pack it out). We suggest you try all the mixes, but we are partial to the swagger and pop of the Ranch Water, a combo of blanco tequila from Jalisco, Mexico, soda, and lime juice that would wow even the snobbiest mixologist.

$9 (four pack), waterbirdspirits.com

56 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS THE GOODS BLUE RIDGE GEAR
It’s time to celebrate the brands making world-class outdoor gear right here in our own backyard.
RECOVER BRANDS KITSBOW
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APPALACHIAN GEAR COMPANY SYLVANSPORT ASTRAL ENO
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TOP TUNES FOR FEBRUARY

Our Favorite New Music from the Blue Ridge and Beyond

EVERY MONTH OUR EDITORS

curate a playlist of new music, mainly focusing on independent artists from the South. In February we’re highlighting new tunes from Vulfpeck, City and Colour, and Myron Elkins.

DAVISSON BROTHERS BAND

“Mountain

High”

The Davisson Brothers Band are a grassroots institution in West Virginia, and the hard-touring country-rock band’s new single, “Mountain High,” pays tribute to the natural beauty and downhome traditions of their home state. With a stomping beat, winding fiddle runs, and a singalong, campfireready chorus, the song celebrates the simplicity of rural life in the mountains as brothers Chris and Donnie Davisson harmonize with husky bravado. The standalone single was produced by Americana heavyweights Brent Cobb and David Ferguson. – J.F.

VULFPECK

“All That’s Left of Me Is You”

Jam-funk technicians Vulfpeck channel some British influences in this bouncy slice of vintage rock that features some surreal lyrics about the leftover impressions of a long-term relationship. Theo Katzman is in full McCartney mode as he sings the tune’s extremely hooky chorus, but he also throws in a nod and a wink to Radiohead’s “Karma Police” on his Wurlitzer. The track comes from the band’s new album, “Schvitz,” which will be released later this year. – J.F.

CHANNING WILSON

“Sunday Morning Blues”

Channing Wilson has penned tunes for a wide array of artists; Luke Combs took “She Got The Best Of

Me” to the top of the charts, while the Oak Ridge Boys, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, and Travis Tritt, among others, have recorded his songs. “Sunday Morning Blues,” just the second song that Wilson has released on his own, is pure vintage country, reminiscent of Don Williams and a young Willie Nelson. This whiskey-soaked tearjerker proves that Wilson’s songs are best heard through nobody’s voice but his. – D.S.

CITY AND COLOUR

“Meant to Be”

Tragedy is at the heart of “Meant to Be,” the new single from Canadian singer-songwriter Dallas Green, who performs as City and Colour. In 2019, Green’s best friend and musical collaborator Karl Bareham drowned in Australia while the band was on tour. Green had to identify his friend’s body at the morgue, and he addresses the grief and trauma that came with the experience in the atmospheric ballad that searches for answers in the face of life taking unbearable turns. In the powerful track, Green doesn’t find easy acceptance, instead admitting, “I don’t believe this is how it’s meant to be.” – J.F

FRANCES LUKE ACCORD

“Saint Mary”

In “Saint Mary,” Nicholas Gunty, guitarist and singer for Frances Luke Accord, breathlessly takes the listener through every aspect of the bicycle accident that nearly claimed his life. Visceral are the moments of the accident, Gunty’s awakening somewhere unrecognizable, and his floating somewhere between the now and the hereafter. Delivered over an ethereal combination of strings and percussion, the recounting of his struggle culminates with the bold realization of how precious life is and how it shouldn’t be taken for granted. – D.S.

MYRON ELKINS

“Wrong Side of The River”

Myron Elkins doesn’t sing like a man barely old enough to buy the whiskey being slung at the bars and juke joints where he belts out his gritty Americana ballads. Just 21 years old, Elkins was preparing for a life as a welder before a battle of the bands contest sparked a career change, a meeting with noted producer Dave Cobb, and the release of his debut record last month. “Wrong Side Of The River” is emblematic of Elkins and his music; down home and honest, crafted by hands, and a character, emboldened by a hard day’s work. – D.S.

THE ARCS

“Heaven

is a Place”

After a year of heavy touring with the Black Keys, Dan Auerbach has shifted his focus to the Arcs, his soul-rock project with the late musician/producer Richard Swift. Much of the newly released album “Electrophonic Chronic,” the

group’s first album in eight years, was recorded before Swift passed away in 2018, but the gritty, dreamlike R&B of “Heaven is a Place” is a poignant sendoff to lost loved ones. "This new record is all about honoring Swift," Auerbach stated. "It’s a way for us to say goodbye to him." – J.F

ROB ICKES & TREY HENSLEY

“Living in A Song”

Few acoustic duos boast the pedigree of Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley. Ickes was a founding member of the iconic bluegrass group Blue Highway, and Hensley made his Grand Ole Opry debut at the age of 11. As a duo, the two have garnered acclaim from both the Grammys and IBMA. Though rooted in bluegrass, the musicians go country with “Living In A Song,” the title track from their latest record. Be it bluegrass, country blues, or straight country, Ickes’s dobro wizardry and Hensley’s stout country tenor always impress. – D.S.

To hear these songs and more, follow the Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Trail Mix playlist on Spotify.

58 BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS TRAIL MIX FRESH TRACKS
THE ARCS HONOR LATE BANDMATE RICHARD SWIFT WITH THE NEW ALBUM “ELECTROPHONIC CHRONIC.” PHOTO COURTESY OF EASY EYE SOUND

We are hikers on remote trails. We are alpinists navigating rock and snow. We are pioneers on hostile summits. We span seven continents and a thousand landscapes but our intent is the same. For every trail, for every mountain, for every moment. We are Explorers.

FEBRUARY 2023 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 59 WWW.RAB.EQUIPMENT #WeAreRab

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