Blue Ridge Outdoors April 2020

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APRIL 2020

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WHERE

BEGINS MARYLAND HEIGHTS TRAIL OVERLOOKING HARPERS FERRY

New journeys and experiences in life begin with that all important first step. Your first step on a winding trail, down an historic sidewalk, through the door of an amazing restaurant, or into a beautiful mountain stream. Jefferson County is your first step into West Virginia. Take it and you will quickly discover why it is called Almost Heaven. Learn more at DiscoverItAllWV.com H A R P E R S F E R R Y / B O L I VA R

S H E P H E R DSTOW N

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INTRODUCING THE

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PRESIDENT BLAKE DEMASO b l a ke @ b l u e r i d g e o u t d o o r s . c o m E D I TO R I N C H I E F J E D D F E R R I S jedd@blueridgeoutdoors.com P U B L I S H E R L E A H WO O DY leah@blueridgeoutdoors.com C R E AT I V E D I R E C TO R L AU R E N WO R T H lauren@blueridgeoutdoors.com A S S O C I AT E P U B L I S H E R K AT I E H A R T W E L L katie@blueridgeoutdoors.com

CONTENTS APRIL 2020

D E PA R T M E N T S

09 QUICK HITS

E-Bikes – Plank Record – Styrofoam Ban – Runners Getting Slower – Lands Protected in Tennessee and Virginia

E D I TO R I A L & P R O D U C T I O N S E N I O R E D I TO R W I L L H A R L A N will@blueridgeoutdoors.com GRAPHIC DESIGNER AMELIA MCCONNELL amelia@blueridgeoutdoors.com T R AV E L E D I TO R E L L E N K A N Z I N G E R ellen@blueridgeoutdoors.com O U T D O O R N E W S E D I TO R

KIM DINAN

C O N T R I B U TO R S M A S O N A DA M S A.K. CLEMMONS DA N I E L D E W I T T WA L LY S M I T H

D O U G S C H N I T Z S PA H N E R I C J. WA L L AC E R A N DY J O H N S O N N OA H P O U LO S

C O P Y E D I TO R S JULIA GREEN, ROBERT MCGEE ADVERTISING & BUSINESS

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EXPLORE

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PERSPECTIVE

71 80

THE GOODS

S E N I O R AC C O U N T E X E C U T I V E

Riding the Swamp Fox Passage in South Carolina’s Francis Marion National Forest. Maintaining the Appalachian Trail is hard yet rewarding work done by dedicated volunteers. Gear for the Whole Family

TRAIL MIX

Jim Lauderdale gets back to his North Carolina roots.

M A R T H A E VA N S

martha@blueridgeoutdoors.com AC C O U N T E X E C U T I V E H A N N A H C O O P E R hcooper@blueridgeoutdoors.com

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TRACY MARTIN WITH HER THREE KIDS ON A HIKE. PHOTO COURTESY OF MARTIN

F E AT U R E S

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SCHOOL PROGRAMS IN WEST VIRGINIA GET KIDS ON BIKES. PHOTO BY JEREMY BARTHOLOW

AC C O U N T E X E C U T I V E TAY LO R L E A L taylor@blueridgeoutdoors.com B U S I N E S S M A N AG E R M E L I S S A G E S S L E R melissa@blueridgeoutdoors.com

18 OUTDOOR FAMILIES

Blue Ridge parents share ways they get kids outside.

D I G I TA L M E D I A O N L I N E D I R E C TO R C R A I G S N O D G R A S S webdir@blueridgeoutdoors.com D I G I TA L C O N T E N T S P E C I A L I S T

S H A N N O N M C G OWA N

shannon@blueridgeoutdoors.com

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SQUIRT BOATING IN THE SOUTH

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RIDING FOR MENTAL HEALTH

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TYPE 1 RAD

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THE SOUTH’S NEXT NATIONAL SCENIC AREA?

C I R C U L AT I O N I N Q U I R I E S circulation@blueridgeoutdoors.com

SUMMIT

PUBLISHING

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©2020 Summit Publishing, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Correction: In our January/February issue we incorrectly called the Fire Mountain Inferno bike race the Sire Mountain Inferno.

Special skills are required for what’s known as the “grandfather of freestyle kayaking.”

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In West Virginia mountain biking is helping kids combat stress. An adventure guide’s greatest challenge is dealing with diabetes.

A new coalition is working hard to protect the 16,000-acre Craggy section of Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina.

ON THE COVER Family paddling on Claytor Lake. Photo by Sam Dean.

CASSANDRA LUBOWSKY DOESN'T LET TYPE 1 DIABETES STOP HER FROM EXLORING. PHOTO BY S H A N N O N M C G O WA N

APRIL 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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QUICK HITS

OUTDOOR NEWS

BY KIM DINAN

MORE THAN 90 ACRES OF THE KNOB CONSERVED IN THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY

The Conservation Fund announced that a 91-acre tract of land in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley has been permanently protected and preserved. In a press release, the organization announced that the newly protected property is the rock-topped end of Short Mountain, known as the Knob. The land will be managed as part of the George Washington National Forest. V I E W S O U T H E A S T T O WA R D S T H E K N O B O N S H O R T M O U N TA I N F R O M M O U N T J A C K S O N R O A D ( V I R G I N I A S TAT E S E C O N D A R Y R O U T E 7 0 3 ) AT B O N N Y V I E W L A N E J U S T N O R T H O F M O U N T J A C K S O N I N S H E N A N D O A H C O U N T Y, V I R G I N I A / P H O T O B Y F A M A R T I N , C O U R T E S Y W I K I M E D I A C O M M O N S

OVER 6,000 ACRES ADDED TO TENNESSEE’S JUSTIN P. WILSON CUMBERLAND TRAIL STATE PARK

In late February, 6,229 acres were added to the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park. According to a release by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the land, known as the Lone Star property, will support wildlife habitat and native ecology and will be a critical connecting point for the Cumberland Trail, Tennessee’s first “linear park,” which runs through 11 counties and two time zones. The land will be used to develop a significant segment of the Cumberland Trail, eventually connecting Ozone Falls State Natural Area to existing state-owned land. When completed, the Cumberland Trail will extend more than 300 miles from Cumberland Gap National

Historic Park to its southern terminus at the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, just outside Chattanooga.

TRAIL RUNNER CRAWLS FOR EIGHT HOURS TO FIND HELP AFTER BREAKING LEG ON TRAIL

A trail runner in Olympic National Park crawled for nearly eight hours after injuring his leg on a run. Joseph Oldendorf was about 10 miles from the trailhead when he broke his leg after slipping on ice. With no cell phone service and temperatures below freezing, Oldendorf knew his only chance at survival was to crawl to safety. Oldendorf eventually crawled to an area with cell phone reception, called 911, and kept crawling, according to a report by CNN. He told the press he feared that if he stopped to wait for rescuers, he would die.

TENNESSEE-BORN KAYAKER MAKES SECOND TALLEST WATERFALL DESCENT ON RECORD

In February, Tennesseeborn kayaker Dane Jackson made the second tallest waterfall descent in known history down Chile’s 134-foot Salto del Maule waterfall. Jackson originally set his sights on Salto del Maule over five years ago and has spent years preparing to pull off such a feat. Jackson’s achievement now ranks as the second tallest waterfall descent on record behind Palouse Falls in Washington. “This is what happens when obsession becomes reality,” Jackson said.

MAN PLANKS FOR OVER 8 HOURS, SETTING WORLD RECORD

George Hood, 62, reclaimed a Guinness World Record he previously held for longest time spent in a plank

position. Hood, a former Marine, first set the record in 2011 with a time of 1 hour, 20 minutes, and 25 seconds, according to a press release. His new record, 8 hours, 15 minutes, and 15 seconds beat out Mao Weidong’s record set in 2016. Hood trained nearly seven hours a day for 18 months to prepare for his world record. “I’ve taken the plank as far as I can take it,” he told USA TODAY.

NEW STUDY FINDS RUNNERS IN THE U.S. ARE GETTING SLOWER

A new study by RunRepeat analyzing 19.6 million results from over 16 thousand marathons has found that marathoners around the world, and especially in the U.S., are getting slower. The study found that in 1986 the average finish time was 3:52:35 and today it’s 4:32:49, a slowdown of over 40 minutes.

VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES VOTES TO BAN STYROFOAM ACROSS THE STATE

On February 11, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 55 to 44 to pass Del. Betsy Carr’s bill (HB533) to ban polystyrene cups and take-out containers in the state. Polystyrene is the most frequently observed plastic litter in the ocean. The bill now heads to the Senate for action. “A lot of waste comes from things we don’t need, and we know we shouldn’t use, such as foam cups and take-out containers,” state director of Environment Virginia Elly Boehmer said in a press release. “This trash ends up in our open spaces and waterways, where it endangers wildlife. Polystyrene never breaks down, so it harms our environment for decades. Nothing we use for five minutes should pollute our planet for generations to come.”

APRIL 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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QUICK HITS

E-BIKES

E-BIKES: YEA OR NAY? DEBATE CONTINUES IN CYCLING COMMUNITY BY BETTINA FREESE

THE THOUGHT OF ELECTRIC ASSIST BIKES has people both screaming “NO!” and whimpering "yes.” Some mountain bikers are against E-bikes on trails, concerned about the deterioration of trail systems with fears the beloved woods will evolve into motocross tracks. They also fear the mountain biking vibe would drastically change, assuming that beginners are riding E-bikes and unfamiliar with proper etiquette and respect for the trails. They also contend that even just increased speed and traffic on trails will greatly degrade their experience. On the flip side, E-bike riders are grateful for the pedal-assist because they are able to return to the sport despite physical limitations and ailments—probably from old mountain biking injuries, so not all are beginners. Another set of E-bike riders say they enjoy the thrill of a new sport, a new mode of transportation, and that it increases their fun potential, insisting it doesn’t have any negative impacts on the sport or the woods. “People who rip are gonna rip; those who take their time and ride slower are going to do so,” says E-biker Linc Stallings. “Teaching responsibility, awareness, trail etiquette, and adjusting trail regulations to reflect those things will go further than excluding someone because of what they ride.” But the possibility of teaching trail etiquette is easier said than done. “I have seen folks shredding loops with speakers blaring and zero idea of trail etiquette,” says mountain biker Ben Wiggins. “I literally had to pull out in front of a guy who ran me off the

trail while I was climbing and he was descending. I blocked the trail and explained that uphill has the right of way.” Introducing new modes of transportation to the trails will always be a debated issue, as proven by the ongoing dynamic between hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers. Mark Dulken, Pisgah Cowboy Trail Crew leader, has put a lot of sweat into local trails and would like to see E-bike users enjoy their time in the woods, but with a permit, or limited to paved roads, gravel, and gated logging roads. “I personally witnessed public land dirt bike OHV trails get ruined with the introduction of Razors,” Dulken said. “I predict the same will happen with the introduction of E-bikes. It opens the sport to the unskilled masses that don't appreciate the work it takes to get to the same places. All my favorite riding areas are now spoiled by drunks on 4-wheelers.” The type of vehicle allowed on trails is what concerns some riders. “Real motorcycles should be allowed anywhere electric bikes are allowed. Plus gas motorcycles can last for decades with basic maintenance. E-bikes are garbage in a couple years because batteries and electric motors are disposable,” says Randy Collette, a Brevard-based bike mechanic. These arguments also exist on the road, proving that change, while

inevitable, is often resisted and always requires new education. Road cyclists complain that E-bike riders are blowing past them on the climbs or wadding up the pace line without proper group riding etiquette. The commonality among frustrations lies in education. Many people who find road riding dangerous often lack assertive driving skills as well as assertive cycling skills. I took an E-bike tour around Asheville with The Flying Bike and had a fantastic time. We began the tour with a lesson in the parking lot to familiarize ourselves with the bike. It was my first experience on a pedalassist bike and it felt like a cross between a bicycle and a moped. Being an assertive cyclist, driver, and motorcyclist, I felt that my enjoyment factor, as well as safety factor, were well above that of the timid riders in my tourist group. At times I chose to pedal so that I could stay warm in the frigid 34 degree overcast day, but I also enjoyed the throttle in congested traffic areas when I wanted to zip out of the way. What I found missing was the cadence of a good spin, the beautiful angst of a steep climb, the worthiness of a post-climb descent, and the glory of dropping your riding buddies due to sheer strength and superior cardiovascular fitness. The other riders in our group admitted they lacked coordination and

W H E N I T C O M E S T O B O T H M O U N TA I N B I K I N G AND ROAD RIDING, CYCLISTS IN THE BLUE RIDGE H AV E D I F F E R I N G O P I N I O N S O N E - B I K E S . / P H O T O COURTESY GETTY IMAGES

bike-handling skills. Shifting gears and strategic throttle use was not intuitive, so they were often distracted from surrounding traffic patterns to figure out the bike and catch up with the group. Even when the tour guide brought us to a straightaway and encouraged us to max it out at 28 mph, some were too scared to go that fast. “I 100 percent prefer them to people driving their cars,” says cycling advocate Joe Allowas. Timid riders are scared, and scared riders become victim to aggressive drivers. The type of bike has little to do with it. Education of bike traffic laws, cycling etiquette, combined with more hours in the saddle, are the only way around this debate, whether on the road or on the trail. Urban E-bike rider Kristy Carter urges people not to knock something they haven’t tried. She commutes on hers, rather than a standard bike, because it extends the distance she can travel and increases the number of trips she can take in a day. “The e-bike makes leaving the car at home an easy choice,” she says, “As much as I hate giving in to the pressure of looking decent, a challenging route on a standard bike leaves me looking like a sweaty, middle-aged lady who just got creamed in Jazzercize class.”

APRIL 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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EXPLORE

LOW COUNTRY

RIDING LIKE A SWAMP FOX BIKING THROUGH THE FRANCIS MARION NATIONAL FOREST IN SOUTH CAROLINA STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE BEZEMEK

IT WASN’T LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT with the Swamp Fox Passage. The first time I stepped foot on the Palmetto Trail in Francis Marion National Forest, I was chased to my vehicle by a cloud of mosquitos. Half joined me inside for a slaphappy bloodletting—I mean getaway—along US-17. “After the first frost,” suggested the attendant at Steed Creek Ranger Station. It was almost November, but a hot October had kept biting insects at summer levels. Temps came down during the next month, but my wife and I had trips planned through December. We returned in January for a short day-ride on the adjacent Awendaw Passage. It’s a scenic blufftop trail above a creek, which starts at the Intracoastal Waterway and ends seven miles later at the US-17 trailhead. The ride was mostly flat, muddy in spots, and semibuggy, yet intriguingly scenic through matchstick pine forest and blackwater wetlands. This convinced me to give the 47-mile Swamp Fox Passage another try. While planning the longer trip, I started reading about the forest’s namesake Francis Marion. He was a Revolutionary War hero whose exploits were 12

BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

far more unconventional than odd desires to mountain bike through a swamp. In the late 1770s, the thirteen states were fighting for independence against the British Empire, and Francis Marion was a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army. After reaching a stalemate in the North, the British shifted their strategy to capturing the South. In 1779, the British fleet was preparing to invade Georgia and South Carolina. One target was Charleston, where Marion was stationed. During a rowdy officer’s party, the drunken host locked the door so no one could leave until everyone got smashed. Since Marion didn’t drink, he supposedly took the advice literally and jumped out a second-story window. He broke his ankle upon landing and was evacuated from the city with those unfit for duty.

By early 1780, Charleston was captured by the British, whose forces soon occupied the entire state. Meanwhile, a recovering Marion was limping between hiding spots in the swampy region that became the national forest—a situation which led to Marion organizing a ragtag militia as a last hope for rebellion in the Low Country. The Swamp Fox Passage runs through the heart of the national forest. Initially, I considered bike-packing the 47 miles as an overnight, but, like Marion, I sometimes leap before looking. Finding little information, I decided to reconnoiter the passage with three out-and-back day rides. I targeted early February. Of course, just days before starting, a massive storm swept up from the Gulf. Luckily, it skirted inland, dropping only 1.5 inches of rain on the forest. I called the forest service

info line, hoping to check conditions. A guy at Seewee Visitor Center said he’d checked for updates this morning. “The trail is good to go,” he said. “No flooding.” The next morning, I rode away from US-17 on a bed of longleaf pine needles. It was cold and gray, but otherwise a great day. This 13-mile segment of the trail was mostly a single or double track elevated atop old logging traces. The surface was typically packed soil and sand, often with roots, sometimes grass, and mostly dry with occasional puddles. I pedaled through pine forests and cypress swamps, crossed narrow bridges over tidal blackwater creeks. For a Saturday, there weren’t many people. A few hikers, including one sunburned retiree wearing nothing but a black speedo. He kindly re-tucked all items as

A CYCLIST EXPLORES THE 47-MILE S WA M P F O X PA S S A G E I N S O U T H CAROLINA.

I rode past. I saw one horseriding group. A church group near one of several trailside camps. I met mother and son backpackers, with the elder encouraging the younger, who was training for the Appalachian Trail. Reaching my turnaround, I rode through a few inches of water near Steed Creek Road. An ominous sign, which I forgot while returning to my truck. Driving home, I called my Chattanooga buddy. “I think I found a mellow, winter-weekend bike-packing route.” Two days later, I parked at Witherbee trailhead and rode into the central forest. After seven miles of puddlepocked straightaways, the trail dropped into a sunken bog near Turkey Creek. It was 10 miles of slogging from there.


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THE SCENIC FRANCIS MARION N AT I O N A L F O R E S T F E AT U R E S M AT C H S T I C K P I N E F O R E S T S A N D B L A C K WAT E R W E T L A N D S .

We’re talking standing water and thick mud. Brief pockets of spongey spoil atop high ground felt like pavement. I was relieved to have my fat bike—occasionally, I went off-trail through the forest. I crossed creeks and swamps on elevated beams and logs, walking some, riding others, and falling off more than enough. A few makeshift causeways sunk below water level from my passing weight. Reaching Steed Creek Road wearing soggy shoes and half the swamp, I returned on the network of sandy roads. While navigating this workaround, I discovered that palmettoconservation.org’s maps excellently delineate the trail, but the roads are off. The forest service’s 2012 revised topo map is better with roads, less precise for trails. As a backup, most parts of the forest have data service. I gave the trail a few days to dry out and went back to

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

reading about the revolution. For two years in the early 1780s, Francis Marion led a small volunteer militia in a guerilla campaign against much larger British forces. Marion relied upon local intelligence, creative thinking, and covert ambushes. They burst from the forests and

freed captured Americans, disrupted British supply lines, and won countless skirmishes against enemy patrols. Then they retreated into the swamps and hid. During one unsuccessful pursuit, according to Simms, British adversary Colonel Tarleton coined a nickname.

“This damned Swamp Fox, the devil himself could not catch him.” Without any major battles, Marion’s so-called “Brigade” fought the British Army and Loyalists to a prolonged draw. This kept them engaged in South Carolina and unable to reinforce their northern forces, allowing George Washington’s Continental Army to win the war in the north. Even today, historians credit Francis Marion—a 5’2” 100-pound militia leader who limped with a crutch, disliked direct conflict, and slept in swamps— with saving the American Revolution. Before my final ride, I re-watched the 2000 film "The Patriot." Mel Gibson’s character Benjamin Martin is loosely—loosely—based upon Marion. Not including the double-fisting muskets and axthrowing parts. After four days, I returned with bike to the swamps. Driving to the Lake Moultrie trailhead, something was amiss. It hadn’t rained in a

week, but the Santee River was flooding, and water was ponding in meadows. I’m new to this area, and I suspected I’d made a critical mistake. Sure enough, the trail was flooded. The storm eight days before had dumped further inland. With the region being so flat, it took a week to reach a saturated Low Country. Not wanting to surrender, I rode about a mile. Well, more like waded. Out of curiosity, I called the visitor center. The guy said he checked for updates that morning. No flooding on the trail. But my soaked shoes told a different story. I later found out, there are never any updates for the Swamp Fox Passage. Thus, proceed cautiously. Ride between the first frost of fall and just after the final frost of spring. Avoid when the Santee River is flooding. The Swamp Fox had defeated me. For now. Fifteen miles of trail were under water. But unlike the British Empire, I’d be back.


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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS


CULTIVATING CONFIDENCE PARENTS USE RECREATION TO HELP KIDS THRIVE OUTSIDE

Raising a kid to confidently love the outdoors is different for every family. While spending time in the natural world is intrinsically simple, how parents are able to help kids explore often depends on time, access, and resources. To gain perspective, BRO caught up with three families prioritizing recreation and setting aside time to get outside. BY ELLEN KANZINGER

Paddling Couple Shares Their Passion Bryant and Laura Baker met in college, eventually making their way to West Virginia as guides on the New and Gauley Rivers. For the next decade, they split their time between West Virginia and Utah, guiding rafting trips, working as wilderness therapy instructors, and thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. “We always loved the New River Gorge and this region,” Bryant Baker said. “We always talked about ending up back here and this being a place we wanted to raise our kids. There are a number of "The more we folks who we’ve guided with throughout make an effort the years who’ve also had the same to do it, the process of guiding, traveling, and then settling down to have kids. We’ve all easier it gets found ourselves back here, which has every time." been fun. Our kids run around together.” The time finally came to move back to Fayette County, W.Va., in 2018. Now the Bakers try to get out with their three daughters: Ulani, 4; Makya, 2; and Norah, 10 months, as much as possible. “All of this stuff, we want it to be normal for them,” Bryant added. “The more we make an effort to do it, the easier it gets every time.” For Bryant, the river operations manager at ACE Adventure Resort, getting outside with the kids is all about logistics, planning, and efficiency. “Ninety percent of the time, if not

more, the hardest part of any of this is just getting out the door,” he said. “Just getting them in the car and getting everything you need. The night before we’re going to try and do something, I like to get things lined up and have all the gear set out.” One of the advantages of living where the Bakers do is access to top outdoor recreation spots in the New River Gorge, Gauley River, and Monongahela National Forest. As former raft guides, they especially enjoy paddling with their kids on the Upper New. “We take down a raft and strap a frame to it so that I can row, or my wife can row while one of us kind of manages the madness,” Bryant said. “They can run around the raft, and we take lunch. They can jump out and swim in different spots. There’s not a lot of places you can do that in a day, get your kids out like that, and have it be that easy of a shuttle.” Bryant gets new perspectives on adventure sharing his love of the water with his kids. “That’s just amazing having your daughter sit in your lap and ride through a rapid together,” he said. “Their little faces light up and they feel like they’re doing this on their own. Even if I was doing the same thing on my own, it would be totally different. You enter into their level of excitement and adventure. It makes even the most low key of adventures really, really exciting.” When they’re not on the river together, the family is exploring the rail trail system, accessible swimming holes, and local climbing spots. Bryant and Laura also set aside times for

APRIL 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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paddling or running dates, hiring a sitter so they can hit the trail together. The Bakers are also working to eliminate barriers and increase access to outdoor recreation for other families in the area. They recently started a non-profit, Adventure Appalachia, that will help connect local youth and foster families with the outdoor adventure industry already established in the area. To fund the program, they are starting a series of endurance races in the Gorge. The inaugural Rim to River 100, the first 100 miler in West Virginia, will run November 7. “My wife and I moved here in order to raise our daughters with outdoor adventure being a normal part of their upbringing,” Bryant said. “The problem we see is that, if parents don’t have the skills and experience (like we have) to take their kids rafting, climbing, kayaking, etc., then their only other option is to pay for a guided trip. Most local families around here can’t afford to do that, so most local youth around here don’t get to partake in the amazing outdoor adventure opportunities that exist literally right outside their front door.” With the new program, Bryant said they hope to give other kids the same experiences his daughters have had. “I hope as they grow up, these are all things that they’ll like to continue to do,” he said. “They’re going to have their interests and figure out their path. I think all of the life lessons they can pick up from doing this stuff is going to help them no matter what avenue they pursue in life."

A New Mom on the A.T. When Tracy Martin totaled up the distance she hiked with her three daughters in 2017, she was surprised to find they had done more than 200 miles. “I was floored,” she said. “That seemed like so much to me. I told the kids and they couldn’t believe it because that just sounds like a million miles to a kid.” Every year since, Martin has kept track of their hikes as the girls become more comfortable outside. In 2019, they hiked 533 miles and completed their fourth section hike of the Appalachian Trail. “When the kids hike and go camping, they feel so confident, even if they’re not quite there,” Martin said. “They feel like they are. That’s really important because I feel like a lot of kids don’t have confidence in very many areas. I feel like my kids are so confident when they’re outside no matter what they’re doing. And I just really like watching that.” In the beginning, hiking was a way for them all to get out of the house. As a new mother of three adopted girls, now 12, 8, and 7, Martin said they all needed a change of scenery. “Becoming a mom was really shocking,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about having one kid, let alone three. We needed to be out of the house and have something to do together that was active and would keep them entertained.” They took trips around their home in Kentucky and beyond. Whether it was a walk at a local park or camping overnight at Mammoth Cave National Park, getting outside helped them all connect through new experiences. Martin puts their trips on the TRACY MARTIN GETS OUTSIDE WITH HER DAUGHTERS IN calendar so the girls can see what’s A VA R I E T Y O F WAY S , F R O M P L AY I N G I N T H E I R B A C K YA R D coming up. Now that the girls are T O S E C T I O N H I K I N G T H E A . T. older, they have their own ideas PHOTO COURTESY OF MARTIN

and goals for what they want to accomplish. “I discovered early on that carving out time for that on purpose makes it more special, makes us look forward to it,” she said. Living close to the A.T., Martin recommends it for parents with kids because there are so many resources out there on what to expect. “Everyone and their dog has hiked it,” she said. “So, you can easily find people on Instagram or YouTube and you can watch them "We needed to hike a specific section. You can know be out of the there’s one really hard climb that day, house and have that day there's a shelter that’s really something to do nice, and then you pass the grocery together that store. If there’s no resources, I wouldn’t was active and have been able to prepare my kids, they would have been grumpy, and I wouldn’t would keep them have packed extra Snickers bars.” entertained." When they do their multi-day section hikes, they take into account where the shelters are and what kind of terrain they will face. “Each day, I’ll have an easy goal,” Martin said. “Even if someone is really grumpy and crying, we can still do four miles. Then I’ll have a ton of attainable goals. Like, we can definitely go four, but we can probably go seven. And then I’ll have a super stretch goal. If everyone’s in a really good mood, we’re not tired, we’ve got good snacks, and the weather’s nice, we can go 11 miles.” To keep up with the kids as they grow, Martin values buying used gear that can be passed down to each of the girls. “Kids only use stuff for maybe six months and then they grow out of it,” she said. “I do a lot of thrift stores, Once Upon a Child, sometimes clothing swap groups on Facebook. We get a lot of their baselayers off of eBay because some other kid used it

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and then grew out of it. So, it’s still in good shape.” Although they haven’t set a goal for how many miles they want to hike in 2020, Martin said she’s prioritizing time all together and with each daughter individually. “Outdoor time can be therapeutic for kids, really for all kids, but specifically for kids who have trauma in their background,” Martin said. “You don’t have to drive to a national forest or go backpacking on the Appalachian Trail to feel accomplished. Sometimes just walking to the library is a big accomplishment with kids. Any kind of nature is going to help, even if it’s hanging out in the backyard and looking for worms. Little things like that change the way that your kids think about nature, even the way they think about the world around them.”

The Kids Are on Bikes In the 20 years since Rachel Thielmann and Pat Norton moved to town, the mountain biking scene in Charlottesville, Va., has taken off. As their three daughters have grown up, local trail systems have expanded. “We started when they were really "There’s something little, using a bike trailer to come really awesome downtown and go to the farmers about sharing the market,” Thielmann said. “There’s things that you something really awesome about sharing the things that you love with love with your your children, seeing your children children, seeing take up those things, and have those your children take connections.” up those things, Twins Mia and Zoe, 13, and Skippy, 11, took to the sport, joining the Cutaway and have those Girls Mountain Bike Team in elementary connections."

S K I P P Y, M I A , A N D Z O E school. “For my kids, it’s a beautiful NORTON. GO FOR A RIDE WITH THEIR MOM, RACHEL experience because they have so THIELMANN (BACK). PHOTO many good friends that they ride COURTESY OF THIELMANN. with,” Thielmann said. “It’s very supportive. I feel like it’s important to build confidence in kids, especially middle school girls. Just having this place where they can go have fun, challenge themselves, and be held to a high standard.” The team competes at NICA races around the state. “You’re not going to be cut from the team,” Thielmann said. “You’re not going to be made to sit out during races. If you want to be that kid like Skippy, who’s super competitive, or like my older two, who are a little more laid back about it, they can still have fun and feel valued as members of the team.” But the lessons extend beyond just learning how to be a better mountain biker. “It helps kids become stewards,” Thielmann added. “They’re more concerned about the environment. They’re stopping to pick up trash when they see it.” Having easy access to trails and other resources has allowed the entire family to explore the Blue Ridge region together. “From our house, you can ride to the Rivanna Trail,” Thielmann said. “You’re not even in a position of having to have a rack on your car and load up all your bikes. If my husband has a little time after work, he can grab the girls and ride for 45 minutes.” The family also enjoys getting on the trails at Preddy Creek, Monticello, Oak Hill, and Stokesville, all within an hour’s drive of their home. And when they’re not riding with their daughters, Thielmann and Norton make time to ride for themselves. “Some of it was recognizing that riding with your kids was not the same as riding for yourself,” Thielmann said. “Taking your kids on a ride on a Saturday is awesome, and you should also set aside some time to get out and ride by yourself.” Now that their daughters are older, they find it easier to get outside on their own. The couple has fun riding regional trails together on their tandem bike. “We raced GRUSK (Gravel Race Up Spruce Knob) on it,” Thielmann said. “It’s just kind of our thing. He’s a lot more skilled than I am, but it’s just a fun way to spend time together. Because our bike is so heavy, we’re not very fast off a dime. But once we pick up a little momentum, we can drop anyone.” Although they were riders before their kids, Thielmann said she’s seen other parents pick up biking once their kids joined the team, and now “the girls are riding with their friends and we’re riding with our friends.” Looking ahead, Thielmann is excited to see how cycling continues to grow in the area, especially with additional infrastructure that would make bike commuting to work or school more accessible. And she wants to see her daughters continue to find joy outside. “I was someone who really was never athletic growing up,” Thielmann said. “I love that cycling is really accessible to everyone. You see people out there as old as my parents that are still riding. You can ride on a team, but you can also ride by yourself. That‘s one of my hopes for my girls because I know that physical activity can be really therapeutic. No matter what they decide to do in the future with riding, they’ll always have that as something when you’ve had a hard week, you can hop on your bike for an hour.”

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JIM SNYDER SUBMERGES HIS B O AT AT F A S C I N AT I O N A L L E Y O N T H E C H E AT R I V E R . P H O T O BY GABE DEWITT

Choreographing a Dance Underwater KAYAKERS WITH SPECIAL SKILLS SLIP INTO SQUIRT BOATING BY ELLEN KANZINGER

Often referred to as the grandfather of freestyle

kayaking, squirt boating is a curious and beautiful sport where paddlers slip underwater to perform mystery moves and complete freestyle tricks on the surface. It’s a sport that requires focus, technique, and specialized boats that allow paddlers to submerge themselves in the river. Risa Shimoda, an accomplished paddler and river advocate, compares squirt boating to the dance technique she learned growing up. “Learning how to squirt boat involves really understanding the water,

yourself, and how you interact with it,” she said. “It’s very dance-like. Everything you do in dancing relies on you mastering what your feet and body are doing. Squirt boating is very much like that. Those who are good at it have incredible connection and mastery over the boat and the water around them and an awareness of their place in space.” Shimoda, the first woman to run the Green River Narrows, represented the U.S. at nine Freestyle World Championships. She learned about squirt boating as it was arriving on the scene in the mid-80s.

“Like boating in general, those who share a certain type of interest in a certain type of boat or paddle a certain type of river become a little subculture of a subculture,” she said. “We got to know many of the squirt boaters at the time around the country who were in pockets where the rivers ran all year long.” Squirt boating requires certain river conditions, like powerful eddies and deep waters, to initiate moves underwater. Around 300 spots in the world have been identified as ideal squirt boating APRIL 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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locations, including Fascination Alley on the Cheat River in West Virginia. “It’s truly a sport that’s not for everybody, and really not for most people,” said squirt boater Joel Wolpert. “That’s not an elitist thing at all. Most people when you talk about being stuck in a boat that’s uncomfortable, deep underwater, holding your breath is just not most people’s idea of fun.”

The Pioneers Jim Snyder’s interest in paddling started at a young age, racing boats in his youth, working as a raft guide as a teen, and eventually apprenticing under a master paddle builder. In the early 80s, paddlers were building smaller boats to try new tricks on the water. “In the early days, it was a way to define that you were an expert,” Snyder said. “You could do things with those boats that you couldn’t do with the oldfashioned boats. But now there’s a lot of different ways to be an expert.” The niche discipline got its name from its early days when paddlers were testing the limits of how far they could push the boats underwater. “It got the name from a friend of mine, Phil Coleman, from back when we would just sink one end of the boat or the other,” Snyder said. “You could do the bow or the stern, but not both. One day he sunk the stern, which is like doing a wheelie on a motorcycle. But then all that buoyancy that was trapped underwater meant the boat rushed back to the surface. So, it was like a bar of soap squirting out of your hand.” As Snyder and others advanced the boat designs, paddlers discovered they could push themselves farther underwater with lighter boats. The mystery move was born as they found they could stay underwater for as long as they could hold their breath in the moving water. “Most of the time you’re like a leaf in a storm and you have no idea where you are,” Snyder said. “You’re just getting blown around. It’s a little scary. Sometimes you get pulled real deep or the water is really dark. You don’t fight with the river. Just kind of work with it and try to relax as much as possible. It’s a powerful and dynamic thing.” Shimoda said the mystery move is all about finesse and technique, not strength. “To initiate a mystery move, you really have to be focused on the angle of your boat and body,” she said. “You take advantage of the difference between the calm water and the moving water. You could watch somebody do a mystery move, try it a million times, and not be able to do it if the boat angle and the position of your body isn’t just so.” Most squirt boaters use hand paddles to give themselves better control under the water. “If you have a paddle, you have all that surface area that wants to goof you up,” Shimoda said. “If you twist it a teeny tiny bit, it’ll pull you back up to the surface. To stay in control, if you have your paddles on your hands, you can manage everything close to your body.” Underwater, paddlers don’t hear the comments, cheers, and claps from spectators on the riverbank.

“You’re kind of in a suspended state from a personal interaction standpoint,” Shimoda said. “It’s really like if you’re reading a technical paper and you absolutely have to turn the music off, get to a quiet space, you’re not eating lunch, and you’re focusing on the content.”

The World Champion Before heading into the 2019 International Canoe Federation Freestyle World Championships, Rose Wall was just hoping to make it to the finals. She returned from Spain with a gold in women’s kayak squirt. “I definitely was not expecting to do that well,” she said. “I spend a lot of time going squirt boating just for fun doing mystery moves. I’m pretty terrible at the freestyle aspect and I do not have the selfdiscipline to go out on flatwater and practice my freestyle moves.” Squirt boating competitions are made up of two aspects: freestyle tricks on the surface and mystery moves underwater. Even though other boaters performed more technical freestyle tricks, Wall took home the win because of her longer mystery moves. “When you do a mystery move, you get a certain number of points for every second you’re completely underwater,” Wall explained. “I had two different 17-second mystery moves in that ride. In addition to that, if you are able to get a mystery

A WAT E R C O L O R O F A S Q U I R T B O AT I N G S C E N E B Y R O S E WA L L . R E P R I N T E D W I T H P E R M I S S I O N F R O M T H E A R T I S T.

move in your ride, then the rest of your points for tricks are doubled.” A friend introduced Wall to squirt boating back in college because she enjoyed paddling slicey kayaks. She found a used boat in her size, took it out a few times, and fell in love. Wall, an artist on the side, paints paddlers underwater to illustrate the sport that very few actually experience. “One of my favorite parts about squirt boating is it’s just so breathtakingly beautiful underwater,” Wall said. “Just watching the sunlight filter through the different colors of the river water that you’re in, watching all of the bubbles, and seeing how the shadows move is really beautiful. Before there were people taking video of it, I would try to describe it to people and they would just not get it. Painting it was one way that I could express to people how beautiful it is underwater.” It’s a hard sport to get into because the boats are custom made for each paddler depending on their size and weight. Although it’s a small community, Wall said other paddlers helped her find boats and skirts close to her size when she was first starting out. “The really simplistic idea is maximizing your surface area and minimizing volume so that you can catch the downdrafts in the river and go underwater,” she said. “You’re really trying to get the perfect amount of volume for your weight and spread out the volume, so the buoyancy matches where your weight sits when you’re sitting in the boat. There’s just not that many women who do this sport, and so it’s pretty hard to find smaller boats.” APRIL 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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The Boat Builder Building a squirt boat is something Joel Wolpert has thought about since he was a kid watching his uncle paddle. He was 10 years old the first time he got into a squirt boat. “I’ve heard that oftentimes the passions that you develop as a kid are the ones that stick with you,” he said. “Because I was around paddling and I’ve always liked building things, I think that’s why I always come back around. It’s just another fun way to explore the world where you are.” When Wolpert finally decided to try making his first boat last summer, Snyder gave him tips and advice from his own experience. To build a squirt boat, you first have to build a full-sized model of the kayak in order to cast a mold. The deck and hull are cast separately and then cut down to fit the paddler. “You grind a little bit away from different sides to make it fit better and float better,” Wolpert said. “It’s kind of like fitting a dress. Coming out of the mold, it’s not going to fit your user perfectly. So, you got to tailor it.” Throughout the process of building his first boat, The Spinster, Wolpert was already coming up with ideas for his next project. With The Idyller, his current project, he’s trying to create a snappier and more comfortable boat. “To somebody who’s not familiar with squirt boats, they all kind of look the same,” Wolpert said. “Most all kayaks, you sit with your knees kind of splayed wide, so your hips are open. The smaller the boats are, the less comfortable that is, unless you have tremendous hip mobility. So, I thought I could kill two birds with one stone and make a boat where your legs are straightforward, so your hips aren’t open. And it would bring in the width of the boat. You’d have a lower wetted surface area, so it’d be super snappy underwater.” It’s that part of building a boat, figuring out how to get the most out of the craft, that keeps Wolpert engaged. “Jimmy [Snyder] says squirt boating is a perfect waste of time,” he said. “And it totally is. It’s just so intriguing trying to figure out how to make things that work.”

The Photographer While spectators can’t really see what squirt boaters are doing from the riverbank, Gabe DeWitt dives beneath the surface to bring back photos and videos of the sport. In 2018, his film, “Charging Arc,” won the Best Short Film Award at the Paddling Film

S Q U I R T B O AT E R J O H N B E L L C O M P L E T E S A M Y S T E R Y M O V E AT F A S C I N AT I O N A L L E Y O N T H E C H E AT R I V E R . P H O T O B Y G A B E D E W I T T

Festival. The film, featuring Jim Snyder, illustrates how squirt boaters maneuver underwater. You also see glimpses of how DeWitt gets photographs of the paddlers. “I don’t bring any supplementary oxygen or anything down,” he said. “I hold my breath. I can do upwards of over two minutes if I’ve been doing it a bunch. That’s kind of my ace in the hole. I can stay down there longer than the boaters can. So, I get down there a good 10 to 15 seconds before they do and post up.” DeWitt slows his heart down and takes a few preliminary breaths before diving beneath the surface. “The main trick to staying underwater is forgetting that you’re holding your breath,” he said. “The best way I’ve found to distract the conscious mind is to count prime numbers. I usually don’t start doing primes until I start getting a slight burning in the chest, which is one of the natural reactions of your body.” Once he’s underwater, DeWitt tries to make sure he’s out of the boater’s way but also in position to get the photo. “My biggest thing is to try to be out of the perception of the boater,” he said. “I usually like to

be below them if possible. I find that to be a little easier to avoid. I look for rocks, I look for handholds. You kind of got to triangulate under there because there’s a lot of moving water that vibrates the camera like crazy.” For DeWitt, it’s neat to capture the intimate community that has formed around such a specialized sport. “You have X amount of people who do boating,” he said. “And then you’ve got whitewater. Then from whitewater, you have kayaking. From kayaking, you have play boating. From play boating, you then have squirt boating. So, you have this hierarchy that flows down and shows how niche of a niche of a niche of a niche of a niche this sport really is. I think that is a fascinating thing about squirt boating. It’s so weirdly particular.” SCAN THE QR CODE TO CHECK OUT DEWITT’S SHORT FILM, “CHARGING ARC.”

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call of the wild

AS CLIMATE CHANGE ACCELERATES, CONSERVATION EFFORTS AT TWO OF THE BLUE RIDGE REGION’S KEY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES BECOMES INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT. BY ELLEN KANZINGER

F

rom the tidal wetlands of the Atlantic coast to high elevation spruce forests, National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast protect a variety of wildlife species and habitats vital to maintaining the biodiversity of our ecosystems. While other federal agencies manage land for various uses like historic features, recreation, timber, and water flows, refuges are maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifically for the conservation of wildlife and their habitats. “That’s a part of the mission of other federal agencies, but it’s not necessarily their primary purpose,” said Scott Schwenk, chief of the North Atlantic-Appalachian Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning for the USFWS. From providing stepping stones for migrating waterfowl to helping recover threatened and endangered species, the more than 550 wildlife refuges across the country provide a sanctuary for wildlife. Each refuge is established with an expressed purpose outlined in law or executive order. “We would like the refuges to be nodes, center points, or hotspots of biodiversity that the surrounding landscape is connected to,” Schwenk said. “And then they can connect to each other across longer distances.” Due to their fragile habitats and concerns for species preservation, not all parts of wildlife refuges are open to the public. Some especially sensitive refuges don’t allow public visitation at all. Matt Whitbeck, a wildlife biologist working in the Chesapeake Marshlands NWR Complex, said wildlife and habitat impacts are taken into account before opening them up to the public. “The challenge is being able to walk that line in providing that recreational opportunity but doing it in a way that doesn’t interfere with our reason for existence,” he said. “It’s not like the whole refuge is open. Large parts of the refuge are undisturbed for the wildlife that use it truly as a refuge.”

T H E M A R S H E S AT B L A C K WAT E R N W R . P H O T O B Y R AY PAT E R R A / U S F W S

Rapid Change at Blackwater

With refuges all along the coast, biologists and managers are concerned about the impact climate change will have on these ecosystems, including a direct loss of land as sea levels rise and land subsides. To see the effects of rising sea levels, Whitbeck points to what is happening at Maryland’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. “This really is the story of Blackwater,” he said. “Things are changing rapidly here. For a lot of people, the concept of sea level rise is something that is very theoretical. Something that maybe their children or grandchildren will have to deal with, but nothing that’s really impacting us now. You don’t have to be an ecologist to see the impacts of sea level

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A C H E AT M O U N TA I N S A L A M A N D E R AT C A N A A N VA L L E Y N W R . P H O T O B Y R YA N HAGERTY/USFWS

rise here. A lot of these marshes along the Blackwater River have drowned and given way to open water. You can see areas of what we call ghost forest, areas where sea level rise has moved in and pushed marsh up into a forested habitat. The signature is all over the landscape here. This is something that’s not in the future. It’s not theoretical. It’s something that’s happening and happening now.” An analysis of photos taken of the refuge in 1938 compared to photos taken in 2006 documented over 5,000 acres of tidal marsh converted to open water, the very marshes the refuge was established to protect. “Tidal marshes are really important habitats,” Whitbeck said. “They are incredibly productive. It’s this transition zone, this world in between the uplands and the open water. There’s a whole suite of species that have really honed in on being able to not just exist, but thrive in this dynamic environment.” In addition to the habitat they provide for a variety of species, this ecosystem also plays an important role in the surrounding communities. Wetlands provide a natural filter for our water supply, removing sediments and toxins caused by runoff. In times of flooding, wetlands also act as a natural sponge and help slow the speed of flood waters. Before joining the National Wildlife Refuge Association as a regional representative, Mike Bryant worked for the Fish and Wildlife Service for more than three decades, overseeing refuges across the Southeast. “Climate change is the biggest existential challenge for refuges in the coastal plains,” he said. “It could increase the frequency of flooding. It would increase storm intensity, duration, and frequency. You could have big alterations from hurricanes causing forests to get knocked down.” Even before there is a direct loss of land, a rising water table can alter the landscape. “If the water [level] is slowly rising, the water table is rising before the land goes underwater,” Bryant said. “The plant community can respond to that water table rising so where there was forest, in a relatively few number of decades, you can have a marsh.” Analysis of those historical photographs also showed 3,000 acres of uplands converted to tidal marshes. The hardwoods and old-growth trees of the forests gave way to grasses and other marsh species that can survive in much wetter conditions. “The same time sea level rise and land subsidence stresses the existing marsh, drowns the existing marsh, it is also sliding that tidal prism further up slope,” Whitbeck said. “It’s creating tidal wetlands where there were uplands.” To help preserve this habitat for the future, refuge managers are looking at corridors where this marsh migration would be allowed to happen as sea levels continues to rise. “In order for the refuge to be successful, we don’t have to force the refuge back to what it used to look like,” Whitbeck said.

“We don’t have to try to find millions and millions of dollars to restore marsh that was lost. That would be nice. We can think about where these marshes are being created through up slope migration and protect those lands from development and the creation of barriers that would impede that marsh migration, essentially work with that natural process.” This means looking beyond the refuge and working with surrounding landowners for the future protection of wildlife and habitat. “Wildlife doesn’t see boundaries, except by whether their habitat is there or isn’t,” Bryant said. “There’s a lot of opportunity in areas where these large refuges were established to create a network of lands working with partners. If you can get connectivity through private lands, conservation agreements, and state lands, you can end up getting this network of corridors so that over a long span of time, wildlife has a place to back up to. You’re trying to have a refuge system that has integrity in perpetuity for wildlife.” In addition to losing marsh to sea level rise, biologists at Blackwater are also fighting invasive species that are taking over the landscape. Reducing the population of nutria, a large rodent native to temperate South America, is part of the plan to slow the conversion of marsh to open water in the refuge. “The way they feed in this marsh is essentially like a rototiller going through the marsh,” Whitbeck said. “They feed on the roots and rhizomes of these marsh plants and they tear it up.” Invasive species often outcompete native species for resources and space, threatening the quality of habitat and biodiversity on refuges. Phragmites, a common reed, is replacing native wetland grasses in the marsh. “Once phragmites is in place, it’s not going anywhere,” Whitbeck said. “Phragmites marshes seem to be able to keep their head above water pretty well relative to sea level rise. Phragmites marsh is better than no marsh. But, from a wildlife perspective, it can be devastating for some species. If you’re a black or a salt marsh sparrow, there’s no habitat for you in these phragmites marshes. This is a riddle we’re still working on.”

Explore: Traverse the landscape of Blackwater on foot, bike, or paddlepowered boat for different views of the wildlife.

A Rare Ecosystem at Canaan

Managing for wildlife looks different on every refuge depending on what condition the habitat is in and if the landscape has been altered from its original form. At West Virginia’s Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, you’ll find an ecosystem you don’t usually find in our region. “The valley itself is the highest elevation valley east of the Mississippi River,” said Dawn Washington, a wildlife biologist at the refuge. “The habitats APRIL 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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that you find in Canaan Valley’s wetlands and uplands are ones that you normally see in Canada, Maine, or New Hampshire. They’re very rare.” The red spruce tree is found in the cool, moist climate conditions at high elevations. Because the soil in red spruce forests can store large amounts of water, this habitat can help ease the effects of flooding, drought, and fire on the landscape. Known for its light weight, straight grain, and resiliency, the red spruce is highly prized for a number of products, including pulpwood, musical instruments, and lumber. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, loggers removed more than 90 percent of spruce forests in West Virginia, leading to drier conditions and an increase in wildfires on the landscape. “This ecosystem is not a fire-dependent ecosystem, which means that it doesn’t depend on fire to grow,” Washington said. “Fire in this area is very uncommon. So, it really disturbed things.” According to the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative, of the more than 500,000 acres of red spruce forest that once covered West Virginia, an estimated 30,000 acres remain. Canaan Valley’s red spruce forest habitat is particularly important to refuge biologists as it supports several rare species they manage for. The Cheat Mountain salamander, a threatened species found on only a few mountaintops in West Virginia, needs the cool, moist conditions in this environment as it breathes through its skin. The West Virginia northern flying squirrel, which was taken off of the endangered species list in 2013, uses cavities in the spruce trees for nesting. Although a recent report released by the USFWS determined “there is reason for optimism” about the future of the northern flying squirrel, there is still work to be done to restore and expand the red spruce forest. Every spring, the refuge plants between 3,000 to 5,000 red spruce trees to help expand this habitat for the species that depend on it. In some areas, refuge managers prioritize this expansion by killing off hardwoods that dominate the canopy layer to speed up the release. “In that ecosystem, hardwoods come in first,” Washington said. “Spruce will come in the understory, wait for its time for a canopy gap to open up, and it’ll take over that gap.”

L A K E D R U M M O N D AT T H E G R E AT D I S M A L S WA M P N W R . P H O T O BY REBECCA WYNN/ USFWS

At Canaan Valley, the future of climate change on the landscape is less certain. “In general, for a forest, there’s probably more time,” Scott Schwenk said. “We’re not expecting there to be rapid change in all of the tree species because they have such long generations. If you think of a tree that can live 50, 80, 100 years, a generation of a tree can be a really long time. Whereas the coastline, you can see sea levels rising every year.” Refuges are using many of the same tools to they use to make wildlife populations more resilient as they prepare for climate change, such as


restoring habitat and increasing connectivity. “We know things are getting warmer,” Washington said. “It is changing our precipitation patterns. We’re getting stronger storms, heavier rains, and more flooding than we used to. Over the last couple of years, we haven’t seen as much snow in Canaan Valley. How is that going to impact things?” Until more studies can be done at Canaan Valley to determine specific impacts, Washington said they are going to continue working to build up the red spruce habitats. “We’re investing so much time, energy, and money into red spruce because we have seen it be very resilient in the ecosystem it lives in,” she said. “Should we start planting species that live more south to anticipate that warming trend? We’re not ready for that. We’re not ready to give up and say the spruce is doomed here.”

Explore: Of Canaan’s 31 miles of

roads and trails open for hiking, several also allow cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, biking, and horseback riding.

More Refuges: Experience the Wildlife WHILE WILDLIFE AND HABITAT IMPACTS ARE CONSIDERED BEFORE ANY RECREATION IS ALLOWED, WILDLIFE REFUGES OFFER A GREAT WAY TO GET OUTSIDE AND INTERACT WITH AN ECOSYSTEM. PLAN A VISIT TO ONE OF THESE WILDLIFE REFUGES IN THE REGION TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE HABITATS AND SPECIES THEY PROTECT.

Carolina Sandhills, S.C.

Longleaf pines once covered about 90 million acres in the Southeast. Trails throughout the refuge take you through this declining ecosystem, in addition to wetlands and multiple lakes. There are

more than 100 miles of sand and gravel roads open to cyclists.

Clarks River, Ky.

The bottomland hardwood forest of Clarks River acts as an “overflow swamp” area that helps mitigate damage caused by flooding. This ecosystem is home to more than 200 bird species. Visitors can view wildlife throughout the refuge and fish for crappie, sunfish, and catfish in the river and Environmental Education and Recreation Area with a permit. Kentucky will soon be getting its second refuge at Green River National Wildlife Refuge.

Piedmont, Ga.

The endangered red-cockaded Woodpecker is a native Southeastern bird that prefers the mature trees found in the refuge’s hardwood and pine forests. Explore the area by car on more than 50 miles of gravel roads or by foot with seven miles of hiking trails.

Tennessee, Tenn.

Located along the Tennessee River and Kentucky Lake, Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge is a major stop for migrating birds during the winter months, especially waterfowl. Hop on

the water at one of the 23 boat ramps in the refuge to experience the wildlife and habitats.

Pee Dee, N.C.

From hawks and owls to Great Blue Herons and wood ducks, you will see a variety of bird species on the landscape depending on the time of year. In addition to hiking, cycling, and fishing, make sure to check out Gaddy Covered Bridge and Trail over Thoroughfare Creek.

Cherry Valley, Penn.

The federally threatened bog turtle calls the wetlands of Cherry Valley home. Although public access is located away from their sensitive habitats, you can hike or cross-country ski the trails to view other wildlife throughout the refuge.

Great Dismal Swamp, Va.

Scattered throughout the cypress and red maple forests and across Lake Drummond, birds, butterflies, and mammals find refuge in the Great Dismal Swamp. Get on the lake at several access points, hike more than 80 miles of trails, or take the Lake Drummond Wildlife Drive Auto Tour.


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he business of getting people in the right gear is big and only getting bigger. The outdoor industry outranks pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, and gasoline in consumer spending each year and in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions provides 1.7 million jobs and produces over 12 billion dollars in tax revenue. Western North Carolina has long been a wellknown hotbed of outdoor recreation and industry development. Fittingly, a coalition of gearheads and outdoor entrepreneurs have come together to form the Outdoor Gear Builders (OGB), a nonprofit association of Carolina-based companies that collaborate to share talents, encourage new ideas, and inspire one another. “The OGB officially formed as a business association of outdoor gear manufacturers collaborating to create exceptional outdoor gear with a focus on responsible manufacturing, cutting edge innovation, and economic growth throughout the region,” says OGB board chair Matt Godfrey. “Beginning with a handful of outdoor gear designers and makers, this association was the first of its kind in the outdoor industry. Today, we have over 50 members and growing.” Originally, the OGB was comprised mostly of western North Carolina gear brands such as ENO, Watershed, and Astral, but has expanded to include outdoor services and retailers in the region. The common denominator among member brands? Growth. “Many of the OGB member brands have seen significant growth over the past decade,” says Amy Allison, Director of the North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Industry office and former OGB board chair. “ENO developed a strategic international growth plan that has helped them grow their presence into 40+ countries; Blue Ridge Chair Works has seen tremendous growth through international trade; SylvanSport has launched an entire new line of Adventure Gear; Big Adventure paddle sports expanded their line and added more jobs through a

merger with Bonafide Kayaks; and that is just the tip of the iceberg.” Many of the companies that were small when they joined have grown immensely since becoming members. “Not only have several of our member companies grown into international brands, but many who joined on as early stage companies have now grown to recognizable brands regionally and/or nationally. A good example is LightHeart Gear who was recently named Small Business of the Year North Carolina,” Godfrey continues. And these are just a few of the success stories. Judy Gross with LightHeart Gear believes that being a part of the OGB means being a part of something bigger than herself or her company. “Seeing what an organized association such as this can do and seeing other companies grow and prosper—it’s community,” Gross says. “With it comes the open exchange of information and advice on sourcing, services, techniques, processes, software, procedures, systems. We can reference what [other companies] use, what has worked well for them, and hear suggestions for unusual situations and advice for new problems.” As Gross says, the network is about more than just growing businesses, it harbors a sense of community and collaboration amongst members of the outdoor industry. “Our community of industry leaders continues to inspire and support one another as we break boundaries and take our brands to the next level,” Allison says. Smaller companies that join the OGB receive mentorship from more established companies, offering a helpful team approach for those new to the industry. “Everyone wants the experience of being on a winning team. Getting to share in each other’s success, and being there for each other when we fail, is inspiring and humbling,” Godfrey says. “The larger companies in our membership openly extend their support and knowledge to the newer, smaller companies because

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they’ve been there and are in a position to give back.” New OGB members benefit from the Waypoint Accelerator program, which combines an intensive startup curriculum for early-stage companies with tailored mentorship from more than 40 seasoned advisors from the region’s thriving outdoor industry network. The program also offers access to capital but, unlike some other accelerator programs, it doesn’t require participants to give up equity or take investment to participate. “We were able to develop a model focused on outdoor industry connections and solid business fundamentals with the goal of accelerating each company to their next stage of growth,” Godfrey says. For member companies that don’t attend the Waypoint program, the OGB offers year-round events to promote growth and connectivity. Members are invited to monthly meetings to network and also offered professional development workshops in marketing, finance, business law, and leadership, all geared specifically towards outdoor professionals. Additionally, each March the OGB organizes one of the largest demo showcases in the region, the Get in Gear Festival, a free event in Asheville that features live music and local food and allows outdoor companies to display and sell their gear or share information. Ultimately, the OGB members benefit from a base of shared knowledge, resources, and a community of dedicated outdoor industry professionals collaborating to lift each other up. Kyle Mundt, VP of New Product Development at SylvanSport, as well as OGB’s Board Vice Chair and co-founder, says it best: “The OGB was created to unify and help amplify the voice of local outdoor gear manufacturers. It has grown in ways I never could have anticipated. Having the OGB as a resource has been invaluable.” APRIL 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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AHEAD OF THE CURVE HOW A MIDDLE SCHOOL CLUB IN WEST VIRGINIA STARTED A STATEWIDE MOVEMENT TO HELP KIDS ACCESS THE MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF MOUNTAIN BIKING. B Y E R I C J . WA L L A C E

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ndustrial arts instructor Jeremy Bartholow stands in a side parking lot at South Middle School in Morgantown, W.Va., addressing a huddle of about 70 kids—all straddling or standing alongside mountain bikes. They’re flanked by a dozen adult rider-chaperones. Having once freelanced as a local sports reporter, I’m familiar with afterschool athletic scenes centered around football, softball, soccer, lacrosse, you name it. But this one breaks the mold. Unfamiliarity combines with an adorable ragtagginess—think “Bad News Bears”—to create an air of heartwarming spectacle. Quality and coordination of gear runs the gamut. Some kids and parents have top-tier rides and are outfitted in color-coordinated, MTB-specific ensembles of helmets, gloves, jerseys, pants, and shoes. More than 20 students use loaner protective wear and Specialized hardtails, but otherwise look to be wearing school or gym clothes. Here and there, helmets boast stegosaurus plates or neon mohawks. This is the South Middle School Mountain Biking Club, which is the oldest and largest of its kind in the

state. Riders have gathered to take advantage of the uncharacteristically warm winter afternoon. They’ll spend the next two hours exploring feature-heavy, purpose-built trails in the adjacent 170-acre White Park. There, they get exercise and practice bike skills according to ability levels. Afterward, they meet up for post-ride reflections in small groups of five to eight. Presently, Bartholow, 36, is consulting a clipboard and calling out names of students, chaperones, and assigned trails. New units begin to form. Each holds a short pre-ride discussion. “We ask them to reflect on how the day went, to describe their mood, stuff like that,” says Bartholow. Participation isn’t mandatory, but most kids offer synopses. Responses range from awesome to totally crappy, from stoked to agro as heck or a little depressed. The exercise primes kids for comparing emotional states before and after riding. Part of the club’s agenda is teaching positive emotional coping skills, says Bartholow. Focusing on having fun in a social setting while getting intensive exercise helps alleviate worries, diminish

T H E S O U T H M I D D L E S C H O O L M O U N TA I N B I K I N G C L U B I S T H E O L D E S T A N D L A R G E S T O F I T S K I N D I N W E S T V I R G I N I A . P H O T O B Y E VA N FEDORKO (@ERGHJUNK)

the effects of depression and stress, and bring new perspective to problems. Good endorphins combine with increased blood flow and respiration to naturally boost moods. Reflecting on differences in how they feel before and after a ride, kids learn to naturally regulate moods and develop a sense of emotional control. “The idea is to teach kids that something as simple and fun as riding their bike can be a powerful tool for maintaining mental health,” says Bartholow. Talks last around five minutes and conclude with a cheer. Released, kids pedal off toward trailheads in the nearby forest—early departures goof along at an ambling pace; more advanced squads celebrate with wheelies and bunny hops. Today Bartholow, who's raced mountain bikes since his early teens, will work with riders on jump skills using doubles and tabletops. Though he says shredding with the kids is great, administering the APRIL 2020 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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club can be tough. “Keeping everything coordinated and running smoothly poses some challenges,” says Bartholow. Foremost is the volume and age of participants. Second is the club’s underlying mission to work with kids who have behavioral challenges or come from at-risk backgrounds. Though stats aren’t official, Bartholow estimates 25-30 percent of riders fall into this category, depending on the year. Most are referred by concerned teachers or administrators; some are introduced by friends; a few are attracted by the alt-sports allure. Regardless, the diversity and focus demand more planning, administrative tact, and hands-on attention than a traditional team sports model. “Middle schoolers are going through so many changes—physically, socially, mentally, you name it—and that’s confusing as it is,” says Bartholow. The school’s location amid a district “with high rates of poverty, obesity rates around 35 percent, and that’s just getting pummeled by [opioid and methamphetamine] abuse,” brings added complications and pressures. To ensure he and parent-chaperones are equipped to serve the demographic, Bartholow and others have trained with National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) special education experts, school counselors, and bike therapists to learn skills for effectively working with behaviorally challenged kids. “Primarily, our goal is to provide a positive and supportive community of peers and mentors,” says

Bartholow. Kids have fun in the woods, learn about stewardship through trail-building, get exercise, make friends. They also receive praise and support from adults. “Which is so important, because many of these kids don’t get that at home. And if they’re behaving poorly in class? It probably isn’t happening at school either.” Inbuilt activities supplement before-and-after discussions to teach social and communication skills, psychological resilience, and basic life lessons. For example, say a few kids are scared of riding berms. “We’d spend an afternoon teaching them to tackle the features incrementally,” says Bartholow. Riders start on the gentle inner-curb and progress to the steep

“ F O R AT- R I S K Y O U T H S , O R T H O S E S U F F E R I N G F R O M T R A U M A - B A S E D B E H AV I O R A L I S S U E S , R E G U L A R PA R T I C I P AT I O N I N A N A C T I V I T Y L I K E M O U N TA I N B I K I N G C A N B R I N G I N C R E D I B L E B E N E F I T S , ” S AY S J E S S I C A HARMENING. PHOTO BY JEREMY BARTHOLOW

upper-lip. Encouragement helps them overcome fears and build confidence. Treating the situation as an anecdote “creates a teaching moment where we can talk about values like practice, perseverance, and self-belief.” Another club goal is connecting kids to the larger Morgantown mountain biking community. Bartholow invites guest chaperones that include local bike club officers, bike shop owners, coaches and administrators from the West Virginia Interscholastic Cycling League (WVICL), former pro racers—in

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short, people with ties to businesses, “The beautiful thing 2000s, had lapsed. groups, and organizations that bring more “I’d grown up mountain biking, had about mountain biking riding opportunities. “If a kid wants to sort of dropped it in my 20s, but was really is, it’s a lifelong go on a weekend ride but can’t access getting back into it,” says Harmening, sport,” says Smith. transportation, these are folks that will go now 36, whose job description includes “That means clubs out of their way to make it happen,” says teaching coping skills to kids suffering from like Jeremy’s are Bartholow. trauma-based behavioral issues. She knew teaching mental The connections are important for two health skills kids can nature and activity-based therapies could reasons. First, they build a support network use throughout their be extremely effective. Because mountain beyond the club. Second, they help kids biking combined both, sponsoring the club adult lives.” practice healthy habits. was a win-win: “I could share a personal “If these kids are going to use mountain biking passion and develop valuable tools for doing my job.” as a positive coping mechanism—versus drugs or Harmening got the idea to use bikes in this manner alcohol, or other negative behaviors—they have to be while earning a master’s degree in special education able to ride on a regular basis,” says 40-something and working part-time at a West Virginia therapeutic WVICL director Cassie Smith, one of the club’s many foster care facility for girls. “The kids were so wound guest-chaperones. She’s partnered with Bartholow up and had so much physical energy,” she says. and others to bring South Middle’s innovative coping Facilitating group discussions was tough; kids skills platform to the league’s 13 teams and 300were quick to get defensive, act out, explode. If she plus riders, as well as other schools. She routinely could help them relax, talking would be easier and connects riders at South to WVICL squads and more productive. Harmening’s solution was novel. affiliated groups. She borrowed department store mountain bikes from “The beautiful thing about mountain biking is it’s friends and got permission to take a small group of a lifelong sport,” says Smith. “That means clubs like girls for a ride down a nearby fire road. The route was Jeremy’s are teaching mental health skills kids can pretty and wound through a dense, quiet forest filled use throughout their adult lives.” with creeks and wildlife. Harmening packed snacks and stopped at a predesignated turnaround to eat and he tradition of using mountain biking to help talk. behaviorally challenged and at-risk youths Surrounded by nature, soothed by exercise, the at South Middle School began with the girls opened up. But the content was brutal, their arrival of special education instructor Jessica delivery disturbing. They joked about traumatic Harmening in 2015. At the time, the school’s experiences suffered at the hands of adults, including MTB club, which was founded in the midviolence and sexual abuse.

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“It was imperative I react in a way that ensured they felt heard and respected, that showed I cared and could be trusted,” Harmening says. Knowing the ride had a second leg gave Harmening confidence. The picnic served as a natural timer; the return journey, as a transition from emotional vulnerability to daily life. “That natural flow helped everybody feel more comfortable,” she says. They could talk and share, then return to riding and having fun. “That space was crucial. It brought time for emotional processing.” Afterward, the girls asked about doing more rides, and, buoyed by the success, Harmening started conducting research to hone methods. What she found was astonishing. For one, rigorous exercise offers a readymade venting mechanism and a boon of depressionbattling chemicals, says licensed marriage and family counselor Joey Dolowy. He’s spent nearly 20 years using bikes to work with people suffering from depression, drug addiction, self-harm disorders, and general family or marriage issues. Riding down a forested hillside demands focus—which short-circuits habituated negative thought patterns, a symptom of depression and anxiety. Increased oxygen intake, fresh air, and simple immersion in nature brings a calming effect. In terms of therapeutic discussion, says Dolowy, the above combines to ease defense mechanisms and boost moods, thereby increasing receptivity to suggestions and guidance. Harmening continued leading rides throughout her tenure at the facility. At South Middle, she

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sought to replicate the success—and it worked like a charm. The club started with a few members and, by 2016, had grown to include about 60. Teachers began to regularly refer so-called problem students. “For at-risk youths, or those suffering from trauma-based behavioral issues, regular participation in an activity like mountain biking can bring incredible benefits,” says Harmening. In many cases, it’s a powerful tool for connecting with kids, establishing trust, and shifting negative behavior patterns. Regardless, riding alone brings benefits. “Riding for an hour a few times a week can drastically reduce symptoms related to attention disorders, as well as those of anxiety and depression,” says Harmening, who also notes “Riding for an hour that biking helps kids stay focused in the classroom, a few times a week experience greater self-confidence, and act out less. can drastically “I can’t tell you how many teachers have come to me reduce symptoms and said, ‘This is incredible, is [he or she] a different related to attention person?’” disorders, as well as Harmening left the club in 2018 after transferring those of anxiety and to Morgantown High School. By then, though, she’d depression.” joined forces with the WVICL, which was founded in 2017. Harmening launched a team at the high school and accepted a position as the league’s Coach Supporter. With the latter, she teaches and coaches others—including Bartholow—best practices for working with riders from atrisk backgrounds and those with emotional or behavioral issues. Additionally, she’s working with guidance counselors and principals to introduce bikerelated programming into more schools and establish channels for at-risk kids to access NICA teams. “With NICA, our focus is less about competition, more about characterbuilding,” says Smith, the league director. “Our goal is to be a resource for children and the greater community. So, working with Jessica offers an amazing opportunity that’s perfectly aligned with our mission. She’s helping us make our program one of the most supportive and inclusive in the nation.”

B

artholow assumed leadership of the South Middle School club following Harmening’s departure. Within months, he was seeking to expand its reach. “As an instructor, I’d seen students experience positive changes before and after riding,” he says. But watching transformations up close? “It was amazing. I knew right away we needed to bring this opportunity to as many kids as possible.” Researching ways to make it happen, Bartholow discovered the Specialized Outride program and applied for grants. A collaboration between the company and Stanford University, the nonprofit helps middle schools harness the health benefits of mountain biking. Grant recipients get a fleet of bikes, safety gear, funds for related academic programming, curriculum training for administrators, and access to additional resources. South Middle was one of 41 schools to win a grant in 2019. Bartholow used it to establish a recurring, nine-week-long, in-school cycling and mountain biking class that teaches safety and riding skills, land stewardship, and use of exercise as an emotional coping skill. It launched last fall and was an instant hit. More than 100 students have completed the class already and 120 are on the waiting list. “The enthusiasm is mind-blowing,” says Bartholow. “Right now, it’s just me teaching the class, so availability is limited. But we’re brainstorming ways to expand.” The success of the club and class hasn’t gone unnoticed. About a dozen middle schools have reached out to learn about applying for Outride grants and starting clubs. Bike shop owners, community organizations, local officials, and state park superintendents have asked about helping too. Bartholow is working with Smith and Harmening to channel resources and maximize impacts. “Every kid in the state should have access to this opportunity,” says Smith, adding that West Virginia has the trails, bike culture, and human resources to make it happen. “We just have to connect the dots. [That means] disseminating information about benefits, getting schools on board, and finding new ways to fund bikes.” The good news? Smith, Harmening, and Bartholow agree the question isn’t if it will happen, but how soon.

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A WEEKEND IN...

Lexington & Rockbridge County V A As the southern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley, Rockbridge County, Va. is easily accessible to 100,000 acres of public forests, parks, and rivers where outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels can hike, bike, paddle, and camp. In the college towns of Lexington and Buena Vista, visitors can enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, food and spirits scene, and historic sites.

ALONG THE 64 MILES OF THE UPPER JAMES RIVER AND 10 MILES OF THE MAURY R I V E R , A 5 9 - M I L E S T R E T C H O F T H E J A M E S R I V E R W A S R E C E N T LY D E S I G N A T E D A V I R G I N I A S C E N I C R I V E R . A F T E R A DAY O N T H E R I V E R , E N J OY A R E F R E S H I N G C R A F T B R E W AT O N E O F T H E B R E W E R I E S A LO N G T H E S H E N A N D OA H B E E R W E R K S T R A I L . PHOTO BY SAM DEAN.

DAY ONE MORNING

Start your morning off at Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Garden, a 15-acre arboretum filled with a variety of ecosystems and wildlife. Kids of all ages will enjoy exploring nature through the Kid’s Play Trail and Fairy Forest. Go for a walk on the Chessie Nature Trail. This seven-mile rail trail connects the towns of Lexington and Buena Vista along the Maury River.

AFTERNOON

Enjoy lunch in Lexington at Salerno Wood Fired Pizza & Tap House. They have more than 30 beer choices on tap with their “self-pouring wall.” Grab a scoop or two of homemade ice cream at Sweet Things

Ice Cream before heading out on the water. Paddle or tube the Upper James River Water Trail for views of the wildlife and a new perspective on the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Wilderness Canoe Company can hook you up with boats and suggestions for on the river. EVENING

Choose from several local eateries for dinner, serving up everything from barbecue and burgers to

seasonal dishes at farm-to-table restaurants. Continue the fun at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort. Choose from cabins perfect for the whole family or seasonal campsites. Enjoy roasting marshmallows around the campfire and themed weekends, such as Chocolate Paradise and Mad Scientist Weekend.

DAY TWO MORNING

PHOTO BY STEVE SHIRE.

The kids will enjoy feeding the animals directly from your car at the Virginia Safari Park. Walk through the Safari Village with Animal lovers interactive animal will enjoy two exhibits such as the animal parks, Kangaroo Walkabout, shows at the Budgie Adventure Aviary, Virginia Horse and a giraffe feeding Center, and station. Or, reimagine tours with the Civil War at Dinosaur Lexington Kingdom II where you Carriage will encounter life-sized Company. dinosaurs engaged in battle.

AFTERNOON

Stop at the Pink Cadillac, a 50s diner, for lunch. You can’t miss the pink exterior from the road. Finish the afternoon with a visit to Natural Bridge State Park, a 215-foot natural wonder once owned by Thomas Jefferson. While there, visit the Monacan Indian Village and Children’s Discovery Area to learn more about the area’s history, flora, and fauna. Take a stroll through the apple orchard labyrinth at Halcyon Days Cider Co. for sweeping views of the mountains. EVENING

Kick back and relax with dinner at Devils Backbone Outpost Brewery & Tap Room, a family-friendly stop on the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail. Enjoy a double feature under the stars at Hull’s Drive-In, the nation’s only non-profit and community-owned drive-in theater.

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Elizabethtown

KY

It’s all about the trails in Elizabethtown, Kentucky’s first urban trail town. With 16 different hiking and biking trails in the area, you are sure to find one that fits your style. Check out a different kind of trail as you stop by some of the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

DAY ONE

HISTORIC DOWNTOWN ELIZABETHTOWN CORNER

MORNING AFTERNOON

Fuel up with a cup of coffee, a freshly squeezed juice, and bagels from Vibe Coffee. They source all of their beans from local roasters. When you are ready to go, head over to Freeman Lake Park to rent a kayak, row boat, or paddle boat or bring your own paddleboard to explore the park by water. Spend your morning casting

a line for largemouth bass, channel catfish, rainbow trout, and more. Play a round of disc golf or take the kids to the American Legion Water Park.

Take a break to eat at one of the many lunch spots, including barbecue, pizza, and sandwiches. Don’t forget to try a sweet treat like homemade ice cream and pie. Visit several sites important in the life of the United States’ sixteenth president, including Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home and the Lincoln Heritage House.

EVENING

Unwind with a drink at Flywheel Brewing for locally made drinks, trivia, live music, and a food truck. Try your hand at axe throwing to liven the night up. When you’re ready to turn in, choose from several hotels in the area with easy access to all of the fun.

DAY TWO MORNING

AFTERNOON

Hike miles of trails in the Greenbelt Trails System. From a loop around the lake to a stroll through an arboretum, soak up all the nature in Elizabethtown. The trails are inclusive and easily accessible from town. Geocaching enthusiasts will find treasures along the trails. Check out the cute boutique stores to bring home something to remember your trip by or the vendor mall for vintage finds. EVENING

Take it easy this Grab dinner at a local restaurant and get morning and sit Find the your taste of the “true down for breakfast cannonball Kentucky” as you enjoy at a local restaurant. from the Civil a wide array of bourbon From biscuits and War that is still at one of America’s best gravy to freshly in the side of bourbon bars. Take in a baked doughnuts, a downtown show at one of the local there is something building. theatres in town to finish for everyone. Head the night with a flourish. to Fort Knox for the General George Patton Museum of Leadership, featuring artifacts and films of his life. Or admire classic cars at Swope’s Cars ELIZABETHTOWNTOURISM TOURETOWN of Yesteryear Museum. TOURETOWN.COM


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Hendersonville

NC

Surrounded by Pisgah National Forest and minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Hendersonville beckons travelers looking to disconnect from daily worries and reconnect with each other and the natural world. Just south of busy Asheville, the vibrant mountain town of Hendersonville delivers its own blend of arts and culture, outdoor adventure, and creative craft beverage producers.

DAY ONE MORNING

Start the day with a relaxing paddle along the French Broad River, one of the oldest in the world. Lazy Otter Outfitters rents all the gear necessary to tube, kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard. This section of the French Broad remains largely untouched by development, so paddlers will enjoy wildlife and vegetation along the banks. AFTERNOON

Stop by The Baker’s Box and grab a freshly made sandwich, wrap, or salad

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downtown lodging experience. The side-by-side bed and breakfasts both include historical charm and modern amenities. Walk to dinner MORNING on Main Street and choose from 25 independently Get an early start at owned North River Farms where restaurants. DB bar D Outfitters Jump Off Rock, Don’t miss leads half-day and fullonly 15 minutes cocktails at Shine, day guided trout fishing from downtown, Hendersonville’s trips on the 1,450-acre offers stunning first rooftop bar. farm along the north sunset views. fork of Mills River. Peer into four Rainbow, brook, and states as the sun brown trout are plentiful sinks behind the in the catch-and-release Blue Ridge. waters. Afterward, enjoy a streamside lunch.

DAY TWO

to go. Enjoy a picnic lunch at DuPont State Recreational Forest. A short hike leads to Hooker Falls or take a longer trek up to Triple and High falls. EVENING

Book a room at The Charleston Inn or 1898 Waverly Inn for a

EVENING

Next door to the Riveter, the East Coast headquarters of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company beckons beer enthusiasts. The palatial brewery combines good beer, environmental stewardship, culinary creativity, and fun times. Sign up in advance for a brewery tour or take a self-guided stroll down hallways filled with memorabilia from the company’s 40-year history. Circle around the fire pit in the expansive beer garden out back and toast your time in Hendersonville.

AFTERNOON

The new Riveter gym combines an extensive climbing facility and bike park under one roof. With more than 16,000 square feet of climbing terrain, a multifeature covered bike track, yoga studio and fitness area, Riveter accommodates whatever exercise gets you moving.

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Pocahontas County WV

You will find four seasons of family fun and adventure in Pocahontas, W. Va. Disconnect from your emails while you reconnect with friends and family in the Birthplace of Rivers. There’s plenty to do on this off-the-beaten path vacation as you explore five state parks, Monongahela National Forest, and the IMBA bronze-level Snowshoe Highlands Ride Center.

DAY ONE

TA K E E P I C S E L F I E S & G E T T H E B E S T V I E W S O F T H E W O R L D ’ S L A R G E S T S T E E R A B L E T E L E S C O P E F R O M T H E O B S E R VAT I O N D E C K AT G R E E N B A N K O B S E R VATO R Y

MORNING

Start your morning at Dirtbean Cafe & Bike Shop. Fuel up on the “Da Kine” bagel sandwich with ham, spinach, egg, and all the fixings, or try their lattes, cappuccinos, or Flood Mud, a chai latte with a shot of espresso, for an extra kick. Pick-up bike rentals at the shop and go for a ride on the Greenbrier River Trail State Park. Head north from Marlinton towards Cass to Sharp’s Tunnel and Bridge. Bike through the

tunnel without any flashlights to enjoy the full experience. This 9-mile ride on the trail is fun for the whole family. AFTERNOON

For lunch, stop at the Greenbrier Grille. Dine on the deck for the best views of

the river. While waiting on your food, the kids can buy 50 cents worth of corn to feed the ducks that float on the river below the restaurant. Walk across the bridge in Marlinton to Appalachian Sport to pick up fishing poles, bait, and the inside scoop on the best fishing holes in Pocahontas County. Be sure to fish the Greenbrier River for plenty of easily accessible fishing holes in town that often hide stocked trout.

Rent your bikes at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park before riding the beginner trails around the Green Bank Observatory.

EVENING

After an afternoon of fishing, return your gear and head across the Marlinton bridge on Route 39 for dinner, wine, and beer at Locust Hill Pub. Enjoy delicious goods like their cheese platter, perfectly paired with a glass of red or white wine, or the famous Locust Hill Crab Cakes. Stay overnight with Country River Cabins, conveniently located along the Greenbrier River and Greenbrier River Trail State Park.

DAY TWO MORNING

Take a short drive to Cass for the Company Store, artisans co-op in Leatherbark Ford, historical town tours, and more. Book a ride ahead of time on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad with Mountain Rail Adventures for scenic rides through the countryside.

AFTERNOON

Enjoy lunch at Last Run Restaurant, including old-fashioned barbecue and ice cream. After your meal, head to the Green Bank Observatory to take in the Science Center and tours, such as the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Tour. EVENING

Stop in at Dean’s Den along Route 92 in Frost to dine on some health-conscious and delicious homemade meals. Relax in your room at the Mountain Quest Inn for night stay number two. Enjoy the uniquely themed rooms, and a wonderful homemade breakfast from the hosts at Mountain Quest Inn.

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CALLING ALL ADVENTURERS TO COME EXPLORE WITH US THIS SPRING TO WITNESS S P E C TAC U L A R V I E W S O F T H E G R E AT S M O K Y M O U N TA I N S A S T H E T R E E S ’ B E AU T I F U L COLORS COME BACK TO LIFE.

L E T T H E G O O D T I M E S F LO W.

A DAYTRIP TO ...

A DAYTRIP TO...

Martinsville-Henry County

VA Explore and relax among the rolling foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge when you visit Martinsville-Henry County. From state parks and waterways to local eateries and an artisan trail, there’s something for everyone. Let your imagination run wild with theatrical performances, museums, and live music. Go for a scavenger hunt to f ind the public art murals throughout the community. MORNING

Get your day started with a walk, run, or bike ride on the Dick and Willie Passage Rail Trail. Read about the history of the Danville and Western Railroad along the way. Mountain bikers of all abilities can enjoy ten miles of looping singletrack at the Mountain Laurel Trails. Earn your Dirty Dozen patch when you hike, bike, Camp on and/or paddle 12 miles Deer Island, a of trail in the area. remote island AFTERNOON

on Philpott Lake that is only accessible by boat!

Pick up a meal to take with you for lunch from Hamlet Kitchen, a locally owned and operated wine bar and gourmet-to-go shop. Spend the afternoon on the water, exploring hidden waterfalls and rock outcrops as you paddle Philpott Lake.

Anglers will enjoy fishing for walleye, bass, and catfish. Then make your way to the Smith River. With eleven public canoe ramps, you can customize your river trip with ease. EVENING

Slow down in the evening, exploring the shops, art galleries, and restaurants in the Historic District of Uptown Martinsville. Or check out the farm-to-table brewery or award-winning winery in the area for a refreshing drink with unbelievable views. Cozy up for a night at The Simmons House Bed & Breakfast for easy access to Uptown and the Silverbell Trail.

Gatlinburg

TN

Gatlinburg, Tenn. is the perfect mountaintop getaway, complete with breathtaking views of the Smokies and endless fun. Surrounded by Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is steps away from outdoor adventure no matter what time of year you visit. This spring, take a hike during the Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage and uncork something special courtesy of the Smoky Mountain Wine Fest. MORNING

Start your day with a visit to one of the town’s famous breakfast spots like Crockett’s Breakfast Camp or Log Cabin Pancake House to enjoy a stack of pancakes that will keep you full all day. Then, spend some time in the country’s mostvisited national park for a morning hike. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is an all-time favorite with an old-growth forest, rushing mountain streams, well-preserved log cabins, grist mills, and other historic structures. Those wishing to enjoy the park from the road can also drive the motor trail which invites you to slow down and enjoy the forest and the area’s historic sites.

of homemade wares that celebrate Gatlinburg’s local culture, right on the banks of Roaring Fork Creek. EVENING

All items at Ely’s Mill are made in Gatlinburg, from brooms and baskets to honey and soap.

When it’s time to refuel, end your day with dinner at The Greenbrier Restaurant, a food and spirit outpost sitting right on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains. Then, head back downtown to end your night at one of the many famous distilleries, wineries, or watering holes.

AFTERNOON

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Type 1 Rad

AN ADVENTURE GUIDE OVERCOMES THE CHALLENGES OF DIABETES B Y S H A N N O N M C G O WA N

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eet Cassandra Lubowsky, aka “The Big Lubowsky,” a lively outdoor guide with experience in just about every outdoor sport: rafting, mountain biking, climbing, backcountry camping, and kayaking. She thrives on challenging herself through adventure, but her greatest challenge of all? Dealing with Type 1 diabetes. Born and raised on the East Coast, Lubowsky not only found her love for the outdoors in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but also discovered a purpose in life—to help others with Type 1 diabetes feel confident and comfortable outside. “I feel like camping can be your escape,” Lubowsky said. “And that wilderness is the best place to go if you're feeling overwhelmed. I want to help people discover that.” Lubowsky learned she had Type 1 diabetes when she was 13 years old. At that point, she had already fallen in love with the outdoors and was now faced with not only adapting to a drastically new lifestyle, but also being told that participating in outdoor activities would be very difficult for her. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin. Insulin is the hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, but it is treatable, with

"EVERY TIME I GET OUTSIDE, I’M OWNING MY T Y P E 1 , " S AY S L U B O W S K Y. P H O T O C O U R T E S Y CASSANDRA LUBWOSKY

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CASSANDRA LUBOWSKY HAS LEARNED TO MANAGE T Y P E 1 D I A B E T E S D U R I N G H E R AV I D A D V E N T U R E S T H AT I N C L U D E M O U N TA I N B I K I N G , K AYA K I N G , A N D C L I M B I N G . / P H O T O B Y S H A N N O N M C G O WA N

maintenance that includes managing blood sugar levels with insulin, diet, and lifestyle to prevent complications. High and low blood sugar will affect a diabetic differently along with the rates at which they spike or drop. A big, quick jump in blood sugar can worsen the severity of symptoms and the ability to correct it. Sleep, food, and exercise are all factors that can affect blood sugar levels, so, naturally, adventure pursuits require careful planning and attention for a diabetic. “I remember a few weeks after I learned about my condition, I had pushed to try out for the soccer team and made it,” Lubowsky said. “I had this weird sense of embarrassment every time I would check my blood sugar on the sidelines. Everyone was telling me I had this condition that was holding me back but it didn’t feel like it was holding me back.” As Lubowsky began discovering her own inner strength, she credits the love and support she continues to get from her family for helping her through the process. She likes to call non-diabetic people who happen to love a diabetic “Type 3 diabetics.” “As big as this condition is, it feels so much less lonely when there are people who are thinking about it with you and sometimes for you,” Lubowsky said. “The advice from my dad, the comfort of my mom, and the willingness my sister had to give me insulin shots like eight

times a day was huge and made me realize the impact people can have. Sometimes you just want to lay in bed all day. Having someone to just simply sit with you makes a world of a difference.” With the love and support of her family, Lubowsky decided she would not let her condition consume, her but instead let it bring a purpose to her life in actively practicing self-care and helping others with Type 1 get outside.

A HELPING HAND, OF INSULIN

Lubowsky began exploring how to get more involved in the diabetic community in high school when she worked as a counselor-in-training at Camp Setebaid in Winfield, Pa. “It was the most...diabetic group of people I had ever been a part of,” Lubowsky said, chuckling. “We learned how to feel less strange because we were all diabetic, we were all checking our blood sugars, and all taking insulin before meals. It let us laugh together at the ridiculousness of the relatively mundane yet stressful parts of our lives.” From there, Lubowsky became a counselor at an outdoor adventure camp for kids with diabetes, Camp Conrad Chinnock, that focused heavily on teaching management of Type 1 while participating in outdoor activities. “The counselors that slept in the

cabins with the kids also had Type 1,” she said. “So we would all get up at 3 a.m. to test our blood sugars. It’s moments like that where we feel more normal and can focus on other things like being excited for the adventure tomorrow offers. I started really thinking about ways I could continue to work with people with Type 1 in the outdoors.” By the time Lubowsky got to college, she had years of experience helping diabetic kids at camp and wanted to take her guiding skills to the next level. She set out to be an outdoor trip leader at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Outdoor Adventure Program (OAP), taking students on a variety of outdoor adventures ranging in difficulty, an opportunity that she says “was essential in showing me my true capabilities.” Lubowsky got to explore much of the Blue Ridge as she learned how to lead people on overnight and day trips of all kinds, including mountain biking, rafting, backpacking, and kayaking. As one of her final trips with the OAP, Lubowsky planned a backpacking trip that was near and dear to her heart. She rallied the university’s Diabetes Club and led them on a trip through the Blue Ridge. “It was amazing to be able to show these people that it is possible to get outside and play with Type 1,” she said. “When we got to the top of

the mountain, we all took a picture with our insulin pumps and checked our blood sugars throughout the trip. The rest of the time, we were just a bunch of people having a great time outdoors. Because that’s so much of it. You can keep Type 1 in the background of any life you want.”

MOVING WESTWARD

After graduating from VCU, Lubowsky wanted to continue helping people with Type 1 get outside. She moved to Utah to work as a guide for Aspiro, a program that offers short-term, intermediate treatment options for teenagers and young adults by combining outdoor adventure with therapy. Lubowsky now works directly with these participants who are going through difficult or traumatic times in their lives, some of whom are living with Type 1 diabetes. “I feel that having Type 1 has given me the gift of great empathy,” she said. “I can emotionally be there for my participants when they don’t feel well. Sometimes just listening and sitting with someone is all they need.” Having Type 1 also helped get Lubowsky in the habit of constantly checking in with herself and the people around her. “As a guide, you have to know how to take care of yourself first in order to properly care for your participants,” she said. “That goes for every guide, not just guides who have Type 1.” Working for this program has

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MOVING FORWARD

One of the beautiful things about the outdoors is that there is a place for everyone in it. It’s something that unifies us as people while also celebrating individuality. Lubowsky has found her place in helping others find theirs, especially those who feel limited by their Type 1 diabetes. “You have to be fair to yourself,” Lubowsy says. “A chronic condition like Type 1 is something you have to evaluate every day. Some days you don’t feel like pushing yourself to the limit, and that's so okay. Every time I get outside, I’m owning my Type 1, packing what I need, and actively making the decision to get outside and do what I love to do.” USE THE QR CODE TO WATCH HOW LUBOWSKY GETS OUTSIDE TO PLAY!

WHEN ADVENTURING WITH A DIABETIC

SAFET Y TALK

Communication is an essential part of Lubowsky’s safety habits. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of high blood sugar vs low blood sugar, but it’s just as important to ask a diabetic how you can best help them, because everyone is different. Lubowsky informs the people around her on adventures big or small what her current status is, what to look out for, and how they can help her in emergency and non-emergency situations. If a diabetic’s blood sugar is out of a range of 80-120, it can be dangerous. Being above or below that range isn’t ideal, but each has consequences and requires different interventions.

Life’s full of adventure.

WHERE ARE YOU HEADING?

HIGH BLOOD SUGAR

Lubowsky describes high blood sugar feeling like “you are walking in water up to your waist.” Having high blood sugar makes blood thicker and pump slower through the body. This leads to extreme fatigue. When this happens, a Type 1 diabetic needs to take their insulin and drink lots of water, but they also need emotional support. Lubowsky stresses that just simply sitting with someone until they are feeling better can make a world of a difference.

Photo: ©Max Seigal

put Lubowsky’s outdoor skills to the test, as the trips explore all of Utah’s dramatically diverse climates and landscapes. One day she could be up in the snow-filled mountains and the next day she’s in a hot and sandy desert area. “Working a Utah winter while mainly living outside in tarp shelters in freezing temperatures has probably been the biggest challenge being a diabetic so far. The climate out here is really different from the Blue Ridge,” Lubowsky said. “Insulin has a freezing point, and it’s actually not that low.” While leading a trip in negative 10-degree weather one week, Lubowsky started to notice her insulin pump and meter had stopped working. The cold temperatures had frozen all of her insulin while she was far out in the wilderness. Even though her pump was up against her stomach, her body heat was not enough to thaw the insulin supply. Thankfully, she was able to use hand warmers to warm it enough to start working again. “It’s been a really long time since I felt like I couldn’t take care of the people around me because I needed to take care of myself,” Lubowsky said. “It was a good check to remind myself that I do still have to be careful and aware that the Earth’s conditions can be unforgiving. ”

LOW BLOOD SUGAR Blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can drop from exercise like a hike. Low blood sugar calls for carbs and complex sugars to be corrected by consuming juice, gummies, Clif bars, or something similar. If a Type 1 diabetic’s low blood sugar is not addressed, it will continue to drop until they have a seizure or pass out. This situation requires a glucagon injection.

GLUCAGON All Type 1 diabetics should have an emergency glucagon kit on them in case of emergencies. The glucagon kit is typically a red, rectangular box with a syringe and vile inside with instructions on how to mix the solution and administer it. Once you have injected the solution into either the fleshy part of their arm or leg, roll them on their side in case they vomit as they come to. Have something high in carbs ready for them to consume and call emergency services immediately.

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THE GOODS

It’s Car Camping Season THE TIME HAS COME TO MAKE THAT CAMPGROUND RESERVATION AND HEAD INTO THE WOODS WITH THE WHOLE FAMILY IN TOW. HERE’S ALL YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE FEEL MORE LIKE HOME. B Y D O U G S C H N I T Z S PA H N

Tent

Big Agnes Bunk House 6 A spacious car camping tent makes all the difference when you and the whole family are crammed into close quarters. At 83 square feet, this luxe shelter gives you the room to spread out and play Cards Against Humanity or just read a book late at night without causing a stir. The kicker is the big vestibule which can keep all your gear dry without having to sleep surrounded by it and serves as a sunshade on its own without the full tent. $550; bigagnes.com

Sleeping Bag

Nemo Tempo Synthetic Sleeping Bag Available in both men’s and women’s versions these cozy bags are a godsend to those of us out there who are side sleepers. The spoon shape allows you to shift around in the bag to find that perfect position that you prefer in your bed back home. It’s plenty warm, too, with

CAMPGROUND COMFORT

Stratofiber insulation that can withstand getting wet. Bonus features include a handy stash pocket inside for phone and glasses and a pillow pouch that stuffs with your puffy jacket. $100– $160; nemoequipment.com

Sleeping Pad

Alps Mountaineering Flexcore Double Air Pad The biggest problem with sleeping next to your sweetie? One of you ends up rolling into the crack between your sleeping pads. No longer. This plush camping mattress provides room for you both and keeps you well insulated from the cold, cold ground thanks to hexagonshaped cells inside that hold warmth. Need some personal space? The pads will separate for single sleeping. $120; alpsbrands.com

BIG AGNES BUNK HOUSE 6 PHOTO COURTESY BIG AGNES

IGLOO RECOOL 16 QUART ROVR ICR

Cooler

Igloo ReCool 16 Quart The high-end cooler has become mandatory camp gear ringing in at just ten bucks, this biodegradable cooler is for those of us who don’t want to pony up for a pricy option but don’t want to put styrofoam out into the world. It may look flimsy but it’s fairly sturdy, retaining its shape and rigidity even after it gets wet and making it good for multiple uses. $10; igloocoolers.com

ALPS MOUNTAINEERING FLEXCORE DOUBLE AIR PAD

Cooler Accessories

RovR, KeepR, and IceR Organizing your cooler can be an exercise in futility, but the handy KeepR fits snug inside a RovR cooler so that you can haul your stuff to the picnic table without having to rummage around. The IceR is a stainless steel container that nests inside the KeepR and will hold ice or goodies that need to chill. $119; rovrproducts.com

NEMO TEMPO SYNTHETIC SLEEPING BAG

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EXPLORE

blueridgeoutdoors.com

BlueRidgeOutdoors

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

GoOutandPlay


THE GOODS

CAMPGROUND COMFORT

Stove

Primus Tupike Sleek and light at just 9 ounces, this dual burner has all the power of a far burlier stove, pumping out 7,000 BTU per hour, or the standard of a home gas range. Beyond that heat, stainless steel design and a removable drip tray make it easy to clean in the field. $250; primus.us

Campfire

BioLite FirePit Carbon Neutral Neutral Edition This smokeless fire pit is a dream come true when you want to light things up but don’t have a good place or the right conditions at your campsite. A solar-powered feature sucks smoke away and a grill makes it easy to roast brats. Plus, the entire product design was offset to help cut down on carbon emissions. $250, bioliteenergy.com

Chair

ENO Lounger DL Every great campsite requires a comfy chair. This lounger has the ability to adjust the height from 10 inches to 3 inches depending on where you want your butt. Plus, it’s easy to pack down and stash in any vehicle and the cup holder keeps your cold beverage handy. $125: eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com

Axe

Hults Bruk Aneby Hatchet This beautiful Swedish hatchet is a godsend when you are seeking firewood or just want to split a stack you've brought along to camp. The perfectly balanced tool harkens from a Swedish facility that has been producing since the 17th century. $144; hultsbruk1697.se

Slippers

Montane Icarus Hut Slipper Comfort is king when you are on your feet all day in the wild and these Primaloftinsulated kicks are just the ticket whether you are

BIOLITE FIREPIT CARBON NEUTRAL EDITION

staying in a backcountry cabin or just don’t want to wear your shoes in a spacious car camping tent. $50; montane.co.uk

Cookware

MSR Ceramic Flex Skillet This durable pan can withstand the abuse of metal utensils and high heat. An eco-friendly ceramic coating keeps it tough and safe—ideal for that morning eggs and bacon. $40; msrgear.com

Grill

Casus This biodegradable grill makes it easy to have the perfect steak or tofu out under the stars without making a mess in a campsite. At just 2.2 pounds and 12.2-by-9.3-by-2 inches in size, it needs no lighter fluid to hold a 600-degree F temp for roughly an hour. When you're done, just toss it in the campfire or drop it in the compost at home. $20; casusgrillusa.com

PHOTO COURTESY BIOLITE ENERGY

PRIMUS TUPIKE

ENO LOUNGER DL

HULTS BRUK ANEBY HATCHET

MONTANE ICARUS HUT SLIPPER

Protection

Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser Few things ruin an outdoor outing faster than poison ivy. Never fear, this cleanser can wash away the oils that cause an outbreak if you apply it after you have been exposed. It can be used with or without a water rinse after application. $16; teclabsinc.com

TRAVELER CAMPER CS10 GUITAR

MSR CERAMIC FLEX SKILLET

Music

Traveler Camper CS-10 Guitar Music is such a campfire essential, but it’s tough (and sometimes risky) to jam your good guitar into the back of your car. At a 22.15-inch scale length and tipping the scales at just under 3 pounds, this sprucetop beauty is easy to haul along. But don’t think that small size diminishes the sound—this baby rips. $200; travelerguitar.com

TECNU ORIGINAL OUTDOOR SKIN CLEANSER

CASUS GRILL

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PERSPECTIVE

TRAIL MAINTENANCE

WHAT I LEARNED WEEDING THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL BY ASHLEY STIMPSON

STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, who has to pick it up? If the tree in question has landed on a hiking trail, the answer is probably a trail maintenance crew. For many of us, hiking is often a solo excursion, but maintaining a trail is a team sport, one that requires a long roster and countless hours of coordination, planning, and sweating, all to ensure the trail’s very existence. To learn more about this work—and to amend the karmic imbalance I’ve created by hiking on many but working on zero trails—I signed up for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s annual summer crew week in Shenandoah National Park. Among the oldest trail organizations in the country, the PATC was founded in 1927 by a group that included Myron Avery, one of the masterminds of the A.T. During its early days, the group scouted and constructed hundreds of miles of the trail through the Mid-Atlantic. Ninety-two years later, its volunteers are still walking those same paths, weedwackers and chainsaws in hand. There were nine of us on the crew, hailing from every hill and dale and city block of the DC/ Baltimore metro. There was a former Navy physicist, an electrical engineer, a retired lawyer, a nurse, and a Southern politician whose endless catalog of jokes filled awkward silences. Some of us were thruhikers, most of us were not. Some of us were trail slugs (a term of endearment, I was assured), most of us were not. All of us were sharing the three rooms and one shower of an old CCC lodge, as well as the desire to do our part.

THE AUTHOR (LEFT) WITH A FELLOW TRAIL CREW MEMBER IN S H E N A N D O A H N AT I O N A L PA R K . P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F T H E P O T O M A C A P PA L A C H I A N T R A I L C L U B

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“The brilliance of trails stems from the fact that stream to clear blowdowns, or trees that had fallen they can preserve the most fruitful of our own across the trail during a recent storm. Working wanderings,” says Robert Moor, in his 2016 book with a crew from the National Park Service, we "On Trails." Our own wanderings had brought us stopped at each roadblock and took turns with together in Shenandoah—not just the winding roads the crosscut saw. They instructed us to pull, never to Skyline Drive, but every walk in the woods we had push, to let gravity and the blade do all the work. ever taken. With the trees out of the way, hikers wouldn’t have But by lunch on the first day, I felt unsure about to circumnavigate them, creating sloppy detours the ROI of this volunteering gig. That morning I through sensitive flora. had spent three hours trailing two weedwackers, Then it was on to swales, another way to move dodging kicked-up debris, and clipping overhanging water off the trail by creating a trench and berm branches along a mere 1.1 miles of the A.T. At the from dirt that’s already there. We worked so that end of our slow march through the after a few days of wind and water and “The brilliance of trails footfalls, this drainage system would forest, the trail looked tidier to be sure, stems from the fact that look like it belonged there, allowing but what had we really accomplished they can preserve the in the grand scheme of things? In two whomever might pass a walk seemingly most fruitful of our weeks, the chickweed would reclaim its uninterrupted by human activity. own wanderings.” territory; the saplings would lean over According to Moor, the best trail work - Robert Moor the trail, ready to snag every weary is “meticulous construction, artfully backpacker who passed. concealed.” Here’s hoping. That night, as I stretched out on an old couch On the last day, a PATC crew-week veteran in the common room (my roommates were snorers) taught me how to weed strategically, how to direct beneath an old bath towel (I forgot my sleeping bag), traffic away from sloping ground or switchback I wondered if my time would have been better spent shortcuts. In this way, we could heal the damage elsewhere, where my labor could make a larger, caused by the impulse of tired hikers. That day I more lasting impact. also learned that weeding, whether whacking or The following day we were up early to build lopping, is about maintaining a navigable trail—and water bars (in layman terms: steps), carrying freshprotecting travelers from Lyme-carrying ticks. A hewn logs up the mountain to bury in the earth and properly maintained trail doesn’t preserve only a prevent erosion caused by unbridled rainwater. I’ve dirt path, it ensures the safety of those who use it, waddled on enough trough-shaped trails that this bit as well as the beauty it bisects. Like most things, it’s of work tingled with meaning. a balance. “The delicate task of a trail-builder … [is] Next it was an eight-mile hike along a frothy to bring order to an experience that is by definition

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

disordered,” Moor explains. “It is akin to catching a butterfly in your hands.” Too much intervention and the trail loses its wild allure, too little and there are consequences—for humans and nature alike. Indeed, as the week wore on, I began to see the work differently. Tiny gestures, yes, but far from insignificant. With each drenched bandanna and stinging muscle and long car ride to another trailhead, it occurred to me what a labor of community a trail is. And I came to realize that working on the trail was more about sustaining an experience than maintaining a path. While I have never thru-hiked the A.T., I have walked on so many trails that delivered me somewhere nearer to the throbbing heartbeat of existence, where I could witness my small but startling place in this dazzlingly complex world. The impetus behind the grueling and tedious work of trail maintenance, I finally understood, is to make certain that others have those same transformative opportunities. Moor concludes his tome on trails by saying, “We are born to wander through a chaos field. And yet we do not become hopelessly lost because each walker who has come before us leaves a trace for us to follow.” The paradox of the trail is the paradox of being alive: we walk alone, on paths others have made for us. There are 31 trail clubs that do similar work along the AT, and countless others on trails around the region. So, the next time you hear about a tree falling in the forest—literally or philosophically— consider joining your fellow trail slugs to help clear the way.

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PHOTO BY STEVEN MCBRIDE

THE NEXT NATIONAL SCENIC AREA? RURAL NEIGHBORS BUILD A NATIONAL COALITION TO PROTECT A WILD, ANCIENT FOREST AS THE CRAGGY NATIONAL SCENIC AREA B Y W I L L H A R L A N

F

our years ago, a small group of Appalachian farmers, teachers, and carpenters sat around a wobbly table in their community center. They were worried: logging threatened the old-growth forest that surrounded their valley. So they began spitballing ideas about how to save it. They sketched out a plan that included doorto-door conversations, flyers at the local gas station, and a community meeting later that month. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” admitted Steven McBride, one of the neighbors around the table. “But we had to try. We just decided to go for it and got to work.” They were hoping to protect the 16,000-acre Craggy section of Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. It includes ancient forests, waterfalls, pristine streams, 6,000-foot summits, world-class trails like the Mountains to Sea Trail, and panoramic vistas from Craggy Gardens, the most popular and photographed spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The neighbors invited the Forest Service to attend the community meeting. The Forest Service managed the Craggy forest, and on the evening of the meeting, they showed up first. The community center was empty, except for a few volunteers offering apple cider and cookies to anyone who showed up. Then the first few attendees wandered in—mountain families wearing hand-made t-shirts that said, “Don’t Cut Our Forest.” Scientists from three area universities arrived next. More vehicles pulled into the 78

BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

gravel parking lot—including dirt-splattered pickups and bumper-stickered Priuses. The organizers quickly ran out of cider and cookies. The community center filled to capacity with over 300 people, and more folks continued to arrive. On a cold, dark February night, they stood at the windows of the community center and waited out in the parking lot. Nearly everyone in attendance asked the Forest Service to permanently protect the Craggy forest. Fifthgeneration farmers and hunters voiced support for keeping Craggy as it is. Seven-year-olds spoke with quivering voices to the Forest Service: “Don’t cut Craggy. Keep it wild.” The Forest Service listened, and last month, they responded. In their 30year draft forest plan, they acknowledged the rare and special qualities of the Craggy forest, and they recommended stronger protections for Craggy across all of its plan alternatives. The momentum has ignited a national movement to create the Craggy Wilderness and National Scenic Area, which would permanently safeguard all 16,000 acres of Craggy. Craggy is one of the oldest and most biologically diverse forests in the country. It shelters dozens of rare and endangered species. Hollywood blockbusters have been filmed in Craggy’s enchanted forests, including The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans. Waterfalls thunder down its rugged slopes. The grassroots gathering in the community center

has quickly grown into a national coalition that includes hundreds of organizations and businesses—and thousands of supporters. The Forest Service has already received thousands of comments endorsing permanent protections for Craggy, and city council and county commissioners have passed unanimous bipartisan resolutions supporting the Craggy Wilderness and expanded protections for all of Craggy. Now, the coalition is working with Congress to introduce the Craggy Mountain Wilderness and National Scenic Area Act to permanently protect Craggy. Craggy’s rugged, remote slopes would be recommended for wilderness designation, and the rest of Craggy—including its popular trail network—would be designated a national scenic area. “This is Craggy’s big moment,” says Hannah Furgiuele, one of the original Craggy organizers. “This is a rare and unique opportunity to permanently protect one of the wildest and most ancient forests in the East.” The United States only has 10 national scenic areas. Craggy could become the country’s eleventh. What exactly are national scenic areas? They are federally designated public lands that have outstanding natural and scenic value. Craggy certainly qualifies as scenic. It includes the sweeping, breathtaking vistas from 6,000-foot Craggy Pinnacle and the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail—North

Carolina’s state trail, stretching almost 1,200 miles from the Smokies to the Outer Banks— rolls through the Craggy’s high-elevation spruce-fir forests. Craggy is also part of a contiguous 100,000-acre block of protected wildlands, including Mount Mitchell, the highest summit in the East. These vast, rugged wildlands were once nominated to be a national park. A National Scenic Area might be the next best thing. National Scenic Area designations overlay existing public lands, such as national forests. Like wilderness, a national scenic area requires an act of Congress. However, national scenic areas are more flexible and adaptable than wilderness. National Scenic Areas can accommodate a wider variety of uses, including mountain biking. The Forest Service can recommend national scenic area designations in their forest plan, and the Craggy coalition hopes that they will. The Forest Service is currently seeking public comments on their draft forest plan for Craggy and the entire Pisgah National Forest. Already letters and emails supporting a Craggy National Scenic Area have flooded the Forest Service, and a supporting petition has collected over 5,000 signatures in just two weeks. Virginia boasts three of the country’s 10 national scenic areas, and Georgia is also home to a national scenic area. The designations’ flexibility— and Blue Ridge region’s natural scenic qualities—make the national scenic area designation an ideal fit for

many classic Appalachian landscapes like Craggy. Could Craggy become the South’s fifth national scenic area—and North Carolina’s first? “There is nowhere more scenic and more stunningly spectacular than Craggy,” said Rob Lenfestey, neighbor and coorganizer of the I Heart Craggy campaign. “Craggy has all the ingredients to become the country’s next national scenic area: overwhelming public support, unanimous bipartisan support, and some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful and biologically diverse forests in the country.” The Forest Service’s comment period ends May 14. Comments can be submitted at the Forest Service’s website: https://cara. ecosystemmanagement.org/Public/ CommentInput?Project=43545 You can also sign a petition and learn more about the Craggy National Scenic Area at iheartcraggy.org.

SOUTHERN PRIDE: THE SOUTH BOASTS MORE NATIONAL SCENIC AREAS THAN ANY AREA OF THE COUNTRY, THANKS TO ITS STUNNING VISTAS AND ABUNDANT RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES. National Scenic Areas in the United States + Year Designated • Mono Basin, California (1984) • Columbia River Gorge, Oregon and Washington (1986) • Indian Nations, Oklahoma (1988) • Beech Creek, Oklahoma (1988) • Mount Pleasant, Virginia (1994) • Coosa Bald, Georgia (1995) • Saint Helena Island, Michigan (2000) • Seng Mountain, Virginia (2009) • Bear Creek, Virginia (2009) • Alabama Hills, California (2019)



TRAIL MIX

BLUEGRASS

PRESS PHOTO: COURTESY OF YEP ROC RECORDS

Wheels of Soul Rolls On

Jim Lauderdale Returns to his North Carolina Roots BY JEDD FERRIS

BEFORE MAKING HIS ENDURING IMPACT in Nashville, prolific singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale grew up in rural North Carolina, where his early exposure to music revolved around bluegrass. He revisits those roots with the new album “When Carolina Comes Home Again,” which was released on March 6. For Lauderdale—a versatile Americana artist with more than 30 albums to his credit and songs recorded by the likes of George Strait, the Dixie Chicks, and Blake Shelton—the new effort is a collaborative look back at formative musical experiences in his old home state. The straight-ahead bluegrass record features contributions from some of North Carolina’s most accomplished picking outfits, including Steep Canyon Rangers, Balsam Range, and Town Mountain. “North Carolina has such a long and important heritage in bluegrass music,” Lauderdale said in a statement on his upcoming album. “Since it’s where 80

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I’m originally from and where I started playing bluegrass, it seemed right to go back to my roots in bluegrass there and collaborate with musicians in that area. There’s just something in the atmosphere there. Hearing bluegrass in different areas and settings in North Carolina, the music is just there in the air. The first bluegrass festival I ever went to was Union Grove when I was 14, and it blew my mind. The music got into my bones, and I just had to get a banjo.” Lauderdale indulges those youthful influences throughout the album’s 13 tracks, including “Cackalacky,” a co-write with Si Kahn, and the title track, penned with John Oates (of Hall & Oates fame). Lauderdale wrote the album’s lead single, “As a Sign,” with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, who passed away last year. The hard-driving foot-stomper is propelled by deft string work and poetic lyrics about learning to let lost love go. Lauderdale and Hunter had a fruitful writing partnership that yielded six albums of songs released

together, starting with 2004’s “Headed for the Hills.” Lauderdale will pay tribute to his work with Hunter by playing a mini-set of songs the two friends wrote together at upcoming shows. He returns to North Carolina this spring to perform multiple sets at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, N.C., on April 24 and 25. In addition to helping Lauderdale with his new album, Steep Canyon Rangers unveiled a fresh release last month. “Be Still Moses,” which also arrived on March 6, is another team effort between North Carolina musicians, as the Grammy-winning string band tapped the Asheville Symphony to help them rework some of their best-known songs, including “Radio” and “Call the Captain.” Philadelphia soul singers Boyz II Men also appear, adding uplifting vocals to the title track. Steep Canyon plays a hometown show in Asheville at the Salvage Station on May 8.

Tedeschi Trucks Band have announced dates for their annual Wheels of Soul summer tour. The multi-band summer trek will feature support from Alabama soul-rock outfit St. Paul & the Broken Bones and Nashville singer-piano player Gabe Dixon, a current touring member of Tedeschi Trucks Band who will start each evening with his own trio. The headliners, the versatile 12-piece soul-rock crew led by the husbandand-wife duo of guitarist Derek Trucks and blues singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, will begin the sixth consecutive running of Wheels of Soul in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, on June 26. The five-week tour then touches parts of the Southeast, Northeast, and Midwest before concluding with a two-night stand at Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 31 and August 1. Regional highlights include stops at PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, N.C., on July 10; Walnut Creek in Raleigh, N.C., on July 11; and the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Ga., on July 24-25.

Shovels & Rope Hosts High Water Festival Shovels & Rope—the edgy roots-rock duo led by the husband-and-wife team of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst—will once again host the High Water Festival in their home city of Charleston, S.C. The growing event at Riverfront Park has quickly become a must-attend in the roots music world, this year featuring headlining sets from Wilco, Brittany Howard, and Nathaniel Rateliff. Additional acts on the bill include Mavis Staples, Andrew Bird, Drive-By Truckers, Sharon Van Etten, and Angel Olsen, and beyond the music the festival also places focus on the coastal city’s thriving food scene, offering cuisine from the area’s award-winning chefs. Highwaterfest.com


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Your Parks Your adventures CALEDON STATE PARK

Caledon State Park has six primitive sites along the Potomac River perfect for testing out new gear and introducing friends and family to overnight adventure. Four miles over easy terrain make for quick escapes to your riverside paradise. Keep your eyes up — eagle sightings are nearly guaranteed.

HOLLIDAY LAKE STATE PARK

Visitors looking for a longer day hike will thoroughly enjoy a Holliday Lake lap on the scenic and rolling 6.3-mile Lakeshore Trail. Brennen Overlook serves as a great midpoint to stop, refuel and soak in the views.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE STATE PARK

Providing public access to Virginia’s second largest lake, this park is ideal to try your hand at paddle sports whether you need a safe location to learn to roll your kayak or are breaking in your new SUP. Need a boat? The park offers a variety of rentals Memorial Day through Labor Day and through a concessionaire the rest of the year.

BREAKS INTERSTATE SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA MUSEUM

WILDERNESS ROAD

| 800-933-PARK (7275)

NATURAL TUNNEL

HUNGRY MOTHER

GRAYSON HIGHLANDS

CLAYTOR LAKE SHOT TOWER

FAIRY STONE NEW RIVER TRAIL


SKY MEADOWS STATE PARK

Known for its Appalachian Trail access, Sky Meadows State Park boasts wide open views of the Piedmont and is home to over 1,800 acres of rolling high meadows and woodlands providing dozens of miles of trail for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Guests seeking multiday Appalachian adventures can set up basecamp at the primitive sites just one mile from the overnight parking area.

SKY MEADOWS MASON NECK

SHENANDOAH RIVER

LEESYLVANIA

SEVEN BENDS

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CALEDON

FALSE CAPE STATE PARK

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge reopens April 1, and hikers and bikers can once again access the park for the season via the popular East and West Dike trails. False Cape State Park is as remote (and wild) as it gets in Virginia — be sure to research and prepare before you visit.

WESTMORELAND LAKE ANNA DOUTHAT

BEAR CREEK LAKE JAMES RIVER

BELLE ISLE POWHATAN YORK RIVER

HIGH BRIDGE TRAIL

NATURAL BRIDGE HOLLIDAY LAKE

SAILOR’S CREEK BATTLEFIELD

POCAHONTAS CHIPPOKES PLANTATION

TWIN LAKES SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE STAUNTON RIVER BATTLEFIELD STAUNTON RIVER

KIPTOPEKE

FIRST LANDING

FALSE CAPE OCCONEECHEE

Learn about all of Virginia’s State Parks at www.VirginiaStateParks.gov/find-a-park


Come learn to fly fish. Or just hang out in a mountain cabin. Either is more enjoyable than what you would normally do this weekend. 800.852.9506 ExploreBoone.com