Blue Ridge Outdoors April 2021

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APRIL 2021

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Starting Young FA M I L I E S S HA RE A DV E N T U RE S F O R A L L AGE S

Should Nature Have Rights? ART INSPIRED BY THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL + G U ID E D T R AIL R U N N I N G + A L L M AN B R OT H E R S B A N D R E V I SI T E D

LONG RANGE ROUTES

SPRING BACKPACKING IN THE BLUE RIDGE

Lost in the Tennessee Wilderness


WANDER. U.S. NATIONAL WHITEWATER CENTER

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ON THE COVER

CONTENTS

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

April 2021

D E PA R T M E N T S

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

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7 | EXPLORE

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

Mon Forest Towns connect communities in West Virginia.

9 | THE STUDIO

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

Alina Drufovka makes art inspired by the Appalachian Trail.

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

51 | INTERVIEW

Author Ben Montgomery looks for answers on trails.

C O N T R I B U TO R S ASHLEY STIMPSON A N N A K AT H E R I N E CLEMMONS N OA H P O U LO S ALLI MARSHALL

56 | THE GOODS

Family favorites and backpacking essentials.

62 | PERSPECTIVE

Corporations are people. What about rivers and forests?

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

I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y A L I N A D R U F O V K A

DOUG S C H N I T Z S PA H N DAV E S TA L L A R D G R A H A M AV E R I L L J E S S DA D D I O

PHOTOGRAPHER CLIFORD MERVIL CAPTURES HIS NEPHEWS, PRINCE AND KERWIN, ON THEIR FIRST C A M P I N G T R I P T O R O A N M O U N TA I N . PHOTO BY CLIFORD MERVIL

65 | THE OUT AND BACK

ADVERTISING & BUSINESS

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66 | TRAIL MIX

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

New tunes from Yasmin Williams, Sunny War, and Sara Watkins; plus an unearthed live cut from the Allman Brothers Band.

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F E AT U R E S

12 | FAMILY TIME

From long-distance hiking and trail maintenance to exploring local creeks and first-time camping trips, Blue Ridge families share their own outdoor experiences.

19 | GO LONG RANGE SUMMIT

Blue Ridge backpacking trips that are perfect for spring.

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23 | LOST IN JEFFREY’S HELL

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©2021 Summit Publishing, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Two hikers lose their way in the Tennessee wilderness.

33 | BIG PICTURE

A new initiative encourages conservation through landscape art.

47 | RUNNING MATE

This North Carolina running guide will take you deep into the mountains.


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EXPLORE

WEST VIRGINIA

MOUNTAIN STATE CONNECTION New partnership promotes local economies in the Monongahela National Forest. BY ASHLEY STIMPSON

RICHWOOD, WEST VIRGINIA, IS FULL

of surprises. During my February visit to the mountain town of 2,000, I was treated to a private yoga lesson in a downtown art studio (complete with live musical accompaniment) and a hearty dinner at the Whistlepunk, a restaurant and taphouse that West Virginia Living called “the most exciting new culinary destination in the state.” I also got to sit down with a dozen of the town’s loudest proponents in—where else? —Richwood’s very own independent coffee shop. Cherry River Coffee Roasters occupies a corner inside Rosewood Florist, where you can pick up a striking bouquet and a hip ringer-tee to show your Richwood pride. These establishments form the anchor of a main street that’s slowly, surely filling back up. The group that gathered to welcome me was comprised of oldtimers and newcomers, entrepreneurs and environmentalists, city workers and yoga teachers. Over lattes and dirty chais they told me, in no uncertain terms, that their town was on the rise. When I asked them to describe what Richwood would look like in five years, the answer was unanimous. “Every parking space will be taken,” someone said. “We’re going to need a parking garage,” added another. The good people of Richwood, it seems, are done with being a hidden gem. They’re ready to put their bling on full display. That’s why they’ve joined forces with nine other towns in the millionacre Monongahela National Forest to create Mon Forest Towns, an initiative that allows these far-flung, rural communities to harness a collective voice, something they’ll need as West Virginia increasingly turns away from extractive industries and toward other sources of revenue, like recreation and tourism. Instead of being little fish in

a big pond—or small towns in a huge forest—Richwood, Marlinton, Davis, Elkins, Thomas, Parsons, Petersburg, Franklin, Cowen, and White Sulphur Springs are rebranding their slice of Appalachia together, as one regional and world-class destination.

AFTER THE FLOOD

On June 23, 2016, a 1,000-year storm dumped 10 inches of rain in 12 hours on the eastern flank of West Virginia— including much of the Mon Forest—washing away trailers and knocking houses off their foundations. In Richwood, the Cherry River left its banks and surged into downtown, cutting out power and inundating the business district. Meanwhile, torrents of rain hurdled down the ridge, sending rocks was the concept of trail and cars careening towns, communities down the steep streets that benefit from the of the mountain town. dollars of hungry and For one terrifying night, tired thru-hikers and residents were stranded leaf-peepers. For three in the dark, waiting to years, representatives see if the upstream from West Virginia VISITORS FIND TRAILS THROUGH dams would hold. University, USDA A C U S T O M G I S M A P. “You could hear the Rural Development, water, but you couldn’t see it,” says Amy Monongahela National Forest, and Dinaldo, Richwood’s floodplain manager the growing cadre of Mon Forest as well as its Mon Forest Towns marketing Towns, worked to figure out what their committee representative. “There was no partnership would look like, what it could light, no hum of electricity.” offer to tourists and residents alike. In the aftermath, the community Together, they catalogued the rallied. The town had been on the region’s assets and resources, as well decline for years, emptying out as the as its gaps and needs, taking inventory nearby coal mines closed. After the late of everything from historic character to 80’s, “most people here talked about the hotel rooms. With this information, the way things had been,” Amy’s husband group created a GIS map that visitors Mark tells me. “The flood made us think can use to find a mountain bike trail, about the ways things could be.” boat launch, or the perfect pepperoni The tragedy also brought an influx of roll—as well as the myriad routes much-needed money to the region. Kelly (whether dirt, asphalt, or water) that Bridges, public affairs officer with the U.S. connect one town to the other. Forest Service, says that in the months The map is the centerpiece of leading up to the flood, her organization the newly launched Mon Forest had already been hosting community Town website, a tidy and intuitive meetings, facilitating conversations site designed by WVU’s Community about how to develop the area’s rural Engagement Lab in the School of economies. The millions of dollars in flood Design and Community Development. recovery funds took those talks out of the University faculty and students also conference room and into the street. created the branding for the initiative, Mon Forest Towns has predecessors. collaborating with each community to The Pennsylvania Wilds—a twogive it its own “opportunity to be part of million-acre region of the Keystone the forest story.” The next time you visit State united under a single marketing the Mon Forest, you’ll notice handsome identity—was one. Another inspiration gateway signs at the entrance of each

RICHWOOD IS ONE OF 10 WEST VIRGINIA TOWNS P R O M O T I N G O U T D O O R R E C R E AT I O N T H R O U G H T H E M O N F O R E S T T O W N S I N I T I AT I V E . P H O T O B Y MICHELLE ROSE

town (featuring the recognizable profile of a black bear) as well as wayfinding signage, kiosks, billboards, bumper stickers, and window clings. To improve the quality of life for town residents, the initiative is partnering with WVU’s landscape architecture program to convert vacant lots into community spaces as well as a development consultant to provide small businesses with grants, loans, and technical assistance.

INTO THE WOODS

An international pandemic isn’t the ideal time to launch a tourism initiative, but folks in Richwood say that business has been booming. Four of them have opened since last March alone. Like most public lands, Monongahela National Forest, which usually welcomes 1.3 million annual visitors, has experienced a surge in visitation. Room to spread out is a big appeal these days, and the national forest has that in spades—along with iconic Appalachian landmarks like Spruce Knob, Seneca Rocks, and the Allegheny Highlands Scenic Byway. And when all those hikers, bikers, climbers, and campers come out of the woods, the ten Mon Forest Towns are ready to welcome them. “Tell everybody we love outsiders,” someone in Richwood told me. Just be sure to get there before the parking runs out.

APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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THE STUDIO

A .T. A R T

TRAIL MAGIC WITH ALINA “ABSTRACT” DRUFOVKA BY ELLEN KANZINGER

TRAIL MAGIC LOOKS DIFFERENT FOR

every long-distance hiker, from an unplanned ride into town or a treat left in an overnight shelter to an awe-inspiring view after a steep slog uphill. It’s common to hear thru-hikers talk about these unexpected moments coming when they needed them the most. With her attention to detail and use of vivid colors, Alina “Abstract” Drufovka captures a different kind of trail magic in her mixed media designs. Her surrealist portraits and landscapes transport viewers to another time and place. Much of Drufovka’s inspiration comes from her own experience on the trail as she spent much of her early 20s hiking the Appalachian, Israel National, and Pacific Crest Trails. After hiking more than 5,000 miles in five years, she was ready for a change of pace in 2020. “I started to wonder how much more character building I needed,” Drufovka said. “I’m looking to spend time in nature where I don’t have to consistently wake up early and hike 20 miles.” When the pandemic hit, she started using her time in quarantine to start painting again. In many ways, Drufovka says she approaches her art

and thru-hiking in a similar way. Hiking long distances requires a significant amount of time, resources, and energy as preparations, switchbacks, and inclement weather challenge each individual physically and emotionally. Likewise, committing to her art was a daunting prospect. Drufovka found that setting micro goals helped her break down some of those fears. “Every day you just do it, and eventually you’re going to show up down the road and have accomplished something,” she said.

THE TECHNIQUE

Drufovka’s trail name, Abstract, comes from the blind contour sketches she would do in trail logs. This journaling exercise involves staring at something and drawing it without ever looking at the page. In between hikes, Drufovka was

D R U F O V K A S TA R T S W I T H A S K E T C H B E F O R E L AY E R I N G H E R P I E C E S W I T H M A R K E R S A N D PA I N T S . COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

creating abstract watercolors and nudes. “Because I was living such a nomadic lifestyle, it was hard to have places to store all of this art,” she said. At the beginning of the pandemic, with no long-distance hikes scheduled, painting and drawing became a way to process her experiences on the trail. Her pieces started as a celebration of hiker culture, illustrating trail lingo and iconic scenes from her travels. “People talk a lot about post-trail depression,” she said. “It’s easy to lose sight of who you became on the trail and how that journey shaped you.” She also opened up commissions to capture those personal moments for other thru-hikers and nature lovers. Drufovka works off notes and photos clients send her from their journeys, allowing them to be as involved in her artistic process as they want. It’s a deeply reflective process for hikers to narrow down the most important “PEOPLE TALK A LOT ABOU T POST TR AI L D EPR ESSI ON,” SHE SAI D . “I T’S EASY TO LOSE SI GHT OF WHO YOU BECAME ON THE TR AI L AND HOW THAT JOU R NEY SHAPED YOU .”

APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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THE STUDIO

H I K I N G C U LT U R E

elements they want included in this visual illustration of their experience. It’s something Drufovka says can help collage everything together in ways a scrapbook may fall short. “There’s a lot of magic in thru-hiking that’s hard to capture,” she said. Each piece starts in the bath. A selfdescribed “bath aficionado,” Drufovka uses that time to brainstorm ideas, make lists, and play around with photos before she starts sketching anything on paper. “I totally justify all the time I spent not showering thru-hiking that I now take a bath every day,” she said. There are two primary styles Drufovka offers—the portal and the silhouette. While more intentional and precise than some of her previous color and line work, each design allows her the space to experiment with new techniques. Starting with illustrator markers, she then builds the piece out, layering the drawing with acrylic and gouache paints to add texture. As she works, Drufovka shares updates on Instagram so the commissioner and her followers feel like they are part of the process. Now that she’s doing more landscape and portrait work, Drufovka said she’s seeing nature in a new way. She’s also learning a lot more about the natural history of these trails as she researches various elements to include. “I have my eyes peeled for different flowers, plants, and things that I think would look beautiful in a painting,” she said.

REIMAGINING THE THRU-HIKER Throughout her evolution as an artist, one idea that has stuck with Drufovka is that art both reflects what society is now while shaping what it could become. “Through that lens, it definitely made me realize that I could have agency,” she said. “I don’t have a huge influence in this world but if someone lands on my page, sees this epic art, and all of it is just of white people on top of a mountain, what kind of message does that send?” Drufovka, a Colombian-American, recently began to look at the art she was creating more critically, recognizing the ways in which stereotypes informed her own work. “As a Latina woman, my default is a bearded white guy in my designs,” she said. “Maybe that’s what the trail looks like now but it’s not what D R U F O V K A , B O T T O M , D R AW S O N H E R O W N EXPERIENCES TO INFORM HER WORK.

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

I want the trail to look like in the future. What role can I have in shaping it?” While she doesn’t have control over who commissions “AS A LATI NA her work, and WOMAN, MY D EFAU LT she shares I S A BEAR D ED WHI TE GU Y I N MY D ESI GNS,” everything she SHE SAI D . “MAYBE creates, Drufovka THAT’S WHAT THE TR AI L LOOKS LI KE has taken to NOW BU T I T’S NOT doing giveaways WHAT I WANT THE on her page. TR AI L TO LOOK LI KE I N THE FU TU R E. WHAT “Every R OLE CAN I HAVE I N month I paint SHAPI NG I T? ” something for someone for free,” she said. “With that time, I can make the decision to paint other BIPOC hikers or van lifers. My hope is that makes people feel welcome to my page.” Drufovka is also part of a group of hikers who recently launched Unfilter the Outdoors, a scholarship and mentorship program for underrepresented longdistance hikers to help provide financial, material, and emotional support before and on the trail. “I think that’s one solution among many to create more diversity in the outdoors, but specifically in this thru-hiking world,” Drufovka said. “To be able to see people who wouldn’t be able to do this kind of thing, both financially and because maybe they don’t have the mentorship or social network to know where they even start, that’s really exciting.” You can find more of Drufovka’s work at ThruDesigns.com or on Instagram @abstract.hikes.


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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS Blue Ridge Quarter page.indd 7

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Our Own adventure Exploring Local Creeks, First-Time Campouts, Long-Distance Treks, and Trail Maintenance—Four Families Share How They Go Outside and Play Together in the Midst of the Pandemic BY ELLEN KANZINGER

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS


Looking out at the rise and fall of the mountains and valleys from Roan Mountain, Cliford Mervil heard his nephews say that "watching the sunrise was way better than playing video games.” In that moment, all the stress of camping with two kids was worth it.

THE COOL UNCLE

Before moving to western North Carolina in 2018, Mervil lived about an hour from his sister and her kids in Florida. He visited with his nephews and niece often to share meals and babysit. So when his nephews visited his new home for the first time last summer, Mervil, an outdoor and adventure photographer, knew he wanted to take them camping. “I figured the best way to introduce them to the outdoors was to take them out there myself and share my passion with them,” he said. “ I FIGURE D T H E B E S T WAY TO I N T R O D UC E Mervil, who often goes THE M TO T H E camping alone or with friends, OUTDOORS WAS spent a lot of prep time choosing TO TAKE TH E M O UT THE RE M YSE L F AN D the perfect spot, making sure he S HARE MY PAS S I O N had the right gear, and double W ITH THE M ." checking the weather. “I know what I like to do and I know what my friends like to do,” he said. “I know how we camp, but what would make it easier for them?” He eventually decided on Tennessee’s Roan Mountain because it’s a short, easier hike with stunning views. It’s also the first place he camped, so there was an air of sentimentality in sharing that experience with his nephews. “Not seeing them and hanging out with them as much as I used to, I wanted to make it a little special for them to enjoy what I am seeing now,” Mervil said. Once at their campsite, Mervil showed the boys how to set up their tent before an evening of roasting marshmallows and running around with blankets tied as superhero capes. Twins Prince and Kerwin, 11, rated the trip as an “11/10,” even though the hike was tiring and it was cooler on the mountaintop than they were expecting. Since it was his first trip with kids, Mervil said he overpacked in terms of food and gear to make the night more comfortable for everyone. As they take more trips together, he’s hoping to work up to multi-day outings and incorporate more activities like paddling and biking while cutting down on gear. Despite having to carry most of the equipment back to the car the next day by himself, Mervil is already planning another trip for this summer. This time, his niece wants to join in on the fun.

FOUR KIDS, 40 HIKES

Although they had a vague notion of what the Mountains-to-Sea Trail was, it wasn’t until Hussein ElGenk and Nashua Oraby started taking walks with their four children at the beginning of the pandemic that they T W I N S K E R W I N , L E F T, A N D P R I N C E R AT E D T H E I R F I R S T C A M P I N G T R I P WITH THEIR UNCLE AS AN "11/10." PHOTO BY CLIFORD MERVIL

learned about the 40 Hike Challenge. Stretching from Clingman’s Dome to the Outer Banks, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs 1,175 miles across North Carolina. The challenge highlights some of the best spots as the trail winds its way through towns, parks, and historic sites. From May to December of last year, the family checked off each hike, becoming the first six people to finish the challenge. Every hike offered a new experience with a variety of terrain, geology, history, and views. “I think we were in the mentality that going on vacation means going out of the state,” El-Genk said. “From the mountains to the ocean, there’s really so much in our state. We didn’t really realize it until we did the challenge.” Their four kids—Zakariyya, 12, Ayyub, 10, Kareema, 8, and Rasheed, 6—looked forward to the different experiences each trail provided, from swimming at Skinny Dip Falls to watching thousands of birds migrating at Cape Hatteras and seeing the salamanders at Stone Mountain. To prepare for each outing, El-Genk and Oraby made sure the kids knew what to expect from the trail. They listened to season four of Our State’s podcast on

W I T H O U T S H U T T L E S D U E T O T H E P A N D E M I C , H U S S E I N E L - G E N K , L E F T, N A S H U A O R A B Y, R I G H T, A N D T H E I R F O U R C H I L D R E N H I K E D M O S T O F THE SECTIONS AS OUT AND BACKS, RACKING UP OVER 250 MILES IN S E V E N M O N T H S . P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F T H E FA M I LY

their drives, which delved into the history and stories of the MST. It also helped that the family did their most challenging hike, about 17 miles “AN Y TIME WE out and back in Linville Gorge, HAD A HI KE, WE’D early on in the summer. “Anytime ALWAY S SAY I T’S we had a hike, we’d always EAS IER THAN THE LIN VILLE GOR GE say it’s easier than the Linville HIK E AN D THAT KEPT Gorge hike and that kept them THEM MOTI VATED .” motivated,” El-Genk said. Although some days it was tough to get everyone out the door on time, the family kept at it, setting goals together. “When hike 27 rolled through, I was like, that’s it, we are going to get this done,” Oraby said. As they finished their 40th hike at Falls Lake, the family reflected on the experience. Although they finished what they set out to do, the most important thing was that they got outside together and gained a deeper appreciation for the APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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world around them. “If you keep at it, consistency leads to growth,” El-Genk said. “The first family walk we did was six miles, and we had to take four or five breaks. There was whining, and it was really tough, especially for our little ones.” On the last hike, they walked 4.5 miles out and then ran it back to reach the car before sunset. The family was amazed at how strong they had gotten over the course of the challenge. Now that they are done with the 40 hikes, the family is looking forward to returning to their favorite spots and exploring more in depth. Once their youngest is ready, they’re also thinking about paddling the alternate MST route on the Neuse River.

ENGAGEMENT ON AND OFF LINE

Zenovia Stephens always had an interest in blogging but wasn’t sure what she wanted to write about. On January 1, 2020, in the middle of washing dishes, inspiration struck and Stephens jumped on Instagram to claim the name Black Adventure Crew. “God laid on my heart to create a page where I could inspire other Black families to do all kinds of different things,” she said. When the pandemic hit just a few months later, Stephens was already talking about the importance of getting outside locally with her family. With three sons, ages 8, 5, and 2, she had to learn it’s about going with the flow and preparing for all plans to go out the window. “You may look up a trail and plan out everything, but you may only cover a quarter of a mile,” Stephens said. “I had to step back and realize my kids are enjoying themselves, exploring and looking around. Maybe we didn’t cover all of the ground we wanted to " IT ’ S A BO U T G E T T ING A S M A NY P E O P L E O U T cover, but the most important T H E RE A S P O SSIBL E thing is that we got out and T O C H A NG E T H AT enjoyed ourselves.” RE L AT IO NSH IP WE C U RRE NT LY H AVE The Stephens family WIT H T H E O U T DO O RS, tends to choose activities T O G E T M O RE BL A C K that incorporate creeks and C H IL DRE N A ND FA M IL IE S O U T T H E RE SO T H AT waterfalls since that’s what 1 5 Y E A RS DO WN T H E captivates the boys, helping to L INE , T H E SE K INDS O F keep the energy up during the C O NVE RSAT IO NS A RE N’ T BE ING H A D. " outing. “Start where you are,” she said. “What my family and I do, that may not work for you. Look for something that will be engaging.” As she posted about all of her family activities, urging others to think outside of the box, Stephens felt called to do more. “If I really want to see a change in the way that we interact overall with the outdoors and see more Black and brown families out there, I felt like I had to do more than just inspire through pictures and videos,” she said. “I felt like I had to get my feet down on the ground, get into the community, and try to pull people out.” Inspiration struck again on a trip to Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Ala. The family spent the weekend reveling in the outdoors in a place without cell reception and technology. “Seeing [the kids] in this environment where everything they love and depend on when they’re in the house removed and how they responded to that really showed us that we’re instilling something great in them,” Stephens said. “It was so impactful for us.” Wanting to share that same experience with other

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

families, Stephens formed a partnership with the camp to provide a free weekend of camping twice a year. “My hope is that once families go, they will see the value in the experience,” she said. “It’s about getting as many people out there as possible to change that relationship we currently have with the outdoors, to get more Black children and families out there so that 15 years down the line, these kinds of conversations aren’t being had.” Through donations and partnerships, she hopes they will one day be able to take between 80 and 100 families camping a year. In addition to hosting virtual events, leading themed

T H E S T E P H E N S F A M I L Y E S P E C I A L L Y E N J O Y S H I K E S T H AT F E AT U R E WAT E R A L O N G T H E T R A I L . P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F Z E N O V I A S T E P H E N S

hikes, and co-organizing Black Hikers Week on social media, Stephens is also building up a Family Giveback Program—soliciting donations for specialty hiking gear and shoes that, although not required, can make the experience more comfortable. “I want to be able to provide that for families so they wouldn’t have to choose between the shoe that you need every day, the ones that serve multiple purposes, versus having a


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specialty pair of shoes or equipment,” Stephens said. “I want to be a resource because a lot of times that is a barrier that prevents people from enjoying outdoor adventures.” In all that she does, Stephens emphasized that adventure is whatever you make of it. You don’t have to wait for the perfect moment to spend some time in nature, recharging and finding a place in the world.

CARING FOR THE LAND

When Kevin Massey offered to help revive the volunteer program for Pisgah National Forest’s Grandfather Ranger District about six years ago, his whole family got involved with trail maintenance and cleanup projects. In rebuilding the program, Massey said the difference was his then teenage twin sons, Jon and Nick, channeling their love of the outdoors into restoring neglected trails, inspiring adults in the community to join the effort. “A community pride type phenomenon started kicking in to where people were picking up trash, taking care of trails,” he said. “The culture around the place has shifted.” Massey, executive director of environmental

F R O M L E F T T O R I G H T, J U L I E , K E V I N , J O N , A N D N I C K M A S S E Y S T A R T E D W O R K I N G O N T R A I L S T O G E T H E R A S A F A M I L Y. P H O T O B Y HALLEY BURLESON

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

nonprofit Wild South, eventually watched his sons take on more difficult roles on the trail crew, like leading a crosscut saw crew as they clear fallen trees in the backcountry. “That's just about the most dangerous task trail crews undertake,” Massey said. “But the boys had the risks contained, “B UT TH E B OY S were mindful of their team's needs, HAD THE RIS K S CON TAIN ED, WERE and were finding everyone an MIN DFUL OF TH EIR opportunity to contribute. They were TEAM' S N EEDS , AN D WERE FIN DIN G modeling this leadership for the EVERY ON E AN all-youth crew, preparing the next OPPORTUN ITY TO generation's leaders.” CON TRIB UTE. THEY WERE MODELIN G Growing up, Jon and Nick, 20, THIS LEADERS H IP spent most of their time outside. FOR THE ALLSince their mom homeschooled Y OUTH C REW, PREPARIN G TH E them, the woods offered a natural N EXT G EN ERATION ' S classroom beyond science LEADERS . ” textbooks and math problems to learn leadership skills. Although they were teenagers when they started volunteering, Nick said he never felt that was an issue. “Trail crews, in my experience, have been incredibly welcoming to people of all abilities and ages,” he said. “In the trail world, you earn respect through your actions, not by your age, appearance, and the like.” Working side by side, the twins rallied their friends and other outdoor enthusiasts to help take care of the

places they loved. “There is nothing more satisfying than the sense of accomplishment that comes with working together to carry a 200-pound tire out of the wilderness or to move a 1,000-pound rock off of the trail,” Jon said. “After over 4,000 hours volunteering on the trails, I’d say we have gotten pretty good at working together.” The twins share similar interests beyond the trail, from working with local rescue teams to getting involved with wildland firefighting. “It’s good to have a kindred spirit there,” Nick said. Although the twins are older and looking at seasonal forestry work out west, the Massey family still finds time to share their love of the outdoors and work on big projects together. “If you give them enough space for a while, they’re ready to come back,” Kevin Massey said. “Parenting is nothing but a series of failures and regrets. But every now and then you manage to say, well, I did that sort of right.” Massey said arranging for nature to be a teacher was a conscious decision, something he wants Nick and Jon to carry with them as they begin to explore different career and life paths. “Place is something that you can build a community around,” Massey said. “I hope that they are able to use that as a glue to build whatever communities that they’re a part of—bring people together and make them stronger as a people by underscoring the place that they share.”


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Black Mountain Crest Trail, North Carolina DIFFICULTY: Strenuous LENGTH: 11.3 miles one way TRAIL TYPE: Out-and-back or shuttle

Located along the ridgeline of the Black Mountains, just east of Burnsville, N.C., the Black Mountain Crest Trail (BMCT) offers a serious challenge, even for experienced hikers. The trail begins at 3,100 feet in elevation at Bowlens Creek and quickly ascends to the 6,700-foot summit. The thick rich cove forest that the trail begins in quickly turns to high elevation spruce-fir within the first three miles. For the majority of the trail, you can expect technical hiking along the narrow, rocky spine with panoramic views of the Linville Gorge Wilderness to the east and the Newfound Mountains to the west. During this stretch, you’ll encounter five peaks over 6,000 feet in elevation, the largest collection of such peaks in the eastern United States, culminating at Mount Mitchell.

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Being in Pisgah National Forest, dispersed camping is allowed, and there are several established primitive sites along the trail. Be aware, water is scarce. Though there are several ephemeral springs at the higher elevations, the only reliable water source is Bowlens Creek, which is only accessible for the first three miles, so pack water accordingly. While the BMCT can be completed in a day, it is best to savor the adventure over the course of several days, making it an extended trip that can be done over a weekend.

Devil’s Fork Gap to Spivey Gap, North Carolina/Tennessee DIFFICULTY: Strenuous LENGTH: 22.1 miles TRAIL TYPE: Shuttle

Views, views, views. This section of the Appalachian Trail takes you along the most scenic section of the Bald Mountain range. Straddling the North Carolina/ Tennessee border, the trail climbs from 3,000 to 5,500 feet in elevation, and from Big Bald, the highest peak on this stretch, you’ll have one of the most incredible vantage points in all of North Carolina. You’ll be able to see Mount Pisgah, Table Rock Mountain, the Black Mountains, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, all from a single point.

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In the summer and fall, be mindful of the research station located at Big Bald. A group of volunteer researchers have been studying the migratory bird populations passing through the area for years. Camping is made easy along this route, as there are two shelters right off the main trail, both situated near water sources. More information can be found at appalachiantrail.org/explore

Catawba Mountain via the Appalachian Trail, Virginia DIFFICULTY: Moderate LENGTH: 38.4 miles TRAIL TYPE: Out-and-back

For a long trek in the more gentle mountains of Virginia, head to the section of the A.T. that takes you to Catawba Mountain. Beginning just outside of Troutville, Va., less than an hour from Roanoke, the trail gradually climbs to the summit of three peaks: Tinker Mountain, McAfee Knob, and Catawba Mountain. Along the way, you will enjoy a diverse array of scenery from lowland streams and hardwood forests to the rocky cliffs of Tinker Mountain. The highest point along the trail is McAfee Knob, one of the most iconic overlooks on the A.T. While the mountains are less rugged than those in North Carolina, still be prepared for a challenge, as the trail has a total of 7,800 feet of elevation gain. You can pack lightly and leave your tent

behind, as there are three shelters built along the trail, each of which is located near a water source. While the trail is suited for year-round use, be aware of peak use of A.T. hikers if you’re looking for a more secluded experience.

Fires Creek Rim Trail, North Carolina DIFFICULTY: Very Strenuous LENGTH: 24.9 miles TRAIL TYPE: Loop

Deep in the Nantahala National Forest, the Fires Creek Rim Trail traverses the little-known Tusquitee Mountains. Centrally located two hours from Asheville and Chattanooga and two and a half hours from Atlanta, the trail begins along Fires Creek, a pristine rushing stream deep in the Tusquitee valley known for its hardy trout populations. Along the 25-mile stretch, you’ll land at 14 different summits ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 feet in elevation. A truly year-round gem, the rim trail can be enjoyed in the spring for the wildflowers and warblers, summer for excellent trout fishing, fall for a secluded leaf display, and winter for long-range views through the bare trees. Fires Creek is a large stream that includes the scenic Leatherback Falls near the trailhead, so be sure to fill up on water before hitting the ridge line, as water is scarce and unpredictable at the higher elevations. While Fires Creek is a remote gem within Nantahala; be aware that the trails are rugged and can be hard to follow. APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM 27


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8:19 PM


Lost in Jeffrey’s Hell Two Hikers Try Not to Repeat History in the Tennessee Wilderness BY JOHN QUILLEN

L

egend has it that sometime prior to 1925, when fire engulfed a large portion of what is presently the Citico section of the Cherokee National Forest, a hunter named Ebenezer Jeffrey disappeared while chasing his dogs. It is rumored Jeffrey’s final remarks to fellow sportsmen were, “I will find my dogs or end up in Hell!” Nothing on this crisp spring day suggested that my backpacking party would eventually fall prey to the same dog hobble and saw briers that sealed his fate. Unlike poor Jeffrey, we emerged but did endure a good bit of his Hell. This wilderness was the only available backpacking venue as Mark Jones and I set off from the Cherohala Skyway in April of last year, during the relatively early days of pandemia. Jeffrey’s Hell trail proved to be a surprisingly pleasant two-mile meander which paralleled the Skyway for the first half until plunging dramatically through an unnamed creek which feeds the headwaters of the South Fork of the Citico River. We intersected the South Fork Citico trail and dropped another 1,600 feet to our campsite, after four miles along the raging bank of this now gurgling river. I ran into an old friend who was wildflower walking

THE AUTHOR HIKES OFF-TRAIL IN THE CITICO DRAINAGE. PHOTO BY SETH DORTCH


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the first little bit of trail; she would be the last human we would encounter for several days. Two days of storm prior to our arrival and a massive hail event altered the landscape and, as my friend Betsy remarked, “Beat up the wildflowers pretty good.” Holes were punched in the leaves of trillium and pink lady slippers as dog hobble swallowed our boots. This ubiquitous plant is named for its ability to cripple canines that dare give chase to a bear. (Little did I know we would eventually be baying like one of Mr. Jeffrey’s hounds as we ripped through this prickly shrub.) Four hours flowing downhill with this water found us at the big head of the South Fork Citico creek. Waves lapped at drowning rocks and trapped limbs which reached skyward for rescue from precipitation fleeing the holler. This bubbling cauldron needed to simmer and cool before we dared an attempted crossing. Tents got pitched on the sandy shore beneath a fisheye canopy of stars in hopes roaring torrents would ebb by light of dawn. Waist deep with full packs, our morning obstacle was but 25 soaking

yards. Each step threatened to move the unanchored leg and everything attached miles downriver. Mark reached for my hand from the safety of the opposite shore only to fumble a hiking pole, which he miraculously rescued 100 yards downstream. Our goal was to decipher Brush Mountain trail and complete a loop. We could feel those same demons which lured Jeffrey here into this wilderness 95 years ago rubbing their hands together. This portion of the Cherokee National Forest wasn’t playing nice and rebuffed our initial entry to Brush Mountain. If ever there were a sign pole pointing the way, Jeffrey’s ghost had long since removed it. We overhiked all the way down to the North Fork Citico trail. Backtracking to a point we reckoned was the right place to reford the “creek,” Mark and I were waist deep again, muscling through raging broth, hoping to land at anything which could pass for the Brush Mountain terminus. Dripping from waist to toe, we spied what could be a path and confirmed with compass and map. No marker was found, just a tatter of red tape dangling from GU I D EBOOKS a branch. D ESCR I BE BR U SH Guidebooks MOU NTAI N AS THE describe Brush LEAST TR AVELED PASSAGE I N Mountain as the THE COMBI NED least traveled CI TI CO-SLI CKR OCK WI LD ER NESS, passage in AND WE WER E the combined BEGI NNI NG TO Citico-Slickrock R EALI Z E WHY. Wilderness, and we were beginning to realize why. A retired logging canal ceded to a series of labyrinthine blowdowns. Brush was an apt descriptor of the voluminous detritus dodged. Narrowing banks crested alongside Ike Branch as we crawled on aging knees and elbows through dead hemlock and rhododendron that ensnared our backpacks and whipped us backwards like Wil E. Coyote from an Acme trap. Our naïve plan involved gaining the top of Brush Mountain and connecting eventually back to our starting point on Jeffrey's Hell trail. Sometimes, as this area’s loggers obviously discovered, the path of least resistance is through the creek. Dancing back and forth across Ike branch, we chased one dead end after another. Our only company were grouse and snakes; I was beginning to tire of the latter. It was a sunny, crisp afternoon but we had now ascended well beyond THE AUTHOR ASCENDS THE MILL BRANCH TRAIL, AT T H E P E R I P H E R Y O F J E F F R E Y ' S H E L L . P H O T O B Y SETH DORTCH


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the headwater of this drainage. Our map showed Brush Mountain doglegging at the head of Ike Branch, so that is precisely what we did. Sliding uphill now where loose rock replaced water, but a furtive glance from Mark confirmed my increasing fear. Bushwhacking now felt more like location scouting for a Discovery Channel herpetologist drop. Glistening stones were ringed with patches of saw brier concertina wire. If either of us stared down a rattler, there would have been no escape but to take the bite.

‘I Know Where We Are’

THE AUTHOR DOCUMENTS THE DAMAGE A F T E R C R AW L I N G T H R O U G H S AW BRIERS IN JEFFREY'S HELL.

Mark was a great companion for this adventure. At 66 years old, his lifetime fitness made him a stalwart partner for this unexpected travail. Pulling up 35-degree slopes, our intent was to gain the ridge saddle and orient from there. Five hours since breaking camp that morning, the only solid decision we made that day was to load up on water atop Ike Branch. Cresting this prominence, our hopes for an El Dorado vaporized. No magic passages emerged. The only geographic certainty was that we had summited the “Back of beyond.” Prominent Ike’s Peak was not where it was supposed to be on our map.

But the glistening spire whispered to intimate where we had gone and followed Jeffrey’s dogs up the holler. Of the two branches that comprise Ike’s headwaters, we hooked the far left one. In the mountaineering world they say that the word bivouac is French for “mistake.” Any time it enters my brain, that is precisely what has happened. Mark’s continued good nature mirrored my perpetual misguided optimism. Had the phrase, “I think I’m on a trail” been a drinking game, both of us would have been hammered. We moved in the direction of Ike’s Peak in hopes of reaching the right fork of Ike’s Branch. We had now ascended more than two thousand feet off trail with full packs in what amounts to the heart of Jeffrey’s Hell. (I would later discover that we were standing exactly on the R part of Jeffrey’s name stretched across the USGS map). Late afternoon sun filtered through early budding hardwoods at 3,200 feet deep in the Cherokee National Forest. My bare legs were slashed by a thousand razors and our bleeding arms were clotting with the assistance of Tennessee dirt. Mark crawled up to me dripping sweat but sporting a smile. I was fortunate to have him alongside. If we never escaped, our bodies would

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remain unfound. Like Jeffrey, we could easily become permanent additions to this hell. Minus cell phone service I secretly wondered how that headline would read. Straddling a col, we trudged west toward the South Fork of Citico. A game trail was now our only hope and we plodded through as it fell dramatically to the headwaters of an unnamed creek. Here we paused to rehydrate and collectively (Thelma and Louise style) commit to this drainage wherever it deposited. One mile downstream (dangling from rhododendron branches in places our feet didn’t graze the ground), we stumbled upon the remains of a primitive campsite that appeared unused since the 70s. Pull top beer cans, a rusting grill, and stacked stones suggested there must have been access via one of the old forest TH E ON LY TH IN G roads at some MIS S IN G WAS B URT REY N OLDS time prior to this IN A MUS CLE area’s wilderness S HIRT WITH A RECURVED B OW. designation in 1984. The only thing missing was Burt Reynolds in a muscle shirt with a recurved bow. It was heartening, nonetheless, as we slid, crawled, and swung our way precipitously down toward larger water. Mark would flash sideways through laurel like a speckled trout on one side of the brook as I parsed the other chasing mirages. Islands between suggested faint signs of game traffic. I rolled along the left bank chasing raw openings. It was 5 p.m. when I proclaimed with relative certainty to my accomplice across the deafening spray, “I’m on a trail.” It may have been the ghost of Jeffrey’s hounds that put me on canine-like tracks in widening soil. The relief of being able to walk upright with our full packs was a sensation I knew better than to embrace as we faced a burgeoning hedgerow of hemlock fall. Mark said, “I know where we are.” Too tired to stop and engage him, it was apparent we had looped back around to the actual beginning of Brush Mountain trail from which this misadventure had sprung some eight hours prior. Wispy clouds advanced and sealed the decision to make our second shoreside camp. Smoke rose from our solitary compound deep in the backcountry as we drifted off, scheming of ways to make but one river wade the next day. Mark confessed his nightmare about that heavy crossing we swam earlier that

long ago morning. He consulted his map and suggested that we somehow work our way back to the first campsite and forgo that second dangerous crossing. At 6 a.m., following some light rain on our tents, dawn light pulled us once more waist deep into the creek. Citico required no poles nor limb for sacrifice this April morn. We slogged approximately one mile to that dreaded crossing spot from the day before. Figuring we endured enough of Jeffrey’s Hell, Mark’s revised plan had us exiting via the Grassy Branch instead of re-hiking six miles back up to Ebenezer’s namesake trail. Pulling rhodo limbs and surfing through dog hobble as before, we chased several faint paths, none of which petered out. It was a Hail Mary call. Spying our first campsite from what felt like a week ago across the powerful and seemingly unabated Citico creek, we unfolded our dog-eared map and focused on a slit, gambling it would wind toward the Skyway. Eagle branch demanded eight hoppings and wet our marginally dry second pairs of socks. It was as if to escape Jeffrey’s Hell, we had to slither out the back door. Two miles hence, we gained ground through a magnificent series of decreasing waterfalls. We had reached Grassy branch; the elevation was right, the compass heading was accurate. Successful escape from Jeffrey’s Hell was becoming real. Neither of us cared if the car was still miles away. Four miles and 1,500 feet higher, sun glistened from metal guardrails. Soaked feet and ripped flesh were quickly forgotten. Strong winds now gusted across the forest and Skyway in advance of another spring storm. We debated who should make the packless ascent back up to Rattlesnake Gap and the vehicle. A couple from Michigan was gracious enough to collect me halfway up the parkway after one mile of roadway climbing. I must have startled them, bedraggled, dripping, and plastered in mud. Subsequent map review confirmed that we had made a loop off trail with full packs through the very heart of Jeffrey’s Hell. In me, an apparition of Ebenezer Jeffrey emerged from the Cherokee wilderness. Unlike poor Ebenezer, we would leave with our dogs, wet and blistered though they were, and barking well into the next couple of nights. Getting there: From Tellico Plains, take TN hwy 165 east approximately 18 miles until you reach the Rattlesnake Rock West pull-off which is the parking area for Falls Branch as well as Jeffery's Hell trail #196.





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IN I TI ATIVE E N CO U RAGES CON SE RVATION TH RO U GH LA N DSCA P E A RT BY ALLI MARSHALL

LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE, THE PRESERVING A

Picturesque America (PAPA) project was sidelined by COVID-19. But, in many ways, the preservation through art initiative is more relevant now than ever. Over the past year, many Americans found recreation, entertainment, and solace in the outdoors. Group outings led by PAPA founder Scott “Doc” Varn encounter wilderness through plein air painting or other forms of open-air, portable artwork. Works created from those trips will be featured in an

upcoming exhibition and sale­—tentatively scheduled for September—and publication. That collection hopes to recreate, from a contemporary perspective, the illustrations, prints, and writings featured in Picturesque America, a series of coffee table books comprising bound serials of the same name, published 1872-74. Varn discovered the series more than a decade ago while searching for wood carving prints depicting western North Carolina. The artwork he found in an estate sale was from “a serial released in 48 parts and then bound into two very large volumes with over 900 engravings,” he explains. Intrigued, he began to seek out the Picturesque America locales while traveling with his family. “The first place I found and did a sketch of was in Yosemite, 11 years ago,” he recalls. “I literally went to Cathedral Spires with one of the old books in a backpack.” But, “just seeing it isn’t [enough]. We wanted to find the place where the [original] artist was” while making a reference sketch. For Varn, it was a lesson to read through the book’s accompanying text, in which the artist described the journey taken to reach the remote scene. Illustrator and landscape painter Harry Fenn captured Varn’s imagination. The Picturesque America contributor journeyed from South Carolina to eastern

P A P A M E M B E R S O N A P A I N T- O U T. P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F S C O T T VA R N / PRESERVING A PICTURESQUE AMERICA

Tennessee on what was known as the Buncombe Turnpike or the Drover’s Road—a 75-mile route that opened western North Carolina to settlement and trade in the early 1800s. Fenn’s impressions are archived in the serial “The French Broad” and Varn is using it as a guide for a modern-day adventure along the same route. The idea is “to promote the upcoming exhibition,” Varn says, “and do something that hasn’t been done in 100 years.” The journey, slated for the first two weeks of May, will begin at Chimney Rock State Park. Varn and his travel partner, author and artist Mike Wurman, hope to start the two-week trek by carriage. A hike into Asheville, N.C., includes a stop at Pritchard Park, through which the Drover’s Road passed. From there, “We’ll mostly be beside the [French Broad] river all the way to Marshall.” In that town, the railroad now runs where the Buncombe Turnpike once was, so Varn and Wurman will travel by boat. “We’ll be able to see some things from the river,” Varn says. “Sometimes you can see places where the rocks were moved for the turnpike, and some walls, and what they called stands — places you could put your APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

39


pigs or your cattle for the night.” He continues, “Every time we get to a place where Harry Fenn did artwork, we’re going to stop and do it again.” Other trip highlights will include visits to the studios of PAPA artists Mark Henry and Taylor Barnhill, camping with Sarah Jones-Decker (author of Appalachian Trail Shelters) and overnight stays in houses and inns that were along the route in 1870. The trip will culminate in eastern Tennessee, near Del Rio. Varn hopes those interested in PAPA and the trek will meet up on the trail to make art or hike for a bit. “We’re trying to celebrate the history of this and raise awareness for what our project is about,” he says. PAPA, which is based in Asheville, boasts 68 chapters and counting, nationwide. Current chapters take their names and areas of focus from the original serials, though Varn points out a need for additional chapters whose regions were not included in Picturesque America. Future plans for the contemporary publication series are already in the works. Maine will likely be the subject of the second serial. But “the chapter called Lower Mississippi is encouraging us to get busy on that one, because it’s one of the most depressing environmental disasters,” Varn says. “When we’re doing the artwork, it will be unattractive — showing what was there, and what it looks like now.” Likely many of the new landscape pieces created by PAPA members will tell the story of environmental degradation over the past century and a half. But there is good news, too. For example, “The Yellowstone serial was titled ‘Our National Park,’ because it was the only one,” Varn says. “The mission [today] is to protect

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

VA R N M A K I N G A S K E T C H . P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F S C O T T VA R N / PRESERVING A PICTURESQUE AMERICA

these places. Artists 150 years ago didn’t have that in mind. They were accidental conservationists.” Picturesque America was created not out of a desire for preservation of wild spaces, but in response to a growing outdoors movement—a health craze. But, as subscribers discovered the beauty of the serial’s landscapes, they also realized the importance of saving those places. The collection helped to spur the creation of the National Parks system. Another modern improvement is the inclusion of women. In Picturesque America, they were rarely represented. “There was a female writer who had to write under a pseudonym—Christian—who coined the phrase ‘Land of the Sky,’” Varn reveals. “In some cases, women did write under their own names, and there’s artwork that depicts women adventurers.” But, he continues, “originally, there was no representation of women [visual] artists [perhaps] because it was a hard thing to do. Harry Fenn would do anything to get to a spot”­— climbing, camping rough, and traversing treacherous terrain. “A lot of people would have said that was not a thing for women to do.” In today’s PAPA membership, women adventure artists outnumber men. What hasn’t changed is the focus on spending time in nature. PAPA, says Varn, “is about the joy of making art for art’s sake. It’s very open to anyone on any level. It’s about getting outside for the experience.” Learn more at preservationthroughart.org.


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GO OUTSIDE AND P L AY G U I D E

ALL PHOTOS COU RTE SY O F VI SI T SP OTSY

Looking for a quick getaway but don’t want to go through the hassle of making all of the decisions? We have you covered with this guide to 11 adventure-packed destinations across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. You’ll find everything you need to make it a memorable trip, including awe-inspiring outdoor excursions, top-notch restaurants, and cozy lodging recommendations. Please check with locations prior to travel to make sure it is safe to visit or use this guide to plan future trips when we can all be together again. A DAY IN ...

Spotsylvania Co.

VA

Conveniently located between D.C. and Richmond, Spotsylvania County offers the perfect day trip for those looking to get outside and away from the crowds. Surrounded by history and spectacular vistas, immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and tastes of Virginia. From peaceful Lake Anna to scenic drives over rolling hills, treat yourself to a Spotsylvania getaway. MORNING

Wake up to two scenic lakes at the Wilderness Presidential Resort. From cabins and cottages to vintage camper rentals and campsites, the resort is the perfect getaway for everyone. Rent a jon boat, kayak, paddleboard, paddle boat, or new corcl boat, try your hand on the sky-line ropes course, or sit back and relax at the lakefront beach. MOUNT M ITC HELL, N .C. PHOTO COURTESY GET T Y IM AGES

MORNING AFTERNOON

Venture off the resort to the Battlefield Country Store for a sandwich piled high with local meats and produce topped off with a decadent dessert from the ice cream shop. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Spotsylvania’s history at ENJOY LIVE MUSIC AND VIRGINIA WINE AT WILDERNESS RUN VINEYARDS.

the Spotsylvania County Museum, located on the First Day of Chancellorsville Battlefield, and other battlefields in the area. EVENING

FUN FACT

Spotsylvania is celebrating its 300th anniversary in 2021 with a series of programs and events throughout the year!

After an action packed day, unwind with the sweet tastes of locally-produced wine at Wilderness Run Vineyards or dive into the robust aromas of hops and barley at 1781 Brewing Company. Enjoy live music and local food trucks while the kids are entertained by the farm animals. Stay into the night around a bonfire, or head back for an evening escapade in the Lucky Duck Speakeasy Escape Room at the Wilderness Presidential Resort.

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Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge Co. V A As the southern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley, the “small towns, big backyard” of Rockbridge County offer 64,000 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 enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, food and spirits scene, and historic sites.

DAY ONE

ALON G THE 64 MILES OF THE UPPER JAMES RIVER AND 10 MILES OF THE MAURY RIVER, A 59-MILE S TRETC H OF THE JAMES RIVER WAS RECENTLY DESIGN ATED A VIRGINIA SCENIC RIVER. PHOTO BY SAM DEAN (INSET) BOXERWOOD FAIRY F ORES T, PHOTO BY C HRIS WEISLER.

MORNING

Start your morning off at Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Garden, a 15-acre arboretum filled with walking trails and wildlife within five habitats— an enchanted Fairy Forest awaits the young at heart. Go for a walk on the Chessie Nature Trail, a seven-mile rail trail connecting Lexington and Buena Vista along the Maury River. AFTERNOON

Enjoy lunch in Lexington at Salerno Wood Fired Pizza & Tap House. They

N ATURAL BR IDGE S TATE PARK IS A 215-F OOT N ATURAL WONDER. P HOTO BY S TEVE SHIRES

Company can hook you up with boats and suggestions for on the river. 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

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 with cabins perfect for the whole family

or seasonal campsites. Enjoy roasting marshmallows around the campfire and themed weekends, such as Wake the Bears and Chocolate Paradise.

DAY TWO MORNING

The kids will enjoy feeding the animals directly from your car at the Virginia Safari Park. Walk through the Safari Village with interactive animal exhibits such as the Kangaroo Walkabout, Budgie Adventure Aviary, and a giraffe feeding station. Or, encounter life-sized dinosaurs with a prehistoric twist at Dinosaur Kingdom II. AFTERNOON

Stop at the Pink Cadillac, a 50s diner, for lunch. You can’t miss the pink exterior from the road. Then visit Natural Bridge State Park, a 215foot natural wonder once owned by Thomas Jefferson. While there, take a selfie at the LOVEworks sign and visit

the Children’s Discovery Area to learn more about the area’s flora and fauna. Take a stroll through the apple orchard labyrinth at Halcyon BUCKET LIST Days Cider Co. for Animal lovers sweeping will enjoy two animal parks mountain and tours with views. EVENING

Lexington Carriage Company.

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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CYCLIN G RED BANKS ROAD, MT JAC KSON , VA (INSET) MASSANUTTEN TRAIL OVERLOOKIN G THE SEVEN BENDS

TAKE A S TROLL ALON G THE SOUTH RIVER GREENWAY. (INSET) ENJOY A BLOODY MARY AT THE RIVER BURGER BAR. PHOTO BY PERNMOOT PHOTOGRAPHY

A DAY IN ...

Shenandoah Co.

A DAY IN ...

VA

Escape the crowds and enjoy an outdoor adventure in the fresh mountain air of Shenandoah County, Va. Nestled between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, visitors can hike, bike, or horseback ride more than 178 miles of trails throughout the George Washington National Forest or the newly opened Seven Bends State Park for incredible views of the valley. MORNING

Located on two acres of grassy meadow, stay at the idyllic Shenandoah Vineyard Retreat while you explore the area. Fuel up at the Woodstock Garden Café for locally-sourced salads and sandwiches or indulge in some freshly baked breads and pastries at Flour & Water before hitting the trails at Seven Bends State Park MAOFRT NE IRNNGO O N

For a short hike, the Woodstock Tower features 360-degree views of the Shenandoah Valley and a bird’s eye view of the Seven Bends of the Shenandoah River. The rock

BIG SC HLOSS TRAIL, GEORGE WASHIN GTON N ATION AL F ORES T

outcropping at the end of nearby Big Schloss, a four-mile round trip hike, offers an ideal setting for selfies with a view. E VE EV NE INNI GN G

F U NC KFEATC TL I S T B

If you take the Spotsylvania is celebrating Massanutten its 300th Trail, there is a anniversary clearing where in 2021 gliders hang with a series ofand launch programs the and events view of the throughout seven bendsthe of year!Shenandoah the River is spectacular!

Refuel after a busy day at the Historic Edinburg Mill Restaurant serving large salads brimming with fresh veggies or hearty steaks and seafood. Swing by the Heritage Mill Wines 1848 to pick up a bottle of wine or chocolates to take back to the room. Or wind down at Muse Vineyards with expansive outdoor seating options.

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Waynesboro

VA

Work up an appetite for outdoor adventure and culinary delights when you visit Waynesboro, Va. Situated at the convergence of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park, and Appalachian Trail, it’s the perfect spot to spend a day outside before heading into town for refreshments. AFTERNOON

MORNING

Start in town for a hearty breakfast that will get your day going. Peruse the menu at Weasie’s Kitchen for savory omelettes, homemade biscuits, all you can eat pancakes, and more. Stop into Rockfish Gap Outfitters for all your outdoor gear needs before heading out on an adventure. Head south on the parkway to hike the challenging Humpback Rocks for 360-degree LOCAL TIP views or check out Pack a flashlight the dozens of hikes to walk or in Shenandoah bike through National Park the recentlythat vary in length, opened Blue difficulty, and scenery. EXPLORE THE BLUE RIDGE TUNNEL

Ridge Tunnel, stretching almost a mile long.

FUN FACT

Head back into Waynesboro for lunch at The River Burger Bar, featuring cheese curds, fried green tomato wraps, and creative burgers. Walk off your meal with a leisurely stroll on the South River Greenway with some excellent spots for fly fishing or admire the world-class street art on the Waynesboro Street Arts Trail. EVENING

Whether you’re craving pizza, sandwiches, or other small plates, end your day with beer and food at Basic City Beer Co. Then check into one of the area’s affordable brand hotels, like Best Western PLUS or Holiday Inn Express, for a wellearned night’s rest.

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Bedford

VA

Set at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll find a weekend filled with hiking and biking trails, wineries and orchards, restaurants, and shops when you visit central Virginia. Discover for yourself why Bedford was named the “2020 Top Small Adventure Town” by Blue Ridge Outdoors and one of “15 Best Small Towns to Visit” by Smithsonian Magazine.

DAY ONE MORNING

JET SKIIN G AT SMITH MOUNTAIN L AKE. (INSET) VISIT THE TAPROOM AT BEALEʼS BREWERY.

Get your day going at Falling Creek Park, featuring winding bike trails, an epic bike park, and a challenging disc golf course. There’s also a playground, picnic areas, and skate park located nearby for a full morning of fun. AFTERNOON

Head into historic downtown Bedford for unique shopping and dining options, like antique and vintage items from Dirt Road Treasures and a six pack from Beale’s, a craft brewery and full-service restaurant. Swing by Mountain Fruit Produce for baked goods, homemade

BIKIN G AT FALLIN G CREEK PARK

EVENING

ice cream, fried apple pies, local produce, and more. If time permits, visit the Peaks of Otter Winery & Johnson’s Orchard to sample wines like Cinfulicious, Virginia Apple Lovers, and Kiss the Devil. Don’t miss the giant Johnny Appleseed and handmade LOVE sign for some fun photo ops.

Check into the Peaks of Otter Lodge, reopening for the season on May 3, and settle into your room. Make sure to stop by the lodge’s restaurant for dinner and the lounge for drinks, sometimes featuring live local music, before enjoying the sunset over Abbott Lake from your lakefront balcony or patio.

DAY TWO MORNING

Watch for otters swimming in the water as you enjoy a breakfast overlooking the lake at Peaks of Otter Restaurant. Once you’re fueled up, head out on a hike up Sharp Top Mountain, or one of the HIDDEN GEMS other nearby trail options, Visit the for stunning vistas of the Claytor area. With more mileage Nature Center along the Blue Ridge and Belk Parkway than any county Astronomical in Virginia, you’re sure Observatory to find an awe-inspiring for a deep dive view in Bedford. Locals into our planet recommend getting up and universe. early to catch the sunrise! AFTERNOON

Stop by the Bedford Area Welcome Center for a photo with the LOVE sign, then cool off at Smith Mountain Lake, voted Best Lake in the 2021 Best of the Blue Ridge Awards. An afternoon

of watersports could include boating, canoeing, kayaking, jet skiing, paddle boarding, and fishing. Several lakefront restaurants are accessible by car and water, including Mitchell’s Point Marina, Drifter’s, Portside Grill, Beacon Pub, and Jake’s Place, offering delicious bites and refreshments. Check into Mariners Landing lakefront resort where water equipment and boat rentals are available on site (advance reservations recommended). You can also check out Smith Mountain Lake State Park, about five minutes away, for hiking and biking trails. EVENING

Spend the night at Mariners Landing with amenities that include a private beach, fishing dock, pools, golf course, fitness center, and dining options all on site. The Landing is a popular restaurant option for dinner. Don’t miss another epic sunset over the water!

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A WEEKEND IN...

Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Find your next metro mountain adventure in Virginia’s Blue Ridge— America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital. We invite you to be a #Trailsetter and explore over 1,000 miles of trails, with incredible options for hiking, biking, paddling, and more. When you’re not conquering a trail, explore the charming small towns and vibrant downtown areas full of local flavors, history, and culture. MC AFEE KN OB— APPAL AC HIAN TRAIL. PHOTO BY FREDDIE HODGES, VISIT VBR. (INSET) SALEM RED SOX. PHOTO BY JENNIFER GRIFFIN , VISIT VBR

DAY ONE MORNING

Begin your day with a hike along the Appalachian Trail. Virginia’s Blue Ridge is home to the Virginia Triple Crown, featuring three stunning summit views—Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs. Any of the trio would make for an epic hike to kick off your weekend.

AFTERNOON

Head to the City of Salem to chow down at a great local restaurant. A

popular favorite with locals is Mac and Bob’s Restaurant, known for its massively delicious calzones. After lunch, stroll around Downtown Salem and check out the local shops, LOVEworks art, Salem Farmers Market, and beautiful Roanoke College campus.

EVENING

Ready for Happy Hour? Salem is home of two great craft breweries—Parkway Brewing Company and Olde Salem Brewing Company. If they have a home game during your visit, spend a night at the ballpark and cheer on the Salem Red Sox. Book your accommodations at The Lofts at Downtown Salem for a relaxing stay in a boutique hotel.

DAY TWO MORNING

LOCAL TIP

UPPER JAMES RIVER WATER TRAIL — BOTETOURT COUNT Y, PHOTO BY S TAR CIT Y SKYC AMS, VISIT VBR

With nearly 60 miles of trails, Carvins Cove is known as one of the best places for mountain biking on the East Coast.

Get things started with a breakfast sandwich on a freshly-baked bagel at Donnie D’s Bagels and Deli in Botetourt County. Then, head north to Historic Fincastle, a walkable town that still features buildings and architecture from when it was established in 1770.

AFTERNOON

Experience the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the water with a float on the Upper James River Water Trail. Located in the Town of Buchanan, Twin River Outfitters is a great option for guided trips, rentals, and shuttle service. EVENING

Don’t let the weekend end without a visit to Downtown Roanoke. You’ll love the diversity of cuisine from local restaurants, including Middle Eastern, Peruvian, Indian, Japanese, and classic Southern fare. Following dinner, make your way up Mill Mountain to the iconic Roanoke Star for a selfie and a stunning view of the Roanoke Valley.

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Alleghany Highlands

VA

It’s easy to get to the Alleghany Highlands, yet it couldn’t be further from the stress of a hectic life. Beautiful mountain views, endless outdoor recreation, and two walkable downtowns with locally-owned shops and restaurants add up to a charming and adventurous way of life. We love sharing it with visitors. It’s Uniquely Alleghany! CLIFTON F ORGE AT DOUTHAT S TATE PARK (PHOTO BY SAM DEAN) (INSET) VIEW ONE OF THE MOS T UNIQUE LOVEWORKS IN VIRGINIA WHILE VISITIN G HUMPBAC K BRIDGE (PHOTO BY W. CURRY PHOTOGRAPHY)

DAY ONE MORNING

PHOTO BY DARREN SEAY

Start your day right with a fresh pastry and coffee to go from The Way Coffee Shop or Caffe Museo. You can also sit down and enjoy breakfast at Penny’s Diner. Once you’re fueled up and ready to go, hit the North Mountain Trail. At 6.8 miles out and back, you’ll be treated to mountainous views of the Alleghany Highlands as far as the eyes can see. When you get back to town, stop at Cucci’s Pizzeria for a sandwich with homemade bread and a slice of pizza.

AFTERNOON

After lunch, stop by Alleghany Outdoors, the newest outfitter in the area. Enjoy a trip on the Jackson River by kayak, tube, or canoe. A shuttle will take you to numerous boat launches of your choice, but a local favorite is at the Smith Bridge Boat launch for a three to four-hour trip. This 10-mile section of the river has several rapids through

crystal clear waters. You will encounter beautiful mountain cliffs and abundant wildlife along this exciting float. EVENING

Treat yourself to dinner at The Rail Bar & Grille with live music, the Cat & Owl for fresh steak and seafood, or at Café Michel for an elegant French cuisine experience. Check in to one of several local inns, Airbnbs, or campsites for the night.

DAY TWO MORNING

AFTERNOON

Park at Douthat State Park, known for its world-class singletrack trails, for an exhilarating afternoon of mountain biking on Stony Run and Middle Mountain Trail. If you prefer to be on the water, BUCKET LIST Lake Moomaw has more Go for a than 40 miles of undeveloped scenic drive shoreline and numerous hiking with stops at trails to enjoy.

Start at Top Notch Chicken for a breakfast menu full of tasty southern cooking options. Take a leisurely ride Humpback on the Jackson Bridge, the River Scenic Trail, a EVENING last of its kind mostly flat, 14.4-mile in the U.S., rail trail that runs Unwind with dinner at Jack and Falling parallel to the water. Springs Falls, Mason’s Tavern & Brewery, If you don’t have a one of the most a local staple for great food photographed bike – Alleghany and locally brewed beer, or spots in the Outdoors has Michael’s New York Style Pizza county. you covered! for great Italian options. After Afterwards, head dinner, head to the Historic to Trani’s Grille for Masonic Theatre & Amphitheatre for wings, sandwiches, and more to keep a movie or a show before turning in your energy up. for the night. VISITALLEGHANYHIGHLANDS.COM @ALLEGHANYHIGHLANDSVA @VISITALLEGHANYHIGHLANDSVA


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Mountain Maryland

With over 60,000 acres of public land, Allegany County is a paradise for all things outdoors. Plan your visit to coincide with the C&O Canal’s 50th anniversary, celebrating the eighth most-visited national park and one of the country’s most beloved hiking and biking trails. Immerse yourself in the history, outdoor adventure, and culinary delights of the Mountain Side of Maryland.

FATHER AND DAUGHTER CYCLIN G THE GREAT ALLEGHENY PASSAGE TRAIL. (INSET) OVERLOOKIN G GREEN RIDGE S TATE F ORES T.

DAY ONE MORNING

Grab an early breakfast and a prepackaged lunch from Oak Barrel Cafe before heading out on the Potomac River for a paddle. Along the way, you’ll encounter historical towns and landmarks, cross under the tracks of the Western Maryland Railway, and float past Green Ridge State Forest.

AFTERNOON

Stop for lunch along the C&O Canal Towpath, a 12-foot wide, nearly-level path that was built for mules to pull the canal boats from Cumberland,

Md., to Georgetown. Take in the views from the county’s most spectacular overlooks on the Green Ridge State Forest’s Scenic Driving Tour. EVENING

After a day of adventure, head to Locust Post Brewery, located on a

26-acre farmstead, for brews and a pizza dinner. Catch an amazing sunset from the historic Town Hill Overlook before settling in for the night at Town Hill Bed and Breakfast.

DAY TWO MORNING

LOCAL TIP PADDLIN G THE POTOMAC RIVER AT FIFTEEN MILE CREEK.

Schedule a tasting at Charis Winery and Distillery for awardwinning wines and brandy, as well as seven different oils and balsamic vinegar.

There’s no better way to start your day than breakfast and coffee at Clatter Café in Frostburg. From there, hop on the Great Allegheny Passage to cycle 16 miles from Frostburg to Cumberland. If you’re feeling adventurous, continue onto the C&O Canal Towpath for some additional miles where the two trails meet in Cumberland. AFTERNOON

Fill up on delicious sandwiches and wraps, including house-smoked

pastrami, at Corner Tavern & Cafe. Then explore the many murals and artwork throughout downtown Cumberland as you head to the Crossroads of America Exhibit at the Allegany Museum, highlighting the evolution of transportation from the mid-1700s to the early 1900s, including a fully-restored 1825 Conestoga Wagon and 1902 Oldsmobile. EVENING

For quality of service, hospitality, and food that is second to none, reserve a table at Ristorante Ottaviani, serving the best steaks and seafood around. Stop at Dig Deep Brewing Co. for a nightcap before walking across the street to a stay at the Fairfield Inn in Cumberland, right off the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath trails.

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Bristol

TN

With the gorgeous Appalachian Mountains serving as a backdrop, Bristol is known for its incomparable outdoor beauty, and is one of Northeast Tennessee’s most precious jewels. A rich musical heritage, a world-renowned racing facility, and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet make it a perfect destination for your next great adventure!

DAY ONE MORNING

Featuring more than 40 square miles of inland lakes, rivers, and freshwater streams in the area, it only makes sense to start your day off with a trip to South Holston Lake and Holston River. If you love striking views, it doesn’t get much better. And you really should bring your fishing gear along because these waters are stocked full of a variety of trout, bass, catfish, crappie, and more. Fly fishermen, in particular, flock to the fabled weir dam, an angler’s paradise. AFTERNOON

Enjoy lunch at one of the several locally-owned restaurants in historic Downtown Bristol before heading

THE NEW RESPECTS; PHOTO BY ELI JOHNSON (INSET) THE BIRTHPL ACE OF COUNTRY MUSIC MUSEUM

theater, a radio station, and much more. off to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute. The museum tells the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions —recordings that were influential in shaping early commercial country music’s sounds and practices. It consists of interactive exhibits and video experiences, artifacts, a performance

EVENING

On most nights, you can enjoy live music at one of a number of downtown venues. If you happen to visit in September, you can enjoy Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, which takes place annually over three days and nights and is one of the Southeast’s largest musical festivals.

BRIS TOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY PHOTO COURTESY OF GETT Y IMAGES

paddleboats, nature center, splash pad, playground, picnic shelters, and the Steele Creek Express, a 24-gauge replica of a steam engine.

DAY TWO MORNING

During your time in Bristol, a must is a visit to The Pinnacle, the region’s largest shopping center. The premier open-air shopping destination is packed with dozens of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. A variety of shopping opportunities are also available in Downtown Bristol where you’ll find several boutiques and specialty stores. AFTERNOON

EVENING

No trip to Bristol is complete without a visit to Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol Caverns, one of NASCAR’s most one of the city’s popular race tracks. If most beautiful there’s not a race going attractions, features three on, you can still get some levels of great photos of the bowlcaverns and an shaped facility, which underground seats more than 140,000. river. Before leaving town, you’ll also want to be sure you grab photos in front of the famous Bristol sign and the country music mural on State Street.

HIDDEN GEMS

If you love parks and golf, Steele Creek Park is a great place to take the family. Encompassing more than 2,200 acres, it features a 52-acre lake, 18-hole disc golf course, miles of hiking trails, nine-hole golf course,

BIRTHPLACEOFCOUNTRYMUSIC.ORG BRISTOLMOTORSPEEDWAY.COM BRISTOLCAVERNS.COM BRISTOLTN.ORG/PARKS


A WEEKEND IN...

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

TRIPLE FALL S AT DUPONT F ORES T, PHOTO BY BILL RUSS. (INSET) BOLD ROC K HARD CIDER IN MILL S RIVER MAKES CRAFT CIDER WITH APPLES SOURCED FROM HENDERSONVILLE, PHOTO BY SAM DEAN

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 enjoy wildlife and vegetation along the banks. (BELOW) L AZY OTTER OUTFITTERS HAS WHAT YOU NEED F OR A MORNIN G ON THE FREN C H BROAD. PHOTO COURTESY OF L AZY OTTER OUTFITTERS

EVENING

AFTERNOON

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

The Henderson is located just off Main Street in the middle of the business district. The bed-and-breakfast inn, built in 1919, has 17 rooms that blend historical charm with modern amenities. Co-owner and executive chef Michael Gilligan prepares daily gourmet breakfasts and a small-plates menu for dinner at Harvey’s, the inn’s restaurant.

DAY TWO MORNING

Get an early start at North River Farms where DB bar D Outfitters leads half-day (and full-day) guided trout fishing trips on the 1,450-acre BUCKET LIST farm along the Swing by the north fork of Visitor Center Mills River. for a Cheers! Rainbow, Trail Passport, brook, and which guides brown trout you to 23 are plentiful in tasting rooms the catch-andserving wine, release waters. beer, cider, and mead. Afterward, enjoy a streamside lunch.

a multi-feature covered bike track, yoga studio, and fitness area, Riveter accommodates whatever exercise gets you moving. EVENING

Toast your trip at Hendersonville’s newest brewery, D9 Brewing Company. Located on Main Street, D9 is one of six downtown breweries. Walk two blocks to dinner at Shine. The well-appointed restaurant has an industrial-chic vibe with exposed beams and brick, and a rooftop patio with a view of the mountains. Everything is made in-house, down to ginger beer for Moscow mules and ketchup to go with duck-fat fries.

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,

VISITHENDERSONVILLENC.ORG @VISITHENDERSONVILLENC @VISITHENDERSONVILLENC


G O O U T S I D E A N D P L AY G U I D E SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

A WEEKEND IN...

Helen

DOWNTOWN HELEN , PHOTO COURTESY OF HELEN CVB.(INSET) SOAR ABOVE THE TREES AT N ACOOC HEE ADVENTURES.

GA

A natural beauty perched on the Chattahoochee River in the north Georgia mountains, Helen is Georgia’s official outdoor adventure destination. Discover the charm of Bavaria in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains when you travel to a place with old world towers, gingerbread trim, cobblestone walkways, and traditional German foodstuffs. It’s the perfect spot for a family vacation or romantic getaway.

DAY ONE MORNING

Start your day downtown at Hofer’s Bakery for breakfast at an authentic German bakery before hiking to one of the most visited waterfalls in the south—Anna Ruby Falls. Located just two miles away from Downtown Helen, take a short, paved path to the thundering falls surrounded by Chattahoochee National Forest. AFTERNOON

After lunch at one of the delicious restaurants along Main Street, stroll

FLOAT DOWN THE RIVER WITH HELEN TUBIN G COMPANY, PHOTO COURTESY OF HELEN CVB.

EVENING

through cobblestone alleys and shop at over 150 different stores, including clothing, gifts, home decor, and more. Plan a visit to the new Babyland General Hospital to pick out your very own cabbage patch kid.

After a long day on your feet, dine at one of the best German restaurants you’ll find in America–Bodensee Restaurant. From homemade sausage to sampler platters of the best specials, you’ll find the menu is full of mouthwatering delights.

DAY TWO MORNING

Spend your morning riding the new Georgia Mountain Coaster as you look out over town and the river as you race down the track, LOCAL TIP reaching The Folk speeds up Pottery to 28 miles Museum of per hour. North Georgia Keep up the is a great energy at place to learn Nacoochee the history of Adventures Helen and the surrounding where you area. can soar above the trees on a canopy tour or take an off road sightseeing excursion on an ATV.

River Adventures or Helen Tubing Company to experience the area from a new angle as you float the Chattahoochee River through downtown. If it rains, there is plenty to do indoors at the Alpine Fun Factory, featuring indoor go karts, laser tag, jump house, games, and more, and Charlemagne’s Kingdom, which displays the largest Alpine railroad in the world. EVENING

To cap the day off, enjoy a wine tasting at one of the seven different boutique wineries before dinner in town. Make your final stop of the night at Hansel and Gretel’s for delicious handmade fudge and candies.

AFTERNOON

Have lunch at Café International by the water. Afterward, visit Cool

HELENGA.ORG @ALPINEHELENWHITECOUNTYCVB @ALPINEHELENGA


Let the Department of Wildlife Resources be your Guide to the outdoors. Teaching youth more about nature can help to create an appreciation for the outdoors that lasts a lifetime. These guides are the perfect tool for that. And in addition to being able to learn more about your favorite critters, every purchase from VirginiaWildlife.gov/Guides also contributes to the Virginia Wildlife Grant program, which helps to fund programs at local non-profits, schools, and government agencies that connect youth to the outdoors through activities such as wildlife viewing, archery, boating, fishing, hunting, recreational shooting, and more! It’s a great way to pass on your love of the outdoors.

VirginiaWildlife.gov/Guides

facebook.com/VirginiaDWR

@VirginiaWildlife


RUNNING MATE T H IS G U I D E WI L L TA K E YO U D E E P I N T H E MO U NTA I N S O F WE ST E R N N O RT H CA R O L I N A. BY JOE POTOCZAK

L

ooking out from John Rock you have a vantage point across the Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest. Directly to the north is the unmistakable monolith of Looking Glass Rock. Beyond it, glimpses of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Off to the west, Pilot Mountain, Sam Knob, Black Balsam Knob—a serrated horizon of peaks reaching upward toward 6,000 feet. Between all of it, a spider web of trails within the ranger district’s more than 160,000 acres—twisting through rhododendron, past waterfalls, and linking vistas. It makes for a trail runner’s haven. Brendon Voelker, the owner of White Dot Adventures, a guided trail running company based in western North Carolina, would be happy to show you around. “There are a few thousand miles of trail within an hour or two drive of Asheville, and nobody to take you out on a run,” says Voelker, who started his guide company in the spring of 2019. Voelker settled in the Asheville area full time in late 2018. He had spent the previous few years on the road, working as an East Coast bike rep, and wintering in the Southeast adventure hub. When he decided to plant roots in North Carolina, he already knew he wanted to put his gained knowledge of the trail networks to use. The initial goal, though, was to join the race scene, organizing a calendar of massstart events. “I had a couple of 100-mile courses figured out, but I started asking myself, ‘Why would I want to charge people to do a race with a couple hundred people? What if I just took them out on trips as a personal guide?’ I noticed when people come to Asheville they are always recommended to go check out the same trails. There is plenty of wilderness out there. As long as you have someone who knows where they are.” White Dot Adventures, which Voelker named for the markings of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, has permits to operate in the Pisgah and Nantahala

BRENDON VOELKER, RUNNING IN NORTH CAROLINA'S P A N T H E R T O W N VA L L E Y I N T H E N A N TA H A L A N AT I O N A L F O R E S T. P H O T O B Y L J G AY C O U R T E S Y O F W H I T E D O T A D V E N T U R E S

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Experience the outdoors in Russell County, Virginia with your family this season.

OUTDOOR

Happenings

Enjoy miles of hiking, kayaking the renowned Clinch River, fishing and camping.

brought to you by

GrassRoots Live! at Shakori Hills Saturday, April 17 May 1, 8, 15, 22 | June 4, 5, 11, 12 Pittsboro, N.C. In the spirit of safely bringing us all together again, we are very excited to announce GrassRoots Live! at Shakori Hills: a pod-based, socially-distanced series of one night concerts beginning on April 17 with Keller Williams and end June 11 & 12 with Donna The Buffalo. shakorihillsgrassroots.org

Blue Ridge Marathon Saturday, April 17 | Roanoke, Va. The Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon earned its title as "America's Toughest Road Marathon" by challenging runners with 7,430' in elevation change, the most of any U.S. road race. Running along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, this non-profit event benefits the parkway and local charities. blueridgemarathon.com

Smith Mountain Lake Triathlon Saturday, May 1 | Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Va. Staged at beautiful Smith Mountain Lake State Park this triathlon classic has clear water, mountain views, and fun courses. This is a great race if you are just starting out in the sport, or have been racing for 20 years. commonwealthgames.org

Maryland Coast Bike Festival Saturday, May 8 | Ocean City, Md. Join us on one of the three amazing routes exploring Maryland’s scenic coastal region. The event also offers the opportunity to perserve this pristine coastal environment. Start, finish and celebrate at the waterfront festival in Ocean City’s famous harbor. marylandcoastbikefestival.com

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

ExperienceRussell.com ExperienceRussell ExperienceRussellCountyVA Experience Russell County Virginia


National Forests, more than one million acres of public land. And Voelker is up to provide trail runners with anything they are looking for, whether it be a five-mile morning, or tackling a bucket list run like the 30-mile, point-to-point route of the Art Loeb Trail. He is also available to provide support for other’s endeavors, or take a couple for a leisurely hike. That John Rock view is no secret, but it is a moderately challenging go-to for Voelker to familiarize runners with the area—5.5 miles, 1,000 feet of climbing, a scenic waterfall, and a view of plenty more possibilities. Voelker’s priorities are tailoring the experience to the client and articulating that a running tour is anything but a race. “If you want to take a side trip to an overlook, or stop to check out a waterfall, we can. If you want to pack a beer in your drop bag, you can stop and have a beer. This is your day on the trail,” says Voelker. “I start every outing by saying, ‘If we walk the entire day, we walk.’ There is that aspect to trail running—hiking, power hiking, stopping for breaks, soaking in views.” According to an Outdoor Industry Association report to be published later this year, there are approximately 11.9 million trail runners in the U.S. That is double what it was a decade ago. Over the past three years, participation has grown at an average of VOELKER (LEFT) LEADS GUIDED TRAIL RUNNING TRIPS THROUGHOUT W E S T E R N N O R T H C A R O L I N A . P H O T O B Y L J G AY C O U R T E S Y O F W H I T E DOT ADVENTURES

nine percent. You might expect B UT TH E IDEA there to be more trail running OF LOOK IN G UP A LOCAL TRAIL guides. Yet Voelker is part of an RUN N IN G S ERVICE, exceptional few in the U.S. There AN D B OOK IN G are coaches, and some companies A DAY TRIP, TH E WAY Y OU WOULD offering mark-your-calendar, multiFOR WH ITEWATER day “runcations.” But the idea of RAFTIN G OR EVEN looking up a local trail running MOUN TAIN B IK IN G , JUS T IS N ’ T MUCH service and booking a day trip, OF A TH IN G . the way you would for whitewater rafting or even mountain biking, just isn’t much of a thing. Google brings up a few similar outfits in New Hampshire, Colorado, and Lake Tahoe, but they too stand in lonely company. City running tours have been a growing offering over the past decade, begging the question: Will trail running gain more outfitters like White Dot in the coming years? A website based in the Netherlands, Runningtours.net, curates a global menu of independent tours. It has 170 running operators listed worldwide, with 26 in the U.S., 25 of which are city running tours. The other is White Dot Adventures. Another local guide service, Asheville Adventures, does lead trail running in western North Carolina. The company is geared towards hiking, but their tours also include a city run of Asheville, a 5K trail run, and coming soon, a 10K trail run.

Running is often called one of the most accessible sports. The oft-touted verse is that all you need is a pair of shoes. Throw in a dozen or so available navigational applications, and perhaps the question is, why would you pay for a trail running guide? “Some days you drive by a trailhead like Looking Glass Rock, and it is just packed,” says Kyle Bergemann, a software engineer and Voelker’s running partner. Bergemann has also stepped in to help Voelker take clients out on occasion. “There is a big benefit to running with someone who knows the trails like the back of their hand, and not just going to the top 10 list on AllTrails. Brendon just has an energy about him out there with people. He loves it.” Prior to the public health restrictions of 2020, mass races could be argued as the most popular way to trail run in different destinations. As many have changed approaches to other facets of life, perhaps there is a growing place for a different sort of challenge we pay an organizer for. One that moves at a different pace, and has us checking our watch less often. Maybe the next time we plan to visit a national forest, the question should be, why wouldn’t we want someone to guide us for a run through the mountains? “These thoughts are running through my head,” says Voelker. "All these stories about these trails and unique places I have been learning [about]. I love being able to share those with somebody.” APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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This is Lynchburg. Ride Our 40 Miles of Urban Trails

Rent a bike and pick up a map at Bikes Unlimited in Downtown LYH and enjoy cycling our 40 miles of urban trails winding through the City. Start on the Riverwalk Trail, double back to the Blackwater Creek Trail, and then refuel at one of our many restaurants and breweries. #travelconfidently

lynchburgvirginia.org 56

BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

Use your camera phone to scan QR code for more on our trails


INTERVIEW

HISTORY

Q&A: BEN MONTGOMERY The Author Discusses His New Book, A Shot in the Moonlight, and His Search for Answers on Hiking Trails B Y A N N A K AT H E R I N E C L E M M O N S

FOR MOST OF HIS LIFE, AUTHOR AND

journalist Ben Montgomery was not a hiker. An Oklahoma native and college football player at Arkansas Tech University, the Tampa-based reporter for Axios says he had gone on two long walks in his entire life. The first, as a kid, after getting lost in his hometown B E N M O N T G O M E R Y ' S L AT E S T B O O K WA S P U B L I S H E D I N J A N U A R Y. P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F M O N T G O M E R Y

of Moore, Okla.; the other, when Montgomery and a few friends set out to hike Big Bend National Park, postcollege graduation, but got lost. While researching the story of Emma Gatewood for his second non-fiction book, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, which won a 2014 National Outdoor Book Award and became a New York Times best seller, Montgomery began walking sections of the Appalachian Trail. “When I started doing big miles on the A.T., I just fell in love with it,” Montgomery says. Montgomery’s newest book, A Shot in the Moonlight, was released in January. Readers from Oprah Winfrey (via her O Magazine) to Colson Whitehead have raved about the book and its timeliness in conversations about racial justice. The riveting read shares the story of a freed slave, George Dinning, who shoots a member of a mob gathered outside his home, flees, is imprisoned, and eventually

works with a white lawyer and former Confederate soldier, Bennett H. Young, to fight for his freedom as well as an end to laws of oppression and racism. The story—deeply reported and sharply told by Montgomery—also explores our country’s continued reckoning with racist laws and systems BRO caught up with Montgomery just before the book’s release, talking about his writing projects and how his love of hiking has shaped him and his family. BRO: All of your books dive into historical explorations. What is it that you love about this genre? BM: I come from a long line of Oklahoma storytellers who would just sit around and talk. Chief among them was my Granny Montgomery, this itty-bitty lady, who would sit with me on the back porch swing when I would spend summers with her. She would tell me stories— about her dropping a wrench out of a

treehouse on her sister’s head; or when she was a little girl and a dog came by and snatched a piece of pie off her plate and she flicked her fork at the dog, and as soon as she did, the dog turned around and the fork stuck in his nose, and he dropped the pie and ran off. There’s so much [history] out there that’s

APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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Life is better

outdoors

TrailHeads Are Our Heroes! Support Blue Ridge Outdoors by joining our patron program for as low as $1 per month

ON THE RIVER WHITE WATER & FLAT WATER EXPERIENCES MARYLAND • VIRGINIA WEST VIRGINIA

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calleva.org YEAR-ROUND ADVENTURES

GET OUT AND PLAY!

Thank You to Our Latest TrailHeads!

Nick H. - Loveland, OH upcoming Virginia Amateur Sports events

Smith Mountain Lake Triathlon (May 1) Virginia Commonwealth Games at Liberty University (July 23-25) Octoberfest — Downtown Roanoke (Oct 2) Virginia Amateur Sports Golf Tournament — Hanging Rock, Salem (Oct 7) Star City Half Marathon & 10K — Roanoke (Nov 20)

CommonwealthGames.org

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B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S | R I C H M O N D / VA B E AC H + M E T R O D. C . E D I T I O N

Terry W. - Winston-Salemn, NC Jim - Advance, NC Nicole B. - Moseley, VA Brian H. - Knightdale, NC Chad S. - Jacksonville, FL Mike. C.

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INTERVIEW

HIKING

never been revisited. A treasure chest of stuff just waiting to be discovered. It can satisfy the sort of desires that I have to tell very particular stories, if I can look in the right place. BRO: Your books often focus on those forgotten by history. How did that start? BM: I was working at the St. Pete Times on the enterprise team, working almost exclusively on the series about the Dozier School for Boys, a terrible reform school in north Florida. As I was reporting that, I learned about this unsolved lynching that 5,000 people participated in in 1934, the lynching of Claude Neal. I started working on that as a side project. Long story short, we ran a story that I remain very proud of called Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal. I tried to sort of solve this case. Somebody should’ve, no one ever did. That wound up getting a lot of attention and in front of a literary agent named Jane Dystel— she represents an [expansive] client list, including Barack Obama. She called out of the blue, and it was like my dream unfolding before me. She said, ‘I like what you’ve written, I like your style, but do you have any book ideas?’ I sent her three little pitches, and one was Grandma Gatewood, who’s a distant relative of mine. I didn’t know much about her, but I knew no one had given her serious biographical treatment and there was a lot unknown about her. My books have come out every two years: 2014, 2016, 2018, and early 2021. BRO: How did you discover the story of A Shot in the Moonlight? BM: This one was very purposeful. I had been doing a project for the Times about police shootings in Florida, and there’s a big racial disparity, as there is everywhere, of people shot by police. Forty percent of people shot by police are Black when Black people make up only 15 percent of the population. We had a public records projects, we had like 831 total shootings and 40 percent were Black. Reading through these one after the next, this tragic story of a young Black man, most of the time, killed by police. I was longing for a story that didn’t end up in tragedy for a person of color. I went to the Lynching Memorial in Montgomery [Alabama] and I started wondering, what names are not on these boxes? They have these coffin-sized metal boxes that you start walking through until eventually you go down underground, and they are suspended above you. You feel the gravity and

enormity of that issue in the US. 4,400 people were lynched between the Civil War and 1950. I started wondering, ‘who made it that we didn’t know about, whose names aren’t on the boxes of the victims?’ BRO: You started hiking as research for Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. What is your relationship to hiking now? BM: I’ve become a person who hungers for the outdoors. It’s almost like I’ve organized my life around being outdoors—hiking especially. The most recent trip we took was about 70 or 80 miles on the Florida Trail this past January. It was all wading, most of the time in water up to our knees. You can only walk about one mile an hour, it’s that’s strenuous. It was glorious, being in the swamp. Just some gorgeous country. This past summer, we were able to fly to Alaska where we hiked the K’esugi Ridge Trail, about 30 miles outside of Denali State Park.

computer, my cell phone. I have two voicemails since we’ve been talking and four text messages. We have become so burdened by this connectivity, that the only way I can relax is to get far away, out of signal zone. To set everything I have—all the Slack, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, phone—to ‘I’m Away.’ That’s what I say on my outgoing things: ‘I’ll be in the wilderness for a while. Please give me patience.’ Then I can go, and it feels so good to not worry about responding to people. And I like sleeping on the ground. I wish I could sleep on my little accordion mat every night. On longer hikes, I like the idea of really testing myself: how much do I have now? It’s a way of measuring where I am, the agility and physicality and pain tolerance and a marker of stage of life. I feel like the trail sometimes reminds me that I am alive. And tells me how much time I have left.

BRO: What is it about hiking in particular? BM: I have fallen in love with nature and with being away. I feel like we are so encumbered, so burdened/put upon by our technology, which we thought was a thing that would help us. I’m sitting at my desk, talking to you here [on ZOOM], I have an external monitor, a work

BRO: What is your family’s relationship to hiking? BM: We get to know each other in ways we never would at home. You get closer. You fight sometimes, but you build your relationships in pretty amazing ways. I lost my son in March [of 2020], and we still have some questions about his

A S H E R , M O R I S S E Y, A N D B E Y M O N T G O M E R Y C R O S S A C R E E K O N T H E B E N T O N M A C K AY E T R A I L I N GEORGIA. PHOTO COURTESY OF BEN MONTGOMERY

death, but we’re pretty sure it was a suicide. He was 11. It came as a complete surprise. And it was myself, my ex-wife, and my two daughters all together finding him at the same time. So, it’s been a rough 10 months. That was March 3rd, Super Tuesday, so I just want to acknowledge that because I feel like I’ve answered a couple of questions as, ‘me and my daughters,’ but Bey was with us until March of last year. I thought [getting into the woods] was a method of building resilience against all of the challenges that these kids are facing. In the same way Emma Gatewood escaped to the outdoors to get away from her abusive husband, these guys can escape to the outdoors to get away from the fear of gun violence in their schools, which they live with every day; they can get away from the toxicity of social media. They can get away, lately, from the politics—you can’t be alive without absorbing some of that, even if parents try to protect kids from those things. The violence of the news and the flow and intensity of their world, coupled now with a pandemic. I thought it would help them build that kind of resiliency. That’s part of the reason that Bey’s

APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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Glamorous Camping in the Mountains of West Virginia. Guests will love the tranquility, mountain views, fresh air and connection to nature, all only two hours from D.C. We think of everything, so you don’t have to. H A N D M A D E Q U A L I T Y AT U N B E ATA B L E P R I C E S

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B LU E R I D G E O U T D O O R S | R I C H M O N D / VA B E AC H + M E T R O D. C . E D I T I O N

.com


INTERVIEW

F A M I LY

death was so surprising to us. We are no closer right now to understanding what he was dealing with than we were that day, so maybe there’s truth to that, but maybe not. As a person whose son probably took his own life, that sounds like a shitty answer. That was my hope, you know what I mean? But I don’t know. And it’s weird how the trail sort of answers the thing that you’re looking for. I was using All Trails to find a couple of 40-mile trails that we could hike that were within a reasonable drive from each other. I didn’t know about the Resurrection Ridge Trail, but it followed the Resurrection River over the Resurrection Pass Trail and ended in a place called Hope [Alaska]. I was like, ‘thank you, trail, for giving us this very in-your-face thing that was not what we expected.’ BRO: Is there one hike you’d love to do that you have yet to tackle? BM: I’ve been looking at this trail that runs the length of New Zealand, Te Araroa. 1,865 miles—the length of the country’s two main islands. The cool thing is it goes through like four different climate zones, it goes along the ocean and through farmland and prairie and then up into mountains.

BRO: Have you ever hiked the Blue Ridge sections of the A.T.? BM: Two summers ago, we started at Rockfish Gap and hiked all the way to Harper’s Ferry. Me and the kids and my girlfriend at the time and my nephew—it was a fantastic time. It was 190 miles, and we were doing probably 12 miles a day. The summer before, with my three kids, including my then-nine-year-old son, we did the southernmost 260 miles, starting in Hot Springs, N.C., and walking to Springer Mountain, Ga. We had some really long days because some shelters were closed for bear activity. One day, I think we had to put in 17 miles, which was really tough for the nine-year-old. BRO: Have you hiked the whole A.T.? BM: I have yet to do the whole thing. I’m not even close. I think we’ve done a total of about 400 miles, and if you couple that with my day excursions, it’s probably 450, tops. I would love to, though. I think about it every year. T H E M O N T G O M E R Y F A M I L Y ( F R O M L E F T, B E Y, B E N , A S H E R A N D M O R I S S E Y ) WAT C H E S T H E S U N S E T F R O M M A X PAT C H I N N O R T H C A R O L I N A . P H O T O COURTESY OF BEN MONTGOMERY

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

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Full Service Fly Shop Western North Carolina Curtis Wright Outfitters has some of the region’s best guides, available for full- and half-day trips fishing for trout and smallmouth bass. Our shop in Weaverville, NC offers anglers essential fly fishing gear and outdoor apparel from the best brands. We also offer a falconry experience if you’d like to work with birds of prey! Stop by our shop for a visit and experience a friendly atmosphere where folks enjoy sharing their fishing stories.

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APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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THE GOODS

HIKING GEAR RAB DOWNPOUR ECO

IT’S TRAIL TIME

OBOZ SYPES MID LEATHER WATERPROOF JETBOIL STASH

Warmer weather means it’s time to start exploring deep in the hills again— especially as social distancing continues and you seek space and solitude. Check out our picks for the best hiking and backpacking gear to help get you out there.

OSPREY ARIEL PLUS 60

B Y D O U G S C H N I T Z S PA H N

Osprey

Ariel Plus 60

Osprey upped the game in its already impressive Ariel (women’s) and Aether (men’s) packs this season by revamping the back panel to better hold up to heavy loads. That foam panel circulates air and plenty of stability but still flexes with your torso on the trail—and, since it’s injection molded—the production of the pack creates virtually no plastic waste. The “Plus” packs include a removable top compartment that transforms into a day pack and carry loops for trekking poles. $340; ospreypacks.com

Salewa

Alp Trainer Mid GTX

This sturdy hiker can withstand all the abuse of days scrambling over rough Appalachian rocks hauling big loads, but, weighing in at an impressive 19 ounces per shoe, it doesn’t bog you down. Waterproof and quite breathable, it proves the perfect answer to the wet and muck of big spring adventures in the Blue Ridge and beyond. $200; salewa.com

Jetboil Stash

Cutting down on weight in your pack is the prime objective when it comes to 64

BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

KURGO STASH N' DASH HARNESS SALEWA ALP TRAINER MID GTX

assembling your backpacking kit, but one place you don’t want to skimp is on your stove. Jerboil’s latest is featherweight at just 7.1 ounces (including a .8-liter pot) but the easy-to-pack unit summons all the power you want to boil water in a hurry (Jetboil claims 2 minutes 30 seconds) when you pull up late into a backcountry camp spot. It’s an ideal choice for thru-hikers as well as weekend warriors. $130; jetboil.com

Oboz

Sypes Mid Leather Waterproof

Meet your new favorite shoe for all occasions. Comfortable straight out of the box, this mid hiker can eat up trail miles thanks to a deep lug pattern on the sole that sticks to wet

MOUNTAINSMITH ZERK 40

rocks and roots and cuts through mud. And while it offers plenty of protection, the beefy Cordura upper is comfy enough that you won’t want to rip these shoes off when you are chilling out post-hike. $165; obozfootwear.com

Kurgo

Stash N’ Dash Harness

This sturdy dog harness packs into a carrying case you can stash in the bottom of your pack or back of your car for when you and your canine companion head out into the wild. Providing lots of support without pulling on your pet’s neck, it comes in handy when you have to lift that pup up over obstacles or want to run and not worry about yanking. $38; kurgo.com

Rab

Mountainsmith

British mountaineering brand Rab continues to impress us with apparel that's meant for serious alpine ascents but serves just as well on far more modest adventures. Take this sturdy rain shell: It tips the scales at just 11 ounces, and the 2.5-layer Pertex material shucks off foul weather while providing enough breathability to keep moving at a brisk pace while wearing a pack. Add in an easily adjustable hood that fits without cramping your style and pit zips for when things really heat up and you have a winner. $120; rab. equipment

Iconic packmaker Mountainsmith designed this 40-liter hauler with input from thru-hiking celeb the Real Hiking Viking. The result is a minimalist pack ideal for big day outings and minimalist overnighters. The thought that went into it shows in the smart details: the mesh side pockets hold lots of gear and keep it handy; the shoulder straps draw on ultra-running design and hold a water bottle and other necessities; and it even comes with a bear canister strap up top to carry those big, clumsy containers without using up all the space inside your pack. $220; mountainsmith.com

Downpour Eco

Zerk 40


EVERYDAY UNEXPECTED. PERFECTLY SITUATED BETWEEN the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Tennessee, Maryville College is a place where you’ll experience the everyday comforts of a welcoming community and beautiful campus. You’ll also find the unexpected: the study of everything combined with extensive career preparation, an emphasis on self-exploration combined with a commitment to service, a values-based foundation combined with universal acceptance of difference.

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APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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THE GOODS

BASECAMP

CAMPING GEAR FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY The season is here to pack up the clan, escape that house you have been sheltered in for over a year, and set up camp out in the woods. Here’s the best gear to keep the family happy–and you sane. B Y D O U G S C H N I T Z S PA H N

Morrison Outdoors

Big Mo and Little Mo

Bringing your little bundle of joy out into the wild can be challenging when it gets chilly—but these adorable wearable sleeping bags (available in 20-degree and 40-degree options) will both keep that kid snuggly warm and rack up some serious Instagram likes when you post shots of them in camp. The Little Mo fits ages 6 to 24 months; the Big Mo accommodates kids 2 to 4 years old. The brand even partnered with Rerouted (reroutedcoop.com) so you can trade them in for cash in when your little ones get too big. $85-$180; morrisonoutdoors.com

Yeti

Tundra 65

Roomy enough to keep all the eats and beverages you need for a long weekend on ice but not so big it takes up the entirety of your vehicle, this cooler proves extremely useful on camping trips. Plus, we have been using it to stash produce after big grocery runs at home. $350; yeti.com

Eddie Bauer

MORRISON OUTDOORS BIG MO AND LITTLE MO

Olympic Dome 8 Tent

Ringing in at a family friendly price but providing all the reliability you want in the wild, this eight-person shelter offers up all you need for that big trip. Eight may be a squeeze, but it excels for a family of four with plenty of space to play games and the ability to create separate compartments for some privacy. A waterproof fly battens down when the storm hits and plenty of mesh brings in the breeze on hot days. $249; eddiebauer.com

ENO DOUBLENEST HAMMOCK PRINTS

GCI OUTDOOR FREEFORM ZERO GRAVITY LOUNGER

YETI TUNDRA 65

ROVR KEEPR

ENO

DoubleNest Hammock Prints

The perfect size for you and a kid to get cozy with a book on a lazy day, this easy-to-set-up hammock should be mandatory gear any time you go camping with the family. Rest assured that the sturdy nylon lounger will hold up to 400 pounds–and colorful prints add some style to your camp. $80; eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com

Lava Linens Classic

We can’t undersell the importance of a good camp towel when you bring the fam into the woods—for everything from drying off after a swim to mopping up the inevitable mess. At a svelte 17 ounces and packing down to the size of a water bottle, this fast-drying, anti-microbial French linen towel will soon become your best friend. $98; shohplavelinens.com

GCI Outdoor

Freeform Zero Gravity Lounger Exhausted from, you know, hauling your whole family around and setting up camp in between breakdowns, whining, and assorted mishaps? Be sure to pack this bad boy that can switch between standard legs-up lounging mode and fully

LAVA LINENS CLASSIC

extended “zero gravity” mode in which you can just stare up at the sky. $100; gcioutdoor.com

Snow Peak

Takibi Fire and Grill

This packable stainless steel fire pit from Japan allows you to create a safe leaveno-trace campsite anywhere you can legally park your rig (and obey local and seasonal fire regulations). It’s simple to set up and keep a controlled fire going—and grill dinner on top—with far less worry and mess than a nasty old fire ring. $320; snowpeak.com

Rovr

SNOW PEAK TAKIBI FIRE AND GRILL

EDDIE BAUER OLYMPIC DOME 8 TENT

KeepR

Organizing your cooler can be an exercise in futility, but the handy KeepR can help you organize and carry your stuff to the picnic table without having to rummage around. It all stays cool thanks to a stainless steel container that nests inside and will hold ice to keep goodies chilled. $150: rovrproducts.com APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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www.visitdamascus.org


PERSPECTIVE

CONSERVATION

SHOULD NATURE HAVE RIGHTS? Corporations are people. What about rivers and forests? BY WILL HARLAN

LAST YEAR, A SOUTHERN RIVER NEARLY

died. Choked by pollution upstream, Florida’s Little Wekiva River had been reduced to a muddy trickle. Desperate to rescue what remained of the river, a group of residents proposed a seemingly radical idea: what if the Wekiva River had a right to exist? Located in Orange County, just north of Orlando, the biologically rich river once teemed with aquatic life: turtles, otters, blue herons, and even alligators and the endangered wood stork. However, decades of development— along with golf course runoff—led to massive algal blooms that smothered the river. Biologists observed massive bird and fish die-offs, and the river began to run dry. So locals organized a petition to add a Right to Clean Water Charter Amendment to their IT WA S A LO N G county constitution that SHOT, BUT declared “all citizens ORGA NI Z E R S of Orange County PRE S S E D F ORWARD , have a right to clean APPE A LING water” and that the T O A W IDE AUDI E NCE county’s waterways ABOUT THE have a “right to exist, CLE A N, RE L I AB L E flow, to be protected WATE R THAT ALL COUNTRY against pollution, and RE S I D E NTS to maintain a healthy DE PE NDE D O N . ecosystem.” It was a long shot, but organizers pressed forward, appealing to a wide audience about the clean, reliable water that all county residents depended on. It worked. The amendment won in a landslide 89-11, with even 134,000 Trump supporters voting to give rivers legal rights. Orange County, Florida, became the most populous jurisdiction in the country to recognize legal rights for nature. But they aren’t the first. In 2019, Toledo, Ohio, passed a Lake Erie Bill of Rights—the first U.S. law to recognize a body of water’s right to exist, flourish, and evolve. And Grant Township, Pa., granted rights

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

to rivers in its Home Rule Charter, which the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection cited last year when revoking a fracking waste injection well. Pittsburgh adopted rights of nature laws to ban fracking nearby. These Rust Belt cities are not hotbeds of tree-hugging hippies. Blue-collar communities are increasingly stepping up to defend their drinking water, rivers, and lakes from polluters. Don’t we already have environmental laws that protect rivers? Yes, but they’re fundamentally flawed and failing, say rights of nature organizers. The Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act all essentially legalize some amount of pollution or destruction and simply set limits on how much. Rights of nature starts from a different premise: polluters aren’t guaranteed a right to pollute, and ecosystems have a legally enforceable right to exist and flourish. It’s not a new idea. Indigenous people across the globe have recognized rights of nature for millennia. But the rights of nature movement is quickly gaining momentum: Colorado, New Hampshire, and Oregon are pursuing statewide rights-of-nature amendments in 2021. Globally, the rights of nature have been recognized since 2008, when Ecuador became the first

P O L L U T I O N I N F L O R I D A’ S L I T T L E W E K I VA M O T I VAT E D VOTERS IN ORANGE COUNTY TO OVERWHELMINGLY A P P R O V E A R I G H T T O C L E A N WAT E R C H A R T E R AMENDMENT IN THEIR COUNTY CONSTITUTION. P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F C R E AT I V E C O M M O N S

country to add the rights of nature to its constitution. Since then, Bolivia, Mexico, Uganda, Costa Rica, Colombia, and New Zealand have legally enshrined rights of nature. In the U.S., the rights of nature is a counterbalance to a century of corporate personhood. After the Civil War, the United States passed the 14th Amendment, which granted African Americans full citizenship. Wealthy business leaders used this same amendment to secure rights for corporations. Today, corporations are considered people by the Supreme Court: they have all of the same rights as you, and they can also use their wealth and power to overturn laws and influence elections. Corporate personhood has allowed big businesses to capture regulators and pollute with impunity, and communities have been left with little legal recourse. Under current law, nature is little more than property, and air, water, and wildlife have only a handful of laws to protect them. Rights of nature laws give rivers, forests, and ecosystems legal standing. While nature doesn’t get full personhood and a suite of inalienable

rights like a corporation, the rights of nature movement provides it some legal muscle and a fighting chance. Perhaps surprisingly, rights of nature has legal precedent—even at the nation’s highest court. In 1972, Supreme Court Justice William Douglas advocated for nature to have legal standing. Corporations and ships had long been parties in litigation, despite being artificial and inanimate. “So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life,” Douglas wrote. But do rights of nature go too far? Does every tree deserve an attorney? Can we not cut firewood, eat meat, or go fishing? It’s impossible for any living being to exist without harming some other life. We kill bacteria and viruses every time we wash our hands. Will we be sued for swatting a gnat? Those are absurd exaggerations, say rights of nature leaders. Most rights of nature cases have focused on specific rivers or ecosystems facing imminent threats, and they are usually led by the adjacent human communities most affected, says Simon Davis-Cohen, a researcher with the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. Like any legal conflict, when corporate interests collide with the rights of nature, a court weighs harms and then decides how to balance them. “We are facing big environmental problems that require big solutions,” says Davis-Cohen. Our current laws have mostly failed, and corporations continue to plunder the planet. Rights of nature provide a new legal path. Already, some state and federal lawmakers are pre-emptively introducing legislation to block communities from adopting rights of nature statutes. But this once-fringe idea is already taking hold, even in some of the unlikeliest places: blue-collar America and the South. The rights of nature movement presents thorny legal dilemmas and even tougher existential questions about our relationship to the natural world. Should the rivers we paddle, fish, and swim have rights like the corporations and industries that pollute them? Are we willing to make legal space for the last scraps of nature? And ultimately, do we really care about any species other than our own?


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GO OUTSIDE & PLAY IN DICKENSON COUNTY!

the perfect family getaway

First,

Point & Click.

Then, Catch & Release.

Dickenson County is home to three Virginia Scenic Rivers (Russell Fork, Cranesnest, and Pound) that are ideal for kayaking, tubing, and family fun. Stay in one of the five nearby campgrounds or in the cabins at Breaks Interstate Park, which has many trails for hiking and horseback riding, ziplining, bike rentals, pedal boats and more! Visit Birch Knob Tower on a clear day for a view of six states!

Fish Virginia First

is the place to find inspiration and trip planning resources for the best freshwater fishing in Virginia.

Great fishing begins at

FishVirginiaFirst.com

Call the Dickenson County Visitor Center for more info (276) 926-6074 or visit us on Facebook!

REACH THOUSANDS OF OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS


THE OUT AND BACK

ADVENTURE RIGS

OVERLAND ENVY B Y G R A H A M AV E R I L L

I HAVE A 12-YEAR-OLD SON WHO HAS

recently started ogling sports cars. Corvettes, Ferraris, Lambos...anything small, fast, and shiny. People tell me this obsession is perfectly normal—plenty of boys (and men, women, and girls for that matter) like sports cars—but I find it unsettling, so I looked my son straight in the eye and gave him the best piece of advice a father can give a child: Don’t ever buy a car that’s too small to sleep in. Shit happens. Road trips, heated arguments with your spouse, bad luck at the craps table, flooded campsites… there are a million reasons why you might find yourself sleeping in your car, and you’ll be sorry if that car is a Lambo. Being able to go 0 to 60 in 1.2 seconds doesn’t mean squat when it’s 3am and there’s no place to comfortably lie down. I’ve required my car to double as an emergency apartment since high school. Back then, I drove a mid 70s-era Cadillac, a giant boat of a thing with two bench seats a full-grown man could spread out on. It was basically a two-bedroom on wheels. I moved on to a truck with a bed big enough for two sleeping pads, then a full-on VW Van with a queen bed, curtains, and a disco ball. This was well before the whole van life and overlanding phenomenon, so I was just a sketchy guy who would occasionally sleep in his van. Thankfully, modern society has caught up with my proclivity for tiny RVs. It’s no longer sketchy to sleep in your car; it’s #lifegoals. The interest in overlanding and van life has been growing for the last decade, but the pandemic seems to have intensified our zest for mobile living. Social media is full of people living in a van, down by the river. All of a sudden, we’re a society of gypsies with all of our worldly possessions strapped to our carriages, ready to roll at any minute. I spent the last year building out an old 4Runner with a baller rack and rooftop tent, built-in drawers that contain a camp kitchen, and more “end of the world” accessories than are necessary for the life that I currently live, which is made up primarily of car camping in Pisgah National Forest and driving my

kids to soccer practice. I’m happy to say that my 4Runner is a perfectly capable adventure rig, well-suited to all of my needs. And I’m completely dissatisfied with it because my neighbor down the street has a much larger SUV that he’s outfitted to be an adventure rig with a bigger rooftop tent, larger awning, dedicated generator, and propane heat. His adventure rig is better than my adventure rig, and it drives me crazy. I have overland envy. I recognize the problem because I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta where home ownership was the only sport that mattered. If your neighbor got a hot tub, you installed a pool. If your neighbor added on a rec room, you built a personal movie theater and an extra garage. For the boat you just bought. I managed to eschew that lifestyle (my small house has no room for a boat), but I’ve fallen into a trap that’s equally as destructive. I might not be keeping up with the Joneses in the traditional sense, but I’m definitely keeping up with the Joneses' overlanding rig. The 4Runner sleeps four people comfortably, which should be fine because that’s the exact number of people I take camping regularly, but I can’t help but feel the urge to expand. It’s like Manifest Destiny on wheels. This

whole thing started because I wanted to be able to take my family camping more often, but it’s morphed into a different animal completely. I want a dedicated shower/changing room and some sort of a deck branching off of my rooftop tent, so my wife and I can enjoy the sunsets with a cocktail in private. This is the master suite expansion we’ve always dreamed of! I’ve been using a cooler to keep my beer and food cold, but obviously I’ll need to upgrade to a fridge/freezer combo. Do they make microwaves you can plug into a car? And how great would it be if a movie screen pulled down from the awning so I could show movies out in the wild? Maybe I could fit a popcorn popper in the glove box. I don’t know what watching a movie on an 80-inch screen has to do with camping, but I’ve convinced myself that it’s absolutely necessary to make the upgrade. My happiness depends on it. Help me. There’s not much difference between keeping up with the Joneses' McMansion and keeping up with the Joneses' overland vehicle. The disease of one-upmanship is the same, and I’m not sure where it all ends. Will I be satisfied when my SUV can comfortably sleep 8? And when it does, am I going to adopt more children so I can justify all

T H E A U T H O R ' S K I D S I N H I S M O R E - T H A N - A D E Q U AT E ADVENTURE RIG.

of the expansions? What if my neighbor upgrades to a 16-passenger van? Will I buy a school bus? What’s the logical conclusion of this overlanding arms race? Bankruptcy? Divorce? Mortgaging my actual house to pay for the upgrades in my mobile pretend house? The great irony to all of this is that I rarely get to use my overlanding vehicle as it was intended. It’s not often that I get to drive miles off road into the wilderness to camp far away from civilization. Mostly, the 4Runner just looks cool parked in my driveway. And the rooftop tent makes a great treehouse for my kids. But really, using the overlanding rig isn’t the point here. The point is, I could sleep in my car if I needed to or wanted to. And you never know when that moment will come. A dream road trip could pop up or my wife could finally get fed up with me because I spent so much money upgrading a 20-year-old SUV and kick me out of the house. Either scenario is a possibility and when that time comes, I know I’ll be comfortable. I’ll have a car to drive and a place to sleep. And you can’t say that if you’re driving a Lambo.

APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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TRAIL MIX

NEW TUNES

OUR FAVORITE SONGS IN APRIL B Y J E D D F E R R I S A N D D AV E S TA L L A R D

EVERY MONTH OUR EDITORS CURATE

a playlist of new music, mainly focusing on independent artists from the South. In April we’re highlighting new tunes from Sara Watkins and Sunny War, plus a recently unearthed live version of the Allman Brothers Band’s ripping instrumental “Hot’Lanta.” To hear these songs and more, follow the Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Trail Mix playlist on Spotify.

Yasmin Williams

Yasmin Williams is a solo acoustic guitar innovator challenging the boundaries of her instrument. Based in northern Virginia, Williams crafts evocative instrumental compositions with deft fret work that’s uniquely percussive and captivatingly melodic. “Through the Woods,” which comes from the new album “Urban Driftwood,” features a mesmerizing mix of rhythmic tapping and gentle fingerpicking and hits the senses much like an idyllic stroll through a dense forest. —J.F.

Allman Brothers Band “Hot’Lanta”

Young Duane Allman had two passions: guitars and motorcycles. The former made him a rock icon, while a tragic accident on the latter ended his life too soon. Allman’s genius is again captured on “Hot’Lanta,” a jazz-infused jam taken from “Down in Texas ‘71,” a live Allman Brothers Band set captured just weeks before his death. Proceeds from this new live release will benefit the Big House, the Macon, Ga., home that served as the breeding ground for the South’s first true rock and roll band. —D.S.

Elijah Wolf “Brighter Lightning”

While dealing with mental health struggles, indie folk singer-songwriter Elijah Wolf found solace in long-distance runs, which he used “as an opportunity to meditate” and also generate ideas for his new album, the optimistic “Brighter Lightning.” The retro-hued title track ruminates on acceptance and also

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BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS

showcases a fuller sound for Wolf, who recruited Wilco’s Nels Cline to add his distinctive guitar textures to the song and throughout the album. —J.F.

Sunny War “Like Nina”

Sunny War writes songs like she lives: direct, brutally honest, and socially aware. On “Like Nina,” over a cascade of electric guitar, she sings with a beautiful ferocity about the place of Black women in pop culture, contrasting the superficial inclinations of the mainstream with the power of socially conscious Black women and the change the latter can affect. There exists a misguided notion that artists like Sunny War should be the exception to the rule of the mainstream. With songs like this, Sunny continues to take a hammer to that stereotype. —D.S.

The Vandoliers “Every Saturday Night”

Texas twang-punk outfit the Vandoliers deliver a distorted banger about missing the pre-pandemic good times in “Every Saturday Night.” In the new single, fuzzy guitars and dance-hall fiddle are

propelled by stomping drums and a thumping bassline, as frontman Joshua Flemming recalls rowdy nights filled with whisky and sing-alongs. “We should’ve danced ‘til they turned out the lights/ I took for granted every Saturday night,” Flemming sings, a reminder to really soak it in when the party safely returns. —J.F.

Rose City Band “Lonely Places”

After last year’s stellar LP “Summerlong,” Rose City Band—the psychedelic country project of Wooden Shjip’s Ripley Johnson—returns next month with another full-length effort, “Earth Trip.” Lead single “Lonely Places” is a drifter’s anthem that settles into a laid-back groove led by winding pedal steel and soul-searching lyrics. The tune eventually peaks with a spacey electric solo, proving the new school of Cosmic American Music is alive and well. —J.F.

Sara Watkins “Blue Shadows on the Trail”

Sara Watkins has reunited brother Sean and Chris Thile—her mates in the groundbreaking Nickel Creek—on

N O R T H E R N V I R G I N I A ' S YA S M I N W I L L I A M S R E C E N T L Y RELEASED HER NEW ALBUM, "URBAN DRIFTWOOD." P H O T O B Y K I M AT K I N S P H O T O G R A P H Y

“Blue Shadows on the Trail,” their take on the Randy Newman classic from the 1986 comedy Three Amigos. Watkins’s fiddle and vocals blend effortlessly with Thile’s masterful mandolin throughout this whimsical singalong from “Under The Pepper Tree,” a set of songs akin to Garcia and Grisman’s “Not For Kids Only,” that will appeal to listeners both young and old. —D.S.

The Brother Brothers “On The Road Again”

At some point, we all get the hankering to be anywhere but where we are, convinced that, beyond some distant fenceline, the grass is indeed greener. The Brother Brothers—David and Adam Moss—beautifully capture that sentiment in “On The Road Again,” the title track of their new record. Splendid harmonies, born from a lifetime singing together, paint a romantic vision of chasing the distant horizon, free from the ache caused by so much self-doubt. – D.S.


APRIL 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM

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Your Adventure Awaits at Mountain Lake Lodge!

Bubbleball

Treetop Adventures

Archery Tag

Sporting Clays

M O U N TA I N L A K E LODGE

115 Hotel Circle, Pembroke, VA 24136 540.626.7121 | ww.w.mtnlakelodge.com 76

BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS


Your Parks Your adventures

| 800-933-PARK (7275) | www.virginiastateparks.gov | Know Before You Go — Recreate Responsibly


Adventure is the destination. WanderLove is about reconnecting with what you love: the crisp mountain air, the breathtaking views, and the winding roads in between. Plan your next road trip at virginia.org/wanderlove