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Your next outdoor adventure is waiting for you in Charlottesville and Albemarle County! Paddle, canoe, float, or kayak on beautiful rivers, sparkling streams, and calm lakes with the Blue Ridge Mountains as your scenic backdrop. Begin planning your trip today at visitcharlottesville.org/explore.
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North Carolina paddler goes for Olympic gold and the region’s top adventure schools.
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Why paddling the Ozarks is worth it.
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12 | THE STUDIO
Heather O'Donnell hand-embroiders magnolia leaves into one-of-a-kind pieces.
C O N T R I B U TO R S MIKE BEZEMEK E R I C J. WA L L AC E M A L E E OT T
57 | INTERVIEW
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Record-breaking A.T. adventurer talks the business of hiking.
C O P Y E D I TO R S JULIA GREEN, ROBERT MCGEE
61 | THE GOODS
Paddle on with our picks for the best new kayaking gear.
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Hard lessons learned on a hard trail.
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66 | TRAIL MIX
New tunes from Yola, the Felice Brothers, and Goose.
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The region’s national wildlife refuges offer an array of flatwater splendor. The best whitewater rapids to get beginners into paddling.
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24 | THRU-KAYAKING BARRIER ISLANDS Paddling off the beaten path in Virginia.
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Get ready to cool off in the Blue Ridge’s best swimming holes.
49 | BUILDING BOATS
A North Carolina camp that fosters some of the best paddling talent in the South teaches campers how to build canoes.
55 | HAZED AND CONFUSED
A hiker’s breathing trouble in the smoggy South. JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
3 Mountain Fed Lakes. 29 Waterfall Hikes. 1 Wild and Scenic White Water River. Over 300,000 Acres of a Primitive National Forest with 100’s of Miles of Hiking Trails.
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Oconee County, SC is a Sa fe place to play!
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makes these two Mountain State schools perfect for students ready to explore the outdoors.
Readers Pick Region’s Best Adventure Colleges
BY ELLEN KANZINGER
arlier this year Blue Ridge Outdoors asked readers to help pick the region’s top adventure college. In our annual contest we placed 32 schools against each other in a bracket-style competition and received a flood of online voting from fans of their favorite schools. The colleges were chosen based on academic curricula, outdoor clubs, commitment to environmental initiatives, and, of course, access to adventure. Ultimately two winners— West Virginia University and WVU Institute of Technology—tied for the top prize. Read on to learn about what
West Virginia University UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT: 26,269
RELEVANT MAJORS/MINORS: Sports and
Adventure Media; Wildlife and Fisheries Resources; Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Resources RECREATION HIGHLIGHTS: 500 established climbing routes within a 10-mile radius; 605 miles of whitewater and seven downhill and cross-country ski areas within an hour and a half drive; Monongahela River; Coopers Rock State Forest ALTHOUGH ISSABELLA COLEGRANDE
has lived in Morgantown for most of her life, she said it took attending WVU to truly appreciate all that was around her. She and a friend signed up for one of
Adventure WV’s First Year Trips as a way to meet people before starting classes. “I absolutely loved it,” Colegrande said. “That trip actually helped me realize some of the true beauty of the state because it took me to different parts I hadn’t traveled to before.” An initial favorite was Seneca Rocks, due to its secluded location. Now the rising junior is a trip leader herself, sharing her love of the area’s outdoor spaces and welcoming other students to the university. Outside of her engineering and Spanish classes, Colegrande also works in the university’s Outdoor Education Center, leading team building and day programs. The debrief at the end of the activity demonstrates the programming’s importance as students share reflections on the experience. “You get comments sometimes that really make you feel good about what you’re doing and push you to keep doing this because you know you really are having an effect on
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people,” Colegrande said. In addition to an on-campus climbing wall and aerial adventure course, the school offers a number of majors for the outdoor-minded student, including a new sustainable trails curriculum as an undergraduate minor and graduate certificate program launching this fall. The university’s reach also extends beyond the students on campus. The Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative at WVU is an emerging program working to promote the state’s outdoor recreation opportunities. “What we’re trying to do is leverage institutional, intellectual, social capital, and outdoor assets to transform the state,” said Danny Twilley, assistant dean of the collaborative. “We’re working on building and developing high quality outdoor recreation infrastructure and elevating
JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
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the state in that area.” Initiatives include Science Adventure School, outdoor programming for middle schoolers in the state, and Ascend WV, a remote worker program designed to bring working professionals to the area. “All of these things are focusing on community and belongingness,” said Greg Corio, assistant vice president of the collaborative.
WVU Institute of Technology Beckley, W.Va.
UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT: 1,645
RELEVANT MAJORS/MINORS: Adventure
Recreation Management RECREATION HIGHLIGHTS: 3,500 climbing routes, 500 bouldering spots, and 890 miles of whitewater within an hour’s drive; New River Gorge National Park; Little Beaver State Park DESPITE BEING A LONG WAY FROM HIS
home in Georgia, Larry Orsini found his dream school in WVU Tech, when he learned about the college’s adventure recreation management program and the accessibility to the outdoors in the area. The rising sophomore was an avid indoor climber in high school but never
D E E P WAT E R S O L O C L I M B I N G AT S U M M E R S V I L L E LAKE. PHOTO BY GABE DEWITT
had the opportunity to explore real rock. That all changed with his first trip to the nearby New River Gorge. “Because I love indoor climbing, I thought it probably would translate,” Orsini said. “Now I’ve been spoiled with West Virginia climbing. I’ve never lived in a place where you can bike down the road to go rock climbing. It’s never been that close for me.” As an adventure recreation management major, Orsini said it’s not a cookie cutter program that treats every student the same. “They try to really work with you on what you want
to do,” he said. In addition to skills and guiding classes like climbing, mountain biking, and whitewater paddling, students take classes in legal and ethical issues and are encouraged to take business and management classes outside of the program. “We are grounded in management, and adventure recreation is the vehicle to get there,” said Dr. T. Grant Lewis, director and teaching assistant professor of adventure recreation management. “We are also preparing our students so if they decide that adventure recreation is not what they want to do, they still have
the skill sets to be able to be managers in other capacities.” Although the program is less than five years old, Lewis says he sees a lot of potential as more people turn to the outdoors in their down time. “What we’ve experienced for the last year with COVID is that more people want to be outside because that’s where we know we can be with our family and friends,” Lewis said. “I think we’ll continue to see growth in this area, particularly when we look at the state of West Virginia, but even on the East Coast.” With the New River Gorge National Park just minutes from campus, students don’t have to be on the major track to take advantage of all the area has to offer. “Adventure is in the eye of the beholder,” Lewis said. “It doesn’t mean you have to try to do 5.10-5.12 climbs or constantly be running class IV and V rapids.”
Appalachian State University (Boone, N.C.) Lees-McRae College (Banner Elk, N.C.) Special thanks to NROCKS Outdoor Adventures for sponsoring the 2021 Top Adventure College Contest.
JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
GOING FOR OLYMPIC GOLD A 17-Year-Old North Carolina Slalom Canoeist is Headed to Tokyo B Y S H A N N O N M C G O WA N
EVY LEIBFARTH, A 17-YEAR-OLD
slalom canoeist and kayaker from Bryson City, N.C., will be competing in the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, among the youngest athletes representing the United States. The up-and-coming paddler claimed her
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“IT' S THE spot in April when FIRS T TIME she won the women’s WOMEN ' S canoe single (C-1) at C AN OE WILL B E C ON TES TED the U.S. Olympic Team IN TH E Trials in Charlotte. OLY MPIC S , Leibfarth will have AN D IT WOULD B E a chance to become A G REAT the first female Olympic H ON OR TO champion for the slalom REPRES EN T TH E U. S . ” C-1, as the event is making its debut on the women’s side this year— the first time men and women will have the same number of slalom events at the games. The event will be replacing the men’s canoe double (C-2). “It's the first time women's canoe will be contested in the Olympics, and it would be a great honor to represent the U.S.,” Leibfarth stated last year on a GoFundMe page set up to assist with her training efforts.
Those efforts have paid off; Leibfarth will get the opportunity to be one of the first Americans to medal in canoe/kayak slalom or sprint since 2004, when Rebecca Giddens earned K-1 silver at the Athens Olympics. At her first canoe slalom world championships back in 2019, Leibfarth secured Team USA’s C-1 quota spot with a fourth-place finish in Spain, which allows Leibfarth to compete in both the C-1 and K-1 events at the Tokyo Games. Postponed from last year, the Summer Olympics will run from July 23 to August 8. It will be the second time Japan’s capital city has hosted the games—the first being in 1964. While the first of two slalom trials of the U.S. Olympic selection competitions in 2021 took place earlier in the spring, the second will take
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place during the International Canoe Federation Canoe Slalom World Cup (ICF CSL World Cup) in Prague, Czech Republic, this month from June 11-13. According to Team USA, the Tokyo Olympic venue is similar to the Charlotte location—both man-made waters with tricky moves, which Leibfarth feels she does best on. “For me racing is about what I can do, not about what other people do,” Leibfarth told Team USA. “I want to put down runs I’m really happy with. I want to have fun and cheer on all of my friends and be a part of this incredible experience, but when it comes down to it, I’m racing for me and I just want to have fun there."
Watch your worries melt away with a weekend at West Virginia’s largest lake. Summersville Lake is truly a paddler’s paradise with 2,800 acres of clear blue water. Nicknamed “The Little Bahamas of the East” the lake has diving visibility up to 45 feet, making it perfect for swimming, paddling and scuba diving. Experience a heavenly escape in Summersville.
IS PADDLING IN THE OZARKS WORTH THE TRIP? Actually yes, the Highlands of Missouri and Arkansas offer a surprising abundance of world-class rivers. BY MIKE BEZEMEK
“WE DEFINITELY DIDN’T FORESEE
paddling in the Ozarks becoming a destination,” messaged Olivia Harrell, a paddler living in Bryson City, N.C. “We have so many rivers in the Southeast that are literally in our backyard, but it is nice to explore something new.” I was trying to answer the question, is paddling in the Ozarks worth the trip for someone from the Southeast? I’d been asking around for a few days, hoping to find some Southeastern paddlers who had made the trip. But, so far, I’d come up empty. I already had my own answer to the question, but I was biased. I spent 10 years living in the area before moving to the Southeast. By many accounts, the Southeast is the paddling capital of the U.S., especially when it comes to whitewater. It’s a part of the country that paddlers travel to from afar for boating. And some, including Olivia, become so smitten with the Southeast they never leave. Sure, many Southeastern river junkies make it a personal mission to hit up the country’s other paddling hotspots. The Arkansas River in Colorado, for example. The Tuolumne and other High Sierra runs in California. Big desert rivers like the Green in Utah. Multiday trips like the Salmon in Idaho. Or the trip of a lifetime down the Colorado through Grand Canyon. Most paddlers know those trips are worth traveling for. But what about traveling to paddle in some of the lesser-known regions across the country? Where paddling is a passion among locals, but where the topography is less dramatic than mountain ranges like the Appalachians or Rockies? One
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THE OZARKS HOLD SEVEN SPRING-FED RIVERS D E S I G N AT E D I N T H E W I L D & S C E N I C R I V E R S SYSTEM. PHOTO BY MIKE BEZEMEK
such region is the Ozarks. Olivia’s sentiments about the Ozarks matched my own observations. I was a 25-year-old raft guide when I moved from California to St. Louis for grad school. I arrived with a kayak on the roof of my truck and a vague idea there were some float trips in the Ozarks. But I didn’t even know what the Ozarks were. I figured I’d spend most of my time driving down to the Southeast for paddling. Like me, at first, many Southeastern paddlers know so little about the Ozarks, they’re not even sure where they’re located. Part of the U.S. Interior Highlands, about two-thirds of the Ozarks are in southern Missouri. The remaining third—and the tallest part of the Ozarks, with elevations topping out around 2,500 feet—is in northern Arkansas. To be honest, I prefer to think of the Ozarks as a series of very rugged, rolling hills. For the most part, the Ozarks are an eroded limestone plateau. When combined with annual precipitation around 50 inches, the result is pervasive karst topography. If that sounds suspiciously exotic for the Midwest, you’ll be even more surprised by the result. Plunging sinkholes, limestone caves, underground streams, and countless freshwater springs bursting year-round from cliffs. In fact, there are so many springs, they seem to have run out of names.
There are multiple Boiling Springs, Round Springs, Cave Springs, Ebb and Flow Springs. If you ever get the wild idea to navigate across the Ozarks using nothing but Blue Springs? Just forget it. You’ll go in circles more than Southeastern paddlers during a brewery tour of Asheville. Another result of all this flowing water may surprise you, as well. Two National Park units protect three phenomenal rivers—the Current and Jacks Fork in Missouri and the Buffalo in Arkansas. Plus, there are seven additional Ozark rivers designated in the Wild & Scenic Rivers system. Each of these spring-fed rivers, plus dozens more, are undammed, natural flowing, and run year-round. That means the rivers are cool and clear even during the sweltering summer months. Most of these rivers are class I-II and appropriate for all levels of paddlers. Though, some runs are class II-III and there are even a few class III-IV creeks. To verify my assertion that paddling in the Ozarks is worth a trip, I reached out to Olivia. Last year she became an ambassador for UST Gear, a Missouribased outdoor company. Olivia is originally from Springfield, in the heart of the Ozarks, but she wasn’t exposed to paddling when she was young. Instead, like many aspiring diehards, she moved to the Southeast to become a paddler. When she took the UST job, one requirement was paddling in the Ozarks
with company brand manager and friend, John Holdmeier. Before moving back to Missouri and retooling the UST Brand, John spent five seasons living in the Southeast, working at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. When the opportunity came to bring in brand ambassadors at UST, he was excited to share the rivers of his youth. “It feels good to let someone in on your favorite rivers,” explained John. “There are many similarities between the Southeast and the Ozarks. [They’re] like a smaller version of the Smokies, in my opinion. The big difference is the springs and the protected rivers. This means the water is clear and consistent year-round.” When Olivia visited this past spring with her boyfriend, a fellow UST ambassador from Kentucky, the trio did an overnight paddling trip on the Current River in Ozark National Scenic Riverways. “Paddling in the Ozarks was scenic and secluded,” recalls Olivia. “We were impressed by the clarity of the water, the wildlife, and the wildflowers. The rivers are more wilderness instead of roadside access. The whitewater is not as exciting as some of the rivers in the Southeast but there are many scenic bluffs and trees. We will absolutely be traveling back to the Ozarks for move overnight paddling trips.”
When to Go Because of the abundant spring flow, you can paddle in the Ozarks yearround. Summer weekends can be busy and rowdy, so mid-week or shoulder season is often preferred. Paddling during springtime or fall colors, typically the latter half of October into early November, can be particularly appealing.
Where to Go For paddlers from the Southeast, consider the Eastern Missouri Ozarks, including the Current and Jacks Fork in Ozark National Scenic Riverways and the Eleven Point National Scenic River. During springtime, check out Big Piney Creek, a Wild & Scenic river, or the Buffalo National River, both in Western Arkansas.
Learn More For a guide to 40 of the region’s best paddling trips, check out Paddling the Ozarks by Mike Bezemek.
Credit: Mountain Surf Paddle Sports
Fill up the tank and pack up the car for a summer road trip to America’s newest national park, the New River Gorge. Home to an abundance of outdoor recreation, the Gorge is a go-to summer vacation destination. This summer, paddleboard your way through the most scenic views in Almost Heaven.
This is Lynchburg. Get Paddling with James River Adventures James River Adventures’ Rob Campbell believes the best way to get people to care about the James River is to get them out on its rolling waters to appreciate the natural beauty and the life it sustains. Rent one of their canoes or kayaks to experience the James for yourself, or take a ride in their replica 19th-century batteau for a taste of history. #travelconfidently lynchburgvirginia.org
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TRANSFORMING LEAVES WITH HEATHER O’DONNELL Press, dry, embroider, repeat. Each of Heather O'Donnell's hand-embroidered magnolia leaves is carefully stitched to create a one-of-a-kind piece. BY ELLEN KANZINGER
WHEN YOU SEE LEAVES ON THE GROUND,
you might think about the changing of seasons, the passage of time, or the fragility of life. A pile of leaves could symbolize something to play in or more yardwork to add to the list. But when Heather O’Donnell sees leaves, she sees a blank canvas. Working specifically with magnolia leaves, she embroiders the natural surface with everything from geometric designs and scenes from nature to house and pet portraits to create timeless keepsakes and intricate pieces of art. Originally from Wisconsin, O’Donnell didn’t grow up with magnolia trees around her. So when she moved to Georgia to study architecture at Savannah College of Art and Design, the magnolia trees immediately stood out in her mind. “I realized pretty quickly that I was afraid of computers,” O’Donnell said. Looking for something more tactile and hands on that would get her out from behind a computer, she made the switch to a degree in fibers. During O’Donnell’s senior year, inspiration struck as she was doodling with thread. Running outside during class, she picked up a few magnolia leaves to use instead of a cloth or paper canvas. “If you talk to anyone who’s ever had a magnolia tree in their yard, you’ll know that they stick around,” O’Donnell said. “I get so many people asking about them breaking down and disintegrating. These leaves are hardy as all get out. They will last forever.” When people ask O’Donnell if she plans to experiment with other types of leaves, there’s a part of her that doesn’t U S I N G M A G N O L I A L E AV E S A N D A S T E A D Y H A N D , H E AT H E R O ' D O N N E L L U S E S N AT U R E A S H E R C A N VA S . P H O T O S C O U R T E S Y O F O ' D O N N E L L
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want to. “I think I’d like to play with it in the future but I’ve developed this brand as Magnolia Heather,” she said. “I don’t mind that. I don’t think it’s a restriction on who I am as an artist or restriction on the work I create. There’s so much more I can do with the leaves themselves and they just have proven to be such a good canvas to work with.”
When it comes to choosing the perfect leaf, O’Donnell can be pretty particular about things like shape, size, and color. “I prefer to choose the leaves that have already fallen because that way I’m not disturbing their life cycle and I really am upcycling nature,” she said. She also tends to avoid green leaves because the drying process is so unpredictable, leaving colors ranging from a light green to spotty and brown, and working with a non-neutral color makes it harder to pick out threads. Over the years, O’Donnell has picked out a few go-to trees around
town, like the tree outside of her office. Before work or on her lunch break, she’ll pick up leaves from the ground that might work. Or, if she’s out on a walk and comes across the right type, she’ll pick them up and find a place on her person to store until she gets back home. Once she’s collected the leaves, O’Donnell cleans, presses, and dries them so they will keep their shape and the colors bright. Other than that, she doesn’t use any lacquer or preservative spray. “I try to keep them as natural as possible,” she said. Most of her designs are made to go behind glass so they last even longer. With a stockpile of collected leaves, O’Donnell works heavily in sketchbooks to create a design on such a tiny space. “I feel like so much can get lost in computers,” she said. “That’s just a personal thing, which is funny because at my day job [designing rugs], I work in the computer. So when it comes to my work, I very much like referencing back to the book, turning the page, and putting the pencil on the paper.” Although the leaves are pretty thick, O’Donnell generally creates a pattern to trace, allowing her to pre-poke holes so she doesn’t rip or tear them. “I’ve gotten to know them,” she said. “But there are some that do end up being more brittle
or thinner than others, if my thread gets tangled while I’m pulling the thread, if I get too comfortable and accidentally pull through too hard—it does happen. But I’m pretty good at covering it up with thread or finding a way to make it work.” O'DONNELL'S DESIGNS RANGE FROM ABSTRACT PAT T E R N S T O W E L L K N O W N S Y M B O L S L I K E T H E A . T. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
Although she has worked in this medium for five years, O’Donnell said she is still trying to figure out her place in the art world. “It took me a long time to even call myself an artist and believe it,” she said. “I say I am an artist but I still have so many times of doubt.” While she does make some “quick
sells” and attends art markets, like the Marietta Square Artisan Market in Georgia, O’Donnell hopes viewers look at her pieces as meaningful works of art. “I think there’s this stigma out there of craft versus art,” she said. In the future, she’s hoping to work on a larger scale, incorporating more leaves into a single piece, to see how far she can take the materials. “I go into things with all my heart and really dedicate myself to it,” O’Donnell said. “But I also don’t believe that no one can do what I do. If you want to try it out, put the time into it.” After years developing her brand as Magnolia Heather, O’Donnell prides herself on maintaining a healthy balance between her art and life. “You have to remember that while you are hustling, if you hustle too hard you’re going to get burnt out and not going to enjoy it,” she said. “When you’re feeling burnt out, take a day off. Go do something else. It’s okay to not attend a market or festival.” At the end of the day, O’Donnell doesn’t want to get to the point where she hates the work she’s creating. “You have to give yourself grace, stay dedicated, and be true to yourself,” she said. You can find more of O’Donnell’s work at MagnoliaHeatherArt.com or on Instagram @magnoliaheather.
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wild south Six National Wildlife Refuges to Kayak this Summer BY MALEE OTT
G R E AT B L U E H E R O N F I S H I N G O N A SANDBAR DURING A BEAUTIFUL C H E S A P E A K E B AY S U N S E T AT B L A C K WAT E R W I L D L I F E R E F U G E . PHOTO COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES
W H I L E PA D D L I N G V I R G I N I A ' S B A C K B AY N AT I O N A L W I L D L I F E R E F U G E , Y O U C A N S P O T LOGGERHEAD SEA TURTLES AND BROWN PELICANS. PHOTO BY MALEE OTT
reserving precious patches of habitat across the country, America’s national wildlife refuges are hubs of biodiversity and havens for native wildlife. In the Southeast, more than 85 different national wildlife refuges provide sanctuary for endangered and imperiled species, including red wolves, loggerhead sea turtles, and red-cockaded woodpeckers. For recreational paddlers, the region’s refuges offer an abundance of extraordinary waterways to explore.
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge NORTH CAROLINA
Just west of the beaches of the Outer Banks, North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge protects a mosaic of hardwood swamp forests, pocosin wetlands, and salt marshes, bounded by the Albemarle Sound and the Alligator River. The 157,000-acre protected area is a haven for threatened and endangered species, including red-cockaded woodpeckers, American alligators, and red wolves, which were reintroduced to the refuge in 1987 as part of federal effort to reestablish a wild population in the Southeast. In 2013, about 130 red wolves were roaming the region, but the refuge’s population has dwindled in recent years—and in the last two years, there haven’t been any pups born in the wild. While wolf numbers have fluctuated, the protected area remains a stronghold for black bears, with as many as two bears
per square mile in the refuge. However, paddlers are more likely to spot cottonmouths and basking alligators along the refuge’s 13-mile network of color-coded water trails. All four paddling trails are accessible from the shallow kayak launch on Buffalo City Road in the northern portion of the refuge, named for a boom-and-bust logging town that sprang up in the region after the Civil War. For paddlers, the shortest and most-sheltered option is the three-mile out-and-back paddle to Sawyer Lake, along the refuge’s red-blazed water trail. For a longer tour, paddle Milltail Creek to the Alligator River following the yellow-blazed trail, and keep an eye out for bears crossing narrow sections of the blackwater creek along the eight mile trip.
For visiting paddlers, the refuge offers three different boat launches dotting Back Bay, including a secluded soft launch at Horn Point, on the estuary’s western edge. For a multi-day adventure, launch from Little Island Park at the refuge’s northern edge (where overnight parking is allowed), and head south toward False Cape State Park to snag a campsite at Barbour Hill Bay or False Cape Landing Bay for epic sunsets. During the summer, keep an eye out for hatching osprey chicks, along with blooming swamp hibiscus and cardinal flowers—and be ready to battle windgenerated tides. With the nearest inlet to the Atlantic Ocean more than 60 miles south in North Carolina, Back Bay’s isn’t shaped by lunar tides, so expect persistent southerly winds during summer paddles.
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Situated along the Atlantic Flyway just south of Virginia Beach, the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge contains a conglomeration of shifting sand dunes, scruffy shrublands, and hardwood forests of oak and pine, spread around the shallow waters of Back Bay. The diverse habitat supports a wide range of wildlife, including endangered loggerhead sea turtles, piping plovers, and brown pelicans. The refuge also serves as a portal to remote False Cape State Park, spread over a pristine expanse of coastline accessible only by foot, bike, or boat.
A hotspot for birders along Maryland’s Eastern shore, the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge protects a patchwork of estuarine marshes and shadowy loblolly pine forests spreading over more than 29,000 acres, threaded by the Blackwater and Little Blackwater rivers. The protected area contains nearly a third of Maryland’s tidal wetlands, and the refuge’s medley of wetlands and woodlands is frequented by more than 250 types of birds, including one of the highest densities of bald eagles on the East Coast. On dry land, the refuge’s hardwood forests harbor
JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
CAROLINE COUNTY FROM THE CHOPTANK RIVER TO TUCKAHOE & MARSHYHOPE CREEKS, CAROLINE COUNTY’S WATERWAYS BECKON YOU TO EXPLORE.
PLAN YOUR ADVENTURE AT VISITCAROLINE.ORG
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once-endangered Delmarva fox squirrels and pint-sized Asian sika deer, introduced to the region in 1918. The protected area also has historical significance. In 1822, Harriet Tubman was born on a plantation in Peter’s Neck, near the refuge’s western boundary. This spring, the home of Tubman’s father Ben Ross was discovered on a tract of property acquired for the refuge by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year. The best way to experience the refuge is on the water, as the protected area’s three paddling trails offer more than 20 miles to explore. For seasoned paddlers, the Purple Trail offers nine routed miles traversing Coles Creek and the open water of the Blackwater River. For a route more protected from wind, the eight-mile Green Trail snakes through the wildlife-rich marshes, along a narrow stretch of the Blackwater River. Just be sure to download or purchase a paddling map before heading out; cellphone service is patchy on the water, and it’s easy to get confused in the refuge’s labyrinthine marshes.
T H E 2 9 , 0 0 0 - A C R E B L A C K WAT E R N AT I O N A L W I L D L I F E REFUGE IS FREQUENTED BY MORE THAN 250 TYPES OF BIRDS. PHOTO BY MALEE OTT
Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge SOUTH CAROLINA
An easy day-trip from Charleston, the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge spreads over a 66,287 acre swath of coastline with extensive history. The refuge’s coastal creeks, maritime forests, and wind-battered barrier islands were first roamed by the region’s resident Sewee Indians, and later frequented by seafaring English settlers, retreating British warships, and opportunistic Atlantic pirates. In 2014, the remains of the USS Planter were also discovered along a shoal just off the refuge’s Cape Island. Commandeered by enslaved crewman Robert Smalls in the Charleston harbor in 1882, the massive vessel was skillfully piloted through hostile waters and handed over to the Union Navy, ultimately bringing Smalls and 17 others to freedom. For a taste of the refuge’s ecology and colorful history, launch from Garris Landing and paddle to 5,000-acre Bulls Island, the largest of the refuge’s barrier islands. The three-mile trip takes paddlers along serpentine coastal creeks frequented by sun-seeking alligators and migratory roseate spoonbills. Once on Bulls Island, allow some time to explore Boneyard Beach. The photogenic, three-mile ribbon of shoreline along the island’s northeastern edge is littered with weather-beaten live oaks, cedar, and loblolly pine limbs resembling weathered human bones.
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge VIRGINIA
Preserving a tiny slice of a million-acre wilderness that once spread over southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge also has a rich human history. Before the arrival of European colonists, the massive mire was utilized by the region’s original indigenous inhabitants, including the Nansemond, Meherrin, and Nottoway tribes. And later, the swamp’s dense forests provided a secluded sanctuary for people escaping slavery and was used both by freedom
seekers along the Underground Railroad and by resourceful maroons, who established communities in the wilderness’ remote interior. However, by the mid-1700s, newly arrived colonists were eyeing the swamp’s resources, including George Washington, who harvested the region’s timber as part of the Dismal Swamp Land Company. Today, the 112,000-acre refuge is a hub of biodiversity, centered around 3,100-acre Lake Drummond, the largest natural lake in Virginia. Paddlers can explore the cypressstudded lake, or paddle the Great Dismal Swamp Canal, a 22-mile link in the Intracoastal Waterway tracing the eastern edge of the refuge. For a swamp sampler, begin at the boat launch on Ballahack Road and paddle the Feeder Ditch Canal to Lake Drummond, an eight mile out-and-back.
Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge MARYLAND
Cradled by the Chester River and the Chesapeake Bay, the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge extends
over a 2,285-acre island blanketed with brackish marsh, grasslands, and uplands forests. Originally a hunting ground for the region’s Ozinie people, the spit of land was explored by Captain John Smith in 1608 during one of his extended journeys through the Chesapeake Bay. By the early 1700s, the island had been claimed by tobacco-producing colonists, and served as a stop for packet ships cruising the Chesapeake Bay. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquired the area in the 1960s, and today the refuge is a global hub for wintering waterfowl. More than one percent of the planet’s tundra swans visit the protected area every winter to nosh on clams, along with black ducks, mallards, and canvasbacks. On the water, the cove-pocked atoll is ideal for paddlers. Beginning from the Bogles Wharf Boat Launch near the mouth of the Chester River, the 10-mile Eastern Neck Island Water Trail rings the entire island, offering seven points of interest showcasing avifauna hotspots and historical sites. Be sure to plan for lines of choppy waves in the shallows near shore, and formidable winds from the southwest in open water of the Bay during the summer. JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
WHILE THE SOUTH IS KNOWN FOR RUGGED RAPIDS, THE REGION ALSO HAS PLENTY OF NOVICE-FRIENDLY W H I T E WAT E R R U N S . P H O T O COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES
Three whitewater paddling routes that are bound to get beginners hooked. BY NOAH POULOS
ushing water, jagged rocks, and waterfall descents—whitewater paddling is often chased by the most hardcore adrenaline junkies. But what about those who want to try hopping in a vessel and pouncing through the swells? Across our region there are countless rivers to choose from, ranging in difficulty, length, and scenery. These routes in the Appalachians are great spots for a family day trip or the beginner looking to get hooked.
Little Tennessee River, North Carolina DIFFICULTY: Easy CLASS OF RAPIDS: I-III ROUTE LENGTH: 23 miles
This playful, calm stretch of the Little Tennessee River is known for crystal clear waters and unparalleled scenic beauty as it winds through Macon and Swain counties. Flowing from its headwaters in Chattahoochee National Forest, the Little Tennessee meanders north into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With over 100 species of fish beneath your boat and over 3,000 species of plants along the banks, this section flows through one of the most biodiverse areas in the Southeast. The route takes you from the launch point right off of Highway 28, just north of Franklin, 23 miles north to Highway 19, just as the river feeds into Fontana Lake. There are ample camping opportunities in Nantahala National Forest right along the banks of the river, so this route would make an excellent overnight trip, especially given its length. This area is very remote and you won’t see many roads along the route, so make sure to have all the provisions you need to have a safe trip.
Cherry River, West Virginia
Hiwassee River, Tennessee
As paddlers navigate the Cherry River, winding through Monongahela National Forest in the Allegheny Mountains, they’ll get a run of nonstop action. During this nine-mile stretch, you can expect to continuously interact with eddies, holes, and various rock formations that will keep you alert and on your toes. While the rapids are more or less continuous, they stay within the II to III class level so there aren’t any big surprises. A tributary to the famous rushing white waters of the Gauley River in West Virginia, the Cherry is a more forgiving body of water to the beginner paddler. In addition to the surrounding natural beauty, you’ll paddle through Richwood, a small town in historic Nicholas County, whose residents regularly watch paddlers float along. Though the route can be completed in an afternoon, the camping options along the river make it worth it to pack for a night. And even though the Cherry is easier to navigate than other nearby whitewater destinations, beginners should be advised to not hit it solo. The steady challenge of the Class II-III rapids offer a great opportunity to learn from a guide or a more experienced paddler how to navigate consistently challenging waters. The route starts at a put in just across from the WaterGate Inn in Richwood and flows to the mouth of the Gauley—a world-class river with big water that should be an aspiration for learning boaters.
Just an hour from Chattanooga and 1.5 hours from Knoxville, the Hiwassee River is a beginners’ paradise. The gentle ripples allow for multi-vessel use, including kayaks, canoes, tubes, and paddleboards, and generally all ages can enjoy paddling along this peaceful, scenic river. Designated as a Tennessee State Scenic River, the Hiwassee flows through the Cherokee National Forest. Adapted from the Cherokee word “Ayuhwasi,” the river has a rich cultural history. Along with its tributaries, the Hiwassee was home to many Cherokee towns and served as a key trade route among Native Americans from villages in the mountains of North Carolina into the foothills of eastern Tennessee. Hiwassee Outfitters (hiwasseeoutfitters.com), in Reliance, Tenn., offers kayak rentals and shuttles for a self-guided 5.5-mile stretch of the river that features mostly class I-II rapids before finishing with the class III run, Devil’s Shoals. If you plan your own trip, note the river level is controlled by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Appalachia Dam. Water release schedules can vary seasonally and will greatly affect the level and flow rate of the water, so check release schedules and adhere to all posted signage in order to stay safe. You can scout for up-to-date river condition at the website of American Whitewater: americanwhitewater.org.
DIFFICULTY: Easy to intermediate CLASS OF RAPIDS: II-III ROUTE LENGTH: 9 miles
DIFFICULTY: Easy CLASS OF RAPIDS: Class I-II ROUTE LENGTH: Varies
JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
Kayaking into Solitude Meet the couple helping paddlers explore the Eastern Shore’s wild barrier islands. B Y E R I C J . WA L L A C E
P A D D L E R S PA S S W I L D H O R S E S I N T H E E A S T C O A S T ' S L O N G E S T E X PA N S E O F C O A S TA L W I L D E R N E S S . PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BURNHAMS
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BILL AND MARY BURNHAM O P E R AT E B U R N H A M G U I D E S I N O N A N C O C K , VA . P H O T O COURESTY OF THE BURNHAMS
Barrier Island Itinerary Thru-paddling the Eastern Shore’s barrier islands is tricky business and requires significant planning. Below is a Burnhams-approved sequence of beautiful—and challenging— southbound day trips that can be tackled à la carte or in one fell swoop. Day 1: Assateague Island to Old Wallops Island
Ferry Dock, ~12 miles. Start on the interior beach of 14,000-acre Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and paddle along the northern shore of Tom’s Cove past wild pastures, beaches, and woodlands. Continue past Chincoteague Island, where you’ll follow a series of tidal creeks through the Wallops Island National Preserve to a public boat ramp on Assawoman Creek.
Day 2: Old Wallops Island Ferry Dock to Folly
Creek, ~16 miles. Follow the Northam Narrows through wetlands on the backside of Wallops Island to Kegotank Bay. Enjoy lunch on solitary beaches at Assawoman Island. Expert kayakers can proceed down the coast for a dose of ocean paddling before pursuing Gargathy Inlet to Crippen Creek and Metompkin Bay.
Day 3: Folly Creek to Quinby Harbor, ~16 miles.
ill Burnham dips a paddle into the cool, calm water, whisking his kayak down the narrow, grass-lined channel of Folly Creek. The morning breeze carries smells of salt marsh and ocean, the music of shorebirds, gulls, and dry reeds. We pass muddy banks and submerged oyster clusters, sending thousands of fiddler crabs skittering for burrows. A great blue heron glides overhead; snowy white egrets and glossy ibis comb the shallows for fish. At this point, we’ve left behind all signs of civilization: We’re utterly alone. “To me, this is what makes the Eastern Shore so special,” says Burnham, 51. Vast swaths of protected coastal wilderness can be found within 5 to 10 miles of pretty much anywhere on the peninsula. Most of it is accessible only by boat. Burnham is intimately familiar with these areas. He and his wife, Mary, are certified ecotour guides and coown the Onancock-based outfitting company, Burnham Guides. They’ve spent about 15 years leading and assisting long-distance kayaking trips throughout the Shore’s 75-mile mélange of coastal preserves, which constitute the East Coast’s longest expanse of coastal wilderness. While the Burnhams are happy to lead day trips along wetland estuaries and wild beaches, their specialty is helping kayakers thru-paddle the Virginia
Seaside Water Trail. The 100-plus-mile route begins in Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island, winds its way through dozens of wild barrier islands, and ends at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge near the peninsula’s southern tip. The trip takes most paddlers five to seven days to complete and, because camping is illegal on most islands, they’ll typically need assistance. “We’re the only outfitter in the region that does this,” says Bill, who honed his long-distance paddling chops leading kayak-camping trips in the Florida Keys. The Burnhams are the sole commercial outfitter licensed to visit 14 of the Shore’s outermost islands, which total 133,000 acres and are owned by the Nature Conservancy. “The goal is to help people immerse themselves in these incredible and unsullied coastal ecosystems,” says Mary, 59. Visiting paddlers can expect days of kayaking through quiet bays and winding wetland creeks, encounters with aquatic wildlife like shellfish, blue crabs, and porpoise, chances to spot upward of 400 bird species, and sojourns along miles of solitary beaches— and most of it without encountering another soul. Like thru-hiking, spending that much time on the water lets “you slow down and notice the minutia and immensity of our ecological diversity,” says Bill. “It helps you really tune in to the beauty and spirit of this amazing place.”
This section includes navigating a string of tidal creeks that will carry you past Cedar Island to Burtons Bay and the fishing village of Wachapreague. Eat at the Island House Restaurant then proceed to Bradford Bay, where you’ll follow Grassy Creek to the harbor at Quinby village. Trailside camping is available 4.5 miles south at Virginia Landing Campground.
Day 4: Quinby Harbor to Red Bank Boat Ramp,
~11 miles. Paddle for long stints through Upshur and Hog Island Bays, and connected wetlands to the public landing up Red Bank Creek. Here, outer barrier islands are four to six miles apart and inner wetlands are sometimes more than a mile wide. Accordingly, expect an isolated but open-water feel.
Day 5: Red Bank to Oyster, ~17 miles. Follow Red
Bank Creek to Castle Ridge Creek, which empties into Outlet Bay. Cobb Island lies west, but stick to inner waterways, which wind through various smaller islands. Pass through Ramshorn Bay and Ramshorn Channel, then proceed shoreward to Brockenberry Bay and the village of Oyster.
Day 6: Oyster to Wise Point Boat Ramp, ~15
miles. Follow Mockhorn Bay, hugging the wooded shoreline of its namesake island and Wildlife Management Area. Continue to Magothy Bay. Permits for backcountry camping on the southwestern tip of Mockhorn Island are available through the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Otherwise, proceed past Raccoon Island, following the inner channel to the takeout at Wise Point in the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge. • JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
ow did Bill and Mary Burnham come to lead adventure kayaking trips in one of the most sparsely populated and undeveloped coastal areas in the eastern U.S.? It started with freelance writing. “When we got married, we were both aspiring journalists,” says Bill. The couple settled near the Chesapeake Bay in Gloucester, Va., after landing reporting gigs with a local newspaper in the late 1990s. Within a few years they’d parlayed their love of travel and the outdoors into careers writing freelance articles for magazines. Hiking stories for outlets like the Washingtonian led to talks with Falcon Guides. The Burnhams subsequently landed contracts for guidebooks about Washington, D.C., day hikes, the Virginia mountains, a camping howto, and more. Meanwhile, another idea was incubating. Leading multiday backpacking and paddling trips with young nieces, nephews, and their friends introduced the Burnhams to the joy of guiding. “Writing about our adventures was a lot of fun,” says Bill. “But we discovered there was something profoundly rewarding in sharing them with others in real-time.” The Burnhams began dreaming of a life centered around such experiences. But how would they make a living at it? “Most people are pretty comfortable doing day-hikes or overnight backpacking trips without assistance,” says Bill. But kayak-camping is a different animal. Particularly THE BURNHAMS GUIDE TRIPS THROUGH 14 OF THE EASTERN SHORE'S OUTERMOST ISLANDS. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BURNHAMS
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
JAMES LIVES F O R
Moments L I K E T H I S .
is more than a river
flowing through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It flows through time, touching hearts, changing lives, sharing experiences with all who visit… like a welcome break from a hectic life to unwind and reconnect.
back off the beaten path. This summer, it’s all about getting your family back in motion. Take a road trip to Chesapeake, Virginia, where small moments become lifelong memories. Set up camp and let the hiking, biking and paddling through scenic panoramas commence. Keep things fresh with farmers’ markets, “today’s catch” menus and local breweries. Plan your perfect family getaway and let the moments begin. VisitChesapeake.com 888-889-5551
JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
when it comes to coastal wetlands and barrier islands, where managing logistics can be complex or even dangerous for inexperienced paddlers. You need specialty gear and an ability to read tidal schedules, prevailing winds, and changing weather conditions. Navigating tidal creeks and channels through expansive marshes with few reliable landmarks can confound unfamiliar paddlers. Protected coastal lands and waterways are often extremely isolated and require special permissions or licenses for access. The list goes on. Taking this into account, the Burnhams relocated to Key Largo in 2003. They became certified ecotour guides and took work with area outfitters to learn the ropes. Getting out on the water with families and kids, “something clicked, we just fell in love,” says Bill. Within a year the couple was planning to launch an outfitting service catering to overnight group trips. “Nobody was doing anything like that; it was all day trips or two-hour tours. So, we figured we could fill a niche.” But as the Burnhams started plotting routes for trips, they realized kayaking resources for the 1,700-island archipelago were subpar. They pitched Falcon on a comprehensive paddling atlas “specifically designed for paddlers, fly-fishers, snorkelers, and other small craft water enthusiasts interested in shallow water exploration.” The book was published in 2008 and won a National Outdoor Book Award. By then the Burnhams were booking guided week-
FORMER JOURNALISTS AND PROLIFIC GUIDEBOOK AUTHORS, THE B U R N H A M S N O W S P L I T T I M E PA D D L I N G V I R G I N I A ' S E A S T E R N S H O R E AND THE FLORIDA KEYS. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BURNHAMS
plus-long paddling trips throughout the Keys. They’d also just bought a house in Onancock. “After three years in the Keys, we realized two things,” says Bill. One, they missed friends and family in Virginia. Two, the Florida guiding season ran fall through early spring. Setting up a sister summer operation on the Eastern Shore was a perfect solution. “Nowhere matches its diversity,” says Dave Burden, who owns Southeast Expeditions in Cape Charles and has kayaked wild shores on every continent but Antarctica. “If you’re the world’s best paddler, I can take you somewhere that’ll scare you. Ten minutes down the road, we’re bringing out families.” “I’ve been to Maine, Washington, California, Africa, Indonesia, South America, Mexico, you name it,” continues Burden. “And what we have here? It’s world-class.”
oday the Burnhams split time between Key Largo and Onancock, and are busier than ever. They’ve developed new trips in Costa Rica and special expeditions aimed at doing things like building corporate teamwork or introducing at-risk youths to nature experiences. They’ve penned new guidebooks about Eastern Shore water trails and secret Florida beaches—and more are in the works. “Kayaking changed our lives,” says Bill. “Figuring out a way to be on the water as much as possible and share the joy of these experiences with others became our guiding light.” Which is ironic because, if 20 years ago someone had told Bill he was destined to become a kayaking outfitter? “I think I probably would’ve gotten offended!”
If you’re an angler, it’s a good time to be in Cherokee. With purses up to $20,000, and just $15 entry fees, the competition is going to be fierce—and fun. Get your gear ready and get everything you need right here: VisitCherokeeNC.com | 828.359.6110 VisitCherokeeNC.com 28
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
Summertime in West Virginia is the perfect chance to explore the New River Gorge National Park. Set out by taking a family-friendly rafting trip with ACE Adventure Resort, where you’ll reconnect with the little ones. And with each full-price adult, a child age 6-11 can raft for free. In Almost Heaven, you’ll find the family fun you’ve been longing for.
TA K E A D I P I N R E F R E S H I N G M O U N TA I N WAT E R S T H I S SUMMER, INCLUDING TWISTING FA L L S I N T E N N E S S E E . P H O T O B Y N AT H A N I E L F L O W E R S
Jump In The Best Swimming Holes to Cool Off in the Blue Ridge This Summer BY ELLEN KANZINGER AND BRENNA TURPIN
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hether you prefer to dive into cool and calm mountain lakes or feel the roaring creeks tumbling over waterfalls on your cheeks, we’ve got you covered on some of the best spots to dip your toes and soak up the sun in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
Middle Fork River Buckhannon, W. Va.
Home to elegantly placed river rocks and dreamy little bridges, Audra State Park is a peaceful wonderland of adventure. Alum Creek and Cave Trail, which includes a boardwalk, curves under hanging rock faces as you walk opposite the gorgeous Middle Fork River. The river runs directly through the park and offers a cooldown for swimmers to splash in its almost crystal clear waters. Swimming here can feel as though you are swimming at the edge of a cave. ACTIVITIES NEARBY: When you’re not in the water, Audra
is perfect for families who enjoy hiking, camping, and picnicking surrounded by thick forests filled with towering trees, as well as opportunities to boat, fish, and geocache. Bring your bike to hit the trails on wheels as well. If you want to head into town, check out Buckhannon for the taste of local cuisine at a number of restaurants. The West Virginia Wildlife Center is also nearby, which hosts some of the state’s most beautiful wildlife.
While you might recognize the Green River as one of the most challenging whitewater spots in the South with the annual race through The Narrows, it also features some excellent sections for a more relaxing day on the water. Below the class V rapids, rope swings line the bank, just waiting for you to grab hold and leap into the water below. If you would rather mosey on down the water, tubing is one of the creek’s main attractions as you float through some small class I and II rapids. Several outfitters along the water, including Silver Creek Tubing, Green River Cove Tubing, and Wilderness Cove, offer rentals from May to September, so you can squeeze out every bit of summer. Accommodations can be made for large groups, but it is best to schedule in advance.
You might hear the thundering falls before you actually reach the gorge at Cummins Falls State Park. Home to one of Tennessee's largest waterfalls, there are several spots to hop in the cool pools below the 75-foot namesake cascade. Come prepared with hiking shoes and a will to wade through water, climb rocks, and cross over slippery terrain. There are two trails that reach the gorge area, a moderate one-mile path and a more difficult 1.5-mile trek with steep and uneven terrain. Since the trail is somewhat difficult, the park recommends that children under five not attempt the trail, and children 12 and under should be accompanied by an adult. Don’t forget to bring a life jacket or pick one up at the park, and make sure to reserve a Gorge Access Permit ahead of time to access the base of the falls.
ACTIVITIES NEARBY: You can stay overnight when you
explore the Green River, with camping available at a number of sites along the water. Or experience the area from above on the Gorge Zipline. Over 1.25 miles, you’ll traverse 11 platforms, descend 1,100 vertical feet, and cross a sky bridge all through an old growth forest on the rim of the Green River Gorge.
ACTIVITIES NEARBY: The Old Mill Camp and General
Store is a worthy stop on your way in or out of the park where you can browse for souvenirs and order a scoop of rich ice cream. Or, if you are looking for something stronger after your swim, Tennessee Legend Distillery is just seven miles from the park, waiting for you to come and grab a drink.
H E A D I N G O U T O N A N A D V E N T U R E I N A U D R A S TAT E P A R K . P H O T O COURTESY OF WEST VIRGINIA TOURISM OFFICE
JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
Betty’s Branch Evans, Ga.
While we don’t know who Betty is, we do know she has some of the smoothest waters in the Augusta area. With easy access to Betty’s Branch through Riverside Park, you’ll find this tributary an idyllic wildlife refuge. Betty’s Branch feeds into the Savannah River so you get to enjoy all the critters that call this habitat home, including hundreds of turtles, otter families, and osprey perched along the water’s edge. Bring your kayak and paddle out to the Sandbar during periods of low flow for easy access to a quick dip. No boat? No worries. Outdoor Augusta Riverside Kayak Rentals can provide you with rentals, as well as kayak tours. ACTIVITIES NEARBY: Betty’s Branch is just a short drive
to Evan’s Towne Center Park and the Columbia County Amphitheater. So you might be able to catch a concert, tradeshow, or theatre performance depending on the event schedule. For those looking to get in more miles on the water, the Serne18 Paddle Trail will take you to some of the most scenic spots along the Georgia-South Carolina border.
Riley Moore Falls
above 12 feet tall and over 100 feet wide, the beautiful falls are located on the Chauga River, which features some class V rapids and is home to glimmering fish and playful otters. Scramble down the one-mile trail to reach the falls, where you can then walk through a tunnel that emerges in the middle of gushing water. Once the exploration is complete, the water pooling below is quite inviting for summer hikers to take a swim. Brasstown Falls is another nearby option with a calm swimming hole at the base of three consecutive drops. ACTIVITIES NEARBY: If you’ve spent enough time on
the trail, try the open waters with Lake Hartwell Boat Tours to discover one of South Carolina’s stunning lakes. And, if you’re lucky, on the way home you can catch a concert at the Westminster Music Hall and bask in the sounds of the musicians of the South. More adventuring to be done? There are a number of places to rent paddle boards, kayaks, and other outdoor gear in Westminster. Borrowed Boats, Twenty 8 & West, and Southern Outlaw Adventures offer a range of options to suit your ideal outdoor excursion.
High Knob Lake Wise County, Va.
Oconee County, S.C.
For cooler temperatures, High Knob Recreation Area provides welcome relief from the summer heat. Surrounded by Jefferson National Forest, High Knob
Right in the heart of Oconee County lies the roaring wall of water that is Riley Moore Falls. Standing at just
R E L A X O N T H E B E A C H N E A R R I L E Y M O O R E FA L L S . P H O T O B Y S T E P H B AT T E N ( R E A L T O R ) , C O U R T E S Y O F V I S I T O C O N E E S C
Find Your Trail in NC Wine Country
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
From the meandering headwaters of the Blackwater River to exhilarating whitewater, Tucker County is the perfect getaway for those setting out on an adventure of a lifetime. Escape to the mountains and experience the unspoiled nature of the Cheat River. True small towns, big fun and wide-open spaces await you in Tucker County, a slice of Almost Heaven.
Lake is one of the main attractions at this high-elevation site. Jump into the four-acre lake or relax on the sandy beach. Just around the corner on Stony Creek, the campground is a quiet spot to rest up, featuring 14 sites and a bathhouse. Bring your fishing rod with you as the lake is also a great spot to try and catch some brook trout. ACTIVITIES NEARBY: From the campsite, it’s only a 1.5-
mile hike to High Knob Tower. With views of five states on a clear day, keep an eye out for Pine Mountain on the Virginia-Kentucky border, Virginia’s highest peak, Mount Rogers, and Roan Mountain on the TennesseeNorth Carolina border. Little Stony Falls is another hike nearby to a series of waterfalls. With several different routes, ranging from a quick-and-easy one-miler to a challenging 18.7-mile trek, there are stunning views of the deep gorge, rushing water, and surrounding hardwood forest no matter the season.
Deer Creek Jarrettsville, Md.
Casual waders and laid-back tubers will love chilling in Deer Creek, a Maryland Scenic River, at Rocks State Park. The shallow water and picnic areas with grills along the bank make it a family-friendly destination for all ages, while the swimming hole at the base of the 17-foot Kilgore Falls is a shaded spot to cool off. The creek is also stocked with trout in the spring and fall for anglers, while paddlers can take advantage of the high water levels in the spring. From May 1 through Labor Day, you need a permit to visit Kilgore Falls and the
Falling Branch area of the park on the weekends and holidays, so be sure to make reservations in advance or plan your visit for a weekday.
Laurel River Lake
ACTIVITIES NEARBY: Rising 190 feet above the creek, the
With 200 miles of forest-lined shore and 5,600 acres of refreshing water, Laurel River Lake in Daniel Boone National Forest has options for everyone. Whether you prefer to swim at the beach area, paddle the Goose Management Area, fish for black bass and rainbow trout, or scuba dive the clear waters, you could spend days exploring all the lake has to offer. Four campgrounds, including two boat-in areas, make it easy to stay close to the action.
King and Queen Seat is a spectacular landmark with routes for climbers ranging in difficulty from 4 to 5.12. A miniature rock climbing spot at the Nature Exploration Area is perfect for helping the little ones get started on their skills. S W I M M I N G O P P O R T U N I T I E S A B O U N D AT L A U R E L R I V E R L A K E . P H O T O BY CHRISTIAN MANSFIELD, COURTESY OF LONDON-LAUREL COUNTY TOURIST COMMISSION
Laurel and Whitley counties, Ky.
Escape the everyday hustle and bustle with a road trip to Martinsburg. An eclectic and historic downtown scene offers unique eateries and boutique shops, and don’t miss authentic farm markets filled with seasonal favorites like apples and strawberries. With space to roam and outdoor adventure by the plenty, it’s no wonder Martinsburg is Almost Heaven.
WVtourism.com/Martinsburg JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
ACTIVITIES NEARBY: About 30 minutes from
the lake, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is another excellent spot to get out and enjoy the beautiful surroundings with 17 miles of hiking trails and views of the 60-foot waterfall. Book a rainbow mist ride with Sheltowee Trace Adventure Resort for an up-close experience with the falls. A 20.8-mile section of the Sheltowee Trace Trail connects the park and lake for hikers looking for a backcountry escape.
Huntingdon County, Pa. For unspoiled views of the water, Raystown Lake offers a scenic getaway surrounded by thousands of acres of forest-covered slopes. Two public beaches with picnic tables, grills, and restrooms are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day; plus you can have fun bouncing on the water trampolines at Seven Points. Arnold’s Marine Service will deliver canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals to the lake, while Rothrock Outfitters has everything you’ll need for a full day of paddling, fishing, or biking. ACTIVITIES NEARBY: Pack your mountain bike and
ride the Allegrippis Trails, 36 miles of singletrack arranged in stacked loops so you can choose your route length. A number of state parks, including Trough Creek, Green Furnace, and Whipple Dam, are within an hour drive of the lake for more miles of fun.
S W I M T H E D AY AWAY AT R AY S T O W N L A K E . PHOTO COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES
Be Mindful of the Water Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a large increase in the number of people exploring the outdoors. Kira King, science education coordinator with the Waterfall Keepers of North Carolina, sees this as a positive trend. Her organization promotes the benefits of exploring the region’s pristine cascades, as well as protecting these natural resources. “Even when we aren’t able to connect to people the way we're used to, we can always connect with nature,” she said.
“There is a natural energy and healing property of these areas that can help visitors mentally, and even physically, as they utilize natural resources through these difficult times.” But as larger crowds begin to discover swimming spots and waterfalls in the woods, it’s important to take care of these places so future generations will be able enjoy them. Quell the urge to climb atop waterfalls, so you don’t risk falling on slippery rocks. Moving the rocks that rest above and below the waterfall can disturb the plants and animals who are sensitive to even the slightest environmental change. If you’re planning to get in the water, be conscious of what is on your
skin. Choose environmentally-friendly sunscreen and bug spray so as to not harm the species that call the water home. King also offers a gentle reminder that there is a meditative experience to be had when visiting a waterfall. “Next time you go to a waterfall give yourself at least five extra minutes to sit and engage all five senses,” she said. “Listen to the water falling over rocks, feel the cool spray on your skin, smell and taste the fresh air, see it from top to bottom and focus on the individual drops of water as they tumble down from the top.” Please check with locations prior to travel to comply with local safety regulations and possible restrictions. •
Your Parks Your adventures
| 800-933-PARK (7275) | www.virginiastateparks.gov | Know Before You Go — Recreate Responsibly
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Kayaking on the Cowpasture River
Paddling the Clinch River
Paddling Southeast the
F r o m r a g i ng w h i t e w at e r t o c o a s ta l f l o a ts , t h i s g u i d e i s d e s i g ne d t o h e l p y o u p l a n y o u r n ex t p ad d l i ng ad v e n t u r e. T h e r e’s n o b e t t e r w ay t o ex p e r i e nc e th e b e a u ty of t h e M i d - At l ant i c and S o u t h e a s t th a n a t r i p on o ne o f t h e m any m o un ta i n r i v e r s , p e a c e f u l l ake s , o r s c e n i c b ay s th a t d o t ou r r e gi o n . P l e as e c h e c k w i t h l o c a ti o n s p r i o r t o t r av e l t o m ake s u r e i t i s s a f e to v i si t or u s e t h i s g ui d e f o r f ut u r e tr i p s w h e n w e c an al l b e t o g e t h e r a g a i n .
Castle Rock on the New River in Giles County, Va., photo by Sam Dean
Cool Mountain Waters in the Alleghany Highlands, Va. Get lost in the mountains and enjoy the waters of the Alleghany Highlands of Virginia. Grab your kayak or paddleboard and float the many lakes, rivers, and streams that make up the Alleghany Highlands Blueway. Explore the Jackson River as it flows through Covington, Clifton Forge, and George Washington and Jefferson National Forest or follow the river on foot and bike for 14 miles on the Jackson River Scenic Trail. Paddle the Cowpasture River, with a few smaller rapids, as it converges with the Jackson River to form the headwaters of the James River. Visit Douthat Lake at one of Virginia’s oldest parks, Douthat State Park. Swim, boat, or fish on the 50-acre lake or explore more than 40 miles of top-notch biking and hiking trails, offering breathtaking views of the mountains. At the other end of the Alleghany Highlands, you’ll find even more boating opportunities all year at Lake Moomaw with 43 miles of undeveloped shoreline to tour. On your way back into town, view the 80-foot cascading Falling Spring Falls from the overlook on Route 220 or pack a picnic to eat beside the stream at Humpback Bridge. Head to Alleghany Outdoors, located beside the Jackson River Scenic Trail, for all of your gear needs while in town. They provide kayaks, rafts, tubes, and bikes for a variety of adventures and operate a shuttle service, so you don’t have to worry about getting back. After a full day of paddling, stroll through town for delicious eats, unique shops, and nighttime entertainment. Jack Mason’s Tavern and The Rail Bar & Grille are excellent spots for pub fare and a cold drink while Café Michel and The Cat & Owl provide an upscale dining experience. Pop into the Alleghany Highlands Arts & Crafts Center and Clifton Forge School of the Arts to enjoy a number of classes and exhibits or see a show at the restored Historic Masonic Theater. Settle in for the night at one of the area’s cozy lodging options. In Clifton Forge, The Red Lantern Inn and Hill Crest Mansion Inn feature spacious rooms and are within walking distance of restaurants and shops. Stay close to the adventure at The Evergreen Inn, right on the Jackson River Scenic Trail, and Cliff View Golf Club & Inn. You can explore even more scenic cottages and rooms in the area on Airbnb. All of this, and more, is what makes this part of Virginia Uniquely Alleghany. VisitAlleghanyHighlands.com
Paddling the Clinch River
Paddle All Day in Russell County, Va. In the heart of southwest Virginia, Russell County offers a variety of paddling opportunities for every kind of adventurer. For a scenic excursion, the Clinch River is a paddler’s dream with options for whitewater kayaking and tubing with 12 access points from which to enjoy this biodiversity hotspot. Keep an eye on the development of Clinch River State Park as the park expands from its current nine miles of trails and one public boat launch. Once completed, a series of canoe/kayak access points dotting the bank will connect 100 miles of the river through the state. The more experienced paddler should check out Big Cedar Creek, located just south of Lebanon, with class II and IV rapids at Big Cedar Creek Falls. If you’d prefer to see the area by land, Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve provides access to walking trails, fishing spots, and views of the water. For a flatwater paddle, Laurel Bed Lake provides 330 acres to discover on the top of Clinch Mountain. At 3,600 feet of elevation and surrounded by second growth hemlock and mixed hardwoods, the undeveloped shoreline and refreshing lake is a mustsee. Near the crest of Brumley Mountain, Hidden Valley Lake is another secluded, high country option encompassed in a rugged terrain. Both lakes are excellent spots to
get in some fishing as well. Head to one of the outfitters in town for all the gear you’ll need for a relaxing day on the water. Clinch River Outfitters, Clinch River Adventures, and Clinch Life Outfitters can outfit you with kayak and tube rentals for the day, plus guided trips of the river so you can soak up all of the local knowledge. When you’ve had your fill of floating and paddling, head into one of Russell’s towns for some more entertainment. Walk across a one-of-a-kind suspension bridge and along the river boardwalk in Cleveland for an evening stroll, play a round at Cleveland Community Disc Golf Course, or grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants, serving up southern homestyle cooking, barbecue, milkshakes, and more. In the county seat of Lebanon, unwind with a cold beer, live music, and friends at Lonesome Pine Brewing Co. or take in the mountain views with a wine tasting at Vincent’s Vineyard. Get your fill of cool mountain waters, stunning vistas, and good times when you paddle Russell County, Va. ExperienceRussell.com
Kakaying the Shenandoah
Kakaying the Shenandoah
Float the Day Away in Shenandoah County, Va.
Explore Southwest Virginia with New River Outdoor Adventures
Spend a little time on the water and surrounded by nature along the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. The best way to enjoy this low and lazy branch along the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains is by floating in a tube or kayak. The new Seven Bends State Park, which opened officially in spring 2020, features two convenient boat access points to enjoy a scenic three-mile paddle, open spaces to walk for wildflower and bird viewing, and picnic tables if you’d like to bring a packed lunch from one of the nearby restaurants. The state park also backs up to the George Washington National Forest with more challenging hikes for every adventurer. Be sure to pack your sunscreen, wear river shoes, and expect about a three hour float as the river runs slowly past farmland and forest. You’re likely to see an egret looking for dinner or a turtle sunning on a rock. After your float, stop in the town of Woodstock for a cold beer at Box Office Brewery, hand-dipped ice cream at Sugar Creek, baked goods at Flour & Water, and more. Nearby, Muse Vineyards and Box Office Brewery offer a relaxing atmosphere and craft drinks.
New River Outdoor Adventures in Galax, Va., is your one stop shop for all things fun on the New River. With their location right by the river and New River Trail State Park, you’ll have access to any number of adventures in southwest Virginia. Rent a kayak, canoe, or tube to experience the cool and refreshing waters of the river. Choose from a variety of trip lengths, ranging from a two-mile scenic float to a 14.5-mile paddle with a class II rapid. Pack a lunch and go for a swim while you’re out there. Experience the river from the 57-mile New River Trail with a half day or full day bike rental. With both boat and bike shuttles offered along the trail, you can soak up the sun for miles. While you’re there, don’t miss out on fishing for bass, musky, walleye, and more. This outfitter is stocked with all the necessities you’ll need for a day on the water, including river shoes, hats, and live bait. Take advantage of New River’s private riverfront camping options to extend your stay in the area. Explore the Blue Ridge Mountains with New River Outdoor Adventures.
Tandem kayaking on the New River
Paddling the Choptank River
Unforgettable Paddling Trips in Giles County, Va.
Down By the Bay in Caroline County, Md.
Break out your paddling gear and head to Giles County, Va., to experience the New River Water Trail. As one of the oldest rivers in the world, you’ll float past aweinspiring sights, native wildlife, mild rapids, and more. With 37 miles flowing through southwest Virginia, you can customize your trip length on the New River. Ingles Landing to Pembroke is a six-mile float past towering cliffs, including the historic Palisades Cliffs, class I and II rapids, and excellent smallmouth fly fishing spots. Pembroke to Ripplemead is a shorter excursion at 2.5 miles but no less beautiful. Beginners and families will love the section from Narrows to Glen Lyn for its calm waters and big islands dotting the course while experts will enjoy paddling Ripplemead to Hale’s Landing for 8.5 miles of whitewater. If you don’t have your own gear, several local outfitters have you covered while you’re in town. New River Outdoor Company, New River’s Edge, and Tangent Outfitters offer a variety of kayak, canoe, standup paddleboard, and tube rentals in addition to shuttles, fishing trips, mountain bikes, and cabins. As your playground in Virginia’s mountains, Giles County and the New River Water Trail invite you to experience the magic for yourself this year.
Paddling opportunities abound when you visit Caroline County, Md., located between the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Launch from one of the dozen public landings, boat ramps, and marinas to immerse yourself in the nature and wildlife of Caroline’s waterways, from the Choptank River to the Tuckahoe, Marshyhope, and Watts creeks. The 60-acre lake at Tuckahoe State Park is another great spot for families and beginners with native gardens at the Adkins Arboretum and camping when you’re done paddling. Need a boat? At Mathews Landing Rentals, located on the Choptank River, you can rent single and tandem kayaks, a 17’ Boston Whaler Montauk, or an 18’ Bass Buggy Pontoon Boat for the day. There’s so much more to experience in town, from alpaca and lavender farms to pick-your-own-produce and the latest exhibit at the Fiber Arts Center of the Eastern Shore. Grab a pint at the Market Street Public House, experience authentic Spanish-American flavors at Tenchi, enjoy lunch and a scoop at the Ridgely Ice Cream Parlor, or take the self-guided driving tour on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. Adventure awaits paddlers of every skill level in Caroline County, Md.
Paddlers on Lake Drummond
Find Yourself on the Waters of Chesapeake, Va. Enjoy the Waterways and Earn Rewards
This summer, it’s all about getting on the water and soaking up some sun in Chesapeake, Va. Exploring Chesapeake’s beautiful waterways and awe-inspiring wildlife by kayak, canoe, or paddleboard just got even more exciting with the new Paddle the Peake Passport. Download the Visit Chesapeake, VA app on your smartphone to start earning rewards when you check-in and share photos of your paddle adventures. Using this guide, you’ll find the best places to paddle, learn about the history and ecology of local waterways, flora, and fauna, and more as you “level up” for fun perks. Get your day started on the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, the oldest continuouslyoperating waterway in the country. Begin at the Ballahack Boat Ramp, a Paddle the Peake Passport location. Enjoy your day navigating to Lake Drummond as you keep a careful watch for bald eagles, herons, osprey, and more. This waterway is rich with Chesapeake history dating back to the Civil War. You can learn more about this waterway under Things to Do on the Visit Chesapeake, VA app. Make your way over to Northwest River Park and Campground to 1733 Indian Creek Road for another Paddle the Peake Passport location. Paddle this scenic river along the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail.
Stroll or cycle at Elizabeth River Park along the scenic Elizabeth River. Here you’ll see the towering South Norfolk Jordan Bridge, a 169-foot tall engineering feat. Or walk the bridge and take in the views. Elizabeth River Park is a great place to enjoy a picnic by the water. For an in-depth telling of the area’s history and ecology, Kevin Fonda of Adventure Kayak & SUP Tours provides kayak rentals, full instruction, and tours on the area’s historic waterways. You can even customize your trip with nighttime, geocaching, and camping adventures. After paddling, enjoy a taste of Chesapeake. Pick your own produce or buy homemade goods at local farms like Greenbrier Farms and Mount Pleasant Farms, sample wines at Branches Tasting Room, or enjoy a flight of brews at Big Ugly Brewing and The Garage Brewery. Savor a fresh catch plate at Wicker’s Crab Pot, Off the Hook Seafood & Chophouse, or Black Pelican Seafood, or try familyfriendly favorites at Angie’s Family Eatery and Irwin’s Fountain. Find yourself on the road to discovery when you visit Chesapeake, Va. VisitChesapeake.com
Kayaking with dolphins
Live the Paddling Life in Virginia Beach, Va. The waters of Virginia Beach invite visitors of all ages to experience some coastal paddling this summer. Home to one of the last great salt marsh habitats on the East Coast, the largest estuary in the Chesapeake Bay, and hundreds of miles of inland waters, there may be no better way to explore the beauty of the area than by floating right through it. Whether you’re in search of a physical challenge or you just want to spend a day floating around, there is no shortage of adventures. Take in the natural beauty, local wildlife, and vastness of Back Bay Wildlife Refuge on Blue Pete’s Dinner Tour from Ocean Rentals Sandbridge. After a scenic paddle, you’ll make your way over to Blue Pete’s for a delicious seafood dinner from the waterfront deck. Or sign up for the lunchbox tour to explore more of the bay’s tributaries. No experience is needed and all gear will be provided. Dolphins are frequent visitors to the calmer inland waterways off of the Chesapeake Bay. Tula Adventure Sports, located in the Chesapeake Bay District, offers tours to kayak with these friendly animals. If you’re lucky, they’ll even swim right up next to your boat. For the more adventurous paddler, try your hand at SUP Yoga with Rudee Inlet Stand Up Paddle. The hour-long session combines the rigorous full-body workout that you’d expect, with an added element of balance that can only come from standing on a board in the water. You’ll never want to go back to the gym again. Soar high above the Virginia Beach oceanfront on a parasailing adventure that offers a new perspective of the area. Rudee Inlet is the take-off point for several tours like Adventure Parasail, Pirate Parasail, and Air America Parasail. Experience the serenity that comes with floating 1,000 feet about the water for yourself and see why this is a favorite activity in the area. While in Virginia Beach, make sure to download the Get Outdoors Pass, a mobile
passport offering a collection of discounts on outdoor attractions, tours, and rentals. From paddling, surfing, and swimming the open waters to hiking and biking the canopied forests, this is a vacation for every kind of adventurer.
There’s so much more to experience in Virginia Beach when you get off the water. From the rich culinary scene to lively arts and entertainment options, you’ll find yourself wanting to keep the vacation going all night long. Make sure you leave enough time to visit local artisan shops, art galleries, and the Neptune Statue at the Virginia Beach
For fresh seafood brought in daily, Bubba’s Crabhouse and Seafood Restaurant is a favorite amongst locals and visitors alike for a casual lunch or dinner with views of the water. Order from the raw bar, share a plate, or go with the classic Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Try something new from Baja Restaurant, like a basket of fries smothered in she crab soup and Old Bay seasoning, the fresh catch of the day, seafood risotto, or a freshly squeezed cocktail. Round out your day with a stop at Back Bay’s Farmhouse Brewing Co. for a rotating list of craft beers on tap and different food trucks every day of the week. You can also head straight from the beach to their original oceanfront taproom for chill vibes and a cold one after a day in the sun. Check into your hotel, resort, beachfront rental, or campground for the night before you hit the ground running for another day of paddling or relaxing by the water. Live the life when you visit Virginia Beach. VisitVirginiaBeach.com/Outdoors
Kayaking near the New Point Comfort Lighthouse Restoration Project
Paddle the Tennessee River, photo by Eliza Dean
A River Runs Through Knoxville, Tenn. Step to the edge of downtown Knoxville where the French Broad and Holston rivers meet to form the Tennessee River. Knoxville’s past and present is tied to this river. Eight beautiful riverside parks offer spectacular views and water access—plus paved greenways, natural trails, sprawling open space, and more. Starting in downtown Knoxville, the heart and soul of East Tennessee, you’ll find more than 90 restaurants, over 40 shops in beautifully restored buildings, festivals, world-class theatres, parks, and museums in less than one square mile. The first stop is Suttree Landing Park, home to Knoxville’s Second Bell Fest, with views of downtown along the riverwalk. An accessible boat launch is perfect for a quick paddle down the river and back. The River Landing at Ijams Nature Center features hiking and biking trails, lake paddling and swimming, nature programs, and rock climbing. Volunteer Landing is another top pick for its marina, Bicentennial boat launch, and three-mile greenway parallel to the water. It’s also your boarding spot for river cruises on The Star of Knoxville Riverboat or the Volunteer Princess. Making your way west, UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm is a hidden gem that lines the banks of the river with trails, open green spaces, and an amphitheater while Lakeshore Park spans a massive 185 acres as the four-mile greenway winds around the shoreline, offering beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. Further down the Tennessee, Concord Park puts you on the river with ease thanks to a beach, kayak and paddle board rentals, and boat launches. Plan your trip around a Summer Concert at the Cove and enjoy local music at sundown. There’s really no end to the adventure. The Holston River, the longest and most scenic tailwater in the Tennessee Valley, is one of Tennessee’s premier fly fishing destinations. An easy paddle from Holston River Park to downtown Knoxville offers non-stop scenic beauty and surprising glimpses of blue heron, otters, and other river inhabitants. Speaking of wildlife, Seven Islands State Birding Park is the signature start of an experience along the French Broad, the third oldest river in the world. The park earns its national reputation for exceptional birding with more than 190 species of birds sighted, including songbirds, hawks, Barn Owls, and waterfowl. Few cities make it so easy or so enjoyable to get on a river as Knoxville, Tenn.
From its location on a peninsula, experience a wide variety of ecosystems as you paddle Mathews County, Va. From the three tidal rivers and 50 navigable creeks to small beaches and preserved marshland, you could spend days exploring over 200 miles of shoreline this summer. The five established Mathews Blueways Water Trails and 15 public access points will get you out to the best spots in the county. Beginners and families will enjoy the scenic cruising along the Winter & Horn Harbors Trail as you paddle shallow marshes and estuaries. The East River Trail, divided into an upper and lower section, will take you past historic sites, towering estates, and protected coves while the Piankatank River Trail follows the county’s northern border. If you prefer paddling the open waters, New Point Comfort Trail will take you into the Chesapeake and Mobjack Bay as you float past the third oldest lighthouse on the bay. More experienced paddlers will love the challenge of the tidal currents on the Gwynn’s Island/Milford Haven Trail with numerous creeks for side trips. While you’re traveling to the area, Mobjack Kayaking provides kayak and standup paddleboard rentals for the whole family, as well as bird watching, history of lighthouses, and oyster bar paddle tours. Bay Country Kayaking also covers tours of Mathews and can accommodate larger groups. Book one of the charter boats for more historical tours, fishing excursions, hands on crabbing, and sightseeing led by a local who knows these waters. Take a break from the water and explore all that Mathews County has to offer on land. Stop at William’s Wharf Landing for a picnic by the shore and fishing from the docks or have some fun in the sand at Haven and Bethel Beach. Paddle up to the dock at Hole in the Wall Waterfront Grill on Gwynn’s Island for a lunch break by the water. At high tide, take out at Put-In-Creek Landing’s kayak launch to access Main Street businesses, restaurants, and a shaded picnic pavilion area. Round out your trip with an oyster farm tour, crabbing demonstration, sunset cruise, or bike tour before cozying up at a waterfront inn, cottage, or campground. There’s so much to see by water that you’ll want to come back again and again to experience it all. Make Mathews County, Va., your paddling destination this summer and every summer.
Miles of Shoreline in Mathews County, Va.
Paddling the New River. Photo courtesy of the West Virginia Tourism Oﬃce
Rafters tackle West Virginia’s New River Gorge
Paddle America’s Newest National Park with River Expeditions
Welcome to West Virginia, where paddling just got a little sweeter this summer. Home to the nation’s newest national park, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, you’ll find beautiful views around every corner. Don’t let the name fool you. The New River is actually the second oldest river in the world and a prime destination for a whitewater rafting adventure. Beginners and young families love the Upper New River for its milder flow, gentle rapids, and scenic views of the gorge. The best time to visit is June through August when the weather is warmer and the refreshing splash cools everyone down. The best part is kids ages six to 11 raft for free, one per paying adult. Families with kids over the age of 11 and adventurous adults will find the Lower New River picks up the pace with more than 25 rapids, ranging from class II to class IV. Interspersed with the rapids are calm sections of water where you can jump out of the raft to swim around and float along. For the expert paddler, fall is the best season to visit as rafters from around the world flock to the Gauley River for “Gauley Season.” In September and October, the Summersville Dam is drained, creating world-class rapids that have led to the Gauley being referred to as the “Beast of the East.” Expect multiple class V rapids that will leave your heart thundering, clothes waterlogged, and a smile on your face. Even if you prefer to adventure by land, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is still the place to be. From classic rock climbing routes and challenging mountain biking terrain to hikes with endless views and high-flying ziplining tours, there’s enough to keep you busy for days. The best way to get on these magnificent rivers is with the folks who paddle them day in and day out. The expert guides at ACE Adventure Resort and Adventures on the Gorge offer a wide variety of trip lengths, from half-day floats to overnight camping trips, so you can experience the full wonder of this stunning setting. Both locations also provide lodging options, so you can get your day started early, and other adventure activities, like aerial adventure courses, standup paddleboarding, paintball, horseback riding, and more. After a fun-filled day on the water and trails, head into the charming town of Fayetteville, just minutes from the park and the perfect place to unwind. With delicious eateries like Pies & Pints, Cathedral Café, and Wood Iron Eatery, locally owned shops, and craft breweries with low key environments, there’s so much to do and see here. Looking for more information on the best places to see, eat, and stay? Check out the New River Gorge CVB and Visit Southern West Virginia for local favorites, travel itineraries, outfitters, and more. Discover a slice of Almost Heaven when you paddle West Virginia and the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve this summer.
Explore West Virginia’s New River Gorge, the newest national park, with River Expeditions, the area’s only family-owned and operated adventure company. Running May through October, including deep discounts for midweek travelers, no two trips are ever the same. Take a scenic float trip featuring mellow waves and playful pools on the Upper New River, perfect for beginners, kids ages six and up, and the “young at heart.” On this gentle section, kids raft free with a paying adult, making this trip even more affordable for the entire family. Inflatable kayaks, or “duckies,” are used on this mild trip as an added challenge. River Expeditions’ most popular trip remains the classic Lower New River, where paddlers ages 12 and up experience roller coaster waves and adrenaline-filled whitewater rapids— appropriate for first timers, yet revered by experts. This trip has it all—history, nature, culture, and adventure, ending the day beneath the world famous New River Gorge Bridge. Amenities at River Expeditions include cabin rentals, a campground, RV sites, souvenir shop, saloon featuring local brews and craft cocktails, massage studio, and zipline course. Overnight guests get the fourth consecutive night free, enticing visitors to stay longer and explore the area. Plan your visit and discover the difference a family-owned outfitter makes.
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Almost Heaven... Paddling West Virginia
Feeding the wild donkeys at Stallings Island
Take the ‘Serenic’ Route in Columbia County, Ga. Welcome to Columbia County, Ga., where summer is heating up thanks to the Serene18 Paddle Trail. With four separate routes and 18 square miles of waterways to explore, take in the beautiful vistas and active wildlife as you paddle some of the most serene waters around. Your trip begins on Clarks Hill Lake, or the lake with two names, with over 71,000 acres of water and 1,200 miles of shoreline. That’s larger than the coast of California. This outdoor haven attracts anglers, boaters, and water sport enthusiasts from all over to experience the magical lake. The six-mile water trail will take you between four to six hours as you make your way to the Clarks Hill Dam. Allow some time to cast a line from your boat or rest on the sandy beaches. Next up is Betty’s Branch, a popular four-mile stretch of the Savannah River. Starting at Riverside Park in Evans, it will take between two and 3.5 hours depending on if you take the shorter route or the full loop. This is an excellent stretch for spotting ospreys, turtles, and otters along the way. The 2.7-mile loop out to Stallings Island and back is recommended for paddlers with some experience. Be careful of the canal headgates when launching from Savannah Rapids Park. Although the island is protected as the site where the oldest-known Native American pottery was rediscovered, you can bring carrots and apples to feed the wild donkeys and goats that inhabit the island from your boat. Round out your trip on the Augusta Canal, the longest paddle at seven miles. A steady current will get you from the put-in at Savannah Rapids Park to the take-out at Julian Smith Park in about 2.5 hours. As you make your way towards the town of Augusta, you’ll pass by a waterfall, historical landmarks, and all sorts of wildlife. All four routes are perfect for beginners, families, experts, and everyone in between. Want to get the most out of your trip? Check out one of the outfitters in town for
boat rentals, guided tours, classes, and special events. The friendly folks at Cole Watkins Tours, Keg Creek Watersports, Outdoor Augusta, and Savannah Rapids Kayak Rentals can hook you up for all your paddling needs. It’s recommended you make reservations in advance to ensure your spot upon arrival. Don’t forget to request your free Serene18 passport ahead of time and have it stamped at one of these four outfitters or the visitors center after completing each route to earn a free t-shirt and bragging rights for days.
When you’ve had enough paddling for the day, discover the rest of what Columbia County has to offer by land. There are more than 40 miles of trails throughout the county for walking, running, and mountain biking, including the 18.5-mile Bartram Trail, the technical Keg Creek Trail, and the scenic Augusta Canal Towpath. Then head into town for a bite to eat and something to drink. Rooted Coffeehouse is a great place to get started in the morning while Frog and the Hen, Cork and Flame, Laziza Mediterranean Grill, and Namaste Indian Street Food offer a wide array of lunch and dinner options. Finish up with a beer at Stay Social Tap and Table or Tip Top Taps. It will take you a few days to hit all the paddling spots so you’ll want to book a stay in one of the area’s hotels, bed and breakfasts, or campgrounds for a place to crash at the end of the day. Get on the water this summer in Columbia County, Ga. VisitColumbiaCountyGA.com
Stroll quaint streets lined with historic buildings filled with charming boutique shops and trendy restaurants. Embrace the lively and diverse art scene. Escape to picturesque national and state parks in our countryside, experience our storied past at Civil War battlefields, and unwind at our wineries, breweries, and distilleries. You’ll want to stay a while in Frederick, Maryland. visitfrederick.org • 800-999-3613
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BUILDING BOATS THI S NO RTH CA RO LINA CA MP FO STE R S SO ME O F THE BE ST PADDLING TA LENT IN TH E SO UTH A ND TEACH ES CA MP E R S HOW TO B U ILD CA N OE S. B Y J A R R E T T VA N M E T E R
ON THE BACK COUNTER OF THE WORKSHOP IS A
smudgy, dust-covered glass box. While it could use a scrub, the dirtiness symbolizes a job well done: keeping grime off of the box’s tenant, a model Spanish Galeon ship. The boat, roughly two-feet long, sails only through time, but with the innate presence passed down from its royal ancestry. Jeff Schlosser keeps the model in his canoe workshop as a monument to the process at hand.
“Just a giant version of these canoes,” says Schlosser, looking down at his model. “Where we use [a] 3/8-inch piece of cedar for a rib, they would use whole trees, 120-feet tall, and they’d square them and then bend them.” This summer will be the 100th for Camp Mondamin, a boys’ camp located on Lake Summit in Tuxedo, N.C. Storied in the Southern boating scene, the camp boasts several whitewater Olympians (Lecky and Fritz Haller, Jamie McEwan, John Burton, and Matt Taylor) and National team members (Gordon Grant, Barry Kennon, Steve Holmes, and Dave Hepp) among its alumni, and a walk around the property serves as a historical tour of its paddling lineage. There are 90-year-old Old Towns, an original fiberglass mold, and a multitude of one-off boats of seemingly every variation, but there is also a growing fleet of new 16-footers, built right here on the premises by Mondamin campers under Schlosser’s guidance. In the early aughts, Mondamin’s then-Maintenance Director Ken Roberts decided it would be easier to build new canoes rather than repairing the damages accumulating on the camp’s collection of ancient Old Towns. He approached David Bell, whose grandfather, Chief, founded the camp and whose father, Frank, was then the camp’s director, with the idea. “David was like, ‘Really? How would we do that?’ and the two of them started putting together this
J E F F S C H L O S S E R ( F A R R I G H T ) H E L P S C A M P E R S B U I L D C A N O E S AT CAMP MONDAMIN IN NORTH CAROLINA. PHOTO COURTESY OF CAMP MONDAMIN
program, talking to some of the manufacturers up in Maine,” remembers Andrew Bell, David’s brother and the current camp director. “Northwoods Canoe is one that we have used as a resource a lot throughout the years. So, David and Ken put together this program and built by hand a mold and kind of figured out the process. They were doing repairs as well as starting to teach campers how to build boats. We were maybe building one boat in a summer at that point.” The first boat that Roberts and David Bell built is now hanging in Black Dome Mountain Sports North Carolina Canoeing Museum, but while the framework for the ambitious program was trailblazing, the boats being produced left room for improvement. The rounded bottoms made them tippy, and they were too short bow-to-stern. When Roberts retired a few years later and David Bell left to pursue other opportunities, Frank Bell hired local carpenter Perry White to oversee the program. White had no experience building or repairing canoes, but was a familiar name in summer camp circles, an experienced woodworker, and eager to learn. “He started talking to some of these canoe companies like Northwoods and really, over time, in my opinion, became one of the most knowledgeable JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
people about building and repairing canoes,” says Andrew Bell. “There aren’t many positions where you can, year-round, work on canoes, but we had enough repair work that he stayed in the boat shop through the winter and did repairs, then built new canoes in the summer with the kids.” White oversaw the production of boats with flatter bottoms, guiding campers through the entire process from sawing the wood and steaming ribs to canvassing the body and painting the exterior. The shop went from generating a boat per summer to three.
“Perry was fantastic at just kind of sitting back and talking to the kids, teaching them how to do it and letting them do it. “What Perry really did was get the kids building it,” explains Bell. “Perry was fantastic at just kind of sitting back and talking to the kids, teaching them how to do it and letting them do it. I think that was where he really flourished, and he had the knowledge to be able to explain it and have them understand and get the product he wanted and a lot of it was because he was talking to those companies and really getting feedback so he could understand it himself.” White was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2015
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and passed away the following year. Aside from the grief of losing his friend, Bell also had to figure out a way to keep the boat shop going. Jeff Schlosser had spent a single summer on Mondamin’s maintenance team in 2004, a brief stopover amid his decades-long career as a NASCAR body fabricator, working on cars driven by Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Gordon. Between 2006 and 2016, Schlosser’s cars won seven NASCAR championships. He was at the pinnacle of the sport, but the hours were long and laborious, and the commute from his homestead near Mondamin to the garage in Charlotte was too much. In 2016 he decided to return to Mondamin for good. He rejoined the maintenance team for the winter months and agreed to become the new leader of the boat shop during the summers. Like White, Schlosser had no prior experience building canoes. Schlosser apprenticed under White during his final summer “on his good weeks between chemotherapy,” creating a sourdough starter effect. “The building process is set in stone basically, but what I learned from Perry was reading wood, and that is the ultra-important thing because we are bending wood, and if you try to go against the grain, you aren’t going to succeed,” says Schlosser. Schlosser estimates that Mondamin campers are responsible for roughly 75 percent of the building process for each boat. Those who help in the construction sign their names to the wood before the boat is canvassed. The camp does not use the boats on any of its river trips, only for stroke lessons on the lake, but the homemade canoes remain the favorites of campers.
“Knowing that your name is on it, and it’s going to be around for a very long time, because these boats are built to last, it’s just a wonderful feeling,” says Bell. “To know that they will be around camp or the camp community is very powerful.” Along with the model Galeon, Schlosser’s shop is filled with an assortment of wood scraps, in-progress boats, and tools. His work station is adorned with NASCAR decals, and above the sliding door is a picture of a World War I Sopwith Camel airplane. The plywood Camel’s wings were canvassed similarly to the boats built in this shop, he explains. On a chalkboard at the edge of the room is a diagram of a canoe, each part labeled with its variation of wood identified in parenthesis: the gunwales are ash or fir, the ribs and planks are cedar, the deck plates and thwarts are oak. Within the first few pages of John McPhee’s “The Survival of the Bark Canoe,” the author quotes the story’s subject, Henri Vaillancourt, on the joy he experienced while paddling the first boat he ever built himself. He is lyrical in describing that day and the feel of the canoe’s momentum and response. “The first canoe I ever got into was one of my own. I can launch the best ones now and they don’t thrill me one-tenth as much. It was the glide, the feel of it, just the sound as it rustled over the lily pads.” Later Schlosser is asked what his favorite part of the process is. “I get satisfaction when they launch,” he says with a grin.
S T O R I E D I N S O U T H E R N B O AT I N G , M O N D A M I N H A S H O S T E D S E V E R A L C A M P E R S T H AT H AV E G O N E O N T O B E C O M E O L Y M P I C P A D D L E R S . PHOTO COURTESY OF CAMP MONDAMIN
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PHOTO COURTESY O F T H E N AT I O N A L PA R K S C O N S E R VAT I O N A S S O C I AT I O N
HAZED AND CONFUSED H IK I N G I N S M O G GY PA R K S CA N BE H A ZA R D O U S TO YO U R H E A LT H BY WILL HARLAN
ON A DARK, MOONLESS NIGHT DEEP IN THE SMOKIES, I
collided with a bear. It had started out as a beautiful solo trek along the Appalachian Trail. But on that hot summer day, pollution levels in the park spiked, and a blanket of soot and sulfur dioxide smothered the Smokies. I hadn’t ever paid attention to air quality forecasts. And this wasn’t downtown L.A. or Atlanta. This was one of the wildest and most remote sections of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. How bad could the air really be? I found out a few miles south of Clingmans Dome, when I started to wheeze. My chest felt tight and my lungs burned. I was having a pollution-induced asthma attack in the middle of the largest swath of wildlands in Southern Appalachia. I stumbled for a few more miles, stopping every few yards to kneel and catch my breath. The sun sank behind the mountains. I kept staggering forward, but I soon realized that I wasn’t going to make it back to the trailhead before dark. I didn’t have a phone or a flashlight. The first stars glimmered in the pale twilight. In my oxygen-starved mind fog, I didn’t know what to do except keep moving forward, tripping over rocks and roots in the dark. My breathing was getting worse, and my throat felt scorched. I could no longer see the trail in front of me. I stumbled and fell into a patch of blueberry bushes—and something else. I could smell the musk of its wet fur. The bushes erupted. A bear bolted from beneath me and growled. I could only see the whites of its eyes and its furry silhouette. I slowly, slowly, slowly crept back from the bushes. After a few moments, the bear huffed and lumbered away. I curled up and shivered beside the trail until morning. Pollution levels dropped overnight, and by the first blush of dawn, I was able to breathe again. A few hours later, I made it back to the trailhead. There were a lot of lessons learned from my misadventure (always carry a flashlight; avoid faceplanting into blueberry bushes), but one of the most important was this: air pollution doesn’t respect park boundaries. Sadly, national parks and forests in Southern Appalachia suffer from some of the worst air pollution in the country. After my pollution-induced asthma attack, doctors equipped me with a spirometer to measure my respiration: on bad air pollution days, my breathing worsened. I have since suffered similar pollution-induced
asthma attacks in other parks and public lands across the Southeast. Even in pristine wildlands, there was no escape from the air pollution that is suffocating the entire region. Most of it comes from coal-burning power plants across the region that blanket the Blue Ridge in a toxic stew of soot and smog. Air pollution is the most deadly and least recognized threat to your health. Globally, it kills seven million people a year—more than twice the number of total deaths from COVID to date. It sickens millions more, especially in marginalized communities. Air pollution is linked to heart attacks, heart failure, cancer, and respiratory disease. Amid a respiratory pandemic, air pollution has become even more deadly. According to a recent Harvard University study, air pollution has increased COVID deaths by 8%, and mortality rates are even higher in communities of color where air pollution is worse. Air pollution has similar effects as smoking. Even healthy, outdoorsy people running and biking in the forest can be harming their health by exercising on smoggy summer days. And as I discovered the hard way, parks, forests, and public lands often have the worst air pollution. All of the parks in the Southeastern U.S. have air that is unhealthy to breathe at times, especially during the summer when pollution is most intense and dangerous. Fortunately, the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule requires states to develop a plan to reduce humancaused air pollution that affects America’s most iconic 48 national parks and 108 wilderness areas, which are known as Class I areas. In North Carolina, there are five Class I areas, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, and Shining Rock Wilderness Area. Virginia’s Class I areas are Shenandoah National Park and James River Face Wilderness Area. States across the region are revising and finalizing their Regional Haze Rule plans now, which must be submitted to the EPA by July 31, 2021. Unfortunately, many Southeastern states—including Virginia and North Carolina—are crafting plans that miss critical opportunities to reduce emissions and leave too many industrial pollution sources unchecked. In North Carolina, they are excluding from their plans the largest and dirtiest sources of air pollution: coalburning power plants. They are also excluding soot and nitrogen oxides, two of the deadliest air pollutants, from their consideration. As a result, North Carolina’s state implementation plan is poised to be a do-nothing
plan for public health across the state, as well as for the outdoor industry that relies on clean air in these special places for outdoor recreation. Virginia’s proposed plan is similarly problematic. These weak air quality plans will continue to place the burden of dirty air on Black and low-income communities who have already been hit hardest by air pollution. These communities suffer from higher rates of asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases. Virginia and North Carolina have both ignored many haze pollution sources that are in communities where over 20 percent live below the poverty line and the population is over 50 percent people of color. These weak plans currently hold no hope of ensuring that your next visit to a national park or forest won’t be hazardous to your health. And these plans do nothing to help clear the views from Linville Gorge, Old Rag, and every other Southern Appalachian vista. Our local economies rely on tourists visiting these treasured Class I areas—clean air gains in the past in our region have bolstered our local outdoor industries—and studies show that park visitation drops by 8% when air quality is poor. Fortunately, the public can demand better air quality plans from each state. This month, North Carolina’s Division of Air Quality will accept public comments on its proposed plan. With enough public input, these plans can be strengthened. Other states are also revising their Regional Haze Rule plans and accepting public comments soon. The next few weeks will determine the next decade of air quality in Southern Appalachia’s wild places and beyond. You don’t have to be an expert to comment. If you are an air breather, you can fight for your lungs—and everyone else’s. Ensure your state’s haze plan includes the largest and dirtiest sources of air pollution (coal plants) and the deadliest pollutants (soot and nitrous oxide) and requires these and other polluting industrial sources to clean up or shut down. I stumbled away from my pollution-induced asthma attack in the Smokies—and my run-in with Smoggy the Bear—with only a few scrapes and a cold night alone in the woods. But a silent killer continues to stalk me every day, with every breath. It stalks you, too. Visit the National Parks Conservation Association website (npca.org/regionalhaze) to comment directly on your state’s Regional Haze Rule plans. JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
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THE PATH FORWARD Record-Breaking Adventurer Jennifer Pharr Davis and Her Husband, Brew, Talk New Books, a Presidential Appointment, and the Business of Hiking B Y A N N A K AT H E R I N E C L E M M O N S
IN APRIL OF 2020, LIKE MUCH OF THE
world, Jennifer Pharr Davis and Brew Davis were, as they said, “in the muck.” The outdoor adventurers, who own Blue Ridge Hiking Company in Asheville, N.C., as well as Jennifer Pharr Davis LLC—an organization focused on getting others outdoors through speaking and writing—both struggled with depression throughout the early months of the pandemic. But like many of the clients they guide through the wilderness, and many of the audiences that Jen, who was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2011 after setting the FKT on the Appalachian Trail, talks with nationwide as a speaker and writer, they found solace in nature. And each other. Fast forward a year later and they’d just returned from a month-long western road trip with their children, Charley, age 8 and Gus, age 4. Jen and Brew, who’s also a singer-songwriter, were fully vaccinated, and as of mid-April, their kids had returned to in-person school. “That has made the biggest quality of life difference,” Jen says. “It’s crazy that we got used to [life at home together all the time].” With a new book out as part of a kids’ outdoor series, new speaker talks scheduled, numerous guided hikes planned for spring and summer, and a new position for Jen on the President’s Council for Sport, Fitness & Nutrition, we caught up with the couple about how the last year had changed their family, their business, and their careers—and what they learned from those experiences. BRO: It sounds like you are back to a busy working schedule. How does that feel? JEN: Both of our businesses started under the same umbrella in 2008. With Blue Ridge Hiking Company,
we have a wonderful manager who oversees the day to day; Jennifer Pharr Davis is a separate LLC, where Brew was my manager/agent. Before the pandemic, we were so busy, and it was great, almost too great. Both businesses were doing really well. We were really fortunate that we have the hiking company, because it was viable and open last year, whereas our main livelihood of speaking and writing had totally dried up. Just to have work was really important to us. I struggled with mild to moderate depression throughout [the pandemic]; relationally, our family stayed intact really well, but it was a challenge. I’m glad to be coming out of it. BREW: Back in the spring, I was depressed, more than any other time during COVID. I would go on trail runs and the trails around here were all open. I’d pass people, and I would briefly forget to social distance, and there’s no other place where that happens. I’d think, 'the only place I feel normal is on a trail run.' Nature was self-
regulating. That was really powerful. BRO: When did your businesses really start to be impacted by COVID? JEN: In 2019, Blue Ridge Hiking Company had expanded into the retail shop and we had opened a bunkhouse on the Appalachian Trail, so we were where we wanted to be, financially. Our guiding season picks up mid/end of March, right when COVID started. The little reserves we had in our bank account all got drained: people were cancelling hikes right and left, we couldn’t operate for two-and-a-half months, the store was closed. Like a lot of small business owners, we hustled to apply for grants and government funding and PPP. We had a book club planned for the year, and authors had already agreed to give talks. A lot was supposed to be in person, but with COVID, we turned it to an online book club. We sold over 400 books online— for an outdoors store, that was unique. We really started focusing on people
F R O M L E F T: J E N N I F E R P H A R R D AV I S W I T H H E R C H I L D R E N , C H A R L E Y, 8 , A N D G U S , 4 , A N D H U S B A N D , B R E W. P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F T H E F A M I L Y
who wanted that outdoor fix who were very good to support our business in that way. That gave us a faint pulse and got us through spring. Even though the speaking and the writing sort of dried up, and we had limited capacity since our children were with us 24-7, the messaging was more important, publicly and personally. I really felt vindicated in the fact that for the past 13 years, we’ve been saying, ‘go outside, it helps your mental health, it helps physically, it’s free, accessible, connect out there.’ And then last year, that’s all we had. That connection to the outdoors and being able to be in an environment that was biologically living was huge. And then, it went bananas. We did as much work in two seasons last year that we typically do in three seasons. I think this spring will be our best season as a guiding company that we’ve had in 13 years.
JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
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Boasting an indoor climbing gym, fitness and yoga studios, and an outdoor bike park, we have something for everyone! Whether you want to train, play, or just hang out, come take in one of the best sunsets in Western North Carolina at our state of the art recreation facility. Our libation station offers hot and cold drinks, snacks, and draft beer to enjoy post session or while spectating.
JUST MINUTES AWAY FROM THE ASHEVILLE AIRPORT
BRO: You were recently appointed to the President's Council for Sports, Fitness & Nutrition. What does that role entail? JEN: Last fall, I got an email from the White House asking if I was interested in a job with the national parks system. I sent this to Brew, and I’m like, ‘this is spam, right?’ He said, ‘all they’re asking for is a phone call, so I think you should say yes.’ They gave me a call and said they wanted to interview me for a position within the Department of Interior concerning the national parks. We had a phone interview, which led to an in-person interview. We went up [to D.C.] and had a really positive interview. But it was all predicated on the election results; when the election didn’t go how that administration had hoped, I didn’t think I’d hear back. After a month, they reached out and said, 'we were impressed with your accomplishments and passion for connecting people to outdoors, we’d love to put you on the President’s Council for Sport, Fitness and Nutrition.' I said, 'sure, I’d love to do that.' Since we are still going through the pandemic, the normal events the Council might have aren’t happening in person. Everything is in limbo. Generally, [the Council] looks heavily at youth engagement and youth sports. It’s a very traditional sports council; they don’t typically have a lot of outdoor recreation voices on it, so to bring that possibility as a viable sport or activity for youth participation, I’d love to be that voice. And to normalize it with our traditional sports culture.
JEN: At this point, I set the trail record 10 years ago. I hike, I guide—most of my hiking right now is not about me. When I hike with my kids, we don’t force them to do miles they don’t want to do. We might spend an hour-plus going less than a mile. Charley engages really well through artistry and creative play and imagination—it’s less hiking, more wandering and engaging with our environment, and it’s great. My goal was never to be a recordbreaking hiker or someone who comes out every other year and tries for an FKT. It’s a piece of the pie I got to experience, and I don’t really want to do it again. My goal is to have a lifelong relationship with the trail, and to migrate toward a very holistic, seasonal approach to the outdoors. I backpacked pregnant, I hiked while nursing, I guided with an infant strapped to me. There’s been so many iterations of my experience on the Trail.
NTAIN U O
Bike Park & Scenic Chairlift Rides
JEN: I was approached by the publisher and I didn’t feel like I had the capacity for the whole book, yet I loved the vision so much. I asked if I could take on a coauthor and I reached out to one of my best friends, Hailey Blevins, who’s backpacked over 10,000 miles and was a 14-year educator. I knew she’d have a good sense of voice and tone for that age group. We spent about a year in the writing and editing process. I wish the book had come out before COVID, but I still think it’s extremely timely now. We’re really excited to see how well it’s turned out.
BRO: So you have a new book out, you’re on the Council, and your businesses are picking back up. Any more specific personal hiking goals?
BRO: In April, the eight-book Outdoor School series was released, an interactive, skill-building guide for kids to explore and learn about the outdoors. You co-authored Hiking and Camping, a book in the series. How did that opportunity come about?
SU G A R
July 2 - September 6 & October 15 - 17
Summit Crawl & Fireworks on Top of Sugar Mountain July 4
Gravity Mountain Bike Camp July 9 - 11
Avery County Fine Art & Master Crafts Festival July 16 - 18
August 13 - 15
Downhill Southeast Series Finals July 31 & August 1
October 9 & 10
BRO: What has the last year taught you about yourselves? JEN: We always would’ve said we value our work, but we realized how important it was to us. And how important our relationship is. We’d look at each other from time to time, saying, ‘everything is so hard—thank goodness you’re so easy'—most of the time. We have hiked trails together and traveled the country in a Prius and had those intense bonding experiences that require a ton of communication, co-parenting, and pivoting our businesses. BREW: I feel like I learned where my boundaries are. Before COVID, I was trying to do too much. I love music, but it’s such a tough industry and trying to do it while focusing on Jen, too – it made me appreciate the arts side of it and not the commercial, and there’s a lot of beauty and truth in that. I’ve written more in the last year than I did before. There are different axes as far as what success means. Does success mean you’re commercially successful, or you’re making music you’re really proud of? Some people have really thrived this last year, some have really struggled, so figuring out what I can and cannot do. Realizing the boundaries was really a blessing.
Snowshoe Mountain Resort - Snowshoe, WV JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
Located in the heart of the Monongahela National Forest, Grant County is home to endless outdoor recreation. This summer, trek the Dolly Sods Wilderness or relish in West Virginia’s best fishing spots. While you explore Grant County’s untamed natural wonders, you’ll find your own slice of Almost Heaven.
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SUMMER PADDLING MUSTHAVES Here’s the lowdown on the best boats, accessories, and apparel to get you out on the water. B Y D O U G S C H N I T Z S PA H N
Designed to be stable and reliable, the 11-foot, 30-inch inflatable Fame can handle anything from casting for largemouth bass to hauling gear for an overnight adventure. Nice and wide at 36 inches across at the middle and built with a square tail and progressive rocker, the board can navigate rapids, and a retractable fin helps you ease it into the shallows. Bonus: All that deck space and stability makes it the ideal choice for adaptive paddlers. The kit includes a paddle, pack, hand pump, and a rolling carry case. $1,349; halagear.com
Tandem 15' Inflatable Paddle Board / Kayak Package
Why SUP alone when you can enjoy the water alongside your bestie. This tandem package will get the two of you out exploring the waters on an inflatable 15-foot board that includes removable kayak seats. In either configuration it tracks well and remains stable, even if the two of you get out of sync. The full package includes the kayak seats, two
WATER WORLD paddles (that convert from SUP to kayak), pump, leash, and a handy cell-phone dry bag. $1,499; bodyglove.com
Not only are pedal-powered standups a blast, they also give you a gym-worthy workout out in the fresh air instead of the stank of the indoors. The problem is that they are not easy to transport—until now. Hobie’s new inflatable packs down and blows up (via an included high-volume electric pump) for simple set-ups, and the MirageDive Pedal Propulsion System will motor you all over your favorite body of water in a hurry. And put any hesitation about getting on one of these aside—it feels like a humanpowered jet ski on the water. $2,299; hobie.com
Alpacka Raft Ranger
Alpacka designed this raft to hit the sweet spot between lightweight and carrying capacity, making it the perfect vessel for big, gear-heavy adventures. Tipping the scales at just over 10 pounds in the 210d option (the more durable 420d version weighs just over 12 pounds and costs $50 more) and compressing down to 18 inches by 10 inches, it’s easy to haul in a backpack. Inflated, it has the ability to haul up to 750 pounds of paddler and gear
BODY GLOVE TANDEM 15' INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARD / KAYAK PACKAGE
ALPACKA RAFT RANGER
HALA FAME KIT OLD TOWN SPORTSMAN 106 PADDLE KAYAK
and has the space to bring your pup along. $1,500; alpackaraft.com
Sportsman 106 Paddle Kayak
Ready to fish from a kayak? This versatile boat will slip you into spots other anglers can’t reach, whether you are out for freshwater bass, red fish, or stripers. Stable—you can easily stand on the deck to make casts—and maneuverable, the 10-foot, six-inch boat includes adjustable foot pegs and a comfy chair that’s a godsend when you are spending long days hitting the water. Plenty of hull storage space means you can even load it up for a short overnighter. And built-in cupholders make it easy to enjoy a beverage on the go. $900; oldtowncanoe.com HOBIE IECLIPSE
JUNE 2021 | BLUERIDGEOUTDOORS.COM
ASTRAL DESIGNS V-EIGHT FISHER
This packable tandem kayak is just the ticket for those who have limited space to store and transport a boat. Don’t worry, just because it assembles like origami doesn't mean it won't perform like bulkier boats when you get it out there. Plus a QR code printed on the boat gives you instant access to the user manual and set-up videos. Beefier footrests increase comfort and fresh screen prints reflect a more refined aesthetic. $1,999; orukayak.com
SIX MOON DESIGNS FLEX PACK PR KOKATAT ŌM
Six Moon Designs Flex Pack PR
The beauty of this pack built specifically for hauling a packraft into burly terrain is that once you are on the water it holds a 50L dry bag (included) to your boat with built-in straps. It’s a godsend on river trips with big portages (it’s built to hold a portage barrel) as well. The smart little details— including a stash pocket that fits your paddle and removable water bottle pockets—proved to us that it’s been tested in the field. $280 (100d robic nylon), $350 (X-pac VX21 fabric); sixmoondesigns.com
Iconic paddling brand Kokatat celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and this dry top pays homage to its founder Steve O'Meara, who pioneered the dry suit for expedition paddlers in Alaska in the 1970s. $539; kokatat.com
Astral Designs V-Eight Fisher
Created with kayak and SUP anglers in mind, this sleek, safe vest places a premium on ventilation with plenty of mesh and contoured foam. Bottom line: It makes wearing a PFD effortless. $130; astraldesigns.com
STIO WOMEN’S CFS SUN HOODIE
OUTDOOR RESEARCH UPSURGE FINGERLESS PADDLE GLOVES
DRIFTLINE DRIFTIES WETSUITLINED BOARDSHORTS
serious river runners safe since 1997. Weighing just 14.1 ounces, it’s low-volume and slick style, with a brim that keeps out glare, make it a guide favorite. Make it yours too. $200; sweetprotection.com
Drifties Wetsuit-Lined Boardshorts
One problem with boardshorts is that you really need to wear something underneath, too. Not so here. This 4-way stretch, quick-drying short comes with a 0.5 mm neoprene liner built in. That combination keeps you looking cool and cuts down on chafing
for comfort. $89; driftline.co
Women’s CFS Sun Hoodie
Yes, you love to worship the sun but, damn, too much exposure out on the water can spoil your day and cause lasting harm. This quick-drying hoodie serves up UPF 50+ protection but stays light and airy—the perfect summer combination. Plus, the front pocket includes a secure pocket to keep your valuables safe. $139: stio.com
Straight outta Charleston, S.C., these shades prove the
LILO COLLECTIONS PADDLINGTHEMED NECKLACES
East Coast can deliver just as much cool as the West. The polarized lenses cut the glare on the water, whether you are casting for fish or just trying to look the part. $50; nectarsunglasses.com
Outdoor Research Upsurge Fingerless Paddle Gloves
There’s a lot of protective gear to think about when you are headed out paddling. Don’t forget to take care of your hands. With just the right amount of padding in the spots that take the most abuse, these gloves help
keep you out longer. $37; outdoorresearch.com
Add a bit of flair to your SUP outfit with these classy charms that are handmade in Midlothian, Va. They’re the creation of Spanish-born artist Lilo Navales, who has created a line of active jewelry that stays out of the way when you are in action but adds a bit of style when you’re off the boat. $33; lilocollections.com
Sweet Protection Strutter
A version of this lid has been keeping playboarers and 62
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THE OUT AND BACK
ACHES AND GAINS
T H E R U G G E D B L A C K M O U N TA I N CREST TRAIL MOSTLY RUNS ON RIDGELINE SINGLETRACK AND GAINS S I G N I F I C A N T E L E VAT I O N O N T H E WAY T O M O U N T M I T C H E L L . P H O T O COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR
B Y G R A H A M AV E R I L L
IN HINDSIGHT, THE CAN OF SMOKED
oysters was probably a bad idea. I didn’t plan on eating all of them. I just wanted a few—a savory snack to bring me comfort during the low point of the day. Every big adventure has a moment when you regret all the decisions you’ve made in your life and you wish you were back home, sitting on a couch, eating a snack with your feet up. I’ve found that having a few delicious canned oysters brings me a level of comfort that standard trail mix just can’t deliver. I figured we’d all need the comfort during our “run” of the brutal Black Mountain Crest Trail (BMCT), a gem of a footpath that follows the ridgeline of the tallest mountains east of the Mississippi. I thought the oysters would be the key to a successful day, but my cohorts declined when I offered to share, so it was up to me to eat the whole tin. A few miles later, I can feel every little bivalve sitting heavy in my stomach as I try to “run” along the edge of 6,596-foot Balsam Cone. Turns out canned oysters aren’t the key to success on a “run” like this. Apparently, being in better shape is the key to success. Notice I’m putting “running” in quotation marks. There isn’t much running involved in our adventure. The BMCT is 12 miles of mostly ridgeline singletrack that climbs an insane amount of elevation on its way to the edge of Mount Mitchell. Most of the trail sits at 6,000 feet above sea level, and the tread is rocky and steep with some sections that require fixed ropes for climbing and descending. Most people tackle it as a tough two-day point to point, setting up a shuttle and taking their time. I hate shuttles and I don’t have time for an overnight adventure, so we decide to try it as a 24-mile singleday out and back. The BMCT is difficult with a shuttle, but this way it’s borderline suicidal. But that’s kind of what we’re going for here. The idea was to get out of our comfort zone and spend a single day doing something really hard, like “leave an emotional scar” hard. The BMCT fits the bill. The thing starts with a 3,000foot climb in the first four miles. And that’s just an appetizer. From there, the real work begins as you’re ascending
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and descending several 6,000-foot peaks, climbing hand over hand up stretches of boulders. Put it all together and you’ll cover 24 miles with 8,000 feet of gain at the highest elevations in the eastern US. As an adventure, it has a nice ring to it, in a painful, “what the hell are you thinking?” sort of way. I spend most of my life avoiding hard work of any kind, but it’s important to push yourself every once in a while. It’s also possible that I feel like I have something to prove. Coronavirus kept me out of the gym for a year and a series of nagging injuries slowed my running down at the same time. I’m feeling soft and particularly mortal. You could argue that tackling the Black Mountain Crest as an out and back is a desperate attempt to prove to myself that I can still do big adventures on a whim. I convinced two friends to come with me because quixotic adventures and tins of oysters are made for sharing. We’re jovial on the initial climb from the bottom of Bowlens Creek and one of my running partners tells us how his father-in-law climbed Kilimanjaro recently in his late 60s. It was on the man’s bucket list for most of his adult life and he finally decided to go for it when he retired. He reached the summit, which is great, but then he had to be carried down by his Sherpas because he was so exhausted, which is less great. I spend the next few miles trying
to figure out how you’d carry a man down a mountain. Like, over the shoulder, fireman’s carry? Or that weird Finnish Wife Carry where the person is inverted and backwards? Turns out it took two Sherpas—one grabbing his feet, the other taking his shoulders. We all look at each other and try to figure out which one of us will need to be carried off the ridge, Kilimanjaro style, at the end of this adventure. It’s funny until my knees start to ache and I think a piggy back ride might not be so bad. The pain in my knees makes me think I’ve gotten in over my head, and every time I get in over my head, I think about the Boy Scouts. Let me explain. When I was 22, I decided to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up to the top in a single day. It’s a tough effort but so tantalizing that a lot of people try it, fail, and need a rescue. So, there’s a troop of pudgy Boy Scouts who volunteer to stand at the top of the trail along the rim and discourage hikers from even setting foot on the trail. They look you over and tell you that you don’t have what it takes. You’re not fit enough. You don’t have enough water and food. You should’ve trained more. Wouldn’t you be happier just admiring the view from the comfort of your air-conditioned car on one of the many road-side pull offs? The Boy Scouts were right; climbing out of that canyon almost killed me.
I should hire that troop of Boy Scouts to follow me around all the time, shaking me down and second guessing every poor decision I make. They would’ve save me a lot of trouble and medical bills. I definitely could’ve used their skepticism at the trailhead for the BMCT. It gets to the point where I’m crab-walking down some of the steep, boulder-laden downhills trying to take some pressure off my knees. We never make it to Mitchell. It’s not my knees that stop us, but the lack of daylight. We get damn close, turning back about a mile shy of the parking lot. I’m a little disappointed, but this adventure was never about summitting. It was about spending the day in the mountains doing hard things. Turning around short of the summit still gives us a 22-mile out and back with 8,000 feet of climbing along the top of our corner of the world. It’s not the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s hard, especially the last four miles, which is straight back down to Bowlens Creek. We take a comically slow pace, inventing switchbacks where there are none because we’re so fatigued. My knees feel like they’re going to shatter, but nobody has to carry me by the ankles and shoulders down the mountain, so I’m going to chalk that up as a victory. As far as I’m concerned, that means I’ve still got it. And Boy Scouts be damned, I regret nothing. Not even the oysters.
AMYTHYST KIAH’S NEW ALBUM, “ WA R Y + S T R A N G E , ” W I L L B E RELEASED ON JUNE 18. PHOTO BY SANDLIN GAITHER
NEW TUNES IN JUNE
MUST-HEAR TRACKS FOR THE START OF SUMMER Tune in to BRO's Trail Mix playlist of new music, mainly focusing on independent artists from the South. In June we’re highlighting new tunes from Yola and the Felice Brothers, plus the long-awaited return of the collaboration between Kentucky tunesmith Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Matt Sweeney. B Y J E D D F E R R I S A N D D AV E S T A L L A R D
Felice Brothers “Inferno”
The Catskill Mountain-based folk-rock ramblers are back with a slow-burning mediation that ponders why some youthful memories persist. In his craggy, haunting voice Ian Felice namechecks 90s touchstones (Kurt Cobain, Fight Club) as he looks for meaning in what remains vivid. The new single—out via North Carolina’s Yep Roc Records—will land on a forthcoming album that follows the 2019 LP “Undress.”
Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Matt Sweeney “Resist the Urge”
Back in 2005 Kentucky singersongwriter Will Oldham, AKA Bonnie "Prince" Billy, released a collaborative album with inventive guitarist Matt Sweeney called “Superwolf,” which has remained a lasting cult favorite. Now 16 years later the duo has reunited with the follow-up, “Superwolves,” an expansive folk-rock set that finds Sweeney’s swirling guitar runs chasing Oldham’s flexibly
BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS
idiosyncratic vocals. “Resist the Urge” has a delicate progression, but lyrically it hits like an emotional wrecking ball, with Oldham singing about the lingering spirit a person leaves behind after meeting an inevitable mortal fate. —J.F.
Yola “Diamond Studded Shoes”
Following her dynamic breakout LP “Walk Through Fire,” Nashville-based British soul singer Yola is returning with another Dan Auerbach-produced album, “Stand for Myself,” next month. Lead single “Diamond Studded Shoes” is a boogie-ready romp with retro panache, but within the celebratory groove is a cautionary message about the ongoing fight for wealth equality between the haves and the have-nots. —J.F.
The Infamous Stringdusters “My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling”
The Infamous Stringdusters’ latest release, a collection of songs by Bill Monroe, is a return to the bluegrass wellspring. Known for their progressive
leanings, the ‘Dusters dig deep into their roots with “My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling.” It’s impossible to tell that the tune was recorded from studio spaces around the country as the band weathered the pandemic; the harmonies are high and lonesome and the licks and leads are simply ferocious. No doubt, Mr. Monroe approves. —D.S.
Goose “So Ready”
Studio cuts from jambands whet the appetite for what’s to come once the bands take the stage. Witness “So Ready,” a groovalicious track from Goose that pairs Christopher Cross vocals with the disco funk of War and Ohio Players. The opportunities for sonic exploration appear endless, with stratospheric guitar runs begging to run wild over fat 70s-era bass bombs. The song’s only shortcoming is just that; at not quite five minutes long, this studio version feels about 15 minutes too short. —D.S.
David Wax Museum “Juniper Jones”
David Wax Museum, the acoustic outfit known for blending Americana with traditional Mexican folk music, embraced studio experimentation on the new album “Euphoric Ouroboric.” The vibrant standout track “Juniper Jones” builds with layers of accordion, horns, flute, electric guitar, drum tracks, and processed keys, climbing together
with a narrative that follows an ambitious protagonist. —J.F.
JP Harris “Closer to the Mill (Going to California)”
“Closer to the Mill (Going to California)” has vagabond country troubadour JP Harris and long-time fiddlin’ collaborator Chance McCoy, an Old Crow Medicine Show alum, returning to the old-time balladry that still resonates deeply in the hollers of Appalachia. Harris sings of life’s ebb and flow, that to get you have to give, all while deftly trading clawhammer banjo rolls with McCoy’s fiddle runs in a song that exposes the truest of roots music traditions native to the Appalachian Mountains. —D.S.
Amythyst Kiah “Wild Turkey”
Amythyst Kiah’s songs cut to the quick. On “Wild Turkey,” she carves right to the bone, delivering an intimate and bruising soliloquy about the tragic loss of her mother. Building from sparse acoustic strumming to an emotional crescendo, Kiah strips bare the crippling grief and crushing uncertainty that comes from losing a parent at a young age. Already Grammy nominated for her work with Our Native Daughters, Kiah’s new record cements her place as a rising star in the folk music world. —D.S. To hear these songs and more, follow the Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Trail Mix playlist on Spotify.
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The Sunset Motel
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The Sunset Motel is a “retrovated” mid-century gem: clean, comfy rooms, friendly hometown staff & yes, we offer free Wi-Fi, cable, fridge, microwave & coffee maker all within walking distance of downtown.
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Blue Ridge Quarter page.indd 7
3/8/21 12:31 PM
People die every year at waterfalls. Don’t become one of them. Please follow the safety tips below and share this important waterfall safety knowledge with others.
all posted signs leading to waterfall area.
on marked trails and observation areas.
swim or wade upstream near a waterfall.
for slick rocks around waterfalls.
jump off waterfalls or dive into pools.
your children and pets at all times.
Visit waterfallsafety.com for more information.
climb on rocks above waist height.
COURTESY OF TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY TOURISM
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WE ARE THE:
trailblazers PICTURED: THE SHENANDOAH
POLARIZED EYEWEAR DESIGNED IN CHARLESTON S.C.