Tag Archives: get outside

Celebrating Bike Month

Okay, Virginia, it’s time to dust off your bike and explore our region!

Written by Kristine McCormick

For decades learning to ride a bicycle was the quintessential experience for American kids. Just part of being a kid in cities, suburbs & rural America alike. Long summer days filled with the freedom to ride away from your house, and your parents, maybe siblings too. Do you remember your first bicycle? Mine was a sparkly purple number with a banana seat and handle bar streamers.

The majority of Americans stop riding a bicycle sometime in their childhood. For most, it is during the teenage years when the hallowed right of passage known as “Driving” occurs. Bicycles get left in the garage or basement to collect dust as teenagers gallivant around town in cars. As adults we favor cars because we perceive ourselves as simply too busy. We absolutely must get from one thing to the next and then the next with lightening speed.

The benefits of riding a bicycle are enormous; it produces quantifiable heath benefits, it is a good non-impact way to build cardiovascular health while still being easy on joints and has a wonderful calming, almost meditative effect on the brain. A person who rides a bicycle is also simply more engaged with the community as they ride around town. Traveling at a slower pace gives one time to notice what is going on in the neighborhood. Bicyclists have the opportunity to look at their surroundings as they pass instead of zipping by in a car with all attention focused on the road ahead.

My bicycle got left behind at my parent’s house when I moved to D.C. and it was 18 years before I was on two wheels again. I can’t recall how I first decided to start riding a bicycle after all that time, I’m just very happy I did. Cycling in general makes me happy. I look forward to it. Cycling has a way of making my whole day easier, I’ve lost weight and I find myself to be a more patient person. I owe these changes to riding a bicycle.

In celebration of Bike Month you are invited to dust off that bicycle hiding in your garage or basement and start exploring your neighborhood via our Greenways. It may feel a little awkward at first but the old adage is true, you never forget how to ride a bicycle. You can find info about Roanoke’s Bikeshare program at: https://ridesolutions.org/bikeshareand info about our wonderful network of Greenways here: http://greenways.org/?page_id=21

Kristine McCormick is a Marketing Consultant and busy mom to three girls who after living in eight different cities has adopted Roanoke as her “hometown” because she loves riding bikes in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. 

Local Hiking Trips

The Roanoke Valley and the surrounding area has so much to offer when it comes to spending time outdoors, there are plenty of ways to explore, but the most accessible are the hiking trails. There are so many different trails and scenery in this area, hiking through some is a great way to get to know the area and get daily exercise in a more enjoyable way.

A great place to go if you’re looking for a short scenic trip is Natural Bridge State Park. It’s great for people looking to get an easy start into hiking, families with children, or anyone looking for beautiful view. The hike itself has lot of stops, like the beautiful natural arch that is the Natural Bridge, an old mine, and a waterfall at the very end. It also has a lot to offer educationally like a Monacan Indian Village Exhibit set up along the path, not to mention that the bridge itself was once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Molly Armistead, experienced hiker and member of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, gives some of her recommendations of local hikes bellow:

Some other beginner hikes include many with a waterfall as the focal point. Cascade Falls, the hike itself is 3.5 miles round trip. The best and most memorable thing about this hike is the beautiful 69-foot waterfall at the end, and in the summer it’s a great swimming spot. The next hike she recommends for beginners is Crabtree Falls. This hike has a beautiful set of waterfalls. Crabtree even is said to have the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi.

If you’re a beginner that’s less interested in waterfalls and wants a stunning overlook, Roanoke has trails for you too! Read Mountain Preserve is a moderate hike that leads to Buzzard Rocks- which gives you a view of the Roanoke Valley from a new perspective.

For a more advanced hike, get out and explore Apple Orchard Falls in Arcadia, VA! The trail can be amended in length depending on where you decides to start/finish. The end is home to a beautiful waterfall–one of the tallest in Virginia. Apple Orchard Farm offers some camping spots if you’re looking to make an adventure out of the hike. Roanoke also has the access to the Appalachian Trail, which is definitely a place for more experienced hikers.

Of course, no list about Roanoke’s hikes would be complete without mentioning McAfee Knob. It’s one the most photographed places on the Appalachian Trail. It has a beautiful rock ledge that is a great photo opportunity.

Armistead emphasizes that the most important thing about hiking is not leaving a trace. She explains, “Go into the woods and make memories, but when you leave make sure no one knows you were there.” She also adds that while hiking alone is something she does often, hiking is a great family activity and is great way to spend time together.

For more information about what hikes Roanoke has to offer check out Roanoke Outside or Roanoke Play.

 

Written by Lilith Turman

Tour Roanoke Outdoor Adventure!

Tour Roanoke was the first group to host food and beverage tours in the Roanoke Valley. Of course, our city is rich with history to explore, and that includes the surrounding mountains and rivers. One of the more spirited ways to learn about and fall in love with southwest Virginia is by taking to the water and the trails, so Tour Roanoke decided to try something new. This year, they offer Kayak the James and Craft Beer Trips with Twin River Outfitters. Each trip includes a six mile paddle on the river to one of three local breweries. This section of the James River includes Class I & II rapids.

“All of our tours–food, beer, wine–it’s all about showcasing local Roanoke. So it was not a difficult leap from that to local recreation. The James River is an appealing location because it’s 60 miles of uninhibited river there. It is one of the longest navigable rivers on the east coast,” says Larry Landolt, founder of Tour Roanoke.

The series of three Sunday trips began last month, but they will host another on July 23. They plan for this month’s adventure to include Great Valley Farm Brewery. Located in Natural Bridge, the brewery is not only a place to appreciate local craft beer, but also offers a remarkable view.

“It’s a really cool brewery. It’s on a nice hill overlooking the mountains. You can sit on the patio and drink a beer and look down to see Safari Park,” explains Larry.

Those participating in tours this summer will be picked up at Target (located near Valley View Mall) or the downtown Visitors Center, and transported to Buchanan, where their trip will begin at Twin River Outfitters. The oldest and most experienced outfitter operating on the Upper James River, they have safely conducted paddle trips since 1978. Sign up fees include equipment and instruction provided by Twin River Outfitters, and one pint or flight from the brewery on the trip.

Southwest Virginia is quickly becoming an outdoor recreation destination, and it’s not hard to understand why. With breweries popping up all over the area, the two leisure activities easily go hand in hand. For Larry and so many others, it is an unforgettable experience to escape and unwind. So, why not also take the opportunity to enjoy it with old friends and make a few new ones on the journey?

Or, as Larry says, “Let’s go do something really fun, drink beer, and talk about it.”

Can’t make it to one of the dates online? No worries! Tour Roanoke is also open to hosting private tours for up to 14 people. It’s the perfect adventure for wedding parties, birthdays, company functions, and more!

Visit www.roanokefoodtours.com for more information on how to schedule your trip, or one of their many tour options in Roanoke.

Get Outside in Virginia State Parks!

Virginia State Parks provide wonderful opportunities for those who enjoy being outdoors and are looking for ways to use their time outside to give back to the community. Although almost all of the volunteers are users of Virginia State Parks, there are groups that sign up with members who have never visited them before. Both levels of experience are welcome, as all volunteers go through orientation and are supervised.

“There are volunteer opportunities that work for different age groups,” says Andrea Hasenfus, Camp Host Program Manager. “Retirees may be able to do a Wednesday gardening at noon, while someone who works a full-time job may be available to do trail maintenance on the weekends.”

There are also opportunities for young people. The Youth Conservation Corps is a great program for teens 14-17 who want to learn about conservation and working in parks. They spend three weeks living and working in parks around the state, supervised by college-age adults. Although the deadline to participate in this program has passed, visitors to the park may still get to see the group in action this summer. This is a competitive program. In 2017, 800 applications were received to fill 170 spots. If your child is interested in being involved in the future, it may be a good idea to sign up to volunteer and get some experience before the 2018 application process starts on December 1.

Joining a Friends Group is another way to contribute. It takes a lot of work to keep up state parks, and Friends Groups play a huge part in building and maintaining trails, helping staff visitor centers, working on educational outreach programs, and raising funds for park projects and facilities. There are several parks with Friends Groups looking for members. Being part of one of these groups has the potential to create a lasting impact for generations to come, as they also help with advocacy for the invaluable resources offered through the parks.

“Sometimes the most help, if you can’t put your elbow grease in on the trail, is to be an advocate. Whether you are a member of a friends group, or used to doing advocacy in the community, advocates are always great to have on our behalf.” explains Andrea.

For those who want a more immersive and active experience, the AmeriCorps program engages its members in meaningful service in Virginia State Parks by providing extensive training and professional development opportunities. They go through grants, and work on natural resource management in the parks. Some of them last all summer, and those who complete them receive an education award at the end.

There will be a big opportunity for volunteers on June 3 for Clean the Bay Day/National Trails Day. In fact, every park in the Virginia State Parks system will have a need for help that day. Those who wish to volunteer will not have to sign up through the website to be a one-time volunteer for the event. Simply show up at your local park and offer to lend a hand.

Visit www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks for a full list of parks in your area. Click on individual parks to see what they need.