Tag Archives: outdoors

Top Three Hikes Within an Hour of Lynchburg

By Rachel Van Tuyl

As summer draws to a close and November ushers in cooler temperatures, Lynchburg residents and students may find themselves looking for some beautiful hikes in the area. With so many natural areas around the city, it isn’t difficult to find hikes to fit any level of difficulty.

Husband and wife team Adam and Christine Anderson, who run the website Virginia Trail Guide, have grown up hiking Virginia trails, and offer advice to hikers who may not be very familiar with the area.

Sharp Top Mountain

Thirty-four miles to the west of Liberty University’s campus lies Sharp Top Mountain, which is visible from Liberty’s campus. The 2.6 mile hike is a steep uphill all the way to the top, so this trail will definitely give hikers a workout. A series of steps forms most of the trail, for a total of a 1,227-foot elevation gain.

Despite the trail’s difficulties, it still seems to be a popular destination among hikers.

“The trail is a little rocky and there are some stiffer uphill sections, but it is well worth the effort,” reviewer Dave Phillips wrote.

Adam Anderson has been hiking Sharp Top since childhood, and he has noticed more people taking the hike over the years.

“I always recommend (starting) a hike up Sharp Top early in the morning, so you can take in the beautiful view with a bit of solitude,” Adam Anderson said.

Crabtree Falls

Located just 45 miles from Liberty, Crabtree Falls is the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It is a moderate hike with few challenges.

“Crabtree Falls is probably one of the easiest waterfall hikes in the Mid-Atlantic,” reviewer Melissa Moore wrote. “The waterfall is only a few hundred feet from the parking lot via a flat, paved path, (and) the viewpoint for the falls is right there next to the falls.”

However, Christine Anderson said that more experienced hikers who want a challenge can continue hiking beyond Crabtree Falls to either Spy Rock or The Priest.

“Both of those spots offer amazing views and are challenging add-ons to the Crabtree Falls Hike,” Christine Anderson said.

Although the falls are a beautiful location, they are not without their dangers.

“It also has the misfortune of being one of the deadliest spots in (George Washington National Forest),” Christine Anderson said. “The rocks are very slippery, but hikers keep leaving the trail and climbing out toward the waterfall.”

According to a sign at the falls, the rocks are slippery because of clear algae growing on them. But Christine Anderson said the hike is safe if hikers stay on the marked trails.

McAfee Knob

Perhaps one of the most well-known trails is the McAfee Knob hike, located about an hour from Liberty. The 8.8 mile hike, with its picturesque views, offers visitors unique photo opportunities. Thousands of hikers visit the area every year to have their picture taken atop the knob jutting out from the mountain.

For many, McAfee Knob holds special memories.

“I spent my birthday backpacking across McAfee Knob a couple years ago,” Christine Anderson said. “I got to sit on the ledge and dangle my feet over the view. It’s a gift to have a birthday in such a glorious spot.”

Since the Appalachian Trail crosses McAfee Knob, the area sees many visitors, and it is the most photographed area on the entire Appalachian Trail, according to Christine Anderson. She believes that the hardest part of the hike isn’t the trail itself, but rather trying to find a parking spot.

“With the rise of Instagram and other social media, casual hikers are choosing to visit this iconic spot in increasing numbers,” Christine Anderson said. “It can be hard to find parking, and the trail is often quite crowded.”

Hikers who want to try McAfee Knob can visit Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club’s website, which offers tips and other information on this hike.

“We’re lucky to be in a state that has so many wonderful hiking trails,” Christine Anderson said. “No matter what trail you choose, you’re going to see something great.”

Whether hikers choose to scale a mountain or visit waterfalls, it is important to plan ahead for hikes. This includes checking the weather, and having a trail map, first aid kit, water and snacks. Hikers can also look for a list of 10 essentials for all hikers.

“Looking at some of the sights you see on these three hikes will naturally cause you to pause and reflect on the beauty of nature,” Adam Anderson said. “With the crazy world that surrounds us on a daily basis, we could all use some of that to help ground us and think about our place in this world.”

Get Outside!

Map out your summer with adventures from Blue Ridge Land Conservancy! 

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

Ready to get outside and enjoy the warm weather? We are too! That’s why we are excited for the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy’s (BRLC) schedule of events for the summer. Check out what they have planned below, and visit their website, www.blueridgelandconservancy.org, for up to date info on events, registration fees, and more!

Take part in a guided hike up Sinking Creek Mountain to Chimney Rock on May 20 from 9am-3pm. This journey will take place on Bruce and Elaine Ingram’s conserved property. Pack a lunch, bring bug spray, and prepare for amazing views! This is for intermediate to advanced hikers. Registration is $6 for the general public and $3 for friends of the BRLC. 

On June 2, check out the Pollinator Potluck from 4-5pm at Mill Mountain! This is a great opportunity to meet new friends who care about the land around you, watch a beekeeping demonstration, and take a guided walk through the Wildflower Garden as representatives from the Mill Mountain Garden Club share their exciting new projects. Bring a dish to share, as a potluck will follow! Registration for this event is free.

On July 14, the BRLC will host a Locavore Walk and Talk in Botetourt County. Enjoy a “locavore” meal, walk, and talk with Bruce and Elaine Ingram, noted conservationists in the area. Learn how to make your land more appealing to wildlife, identify edible wild foods, learn about living off the land, and see how the Ingrams have “gone solar.” Each participant will receive Bruce’s new book and a locavore meal! Registration is $25 for the general public, and $20 for friends of the BRLC. 

On August 19, bring your friends and participate in a James River Float! At 9 am, participants will depart from Buchanan and float along the James River. Disembark at BRLC-conserved property, and bring a sandwich and water! There will be a picnic at the conclusion of the trip. This adventure will be for intermediate to advanced floaters and is scheduled to end at 3pm. Registration is $35 for the general public and $30 for friends of the BRLC.

Join a Cahas Mountain Hike on September 15 from 9am-3pm. Hike to the top of Cahas Mountain, the tallest mountain in Franklin County, and experience the conserved property. The hike will end on House Rock, where hikers will see breathtaking views of the Roanoke Valley! This trip is for intermediate to advanced hikers. Registration is $6 for the general public, and $3 for friends of the BRLC.

Finally, on October 5 from 6:30-8:30pm, learn how to build a bat box! The Roanoke Unitarian Universalist Church and the BRLC will host a documentary on bats and teach participants how to build their own bat box. This event is part of the Unitarian Universalist Church Earth Friendly Fridays. Beginners are welcome at this event. Registration is $25 for the general public, and $20 for friends of the BRLC.

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. 

Get Outside!

The Return of America’s Toughest Road Marathon!

Are you ready for the most exciting annual spring athletic event to come to Roanoke this year? We couldn’t be more excited for the return of the Blue Ridge Marathon! This year’s event will take place on April 21 at 7:35am. It features a full marathon, a half marathon, a 10k, and a Carilion Children’s Family one mile walk/run! Courses begin and end in Elmwood Park, and each one is uniquely geared to be fun for every participant. Whichever path you choose, you are guaranteed to have a great time.

The full marathon (26.2 miles!!!) course takes runners through scenic views of the Blue Ridge parkway, Mill Mountain, and South Roanoke. “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” is also, arguably, the most beautiful. Marathon runners will receive free chip timing, access to “runners-only” food tent at the finish line, free event/runner photos courtesy of Game Face Media, an event shirt (if you registered by March 20), one complimentary beer ticket, live music at the finish, a free pair of Feetures! running socks, access to Fleet Recovery Zone massages and chiropractic adjustments, and more! If you’re thinking that 26.2 miles is not challenging enough, you may want to join the double marathon runners. This dedicated group starts running as early as 1 a.m. on Saturday. (There are limited registration spots available for the full and double marathons, so register as soon as possible!)

Not ready for the full marathon yet? That’s perfectly okay. The half marathon is also challenging, and features all of the freebies mentioned above. The best part: you get to break off and head to the finish line while the full marathoners continue for another 13 miles! All marathon and half marathon finishers receive a commemorative finisher’s medal. The top three male and female finishers in each age group, and the top three runners overall, will receive awards.

There is also an option to conquer the full marathon as a four person team. The 4-Person Marathon Relay allows a team of four friends to complete the course, one section at a time. All members of the relay team will get their own unique Blue Ridge Marathon Relay finisher’s medal and a marathon shirt. The first three teams, regardless of their gender or age, will be awarded a trophy at the end of the full marathon award ceremony.

Finally, the 10k option is a great way to get involved in the excitement without the daunting commitment of the full or half marathons. The course will still take you up to the Mill Mountain Star, and there will be awesome photo opportunities to commemorate your achievement. Once you finish your route, you can enjoy local food from food trucks, a beer compliments of the Blue Ridge Marathon team, and free live music. It doesn’t get any better than that!

For more information on the Blue Ridge Marathon, its rules and features, please visit www.blueridgemarathon.com. We can’t wait to see you there!

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

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.

Bella’s Floyd Yoga Jam Adventure

We spent the majority of our Labor Day weekend at Floyd Yoga Jam. In the mornings, a calm fog settled over the mountain as we awoke to the sound of a flute playing in the distance. Slowly, we made our way out of our tents, in search of coffee and the perfect spot to spread out our yoga mats.

FullSizeRender-2A sign on the trail reminded us to “believe in magic.” But, what is magic exactly? In a world where all that stands between you and what you want is a search bar on a tiny screen, it is hard to remember what we identified as magical in younger, simpler times. We were, of course, torn from those tiny screens as we made the trek up the mountain. One by one, our phones began to read, “No Signal.” Our attention turned to the surroundings, the people, and then almost remarkably inward.

Somewhere between our Thursday night arrival and our departure late Sunday, we felt the release of tension in our backs, our shoulders, and our spirits. As beginners, we worried that we would not be welcomed with open arms by those more experienced with yoga its various forms. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The instructors and fellow Jam attendees not only welcomed us, they inspired us to keep learning once our time on the mountain was over.

IMG_8675We can’t wait to go back to Yoga Jam next year! In the meantime, we’ve checked out videos and books from the library and scheduled classes to keep learning. What was once intimidating is now a deeply intriguing subject that we can’t wait to explore further. Thank you to everyone at Floyd Yoga Jam who made these beginners feel at home!

Back to the Basics

At various points during the day, I check Facebook and my email like many of you— my feed flooded with products and programs promising happiness and fulfillment, for a price. The thing is— whether your happiness is temporarily increased by clothes, electronics, or fast food— the high is soon over. It is followed by the heavy burden of guilt over purchasing something you didn’t actually need or the feeling of pure exhaustion after a grease-covered meal.

If you want to take control over subtle influences in your daily routine (and live life just a little lighter) consider the following options:

  1. Live below your means.

    Coupon queens everywhere are about to really hate me, but understand that I do mean well. Stocking up on items you will definitely use with coupons is a fantastic idea— as long as you really do use them. Otherwise you end up with a large amount of food you have to throw out because it expired, and the money you thought you saved becomes money you could have put towards existing debt or a vacation.

    Do some research on minimalism and see what parts of it you can apply to your own life. Minimalism gives less power to the objects that surround us— but it doesn’t take away the meaning of the important things in our lives. Instead, it allows us to consciously choose what is important and why without being bogged down by meaningless objects that hurt our health, relationships, and hold us back from reaching our full potential. Visit www.theminimalists.com to see if you can benefit from any of their suggestions and tailor them to fit your needs!

    Donate items that you don’t use to people who really need them. The obvious choice is Goodwill, but you can also post free items on websites like www.freecycle.org. They have a specific section for Roanoke already, so it is as easy as going on their site, creating an account, and posting what you have to give away.

2. Take charge of your diet.

Organize your kitchen to encourage your family to spend more time cooking, cleaning, and eating healthy. Place items in drawers where they will be convenient to reach when you need them and get rid of extra dishes, cups, and utensils that no longer serve a purpose. When you have more space, your kitchen looks clean and welcoming after a long day of work or running errands. You may even look forward to getting there and spending time with your family rather than waiting in line at McDonalds to pick up dinner.

While we are talking about fast food, it is also important that you try to spend your food budget wisely. Make a list of things you need before you go grocery shopping and stick to that list. We have fallen into a habit in which we place very high value on convenience. Therefore, if it is on an end cap and on sale, we are far more likely to add $3 here and $5 there to our basket without thinking twice about it. Unfortunately, many of those products are not healthy and can include chemicals and preservatives that leave you hungry, tired, and even sick. Commit to the list— accounting for every meal during the week. You’ll save money AND feel better at the end of the day.

61VWkE9iEPL._SX419_BO1,204,203,200_Consider growing your own fruits and vegetables— it’s possible, even in the city! Look into making some of the staples in your pantry by yourself. With a little practice, you can make your own cheese for 1/3 of the store price and bake your own bread for about fifty cents per loaf. No matter how committed you are to the idea of sustainable living, Woman-Powered Farm by Audrey Levatino is a great book to add to your library. From teaching you the basics on raised garden beds and farm animals to operating farm machinery, it is perfect for the woman who wants to become more self-sufficient.

3. Reorganize your schedule

Completely banning electronics from your house is unreasonable, but cutting down on your TV time and opening a book is better for your brain. Get out of the house with your family, or on your own, and hike one of our area’s beautiful trails. See the world around you without a camera phone lens. Choose activities that will inspire you to be a healthier, happier version of yourself. Very often, happiness is just outside of your comfort zone.

Make time for energy-saving activities like hanging clothes on a line or chopping wood for a wood stove this winter. Not only will you stay active, but you will save money on your electric bills. If these ideas are too extreme for you, ease yourself into it. Bike to work or carpool if you can, keep those lights turned off, and set the temperature in your house to a comfortable but reasonable number. Little changes now can make a huge difference over time.

Choose any of these suggestions and tweak them to apply to your circumstances. At the very least, you may find that it is easier to identify the subtle influences that challenge your happiness and follow your own path instead.