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Oct 24, 2011

Hiking Virginia: Heart of Appalachia

Pine Mountain Trail. More photos
We just spent 10 days in  far southwest Virginia, near the Kentucky border, also known as the “Heart of Appalachia.” We're re-hiking the trails in our first book, “Hiking Virginia” (2001) for a new edition.

This is quite possibly the most rugged hiking in the book, and perhaps all of Virginia. The climbs are steep, the ridges relentless, but the rewards are many. Autumn rains mean the streams are flowing through deep hollers to cascade over waterfalls, and the leaves are at their peak.

The great little town of Big Stone Gap has been our basecamp, specifically Jessie Lea RV Park, where we’ve parked the Vanagon (aka Virginia Creeper), to rest, refuel and do laundry between hikes. This is a beautiful spot, a little slice of heaven along the Powell River. 

Big Stone Gap is home of the “Trail of the Lonesome Pine Outdoor Drama,” Mutual Drug where you can get great home-cooking, several good museums, and Adrianna Trigianni, author of the best-selling “Big Stone Gap” novels.

The soundtrack to our trip has been the traditional and mountain music of the region. The 40th Annual Home Craft Days were taking place at Mountain Empire Community College and we attended the Friday night concert, and purchased the CD to accompany us on the rest of our journey.

Here’s the hiking re-cap of Southwest VA:

1. Stone Mountain overnight: 14 miles from Gap Springs, camping at Lake Keokee, ending at Roaring Branch.

2. Chief Benges Scout Trail overnight: 14 miles from High Knob, camping at Bark Camp Lake, pass the Falls of Little Stony and end at Hanging Rock.

3. Devil’s Fork day hike: 7 mile loop, featuring numerous stream crossings in a lush gorge

4. Pine Mountain Trail, Highlands Section: 14- mile overnight (probably more like 15). From Pounda Gap, Virginia, to Route 119 outside Whitesburg, Kentucky. A spectacular hike along the razor’s edge of the VA-KY border. In places you are literally walking atop the ridge where the Virginia plate is pushing up over the Kentucky plate.

Thus closes the chapter on Southwest VA, at least for now. Next: Mount Rogers, highest point in Virginia!

Nov 8, 2010

Paddling Events ESVA Nov-Dec 2010

We're finishing up the season with some cool (or shall we say 'warm'?) events at our shop at Onancock Wharf, on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Virginia.

During this week's Second Friday Art Stroll, 5-8 p.m., we’ll have a Tropical Paddling Party with a slide-show and book-signing about our Florida Keys kayak expeditions this winter. Free Margaritas and tropical food! Book a trip that night and get 10% off. details:

The next day, Saturday, Nov. 13, at 1 p.m., we’re having a free Cold Weather Paddling Clinic, safety issues, what to wear, and cool gear to extend your paddling season safely. Special discounts on cold weather gear. This session will help you get ready for Noel Night (see below)!

Sunday, Nov. 14, 2-5 p.m . Soup on Sunday Club Paddle. Bring your boat to launch on Onancock Creek for this afternoon version of our Summer Sunset paddles (rentals available). Whether you choose to paddle or not, we’ll have hot soup and coffee in the shop from 4-5 p.m.!

Second Friday Noel Night, De c. 10, 4-8 p.m. This is a brand new holiday event featuring Santa Claus arriving at Onancock Wharf by lighted boat parade and a KAYAK FLOTILLA, followed by tree-lighting and Christmas caroling in Town Square. We need paddlers! Come into the shop for the pre-party to warm up before launching. We’ll be open afterwards as well with hot refreshments.

Saturday, Dec. 11, Onancock Christmas Homes Tour. Come visit our historic Steamboat Ticket Office decorated for the holidays. We’re offering free Kayak Ferry Service for those hardy folks who want to visit Cokesbury House without driving out of town! Tour tickets for sale at the shop ($5 discount if purchased before Thanksgiving). This year’s tour benefits the Literacy Council of the ES

We’ll be open Friday-Sunday until Christmas for your holiday shopping. Give an Eastern Shore gift bag full of local products like Chatham wine with the SouthEast kayak label, ES Coastal Roasting Coffee in red & green bags, Blue Crab Bay snacks, and our hiking and paddling books. Perfect for hostess gifts. We’ll wrap them for you!

SouthEast Expeditions at the Wharf, 2 King St., Onancock, VA 757-354-4FUN
Visit for visitor info

Sep 21, 2010

Hike VA: St. Mary's Wilderness

St. Mary’s Wilderness
Distance: 10.2 miles
Start: Mine Bank Trailhead, Milpost 23 on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Difficulty: Strenuous
Campsite: Sherando Lake National Recreation Area

On this the first day of fall, we did our longest and most strenuous hike in quite awhile, with a 1,000-foot ascent to 3518 feet, quite a lung-buster for us sea-level dwellers!

Despite summertime temps in the low 90s, the leaves are really changing up here, beautiful hues of red, yellow and orange mixing with the green. Once in awhile a cool fall-ish breeze would come through and cause a flurry of yellow hickory leaves to gently fall to the ground.

From our campsite at Sherando Lake, we had a nearly full moon every night, bright enough to light our way on a nighttime hike up to the lake. Fall is a beautiful time in the Blue Ridge and the parkway is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Sep 14, 2010

James River State Park

Distance: 7.5 miles
Start: Parking area just before the Park Office/Nature Center
Difficulty: Moderate
Admission: $2 day use
Pets: Allowed on a leash
Accessibility: The .37 mile Green Hill Pond Loop is a paved trail with boardwalks over a scenic fishing pond.
Camping: Large, level, full-service sites as well as primitive camping (fee charged)

Highlights: This new-ish state park opened in 1999. Scenic river views and flat trails contrast with some pretty rugged up-and-down wooded trails. A state-of-the-art nature center is nearly done and slated to open soon. Widely used by equestrians, there’s even a horse camp.

Our day hike combined several trails to make a big loop around the entire park. Varied eco-systems, remnants of an historic farm, and a canoe livery where you can rent a canoe or tube for a leisurely 2-mile flat on the James River make this a great weekend destination for the family.

James River State Park will be a new chapter in the 3rd update of our book, Hiking Virginia, coming out in spring 2012.

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