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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.

Sep 2, 2010

Hiking Virginia: Newport News Park

Distance: 5 miles
Start: Discovery Center
Difficulty: Easy
Admission: Free
Pets: Allowed on a leash
Camping: 188 large, shady sites (fee charged)
Link to Park Website

Highlights: Reservoir, boardwalk overlooks, wildlife, Civil War earthenworks, varied habitats

As Hurricane Earl is doing a cat-and-mouse with the Atlantic Coast, we headed to the Virginia Peninsula for a night of camping and hiking in Newport News Park.

The nation’s largest municipal park—8,000 acres—is a gem of woods, marsh and lake habitats and more than 30 miles of hiking and biking trails just off busy Interstate 64.

If you ever find yourself backed up in traffic getting to Hampton Roads, consider hopping off at the Ft. Eustis exit to do a leg-stretcher, ranging from the .4-mile nature trail, to five miles connecting the White Oak, Wynn’s Mill, Twin Forts and a couple of other connectors. We did the later and so much wildife: ducks, swans, turtles, egrets and great blue heron on the reservoir; several deer and even an owl in the woods.

Got your bike along? The 5.3-mile Bikeway is a winner and connects to adjacent Yorktown Battlefield. The park also rents bikes at the Campground office.

Newport News Park will be a new chapter in the update of our book, Hiking Virginia, a National Outdoor Book Award winner in 2000. Between now and next spring, we’ll be rehiking, re-photographing and GPS-ing many of the hikes in the book, plus adding some new ones. Follow the progress here!

Sep 1, 2010

Hiking Virginia Book Update

When we’re not paddling this fall, we’ll be hitting the trail, quite literally, for the 3rd edition of our first book, Hiking Virginia. It’s been 10 years since we did the initial research, so we are going to re-hike many of them, add new chapters (like James River State Park, which wasn’t even open back then!), and add GPS coordinates and color photos to every chapter. 

We’re excited to make this book we love even better: a National Outdoor Book Award Honorable Mention, it has sold more than 20,000 copies. 

We’ll be posting trail reports here weekly, from easy walks near cities, like Newport News Park, to the lung-busting 100-plus-mile Pine Mountain Trail that follows the high ridge between Virginia and Kentucky.  The first post will be up soon!

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