virginia hikes: Sherando Lake, Torry Ridge, & White Rock Falls loop, June 27 2020

Being opportunistic is a good way to avoid the crowds when it comes to popular trails. It may mean getting up before sunrise, starting out late in the day, or still heading out when it’s rainy. With many of the frontcountry campgrounds still closed, certain trails are a little less crowded than normal. This included the Sherando Lake area, which is known as the jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains and typically sees hundreds of campers a day.

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virginia hikes: Ramsey’s Draft & Jerry’s Run loop, June 7 2020

There is nothing like having to cross a knee high stream to keep you cool on a hot and humid summer day in Virginia. Ramsey’s Draft provided exactly that as the trail cross the stream several times. While there are a couple longer backpacking loops here, we chose a moderate day hike loop that included Jerry’s Run.

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virginia hikes: Big Schloss, Mill Mountain, & Stony Creek loop, May 30 2020

It is clear how the popular peak of Big Schloss got its name, for schloss is German for castle. The peak appeared very much like one on our approach from the north on the Mill Mountain trail. It was indeed the highpoint in this popular area for backpackers, which is otherwise a monotonous green tunnel during the early parts of summer.

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virginia hikes: Roanoke Star & Mill Mountain, April 10 2020

The Roanoke Star sitting atop of Mill Mountain is the largest free-standing illuminated man-made star (wikipedia). It is where the city of Roanoke, VA gets its nickname, Star City. On the way into the city or atop prominent peaks in the area like McAfee Knob and Fort Lewis Mountain, the star can be seen above the city (though you’ll need to know where to look and maybe squint).

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Roanoke and its star from Fort Lewis Mountain.

In the middle of COVID-19, the trails on Mill Mountain was as local as it got.

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virginia hikes: Fridley Gap loop, May 23 2020

If you’ve read enough of these hike reports, a common theme you’ll find is that I love hiking next to running creeks, streams, and rivers. As we get into the summer in Virginia, they can also provide a perfect respite to the hot and humid weather in the form of swimming holes. So after a week of none stop rain, I was excited to go check out a hike featuring some swollen creeks and wide swimming holes.

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virginia hikes: Rock Castle Gorge, May 9 2020

A different season in Virginia can make the same hike a completely different experience. It was winter the last time I visited Rock Castle Gorge. When we returned for a spring hike, we found a completely new experience.

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my first time here was different experience with the Roanoke Outdoors Meetup group

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virginia hikes: Buzzard Rock at Read Mountain Preserve, March 19 2020

The same trails in Virginia has a tendency to have completely different feel to them through the seasons. In the winter and spring, you can catch the trees barren revealing more than the tunnel of green typical of late spring and summer. This is why summer is my least favorite hiking season here. To that end, I may have a tendency to penalize a hike during summer. So I gave a local hike another shot and subsequently found it slightly more enjoyable a second time around.

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virginia hikes: Petites Gap, Highcock Knob, & Sulphur Spring loop, March 21 2020

With COVID-19 pandemic shutting down everything, there are a lot of questions regarding if hitting the trails is something ok to do. My impression on the aspect of social distancing is to avoid other. So it’s not just a simple questions of is heading outdoors ok. Rather the question is can I go hike somewhere not many other hikers are. Remember it’s not just contact with other, but also surfaces others have contacted. You know that rock everyone likes to sit on (McAfee), probably should avoid that. This is the reason popular parks such as Yosemite are closing as they should. Not to mention how the popular parks get tramped on the most without rangers upholding infrastructure (see the damage from government shutdown of 2019, Business Insider).

So the takeaway is go hiking, but probably should be limited to day hikes in your local area on the lesser trafficked trails. With all of that in mind, we headed to an out to explore an out of the way trail we hadn’t done before. We saw only 2 groups of hikers along the 8 mile stretch, so I’d consider that minimizing the risk.

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virginia hikes: Compton Peak via AT from Jenkins Gap to Chester Gap, November 9 2019

As the fall colors start to taper, we headed out for a hike at the northern tip of Shenandoah National Park. What we found was the leaves were pretty much gone at higher elevations and the vista views were mostly brown, we did find some nice foliage in the woods at lower elevations where we would have typically been in a tunnel of green during the middle of the year. For weekly reports, you can also check out Virginia.orgVirginia Department of Forestry reports, or Shenandoah National Park.

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