Archive for the 'Hiking' Category
Geocaching has become an increasingly popular activity, and for those unfamiliar with it, it is a sort of high-tech treasure hunt: “For the traditional geocache, a geocacher will place a waterproof container containing a log book (with pen or pencil) and trade items then record the cache’s coordinates. These coordinates, along with other details of the location, are posted on a listing site” (Wikipedia). Other geocachers will use their GPS to find the hidden caches, sign their names, take any available trinkets, and then leave an item of their own.
Similar to geocaching is an activity called EarthCaching, which, instead of having a physical cache, results in locating a feature of the natural world: “Instead of leaving or removing anything from the site, EarthCachers document their observations and answer questions as a learning experience, and then report their discoveries on the EarthCache website.” Shenandoah National Park offers a beautiful place to go EarthCaching, with no fee other than admission into the park.
So, how do you go about starting an EarthCaching adventure at Shenandoah National Park?
- Set up a geocaching membership (basic membership is free).
- Check out the available EarthCaches at Shenandoah National Park, and choose which hike you’d like to do. (The Blackrock EarthCache is the closest to the Iris Inn. It’s only a 45-minute drive away and is a relatively easy hike in a beautiful area!)
- Have a GPS device or GPS app on your phone.
Both EarthCaching and geocaching are fun ways to explore different areas, and the biggest benefit is that anyone can participate. (Make sure to not leave any traditional caches at Shenandoah National Park. The park only allows EarthCaching.)
Happy hunting from the Iris Inn!
Photo by Paul Downey
“Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.” — John Ruskin
The reawakening of the natural world is one of the most welcomed parts of spring, particularly in regards to the vivid splash of color of newly bloomed flowers. While the progression of springtime greenery is a slower process, flowers seem to leap forward in their urgency towards warm weather.
Coming up on May 4-5, the Shenandoah National Park will be celebrating the flora of the area with its 27th Annual Wildflower Weekend: “Take a day or two to appreciate the diversity of wildflowers growing here in the Blue Ridge. More than 1,300 species of plants thrive in Shenandoah National Park, a mountain island surrounded by farmland, towns, and expanding developed areas.” (NPS). Because Wildflower Weekend is held in early May, you can expect to see wildflowers like hepatica, violets, wild geranium, jack-in-the-pulpit, wild azaleas, and numerous other floral wonders.
If you’d like to learn as well as look, the park is offering programs led by biologists, park rangers, guest naturalists, and professional photographers, and topics will include everything from wildflower identification to bird-watching. (Click here for a full list of the scheduled programs.)
Reminders from the Park:
- “Wear sturdy shoes and bring water on all hikes.” (We’re sure they don’t want any half-dehydrated, high-heel wearing participants…)
- “Evaluate your personal fitness and health to choose an appropriate program.” (We’re pretty sure none of the park rangers will carry you if you get tired while hiking.)
- “Come prepared for wet weather. Walks may be conducted in light rain, but will be canceled in case of thunderstorms.” (After all, no one wants to get struck by lightning.)
This is a great opportunity to explore the native and exotic wildflowers that take root among our mountains, so go out on an adventure, then return to relaxation at the Iris Inn!
Photo Credit: Stolz Gary M, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
“The Loft Mountain Wayside, at milepost 79.5 on Skyline Drive, serves as a hub in the park’s South District, with its popular campground, numerous trail heads, amphitheater and wayside restaurant” (National Parks Traveler). Furthermore, Loft Mountain serves as the location of various activities, including guided tours, educational sessions, and Ranger programs:
Along the Frazier Discovery Trail: “Hike to the summit of Loft Mountain for a stunning view during this 2-hour circuit hike.”
Bear Necessities: “Black bears thrive in Shenandoah National Park because of the large areas of contiguous, high quality, forest habitat. Discover additional necessities bears need and the role you play in their survival during this 20-minute talk.”
Where the Wild Things Are: “Celebrate the wild things of Shenandoah during this 20-minute talk.”
Junior Ranger: “Investigate the mysteries of Shenandoah through fun and educational activities. Ages 7-12. Adult must accompany child. 1.5 hours.”
An Ocean View: “Join a ranger for a short hike to Blackrock summit and to learn about this areas unique geology. 1.5 hours.”
Evening Hike: “Investigate a mountain forest as day changes into night. 2 hours.”
Campfire Program: “Join a Ranger for this National Park Service tradition. Dress for cool mountain nights. 45 minutes.”
(Note: These specific program schedules are from 2012, so they may vary about during the 2013 season.)
Though the weather will still remain chilly for a few more weeks still, it’s not too soon to start planning your summer getaway. Reserve your room in our B&B or in our cabins!
One could argue that fall is the ideal season for hiking. The intensity of summer heat cools, the humidity lessens, and the leaves began changing with a burst of colorful splendor.
There are numerous hiking options within a short distance from the Iris Inn, and the imminent shift to fall if the perfect time to start planning an outdoor excursion. Peruse the list of trails below, and make sure to book your room at the Iris Inn!
Crabtree Falls- Hike a four-mile loop, comprised of neatly-kept trails, breathtaking scenery, and the “highest cascading set of falls east of the Mississippi.” Dogs are also welcome, so long as they are leashed.
Appalachian Trail to Spy Rock-Spy Rock is is one of the tallest mountains in the area with a “360-degree panoramic view.” The hike begins at the Montebello Fish Hatchery, proceeds across two-miles of the Appalachian Trail, and then continues to Spy Rock.
Wintergreen Nature Foundation Trails- There are nearly 30 miles of marked trails around Wintergreen, with four of them being the main trails. They cover “an array of distances and difficulties over the five-mile loop that leads you by the breathtaking Shamokin Falls to the easy one-mile trip through Allen Creek Preserve.”
Blackrock Summit Trail- This is a simple, beautiful one-mile hike located in Shenandoah National Park. The rocks for which it is named is a unique sight that supposedly resembles “the terrain of a foreign planet.”
Humpback Rocks Trail- This trail is “short, steep, but immediately rewarding,” and the “rock outcrop on top provides one of the best views of the Shenandoah Valley.” (This hike also happens to be the person favorite of the Iris Inn blogger!)
Sharp Top- Sharp Top is a strenuous three-mile hike that can take at least two-hours to finish. The effort is definitely worth it, as it overlooks the remains of a World War II bomber aircraft, as well as a panoramic view from the Piedmont to the Alleghany Mountains.
(Thank you to Albemarle Magazine for this compilation of hiking trails, which can be found in their “Take a Hike” August/September Issue.)
Copyright Virginiatrailsadam (http://virginiatrailguide.com/author/virginiatrailsadam/)
As with any culture, that which surrounds the hikers on the Appalachian Trail is a world unto itself. From the jargon to the equipment, these hikers are immersed in what is more than just a hobby, an exercise, or a casual fascination. Rather, it is a lifestyle, and it takes a uniquely dedicated individual to complete the approximate 2,184 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
We were delighted to have one such dedicated hiker as a guest at the Iris Inn. Bill, also known by his trail name “Ranger Bill,” is a hiker who hails from New Hampshire. On March 16, 2012, he began his Appalachian Trail trek in Georgia, and by the time he reached our B&B, he had covered around 856 miles of beautiful scenery, inclement weather, rough terrain, and memory-making adventures. But what’s a good story without a little romance? Not only did our fearless traveler leave behind a well-paying job to pursue his trail dreams, but he also bid farewell to his lady-love, knowing they would only see each other a few times throughout his journey. The Iris Inn happened to be one of their meeting points. After two months of separation, Bill and his girlfriend Michelle were reunited and eager to spend a few days hiking Shenandoah together. (Bill was also happy to have a bit of luxury and privacy: “It was a treat to stay in Hawk’s Nest with the hot tub.”)
We wish the very best for Ranger Bill and Michelle, and we thank them for the wealth of hiking knowledge and trivia that they shared with us:
- On average, around 2,000 individuals start to hike the Appalachian Trail, but only 20% actually finish it.
-A huge goal is to keep the weight of a hiker’s pack as low as possible. This includes carrying only necessities and making sacrifices such as sawing a toothbrush in half.
-In Damascus, VA, there is a huge event known as Trail Days where there is a hiker parade with residents of the town hurling water balloons, shooting water guns, and tossing buckets of water on the hikers that pass by. Damascus also provides free showers, medical screenings, and gear vendors with sales on hiking supplies.
-A Trail Angel is someone who has either hiked the trail before or is interested in the hiking culture and in turn, provides services to hikers. This includes leaving out coolers or food and drink, giving rides to hikers, and much more. The actions of Trail Angels are known as “Trail Magic.”
Nature is simply something indispensable, like air and light and water, that we accept as necessary to living, and the nearer we can get to it the happier we are.” — Louise Dickenson Rich
If you’re spending some time at the Iris Inn, and you’d like to exert some energy with a grand ol’ hike, why not try Fallingwater Cascades? Fallingwater is a beautiful 1.6 mile hike near Bedford, Virginia. It is an overall moderate trek with a few steeper, more strenuous areas thrown in, but the difficulties of those areas are lessened by stone stairways and bridges. The average amount of time that it takes to traverse this lovely loop is 1.5 hours.
There are two different places at which you can begin your hike. The first is the Blue Ridge Parkways milepost 83.1 at the Fallingwater Cascades Parking Lot, and the second is at milepost 83.5, the Flat Top Parking Area. After beginning on the well-traveled path that is rimmed with rhododendrons and hemlock, it is approximately 0.6 miles to the cascades.
The purling cascades serve to enhance the brilliance of the natural scenery, making this a lovely hike for the intermediate traveler. (It is particularly beautiful around this time of year as fall colors usurp summer hues.) Grab a friend, a bottle of water, and a camera, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Fallingwater Cascades.