40th Annual Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally

On May 9th, folks from at least four states began arriving at the Konnarock Community Center for their annual fix of nature and fellowship. Registration tables awaited the throng as Roald and Ellie Kirby scratched out some tunes for ambiance.

While people caught up on a year’s news, the Community Center kitchen staff was putting their final work into the traditional chicken dinner, filling the center with inspiring smells.

Dinner commenced at 5:30, with announcements soon following.

Field trip leaders, all 20 of them, each delivered a brief description of their guided outings to take place the next day.

These outings are all led by professional, well-informed men and women whose commitment to the Rally has a long history.

For instance, such field topics covered run the gamut from geology, cultural history, salamanders, small mammals, native mussels, fly tying, to kid focused programming, birding, wildflowers, mushrooms, fishing and all day hikes.

In short, there is something for everyone.

At 7:30, as has been our practice, the evening is given over to a special guest speaker.

This year Nancy Lee Adamson PhD, Pollinator Conservation Specialist with the Xerces Society, gave an informative talk on native pollinators, with a strong focus on bees.

With a slide show and a table of resource materials, Nancy was able to fully illustrate her narrative as well as offer educational take-home pamphlets and identification cards.

Many Rally participants choose to camp for the weekend, and Grindstone typically fills up late Friday night.

Some head straight to bed, while others hang out around a good old campfire, further catching up and planning Saturday trips.

Early Saturday morning, the Community Center is unlocked and ready for further registrations.

Field trip leaders collect their groups as car-pooling strategies emerge.

By 8am, most everyone is off for their morning outing, while a few stay behind at the center for indoor programming and general management.

The Friends of Mount Rogers has a merchandise table, as well as membership sign-up opportunities.

Blue Ridge Discovery Center, the management team for the MRNR, also shares that stage, and this year, the New River Land Trust was given a table to describe their work and display their maps.

This sharing helps illustrate the cooperative nature of the MRNR.

Many chapters of Virginia Master Naturalists are represented, as well as a few from other state Master Naturalist organizations.

Field trip leaders hail from universities, colleges, MN orgs and various state agencies.

Participants range from 3 years old well into the 90s.

Between the morning and afternoon field trips, a hot dog lunch is offered for the hungry hikers.

This is not a fund raising effort, just a volunteered measure to keep stomachs full.

During lunch, folks talk about their morning discoveries and make final decisions on what afternoon trip they will take.

By 5pm, most field trips are over and people disperse to their campsites or home.

The Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally always takes place the Friday and Saturday on Mother’s Day weekend.

Stay tuned for announcements of next year’s rally and remember, this is a great local resource for family fun and outdoor learning.

Scott Jackson-Ricketts

Chair, Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally

Executive Director, Blue Ridge Discovery Center