MOUNT ROGERS SUMMER NATURALIST RALLY

August 17-19, 2018

Buy one ticket and get three days of activities! Friday - Sunday!

Each year we assemble a wide variety of field trips with leaders who are experts in their field and who are able to make it understandable and interesting for everyone from inquisitive amateurs to accomplished naturalists. There is something for the entire family with field trips Saturday and Sunday, an expert speaker Friday Night, and nighttime programs at the campground. Topics include salamanders, butterflies, stream ecology, birding, snorkeling, cultural history, medicinal plants, general natural history, and much much more! 

NOTE: Opportunity to choose your field trips will begin Friday at 4PM. All field trips have a limited number of participants and will be first-come-first-serve basis. All times listed are actual departure times. Please allow extra time if you still need to register. All trips will go out regardless of weather conditions! Come prepared!


Friday Night Dinner

Our Friday Night Dinners feature a lovingly-prepared menu of locally-sourced ingredients, complete with dessert! Please join us for this great meal to catch up with old friends and register for your favorite field trips before they fill up! The summer menu will be announced soon. Dinner is by pre-paid reservation ONLY.  There will be no dinners sold at the door. Registration is due by August 10th.


Door Prizes

1 Ticket for $5; 5 for $20; 20 for $40
Support BRDC’s Annual Scholarship Fund!! Door Prizes will be drawn during Saturday Lunch at 12:45PM. Must be present to win.

Prizes include:

  • "Mountain Meadow Mugs" by Holly Hood at Peach Bottom Pottery

  • Bike rental & shuttle for two on the Virginia Creeper Trail with Adventure Damascus & Sundog Outfitter

  • $50 gift certificate to Mojo's Trailside Café & Coffee

  • Framed original artwork . . . and more!


Featured Speaker

Join us Friday, August 17th at 7:00PM for a presentation by a special guest speaker Tom McAvoy.
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Tom McAvoy, Senior laboratory specialist in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech, will discuss several insects including honey bees, hemlock woolly adelgid and emerald ash borer and their relationships with North American ecosystems. Tom’s talk will draw from his decades of non-native invasive pest research at Virginia Tech. With over 30 published papers, Tom’s work has helped shape the management of agriculture and forest pests and he is held in high regard among the woolly adelgid research community.


Special Kids Programs

Woodworker Keith Andrews helps the youngin's in a take-home hands-on activity for the birds!
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BUILD A BIRDHOUSE! Keith Andrews will offer a workshop for kids at the Konnarock Community Center. Kids will have an opportunity to build birdhouses to take home. All supplies provided. Limit 15 kids.


SATURDAY MORNING FIELD TRIPS

Field trips depart at 8:00AM on Saturday Morning from the Konnarock Community Center. Hike options include: Hike to Mount Rogers, Edible/Medicinal Plants, Appalachian Trail Hike, Elk Garden Hike, Fly Fishing, Invasive Plants, and a Biological Survey of the Appalachian Cove Forest.
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All Day Hike to Mt. Rogers: Phil Shelton, Emeritus Professor of Biology at UVA College at Wise, and Richard Davis, will lead this nine-mile round trip hike to Virginia’s highest point. Natural history, including geology, climate, plants, animals, and cultural history will be discussed. Sturdy shoes, dress for high altitude weather, food, and water are necessary.

Edible and Medicinal Plants: Wild forager, Carrie Sparks, will introduce you to the world of foraging for wild foods and medicine with a focus on the plants we most commonly think of as weeds. Identify common plants that can be used for food or medicine.

MRTC Hike: If you want to add a nice walk to your nature study, join the Mt. Rogers Appalachian Trail Club on an easy 2.5 mile hike from Whitetop to Elk Garden. Explore natural history and trail tales on one of the most beautiful trail sections in our area.

Elk Garden Hike: Join Claiborne Woodall, DCR Division of Natural Heritage, for an in depth study of the ecological benefits of prescribed fire. Elk Garden will be the focus and example.

Appalachian Cove Forest Summer Biological Survey: Participants are invited to be scientists for a day! Join Devin Floyd (co-founder of BRDC) for a half-day biological survey of a rich forest at Grindstone Campground. We will be building on the surveys of 2016 and 2017, review those findings, and work to add to that growing body of knowledge by surveying summer flora, fauna, mosses, lichens, and fungi. Participants will help build a species list at the site and learn how/why ecosystems are named. We hope to answer the following questions: What flora, fungi, and fauna make their home here? What types of rocks, minerals, and soils are present? What kind of ecosystem is this? How do we know? How does its biological richness stack up against other Virginia ecosystems?

Non-native Invasive Abatement: Help BRDC battle non-native plants to prepare the center for new native gardens next spring.  During this hands on workshop, Jay Martin will discuss non-native plant identification and appropriate abatement strategies for a variety of species.  With tools in hand, participants will help rid the site of several invasive plants to help restore the property for future native gardens.

Fly Fishing: Learn the basic principles, techniques, and traditions of fly fishing from avid fisherman Aaron Floyd. Participate in group instructions and then try your hand at fly fishing in Whitetop-Laurel Creek (proper fishing license required). All equipment will be provided including waders, fly rods, and flies.


Saturday Afternoon Field Trips

Field trips depart at 1:00PM from the Konnarock Community Center. Join us for these excursions: Stream Ecology, Caving, Snorkeling, Butterflies, Mushrooms, Rare Plant Monitoring, and a visit to the Roundleaf Birch site.
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Stream Ecology: Join Grayson Patton to study stream ecology in Big Laurel Creek and learn about macro-invertebrates and the habitats they need to thrive in these freshwater systems.

Snorkeling: Join Mike Pinder, Wildlife Diversity Biologist for Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, to investigate the aquatic life of a stream with wetsuit and snorkel mask. Ever wonder what lurks beneath the water’s surface? You will be amazed at what you see! Expect an array of colorful native fish from darters to dace, and search for Hellbenders.

Butterflies of Southwest Virginia: After a brief discussion on identification and photography, Bruce Grimes will lead a group to look for butterflies around the community center then head to Elk Garden. Expected butterflies include the silver-spotted skipper, pearl crescent, American copper, and a variety of fritillaries and swallowtails.

Mushrooms: Join Ken Crouse, member of NAMA and past president of Blue Ridge Mushroom Club, on a high elevation fungi foray! While on our search we’ll discuss the vital role fungi play in the overall health of the forest ecosystem. Join this group to learn the ins and outs of identifying mushrooms found in the area.

Rare Plant Monitoring: Join Conner McBane, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, on a rare plant monitoring hike up on Whitetop Mountain. The hike is 2.4 miles from Whitetop Mountain trailhead down to Elk Garden along the Appalachian Trail. During our hike we will be counting rare plant species to ensure their continued protection up on Whitetop Mountain. This mountain contains some of the most diverse plant communities in the state!

Roundleaf Birch: Visit one of the rarest “species” in the world, the Virginia roundleaf birch (Betula uber), endemic to Smyth County, Virginia. This exciting tiny population of the Virginia roundleaf birch was discovered in 1975 with only forty know individuals. On the visit, Dr. Bresowar will enlist you in a lively discussion about the definition of a species and the studies done with the roundleaf birch trees.  

Caving: A walking tour of the caves and karst of Sugar Grove, led by Smyth County VSS director Tanya McLaughlin. There are many small caves formed in the Shady dolomite, concentrated in a small area of Flat Ridge and along Slemp Creek. The tour will look at several cave entrances, the local hydrology (including a large cave spring, a sink pirating portions of Slemp Creek into an underground system, etc), and there will be opportunity to enter and briefly explore several of the small caves. Expect to cross a creek, wear either rubber knee boots, or plan on wet feet.


Sunday Field Trips

Field trips depart at 8:00AM on Sunday Morning from the Grindstone Campground Parking Lot. Hike options include: Naturalist Walk and Transect Tree Survey.
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Naturalist Walk: This guide-less (Aaron Floyd) naturalist walk pools the collective interest and knowledge to explore whatever we come across: rocks, plants, birds, bugs, trash, you name it... Bring your curiosity caps, cameras, notebooks, and field guides. The aim is for everyone to discover something new and unveil some of the inner workings of nature.

Transect Tree Survey of Spruce Ecotone: Continuing the efforts of the Spring Rally, Austin Thomas will lead a survey from the red spruce forest to the northern hardwood forest on the eastern slope of Whitetop Mountain. 
 


Nighttime Activities

Join us Friday and Saturday night for explorations under the stars including a salamander courtship display and astronomy programs!
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Friday and Saturday Night Star Watch: Join BRDC astronomer Evan Worrell for a exploration of the stars. Study visible planets through the telescope and learn about the depths of the universe through Evan’s knowledge of constellations. 

Saturday Night Salamander Courtship: Join Dr. Kevin Hamed, Professor of Biology, Virginia Highlands Community College, in search of the rare sighted yonahlossee salamander courtship that occurs only in a brief window each year. Bring a headlamp and sturdy shoes for the 1 mile loop on the side of Whitetop mountain. 


Camping & Lodging

Join us at Grindstone Campground! Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally guides and volunteers will be camping in the Grindstone Campground on Friday and Saturday night. Come pitch a tent but remember to reserve your spot online.
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Although the focus is on Grindstone Campground, there are a number of other options available in the area including overnight lodging in "Downtown Konnarock" through Airbnb. Beartree Campground is also located within 10 miles of Konnarock. Other local options include Bed & Breakfasts, Inns and rental cabins. Try www.virginiablueridge.org for more lodging information.


Directions

Konnarock Community Center

The Konnarock Community Center (Address: 6535 Whitetop Rd, Troutdale, VA 24378) From I-81, take exit 35 (Chilhowie), go south on RT 762, passing Hardee’s. Follow this for 3.6 miles to the flashing light at intersection. Keeping straight the road becomes RT 600, crossing Iron Mountain (disregard “Old 600″ signs) and in 7.6 miles turn left at intersection, staying on RT 600. From here, go 2/10 miles and the Konnarock community center is on the left.

Grindstone Campground

Grindstone Campground (GPS: 36.68694, -81.54111) From I-81, take exit 35 (Chilhowie), go south on RT 762, passing Hardee’s. Follow this for 3.6 miles to the flashing light at intersection. Keeping straight, the road becomes RT 600, crossing Iron Mountain (disregard “Old 600″ signs) and in 7.4 miles turn left on to Laurel Valley Road. Travel 4.3 miles and the campground entrance will be on your right. 


Consider Supporting the Rally

The Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally is a grand tradition that dates back to 1974. Over the years it has gone through many changes but the root goal has stayed the same: to connect our community to one of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth. If you would like to see this tradition continue for the next generation, please consider making a donation to support the Rally. 

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All of our field trip leaders volunteer their time for the Naturalist Rally, so let them know you appreciate them sharing their time and knowledge with us!!

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Ticket price includes Friday Night Program, Saturday Field Trips, Saturday Night Program and Sunday Program. Members, Guides, and persons 17 years or younger are FREE! 

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The Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally has adopted the Leave No Trace Principles as a guiding reference for participant and guide etiquette. Please refer to their 7 Principles for more information.


The Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally has a long history, all the way back to 1974! Check out these historical brochures!


Sponsors & Partners

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