On Sunday, October 11, the Blue Ridge Discovery Center sponsored a tour hike to the Nature Conservancy's Bluff Mountain Nature Preserve on a perfect fall day. Temperature in the low 60's, light breeze under a cerulean sky, the forest at near peak fall coloration, the group of eleven hikers strolled through some of the rarest ecologies in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
The Blue Ridge Expedition hike of The Nature Conservancy's Bluff Mountain Nature Preserve was smiled upon by the weather gods as the fog lifted as the hike began and the rain fell as the hike ended. Hikers were treated with peak blooms of mountain laurel at Perkins Rock and the mesic glade and indian paintbrush in the meadow. Numerous red efts shared the trail without a single casualty which was a minor miracle considering there were thirty feet finding their way.
Way back in 2011 one our guides, Devin Floyd, took a group of young explorers up into a very unique habitat on Turk mountain in search of rare species. They were searching in a north facing rock talus for ice age relic species. Low and behold that group found and documented a tree that had characteristics fully matching a Paper Birch, Betula papyrifera. The Paper Birch is a species that isn't usually documented as living south of Pennsylvania.
After nearly a month of planning, BRDC along with other community organizations, teachers and the Galax City Public Schools’ administration office, came together to offer elementary and middle school students a wide array of educational options and opportunities. BRDC’s role focused on four programs: National Fishing in Schools, led by Aaron Floyd and Lisa Benish with assistance from Roald Kirby and Mike Floyd; Reading the Blue Ridge, led by Sarah Osborne and Brenda Bonk with assistance from Scott Jackson-Ricketts and teacher’s aid, Theresa Mawyer; Microscope Fun, co-led by Evan Worrell, Scott, Brenda and with assistance from Lauren Peery, William Roberts and Roald; and Blue Ridge Expeditions trip to Grandfather Mountain, led by William and Joyce Roberts. All of BRDC’s programs were held in the elementary school.
Finally, some fun in the sun! On September 27th, after two previous hikes in the rain, seven of us had a wonderful sunny day on the trail. With perfect temperatures, we traversed the spine of Brushy Mountain in the Crandon area of Bland, VA. Starting at Route #608, we hiked the 5.3 miles to Route #606 at a 150 foot long suspension bridge over Kimberling Creek. Participants came from Bland, Wythe, and Mercer counties.
Last Saturday's mushroom walk at River Ridge Farm was a great success! The weather was just perfect we had at least 16 participants. There was a lot of interest and excitement and the fungi were out in force. With the time we had; it was not possible to prepare a comprehensive species list. However, just in a quick run through I was able to ID 56 species from the walk. Not bad for a morning stroll through the forest!
The 4.3 mile hike on July 19th had gloomy, rainy weather, but the four cheerful participants made the hike to the Falls full of fun and frolic. Guide Amy Roberts and Master Naturalist volunteer Linda Gette led local and out of state participants through the Appalachian hickory-oak forest to the lovely 400 million year old falls.
One of southwest Virginia’s most spectacular and unusual natural preserves will be explored on this Blue Ridge Expeditions (BRE) hike. The part of Clinch Mountain known as The Channels is an area of huge sandstone rock outcroppings where ancient forces have created a maze of giant fissures, some of which now serve as passageways somewhat similar to slot canyons of the western states.
On July 19th, Blue Ridge Expeditions (BRE), a flagship program of the Blue Ridge Discovery Center, will host a hike on the Appalachian Trail in Bland County. This 4.3 mile hike to Dismal Falls, on the Bland-Giles border, is the first of four hikes led by BRE program director, Amy Roberts, a Bland resident.
On June 7th, a small group of us met at the Massie Gap parking area of Grayson Highlands State Park for our second local Blue Ridge Expeditions hike of the year. Roald Kirby led a 4 mile walk around the edges of Sullivan Swamp, sometimes taking us off the trail for a while. Bushwhacking, he said, can bring surprises.
BRDC's first local Blue Ridge Expeditions field hike of 2014 was great; warm, sunny weather for the 16 eager hikers on the New River Trail below Fries. Guides Roald Kirby, Carol Broderson and Harrol Blevins led the participants, some of whom were from the Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club and most others regulars.
We began a gradual climb on the trail through woodland cove popular-pine forest and soon picked up the Fisher Peak road which we followed the rest of the way. According to Aubrey,it was originally built by the City of Galax in the 1930's so people attending the Rhododendron Festival could drive to the mountain.It is now used to access the WBRF radio towers.
Saturday was the perfect day for a hike, with a Carolina blue sky, a few puffy clouds and a slight breeze. Ten participants met at Massie Gap for a guided hike to the summit of Mt. Rogers, led by Dr. Phil Shelton and Roald Kirby, program director for Blue Ridge Expeditions. The group was treated to an amazing breadth of knowledge about Mt. Rogers by both Roald and Dr. Shelton.
Blue Ridge Discovery Center is proud to welcome Roald Kirby to our team of naturalist explorers and guides. As program director of our new Blue Ridge Expeditions, Roald brings years of outdoor experience and love of our Blue Ridge to the public through a series of walks, guided hikes and nature lore.