Tag Archives: hiking

Virginia Blue Ridge Rail Trail

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One more hiking story! Chesterfield County does hikes all thru the year, on Thursdays and Saturdays. On January 1st I sign up for a few in the Spring when bugs aren’t quite out and wildflowers are in bloom. This is the last one I signed up for this year, and it was another excellent hike: the Blue Ridge Rail Trail. Originally the rail bed for the Blue Ridge Railway short line, it was converted to a trail between 2003 and 2010 and provides seven miles of recreation for hikers, bikers, and equestrians.

The trail head where we started is 1.7 miles along and provided parking for cars, basic facilities, and a gazebo. We hiked 2 1/2 miles or so, then returned along the same path, accompanied all the way by the Piney River! The weather was comfortable, but as summer warms the river would be great for paddling or floating. The trail is not wide, mostly forested, with occasional views of farmland (and one abandoned truck!). We crossed several bridges, including a trail-sized covered one over Naked Creek. There were a few wild flowers as you can see in the slide show. It was good to see wild roses and blackberries blooming next to each other so I could see the differences up close. Our naturalist at first thought there were also black raspberries, but showed us the plants had ridged stems which meant more blackberries. (note to self: come back in July for berries!)

We took a break at a lovely rock outcropping in the Piney, then walked a bit further to a bridge over the confluence of the Piney and Tye Rivers. If we had continued another mile or so, we would have reached the turn around at end of the trail, but we turned around at the bridge and enjoyed cool forest breezes, butterflies and the peaceful river back to the van. On the way home, we stopped in the small Virginia town of Colleen for ice cream!

If you’re in the Richmond, Virginia area and interested in joining Chesterfield County for any of their hikes, check out the Chesterfield Parks and Recreation website.

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Hiking the Chessie Trail

 

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Another hike with Chesterfield County! This time we drove a couple of hours to Buena Vista, Virginia to hike on the Chessie Trail. This is a seven-mile, year-round public access walking trail between Lexington and Buena Vista, located along the former Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad right of way. It was developed and is maintained by Virginia Military Institute, better known around here as VMI. Typically we’re on state park or refuge area property, so this was a little different. More specifically, part of the trail was thru a privately owned cow pasture, with the cautions that apply to that terrain!

It was a lovely day and wildflowers were blooming in profusion. We parked a ways from the actual trailhead and followed a connecting path along the Maury River to the opening gate, lined all the way with abundantly flowering dame rocket, scatterings of flea bane, and bright orange poppies. Once on the trail, the Maury on our right and sheer rock towering on our left, we hadn’t gone very far when we reached the pasture. It was full of buttercups with lovely views across the field and river, where geese were bathing with their goslings.

As we approached the next gate into woodland, we finally saw the herd under the trees cooling in the water! The trail became a fire road with butterflies flitting thru the trees and more wild flowers in the under story. We hiked about two miles then returned along the same paths. We were blessed with beautiful fluffy clouds and pleasant temperatures, with cooling breezes from time to time off the river.  It was a grand day, with a perfect ending – rolled ice cream!

Scent of wild roses
Wafts over the Chessie trail
On cool Maury breeze.

Yellow swallowtails
Flitting around buttercups –
Chessie trail springtime.

Rapidan and Staunton Rivers Hike

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Hiking flooded trails
Accompanied by butterflies
Along the Rapidan

Spring in Virginia – my favorite time to hike with Chesterfield County. Our naturalist loads up the van and drives us all over the state – anywhere within a two hour radius, which covers from the mountains to the coast, for weekly hikes! This past week we ventured northwest of Richmond to the confluence of the Staunton and Rapidan rivers in the Shenandoah National Park. I was eager to see what wildflowers were blooming – last year at this time we saw lots of white and pink trilliums. Many were still flowering, joined by bluets, violets, false solomon’s seal, and many others. I learned several new ones:

Bellwort – the yellow bell shaped flowers hid under nodding stems, almost invisible, on six to eight inch high plants.

Wild anemone – white flowers in a thicket of  leaves.

One-flower cancer root – a strange name for a strange plant! My first glimpse of the delicate white to pink flowers was against the lower edge of a rock. Their stems appeared to be growing from green leaves. But when I looked closer, I was reminded of Indian Pipes, or ghost plant, which have no chlorophyll. And the flower stems were growing out from under the rock. Our naturalist told me they’re parasitic on the roots of other plants!

The trail was flooded in several places as a result of the large amount of rain we’re received this year. From moss growing in the streams, it looked like water had been flowing on the trails for a while. It was easy to get around the damp areas without getting muddy feet, and it was good to see the abundance of moisture.

Outdoors in Spring – pleasant temperatures, woods in bloom, and minimal bugs! Always a pleasure. And an ice cream stop on the way home! I took lots of photos (a small percentage of which you can see in the slide show), sketched a few nature journal entries, and composed the opening and closing haiku:

flit flit butterfly
thru the fern and trillium
flit flit flit away

Beaverdam Park

 

Grand hike last week with Chesterfield County! The hikes are available thru Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation, but we travel all over the state.  This time we were just outside the small town of Gloucester at Beaverdam Park. We followed the well maintained trail thru rolling terrain, along side Beaverdam Reservoir, for about a mile and a half, then came back.  It was a beautiful warm winter day, with daffodils lining the first part of the path!  (Gloucester is famous for it’s daffodil festival, which will be held this year on April 2 & 3.)

We saw a LOT of turtles, a great blue heron, some coots, bull frogs, and a black racer snake.  Definitely worth a trip.  We were on the hiking trail, but there’re also around 7 miles of multiuse trail for hiking, bikers, and horses.  In addition, there’re boats, canoes and kayaks available for rent. Great day trip from Richmond!

Winter Hike

Almost balmy here today after a very cold and snowy long weekend. Also pouring down rain, so I’m glad to be inside.  Last Thursday I joined nine others from Chesterfield County for a local winter bushwhack thru the county’s newest, not yet open to the public, park next to the Mary B. Stratton playing fields.  We hiked thru what was one of the last dairy farms in the area, following Trampling Run to Falling Creek. It was very cold – below freezing all day, and sunny. One of our group found a good as new Loews bucket, so we picked up discarded beer cans and assorted trash along the way, carefully avoiding vestiges of barbed wire fencing.  We had beautiful views of winter foliage, entertained by sporadic birdsong. Fortunately, my toes only got chilly when we stopped for lunch.  Always a delight to get out in the woods, especially just down the road!!

High Bridge near Farmville, VA


Yesterday I joined six of my retired Federal Reserve buddies for a stroll along the newly opened High Bridge linear State Park near Farmville, Virginia. This was the site of the last battle of the War Between the States – click for details. A good account is also available in Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Lincoln.  The print shown above from 1857 show’s cleared fields and flood plains below the bridge, which makes troop movements more believable.

Today the area is completely forested and very peaceful. We were blessed with a lovely sunny mild afternoon for our visit. The trail is completely flat, as you would expect from an old rail bed.  We parked just off of River Road north of Farmville and did only the 3 miles up to, across the bridge, and back. The complete trail is 31 miles and perfect for a bicycle jaunt.  To make life even easier, bicycles are available for rental where the trail crosses thru Farmville.

There’re several overlooks on the bridge where you can look out over the foilage, which should be spectacularly colorful in just a couple of weeks. Along the east side of the bridge you can see the supports from the earliest iteration.  The trail opened this past April and is in immaculate condition.  There’re even mounting blocks at either end of the Bridge for easy mount and dismount of horses!

Only a little more than an hour from Richmond out either route 60 to 45, or route 360 to 460. Definately worth the time!

Bear Creek Lake State Park


The last week of February I had the opportunity to join a hike sponsored by Chesterfield Parks and Recreation to Bear Creek Lake State Park, led by naturalist Mark Battista. (read his article on the return of the osprey in the Chesterfield Observer

The park is west of Richmond on route 60 about an hour, just before you get to the town of Cumberland.  The park is full of trails, and a magnificient beaver dam!  See note on the detail map above of the approximate location.  The leaves on the trees weren’t out yet, so we had a good view thru the woods.  We saw one small snake and heard lots of frogs and birds. 

We stopped at the local ice cream store in town for a quick snack before heading home!  A good choice for a Spring outting.