Festival Offers Bikes, Hikes and Floats to Explore the Great Out - WRBL

Festival Offers Bikes, Hikes and Floats to Explore the Great Outdoors

ABINGDON, Va. – The 65th Annual Virginia Highlands Festival presents Ride with the Legend, Clinch River Guided Kayak Float, a wildflower walk on Whitetop Mountain and more as part of its Great Outdoors series. Each year, the Festival's outdoor events are programmed to showcase Appalachia's natural resources and recreational opportunities. 

"Southwest Virginia has many scenic treasures," said Great Outdoors Committee Chairman Merry Jennings. "The Festival tries to introduce visitors to some beautiful places that residents know about – like the meadows on Whitetop, the pristine Clinch River and the Channels State Park. These are truly the Jewels of the Blue Ridge."

Ride with the Legend gives cycling enthusiasts a chance to experience the beauty of the Virginia Creeper Trail, guided by "The Legend" Lawrence Dye, an 81-year-old Trail Ambassador who has logged more than 175,000 miles of biking on the region's finest rails-to-trails landmark.

The ride will begin at the Abingdon Trailhead at 8 a.m. on August 3 and then proceed through Damascus to Whitetop Station and back.

The pace will be moderate with plenty of breaks, and mileage can be shortened by joining or leaving the group at different locations along the trail. Participants should bring their own bikes (or rent one in Abingdon or Damascus) as well as weather-appropriate clothing, water, food and a tire-repair kit if desired.

Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Whitetop Mountain on Saturday, August 3 from 1-4 p.m. during the Whitetop: Island in the Sky event. This 1.4 mile walk on the Appalachian Trail introduces attendees to a unique variety of wildflowers, including plants usually found approximately 600 miles north of southwest Virginia, along with stunning panoramic views and the geological outcropping Buzzard Rock. Participants should be prepared for changing weather and bring wildflower identification books, cameras, a snack and a drink. To register, email Carrie Sparks at jim2carrie@embarqmail.com or call 276-783-2125 by July 29.

For those who wish to see Appalachia's natural resources from the water, the Festival offers a Clinch River Guided Kayak Float on Saturday, August 3 and Saturday, August 10 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. This trip allows floaters to explore, take in the scenery, and discuss the ecology and history of Clinch River by kayak. The $25 admission fee covers the presentation by Clinch Valley Outfitters and the necessary equipment including a kayak, paddle and life jacket. To schedule a float, contact Bill Dingus at 276-479-3316 or by emailing adventure@clinchvalleyoutfitters.com

Abingdon's ElderSpirit Community will offer an early-evening stroll through members' beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, where visitors can talk with members about a simplified lifestyle, respect for the environment, and the inspiration for each garden. Homemade cookies and iced tea will be served on the plaza. The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 6.

For those seeking rare photo opportunities, the Highlands Camera Club of Abingdon will lead an outing to Pioneer Park, an outdoor museum with 15 reconstructed historical buildings, on Thursday, August 8 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The admission fee is $10, which will also cover a visit to the Historic Crab Orchard Museum. Register by August 7 by calling Jim Cowan at 276-628-5905.

Master falconer and wildlife rehabilitator Mitch Whitaker will present two educational birds of prey programs on Thursday, August 8 from 10-11 a.m. and 3-4 p.m. at the Southwest Virginia 4-H Center. These interactive presentations will introduce several regional raptors, including the Red-Tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech Owl and the Barred Owl. The audience will have an opportunity to meet the birds, take photographs and ask questions.

 For more details and complete schedule of Great Outdoors events, visit the Festival website at www.VaHighlandsFestival.org. Those with questions can call the Festival office at 276-623-5266 or email info@vahighlandsfestival.org.


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