Few places do as good a job of quickly escorting you from civilization as the 189-acre Knight Brown Nature Preserve. Take the Beechwood Bottom Loop Trail from the trailhead and hike clockwise, and you quickly descend to Belews Creek. (As soon as you reach the creek, look across, to the north, for a cascade tumbling down the far slope.) Large sections of three trails run along the creek, which has forged a surprisingly deep valley: in just over a tenth of a mile, the terrain rises 80 vertical feet above the creek. The east-facing slope probed by the Leatherwood Loop Trail has some understory growth, but for the most part, the high canopy provides a protective roof above open terrain below. Nice in summer because it blocks out the sun but not the downslope breezes, nice in winter because the leafy canopy disappears letting the sun’s warming rays penetrate. Belews Creek, which runs west, then north through the preserve, offers rocky relief, spilling over car-size boulders in spots, before mellowing out on its journey to the Dan River.
This weekend, we were able to conclude our Spring GetBackpacking! Intro to Backpacking class, with a graduation weekend at South Mountains State Park. Originally scheduled for the end of March, this pandemic-delayed trip was one we were especially interested in, as a way to gauge whether we might be able offer small-batch backpacking trips. In short, could we enforce physical distancing to the point we would feel safe moving ahead.
GetHiking! is back!
Over the past couple of weeks, our GetHiking! groups in North Carolina and Virginia have resumed group hikes — group hikes that look a little different than they did the beginning of the year.
“As stay-at-home orders started to relax some in the past few weeks, we have started posting some hikes again,” says Pepper Ernest, hike leader for GetHiking! Charlottesville. “I led my first hike (very small group) today and several other hike leaders have posted and led hikes over the past week.”
The world may be closing down but our trails remain open! We offer some tips for hikers used to heading out on group hikes, who now find themselves heading out on their own.
Temperatures are warming, skies are clearing, wildflowers are blooming and more people are getting the itch to hike. All of which means it’s time for our annual Spring Hike Leader Recruitment Drive. Not everyone is interested or inclined to lead a hike, but if you’ve ever given the notion a thought, there’s a good likelihood a hike leader lurks within. Today, one of our hike leaders — one I personally raised through our farm system — shares what led her to be a hike leader and what she enjoys about it. Kate Rice is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has been leading hikes with us for two years. And, nepotism be danged, she’s also my stepdaughter.