Blue Ridge Outdoors is your guide to hiking in the Southeast, biking in the Blue Ridge and Appalachian adventures from the Highlands to the Piedmont. For over 20 years, it has been the definitive guide to outdoor sports, health, and adventure travel in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.
A 14-year-old oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has been contained
Government officials have installed a new underwater system for capturing oil 11 miles off of the coast of Louisiana where a leak has caused crude oil to spill into the ocean for the last 14 years. Taylor Energy Co. owns the site and is responsible for ending the leak, caused when one of its oil platforms fell during a hurricane in 2004. An estimated 10,500 to 29,400 gallons of oil is leaking from the site daily. The Coast Guard has been monitoring efforts to clean up the site and recently reported that the new system is meeting federal containment standards, noting that the once large sheen of oil on the surface of the ocean is now “barely visible.”
The Australian Koala Foundation has confirmed that the koala is functionally extinct. With only 80,000 koalas left in the wild, the foundation has determined that there aren’t enough left to support a new generation. The term “functionally extinct” means that the koala no longer has any effect on its environment and that any genetic disease or pathogen that may come along would effectively end the species all together. Climate change and deforestation are being blamed for the koala’s decline. Heat waves have caused thousands of koalas to die of dehydration and deforestation has wiped out the koala in 41 of the 128 Federal environments where they are known to live.
When police officers in Florida pulled over a pickup truck after it blew through a stop sign in the middle of the night, they weren’t prepared for what they were about to find. The driver of the truck, Michael Cody Clemons, told officers that he and his girlfriend had been collecting frogs and snakes from under a nearby overpass. Possession of some types of wildlife is illegal in Florida, so the officer asked the couple to open their backpacks so he could see what had been collected.
Clemons girlfriend, Ariel Michelle Marchan-Le Quire, had 43 small turtles inside of her backpack. When the officer inquired if they’d collected anything else, Marchan- Le Quire then pulled a foot-long alligator from her yoga pants. The animals were seized and released back into the wild and the couple was cited for violating state wildlife laws
The Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, now in its 56th season, will feature eight outdoor concerts this summer, from July 19 through September 1. Our concerts take place at Shrine Mont, a beautiful historic retreat and conference center, in Orkney Springs, Va. Its location at the foot of Great North Mountain provides a stunning backdrop for our evening concerts, and the venue’s modest size allows for great views of the stage from both the covered pavilion and lawn seating areas.
Here are some of the highlights of this year’s concert series. For the full concert lineup or to purchase tickets visit our website.
Our 2019 summer season will kick off July 19 with The Drifters, The Platters and Cornell Gunter’s Coasters, all known for their classic Doo-Wop and Motown hits, including “Under the Boardwalk,” “Only You,” “Yakety Yak,” “Up on the Roof,” “This Magic Moment,” and many more. Other concerts in our lineup include The Beach Boys on July 26, The Oak Ridge Boys on Aug. 9 and Home Free on Aug. 10. and Judy Collins on Aug. 31.
SVMF will also be celebrating the 50th
anniversaries of two historic events this summer.
One Giant Leap – “The Planets” and Beyond, on July 20, will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the First Moon Landing with a multimedia extravaganza! Tour the galaxy with music and fascinating imagery of official NASA video footage and photos of planets and space scenes, projected onto the big screen. This imagery will provide an exciting backdrop to the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Gustav Holst’s, “The Planets.”
On July 27, a rock band backed by the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra will celebrate Woodstock’s 50th anniversary. PSO Rocks! “Still Stardust, Still Golden – Woodstock at 50,” will revisit the songs that made this three-day festival one of the most iconic events in music history.
series will come to a close on Sept. 1 with the Hot Strings and Cool Breezes
Minifest, featuring The Travelin’ McCourys, Sierra Hull and Justin Moses, and
The Becky Buller Band.
For those who want to turn their music festival experience into a Weekend Getaway, our one- and two-night package deals offer discounts on concert tickets and lodging at Shrine Mont. Rooms in the historic hotel and other cabins and cottages on the pristine 100-acre property make it convenient to walk to concerts in the evenings and visit local attractions during the day.
We love to see families Come Together to enjoy great music under the stars at SVMF!
The lawn is a great seating option for families. Spread out
on the lawn with chairs and a blanket and enjoy a picnic dinner before the
music starts. If the kids get a little restless, they can frolic and play in
the grass or pal around with friends and siblings in a safe environment.
Music Lovers Getaway Package Deals - YouTube
The best part is our low price of $10 per child for
lawn admission (ages 3-17) and
free lawn admission for children 2 and under! If you want to spend the night or
weekend at our venue, package deals also include the children’s discounts on concert
tickets plus accommodations at Shrine Mont for ages 4-12 (ages 3 and under stay
Any season is the perfect season to bring your friends or family to
Chesapeake. Just minutes from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, it’s an outdoor
lover’s paradise with plenty of activities for those who need an escape from
life’s stresses – or who simply love the outdoors.
With miles of shoreline, this part of Southeastern Virginia was made for
paddleboarding, kayaking, sailing, canoeing and more. Paddlers can enjoy the
Intracoastal Waterway, Elizabeth River and Northwest River.
In addition to boating, the Northwest River Park and Campground offers
763 acres complete with campgrounds, a putt-putt golf course and a certified
disc golf course.
Bring your camera. Take in the gorgeous cypress trees and paddle along
Lake Drummond, located in the historic Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife
Refuge. This freshwater lake rarely exceeds six feet in depth and is known to
have some of the purest water in the world. Don’t be fooled by the brown color;
the tannins from the cypress trees darken the water while also killing live
bacteria. Outfitter Adventure Kayak Tours leads guided kayak tours through the
refuge. This tour is a great way to learn about the past while immersing
yourself in a world that’s both mystical and historically significant.
If fishing is your passion, the Northwest River and the Elizabeth River
have some wonderful bass and trout fishing when in season. Lake Lesa, located
in the Northwest River Park and Campground, is stocked with trout, largemouth
bass, crappie, pickerel and catfish. And yes – you need a fishing license.
Many visitors enjoy crabbing. The Elizabeth River Park and Great Bridge
Lock Park on the Elizabeth River offer great crabbing. The Intracoastal
Waterway, accessible by Great Bridge Locks Park, is also a good spot.
April through June, the daytime sky holds magic of its own, as more than
200 species of birds migrate home or simply pass through. A sanctuary for
year-round birdwatching since the 1600s, birders flock to see Bald Eagles,
Egrets, White-throated Sparrows, the Great Horned Owl, Acadian Flycatchers, and
Red-eyed Vireos, just to name a few.
those who prefer indoor pursuits, Chesapeake offers a diverse range of charming
shops and boutiques and an array of great places to eat and drink. Every week
Chesapeake features a Food Truck Series where food trucks gather in one of our
parks – complete with children’s activities, live entertainment and a variety
of fresh, local food.
is conveniently situated. It’s only a short, 20-minute drive to urban nightlife
in Downtown Norfolk or a 30-minute drive to the Virginia Beach Boardwalk and
beaches. Many visitors choose to stay in Chesapeake and benefit from affordable
hotel accommodations, making us home base for their vacation.
Whether you are looking for a relaxing vacation or an outdoor lover’s
active getaway, Chesapeake has what you are looking for.
Man murdered on Appalachian Trail found solace from his PTSD in the outdoors
The man who was stabbed and killed on the Appalachian Trail last week has been identified as Oklahoma resident and Army veteran Ronald Sanchez. Sanchez served three tours of duty in Iraq and came away from his years of service suffering from depression and PTSD as well as back and knee injuries that made his outdoor pursuits even more difficult. In an effort to pull himself out of the darkness, Sanchez joined a cycling group and a dragon boat team and began showing horses. His biggest pursuit, however, was his hike on the Appalachian Trail. Sanchez’s sister, Brenda Sanchez, told CNN that her brother was especially proud of his hike. “To survive those deployments in Iraq and then to die like this is just devastating,” she said.
James Jordan, 30, was arrested and charged with one count of murder and one count of assault with the intent to murder. In addition to allegedly stabbing Sanchez, Jordan is also accused of attacking and stabbing a female hiker who played dead and managed to escape.
Local climbers ask Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to restore climbing access
Climbers in the Mid-Atlantic region are asking Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to lift its climbing closures which began in 2017 when the park withdrew access to all rock climbing and bouldering activities in the Virginia and West Virginia sections of the park. A year later in 2018, climbing locations in Maryland Heights, the only multi-pitch climbing in the state, were also deemed off-limits due to a landslide and construction vehicle traffic. Climbers point out, however, that the landslide is not located near climbing areas and the park never closed the Maryland Heights hiking trail to the public.
In the past three months, Mid Atlantic Climbers, a non-profit dedicated to preserving climbing access in the region, has collected more than five hundred signatures from the climbing community requesting restored climbing access in the park and asking that future climbing management decisions allow for public process.
Asheville’s Urban/Suburban bear study shows bear movements throughout city
North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s Urban/Suburban Bear Study has entered its second phase. The study began back in 2014 when researchers began catching bears within a 1-mile radius of the city, outfitting them with radio collars that fall off on their own over time, and tracking the bear’s movements with the hope of using the data to inform future bear management decisions. That data is now being analyzed and a full report is expected to be released this fall. In the meantime, the study is on to phase two. During the second phase researchers are looking for 1,000 people in both the Haw Creek and Town Mountain neighborhoods, which have the highest amount of bear activity in the city, to participate in their “Bear Wise” program and agree to the six BearWise principles which teach residents how to live in harmony with bears. Roughly 7,000-9,000 black bears live in WNC and another 11,000-13,000 live on the coast of North Carolina.
New York lends itself to visions of tourist
throngs crossing Times Square, subways populated with anonymous faces, and
scenes of yellow cabs, infinite skyscrapers and endless restaurants animated
with the unmistakable buzz of movement. Of life. But that’s New York City by
land and quite frankly, nothing has changed there. New York City by water? A
whole different story.
King of the Manhattan Lap - YouTube
King of the Manhattan Lap, produced by Whitewater (the brand behind the Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC), follows veteran sea kayaker, Kenny Unser, as he takes Charlotteans Cooper Lambla and Megan Somloi, along with Tyler Allyn, Cat Boland, Megan George, and Nate Klema, on a 30 mile kayak journey around the island of Manhattan, known as a Manhattan Lap.
“There’s an intense juxtaposition
between feeling isolated in a wild environment and simultaneously being
surrounded by millions in one of the world’s largest cities. It feels like
you’re floating in time and space, on the outside of a world looking in.”
The team ranging from world
class whitewater kayakers to non-paddlers navigate three different tidal rivers
with changing currents, tides, and freezing waters leftover from winter. Add in
barges that lurk in the dark, aggressive water taxis creating surf waves, and whatever
unknown elements New Yorkers throw into the rivers, completing a Manhattan Lap is
Luckily, Kenny’s got over 70
laps under his belt and knows that if you want the tides on your side, kayaking
through the night is time to go.
With camping lights duct
taped to their kayaks, a camera, and the snack stash sadly forgotten, the team
put in on the East River, a salt water tidal strait that separates Long Island
including the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn from Manhattan.
Through the inky black waters of
the night, Megan Somloi a paddler of two and a half years, describes of the
voyage, “there’s an intense juxtaposition between feeling isolated in a wild
environment and simultaneously being surrounded by millions in one of the
world’s largest cities. It feels like you’re floating in time and space, on the
outside of a world looking in.”
When Kenny began exploring this
side of NYC he didn’t have tidal knowledge. It was a pretty punishing
experience, but for some reason he never stopped. Now, he can time the lap
looking only at the moon.
On perspective of the city,
videographer, Tyler Allyn says “it’s something out of a sci-fi scene. You find
yourself oddly isolated in one of the most densely populated places on earth.”
Somloi explains the journey has shifted her perspective permanently. “It was
like I was being swallowed whole by New York. It’s like facing an elephant as
Although the team circumnavigated the island by bike the day
before the lap, the vantage points of being on the outside looking in and vice
versa instill the same awe inspiring moments that New York is famous for.
Maybe it’s the chase of isolation
in a city that never sleeps. Or the unique characters one encounters in these
idiosyncratic times of peculiar surroundings. Perhaps it’s the need to refill the
transcendental tank of interest, inspiration, and purpose that drives Kenny and
this niche community to seek out different perspectives on the old ways of an
Either way, it seems only natural
to return to the waters that created access to inhabit the island and grow the
city that came to be New York with its unfathomable expansion of skyline, glittering
lights, and life that is present everywhere you turn.
King of the Manhattan Lap is a short form film and was
selected for the 2019 Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, Colorado.
King of the Manhattan Lap was
produced by Whitewater in Charlotte, NC.
Oconee County, tucked in the most northwest corner of South Carolina, is bordered by three lakes. From the Cherokee word “Ae-quo-nee” meaning “land beside the water,” Oconee County lives up to its name with waterfalls, lakes, and streams a-plenty. We saw more wildlife here in a few days then we have during the rest of our time on the East Coast. Check out below our suggestions of how to enjoy this part of the country to the fullest.
We had the pleasure of staying at the Lofts on Main ($125/night) in Walhalla while we were exploring Oconee County. We were impressed with the history of the space. Structural components, decorations, and fixtures all had history and purpose. The lights were rescued from an old building down the road, and the brick was original to the building. With all the charm and depth, it felt like coming home to an old friend. It was the perfect place to relax after a long day adventuring. And as an added bonus, there is a gear shop and brewpub right below the lofts! More on that later.
For a more traditional stay, the Rodeway Inn & Suites ($88/night) is on the edge of Walhalla and has all the expected amenities. There are also plenty of options in Seneca as well, a short drive away. AirBnB is alive and well in Oconee County and has copious options ranging from one room suites to full lake view properties on any of the three lakes, even a treehouse on Lake Jocassee. Lake Jocassee is a hidden gem on the northern border of Oconee County. It’s at the confluence of four rivers and stays cool and clear the entire year round.
For a more rustic approach for a basecamp while exploring Oconee County, there are campsites dotted around offering the perfect jumping off points for adventure. We spent a night at the campground in Devils Fork State Park ($23-$42/site/night) on the beautiful Lake Jocassee. There are also boat-in campsites ($25-$85/site/night) that double the privacy and ensure a lake view all to yourself. Be sure to read up on what to bring and regulations. We had to skip out on this one because dogs aren’t allowed. For more traditional camping, check out Oconee State Park, or Mountain Rest Cabins & Campgrounds.
Who knew the northern tip of South Carolina could offer so much in the way of adventure? There are waterfall hikes, history to discover, mountain bike trails, and fishing galore. Missing something for your trip? Don’t worry, there’s a gear shop right in town. Stop by Twenty8 West to keep the adventures coming.
For all the waterfall lovers out there, have we got the place for you! We started with Yellow Branch Falls, a 1.7 mile (one way) hike to an impressive waterfall at the end. You wind through dense forest with peeks at old growth trees crossing multiple streams along the way. We also explored Issaqueena Falls, and found many more hidden falls along the edges of Lake Jocassee on a boat ride. For a full list of waterfalls to find the perfect morning excursion or day trip, check out this list by Visit Oconee South Carolina.
If you really want to see the beauty this county has to offer, then the Foothills trail is your best bet. It’s 80 miles one way and runs through four distinct boundary areas (national forest, wild and scenic river, wilderness, and state park). That means you will get a great variety of views and scenery. There is plenty of camping along the way.
Oconee County has a lot planned for its Mountain Bike trails. We played around on the four miles they have built in Phase I. We look forward to the next phases because what we rode was flowy, exciting, and a joy to explore.
There is so much more to see here. One of our favorite things to learn about and see was the Stumphouse tunnel in Stumphouse Park. It was going to be a railroad tunnel passage before the Civil War but ran into funding issues after the war. Now, it’s a super cool (pun intended- the tunnel stays at a cool 50 degrees all year long) and interactive look into the past. Dare to travel in without a flashlight and transport back in time to all the manpower that went into such a structure. One of our favorite fun facts about this location was that the temperature and humidity level was perfect for growing blue cheese. Clemson has since relocated the cheese production, but we wish it was still there to enjoy.
We spent a lot of time on Lake Jocassee. We were impressed with its beauty and clear waters. Boating around is a great way to see the lake. You can also take the man power approach and rent kayaks or SUPs. To get even more up close and personal, you can scuba dive down 300 feet and explore ruins left over from when the area was flooded to create the lake.
We did it! We finally did it. We got to go fly fishing. We have been looking forward to trying out this sport for so long, and it didn’t disappoint. We spent the morning with the Chattooga River Fly Shop on the Chauga River. Karl and Karen treated us like old friends. Karl was knowledgable, excited to teach, and taught these fishing newbies the basics. We had a great time on the river and we would highly recommend giving them a call. There are plenty of spots to fish around the area and if you have the equipment, you could fish at a different spot every day you visit!
You can get even closer to the river by jumping on a boat and rafting down the Chattooga. We have hung out with Wildwater White Water Rafting & Zipline Canopy Tours for a few years, and we’re still impressed. The trip down the Chattooga was exciting, safe, and scenic. Our guide Will was super entertaining. If white water isn’t your thing, head over to the zip lines and see the river from a different perspective.
There’s a range of food to explore here, from authentic Mexican to Japanese/American fusion. To try out the latter, head to Sole in Seneca. Show up on Wednesday for some BOGO sushi and try a craft cocktail while you’re at it. We also ate at 3 Amigos Mexican Grill right down the street from where we stayed. Pro tip- get the guacamole. For a faster stop, try King Taco, the food truck that hangs out in Walhalla. Carolina Pizza Co is a great option for before or after adventure fuel. Classis salads and slices at the joint on the main street. Another pizza option is Humble Pie tucked in the Chattooga River Resort & Campground.
We found some great options for drinks. Right below the Lofts on Main was West and Co., a brewpub with craft beers on tap, and plenty of wines to choose from. Partners in Wine has a bunch of events throughout the month, and some great wine to choose from. Did we mention we like wine?
We enjoyed exploring this corner of South Carolina. Send us more suggestions for when we’re back, or questions so we can steer you in the right direction! Thank you to Ken at Visit Oconee South Carolina for showing us around.
Our group of four are spread across a grassy helicopter pad in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Ohiopyle State Park. We are at a familiar place for many of the one-and-a-half million annual visitors to Ohiopyle, the back of a parking area at the takeout of the Lower Youghiogheny River, known as Old Mitchell Place. Yet at the moment we are having a difficult time figuring out where we are supposed to go.
“So, that’s Sugar Run Trail there, and here at a right angle should be Mitchell,” says Michael Hermann, founder and lead cartographer of Purple Lizard Maps, as he points to our intended target on the state park trail map. It should be within our site. Yet on a sunny spring day, with young green just starting to sprout, our trailhead is nowhere to be seen. We wander further north along the parking area and eventually find the Mitchell Trail. Hermann makes a note of the discrepancy – a difference of roughly a hundred yards – then we continue on the trail.
Photographer Regina Nicolardi and myself are accompanying Hermann and Dave Gantz, the aptly titled Trail Guru of Purple Lizard, who has 15,000 miles of hiking under his belt, including the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. We are on a fieldwork mission for the company’s upcoming title on the Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania, set to release early this summer. The purpose of our outing is a map maker’s task referred to as, “ground-truthing,” the process of verifying, in person, the contents of other existing maps and guides that are being used as sources. In today’s age of digital content, information on outdoor destinations is easier than ever to find. But online aggregation has also led to the perpetuation of misinformation, leading down a path of inaccurate resources and frustrated outdoor enthusiasts. Hermann adheres to a different route when compiling a map, due diligence.
In two days with the Purple Lizard crew, we drove unimproved roads in the state game lands, scoped out scenic overlooks, spotted local climbing crags, rode rail trails, and discovered the types of places that may be deserving of a small, lizard emblem on the map. A symbol reserved for spots of fascination the team wants to encourage their audience to seek out for themselves. When we left, the two stayed on to continue additional truthing, as well as meet with land managers of different public use areas, and stop in to chat with local outfitters who can provide valuable insight on different recreational aspects of the region.
Back at his home office in central Pennsylvania, near the ridges and valleys of Rothrock and Bald Eagle State Forest, Hermann compiles their findings – digitally illustrating a reference that is both accurate and enjoyable to look at. A Purple Lizard Map is the finished craft of a thousand hours of labor by Hermann and his small team, that include, his wife Justine Andronici (who takes on many business roles as the Director of Very Important Things), contributing cartographer Erin Greb, as well as Dave Gantz.
Hermann admits the way he goes about producing a map is not the most cost effective route, but he and the other members of the company also believe the resulting aesthetics of their maps contribute to a greater mission, sharing the recreational value of the Appalachian region.
“We are seeing now that our best contribution is to keep doing what we are doing. We bring people to Pennsylvania because there is amazing opportunity here,” Justine Andronici states, referring to the role of Purple Lizard in expanding popularity of outdoor recreation in the region. According to the company, Purple Lizard Maps are distributed in 150 retail locations and owned in 38 states. Andronici continues, “we see our goal as to elevate the understanding of what’s possible in the Mid-Atlantic.”
“And we do that through beautiful cartography,” Hermann adds, speaking of the creative dedication he places in each Purple Lizard project as well as other freelance endeavors, including an award-winning historic atlas of Maine. “There is so little art in modern cartography even though that’s the whole origin of it. The land managers, especially at the state level, they’re thrilled we are coming in and making a map of that area because we make it look so inviting.”
Their titles have highlighted areas largely passed over by large scale map publications, but by no means lacking in recreation. Laurel Highlands will be the thirteenth map released under the Purple Lizard banner. Nine have been released for Pennsylvania. As well as one in Ohio. But not all of the areas charted have been obscure to the mainstream. Purple Lizard has also produced a map and guide to the winter surfing retreat of Rincon, Puerto Rico. And in 2018, two maps featuring West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest.
The independent publisher plans to add more volumes of the Keystone State but also expects to continue expanding to more realms of the Mid-Atlantic. Hermann hints at the idea of Harrisonburg, Virginia down the trail. A corridor featuring Shenandoah National Park, and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
I posed a question to Hermann and Gantz during an interview previous to our fieldwork. If the maps are as successful at drawing people to lesser known places of recreation as hoped, do you run the risk of overcrowding, as has been seen in well-known parks and forests?
Dave Gantz sees an appreciation for these places outweighing any fear of overuse, “I always think about it, but I’m more on the John Muir side. It’s going to go away if you don’t promote it.”
Michael Hermann adds that overuse is another reason for the importance of well-designed maps. Expanding the understanding of offerings an area holds rather than sticking to the same place. “We see our maps as dispersion tools. You can lay it out and find other trailheads or trail systems. It opens people’s eyes to other opportunities. There are a lot of amazing trails.”
The second day in the Laurel Highlands we biked out and back on a developing rail trail system known as the Indian Creek Valley Trail. Starting from Indian Creek Reservoir we descended four miles on the engineered plane, following Indian Creek as it cascaded over large slabs of bedrock. Our tires rolled over dirt and gravel, passing through a mountainside scene full of trillium and other wildflowers, garage-sized mossy boulders, and stands of rhododendron and hemlock. We came around one last bend and the rail trail ended at an active rail line, where the creek met the wide, and at this point, mellow Youghiogheny. We knew just across the river was the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage. A trail visited by one million annually. Yet here we had the Indian Creek Gorge all to ourselves. The trail developers hope a pedestrian bridge will one day bring more visitors across the river to their expanding system. But for now, it’s one of those secret places of adventure hiding in plain sight. Standing there with Hermann and Gantz, looking at the merging Appalachian gorges, you get the sense it’s a place they want to see others enjoy. Perhaps a view a lizard could shed some light on.
Groundhog Gravy describes themselves as a bunch of aquaholics.
The members of this folk rock quartet, based in Fayetteville, West Virginia, ultimately crossed paths because of their passion for whitewater. All of the Gravy boys, when not dishing out funky rock and roll at night, spend their days as whitewater guides on the Gauley River.
After having dug into their tunes the last few weeks, I am really looking forward to catching them live. Also, I just might find myself on the river with them this summer for some whitewater and a riverside concert, as the band is now booking spots on their Groundhog Gravy Gauley overnight adventure.
I recently caught up with drummer Scott Ferris and guitarist/singer Ed Lehrter to chat about the Gauley, overnight rafting trips, and how to whip up some tasty groundhog gravy.
BRO – Which was scarier – first time hitting big rapids on the Gauley or your first time playing music on stage?
SF – Personally, my first time on the Gauley was a dizzying blur of fun and fear. It’s reputation had my nerves higher than getting on stage for the first time where I was nervous, yes, but still in a familiar setting behind my drums. Ed has a different opinion. He says, “Rapids can kill you, but playing music in public can incite the ridicule of your peers. Death is easier to come to terms with.”
BRO – Tell me about the Groundhog Gravy Gauley adventure.
SF – The Groundhog Gravy Gauley overnight is the culmination and union of two of our largest passions as individuals and as a group. Current and previous members of Groundhog Gravy are all Gauley guides, so in addition to being your fearless, talented, and humble river guides, we provide musical entertainment in the evening while we are at our overnight camping spot at the breathtakingly beautiful Canyon Doors. This is a special edition of our deluxe overnight and hasn’t yet been marketed except by word of mouth. It’s the best rafting trip you’ve never heard of.
BRO – Is there a symbiotic relationship between your time on the river and your music?
SF – Absolutely. I’d say a majority of our songs, and definitely all of Ed’s songs, are directly influenced by the river and the surrounding community. We all met by of our love of whitewater bringing us to the same place, and our bond continually strengthens with the trust that inherently grows by running dangerous whitewater as a team.
BRO – If you had to pick you one – the river or the music – could you? Which would it be?
SF – This is a difficult question. It feels like picking your favorite grandmother – you may have an answer, but you don’t want to say it out loud. Ed says he’d take the river. He grew up alongside a river and feels that he makes music by the physical interaction he has with the water. The day he quits the river and adventuring is the day the music in him dies. For me, I’d choose music. As a passion, it was here first and is deeper in my soul than anything. I’ll be playing and watching live music as long as I am able.
BRO – What’s the secret to good groundhog gravy?
SF – For a good groundhog gravy, trim a bit of the gristle off an ol’ fat groundhog, toss it in your family’s old cast iron skillet on low heat, use white flour from a brown burlap sack with dark stains on the outside to indicate freshness, and use cool, clear water from the well out back. Season to taste.
You can catch Groundog Gravy this weekend at the Wanderlust Muzik Festival in Hinton and then next weekend at the Rendezvous Lodge in Lansing. Both venues are in the band’s home state of wild and wonderful West Virginia. For more information on the band, be sure to paddle over to their website.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Groundhog Gravy Gauley overnight adventure, surf over to the Adventures On The Gorge website for that and more on all sorts of outdoor activities around the New and Gauley Rivers.