The finest free magazine you will ever find is Blue Ridge Outdoors. Seriously, I’m not just saying that because of a bet made while bowling with the publisher. The magazine thoroughly covers outdoor and related topics in Virginia, West Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and even North Georgia. It does so every month with great wit and from a variety of perspectives.
Yesterday I sat down with the January issue, which includes “The Ultimate 100 Must Do Mountain Adventures for 2014.” Some of the items I have already done. Seeing them on the list brought back memories (#2 Summit Mount Rogers in Virginia; #11 Tear up Cupp Run at Snowshoe, WV). Some sound amazing and have inspired me (#32 Zip down the longest Zipline on the east coast at Adventures on the Gorge, WV; #18 Eat your weight in pizza [truth is, I’ve probably already done that]). Still other items on the list are best left undone (#14 Hike naked on the summer solstice).
I was very happy to see some of our clients’ many outdoor adventures included. #7 Ride or run all 34 miles of the Virginia Creeper Trail, whose western terminus is in downtown Abingdon, VA. #90 Go big on your bike, specifically mentions the awesome trail network at Douthat State Park, which straddles the border of the Alleghany Highlands and Bath County. #69 Night hike to McAfee Knob, #75 Bike the Gamut at Carvin’s Cove and #97 Take a lunch time break on a close in trail in Roanoke are all located within the region around the Roanoke Valley known as Virginia’s Blue Ridge. I hope you will all put these things on your 2014 to-do list.
There are a few other things that I wish were included. For example, go tubing or paddling on the Upper James River Water Trail. Plan your trip with the guys at Twin River Outfitters and you’ll be assured of a great time. Take a guided fly-fishing trip on the Jackson River in the Alleghany Highlands. Grab your camera and go on a photo safari in Bath County, where you’ll find gorgeous landscapes, wildlife and quaint towns. Finally, and this may be a bit of a stretch because it’s really not in the mountains, go camping and exploring at Kerr Lake in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. This man-made lake is largely undeveloped which means you can spend days exploring quiet coves and enjoy a genuine wilderness experience with deer, bear and bald eagles.
One emotion that Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, and this Ultimate 100 list in particular, stirs up is gratitude that I get to live so close to these amazing places.
I was pleased to see this great (Fair and Balanced) travel
feature about the Blue Ridge Parkway on Foxnews.com. The Blue Ridge Parkway is
a national treasure — the most visited unit of the National Park Service — so
any time travel writers wish to rave about it, it's OK with me. Especially
great travel writers like Eileen. I've followed her on Twitter for a long time and
always enjoy her insights. I am not writing today to disagree with anything in
Eileen's article. In fact, I think every American should see Monticello. I
merely wish to add my own two cents worth based on my experience of living near the
Blue Ridge Parkway.
Just south of the Peaks of Otter, Route 43 is a winding
road that descends from the Parkway into the town of Buchanan, Virginia. There
you will find Twin River Outfitters, the masters of all things related to the
Upper James River Water Trail. Most people think of Richmond or Jamestown when you
mention the James River. The fact is that it begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains
where the Jackson and Cowpasture Rivers meet. The first 41 miles are part of
the Upper James River Water Trail, an innovative and highly successful tourism
initiative that has introduced many people to the joy of canoeing, kayaking or
tubing on the "Mighty James." The guys at TRO in Buchanan can help you enjoy a safe
day on the river.
A little further south is the Fishburn Parkway that
connects the Blue Ridge Parkway to downtown Roanoke, but not before going past
the iconic Roanoke Star atop Mill Mountain. From the observation deck you look
out across the City of Roanoke and the ring of mountains that surround the
valley. In the distance you can watch planes take off and land at the airport. Thanks
to a handy sign at the overlook, you can also identify the mountains and ridges
along which the famous Appalachian Trail runs. Head down the mountain towards
Roanoke where right at the bottom where Fishburn Parkway turns into Walnut
Avenue you will find a mom and pop ice cream shop called HITS (for Homemade Ice
Cream Treats). Stop in and enjoy a banana split. After all, any summer road trip is better if it includes some
fun on the water and ice cream, not necessarily in that order.
The Upper James River Water Trail keeps getting better.
This project launched in the spring of 2010 with a lot of local support and
excitement. The Botetourt County Office of Tourism had the idea to market the
county’s greatest natural treasure for outdoor recreation. Presenting the
“Mighty James” as a destination not only increased public use the river, it
also increased awareness and the need for good stewardship. Education of the
public is a key component of the initiative.
We were chosen to develop the brand identity for the
trail plus a brochure, website and advertising campaign. It has turned out to
be one of the most award-winning projects we have been involved with. The
creative work has won local, regional and national awards for design and
effectiveness. The initiative itself has been recognized by the Virginia
Association of Counties and the Virginia Recreation & Park Society, for
which all credit must go to the team at Botetourt County and the leadership of
Kevin Costello as Tourism Director. The innovativeness of the initiative
combined with the excellent marketing earned it a prestigious Shining Example Award from
the Southeast Tourism Society.
So, how could it possibly be getting better? This season,
a new public access point is being added along Route 220 in the town of Gala.
Previously, there was approximately 13 miles of river between access points,
which is fine for experienced paddlers and energetic youth. The new Gala access
area offers paddlers a choice for a slightly shorter trip. Families with children
or fishermen who like to take their time on the river will appreciate the
option. The trail is now divided into seven sections, with a section or two
that is appropriate for everyone who wishes to canoe, kayak or tube on the
As if all that wasn’t enough, one of the outfitters that
offers rentals and shuttles continues to grow and offer new services each
season. Twin River Outfitters in Buchanan is a top-notch professional operation
that can help get your family or group on the river and make sure you have a
Make sure you get on the Upper James River Water Trail at
least once this season. The river is calling.
The web site has been live for just over week and the brochures were just delivered two days ago. The ads haven’t appeared anywhere except on our Facebook page. In such a short time the response has been tremendous. Here’s a sample of what people are saying, either though direct communication with Inprint or the Botetourt County Office of Tourism as well as on Facebook and Twitter:
“Just thought I would take a quick minute to let you know how impressed we are with the new Upper James River Water Trail website & logo. The website is easy to use, informative, very visually appealing, and gets people excited about coming to the area to try out our great river.”
“I was just forwarded the link to your new website. I am so impressed. You did a bang up job of highlighting all the necessary amenities to go along with a river trip.”
“I wanted to let you know I am very impressed with the Upper James River Water Trail website. It is comprehensive and easy to navigate with nice mapping. I look forward to a time when my family may enjoy this wonderful resource.”
“Beautiful new Web site!!! You da man.” note: da man in this case is Kevin Costello, the visionary behind the formation of the Upper James River Water Trail.
Posted on Facebook: “Another great tool/resource for helping people Get Outside! If you like canoeing, fishing or kayaking check this site out! Nice work Kevin Costello and David Mikula and Inprint.” This post was followed by a string of complimentary comments about the web site.
The web site was also featured in great article in the Fincastle Herald.
We’re proud of the campaign and confident that it will help promote recreation on the James River. I think there will be a lot more commentary on this campaign in the future as word gets around about the Upper James River Water Trail.