Chris, Sidney and I spent Memorial Day Weekend wandering around trails and parks of Virginia. We originally planned to camp at Pipestem Resort State Park, W.Va., but sites were booked up. Other, closer Virginia parks were booked up too. So we settled for a couple of day trips.
The first day we explored four parks around Roanoke County, Va., using the Virgina Birding and Wildlife Trail book. A friend gave this to us as a gift a couple of years ago. Newer versions may have different or more trails.
The trail we used to make one of our day trips was the Roanoke Valley Loop. You can view it online here. We followed each stop, using the directions given by the book. We did skip a sports complex, but we wanted to get to some of the other stops before it got dark.
Roanoke River Greenway
First off we started with the Roanoke River Greenway at Green Hill Park. It’s toward the end of the Roanoke Valley Loop. There, we walked along a 0.8 mile-long, paved trail. It appeared there was a soccer match going on, so we met a lot of people on and along the trail.
Though the walk was a short one we did see butterflies and hear several birds. The greenway will eventually link up with parts of the trail in the City of Roanoke and Salem and other areas of Roanoke County. A site for this part of the greenway said it’ll eventually be 30 miles long.
Since the trail is paved and relatively flat, this is a perfect jaunt for everyone. Some photos:
Poor Mountain Natural Area
Next up was the Poor Mountain Natural Area. Though signs and the book said the trail was only 0.25 miles long, it’s already been expanded and makes for a very nice walk. I guessed it may already be about a mile long. That includes an orange-marked, loop trail and a portion of a blue trail that’s not yet complete.
There’s supposed to be something called “piratebush” located on the site, but Chris and I couldn’t figure out which plant it might be.
This area is moderate in elevation, but the trail isn’t paved. So it’s not a hike for everyone. Anyone physically able and ages 5 and up will enjoy this hike.
Happy Hollow Gardens
Next was Happy Hollow Gardens. This is a small park — 34 acres according to the site.
There wasn’t much to it, but makes for a pleasant day trip. I was looking forward to seeing the azalea garden, but it was just a small grove of poor looking azaleas. I don’t think those poor shrubs were helped by the little boy beating them and trees with a stick. I wondered where his parents were and why they weren’t controlling their little vandal.
The trails on the property are pretty easy to walk. There’s a few to choose from and all are short. They’re not paved, so aren’t handicap accessible. Anyone with respiratory problems would handle the trails just fine.
I liked walking through the woods and listening to the little stream that flows by the parking lot. It would make a nice day trip during migrating season to listen and watch for birds.
Bent Mountain Elementary
The final stop on the tour ended at Bent Mountain Elementary’s birding area. I think this was Chris’ favorite stop of the day. We saw the most birds of the day in this little schoolyard — sparrows, red wing black birds and tree swallows.
Chris insisted on walking around the yard three times, including a short boardwalk that a Boy Scout built into an adjoining wetland.
We also met one of the school’s friendly neighbors — a man that lived up the street and his two cute dogs. We enjoyed talking with him and visiting the school. A photo of a birdhouse and meadow behind the school:
Sadly, we read recently that the school is closing. It’s always sad when a community school closes. I worry what will happen to the little birding area and the public library that was housed in the building too.
I hope the county or school will at least maintain the building (I’m not sure who owns the property, the school board or county) and keep it as a community center and library.
Side note: We ended our day with a meal at Nawab in the City of Roanoke. The best Indian food ever! (I admit, though, I’ve not eaten at many Indian restaurants so I don’t have much to compare it to.)
You can buy a copy of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail book here and at Amazon:
This book is really useful in planning day hikes and trips. You will probably want a state map as a second resource to use in case you want to skip some of the stops on the loops. That way you can plan a different route.
Some other books birders may be interested in:
And, for identification:
We have “National Audubon Society Field Guild of Birds,” “Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide” and “National Audubon Society Field Guild of Wildflowers.” I recommend all three.
Newcomb’s can be a little tough to use, but if I can’t find it in the Audubon book, I can usually locate it there.
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