by Lisa Strader
Have you even taken a guided hike? Although I live just minutes from a National Park and several state parks I had never taken a (free!) ranger led hike. Well this past spring I did, and wow, I would have to say it was not only a great hike, it was interesting and the group learned a ton of stuff about the trees, birding, and what exactly we were looking at when we stood to admire the great views.
The group was made up of co-workers, friends and a few southern WV Facebook fans who signed up to join us for National Trails Day. We met up with our National Park Ranger at Grandview, New River Gorge National River.
Just for a bit of background, I grew up going to Grandview every summer with my family. It was one of West Virginia’s most popular state parks for over 50 years. It became part of the New River Gorge National River in 1990.
Since I was familiar with the park I didn’t know what else there was to know . . . well obviously a lot! As we took our hike down the Grandview Rim Trail (http://visitwv.com/trail/grandview-rim-trail/ ) which is 1.6 miles in length (3.2 mile hike) folks were asking a lot of questions. What is the difference between mountain laurel and rhododendron? What are the bird boxes we see in the park? What do the markers mean on the trees? We all learned about the difference in the leaves of our May flowery bushes, how the NPS released Peregrine Falcons into the Gorge and how the park service is fighting to keep our trees alive.
There was more, much more but if we told you everything why would you go? Oh yeah for the scenery & the view – they don’t call it “Grand”view for nothing! This hike takes you around the rim of the gorge where photo opps and views of the New River are abundant throughout. Once you reach the end of the trail there is an option to go up a few (okay maybe more than a few) steps to Turkey Spur. From the platform at the top you not only get great views of the river but you can see the old rail town of Prince.
Our trail experience took place just a couple of weeks prior to what we refer to as Rhododendron Season but if you ever find your way into southern WV in late May Grandview is THE best place to stop to see the beauty of our state flower.
Ranger led hikes in our National Parks and State Parks are offered throughout the year. Many are themed, for example: spring wildflowers, history walks and even ghost tours. The hikes are generally slower, since you will be hiking with a group and also because once you realize you have a very educated guide leading you, you get to ask all of those questions that pop into your head as you’re hiking. You know the ones, the ones you say “hmm, I need to remember to Google that when I get home!”