In the farthest southwest fingers of the Jefferson National Forest is a slice of Virginia that is too often overlooked. Trails climb through the forests and spill into a wide-open high-elevation frontier, strewn with giant boulders and pierced by rugged, rocky crags. Harsh winds carve through the moraines and sweep through the fields. Wild ponies roam the bald peaks and ridgelines. Bears lumber through the rhododendron thickets and feed on the huckleberry bushes. This is the high country of Mount Rogers.With over 400 miles of trails, 120,000 acres of mountain terrain, and three designated wilderness areas, the highlands of the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area are about as wild as it gets and are fairly accessible thanks to miles of primitive singletrack trails, old logging roads, railroad grades, and horse trails. The A.T. also cuts through this area, passing within a half mile of the trail to Mount Rogers’ 5,729-foot peak, the highest point in Virginia. Here are three unforgettable backcountry experiences in the high country.A Day in the High CountryHead into Grayson Highlands State Park from the south and park at Massie Gap. From there, follow the Appalachian Spur Trail. At the top, hang a left and the A.T. will deposit you right into Wilburn Ridge. Head up in late summer and you can pick blueberries and huckleberries ‘til you puke. You’ll see wild ponies grazing the grassy mountain plains, scramble through boulders and rocky trails, and catch sunsets and 360-degree views.Two Days of Little WilsonMake camp at Grayson Highlands State Park and head into the upland hardwood forests of Little Wilson Creek Wilderness. The Big Wilson Creek trail will take you in and you can branch off and do plenty of exploring, but before you’re done, grab your fly rod and take joy in the solitude of the Little Wilson Creek Trail along the creek bed and make a fishing day out of it. Catch yourself some of the beautiful brook trout that swim the waters of cold, bubbling waters and call it a day with a fire back at camp.Three Days on the TrailTwo and a half miles west of Troutdale, park at Fairwood and catch the A.T. This will take you through the gorgeous lower elevation rhododendron jungles and uphill towards the Old Orchard Shelter. Continue climbing and the A.T. will suddenly open up into the stunning highlands, where you can hike to an old fenced-in pony weigh station known as The Scales. Wild pony herds keep the area trimmed. Continue heading towards the Wise Shelter. This area is scattered with places to camp near the woods of Big Wilson Creek, where you are protected from the sometimes-brutal winds of high-elevation campsites. You’ll have access to water and beautiful starry skies to gaze upon.The next day follow the A.T. towards Wilburn Ridge and through to Rhododendron Gap. You’ll scramble over rocks and boulders, up and down the ridgelines, and boulder the rocky faces of Rhododendron Gap peaking at 5,525 feet. You’ll want your camera here as you gaze out over the moors of Mount Rogers. There are plenty of great campsites around Rhododendron Gap. Set up camp under the spruce trees and save time for a side-trip in the morning before closing the loop. Mount Rogers is home to rare Southern Applachian red spruce and Fraser fir, and its summit lays just a half-mile west from the A.T. Close out your trip by following the Pine Mountain Trail to the A.T. and back down towards the Old Orchard Shelter and Fairwood.
The easy Red Spruce Knob Trail will reward you with a view of the Crooked Fork watershed, plus the remains of the old lookout tower. Discover another architectural treat on Props Run, where an arch bridge stretches over the creek. This section of the trails follows right along the vast Monongahela National Forest, so you can slide off into this scenic national gem to explore hundreds of additional miles of trail.4. Alpine LakeAcres of winter wilderness fan out from Alpine Lake. Lakeside Loop winds around the water, while Lake View Circle Trail dips closer to the shoreline. If you want an up-close view, the more difficult Seven Bridges Trail cozies up even further to the shoreline, and scoots smoothly along the edge for about a mile.Tracing further out on the trails a few miles, you can reach Old Firetower Peak, the highest point at the resort.5. Bald KnobIn the midst of White Grass Touring Center is Weiss Mountain, which used to be a downhill skiing slope. You can still take a cross-country trek up for a view of Canaan Valley. But the best view is from nearby Bald Knob, the 3rd highest point in West Virginia. Even though it can get steep, less experienced skiers can still reach the peak.The backcountry trails at White Grass also link to the open plains of the Dolly Sods Wilderness. With enough powder, you can barrel over boulder gardens, or even burrow into a snow cave. Take Fido to for a winter walk in the meadows, too: the trail to the sods from White Grass is pet-friendly.5. Bluestone Canyon & National ParkThe ungroomed trails of Pipestem Resort State Park are challenging, but worth it. The Lick Hollow Trail winds to the top of the Bluestone Canyon Rim for a sweeping view of the National Park 1,000 feet below. For a more historic backdrop, look for lingering remains from the pioneer days along the South Side Trail.Discover more winter beauty and adventure in West Virginia on the Best of Winter map: The Mountain State is best known for its ski slopes, but the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing terrain is the real winter gem.Along the trails, you can discover scenic wonders of West Virginia, from glistening frozen waterfalls to sweeping National Forest vistas.If you’re looking for a scenic trip on the winter trails, here’s a look at what you can uncover:1. Blackwater FallsAll it takes to tame a wild mountain waterfall is a little winter chill. If temperatures creep low enough, even the nearly 60-foot Blackwater Falls freezes solid, creating a massive, cascading icicle garden. Snowshoe the overlook trail to get a good vantage point of the enchanting scene.If the snow is high enough, the park’s trails are also great for skiing. For a wondrous winter view of the slopes, trek to Lindy Point, which opens up to a panoramic view straight off into the winding Blackwater Canyon, where stacked, snow-draped mountains rise up from the valley and stretch on for miles. 2. DeerIf you’re sweeping through Canaan Valley Resort State Park, you’ll probably meet a few deer along the way. The graceful creatures are used to sharing the valley with humans, so they aren’t as skittish. While you can’t approach them, you might be able to catch an amazing photo.3. Highland Scenic HighwayThe Highland National Scenic Highway is every bit as stunning in winter, but the road is closed for the season. Luckily, with no traffic to worry about, the path is clear for pedestrians (of sorts). The Elk River Touring Center ski trails criss-cross a section of the rugged highway’s terrain.
There have been many articles about the failure of our governor and his state economic development programs trying to bring jobs back to New York state. These failed programs consist of state tax credits ($4.6 billion since 2011) for new jobs.The film industry tax incentives also consist of tax credits for filming in the state and are a cash cow for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor has received $860,000 in political donations from the film industry from California and another $400,000 from studios based in New York City.New York state spends $420 million a year for tax incentives for the film industry. This industry does little to support any long-term jobs. They shoot their movies and leave the area, taking along a huge tax break. They can amount to as much as 40 percent of what they spend. Many states have stopped their film incentives for lack of a monetary return. Yet, our governor continues to give these tax breaks away. Taxpayer money out, political donations in his pocket. Gov. Cuomo has his eye on being a potential 2020 presidential candidate. Remember New York City and the large cities in New York, along with California, largely vote Democratic. President Andy and First Girlfriend Sandra Lee — they make a great couple.Jay JanczakBallston SpaMore from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsGuilderland girls’ soccer team hands BH-BL first league lossEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homes Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion