Not all who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Did you know that June is Great Outdoors Month? Warmer weather is here and it’s the perfect time to venture outside. From boating and fishing to hiking and exploring nature there are many ways that you and your family can get more in touch with the outdoors this month. Follow our summer bucket list to enjoy some outdoor fun in Southern Virginia this summer.
1 Go Outside
Even if you are not much of an outdoors person, you can start small by just going outside to experience nature. Sit in the grass, take off your shoes, and just breathe. Feeling calmer? It works! Simply being outdoors is a powerful antidote to stress. Teach your children (and yourself) to take time out to listen to the birds, smell the flowers, and embrace the warm sunshine. The rest of your day will be more pleasant after you do.
2 Take a Hike
Hiking is great form of exercise and nature doesn’t charge a monthly fee! Along the Smith River in Ridgeway, the Richard P. Gravely Jr. Nature Preserve (2525 Eggleston Falls Road, Ridgeway) offers 75-acres of nature to explore. Two and a half miles of wooded trail along rolling hills are found on the property along with an outdoor classroom for nature study. A self-guided tour along Jones Cliff Trail leads guests back in time as they explore tobacco farming in the early 1900s and the Burgess Family plantation of the 1800s. Rhododendron Trail, a more difficult trail, leads hikers down to the scenic Smith River and through a living tunnel of rhododendron. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the large rocks by the river.
3 Go for a Float
Want to try a fun activity with your family that involves little to no skills? Tubing on the river is a great way to unwind and enjoy each other’s company. Hop on a sturdy tube provided by Smith River Outfitters and let your worries float away. SmithRiverOutfitter.com
4 Watch the Stars Come Out
Grab a blanket and take your family outside to watch the stars come out. While relaxing, you can talk to your family (yes —put down the smart phones) and enjoy a magnificent twinkling show by the stars and fireflies.
5 Go on a Modern Treasure Hunt
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. Within a 30 mile radius of Martinsville there are more than 780 treasures to find. Discover a geocache near you at Geocaching.com, then grab your smart phone or GPS and start searching.
6 Claim Your Own Island
Many people daydream about escaping to an island to get away from it all. On Philpott Lake in Bassett you can do just that. While the 3,000 acre lake has eight traditional campgrounds, Deer Island offers a camping adventure that is only accessible only by boat. Paddle or boat up and take advantage of the scenic views and serenity of a private island.
7 Take a Kid Fishing
On June 7th, children ages 7-14 can participate in a free fishing clinic at Beaver Creek Reservoir in Martinsville. Presented by Henry County Parks & Recreation, Martinsville Senior Services and Angler’s Choice, this multi-generational event links youth with experienced anglers to introduce them to a sport that can be enjoyed for the rest of their lives. Pre-registration is required (276.634.4640) and fishing poles will be provided.
8 Explore the World of Ants
While it’s not outside, a new exhibit in Martinsville gives visitors an up close view of some of the smaller inhabitants of nature. The Hidden World of Ants, on display at the Smithsonian-affiliated Virginia Museum of Natural History, features macro-photography and a live colony that will make you look at ants a little differently the next time you see them outdoors. VMNH
9 Zip Along
See the forest a little differently as you zoom by on Danville’s new Zip Line Express. The 400-foot zip line offers excitement for the thrill-seekers in your family. PlayDanville
10 Enjoy the Lake
Philpott Lake offers 3,000 acres of water for boating and incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visit the newly opened Philpott Marina (300 Boat Dock Road, Bassett) for on-site fuel, snacks and boating supplies and you can enjoy a longer day out on the water.
11 Hug a Tree
While hiking along the 3.5 mile-long Fieldale Trail (3521 River Road, Fieldale) you’ll see one of the largest trees in the area. At more than 12 feet in diameter, you can’t miss this magnificent Sycamore tree. Take a hike to see and check it out for yourself.
12 Hunt for Fairy Stones
Legend has it that they are formed by the tears of fairies. These small cross-shaped stones, also known as a Staurolite crystal, offer a chance for your family to enjoy exploring geology and folk-lore at the same time. Start your adventure by learning about the stone at an informative ranger program offered at Fairy Stone State Park (967 Fairystone Lake Drive, Stuart).
13 Ride the Rapids
Paddling a canoe, kayak ,or raft on the Smith River can be a calm and relaxing experience, but put in below Philpott Dam during generation and you’re in for a wild and exciting ride. The river below Philpott Dam is a “tail-race” river. The water enters from the bottom of Philpott Lake with average temperatures of 40° to 45°. As a result of this temperature difference between water and air, on hot summer days a fog floats in the air creating a mystical and almost surreal feeling for paddlers floating through it. Once you take in the beauty of the fog, hang on! Keaton House Rapids, the Lemon Hole, Fish Camp Rapids and others provide a fun and challenging ride. In between rapids you can enjoy plentiful wildflowers along the banks and impressive rock outcrops. If you’re new to paddling, contact Smith River Outfitters for a guided trip and rentals.
June 14th is observed as National Get Outdoors Day. Enjoy the outdoors on this day and share a photo of your adventure with the hashtags #VisitMartinsville and #NGD14. You can discover more outdoor places to explore at Visit Martinsville.
15 Get Your Feet Wet
Even if you are not a paddler, you can still enjoy wading in the river. One of the best places for wading along the Smith River is at The Great Road Access (4313 The Great Road, Fieldale). Be sure to go at a time when Philpott Dam is not generating; call 276.629.2432 to hear the automated generation schedule. This open area provides large rocks for sitting and a shallow area of water perfect for wading, splashing, and looking for aquatic creatures. Wear water shoes for safety and always watch children carefully.
16 Enjoy Bird Watching
One of the most tranquil areas to experience wild and scenic beauty is Fairystone Farms Wildlife Management Area along Goose point Road in Bassett. Part of the Virginia Birding & Wildlife Trail network, this public land offers forest and open fields to explore so that you can catch glimpses of a variety of eastern woodland birds and other wildlife.
17 Feed the Fish… and Geese!
It’s good, simple fun that will have them eating out of your hands…literally. Taking your young children to a pond or lake to feed the fish is an activity that they will remember for years to come. Just don’t be surprised when some jealous geese show up to the party.
18 Dive In
Going to the beach doesn’t have to involve a long car ride. Fairy Stone State Park in Stuart offers a wide, clean beach for park visitors to use close to home. A variety of play structures including slides and floating lily pads are installed in the shallow water each summer and a diving platform is located farther out for older youth and adults to enjoy (967 Fairystone Lake Drive, Stuart).
19 Go Biking
Park at the Dick & Willie Passage Trailhead on Doyle Street in Martinsville and you can borrow a bike from The Bike Barn to ride along the trail. The 4.5 mile long Dick & Willie Passage connects to two other trail spurs which lead riders into the Uptown shopping & dining district. Hop on a bike to ride Uptown for a cupcake or ice cream treat and you can pedal back guilt-free knowing that you’ve worked off those calories.
20 Roast Marshmallows
There’s just something magical and relaxing about a crackling fire on a summer evening. Add some stories and marshmallows and you’ve got a winning combination! Whether your campfire is built at a campsite, in the backyard or in a custom-made ring by Virginia Fire Pits, you’re sure to have a great time.