Adventure enthusiasts will have free access to public recreation sites on Saturday, Sept. 29 for National Public Lands Day. Starting in 1994, NPLD recruits volunteers to remove invasive plants, build and maintain trails, plant native species, and pick up trash in registered public land sites, such as the George Washington National Forest.
“One of the big draws of EMU for me was. . . having Shenandoah [National Park] and George Washington [National Forest] both readily accessible,” said Sophomore Jacob Mack-Boll. “They are beautiful, beautiful places to hike.”
Hiking is also prime asset to the Monongahela National Forest, an hour away from Harrisonburg in West Virginia. The Dolly Sods Wilderness (DSW), 17,371 acres of forest and tundra-like plane, is a popular backpacking destination. Professor Lester Zook’s biennial three-week wilderness seminar has visited DSW in the past to learn survival techniques and outdoor leadership. Blueberry picking on the Blackbird Knob trail also attracts students in the area.
Technical Rock Climbing students also visit the Monongahela National Forest to summit Seneca Rocks as the class finale. Nearby Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia, offers 75 miles of hiking trails and a fish-stocked lake to complement its staggering views.
“It’s important for people to go out and have a concrete place to be learning about the natural life around them,” commented First-Year Kate Swartz.
The George Washington National Forest has been well-visited by the Explore club and independent groups. Reddish Knob is a common day hike for EMU students. It is also “a great place to pitch a tent,” says Mack-Boll. Hone Quarry, a 30-minute ride from EMU, offers hiking, rock climbing, and a five-dollar-per-night campground.
Mack-Boll elaborated, “something that I hear people getting most excited about is going out together for hikes; it’s something that people seem to find a lot of common enthusiasm around.”
Right on the state line lies the Brandywine recreational area, which includes a campground and lake beach. For a more strenuous trip, the High Knob Trail strikes a no-switchback path up Shenandoah Mountain. On the 3000-plus foot summit sits a fire tower with a panoramic view of the two states.
The most ubiquitous destination for Harrisonburg youth is probably the reservoir at Union Springs. Complete with old beer bottles and a giant snapping turtle, the lake attracts both swimmers and star-gazers. Adrenaline junkies can leap off the left side of a 31-foot tower, avoiding the rumored car and refrigerator submerged on the right.
These and many other nearby wild areas are core to the identity of many students as hikers, mountain bikers, climbers, and backpackers.
Randi Hagi, Co-Editor in Chief