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Tuesday January 10, 2012

You're invited to DRBA's February 4 hike on trails in Virginia's Fairy Stone State Park as we continue our Tenth Year Celebration throughout 2012. We'll meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Stuart's Knob Trailhead on Union Bridge Road (Virginia State Route 623) on the north side of Fairy Stone Lake (GPS 36.798504,-80.116784).

The two-mile hike will begin with the Iron Mine Trail, which winds along high and steep ridges through areas of rhododendron and stands of beech, pine, hickory, poplar, maple, and sycamore trees. The trail's namesake feature is the mouth of an old iron mine, its dark opening covered by a barred grate. Remnants of iron ore may be visible alongside the trail.

The path will then connect to the Upper and Lower Stuart's Knob loops. After a few climbs and declines and a fine vista of a portion of Fairy Stone Lake, we'll return to the parking area.

The park's brochure rates the hike as strenuous, but Trip Coordinator Lucas Conkle, chair of DRBA's Outings Task Force, considers the trails moderate. Switchbacks make it easier to climb the slopes, and Conkle plans to set a gentle pace to allow participants to enjoy the forest, the historic sites, and the views.

"The Stuart Knob Trail system has a nice mix of views and history," Conkle says. "It is sure to become one of your favorite hikes if you go on the trip."

Fairy Stone State Park, founded in 1936 as the largest of Virginia's first six state parks, is named for the cross-shaped staurolite, a rare mineral found in the region. Legend says this area was once home to fairies and other woodland creatures. Word of Jesus' crucifixion so saddened these fairies that they wept tears which crystallized staurolite (silica, iron and aluminum) in the form of Maltese, Roman and St. Andrews crosses.

At the conclusion of the hike, we'll eat our picnic lunches near the shore of the168-acre Fairy Stone Lake. The waters of the Smith River, delayed by the dam that forms the lake, eventually slip over the Fairy Stone spillway into Philpott Lake.

The 4,537 acre state park, still one of Virginia's largest, offers a total of 14 miles on several hiking trails. Conkle recommends that anyone who wants to hike after lunch consider taking the 1.5-mile Whiskey Run Trail around the base of Stuart's Knob on their own.

Participants are asked to bring lunch, water and a hiking stick; wear comfortable shoes or hiking boots; dress in layers of water-shedding artificial fabric or wool; and be prepared for rain or wind. All participants will be asked to sign a waiver form.

DIRECTIONS: From US 220 at Bassett Forks, VA, turn west onto Hwy 57 (Fairystone Park Highway). Drive 12 ½ miles. Turn right onto Fairystone Lake Drive. Drive ½ mile, and turn left onto Fairystone Farm Lane. Continue onto Union Bridge Road. The destination will be 0.8 miles on the left.

From US 58 at Stuart, VA, turn north on Hwy 8. Drive 4 miles, then turn east onto Hwy 57 (Fairystone Park Highway). Drive 8 miles. Turn left onto Fairystone Lake Drive. Drive ½ mile, and turn left onto Fairystone Farm Lane. Continue onto Union Bridge Road. The destination will be 0.8 miles on the left.

MORE INFORMATION: Trip Coordinator Lucas Conkle, conklel@alumni.greensboro.edu.

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