Traveling Hopefully

So I had this notion a month or so back that my experience as teacher, speaker, field trip leader and engaged citizen would mesh nicely before small groups of folks who come to Floyd County lacking any depth to our natural or human communities here.

Well, you know about plans. Mr Murphy is always ready to give us a ground in The Way Things Are.

If you plan something so well that nothing can go wrong, something will. Before you can do what it is you want to do, you have to do something else first. Everything you want to do takes longer than you think, and costs more than you have. And finally, if you do something so carefully and thoughtfully that nobody could object, somebody will.

So here’s how things are.

First, the unintended has become the only actual boots on the ground from my original intention. I had not even considered being a guide for tour buses.

Floyd has until this summer lacked adequate lodging in town for busloads of out-of-town guests. Hotel Floyd now offers 40 rooms, in addition to other nearby lodging. And the Jacksonville Center is now a bus destination since its parking lot is paved for the first time ever.

So having gained a bit of visibility for my touring intentions, I was contacted by USTours, and as things turn out, this Friday I will have the opportunity to tell the story of Floyd and Carroll County landforms from Saddle Gap to the Blue Ridge Music Center at milepost 213 south of Galax.

We’ll talk about the history of the Blue Ridge Mountains and of the Parkway. There will be things in bloom and the Eastern Deciduous Forest in general to explore through the windows. The Bluemont rock church, Buffalo Mountain, Bob Childress and Olean Puckett will offer interesting characters and features to explore.

Pilot Mountain, Mt Airy and the Andy Griffith era also fair game at about milepost 189–the mountain barely visible at the overlook due to the “sequester” that has choked off funding for parkway maintenance.

Stops at Mabry Mill, Nancy’s Candies, Poor Farmer’s Market (for lunch at the deli there), for music at the Blue Ridge Music Center, and at the Jacksonville Center on the return trip will make for a full day. I’m looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, with regard to the MAIN service I hoped to provide and closest to my heart: the nature walks along the Parkway are off the ticket. I learned at the last possible moment before press releases went out last Thursday that the fees and other expenses ($600 or more the first year) and other restrictions and burdens were more red tape and bureaucratic crap than I cared to wade through.

There may be private forest and ridge that will serve, but it seems a crying shame to me that the fantastic resource of the parkway should be so difficult to use for education for those like me whose returns from any commercial use would be so small. Fishing guides in western National Parks could pay in one day what it would take me a season to bring in.

And so it goes.

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fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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