Now that I have a week off, one of my goals is to get some hiking in. I live in the mountainous region of Southwest Virginia, so there is plenty of that. Indeed, I could speed the rest of my life hiking in this area.
Yesterday, I thought I would start small. My oldest son had told me last week of a local hike he recently did that sounded easy, so I thought I would give it a try. So yesterday afternoon my youngest son Lukas and I drove out there.
Pandapas Pond is right outside of town in the Jefferson National Forest. It is 500 acres of wetlands, fields and forests on the north side of 2,843-foot Brush Mountain. One website says it is a “great place to get outdoors.”
When we first left the lower parking lot and I saw the pond, I doubted it. I thought the little lake, an 8-acre man-made pond, looked pretty dank. We walked around to the wetlands, kind of a swampy areas next to the pond and ate our lunch. Lukas and I were used to this because we used to walk over to Lake Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland , when we lived near it and feed the ducks there.
We then walked around the pond. At that point I was thinking, “Is this it?”. I was disappointed in my experience so far.
James Pandapas had built the pond decades ago as a recreation spot for his employees. In the parking lot is a sign with a quote from him which says something like “I am surprised how this dirty little hole has become so popular” (sic). Of course, this is just my recollection. I can’t remember the exact quote. Needless to say, at that point of our little excursion, I was not impressed.
The pond itself has its interests, though. The word “flaming” comes to mind. There are the flaming red heads of some of the ducks. In addition, there are the pictures on the sign boards of flaming azaleas.
We spotted ducks like these at Pandapas Pond.*
The people were interesting to observe, too. One of the fisherman seemed like a character out of the American Civil War. He had long grey hair and a long fuzzy beard. He talked to his fellow fisherman in a sweet southern drawl. I was convinced he was either the reincarnation of Stonewall Jackson or a Confederate veteran circa 1920.
An older, overweight man yelled from the other side of the pond at his mother. She yelled back that she wanted a “drank” (drink). I just love the dialect around here. I think I used to sound something like this as a boy growing up nearby.
Speaking of sounds, as I sat with Lukas by the pond, I kept hearing a deep sound from the bush next to me. I was pretty sure it was a frog. After some research, I am convinced. The sound can be heard here (scroll down to southern bullfrog). The frog’s song sounds like someone plucking a banjo.
I was pretty much done with Pandapas Pond and headed toward the parking lot. But then I spotted another trail. I was pleasantly surprised. It was called the Woods and Field trail. It took us through some forest loaded with dogwoods and by a very pretty meadow.
Then I spotted another trail. It was called Poverty Creek. I had discovered the trail system my oldest son Matt told me about. It consists of 17 miles of trails along Brush and Gap Mountains.
I felt it was appropriate that Lukas and I were hiking along a trail named after Poverty. After all, my original desire for this week was to go to some place like the original home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello. After figuring the cost of gas and admission to Monticello, I had to settle for the national forest bearing his name instead.
I’m glad I did. Lukas and I barely touched the surface of the trail system. I plan to go back. It’s definitely worth another hike. In surfing the Internet, I’ve discovered that Triplesblaze, a hiking website, has ranked three of trail systems in the area amongst its top 50 in Virginia. I guess I sold the place short. In addition, Lukas seemed to enjoy it. It got him interested nature, and me as well. For example, he picked up a pine cone and noted how it was different than the ones around Lake Saimaa.
Lukas picked up a pine cone and observed its difference from those in Finland.*
I hope to do other hikes this week in the area as well, weather and healing broken foot permitting. It’s supposed to rain the next couple of days, and I intend to schedule an appointment with my doctor. So we’ll see. Maybe Dragon’s Tooth, an all day hike near Roanoke, is next. Or maybe I’ll just go back to the Brush and Gap Mountain trails.