CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's observance of National Trails Day on Saturday will include guided hikes geared to both nature lovers and those who prefer hiking au natural.
The day's events begin at 8 a.m. at Watters Smith Memorial State Park in Harrison County, where park Superintendent Andy Bennett will lead a hike starting from the park's activity building to look for songbirds and birds of prey. Following the free hike, refreshments and prizes will be given away.
At 9 a.m. at Twin Falls State Park in Wyoming County, park naturalist Bryan Danford will lead a trail maintenance and clean-up project, followed at 1 p.m. by a plant identification and tracking session, a guided hike along Horsepen Knob Trail, and a guided bike ride along several park trails. Water and snacks will be provided throughout the day, but participants are urged to bring their own lunches and work gloves. Meeting point for the maintenance project will be the park's ball field area. For more information, call 304-294-4000.
Also beginning at 9 a.m. is Cacapon Resort State Park's "Hike Across West Virginia," a 10-mile trek across the top of Cacapon Mountain that takes hikers virtually from border-to-border across the narrowest portion of the state's Eastern Panhandle. Hikers should bring water and snacks. For more information, call park naturalist Renee Fincham at 304-258-1022.
At 10 a.m., Pipestem Resort State Park naturalist Jim Phillips will lead a 90-minute plant and bird identification hike starting from Pipestem's Canyon Rim Center. For details, call 304-466-1800, extension 344.
Also at 10 a.m., starting from the bottom of Pipestem's tramway, a National Park Service ranger will lead a 10-mile hike through Bluestone National Scenic River, following the Bluestone Turnpike Trail. The hike ends at Bluestone State Park, where a free shuttle will carry hikes back to the tramway parking lot at Pipestem. Hikers are urged to bring a lunch and plenty of water.
Starting at 1 p.m., perhaps the most unique event in the state's National Trails Day observance will begin at the Avalon Resort near Paw Paw in Morgan County. Avalon, a clothes-optional venue, is sponsoring a "Bare Hike" along a trail of more than two miles. According to an event description posted on the National Trails Day events calendar, "Hiking boots or shoes will be needed, but otherwise, enjoy the great outdoors in the raw! No fee for this event, but you must make a reservation (and receive directions to the trailhead) by calling 304-947-5600."
At North Bend State Park in Ritchie County, park officials have added a variety of outdoor recreation activities to enhance the annual National Trails Day observance and create a three-day "Family Trails" program at the park.
Saturday's National Trails Day events include a 3:30 p.m. hike along Overlook Trail, led by North Bend's naturalist, Ken Zebo, starting from the trailhead near Cabin #1. Later, hikers, bikers and horseback riders will follow the North Bend Rail Trail from the park to the town of Cairo, 3.5 miles away, to take in a benefit concert by singer-songwriter Todd Burge in the Cairo Community Building. Burge, a native of Parkersburg, has performed on Mountain Stage, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. North Bend State Park personnel will shuttle non-equestrian participants back to the park.
Hikers will depart for Cairo at 5:30 p.m., followed by bikers at 6 p.m. and equestrians at 6:15 p.m.
For other Family Trails Weekend activities at North Bend, call 304-643-2931 or visit www.northbendsp.com.
One West Virginia National Trails Day event will take place on Friday, when the town of Thomas in Tucker County celebrates the completion of its five-mile trail system for hikers and bikers. The event starts at 5 p.m. with a potluck dinner, followed by guided tours of the new Thomas City Park Trails. The park is located on the south side of the U.S. 219 Bridge.
Anyone taking a hike on Saturday in any West Virginia state park or state forest can receive a National Trails Day patch and certificate of completion by recording their hiking mileage on log cards available at all state park and forest offices. The log cards also are available online at www.wvstateparks.clom under "special notices."
"We recognize that some people prefer self-guided walks while others appreciate having a park naturalist guiding the walks," said Sissie Summers, programming services administrator for West Virginia State Parks. Either way, the state parks system "encourages hiking or leisurely walks on parks and forests as part of the nationwide program," she said.
National Trails Day, a project of the American Hiking Society, traces its roots to an effort to implement a recommendation in a report by President Reagan's Commission on Americans Outdoors that access to a trail should be available to all Americans within 15 minutes travel from their homes. Tom promote expanded hiking opportunities across the nation in keeping with that recommendation, the American Hiking Society and a coalition of private parties inaugurated the first National Trails Day in June of 1993.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.