by Britt & Leigh Stoudenmire
Have you ever felt like the summer doldrums would never end? Hot steamy weather followed by rain, rain, and more rain…then repeat. That seems to be the pattern this summer and while the lawns are green and the creeks and rivers have plenty of water in them, I have found myself thinking more and more about crisp, sunny, high pressure days in the 70’s and nights that dip into the low-50’s. There is something about the first the month of September that just seems to reinvigorate the soul and recharge the mind. And I believe there is no better place to experience that than in the outdoors of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Giles County, Virginia is home to over 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail and encompasses several of the area’s most famous hikes that include Kelly’s Knob, Wind Rock, and Angel’s Rest among others. These hikes range from “easy” to “strenuous” and are certainly worth the effort for their outstanding scenery and extraordinary vistas. However, there are several lesser-known hikes in the area that are easy-to-get-to and full of fun. One that comes to mind is Mill Creek Nature Park on the outskirts of the town of Narrows. I have visited that area with my 4-yr old daughter and we had a blast tromping around Mill Creek. They have a nice parking lot at the trailhead and miles of trails. We stayed mostly along the creek hiking near the trail and had loads of fun on our short junket. My daughter especially loved the wooden footbridge that crossed the creek.
Tip: For more information on the trails at Mill Creek Nature Park including maps, visit; virginiasmtnplayground.com/mill-creek.
Having guided for 15 years, I estimate that I have floated over 12,000 miles on the New River, which is equal to nearly half way around the earth. There is something about drifting down a river and the constantly changing environment that hooked me a long time ago. I have found that one of the best months to experience the river’s splendor is September. It is typically not too hot or too cold with 75-degree highs and 50-degree lows on average. Wildlife is very abundant this time of year as we commonly see animals such as mink, muskrats, deer, turkey, and osprey. We do see the majestic bald eagle from time to time and although rare, we have also seen bear in and around the river while on floats. Fishing is typically strong in September as the bigger smallmouth begin to show up and big muskies can really get turned on to top-water lures thrown across shallow, transitional areas in the river.
Tip: Try a Rebel Pop-R for the big smallies. Make sure to work this top-water lure quickly with short pops, never stopping your cadence until you feel the big smallie load your rod. Set the hook and hold on!
Camping & Cabins
Back when my wife and I were dating and in graduate school, we scraped up enough money to buy an old blue canoe. On the weekends, we’d travel the southeast floating rivers and camping. Sometimes we’d do an overnight trip and camp right on the river and other times we set up a base camp, also usually near or on the river, and return to it after a day trip on the river. Some of the rivers we floated together were the Edisto and Saluda rivers in South Carolina, the Tennessee and New River in North Carolina, and the New and James Rivers in Virginia. We found our favorite places to camp were at primitive campsites right along the river. While they would have very few amenities, the locations were typically perfect. If floating during the week, and even sometimes on the weekends, we’d mostly have the camping area to ourselves. As we have gotten older, we have become fans of the cabin route with all the amenities after a long day on the water or hiking.
Tip: When researching a cabin to stay in on your next outdoor adventure, it is extremely beneficial if the owner or manager is versed in the area’s outdoor recreational opportunities.
The author, Britt Stoudenmire, and his wife Leigh, have been outfitting anglers for fifteen years on the New River in Virginia. They offer both guided fishing trips (newriveroutdoorco.com) and waterfront lodging (walkercreekretreat.com). 540-921-7438.