Maple Syrup Season Under Way

Mark your calendars for one of the first outdoor festivals of the season. The 54th Highland County Maple Festival will be held over the weekends of March 10-11 and March 17-18. The weather can be unpredictable in March so watch the forecast and hope for some sunshine.

Despite one of the warmest winters on record, maple sugar producers remain optimistic about this year’s harvest. With a proper combination of warm and cold temperatures syrup can be made until buds begin to form on the trees. Bruce Folks of Blue Grass taps more than 1,670 trees in what has been described as one of the most high tech maple sugar operations in the country. Sugar water from the trees is fed from the mountain slopes through a network of more than 12 miles of tubing to a vacuum pump. A reverse osmosis machine then removes enough of the water to substantially reduce the time and fuel necessary to cook the syrup. While visiting Highland County for the Maple Festival you can tour modern production facilities as well as traditional producers who still collect their sugar water in buckets, and then man a wood fire in the reduction process. Either way the result is rich tasting Virginia Maple Syrup.

To complete the day grab a dozen fresh, hot, maple flavored donuts and visit many of the arts and crafts venues. The lodge will be opening for the season on April 5th, but in the meantime I highly recommend the Highland Maple Festival to get an early mountain fix.

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Bath County Fishing Sites

Aside from trout and bass fishing found right here in the Cowpasture River, there are several lake fishing opportunities in the area.

Lake Moomaw
Lake Moomaw, west of Warm Springs, is home to many species of fish including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, catfish, brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, pickerel, pike, bream, and crappie. Bass must be at least 12 inches long, trout at least 16 inches long. Lake Moomaw is about a 30 minute drive from Fort Lewis Lodge.

Douthat Lake
This 50-acre lake is a fee-fishing lake that is stocked twice a week during the fee season, April – June 15 and Sept 15- Oct 31 with rainbow, brown and brook trout. A 3-mile stretch of Wilson Creek is a special trout fishing area for children. In addition to trout, the lake also has very good largemouth bass fishing, sunfish, black crappie and channel catfish.

Douthat State Park is highly regarded hiking and mountain biking destination.

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8th Annual Sprint Triathlon

The Moomaw Madness Sprint Triathlon will be held at Lake Moomaw, just over the mountain from the Lodge, this Saturday, June 18th. The sprint triathlon distances are a 750 meter open water swim, a 20K bike loop, and a 5K run. Piece of cake. Right?

I’ve been on the race committee from the start and have competed in the race 6 times. This year I’m needed on land to assist all our loyal volunteers in their efforts to make sure that the race runs safely and smoothly.

Up to 350 participants will start to gather at 6:30 am in preparation for an 8 am start. Music and a great sense of anticipation fills the air as racers set up their bikes in the transition zone and prepare for the swim. It’s a sea of color and commotion.

A loud blast on an air horn signals the start of the first wave that is broken down by sex, age, and relay teams. Many racers are true competitors while others strive for a personal best. I’ve always been in the latter group but have fortunately been able to place in my age group. It’s thrilling to compete and a rewarding sense of accomplishment when it’s all over. If you are already in training I encourage you to sign up today. If not, just come to watch and then put it on your “to do” list for 2012. To register go to

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Virginia Jazz and Blues Festival

Things will be heating up on the other side of Warm Springs Mountain at this year’s Virginia Jazz and Blues Festival at the Garth Newel Music Center. This three-day festival opens Friday, June 10th, with a little something for every blues and jazz enthusiast.

The Bert Carlson Quartet will kick things off at 12:30 on Saturday. Bert will be followed by Tizer at 2:00pm, John Hammond at 3:30pm, Blues Harmonica Blow-Out at 5:00pm and the Duke Robillard Band will close the show with a performance that begins at 6:30pm.

The festival is fantastic and the venue beyond words so if at all possible I strongly recommend you add this event to your summer schedule.

Tickets are $25 in advance/$35 the day of the show; kids under 12 free. Food and drink is available on site.

We still have some rooms available, so give us a call. It will be a memorable way to start the summer.

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The Tin Man Challenge

He’s back, full of heart and wants to give you a high five on one of the Lodge’s hiking trails. Which one you ask, and that my friend is the challenge.

Just adopt a woodsman’s spirit and keep an eye out for that famous silver complexion and charming smile. First and foremost you’ll have to find the Tin Man. Then, simply post a picture of you and the Tin Man, along with a comment to the Lodge’s Facebook wall.

At the end of the season all Facebook participants who have entered a photo will be entered into a drawing for a free two night stay during the 2012 season. So grab your camera, hit the trail and join in on the fun.

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What’s with the purple boxes?

Why are there so many big purple boxes hanging in the trees? That has been the most frequently asked question this past week. Here is the answer. They’re part of a survey to figure out the extent of Virginia’s emerald ash borer infestation. This year’s survey is focusing on central, southern and western Virginia. About 5,500 traps will be set for the beetles which have killed ten’s of millions of trees in the eastern U.S. and Canada.

You can’t miss the traps if they have been set out in your area. They are triangular in shape, purple in color, baited with a natural plant oil attractant and covered with a non-toxic glue to catch the insects.

As is often the case with invasive insects, the borers were introduced into the U.S. from Asia and first detected in Michigan in 2002.

Agriculture officials established a quarantine in ten Northern counties and cities in 2008 and expanded the area to include the northern Shenandoah Valley in 2010. The quarantine restricts shipments of ash trees, green lumber from ash trees, and hardwood firewood.

Mystery solved!

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A Peeper – Good luck finding one


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Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)


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Public domain This image is in the public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the United States Geological Survey, an agency of the United States Department of Interior. For more information, see the official USGS copyright policy

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Spring Peepers – The Call of Spring

Spring Peepers are tiny frogs who start the season off with a big Peep! Low lying fields and marshy areas are home to these tiny peepers who have traditionally been considered the iconic harbingers of spring. Their unmistakable call of a cheerful, chirpy chorus lets you know that warmer days lay ahead.

Peepers survive in a geographic range that extends north into Canada and can survive freezing conditions thanks to a neat trick of physiology that enables them to endure literally being half frozen. The peeper strategy is to re-produce early so that froglets can get out of the water before it’s full of competitors and predators.

The distinctive song we hear is the male’s call to prospective mates. If you listen closely, you can hear that the males time their peeps to call between their neighbors’ notes, each trying to nab its moment to catch the attention of the females.

While you can listen to a chorus of peepers that can swell into the thousands, these tiny frogs are nearly impossible to see. They’re roughly the size of a thimble and dress in variations of grays, greens and browns which allows them to blend into their surroundings.

Enjoy the concert but don’t expect to see the performers.

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Highland County Maple Festival

Maple Festival is the Highland County way of celebrating the end of winter and will be held on March 12-13 and March 19-20. This year marks the 53rd year the festival has been formally held, though the tradition of turning Maple tree sugar water into syrup goes back centuries. Service organizations guarantee that there will be plenty of maple doughnuts to go around and an abundance of hot off the griddle hotcakes, both regular and buckwheat. Several of the area’s major maple service producers will not only have syrup made right on the spot, but will give tours explaining how maple syrup is made. For more information go to

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Primary Hatches of East Coast

It’s time to start thinking about getting out on the stream. We’ll be stocking rainbow, brook and some golden trout in mid-March in anticipation of our opening on April 1st. Many fishermen ask for some fly recommendations so I’ll start with the mayfly listed by common name.

Blue Quill March/April afternoon Size #16-#18
Quill Gordon March/April afternoon Size #12-#14
Hendrickson April/May Size #12-#14
March Brown April/May afternoon Size #12-#14
Light Cahill May/ June late afternoon Size #12-#14
Sulphur May/June late afternoon Size #16-#18
Blue Wing Olive April/October Size #16-#18
Green Drake May/June Size #8-#12

All of the above mayflies have corresponding nymph flies in the same sizes. Some attractor patterns which are effective substitutes are the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, and the Squirrel Nymph. Let me know some of your favorites so I can spread the word.

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