Cities are great, and all the things to do in sophisticated settings where the living is good totally rocks. But at the same time, regularly getting away from it all is so critical to remaining sane.
This wilderness area is to be revered for itself alone, to say nothing of what it provides for people.
But, of course, I’m here to talk about what it does provide to people.
Greening the mind
I’ve been going to Ramsey’s Draft since my third date with my hubby, when we walked on a misty spring day in our anoraks, rain falling, and likely beginning to fall in love.
Since then we make it there a couple of times a year to go to that deep forest place in heart and mind that leaves you in an unexpected mixture of racked and renewed. (We think forest time must have a detox effect on people else why are we always so tired afterward, even when our hikes aren’t that long?)
Our most recent excursion was in July 2015 when, after weeks of worsening climate news, and scary trends out of the Eurozone, we wanted to turn off the news feed and turn on the inner feed. So off we went, partially just to hike, and partially to scout out a remote campsite for an upcoming backpacking overnight we planned on.
Ramsey’s Draft offers a 16.8 mile loop hike (or lesser, smaller hikes) up steep ascents, down rocky knobs, through occasionally dense brush, over river crossings, into deeply secluded campsites, and back again.
But more than that, it’s truly wilderness, far from civilization in places like Churchville, Harrisonburg, and Staunton. Nearby hamlets like Marble Valley and Deerfield are sleepy at best, with small markets, but no place to really dine and old school rural business hours at anything hanging a shingle.
And it’s a car or bike hike in itself to get out there — almost 32 miles from our home in Staunton. But that’s what it takes, I guess, to really reach some wilderness.
As to that wilderness, it’s the best part.
Though I seldom hear or see many birds in the GW (oddly?), I did see a diamondback rattler this most recent visit, which unhinged me a bit but didn’t phase hubby. We just steered clear, and moved on, more watchful than before.
The flora and fauna is, though, predictably gorgeous (see my gallery above of flowers, fungi, trees, rocks, and water).
If you’re going in for the long hike, with its steep climbs, you’ll want to be fit, suitably supplied with water, and if planning to camp, geared out with all your needs.
There’s no cell service, so don’t let those Himalayan-setting car commercials fool you into thinking you’re going to Instagram the experience in real time, nor are you able to call for help. So take a buddy and be smart: register at the trail head, and think through your supplies.
Day hikers, even those who aren’t the fittest, can enjoy a straight walk about a mile in without too many mondo-sized logs or boulder crossings to heft over. There’s some, but pretty mild.
At some point, either early in (100 or so yards from the parking area) there’s a fork to decide whether to hike up the steeper climb via Bald Ridge Trail, or to the left, not until about a mile in on the straightaway, you’ll have to cross the draft to continue the hike in the lowlands and make subsequent route choices.
The water’s usually very low and/or even dry this time of year (late July/August), but keep in mind that a lot of rain, or a different season, could leave you with wetter feet and a bigger challenge.
Or you could turn back a mile in, if a short walk in a deeper edge of earth is enough for you. In other words, don’t feel like you have to be a world-champion rock climber to get something out of this. You can totally take it to your challenge point.
As for me, whether indulging an afternoon away from the bustle of even our small town (and all the e-distractions that come with it), or pitching a tent to ride the night under stars and cradled by God’s arms-as -forest, Virginia’s wildernesses, Ramseys’ Draft included, are a necessary way to get through life.
Don’t let it be too long till you get back out there again.
— Lindsay Curren, Girl Goes Virginia