ABINGDON, Va. — Now is the time to get out and explore.
The Virginia Highlands Festival provides great opportunities to tag along with a group - always a fun experience — to sites like the Virginia Creeper Trail and The Great Channels.
Being the hot and humid days of summer, of course, be sure to pack extra water.
But get out and go to sites like Mendota, a lost-in-time riverside community at the edge of Clinch Mountain near the Washington-Scott county border.
This year, Mendota has been hand-picked by festival organizers as the go-to town to explore on Aug. 2 (starting at 9:30 a.m.).
You can check out the mile-long Mendota Trail, a rails-to-trails project that promises to grow into a path linking Bristol to Mendota in coming years, according to trail planners.
You can also register (276-645-1020) to join Adventure Mendota’s kayak tour and “Float the Fork” — namely, the North Fork of the Holston River during the afternoon.
Other activities this year include a walk (Aug. 1, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.) to the Great Channels, unique rock formations, near the Hayter’s Gap community. Meet at the Hayter’s Gap Community Center and pre-register by Monday (276-236-2322).
Also on the agenda: “Exploring the Fun in Fungi — A Study of Mushrooms of the Region” starts at 7 p.m. July 31 in the executive auditorium of the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, One Partnership Circle.
Other festival programs include a “Mushroom Walk” (Straight Branch Parking Lot of the Virginia Creeper Trail, Aug. 1, 9-11 a.m.) and “Butterflies and Lavender” (Butterfly Garden at Eberhardt Memorial Park, 273 Tanner St., Aug. 4, 2-3:30 p.m.).
“Those of us who live in this area know what treasures the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail and the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area are, as well as Mendota and the Channels State Forest,” said the festival’s outdoors chairwoman, Merry Jennings.
“We try to share the hidden treasures of these places with our festival visitors.”