Local experts will lead visitors on educational strolls through some of the region's vast natural resources as the Virginia Highlands Festival continues through Aug. 7.
Folks who enjoy learning about and spending time in the great outdoors still have a host of activities to choose from this week as the Virginia Highlands Festival enters the home stretch in and around Abingdon, Va.
From stargazing and exploring local landscapes to mastering new skills and learning about places far and near, the lineup of events focusing on outdoor activities is rich with choices for all ages.
Here’s a look at what’s on tap during the festival’s final week:
• Local fly fishing guide Bruce Wankel, who owns the Virginia Creeper Fly Shop, will present “Fly Fishing Opportunities”focusing on essential equipment and tackle and fly tying patterns in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Aug. 1, at the Washington County L i b r a r y.
The program will begin with a short slide presentation outlining the excellent year-round fly fishing opportunities in the region. Then, Wankel will review and discuss essential equipment, fishing lines and knots, and the appropriate outerwear. Attendees will learn to identify some of the area’s common aquatic and terrestrial insects in the trout’s diet and to recognize look alike imitation trout flies.
Those who really want to learn more can assist with tying a fly pattern, and take part in a brief casting demonstration in preparation for a hands-on field trip the following day.
On Aug. 2, from 8:30 a.m. until noon, Wankel will lead participants to a nearby trout stream to learn about aquatic entomology, the natural live insects that are on the trout’s menu. Together, participants will collect samples of aquatic insects and compare them to some of the artificial fly patterns. The program will conclude with a demonstration of some of the more useful fly casting methods used in a trout stream.
Those participating in the outing will meet at the Virginia Creeper Fly Shop, located at 16501 JEB Stuart Highway, at 8:30 a.m. Anyone interested in the workshop or the outing should register no later than Aug. 1 by calling Jim Cowan at (276) 628-5905.
• Those with an interest in astronomy will want to head to the mountains on Aug. 1 for “Mountaintop Stargazing and Starlore.”
Dr. Mike Duffy and Tom McMullen will lead an outing atop a local mountain, where they will identify summer constellations, answer astronomy questions and share some of the mythological lore behind the constellations. Participants can bring their own binoculars or telescopes to explore the skies up close. A carpool will leave the Food Country parking lot on Route 19 at 8:15 p.m.
To learn more, call (276) 623-2308 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
• Zach Olinger will lead one of the festival’s most popular events, the Forest Ecology Hike to the Channels, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Aug. 3.
Currently full, the moderately strenuous hike over steep and rocky terrain to visit the Great Channels, a geologic formation atop Clinch Mountain, has a waiting list. To get on it, email Olinger at z a c h a r y. o l i n g e r @ d o f . v i r g i n i a . g o v.
• Emory & Henry professor Gregory Mc-Connell will present “Costa Rica: A Living Classroom” from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m., Aug. 4 at the United Methodist Church on Main Street in Abingdon.
A member of E&H’s biology faculty, Mc-Connell has done extensive research in the Central American country of Costa Rica and has taken over 150 students there as part of his Tropical Biology course. His field guide to the snakes of Costa Rica should be published this year.
• Deep space viewing will be on tap from 8:30 to 10 p.m., Aug. 5 as Dr. James Warden hosts “Beyond the Solar System” at Emory & Henry’s Creed-Fulton Observator y.
Warden will guide participants on a tour of the vast space beyond our atmosphere, using the Meade 16-inch telescope to provide a sharp view of planets and deep sky objects. In the event of cloudy skies, an indoor planetarium lecture will be held.
To register, call Warden’s office at (276) 944-6201.
• Carrie Sparks will lead festival goers on an “Edible and Medicinal Plant Wa l k ”from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Aug. 6, at the Settlers Museum of Southwest Virginia, in nearby Atkins, Va. Located on State Route 615, two miles off Highway 11, the museum’s parking lot and picnic shelter will serve as the meeting spot for the outing. Those interested should plan to arrive by 11 a.m.
During the event, participants will explore a half-mile birding trail to discover more than 30 plants that can be used as food, tea or medicine.
There’ll be several “wild” food items and drinks available to sample. Visitors are also encouraged to bring a traditional snack and drink.
To sign up for the walk, e-mail Sparks at email@example.com or call (276) 783-2125 by Aug. 4.
• One of the final field trips of the 2011 festival will be a Salamander Field Tr i pfrom 1 to 4:30 p.m., Aug. 7, to Whitetop Mountain.
Led by E&H professor Gregory Mc-Connell, the group will carpool from Damascus Town Park to observe a variety of salamanders in their natural habitat on Whitetop Mountain.
For more information, call (276) 944-6767 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
• Jim Glanville will present “Southwest Virginia: Thoroughfare of National Building” from 2 to 4 p.m., Aug. 7 in the museum conference room at the Museum of the Middle Appalachians in Saltville.
Glanville will tell the story of America’s westward expansion, which funneled through Southwest Virginia. Glanville, who lives in Blacksburg, has published over 20 articles in history and archeology journals.
To learn more about the program, call the Museum at (276) 469-3633 or e-mail email@example.com .
To learn more about other activities at the Virginia Highlands Festival or for a complete schedule of events, visit w w w. v a h i g h l a n d s f e s t i v a l . o r g .
Courtesy of Virginia Highlands Festival