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The Clinch Coalition will celebrate National Trails Day with hike

June 2nd, 2014 11:49 am by Collin Brooks

The Clinch Coalition will celebrate National Trails Day with hike

For one weekend a year, the eyes of a nation fall on the often-forgotten, but dearly adored hiking trail systems.

The American Hiking Society's National Trails Day will take place June 7-8.

There are many local activities for people to enjoy. One of the local groups celebrating is The Clinch Coalition, which will be hiking the Chief Benges Scout Trail on the Jefferson National Forest in Wise and Scott counties in Southwest Virginia for the fourth year in a row.

The hike will take place over two days and traverse 22 miles of mountain terrain with beautiful views of water and wildlife.

"It is a great time for people to come out and enjoy the great things that the trail has to offer," said Steve Brooks, associate director of The Clinch Coalition. "This area is the most bio diverse on the continental U.S.

"That is due to the many varieties of critters, wildlife, plants and trees. One of the main things that makes this area so diverse is the variety of mussels that are found in the Clinch and Powell Rivers that can't be found anywhere else in the world."

The hike will begin at High Knob Lake, the headwaters of Big Stony Creek at an elevation just over 4,000 feet, then cross over to the Little Stony Creek watershed and down the mountain to the Hanging Rock Recreation Area just above Dungannon.

"This is a good time of year to be seeing the various wildflowers at all elevations, which is what you get when you start at the top and travel to the bottom ending near the Clinch River," Brooks said.

The hike is free, with camping at Bark Camp Lake, and dinner and breakfast provided by The Clinch Coalition. While it is considered a challenging hike, all ages are welcome. However, children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

If you don't have the whole weekend to devote, a one-day hike is okay with the group, with shuttle service provide at each end, and at various road crossings along the way.

"You can do just a day, you don't have to do both days if you don't want," Brooks said.

The Clinch Coalition formed 15 years ago due to the excess timbering they were seeing at High Knob. The group's mission is the protect the forest, wildlife and watersheds of the national forest and preserve it for future generations.

The group is made up of a variety of people, including hikers, students, teachers, business people and farmers, all of whom share a common interest.

"We all love nature and want to see it protected," Brooks said of the organization to which he volunteers his time.

The group received a $40,000 grant for their work that focuses on the Chief Benges Trail on High Knob, an area that encompasses three counties and is the heart of the Clinch Valley Bioreserve. The area is made up of 2,200 square miles that have been designated by the Nature Conservancy as one of the Last Great Places in the World.

The Coalition assists the forest service in keeping the trails clear of overgrowth and downed trees and thus accessible to the public.

For more information about The Clinch Coalition and their hike, visit clinchcoalition.net or call Steve Brooks at 276-479-2176.

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