Winter is the time of the year when some people opt out of exercising outdoors, due to the chilly conditions…but not Fox family!
This is not the case, however, for Richard and Jinny Fox. The Foxes are park volunteers and members of the Shenandoah River State Park. I asked them if they would mind being interviewed about their hiking hobby and they generously agreed. We hope that the story they shared with us serves to inspire others to come out and enjoy the park’s 24 miles of newly remodeled trails…even in the winter!
So,tellme why you enjoy hiking so muchat Shenandoah River and how does it enhance your lives?
“We like to hike for multiple reasons. One of our dream goals for retirement was to keep physically active; we have a golden retriever who would be deeply upset with us if we were to become couch potatoes; and hiking helps to clear the mind. Making our hikes a major part of our lives has enhanced the companionship we share together. We have always had an appreciation of nature, and hiking allows us a chance to experience the beauty of our surroundings in all seasons. We have found that when we miss a day it really matters and we appreciate the next hike that much more.”
What is your favorite trail at our park and why?
“It’s hard to pick a trail. All of the trails have something special about them, but if we had to pick, it would probably be the Culler’s Trail from the Low Water Bridge to the Shale Barren to the Red Tail Ridge to Big Oak to Tulip Poplar back to Big Oak and the Shale Barren. Confused yet? It’s a circuit that is about 4 miles long and encompasses beautiful views of the Shenandoah River and breathtaking views in autumn of the changing leaves. In the summer, the shade from the trees makes it pleasant in the early evening hours. The terrain is varied, and the views of the horseshoe bends are fun. In the winter there are great views of the Massanutten. In the spring, it’s fun to watch the wildflowers come up and see the Lady Slippers for the very short time they are in bloom. This is the only trail in the Park we have seen these particular wildflowers.”
How long and how often have you been doing this activity?
“When we started dating in 1973, many of our dates were spent hiking and backpacking in Shenandoah National Park. While raising children, we often took vacations to places where we could camp and hike. Even in our urban setting, walking was an important part of our lives. We moved to Warren County in 2007. We have been hiking ever since! In the past two years we have focused on trying to hike at least 6 days a week for a 3 to 5 mile hike. Most of our hikes in 2010 were in the Shenandoah River State Park because of the new trail system. It’s close to our home and we are able to have a good hike with some beautiful views. The trails are wide enough to walk together and talk. Last year was the first year we actually kept a record of how much hiking we did. Both of us have worn out a pair of hiking boots…..We expect to wear out a few more!”
What type of wildlife have you seen on your hikes?
“We have seen squirrels, deer. voles, opossum, groundhogs, a very young black bear cub, a fairly good-sized adult black bear, turkeys, bald eagles and numerous birds. We have our share of encounters with snakes — a few copperheads, several black snakes, grass snakes and a couple of queen snakes.”
Have you had any funny/interesting experiences while hiking?
“I think the funniest event was on the Culler’s Trail near the cabin. Teddy, their golden retriever, spooked an adult groundhog who was then frantically trying to scale the rocky cliff to get away. We were amazed at how fast that plump little mammal could move. Once he hit dirt, he took off. Teddy was surprised as well — however, for weeks after, whenever we got to that part of the trail, he was on high alert. The sweetest thing I have ever seen was a baby groundhog. He was a ball of fluff about the size of a softball. The strangest was a black snake that was ingesting another smaller snake…..he looked like he had two tails until we got a closer look. We LOVE this Park! Most of the time it feels like our private refuge. The trails are so extensive, we rarely see other hikers. This must be one of the best kept secrets in Virginia!”
Visit the Explore Virginia Outdoors website for enhanced maps and video tours of Shenandoah River’s trails.
For more information about ShenandoahRiver State Parkcall (540) 622-6840.