My latest story was the centerpiece Tuesday morning:
Near the top of Read Mountain, the trail twists around an embankment and widens as the thick forest opens into a small, shaded clearing. Here, above the 2,000-foot elevation mark, a crisp breeze begins the crescendo. The leaves are making their last stand of the summer, whipped into a frenzy by the momentum of the air. A hail of acorns pounds the ground, pulsating — a beat surging onward, upward.
It’s a rush. The wind through the trees. The blood through the veins. The climb through one last uphill tunnel of vegetation, to the approaching vista at Buzzards Rock.
The path emerges at a set of cliffs that jut out to the west. This is the crescendo. It’s the end of the trail. With a bird’s-eye view of the valley, from Salem on the left to Hollins on the right, this is the payoff. It’s the reward for a 1.9-mile hike up one of the Roanoke area’s seven prominent summits.
But this most basic reward, by itself, is not always enough to pique the interest of busy locals. After seeing the increased activity spurred by its 100-mile biking challenge, Roanoke Parks and Recreation decided to lay down a new challenge: hike to seven summits in seven weeks.