Into the shade
Shenandoah National Park’s Second Annual “Night Sky Festival” will have a major added daytime attraction this month. From Friday Aug. 18 through Monday, Aug. 21 not only will there be a fabulous (weather permitting) weekend of exploring the starry night skies, but the long-awaited 2017 solar eclipse will usher in the shade.
The festival features presentations by astronomy experts, constellation tours, telescope viewing, audio-visual presentations — all culminating with a viewing of the much-anticipated 2017 solar eclipse.
At 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Ambassador Greg Redfern will lecture at the Byrd Visitor Center Auditorium on the 2018 space telescope successor to Hubble Space Telescope. Attendees will get close up and personal with the latest NASA feeds.
On Saturday, Aug. 19, at 5 p.m., a lecture at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center will surround new stellar discoveries, plus how to protect night skies. At 8:30 p.m. at the Byrd Visitor Center, Redfern will explain how stars, including the sun, are born, live, and ultimately die.
At 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20, at the Big Meadows Amphitheater, visitors will be treated to a constellation tour and space stories with surprising modern connections.
Finally, at approximately 2:40 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, an extremely rare solar eclipse will cross the continental United States. This major event last occurred in 1979, although it’s been an entire century since an eclipse has crossed the whole of North America. Shenandoah Park will experience 80 to 85 percent coverage of the sun (not too shabby compared to other U.S. locales, and dark enough to bring birds and other wildlife to a confused and hushed standstill). Both Dickey Visitor Center and Byrd Visitor Center will have rangers explaining why an eclipse happens, what to expect, and how to view it safely (to see the entire solar eclipse, head to South Carolina).
Finally, for a simple yet eye-opening night of stargazing, at 9:30 p.m. on both Friday, Aug. 18 (gather inside the Rapidan Fire Road gate, Mile 51) and Saturday, Aug. 19 (meet at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, Mile 4.6) experts will lead stargazing and constellation tours. Remember to dress for the cool mountain nights.
Rappy trails to you
Continued progress to report with the Rappahannock Trails Project (RTP) — which aims to link Rappahannock villages by biking/hiking trails —with more to come over the next 90 days
Here’s the highlights, according to trailblazer Jane Whitfield: the website is launched — www.rapptrails.org — where one can sign up for email updates.
The Rappahannock Board of Supervisors this week passed a resolution in support of the project, which “does not commit the county to anything other than to say it is supportive of the effort to plan and identify funding,” Whitfield states. “It’s an important step in applying for foundation grants, as foundations want to know that we are coordinating with the county.
“No county funds will be used for the project,” she stresses. “The project will be funded solely through grants and private contributions.”
RTP has retained Bohler Engineering to do a concept plan and budget for the initial Sperryville to Washington section of the trail along Route 211. The firm will recommend what portion of this section to build for phase 1.
In September (date to be determined), RTP will host a public gathering to provide information on the Bohler plan. Otherwise, the VDOT Transportation Alternatives (TAP) Grant is due Nov. 1.
“This is critical funding for the trail,” explains Whitfield. “These funds are passed through from federal funds and are specific for trail or other non motorized transportation projects. The funds cannot be used for other purposes (such as paving roads or repairing bridges). Many of our neighboring communities have received these funds to build trails and sidewalks. The grant is for two years, and can be for up to $400,000 per year. We are required to raise matching funds for this grant.”
For the maximum VDOT TAP grant, RTP needs to raise up to $200,000 in commitments by October. “While that seems like a lot, I am confident that we can do it,” says Whitfield. “We have already raised about $20,000 in private commitments thus far and have met with the Path Foundation and Krebser Fund for larger grants. We will also apply to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and a few more foundations.”
All land for the project will be publicly owned — such as by VDOT or the county — accessed by easement, or voluntarily contributed by or purchased from private landowners.
Black and white
Say hello to New Jersey-based landscape photographer Duane Polcou, who has just arrived in Shenandoah National Park as the new artist in residence. Polcou has been a black and white fine arts photographer since 1985, working primarily in 4×5 film and now digital.
“One of my favorite destinations has been Shenandoah National Park, beginning with family camping trips in the 1970’s,” he says. “It is such a magical place, and very few people have photographed it well in black and white.”.
Polcou specializes in natural landscapes, having captured Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, the Sierra Nevadas, Yosemite, and Adirondack Mountains. Oh, and the Jersey Shore.
His residency is through Aug. 19. Rappahannock residents can join Polcou for a public program this Saturday, Aug. 12, at 1:30 p.m. at the Byrd Visitor Center.
The Virginia Film Office and Virginia Tourism Corporation has announced winners of the inaugural “Virginia Is For Film Lovers” short film competition, and one award-winning short features Mary’s Rock Tunnel and other local vistas.
The 30 to 90 second film challenge prompted filmmakers to show what they love most about Virginia. The competition received 47 qualifying short film submissions.
First place went to Sarah Bonner for a short titled “Dear Virginia,” in which a woman relives her favorite memories growing up in Virginia. Forced to leave its adventures behind as a child she returns with a family of her own to give them the childhood that she experienced..
An honorable mention went to Shelli Witt for “Lovers of Life.” The 30-second film was shot on location at Mary’s Rock Tunnel and what appears to be either the overlook of Mary’s Rock or Stony Man Mountain. Another scene resembles F.T. Valley Road. Judge for yourself: www.theaudienceawards.com/films/lovers-of-life-130335_1
Cheers to 20 years
Yes, Virginia, The Taste of Rappahannock — celebrating the 20th anniversary of the founding of Headwaters — is set for Saturday, Sept. 9 at “the Barn” in Sperryville. It’s an event not to be missed, offering the best in local wines and dishes, as well as excellent auction items. All proceeds support education in Rappahannock. Tickets: www.headwatersfdn.org or 540-987-3322.
On Tuesday, Aug. 15, there will be a BizLink (linking local businesses) Networking Event at Copper Fox Distillery, 9 River Ln., in Sperryville. From 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., there will be an open forum meeting with the board of the directors, and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. the member networking event will be held (whiskey, wine and food will be served).
Rappahannock repaving continues in earnest. Through the remainder of this week, Route 211 (Lee Highway) will experience westbound paving operations from Rock Mills Road to Route 522 (Zachary Taylor Highway), 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with one lane closed.
Route 522 (Sperryville Pike) will have paving operations in both directions from Route 626 (Scrabble Road) to Route 618 (Hawlin Road), with one lane closed.
Otherwise, rough road warnings and lane closures continue on both 211 and 522, even where crews aren’t currently operating, until repaving and stripe painting is completed.
A gravel stretch of Route 640 (Battle Mountain Road) is also being paved this week, through 3:30 p.m., with intermittent lane closures.
Finally, Route 681 (Rolling Road) has existing gravel being paved through 3:30 p.m.