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Backpacker Magazine – May 2000

Virginia's Berrypicking Paradise

When hiking on Virginia's high, exposed heath balds in late summer, leave gorp and other snacks at home.

by: Bill Burnham

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When I go hiking on Virginia's high, exposed heath balds in late summer, I leave my gorp and other snacks at home. Instead, I gobble my snack of choice: berries, the ultimate trailside munchies.

The berries are plentiful along the 250-mile Tuscarora Trail (called Big Blue prior to 1997), which crosses some of George Washington National Forest's most rocky, exposed terrain. On the 12.5-mile County Run section of the Tuscarora, huckleberries-the popular local name for wild blueberries-flourish along with gooseberries and blackberries. Continuing south, an 8.8-mile trail section called Sugar Knob crosses three peaks, each summit brimming with berries. Fifteen minutes of picking will yield a few scratches and handfuls of fruit.

Trapped inside these little blue bombs is a generous helping of antioxidants, which are said to be cancer fighters. Anthocyanin, the chemical that gives the berries a blue pigment, is reported to ease eyestrain and improve circulation. And if you tackle a real killer hike, one you swear took a few years off your life, take heart: A recent study shows that blueberries may even slow the aging process. Bon appitit.

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