Virginia's Berrypicking Paradise

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

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.

Getting There:

To reach County Run, exit I-81 at Strasburg and go west on

VA 55 for 15 miles to Forest Road 502. Turn right and continue 3 miles, then go left on FR 347 for half a mile to the trailhead at Hawk Campground. To hike Sugar Knob, drive west on VA 55 for 20 miles, and turn left on Waites Run Road. After half a mile, turn left on Wardensville Back Road, and continue

5.2 miles to the trailhead.

Prime Time:

Late July, August.

Guides:

The Tuscarora Trail:

A Guide to the South Half, by Elizabeth Johnston and Thomas Lupp ($7), and PATC maps F and L ($6 each), all available from

the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, (703) 242-0315; www.patc.net.

Contact:

Lee Ranger

District, George Washington National Forest, (540) 984-4101; www.fs.fed.us/

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