Tag Archives: George Washington National Forest

Wildfire in mountains northwest of Staunton

WildfireBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Sunday morning dark smoke rose into the sky northwest of our house in the mountains as a wildfire raged in the George Washington National Forest. The fire, located west of Harrisonburg in Rockingham County, had consumed 70 acres early Sunday morning.

WHSV TV-3 has coverage:

Local dispatchers said a staff member who tried to locate the fire site estimated it was around a mile beyond a meandering jeep trail called Union Springs Road. Observation of the smoke plume in relation to geographic landmarks could place the fire roughly three to seven miles northwest of Rawley Springs, but such reckoning is quite imprecise.

Rain is in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday.

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Augusta County: Todd Lake Recreation Area closed for 2015 season





By Lynn R. Mitchell

Press releases shared the news that Todd Lake, located in the northwestern corner of Augusta County, would be closed for the 2015 season to rebuild the dam. When my children were young, we spent many happy summer days on the beach of Todd Lake with friends, enjoying this watering hole surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains of western Virginia. It was far less populated than Sherando located in the southeastern area of Augusta County, and quiet, a meandering 30-minute drive from our home west of Staunton. The photos above were taken in October 2013 when Congress had shut down all the national parks and we were not able to access the beach area.

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Snowy Augusta Springs Wetlands in George Washington National Forest, Va

By Lynn R. Mitchell


Augusta Springs Wetlands was the location of a long-gone hotel in the late 1800s. Millionaire E. G. Pendleton bought this land in 1900 and converted the Augusta Springs Resort into his home. A cement slab is all that remains of a once active mineral water bottling plant. It is now an area to stop and enjoy what nature has to offer in the George Washington National Forest of western Augusta County. The two-thirds mile easy loop trail is fully accessible for wheelchairs and strollers and leads you through meadows, forests, and wetlands. You can look at a beaver’s handiwork, smell pine needles baking in the sun, listen to a songbird, and dip your hand in a cool mountain spring. For generations, the Springs have drawn people to these wonderful wetlands. There are historic reminders along the trail (see Augusta Springs Wetlands … the tour).

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Winter views of the Appalachian Mountains

By Lynn R. Mitchell

??????????As I drove home from Staunton this afternoon on this cold January day, the air was clear and the mountains beckoned. There was not time to head to the hills so I took some photos instead. Ponds are frozen after days of sub-freezing temperatures. This time of year presents a different kind of beauty when trees are bare and the lay of the land is clearly visible.

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ALERT! Police impersonator reported working Rt. 250 in western Augusta County

Augusta County mapBy Lynn R. Mitchell

The Augusta County Sheriff’s Department has issued an alert warning travelers of a police impersonator¬† who is working the area of Route 250 in West Augusta near Ramsey’s Draft and Mountain House Wayside. That area, surrounded by the George Washington National Forest, is very rural and mountainous with spotty cell phone service.

Residents in the area report the suspect is targeting women who are driving alone.

From the Augusta County Sheriff’s Department:

The Augusta County Sheriff’s Office has received complaints regarding a police impersonator that has been operating on Route 250 in West Augusta near Ramsey’s Draft. The suspect vehicle is described as a dark SUV, possibly black. The suspect is described as a white male with “shaggy” hair and a pimpled face.

One confirmed “traffic stop” was made in Highland County, though several others have reported being chased from Augusta County into Highland County by the suspect vehicle. The vehicle is said to have colored flashing lights on the front and rear.

If you have any information about the identity of the suspect or any information regarding the vehicle please contact the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office at 540-245-5333 or Crime Stoppers at 800-322-2017.

That section of Route 250 is located between Churchville and Shenandoah Mountain about 20 miles west of Staunton. Anyone traveling the Route 250 corridor in western Augusta County and eastern Highland County should be on alert.


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George Washington National Forest: vandalism on Shenandoah Mountain

By Lynn R. Mitchell

??????????The view at the top of Shenandoah Mountain in far western Augusta County — on the line between Augusta and Highland — looks over mountain ranges that extend for miles. It offers a stop for travelers, a Civil War history lesson with a 0.5 mile interpretative trail, and hiking trails that can take you as far as you like. So it was sad to stop there this week and see that vandals had stolen the black slate in the sidewalk. The slates were imbedded in concrete so it took a bit of work — and time — to remove them.

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Day 3: Air National Guard pilot killed in Virginia crash identified

Deerfield F-15C jet crash pilot

By Lynn R. Mitchell

After releasing the sad news Thursday night that the Massachusetts Air National Guard pilot died on impact when he crashed in the mountains of the George Washington National Forest in western Augusta County (see F-15 pilot killed in Augusta County, Va, crash), the 104th Fighter Wing released his identity on Friday:

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Military jet crash: Search continues through the night

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Local newspapers are covering the military fighter jet crash in western Augusta County with reporters on the scene interviewing and photographing events.

Reporter Bob Stuart spent most of the day in the crash area and filed this report with the News-Virginian (see Search continues for missing pilot):

As part of a program to upgrade earlier model aircraft, the plane was en route to New Orleans to get a new radar system when it went down.

At the Staunton News Leader, Brad Zinn, Laura Peters, Megan Williams, and Calvin Trice contributed to the continuing coverage (see Search for pilot to continue through the night):

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Military fighter jet crashes in western Augusta County mountains – UPDATED

Jet crashBy Lynn R. Mitchell

A military F-15 fighter jet crashed early Wednesday in the western part of Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

A lawyer friend, Sabrina Chester in Churchville about eight miles west of my house, first posted on Facebook Wednesday morning around 9:00:

Does anyone know what the huge explosion was just a bit ago?? Shook my entire house & spooked all the animals…smoke from Deerfield side of the mountain….possible airplane crash???

At my house, we had not heard the boom but were hearing helicopters overhead. Still not sure if they were heading toward that crash area, or whether they were military, or the Pegasus helicopter  with University of Virginia Hospital out of Charlottesville.

A search and rescue mission is underway but word has trickled out the pilot ejected before the crash. There is still no confirmation of that or if he has been found.

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Mother bear, cubs sought for euthanizing after attack on Staunton man – Updated

Black bears 4By Lynn R. Mitchell

There is controversy  surrounding the black bear sow that attacked a Staunton man and his dog a few days ago while they were in the George Washington National Forest, and an online petition being circulated to save them (see petition here).

Traps have been set in the forest to catch the bears that will then be euthanized. The outcry is that the bears were in their habitat, not encroaching on private property, and the sow was provoked to protect her cubs. The unleashed dog chased one of the cubs which caused the sow to attack Steven Kirchbaum, 59, of Staunton, and his dog.

There are reasons that authorities are looking for the bears, according to the Winchester Star (see W.Va. officials seek to catch, euthanize bears in attack):

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Bear attacks Staunton man in George Washington National Forest

BearBy Lynn R. Mitchell

A Staunton man and his dog were attacked early Thursday afternoon in the George Washington National Park after coming up on a mother black bear and her two cubs. The man and dog were able to escape to a nearby rural market where EMTs responded and transported the man to a hospital while his dog was taken in for veterinary care.
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