Tag Archives: Highland County

Shenandoah Mountain 4 Years Later: What Happened to Missing Hiker Robert Fitzgerald?

Shenandoah Mountain / Confederate Breastworks Overlook on Rt. 250 along the Augusta County/Highland County line looks over the Appalachian Mountains in Highland.



What happened to Bobby Fitzgerald on that fateful day in November of 2012?

Traveling west from Staunton along Rt. 250 as it climbs up and over Shenandoah Mountain, I cannot help wondering what happened to Robert “Bobby” Fitzgerald, the Staunton hiker who went missing in that isolated part of western Virginia on November 11, 2012, and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Searches have turned up nothing. Some wonder about foul play.

On November 20, 2012, I posted about the disappearance:

Hope is fading that a Staunton man has been able to survive a week lost or injured in the vast George Washington National Forest in western
Augusta County. Rescuers decided Monday night to call off the search.

Robert Fitzgerald, 60, has not been heard from even though his car was found parked in the area. Inside searchers found his backpack with power
bars and bottled water and other supplies.

It was a cold 25 degrees at my house this morning with heavy frost on the ground which means colder temperatures up on Shenandoah Mountain
located about 20 miles west of Staunton. Anyone who has driven to Highland County out Rt. 250 west of Staunton has driven over Shenandoah
Mountain. At the very top, at the Augusta County-Highland County line, is a parking area with a breath-takingly scenic overlook that takes in
the mountains of Highland County and beyond into West Virginia.

It also documents the Confederate Breastworks, site of Fort Edward Johnson during the Civil War, with interpretive signs of the historical
importance with a circular trail along the top of the mountain. Many other trails are in the vicinity, and that is where Robert Fitzgerald
disappeared sometime last week.

A Tuesday article in the Waynesboro News-Virginian by reporter Bob Stuart noted that Fitzgerald was physically fit and very familiar with that area of the Shenandoah range because he had hiked it for the past 15 to 20 years.

Fitzgerald appears to have hiked the trail with a friend on Sunday, November 11, and lost his cell phone at that time. It is believed he returned the following day to search for the phone, and disappeared into the wilderness. No one has heard from him since.

He reportedly was not dressed in cold weather gear and, even though days have been comfortable in this area the past week, the nights have been
cold with a low of 20 at my house one night which means temps in the teens up on the mountain.

The owner of Staunton’s Wilderness Adventure store remains cautiously optimistic about the prospects for Fitzgerald, who was a regular customer.

Four years later, it is still a mystery. There have been subsequent searches that turned up nothing. A $50,000 reward that was offered in 2015 has been extended to 2017. How could someone who was an experienced hiker in an area he knew well just disappear without a trace is a question that continues to haunt many, and something that comes to mind every time I’m on Shenandoah Mountain.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

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October leaves

??????????Vivid maple tree on Courthouse lawn in Monterey, 2015.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

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Highland County’s October sights

By Lynn R. Mitchell

28Saturday in Highland County we noticed most streams were full after the rains of the previous two weeks. It’s not unusual for creeks to be very low in October, but not this year.

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On top of the world in Highland County

By Lynn R. Mitchell

18“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air.” -Nathaniel Hawthorne, October 10, 1842

9“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”  – John Muir

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Autumn travel and leaf peeping in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley

By Lynn R. Mitchell
Originally published in the Washington Examiner, October 4, 2010 – Updated

17Now that autumn has arrived in the Shenandoah Valley, October’s calendar is full of festivals and events for those who wish to enjoy cooler temperatures and colorful leaves. If waiting until the fall color show hits its peak, be sure to check out Virginia Tourism’s Fall Color Hotline at 1-800-424-LOVE or check the Fall Color report.

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October 2015 … 20 things to do in and around Staunton, Va.

Staunton 3

                                    Staunton’s historical Wharf District.

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Voted as one of America’s Top 20 Main Streets by Travel and Leisure magazine, the central Shenandoah Valley city of Staunton was also recently named one of the 20 Best Small Towns in America by Smithsonian magazine as well as Virginia Living magazine’s Best of 2012. Known as the Queen City, Staunton was founded in 1747 and was named for Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife of Virginia’s Governor William Gooch.

With views east toward the Blue Ridge Mountains and west toward the Appalachians, Staunton is an historic slice of Virginia that offers restored Victorian homes, cozy downtown shops, and small-town atmosphere. Patriotic holidays find her streets lined with American flags, and the always-popular Christmas parade takes place each year on Beverley Street, the main thoroughfare that is lined with restaurants, store fronts, the Dixie Theater, the city courthouse, and old-fashioned lamp posts.

There are many things to do during the leaf season that peaks in October so here are some places and events you may find interesting. Check back often … this list will be updated throughout the month. It’s autumn in western Virginia.

1. Trolleys
A great way to get around downtown, Staunton’s two trolleys cost 25 cents to ride, and pick up and discharge passengers at stops located throughout the city. More information can be found at the Staunton Visitors Center on New Street.

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Back roads, sheep farms, mountain vistas of Highland County

By Lynn R. Mitchell

32Highland County is also known as Virginia’s “Little Switzerland” because of its mountains and sheep. Sparsely populated, the vistas year round are exceptionally stunning but in the fall vibrant oranges, reds, and golds make the mountain slopes come alive with color. These photos were taken on September 30 when only the far western part of the county was at peak but the next week will see big changes as the autumn color show moves east. (For more photos see Fall colors brighten western Highland County.)

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Fall colors brighten western Highland County

By Lynn R. Mitchell

15With a hurricane tracking toward the East Coast and weather forecasters discussing a “perfect storm” of high winds and historic rainfalls within a few days, we took advantage of the break in the weather on Wednesday, September 30, and headed out Route 250 west of Staunton as we looked for fall. We found it at the high elevations of western Highland County at the West Virginia state line — the bright oranges, red, and golds that will spread eastward over the next weeks.

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Highland Inn hopes to reopen for Maple Festival

By Lynn R. Mitchell


Highland Inn. Monterey, Virginia. October 2014.

The doors were closed to the Highland Inn located in Monterey, the heart of Highland County in western Virginia, at the end of October when the owners sent out a press release notifying the public that it was for sale. The stately building that sits on the main street has been a staple since 1904, serving overnight guests who enjoyed the porches and vintage interior as well as diners who patroned the restaurant. Perhaps one of its busiest times is during the Highland Maple Festival that is held annually on the second and third weekends in March.

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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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Foggy view from Shenandoah Mountain

By Lynn R. Mitchell

??????????Fog settled on the mountains over the weekend but didn’t obscure the beauty of autumn in western Virginia. Here’s the Confederate Breastworks trail at Fort Johnson on top of Shenandoah Mountain.

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