Tag Archives: Highland Maple Festival

Back Creek Farms pure maple syrup … Highland Maple Festival

Originally published March 2014….

If you’re looking for personality, look no further than Pat Lowry who, with his wife Valerie (in the background talking with a customer) owns Back Creek Farms Sugar House. His quick smile and friendly conversation combined with an ease around newcomers make this fourth-generation farmer a natural salesman. Each year during the Highland Maple Festival they have a tent set up on Main Street in Monterey near the Courthouse where their pure maple syrup, crafted on the farm in the southern end of the county, is sold along with maple fudge and other products.

Pat noted that this year sugar water production was down 75 percent because of the cold winter. “Some days it might not start until 4:00,” he said, referring to sap rising in the sugar maple trees, “and then stop at 6:00 when the sun goes down.” That affects not only the amounts available but also the taste. This year it is exceptionally yummy.

We’ve been purchasing their syrup from the festival for a number of years but were pleasantly surprised to see it for sale last summer in the gift shop at Monticello. The Lowrys have found a number of other outlets as well.

This year Back Creek’s syrup has a buttery-caramel taste and is thick and rich and oh so good on pancakes and anything else.

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Shenandoah Mountain to Sapsuckers, a Photo Trip Through Maple Syrup Country

The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon Saturday morning when we left our house in western Augusta County on the annual trek to Highland County’s Maple Festival. The air was cold, and we had experienced a wintry mix of rain, sleet, and snow the previous night. Our destination had snow on the ground before more fell on Friday so we were hopeful there would be plenty of photo ops since the last time I had photographed the festival in snow was 2013. Road trip!

I clicked a photo of the sunrise from the road, and then we turned west onto Route 250, pointed toward the Appalachians. By the time we reached Deerfield in far western Augusta County, the ground was covered in snow and from that point on we were in snow until we returned home. The temperature was hovering just above freezing, and we still had to cross four mountains before reaching Monterey. Driving up Shenandoah Mountain, the fog set in, snow was deeper on the sides of the road, and snow plows passed going in the other direction. Mr. Mitchell, who had worked for VDOT while in high school, gave a wave to the drivers we passed. Thanks to them, we were about to make this trek on clear roads. The top of Shenandoah Mountain was socked in with fog and the historical overlook was empty — no view to be seen in all that fog.

At the bottom of Shenandoah Mountain we passed through the sleepy berg of Headwaters. The little general store, a popular stop for many over the years, is closed and for sale. Fog lifted for a bit at the lower elevation …


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Highland’s Laurel Fork Sapsuckers On Top of the World

Originally published in March 2014….
Okay, these guys get the prize for best view … and that’s saying a lot in Highland County where it’s impossible to find a bad view. Located on top of Alleghany Mountain that straddles the Virginia-West Virginia line ten miles west of Monterey, Laurel Fork Sapsuckers has the highest elevation of the seven sugar camps. How high? Try 4,400 feet. The breath-takingly spectacular scenery alone is worth the drive. They are also the newest camp. The land has been in the family for four generations but the camp has been operating since 2010 and features eighteen acres of sugar maples. This was our first visit but it won’t be our last.

Earlier in the day we had been to Duff’s Sugar House south of Monterey so when we left we took Rt. 84 from Duff’s to Rt. 600 at Back Creek and followed it north to Rt. 250, a drive we’ve done many times in the past. The pavement turns to gravel as this scenic back road climbs the ridge that parallels the Back Creek valley, and it was muddy and soft in many places but frozen over with ice in others. When we emerged onto Rt. 250, it was only a few miles further west to Laurel Fork Sapsuckers Sugar Camp. Why not, we thought … let’s go!

First thought when we turned at the very unassuming looking yard sign that said “Laurel Fork Sapsuckers:” Top of the world. Second thought: Oh my gosh, there’s so much mud. The sun was shining, snow was melting, and the parking area just off Rt. 250 was soft as we backed into a grassy-muddy spot.

A young man was standing nearby, dressed for the cooler-than-Monterey weather at that high elevation, and he walked toward us as we tried to get our bearings. Where was the sugar house? Where were the people? All I saw were a couple of parked cars, what looked to be an abandoned house, and mountains as far as the eye could see.

The young man was named Ladd and he pointed toward the road that continued up the mountain beyond the parking lot and disappeared into the snowy woods. That’s where everything was located, he told us. The road was bordered by deep snow which made it a gully that had a river of water running downhill.

“You need four-wheel drive to get up there,” he told us. Hmm … our four-wheel drive had moved away when our daughter married.

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Mountains, Maple Syrup, Sheep … 2017 Highland Maple Festival

That’s my child bonding with a sheep.

It is known as Virginia’s Switzerland, this rural, mountainous, southern-most location for gathering maple syrup, and it is right here in our back yard. Just 45 miles west of Staunton, picturesque Highland County hosts its 59th annual Maple Festival during the weekends of March 11-12 and March 18-19, 2017.

Make plans to meander back roads, stuff yourself on pancakes drenched with locally-harvested maple syrup, or fill up on mouth-watering maple chicken. Be entertained by local cloggers and bluegrass bands while enjoying the wildly popular fresh maple donuts made by local Ruritans. Stroll the main street of Monterey, population 150, to check out the many vendors peddling crafts, art work, maple products, and Kettle Korn. Take in the beauty of this rural setting populated with sheep and cattle. Relax. Slow down. Breathe the cold, fresh, mountain air.

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Last day for the 2016 Highland Maple Festival

By Lynn R. Mitchell

That’s my child bonding with a sheep.

It is known as Virginia’s Switzerland, this rural, mountainous, southern-most location for gathering maple syrup, and it is right here in our back yard. Just 45 miles west of Staunton, picturesque Highland County hosts its 58th annual Maple Festival during the weekends of March 11-13 and March 18-20.

Make plans to meander back roads, stuff yourself on pancakes drenched with locally-harvested maple syrup, or fill up on mouth-watering maple chicken. Be entertained by local cloggers and bluegrass bands while enjoying the wildly popular fresh maple donuts made by the local Ruritans. Stroll the main street of Monterey, population 150, to check out the many vendors peddling crafts, maple products, and Kettle Korn. Take in the beauty of this rural setting populated with sheep and cattle. Relax. Slow down. Breathe the cold, fresh, mountain air.

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Mountains, maple syrup, sheep … 2016 Highland Maple Festival begins next weekend

By Lynn R. Mitchell

That’s my child bonding with a sheep.

It is known as Virginia’s Switzerland, this rural, mountainous, southern-most location for gathering maple syrup, and it is right here in our back yard. Just 45 miles west of Staunton, picturesque Highland County hosts its 58th annual Maple Festival during the weekends of March 11-13 and March 18-20.

Make plans to meander back roads, stuff yourself on pancakes drenched with locally-harvested maple syrup, or fill up on mouth-watering maple chicken. Be entertained by local cloggers and bluegrass bands while enjoying the wildly popular fresh maple donuts made by the local Ruritans. Stroll the main street of Monterey, population 150, to check out the many vendors peddling crafts, maple products, and Kettle Korn. Take in the beauty of this rural setting populated with sheep and cattle. Relax. Slow down. Breathe the cold, fresh, mountain air.

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Highland Inn hopes to reopen for Maple Festival

By Lynn R. Mitchell

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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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