Sunday, October 23, 2016

Basic City Beer Co. opens, brings tasty brews to west Rockfish Gap

By Brian Schwarz
Hiker and Beer Lover

After months of local and regional anticipation, Basic City Beer Co. finally opened. The beer is solid. Let me start by saying that. Living in the land of the Beerwerks and Brew Ridge trails, two of Virginia's premier tourism-supported craft beer corridors, I enjoy easy access to dozens of craft breweries, from little neighborhood operations to farm brewers to large distribution-scale craft breweries. Trust me when I say that Basic City Beer Co. stands tall among them.

Basic City Beer Co., a hiker's respite near Rockfish Gap
This is my third visit to the brewery since its three founding brothers opened shop a week ago. I have had their porter and coffee porter, named N&W Porter and C&O Coffee Porter respectively after the Norfolk & Western and Chesapeake and Ohio railroads that form the famed Iron Cross intersection along the banks of the South River nearby. Each of these dark, flavorful brews weighs in at 6.4 ABV and pack an hardy punch on a chilly fall day, post hike.

I've also had their first take at an IPA and DIPA, which are both good, too. The IPA has a higher IBU, and the DIPA is more citrusy. Both stand on their own, but mixed, they're delish.

This "stargate" marks the entrance to Basic City Beer Co.
Located west of Rockfish Gap, near the southern gateway to Shenandoah National Park and north entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Basic City Beer Co. is smack dab in the middle of Virginia's hiking county. Part of Virginia's Beerwerks Trail, its regional significance lies in the fact that it is the closest Beerwerks brewery to Virginia's famed Brew Ridge Trail. In fact, it is a mere seven miles from one of that trail's finest flagship purveyors, Blue Mountain Brewery.

For those from out of town, Basic City is a neighborhood within the city of Waynesboro, Virginia, conveniently located halfway between Charlottesville and Staunton, right off Interstate 64, which links Richmond and Virginia's port cities to points west. Get off at Exit 99 and head down the mountain on 250; You'll find Basic City Beer Co. on the left.

You might miss it if you blink, so keep an eye out for what looks like a grand iron stargate at the entrance to the two-tiered parking lot. Pick up some tasty tacos while you're there, too, from the food truck positioned outside.

NOTE: I pair most of my brewery visits with a hike. While the closest popular hike is to Humpback Rocks along the Blue Ridge Parkway, I paired a recent visit with a the Lefthand Hollow to Buzzard Rock Overlook hike, which is found in Shenandoah National Park at the Paine Run Trailhead off of the East Side Highway at Harriston.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hiking the East Side Highway - Lefthand Hollow to Buzzard Rock Overlook

by Brian Schwarz

The stretch of Route 340 in Virginia, between the town of Elkton and city of Waynesboro, is known locally as East Side Highway. It runs north and south along the western Blue Ridge Mountains, making it an important route for outdoor adventurers set on enjoying Shenandoah National Park South District, as well as nearby river communities of the eastern Shenandoah Valley.

Take a moment to pose for the camera, Brian! That's Buzzard Rock behind.
This week I've been exploring some hikes I spotted by reading the 2014 edition of PATC Map 11: Appalachian Trail and other trails in Shenandoah National Park South District. The map's previous version was less descriptive than the new version, and there are two hikes in particular that I would not have even considered before.

Because the 2014 PATC Map 11 does a better job highlighting overlooks and vistas, I found some short hikes that I can do on my daily commute, between Massanutten and Waynesboro. So far I have only done one of the two new hikes I've identified, so I'll talk about that one now and tell you about the other one once I've scouted it out myself.

The Paine Run Trailhead, located on Horsehead Road, just west of the town of Harriston - which is one of the aforementioned East Side Highway river towns - is the entry point for the hike I'm calling the Lefthand Hollow-Buzzard Rock Overlook Hike. It's a short, two-mile out-and-back, that is well graded and has about 350-feet elevation gain to an south-facing rock outcrop overlook.

Park at the Paine Run Trailhead at the end of Horsehead Road and enter the woods, going downhill briefly before the trail levels off and follows the banks of Paine Run for about a third of a mile, crossing the creek twice on nicely lain, large and sturdy rocks. Some 100 steps after the second creek crossing, turn left and begin the steady trudge uphill.

The hike is basically one big switchback along the side of Trayfoot Mountain as you rise above Lefthand Hollow, the other side of which is formed by Horsehad Mountain. Continue up - about a third of a mile for each switchback - and you will reach the overlook at approximately one mile.

What looks like a perfect cone of a mountain in front of you is actually the northern end of a ridge line. The top of this photogenic mound is called Buzzard Rock, so-named for the buzzards who frequent the area. The upper Shenandoah Valley stretches out past Round Hill and other valley structures to the south and west.

Stay tuned for descriptions of Cave Hill and Furnace Mountain hikes.