The Friends of Roan Mountain will once again sponsor a youth naturalists rally the last weekend of July. Known as “Xtreme Roan Adventures,” this exciting event will be held on Saturday, July 28, at Roan Mountain State Park.
Ken Turner and Larry McDaniel are serving as co-directors for this year’s “XTreme Roan Adventures.” Turner noted this is the fourth year the Friends of Roan Mountain has offered this annual youth-oriented naturalists rally.
Naturalists — people who enjoy learning about the great outdoors and natural sciences — enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. That’s especially the case with “Xtreme Roan Adventures.” Turner said that a range of talented naturalists will conduct the hikes and programs at this year’s event.
“We’ve got some tremendous volunteers lined up to help,” Turner said. “A lot of people donated their time and enthusiasm for this year’s event. I really appreciate that. This wouldn’t be happening without them.”
Turner, who is originally from Burlington, N.C., now resides in Piney Flats. He owns and operates his own business, Turner Business Systems.
He has also been a member of the Friends of Roan Mountain for about six years.
Turner’s love of Roan Mountain as well as other area mountains stretched back much farther. “I’ve been a fan of the mountains ever since I was a kid and got to go on camping trips,” he said.
This year’s Rally offers a massive schedule with 16 activities and hikes, plus exhibits. All of this is crammed into a full action-packed day of “xtreme adventure.”
Actually, the fun starts on Friday evening for groups camping at the park. Friday evening after sundown will find adventurers attending a Moth Party and an Owl Prowl.
Saturday mornings will start off at 9 a.m. with four hikes on the topics of stream ecology, salamanders, bird banding and orienteering. These will be 75-minute Adventures.
There are two 30-minute Junior Hikes scheduled, including a “Scavenger Hunt” and a “100-inch Hike.” These will be held on Saturday morning for the little adventurers.
Mid-morning continues with more choices of Adventures. A second salamander hike is offered due to the popularity of this offering each year. In addition, hikes focusing on the topics of geology, insects and animal tracking will be offered.
Lunchtime provides no rest from these Adventures. When participants sit down to enjoy lunch they will be entertained by a slide show by Southern Appalachian Raptor Research. After lunch they can enjoy meeting live birds of prey from Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport and live reptiles from Roan Mountain State Park as well as fossil and insect exhibits from Steele Creek Park in Bristol.
The new book, “Baa-iley the Goat,” will be available for purchase. Author Rosalie Russo will also be signing copies of the book. She has written about the adventure of Baa-iley as part of the grassy balds restoration and the Baa-tany Goat Project.
“Skins & Skulls” from the East Tennessee Department of Geo-Sciences will be on display. Nature crafts for those itching to express their creativity is always a fun activity. Another popular “make-something” activity at this year’s Rally will be Fossil Casting, which will be supervised by the ETSU Department of Geo-Sciences. Adventurers will be able to cast their own museum quality fossil to take home to display in their own museum.
Another exciting Adventure for this year is “Roan Mountain CSI,” which will call on participants to put their powers of observation and deduction to the test. Adventurers will get to dissect owl pellets to determine what creature came to an untimely end as a natural selection determined by the owl’s appetite.
After lunch, the scheduled hikes include Butterflies at the Miller Homestead Monarch Way Station, and the Appalachian Trail hike to see the Baa-tany Goat Project.
The morning adventures all take place from the Roan Mountain State Park Amphitheater and no driving is required. Afternoon Adventures are centered around the park’s Conference Center. The hikes to the Butterflies at the Miller Homestead and the Appalachian Trail will require driving to the destinations.
“There’s so much to do at this event,” Turner said. “It’s exciting for both kids and their parents.”
Although the event is focused on younger participants, Turner noted that parents are required to attend as well. He promised that parents and their children are sure to enjoy their adventure together.
Volunteers from throughout Northeast Tennessee are providing their expertise. Turner noted that Roan Mountain State Park, Steele Creek Park, Bays Mountain Park, U.S. Forest Service and the ETSU Department of Geo-Sciences are all providing volunteers for the event.
Many of the volunteers feel rewarded by the way kids embrace this hands-on event.
“It’s just so much fun for the kids who come out to this,” Turner said. “It’s a blast for all the volunteers to see the kids having so much fun.”
He encourages parents to get their young adventurers out for a great day on the mountain, explaining that this could be the start of a lifelong adventure and abiding interest in the natural world.
“We want to ignite a spark that will grow and grow into an enduring love of nature,” Turner said.
To accomplish that goal, organizers have kept the focus on interactive events.
“They’re not just looking at a TV screen,” Turner explained. “It’s all right there in front of them. They can hunt salamanders, hold a butterfly and get their feet wet.”
He also insists that parents need not sweat the scientific details.
“It’s not important to know all the scientific terms,” Turner said. “We just want parents to share this adventure with their kids.”
Here’s the complete schedule of activities for the two-day festival.
Friday night — July 27
At Amphitheater at dusk — Moth Party, Owl Prowl
At Group Campground — (group camping available RSVP)
Saturday — July 28
Activities at the Amphitheatre:
Registration and Welcome from 8 to 9 a.m.
9-9:30 a.m. and 9:45-10:15 a.m.
Junior Hike 1 (30 minutes; recommended for young kids) — “100-inch Hike” — Jennifer Stout.
Junior Hike 2 (30 minutes; recommended for young kids) — Scavenger Hunt — Nora Schubert.
Hike 3 (75 minutes) — Bird Banding — Mark Hopey, from Southern Appalachian Raptor Research.
Hike 4 (75 minutes) — Salamanders — Jacob Young, Roan Mountain State Park Ranger.
Hike 5 (75 minutes) — Stream Ecology — Charlie Parker.Hike 6 (75 minutes) — Orienteering — Ingrid Luffman.
Hike 7 (75 minutes) — Geology — Jeremy Stout, from Steele Creek Park.
Hike 8 (75 minutes) — Animal Tracking — Joe McGuiness, from U.S. Forest Service.
Hike 9 (75 minutes) — Insects — John Hay.
Hike 10 (75 minutes) — Salamanders Two — Jacob Young, Roan Mountain State Park Ranger.
Activities at the Conference Center:
Lunch in Conference Center — provided by Earth Fare.
Southern Appalachian Raptor Research slideshow.
“Baa-iley the Goat” book signing by Rosalie Russo.
Live Birds of Prey — by Bays Mountain Park
Live Reptiles — Meg Guy — Roan Mountain State Park Seasonal Interpretive Ranger.
Insect and Fossil Display — Steele Creek Park.
Trail Mix Making Station — Earthfare.
Activity 11 — Nature Crafts (pine cone critters, bird sculpture, rock painting, etc.)
Activity 12 — Skulls & Skins — Blaine Schubert, ETSU Department of Geo-Sciences
Activity 13 — Fossil Castings — Mick Whitelaw, ETSU Department of Geo-Sciences
Activity 14 — Roan Mountain CSI (owl pellets) — Janet Brown.
Hike 15 — Butterflies — Brad Jones — Johnson City Parks and Recreation.
Hike 16 — Baa-tany Goat Project — Appalachian Trail Hike over the Grassy Balds (1- to 3-mile round trip).
For more information, visit www.Xtreme Roan Adventures.org or call Ken Turner at 538-3419.