The thirteen who introduced themselves to each other before heading off on a 4.5 mile loop around the former plantation of the fifth U.S. President (James Monroe) included representation from Charlottesville, three surrounding counties, and Richmond. They were: Nancy Kern from Nelson County; Dave Borszich from Greene County; Art Bykonen, and Craig and Claire Forbes from Richmond; Holly Gunderson, Iva Gillet, Marian Styles, Paul Henderson, Marie Moss, and hike leader, Marit Anderson, from Albemarle County; and city residents, Jeanne Siler and Brian Muszynski.
Highland, owned by The College of William and Mary, recently opened four color-coded trails on the 535 acres (lowered somewhat from the original 1,000 acres owned by Monroe) for public enjoyment. The kiosk near the visitors' center parking lot outlines the various loops that are possible; interpretive signage is strategically posted along each trail, all of which is open 9 a.m. until dusk. Because Highland is a working farm, and resident cows are often moved from pasture to pasture, one or more trails may be closed, so check the kiosk before venturing out. Our hike consisted of the Green (Woodland Trail), Red (Mountain Trail), and Blue (South Pasture Trail), which are marked well with plastic, color diamonds.
Given the persistent humidity- Saturday was still officially summer, albeit for a few more hours-- several hikers were glad the elevation climbs were minimal (Iva, of course, could be overheard asking for something steeper.) The Green Woodland Trail curved through shaded thick woods before merging with the moderately sloped Red Mountain Trail up to the high point of 820 feet, with the Blue South Pasture Trail rounding out the morning's expedition with a slow incline paralleling the gorgeous, tree-lined entrance drive up to Highland's main properties.
Lunch, chocolate and cookies, not necessarily in that order, finished out the morning, leaving everyone plenty of time for football, yoga, or their drive back to Richmond or elsewhere.
For more information about the trails and Highland, see www.highland.org