Discovering Virginia: kayaking in the Blue Ridge Parkway

Farm Virginia

This is the first in the series of posts and videos where affable, adventure-loving traveller and presenter Andy Shepherd discovers what the beautiful Capital Region of the USA (Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia) has to offer. After travelling through autumnal landscapes their first stop was the Blue Ridge Parkway, a place known for its scenic beauty…

I’m not going to lie: hitting the open road in the States has always been on my ultimate bucket-list. All that space, all that scenery. The thing is, though, I didn’t particularly fancy spending ages wading through guidebooks (and blogs, obvs), to find out the best places to stop en route. But on my trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, I didn’t need to.

Beautiful lake Virginia

The Parkway is one of 150 Scenic Byways that criss-cross America, each one threading its way through the heart of the States, with easy-to-follow suggestions about where to stop along the way. The result is that you’re guaranteed to see the good stuff – and over my week-long road trip through the Capital Region, that’s exactly what I intended to do…

Deer

The Capital Region is made up of Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia – but I’d decided to concentrate on the latter two, looking, as I was, for a bit of adventure. So here I was, starting my journey along the Blue Ridge Parkway – on my way to DC. Flying into Roanoke from Washington, you could instantly see a change in the scenery. Those iconic autumnal colours splashed onto the trees below looked straight out of the pages of a glossy travel magazine (no Instagram filter necessary!).

Lake autumn Virginia

So, having bagged myself a suitably chunky SUV, I hit the open road and blasted along to my first stop: the Shenandoah River. Having booked a day’s canoeing with Shenandoah River Outfitters, the plan was to cruise my way along the occasionally rapid water that flows through the serene and picturesque Shenandoah Valley – accompanied by a guide, of course.

Over the next four hours or so we drifted along a small section of the river, soaking up the scenery. I really can’t do this justice in words alone (guess you’ll have to watch my film then, eh?). Suffice to say that this backdrop of big country and pristine nature was rather overwhelming; among the creatures I clapped eyes on were turtles, water snakes, hawks, turkey vultures and heron – not to mention the deer that lined the tree-filled banks. Things got slightly damper as we negotiated a section of Class 2 rapids, but even this was pretty relaxing – especially compared with the rainy train-ride to work that I’m used to.

Turtle Virginia

Canoe lake Virginia

Snake

It certainly wasn’t what I had expected of Virginia. The guys from Shenandoah Outfitters were amazingly friendly and passionate about their state – not to mention super-knowledgeable. I think I might have fallen a little bit in love with Virginia; one thing I know for sure is that I genuinely didn’t want this trip to end. Fortunately this was just the start of my journey. Because from here, it was time to hit the road and head to my next adventure. Check out my next post – and film – to find out how I got on rock climbing (gulp)…

Canoeing Virginia Sunset Virginia

Competition

For a chance to experience the beauty of the Capital Region for yourself, enter their competition to win a six night holiday for two to see the region’s most alluring byways (the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive in Virginia and the Star-Spangled Banner Byway).

Good luck!

Photos taken by Lisa Downs, the camera was operated by Timothy Flower and the video was presented by Andy Shepard. 2013 has seen Andy Shepherd become one of SBTV’s hosts, presenting their sports content. In the past year he has travelled the length and breadth of the country interviewing stars of screen, pitch and track for Gaff. TV. Highlights include conducting an hour long interview with Ashley Cole and becoming best friends with Tinchy Stryder and Ruff Squad. He’s also been busy filming for Channel 4’s ‘For 3 Minutes’, hosting a series of travelogues for Guardian.co.uk and developing a number of projects with leading production companies. As well as all that he was a top ten finalist in a competition to find the next Blue Peter presenter and appeared on CBBC programme Blue Peter: You Decide. He was also a regular contributor on Big Brother’s Bit on the Side for Channel 5, as well as hosting the One Direction event “1D Day”

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