Those of us who live in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle have a right to brag! The immediate area is rich in scenery, history, and the arts. It’s just a short drive in any direction to find fine dining, live music of every description, live theatre, dance productions, and art exhibitions.
Take a hike in nature, bike the country roads, go fishing, kayaking, or rafting. Hear a lecture by an expert or take a class at Shepherd University. Stroll through farmers’ markets and meet the people who supply your food. We even have a race track and casino. About the only thing we don’t have is an ocean.
While some people enjoy exploring new places on their own, they can sometimes miss the special things that locals know about. On the other hand, many people just dislike the hassle of making schedules and itineraries, preferring to let someone else do the work. And some locals are so busy with their daily routines that they miss things that are right in their own back yards.
To that end, Hike Adventures is a new business headquartered in Harpers Ferry (WV) offering locals and visitors alike something beyond a hike. You can choose from a variety of excursions combining guided hikes, creative fun, and delicious, healthy food—with all arrangements taken care of so that all you have to do is enjoy yourself. Just bring some water and your hiking shoes.
Founder Racquel Yerbury, an educator and trained archeologist, has led groups worldwide, and for Hike Adventures, she’s put together a diverse team of experts—in fields ranging from the environment to art and music, from photography to farming and history—who make each excursion unique.
All adventures consist of “Trails, Arts, Feasts and Fun,” but perhaps the best part is that you can design your own adventure from an extensive menu of choices.
“Hike Adventures comes out of a deep desire to promote ecotourism in rural regions beyond Washington, D.C.—like Jefferson and Berkeley Counties—and to engage with nature and art as the healing forces that they are for humans,” Yerbury noted.
“A lot of people would like to hike during time frames that work for them with knowledgeable local guides who can share insights about the trails and region. And there’s so much going on in our area—so many quality offerings and fascinating people—yet the activities can feel scattered. Visitors don’t necessarily know what’s available and what might best optimize their time here.”
Yerbury emphasized the added value of Hike Adventure’s skilled group of outdoor guides who—in addition to the art and culinary options that come with any tour—bring archaeology, history, and environmental credentials to each experience. “These folks can really bring to life the background stories of state and national parks in West Virginia and beyond,” she said. “And when you get off the trail, our creative partners offer two- to three-hour workshops in painting, sculpture, woodworking, photography, mountain music, and other arts. Additionally, those interested in green living can learn about organic farming, permaculture, beekeeping, and green building.”
Ultimately, the endeavor is about curating an adventure and exploring what this region truly has to offer from people who can really pull back the curtain for adventure-goers, added Yerbury.
“They’re getting an up-close-and-personal experience with nature, and if they choose, working with engaging artists and partners who provide fresh, gourmet food and drink. And we also partner with quality accommodations for guests like the Bavarian Inn and Light Horse Inn, and are cultivating relationships deeper in the interior of West Virginia.”
Chief Guide and Artist Annie Wisecarver is an avid hiker who hikes and backpacks around the country. She completed a thru-hike hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2012 in six months and eight days.
“A hike is a part of all of our tours—because walking in nature is good for you,” Wisecarver declared. “Our hikes go from easy to strenuous. Some are just a good walk. And art is a part because being around art is good for you! After the hike, you go back to the studio of a local artist where things will be set up for the participants to make a piece of art.”
Taken Care Of
Full-day or half-day adventures are available through Hike Adventures. Half-days include a hike of about an hour and a half, and full-day adventures have hikes about three or four hours long. Hikes range from easy to moderate to difficult, with expert guides that provide the aforementioned historical, archaeological, and environmental interpretation along the way.
Most hikes currently focus on Jefferson County (Harpers Ferry/Maryland Heights) and nearby parts of Virginia, but Yerbury and her group may expand their range in the future.
In addition to the hiking and art, the “Feasts” component includes adventurers’ choice of a vegetarian (or vegan) feast or an omnivore’s feast (both offered with or without a cooking lesson), a vintner’s feast, a gourmet pizza and beer feast, and many more. All of the meals are provided by local farm-to-table restaurants. Participants are free to order whatever they want to eat from the menu—there is no uniform menu for the group, and dietary restrictions will be taken into consideration.
If customers include a tasting at a winery, brewery, cidery, or distillery, tastings and flights are included in the cost of their adventure. Wisecarver indicated, “We take care of everything. You don’t have to worry about finding a place to eat. You don’t have to worry about how to get around. We’ve done it all for you.”
Hike Adventures’ comfortable multi-passenger van can pick you up at The Bavarian Inn and Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Shepherdstown, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitor’s Center in Harpers Ferry, or any other accommodations in Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry, Charles Town, or nearby locations.
The organization is fully insured, and all guides have taken Red Cross classes and are certified in adult and pediatric first aid, CPR, and AED. Additionally, Yerbury’s team has permits to operate in all state parks in West Virginia.
There is a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 participants for day adventures. For solo adventurers, or a couple, visitors can join a scheduled adventure if space is available. Retreats and week-long adventures can be arranged for larger groups, as well.
Wisecarver added that Hike Adventures plans on making this a year-round business—pointing out that they’re willing to do winter hikes if they get requests. Such experiences would likely include more art and music.
“We’re open to doing whatever people want to do,” she assured, while also stressing that they will not pursue skiing, snowboarding, or rafting in the summers. “There are already established businesses that do those things.”
Hike Adventures also offers businesses and organizations one- to three-day retreats and workshops for team-building and problem solving. Again, all accommodations, meals, and details are taken care of. Of note: business retreats can accommodate up to 100 people.
“The fundamental idea behind the business is that moving and nature (walking and hiking in nature), eating fresh food and drinking wine and artisan beer, and especially working with the artists and musicians and people really putting their hands in the medium—that those things combined are therapeutic and that help us lift ourselves,” stressed Yerbury. “And we have it in spades here, and so many people have stepped up to be partners in this endeavor.”
Those interested in this truly unique Panhandle-friendly endeavor can pick up a brochure at the Visitors’ Center in Shepherdstown or Harpers Ferry. You can also visit the website and meet the team of guides, artists, and experts. And then it’s pretty simple: start building your own adventure!By Claire Stuart