October 14, 2022
Bruce Dwyer, Wick Walker, Bruce Summers, and Vic Crane have cleared trees, moved dirt, and leveled ground to forge new paths in a breathtaking network of hiking trails on the Kendal campus and adjoining Sunnyside Preserve property.
Blazing the Trails
“We needed to improve the trails, so they were safe for residents,” said Bruce Dwyer, Kendal at Lexington resident and member of the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council (RACC).
With a common goal in mind, the consummate nature lovers and outdoors people set out to make the most of the diverse environs of rural pasturelands, meadows, suburban walkways, and wetlands.
Guided by Appalachian Trail expert and certified chain sawyer Bruce Summers, the crew’s efforts have resulted in more traversable trails, brand new pathways, and the stunning Hickory Hill section that boasts spectacular 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and bucolic cow pastures.
Walk This Way
The new and improved trails attracted 40 walkers in six groups of residents last year, according to walk leader Bruce Dwyer, who introduces current and prospective residents to the trails and encourages their independent use of them.
“It’s so important to be physically active as we age,” said the avid bicyclist from Alexandria, who, along with his wife Linda, discovered KaLex on frequent cycling trips in the Lexington area. This year, Bruce led some 25 walkers in small groups on their first jaunts in late September, after the prolonged summer heat.
So Much to See
On the guided walk, Bruce points out milkweed wildflowers intentionally left un-mowed to support the butterfly population, benches made from recycled plastic film placed in perfect viewing spots, a working old spring-fed cow trough, the hundreds of young trees planted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to regrow a forest barrier to Wood’s Creek, open fields where cows (and a donkey friend) graze, and then, of course, the 360-degree views of the KaLex campus and near and far mountain vistas.
Other residents are likelier to walk with a four-legged friend, like the aptly named Wick Walker, whose border collie Misty is his most frequent companion on the trails.
A retired career Army man, canoe/kayak enthusiast, and author of an upcoming book (Torrents As Yet Unknown: Exploring Earth’s Great River Gorges, to be published in August of 2023), Wick and his wife Laura, a horse owner, were attracted to the Kalex community first and foremost by its emphasis on the importance of animals as companions.
“This philosophy was an essential factor in our decision to move here,” said Wick, who supports Bruce in leading orientation walks.
History of the Land
Another feature of the walks is an explanation of the unique recent history of the land.
A few years back, 12 acres of the Bartenstein’s family farmland, what we now call Hickory Hill, was acquired by Kendal at Lexington by swapping ownership with the Bartenstein family for a spot close to Wood’s Creek, enabling the riparian buffer of Wood’s Creek to be included in the conservation easement the Bartenstein family was granted for their approximately 500 acres of land that borders Kendal at Lexington. Following the easement, the Bartenstein family then deeded the 12 acres of Wood’s Creek property to Rockbridge Area Conservation Council (RACC) to be the owner and manager. This property is now called Sunnyside Preserve.
Kendal at Lexington was able to utilize the swapped land for expansion-related construction needs at that time. Today, Kendal residents, staff, and guests can enjoy this new Hickory Hill property for amazing views and hikes while also enjoying the Sunnyside Preserve and Wood’s Creek. Kendal continues to help with the maintenance of Sunnyside Preserve, including trail design, bridge repair, and clearance.
“It’s important for residents to know the story of this beautiful land,” said Bruce, a self-described “view person” who relishes the vistas he beholds without stepping foot outside his cottage. “It’s like I’ve gone to heaven!” enthused the man who has taken countless steps outside and helped pave the way for many others along the way.
Visitors are Welcome
- Please be respectful of the beautiful land and those who live at Kendal at Lexington.
- The public is welcome to any road and sidewalk and most trails (Please do not enter Borden Gardens or walk in trial or pathway areas close to residential living without invitation)
- Open Dawn to Dusk
- Dogs on leash (pick up poop)
- No dirt bikes, 4-wheelers or similarly loud & fast motorized vehicles. (golf carts, wheelchairs, and motorized scooters used for those with limited mobility are allowed where safely feasible)
- Kendal at Lexington is a no-smoking campus.