Hidden in the hub of Warsaw lays a gem, a treasure trove of forested paths and hiking trails that are lit with dappled sunlight and the call of wild birds.
But as storms ruffled the landscape, trees fell and leaves scattered, the pathways became obstructed and, in some areas, indiscernible.
One local man, however, has taken to restoring the trails for all to enjoy once more.
It was in March of this year when 67-year-old Warsaw resident, Planning Commission Chairman Mac Lowery, first decided he wanted to take walks along the trails instead of on local roads.
“I just decided there were some things that weren’t suitable out on the road,” said Lowery with a chuckle. “I figured rather than cause a problem I would move over here and I decided, ‘Well, gee, I need to lose some weight!’”
But in order to get through some sections of the trails, Lowery took it upon himself to clear them of debris.
He has used a variety of tools in his treks through the wooded space that the trails snake through, particularly leaf rakes, bush axes, sling blades, handsaws and branch trimmers.
He cut through logs that lay across the walkways, raked away the leaves obstructing his view of the trails, cleared the steps leading up the Blue Trail and snipped away at looming branches that would have otherwise caught the faces of unsuspecting persons by surprise.
Last Friday, he entered the forest with his walking stick and pointed out the many different trails that crisscrossed and looped together, as well as the areas where he had made progress in making those trails accessible.
With his walking stick, he indicated one intersection in the paths near Fawn Lane where he cleared one particular mess of leaves.
Having once worked for the Virginia Dept. of Transportation, Lowery wanted to make the intersection like an exchange, he said.
He kept walking and came to a fallen tree and joked: “Paul Bunyan chopped that one.”
“Even though it was dried out and rotting, I got plenty of work with an ax,” said Lowery, adding “It’s a never-ending thing with nature. You’re going to always have trees and storms, so nothing you do lasts forever.”
Lowery recalled the comments of his friend and fellow planning commissioner Roger Lee during one of his trips out on the trails.
“As soon as he came out here and walked a few times, he said, ‘I can tell what you’ve been doing,’” Lowery said as he continued to make his way along the path, his walking stick outstretched before him.
He shared that he wasn’t necessarily taking up any cause in clearing the walking paths-he relished his time on the trails and thought that others would do the same.
“I just like to do it and hope some other people enjoy it,” said Lowery.
While on the trails, Lowery stressed the importance of paying attention to what’s in front of you. He added to take care on the trail steps as they are damp, and can be slippery.
Lowery also warned that copperhead snakes like to come out in the sun where the sewer easements, or the open grassy paths, intersect the forest. As a precaution, Lowery advised not stepping through the tall grass along the easement.
The main entrance to the hiking trails can be found behind the tennis courts adjacent to Rappahannock Community College in Warsaw. Beyond a grassy field, a brown Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries sign titled “Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail” signifies the entrance to its immediate right-hand side.
Each of the trails is named for the colored paint that was used to mark the bordering trees. The main walkway, or the White Trail, begins at the sign, bypasses an easement and bridge, curves around the Yellow Trail, swings to the left of the Red Trail and reaches a second easement, bordered by Wallace Street on the left and Morgan Lane at right.
The Blue Trail is the first deviation of the path and can be sighted on the left heading uphill via a section of wooden steps. The Blue path also bypasses the first sewer easement as well as a bridge until opening up at a fork between the Red and White trails. The Yellow Trail can be taken on the right at the “Doe Run” sign after crossing the bridge on the White Trail. This trail loops back around onto the White Trail.
The Red Trail is located between the White Trail and the second sewer easement.
Lowery noted that if downed trees are blocking or obstructing the trails, they may be moved, but per the college, live trees are not to be cut down.
“In other words, don’t do a logging operation through here,” Lowery said with a smile.
Among the trails features are hilly ascents for hikers to enjoy as well as potential wildlife sightings, particularly deer that trot in and out of the woods.
For more information about the trails, call the Rappahannock Community College Warsaw Campus at 804-333-6700.