One of the most grueling and longest running relay races in the United States passed through the High Country Sept. 10-11. Watauga, Ashe and Avery counties were ready — and just in time.

A large part of the grandeur and allure of the 208-mile Blue Ridge Relay is the scenic course as the relay transitions from Grayson Highland State Park, Va., at an elevation of 4,920 feet to the base of Mount Rogers, at an elevation of 5,729 feet — the highest peak in Virginia.

Time and again, participants cite the beauty and breadth of the views the run incorporates, including four legs of almost 20 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the most visited of the National Park Service; four legs of almost 14 miles on the New River, a national Wild and Scenic River; and nearly 10 1/2 miles of the 15th leg winding along Grandfather Mountain’s south shoulder.

What many of those participants might not know is that such sights, especially along the New River and towns, such as West Jefferson, Todd, Boone, Blowing Rock and Newland, came at a cost of massive volunteer litter pickup campaigns during the summer months.

Of course, being good stewards of our natural resources is its own reward, and all of us benefit from that. But to be able to showcase our beautiful mountains on a national platform doesn’t come without effort. For all of those who joined in keeping our region in running condition, thank you. It did not go unnoticed.

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