Posts filed under ‘Hiking’
Back in 2007, I had a post called “Hooray for Powerlines and Prisons” where I talked about the surprise greenspace provided by the old prison in Lorton, Virginia. At the time, I had heard there were plans to turn that land into parks. I speculated “I bet those parks end up kicking ass” and now over six years later I can confirm that speculation.
One April Friday evening, Ryan and I had just enough daylight to take Sagan out for a quick hike. We drove up to the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center, parked our car, and hiked the Slaughterhouse Trail.
This trail is mainly intended as a mountain bike trail. As a side benefit, there are obstacles and ramps for the bikes that make nice little challenges/playgrounds for walking toddlers.
The namesake of the trail is an old slaughterhouse for the prison. It adds a nice “creep factor” to the woods which is usually indigenous to say, Burkittsville, Maryland.
We saw a dead opossum, a dead raccoon, and a really big discarded snake skin inside the slaughterhouse. As far as living creatures, we saw plenty of birds and squirrels. Sagan got to take in a nice nest of baby caterpillars. Ryan and I spotted a few ticks crawling on us, but luckily none found their way to Sagan (It would be another two days before Sagan would be graced with his very first tick).
Lots of evergreens and your typical trees you would see in the area such as tulip poplars. But the highlight of the flora this trip were the seeding dandelions!
Future Trail Maintainer?
At Leesylvania State Park, Sagan showed an aptitude for personal training. On this hike, he showed his might also have an interest in trail maintenance as well. He was very good and thorough about throwing pine cones off the trail. When he found some nice brown pine boughs, he announced, “Brush! Brush!” and started brushing the trail. Perhaps that’s also a sign he’s got a little bit of thru-hiker innovation in him as well. ;)
More pictures of our quick hike to the Slaughterhouse Trail can be found on my Flickr site.
[A repost from Facebook. The image still cracks me up, so I wanted it somewhere easier to retrieve than that blackhole known as "Timeline"]
On the Fitness Trail at Leesylvania State Park, Ryan Somma took some pictures of me doing the overhead ladder.
When I finished, Ryan noted, “The most impressive part of that was your tongue.” He reported it was hanging out the entire time I was traversing across.
Eh, no biggie. Michael Jordan does that too, right?. When I got home, however, I discovered I didn’t look a thing like Michael Jordan. I seem to bear a much stronger resemblance to Odie! : ) : ) : )
As hectic and life-changing Ryan and I find parenting to sometimes be, we both realize there are luxuries we have…courtesy of the live-in grandmother we have at our house. One such luxury– on Sundays, my mother watches the little boy and Ryan and I get to go to the gym and workout together. I rather fancy weight-lifting with my spouse, particularly when he executes his shoulder press sets, so it is an outing I typically look forward to.
A few Sundays ago, however, we had a great deal of home improvement tasks and as afternoon turned to late afternoon, it was clear we weren’t going to make the gym. Instead, we decided to take our son out to Woodbridge, Virginia’s Leesylvania State Park for some outdoor fun.
Now, I always look forward to being outside, but there was definitely part of me that was disappointed I was going to miss my gym date. Little did I know, there is something better than working out with your spouse– Working out with your spouse AND your son!
We parked, we started our way on the Bushey Pointe Trail and lo and behold we discovered it was one of those fitness trails where they have different stations set up for you to try out different exercises. We all, Sagan included, had fun experimenting at stations and then jogging to the next one.
Just as some exercises have to be modified for pregnancy, Sagan had to modify some of the stations for toddlerhood.
When we let Sagan do some assisted pullups, Ryan noted that Sagan was holding his own bodyweight. Yet, we were still surprised a few stations later when Sagan grabbed onto a tricep dip bar and started having the time of his life doing leg lifts.
Future Personal Trainer?
We also found Sagan to show signs of being an effective personal trainer. At one point, he was watching Ryan doing reverse push-ups.
I guess Sagan decided that exercise wasn’t challenging enough for Ryan. So he decided to add a little more resistance to the mix.
Or there was the time when Ryan just finished up the last of his Bar Jump sets when Sagan, supervising from one of the bars, ordered, “ONE MORE!”. : )
Sagan wasn’t singling poor Ryan out. Later, when Sagan was trying to do his own version of bar jumps, he showed the self motivation to do “one more” of his own.
And when we all finished our stations, we had the beautiful Potomac to take in as we continued to the hike the Bushey Pointe Trail and the Powell Trails. By the end of the outing, missing out on the gym with my husband was just a distant memory. : )
More pictures of our trip on the Bushey Pointe Trail in Leesylvania State Park can be found on my Flickr site.
| Bushey Pointe Trail in Leesylvania State Park
2001 Daniel K. Ludwig Dr.
Length: 1-2 miles
Fees Weekdays $4, Weekends $5
Directions from Occoquan, VA
A friend of mine told me a story about her 15-year old son. One day she gave him a choice–
- He could take out the trash
- or -
- He could give his mother a hug.
“He chose to take out the trash!” my friend laughed.
I knew it was coming, but I thought with a 20 month old son, I had a good decade or so before I would encounter such a snub. Nope! Last month for my 38th Birthday Hike, our little family drove up to Catocin Mountain Park. We parked at the Visitors Center and hiked 1.4 miles to Cunningham Falls, which at 78-feet is the largest cascading falls in Maryland.
Sagan was patiently indifferent to the first 1.2 miles. He did some walking, but for the most part hitched a ride.
When we reached the final approach to the falls, however, Sagan found his passion. That last 0.2 miles was a boardwalk and he LOVED running back and forth on it.
He loved it so much, in fact, that when I tried to get him to stop for a second to pose for a picture with the falls, he would have none of it! He squirmed, he balked, and then…
He ran away. : )
To be honest, it was rather worth it to see him have so much fun. After some more exploring the boardwalk, we hiked back to the visitors center and indulged in some yummy yummy Cracker Barrell on the way home. All in all, a most excellent day!
|Cunningham Falls via the Falls Nature Trail
14707 Park Central Road
Length: 2.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 40 Feet
Today was a lovely spring day and with more winter-like temperatures in the forecast for Monday, I decided to take my 20-month old son out for a quick hike this afternoon. I aimed to take him to Leesylvania State Park, but while we were on Neabsco Road, I spied a tell-tale trailhead sign, so I turned around to investigate. It looked like a humble little park, the Julie J. Metz Wetland Bank, but boy, it was just a wonderful hidden gem.
This trail system was absolutely perfect for a toddler! The trails were flat and at the same time, they had numerous bridges and wooden walkways to intrigue your child (and keep you elevated out of the wetlands). We had some rain earlier in the day, so we had a bonus perk– muddy puddles! My son loved splashing in them, stomping in them, and then he leaned down and put his hands in. At that point, he didn’t love muddle puddles so much (he despises dirty hands).
Honestly, I wasn’t paying that much attention to the trees. I did spy some flowering catkins and the tiniest of baby leaves making their first spring appearance. There was plenty of evidence of Sweet Gum, from the ample collection of spikey balls on the ground to the distinctive “alligator-wood” of the branches. I also noted American Sycamore. I don’t recall seeing any Red Maples.
Pawpaw Alert! I did see a sign that indicated there are pawpaws in the park. Translation: This might be a good park to visit in September. : )
Like Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax, Virginia this little park gives you a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to wildlife. So many birds were singing and so loudly that it almost seemed as if we had a radio on. As you can expect, waterfowl were plentiful. As dusk neared, we had a wonderful serenade of spring peepers. It was reminiscent of the Spring Peeper Serenade from my 35th Birthday, though not quite as loud. During our hike we also saw lots of souvenirs left behind by beavers (in the form of gnawed tree stumps) and deer (in the form of many, many, many footprints in the mud).
Julie J. Metz Wetland Bank was an accidental find, but I highly recommend it, particular to families with small children. I don’t think we could have had a more enjoyable afternoon.
|Julie J. Metz Wetland Bank
Elevation Gain: FLAT!
Directions from Occoquan, Virginia
Take Route 1 South
Turn left on Neabsco Road
Trailhead will be on your left in a couple of miles
This past June, Sagan went on his first outing with a hiking buddy his own age. He was invited by young Adela (roughly six months his junior) to check out Fairfax County’s Huntley Meadows Park. Huntley Meadows encompasses 1425 acres, including some impressive freshwater wetlands. The trails are short, completely flat and well maintained. You aren’t going to get your heartrate up in Huntley Meadows, but if you are in the market for some wildlife, this is the place to go to.
We started at the Visitors Center and took the Cedar Trail to the observation tower to take in the wetlands. Afterwards, we took the boardwalk for a more intimate encounter with the wetlands. Finally, the Heron Trail took us on the last leg of the journey back. Overall, I think we walked between 1 and 1.5 miles.
On the tree front, I saw a variety of oaks, red maples, black gum and hickory. The wetlands sported swamp rose and some amazingly fragrant white flowers and lots and lots of grasses.
The real highlight of the trip was all the animals that were commonplace in the park. Almost immediately, our companion found a small frog in the parking lot. From there, we would see and hear many more frogs. Turtles were everywhere as where geese and herons. We saw a red-winged blackbird. Although we didn’t get the see the beavers, their handiwork was readily visible.
Thanks to the beautiful landscape and all the animal-sightings, our outing was a memorable one. But there was an additional characteristic to the trip that we could appreciate as new parents — it was short and fast! When we finished our loop, we still had plenty of time to tackle all the tasks that waited for us back home.
Thank you to Adela and her father for inviting us along!
More pictures of our outing to Huntley Meadows Park are available on my Flickr site.
|Huntley Meadows Park
3701 Lockheed Blvd
Length: Varies 1.5 – 2 miles
Elevation Gain: Neglible
Directions from Occoquan, Virginia
Take Route 1 North towards Ft. Belvoir/Mt Vernon for 11.4 miles
Turn left on Lockheed Blvd
Turn left on Harrison Lane
There is no Koala Kare on mountains. At least, the mountains worth hiking. : ) So last weekend when Sagan needed some “diapie attention” on Bull Run Mountain, it was a pleasant surprise to spy a very conveniently shaped boulder right in our vicinity. It was even convex to deter rolling. : )
Thanks for the help, Nature!
This past weekend, our little family went out to Broad Run, Virginia for a day of hiking at Bull Run Mountain. This wasn’t 13-month-old Sagan’s first hike. It also wasn’t his longest hike. But it will go down as the hike where he fell in love with the CamelBak.
It started on the Quarry Trail. I stopped my husband, Ryan, for some water. Once I finished up, Ryan decided to give little Sagan a try.
Sagan was smitten almost instantly, though admittedly he needed help getting water out. As we climbed up the hill on Ridge Loop Trail, Sagan took another sip.
He also learned to share with his Daddy.
By the time we reached the views at the top of the mountain, Sagan could manage the CamelBak tubing on his own.
The CamelBak’s appeal probably stems from its similarity in texture with the pacifier or bottle. But let’s suspend disbelief momentarily. Let’s just pretend that Sagan was destined to love CamelBak from the very day he was born… when his Mommy sipped from a CamelBak Nalgene bottle during labor. : )
My most steadfast hiking buddy passed away this morning. His name was Jimmie (after the band Jimmie’s Chicken Shack). He spent 15 years and 4.5 months on this beautiful earth.
I have written before how adopting this small puppy from the Montgomery County Humane Society in 1997 impacted my life (See Happy 10th Birthday, Jimmie Dog). Jimmie’s adoption led to an active lifestyle. Finding adventures for my dog introduced me to my love of hiking and the mountains. His mere presence meant I was never really “alone” on any endeavor so he gave me the confidence (placebo?) to head into the woods alone and find my independence. He is a dog I will remember with gratitude.
The trails Jimmie has hiked over the years can be measured in “hundreds of miles”. Along the way, he has seen some amazing views. The slideshow below is an excerpt of some of the scenery we shared together. (You don’t have to have the attention span for all the slides, but do please note at how many slides there are. Epic!)
Last night, Ryan, Sagan and I took Jimmie across the river to Occoquan Regional Park. Jimmie was too weak to walk, so we drove to the park and we carried him to the shoreline. We sat under a sycamore tree. We watched ducks commute and ospreys tend to their young. We listened to the summer buzz of cicadas and people splashing on the west shore of the river. The sun set and together Jimmie and I took in one final view.
One Last View (Photo by Ryan Somma)
I love you, Jimmie Dog. I wish you happy trails.
More pictures of Jimmie’s Last Outing can be found on my Flickr site.
In February, we snuck in a family hike to Mason Neck State Park. It’s an 1800 acre park surrounded by the Pohick and Belmont Bays. My mother likes us to try to tire out her dog, so her dog “Willy” joined us. On our drive there, we passed by other parks and trails I had no idea existed. I grew up in this area, but there is still so much left for me to explore!
There are a little more than 8 miles of trail in the park– all flat and easy! Three of the trails (Beach, Dogue and High Point) are handicap accessible. This sets the park up to be very conducive to family hikes. We did have to pay a small vehicle fee of $4, still a great deal for an entire afternoon of fun.
We started at the Wilson Spring Trail, went along the Bay View Trail. Next we took the Beach Trail to Kent’s Creek Trail back to our parking lot. We did a quick loop on the Dogue Trail before heading back home. The only trail we missed was the Eagle Spur Trail.
Off the Bay View Trail we saw a nice patch of Mountain Laurel that will be worth a revisit come blooming time. I found sycamores along the shoreline to be as captivating as usual.
We saw snail shells in the marsh water on the Bay View Trail and plenty of water fowl throughout. One of the more interesting “fauna spottings” was a replica of a Bald Eagle Nest off the Beach Trail. Although this particular nest was built by boy scouts, I was still taken aback. I had no idea bald eagle nests would be so large.
We very much enjoyed our trip to the park and look forward to the return trips we will most definitely will be taking in the future.
|Mason Neck State Park
Entrance Fee $3 Weekday, $4 Weekend
Length: Varies – 8 miles of trail in the park
Elevation Gain: Neglible
Directions from Occoquan, Virginia
Take I-95 North
Get off Exit 161 U.S. 1 N toward Fort Belvoir/Mt Vernon
Turn right onto VA-242 East
Turn right onto Harley Rd.
Turn right into the park