Posts filed under ‘Hiking’

Spring Wildflowers at Falls Ridge Nature Preserve

My mother accompanied Sagan and I on a weekend to Blacksburg, Virginia. The weekend went by super fast, but on the way home, we were able to meet some of my friends for a quick hike at the Nature Conservancy’s Falls Ridge Nature Preserve. I’ve been there numerous times before, but this time was one of the most beautiful of trips. Not only did the falls look spectacular, but we were greeted with a rather large variety of blooming wildflowers.

Some snippets of the falls:

Falls Ridge 2013 - Small Mossy Falls (Close)
Mossy Waterfall

Falls Ridge 2013 - Sine Wave Falls
Curvy Falls

A snippet of the wildflowers:

Falls Ridge 2013 - Columbine and Ferns
Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) with Ferns

Falls Ridge 2013 - Single Columbine Flower
Closeup of Wild Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Mayapple Buds
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) Not Quite Blooming Yet

Falls Ridge 2013 - Trillium By New Stairs
Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Jack in the Pulpit
Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Purple Orchid Like Flower
Possible Showy Orchid (Orchis spectabilis)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Possible Star Chickweed?
Possible Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Buds and Leaves
Possible False Solomon’s Seal (Smilacina racemosa)

More photos of our Falls Ridge Wildflower Hike can be found on my Flickr site.

Falls Ridge Preserve

Length: You can make it as long or as short as you want

Elevation Gain: Flat, except for a hill to the top of the falls.

Driving and Parking: The final approach to the preserve is a flat gravel road.  There is plenty of parking.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA
From Main Street, turn on Ellett Road.
Turn left on Jennelle Road and cross over railroad tracks
Turn right on Den Hill Road
Turn left on Northfork
Turn right on Falls Ridge Rd.
Turn left immediately after the railroad tracks and follow the gravel road to the preserve.

May 16, 2013 at 1:00 am 4 comments

Family Hike: Slaughterhouse Trail at the Lorton Workhouse

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.

Trail Overview
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.

Slaughterhouse Trail - Ryan Helps Sagan Cross Log
Mountain Bike Obstacles Can Double as Playgrounds!

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.

Slaughterhouse Trail - Vines and Bars
Window Inside Slaughterhouse

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).

Slaughterhouse Trail - Caterpillars

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!

Slaughterhouse Trail - Old Branches
Neat Old Tree

Slaughterhouse Trail - Sagan Blows on Dandelion (By Ryan Somma)
Sagan Blows on a Dandelion

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. ;)

Slaughterhouse Trail - Sagan's 'Brush'
Sagan’s “Brush”

Slaughterhouse Trail - Trail Maintenance
Brushing the Trail

More pictures of our quick hike to the Slaughterhouse Trail can be found on my Flickr site.

May 15, 2013 at 10:46 am 1 comment

Michael Jordan or Odie (Repost from Facebook)

[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! : ) : ) : )

Leesylvania Park - Vicky Does Overhead Ladder - Comparison

May 14, 2013 at 1:00 am 1 comment

Family *Workout*: Leesylvania State Park

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.

Leesylvania Park - Ryan Does Pushups on Fitness Trail
Ryan Does Push Ups at a Station

Leesylvania Park - Sagan Jogs to Next Station
Sagan Jogs Between Stations

Just as some exercises have to be modified for pregnancy, Sagan had to modify some of the stations for toddlerhood.

Leesylvania Park - Sagan Finds a Seat on the Fitness Trail
Sagan Finds Another Use for the “Toe Lifts” Station

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.

Leesylvania Park - Sagan Swings (Far)
Sagan Does 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.

Leesylvania Park - Sagan Watches Ryan Do Reverse Pushups
Hmm… Daddy Doesn’t Look Like He is Working Hard Enough

Leesylvania Park - Sagan 'Helps' Ryan Do Reverse Pushups
Ah…. Much Better!

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!”. : )

Leesylvania Park - Sagan Watches Ryan Do Bar Jumps
Sagan Supervises Ryan Doing Bar Jumps

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.

Followup Hike
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. : )

Leesylvania Park - Ryan and Sagan Lean on Log and Take in View
Post Workout Hike – Sagan and Ryan Take in the Potomac River

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.
Woodbridge, VA 22191-4504

Length: 1-2 miles

Elevation Gain:Neglible

Fees Weekdays $4, Weekends $5

Directions from Occoquan, VA
Take I-95 South roughly 4 miles.
Take Exit 156 (Rippon Landing)
Merge onto Dale Blvd.
Turn Right on U.S. 1. Jefferson Davis Highway
Turn left onto Neabsco Rd. (Route 610)
Park Entrance Will Be In About 2 miles

May 13, 2013 at 1:00 am 9 comments

Mama DENIED! (Family Hike: Cunningham Falls)

A friend of mine told me a story about her 15-year old son. One day she gave him a choice–

  1. He could take out the trash
    – or -
  2. 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.

Cunningham Falls - Falls Trail - Hitching a Ride With Daddy
Hitching a Ride with Daddy

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.

Cunningham Falls - Falls Trail - Hi There
YEAH! Now this is where the fun is at!

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. : )

Cunningham Falls - Falls Trail - Sagan Has More Important Things to Do Than to Pose with Mommy
See ya, Mama! I have places to go!

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!

More pictures of our hike to Cunningham Falls can be found on my Flickr site.

Cunningham Falls via the Falls Nature Trail

14707 Park Central Road
Thurmont, MD

Length: 2.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 40 Feet



Trail Map

April 8, 2013 at 8:50 pm 3 comments

Family Hike: Julie J. Metz Wetland Bank

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.

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Smiling Sagan with Water
Sagan Enjoys View at Julie J Metz Wetlands Bank

Trail Overview
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).

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Sagan Crosses Another Bridge
Sagan Crosses One of Many Bridges/Wooden Walkways

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Yeah! Mud!

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Two Legged Tree and Wetlands
Misc View of Wetlands

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.

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Yellow Flowers
Yellow Catkins Flowering

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Sagan Evaluates First Leaves
Sagan Examines One of Spring’s First Leaves

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Gumballs Before and After
Souvenirs of Sweet Gum

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. : )

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Pawpaw Alert
This Sign Wouldn’t Tell You to Identify Pawpaw, If There Were No Pawpaws

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 Wetlands Hike - Geese

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Signs Of Beavers
Just One of Numerous Tree Stumps Left Behind By Beavers

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Deer Tracks
Deer Track in 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

Neabsco Road
Woodbridge, Virginia

Length: Varies

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

March 16, 2013 at 9:28 pm 3 comments

Family Hike: Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax, Virginia

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.

Huntley Meadows Park - Sagan Meets Adela
Hiking Buddy Adela and Sagan

Trail Overview
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.

Huntley Meadows Park - Sagan Smiles As He Passes
On Cedar Trail

Huntley Meadows Park - Sagan and Ryan Take in View
Taking in View From Observation Tower

Huntley Meadows Park - Walkway From Above
Wetlands from Observation Tower

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.

Huntley Meadows Park - Spikey Grass

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.

Huntley Meadows Park - Little Frog
Frog in Parking Lot

Huntley Meadows Park - Frog in Water
Frog in Water

Huntley Meadows Park - Turtle Head
Turtle Pokes Head Out of Water

Huntley Meadows Park - Baby and Adult Canadian Geese

Huntley Meadows Park - Red Winged Black Bird
Red-Winged Blackbird

Huntley Meadows Park - Beaver Handiwork
Formidable Stick Pile

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
Alexandria, Virginia

Trail Map

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

October 16, 2012 at 10:55 am 2 comments

Nature’s Changing Table

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. : )

Bull Run Mountain - Nature's Changing Table
Nature’s Changing Table

Thanks for the help, Nature!

September 11, 2012 at 11:28 am 2 comments

Baby Meets CamelBak, Baby Falls in Love

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.

Bull Run Mountain - Sagan Learns the Camelbak (Close)
Sagan Loves 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.

Bull Run Mountain - Ryan Introduces Sagan to the Camelbak
Ryan Introduces Sagan to CamelBak

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.

Bull Run Mountain - Sagan Takes Another Sip From Camelbak
Another Sip

He also learned to share with his Daddy.

Bull Run Mountain - Sagan Gives Daddy Camelbak
Sagan Gives CamelBak to Daddy

By the time we reached the views at the top of the mountain, Sagan could manage the CamelBak tubing on his own.

Bull Run Mountain - Sagan Sips Camelbak
Sagan Sips CamelBak at the Top

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. : )

September 9, 2012 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

Farewell, Jimmie Dog

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.

Jimmie's Last Outing - Jimmie and Vicky Take In One Last View (By Ryan Somma)
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.

August 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm 9 comments

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