Archive for May, 2008

A Quote for Day Hikers

Last weekend at Trail Days, my hiking self confidence wanned a bit. Surrounded by all the thru-hikers and listening to their tales (or their songs) about their journeys and months long perseverance made my adventures and my love for the trail feel measly and unimportant.

So midway through the day when a man who had thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail eight times (I think it might have been Baltimore Jack!) asked me if I was currently on a thru hike, I bashfully admitted, “No, I’m mainly just a day hiker.”

“Don’t ever say just a day-hiker, darling. All thru-hikers were once day hikers,” he said, “And all thru-hikers will one day be day hikers again.”

I like that.

May 21, 2008 at 12:45 am 3 comments

links for 2008-05-19

May 19, 2008 at 5:33 pm Leave a comment

Trail Days 2008 – Fashion

Recently Mo Rocca invited Project Runway mentor, Tim Gunn, to evaluate the ladies of the Yearning for Zion Ranch and critique their styles. If you haven’t seen it, the video is below:

Tim Gunn’s take on the “Prairie Dress”.

The fashions on display at Trail Days were definitely more eclectic than you see at YFZ. The Trail Days designs made use of bright colors, combined influences from multiple cultures into a single look, and adopted accessories as a core component of the vision. Looking at my pictures and reflecting back, I wonder– What would Tim Gunn’s opinion be?

Even though Penn declared me to be the fourth most famous hiker in the world, I’m yet to be famous enough to hear from Tim Gunn. But, I could hear from you!

So, without further adieu, here is a sampling of the many fashions of Damascus Trail Days:

Harmless Hiker wearing a Santa hat and what appears to be tie-dyed long underwear

Denim jumpsuit, a tie and an askew Malboro baseball cap.

Talent show performer in gold hat, black boa, New Orleans beads and multi-colored striped shirt, all accessorized by a plastic water pistol

Crocs may be hot now, but the future trend is undoubtedly Worn Out Crocs.

Trail Day attendee in umbrella hat, skull sunglasses, multicolored lei, suspenders and pink and green spandex.

On left, the “Bill Bryson is a Candy Ass” look leaves the designer’s point of view ambigious. On the right, the classic “Multiple Tie” look.

Two hikers in the parade wearing dresses. How about those silhouettes?

I’m sparing you the men in Speedos (that’s right, men, plural).

May 18, 2008 at 11:57 pm 4 comments

Trail Days 2008 – Damascus, Hiker Parade, Hiker Talent Show

Yesterday, I headed down to Damascus, Virginia for Trail Days! Thanks to the Roanoke Outdoors Club, I found a carpool buddy for my journey. We spent about eight hours in beautiful Damascus, saw of a lot of interesting events (not to mention warddrobes) and I took a great deal of pictures.

Trail Town, USA

Not only has Damascus been deemed the “Friendliest Town on the Trail”, but I have often heard it simply referred to as “the Trail Town.” Having never been there, I didn’t understand what differentiated Damascus from other communities the trail passed through. How was it different from Pearisburg or Catawba? Now, I know the answer.

When the Appalachian Trail comes to Damascus, it doesn’t just have an incidental road crossing. The trail physically travels through the small town! Blazes occupy telephone poles, are embedded into brick walkways and even made a cameo on the sign for a local business.

A switchback blaze on a telephone pole

Blank white vertical bricks in the sidewalk are reminiscent of blazes

Mount Rogers Outfitters has a blaze on their sign

The community and town really embrace their relationship with the trail. A number of the business had names related to the trail. Blue Blaze Bike Rental. Trails Ice Cream and Coffee. Hikers Inn. Churches advertised their affection for hikers and local residents offered up their yards as campgrounds.

One of the many accomodations in Damascus

First Baptist Loves Hikers

Tent Space Available

Rounding out Damascus’ thoughtfulness and hospitality toward hikers, I saw a sign I had never seen before:

Free Showers

Hiker Parade

When I saw “Hiker Parade” on the event schedule, I didn’t expect all that much. Hikers walking down the street. Even when I saw onlookers with water guns, I still did not fully anticipate what was to come.

The parade started off innocently enough with police cars, Santa Claus and a collection of beauty queens of varying ages. Then it came time for the hikers. They grouped themselves according to the year they completed their thru hike. That’s when the real excitement began. Kids and adults hurled water balloons or unleashed the fury of their Super Soakers. Some hikers ducked, some hikers ran, some hikers just stood and waved the attack on and some hikers fought back with water pistols of their own.

When the parade started, the street was completely dry. When the parade ended, the pavement was wet with scattered snippets of colored latex.

Kids are ready

Onlookers reload. They brought an entire wagon full of water balloons

Hiker fights back with a water… guitar

Hiker Talent Show

In the afternoon, there was a Hiker Talent Show. There were about thirteen acts in the competition. Most of them were singers and I especially enjoyed the people sharing original songs written about or written on the trail. My favorite act, however, was a stand-up comedian with the trail name Punchline (He’s also known as Johnny Millwater and has the website The highlight of his act was The Animal Balloon of Death! He blew up a really long balloon and then he swallowed it. And for his efforts, he was crowned the co-winner of the competition.

Punchline holds up the Animal Balloon of Death

Punchline eating the Animal Balloon of Death

Still eating the Animal Balloon of Death

The Colonel sings A Northbound Hike is Painless

Two members of the Andrew Johnson Mountain Trio sing

The only female soloist performs

This was my first visit to Trail Days and most definitely not my last. The whole event was warm and welcoming and extremely entertaining.

More pictures of Appalachian Trail Days can be found on my Flickr site, including more pictures of the Hiker Parade and the Hiker Talent Show.

May 18, 2008 at 10:02 pm 5 comments

The Final Virginia Appalachian Trail License Plate Design!

Yesterday, I went to Damascus for the Appalachian Trail Days celebration.  While I was there I did stop by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy booth and saw the display of the winning design for the Virginia Appalachian Trail License Plate!!!

The winning design– featuring McAfee’s Knob!

It wasn’t my favorite of the three designs, but it still features McAfee’s Knob, so I’m more than satisfied!  If you are interested in getting a Virginia Appalachian Trail License plate, you can download an application from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Also–  Voting for Georgia Appalachian Trail License Plate Design is open until May 23rd.

May 18, 2008 at 12:04 pm 2 comments

Hearts in Nature: Rocky Gap

This is not my favorite heart in nature, but it is another candidate for a nature-themed Valentine’s Day 2009 Card. This is from the Appalachian Trail at Rocky Gap (near the VA-601 Trailhead):

Heart shaped leaf at Rocky Gap

May 17, 2008 at 12:15 am Leave a comment

Rocky Gap

I am very lucky to live in an area with numerous A.T. trailheads. One of the most convenient to me is the VA-601 crossing. At that trailhead, a vast majority of recreational hikers will travel northbound to take in the views at Kelly’s Knob. But, I also recommend traveling southbound. Going down to VA-632 and back is a 4 mile round trip that you can fit in after work or even a weekend day before other obligations. On the down side, this does mean you can hike and still have ample time to do household chores.

This section may not have the overlook that Kelly’s Knob has, but it is beautiful in its own right. The rocky trail is lined with moss and ferns and when the time is right– blooming mayapples and azaleas. As far as exercise goes, your legs get more of a climb than they would to Kelly’s Knob. VA-632 to VA-601 has an elevation gain of 1184 feet, whereas Kelly’s Knob is only 478 feet higher than VA-601 (though that first hill makes it feel a heck of a lot worse!).

Know what else Rocky Gap has? Baby American Chestnut trees!

(Even though these trees will eventually succumb to the blight, if you hurt them then I’m going to go the Steve Sillett route and never ever pointing them out again.)

Henry on the rocky trail.

Blooming Azaleas

Log silhouette and Rocky Gap greenery.

Ferns and their shadows

Baby American Chestnut Tree

More pictures of my recent outings to Rocky Gap can be found on my Flickr site. And by request:

Rocky Gap
(Appalachian Trail from VA-601 to VA-632 and back)

Mileage: 4 miles round trip

Elevation Difference: 1184 feet

4WD Requirements: The last 1.5 miles of VA-601 is a gravel hill, but it is well maintained and I have seen non-4WD vehicles make it up.

Trailhead Parking: The VA-601 trailhead has a small parking area to the left. On busy days, cars park on the side of the gravel road.

Driving Directions:
(from Blacksburg, Virginia)
Take 460 West and turn right on VA-42.
Bear right to stay on VA-42
Shortly afterwards, turn left on VA-601
When VA-601 turns to gravel, you have about 1.5 miles to the top.
Once there, AT Southbound is to your left and AT Northbound is on your right.

Along the way, you’ll pass by Sinking Creek Bridge, a covered bridge built in 1916.

May 17, 2008 at 12:00 am 4 comments

Fern Frond Friday

With all our talk about fern fronds unrolling, I always thought about the process in just two-dimensions.

Unrolling one way…. (Photo by CarolynCASL)

I forgot they have to unroll the other way too:

Oh yeah! It has to unroll the OTHER way too! Duh.

I don’t know if there is a fancy schamy name for that like fiddleheads. If not, I suggest gonjong after the hornlike roofs of ramah gadang (traditional homes found in Indonesia)

Rumah Gadang (Photo by gosilat!)

This type of architecture is a bit younger than ferns– just a couple hundred million years. The roofs were inspired by the horns of water buffalo, which are slightly less younger.

River Water Buffalo (Photo by ucumari)

May 16, 2008 at 8:00 am 6 comments

Five Things in my Yard [that Belonged to my Grandmother]

Here are five more things from my yard. This time, I’m highlighting items that belonged to my maternal grandmother. She passed away more than eight years ago, but thanks to souvenirs scattered in and out of my house, her memory remains strong.


A couple years ago, my mother dug up some irises from my grandmother’s yard. I drove them 250 miles south and planted them in my yard. This year, they bloomed for the first time in their new home!

Garden Gnome

This guy is well traveled. Originally from my grandmother’s yard in Occoquan, Virginia, my brother gave it to my Great Uncle Chuck in northwest Pennsylvania. One year I was visiting Great Uncle Chuck and he gave it to me. It now resides in Blacksburg, Virginia in my front yard near daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths.

Flower Pot

This flower pot used to be in my grandmother’s front yard. Now it is on my front stoop. Whenever I cut up vegetables (like Brussel Sprouts), I put the clippings and scraps in the pot. I typically cover up the debris with dried leafs and pine needles. Every now and then when it rains I throw a worm in there. There is no evidence that this “mini compost pile” is actually doing anything. I’m probably sentencing those poor earth worms to death.

Tatertot Casserole

Heh. Well I’m cheating on this one. Here are all the ingredients of my grandmother’s Tatertot Casserole. She used to make it for dinner and I follow suit. In fact, it was my supper tonight!


Last but far from least– Henry! My grandmother got him the summer of 1999. He was still a puppy when she had to be hospitalized. Sean and I took him in and when my grandmother passed away, he became an official member of our household. Henry may have his faults, but he also has a permanent place in my heart.

May 15, 2008 at 10:09 pm 6 comments

How to Make Vicky’s Day 101

  1. Send me a surprise postcard.
  2. Extra credit if it is from a National Park
  3. More extra credit if you mention camping.
  4. Finally, on the postcard document just how well my sister knows me!

Some friends I know through camping and Flickr, Angel and Ian, are currently out west, exploring this great country. Up to this point, I had only been following their adventures on Twitter. But today, I checked the mail and found a postcard from the traveling couple! They’ve never been to my house. They don’t know where I live. A sneaky sibling of mine had slipped them my address before they left. Too cool!

What made my day – May 15, 2008

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my sister? 🙂

May 15, 2008 at 1:35 pm 7 comments

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