Archive for September, 2008
Today is September 30th, making it my last chance to take an actual child (Larry doesn’t count) outdoors to celebrate Take a Child Outside Week. So this afternoon, my friend Mandy and I took her two children over to the Nature Conservancy‘s Falls Ridge Preserve for a quick hike.
As I mentioned before, Falls Ridge is a little off the beaten path, making its beauty all the more special. Our quick trip today didn’t disappoint! In just about an hour, the children got to see trees just starting to turn, a deer hop across the field, a waterfall, a creek, an old furnace, some caves, a weimaraner, and a surprisingly celebrated snail.
Once we left the preserve, the great views were not over. A brief rain provided us a very lovely rainbow over beautiful Ellett Valley!
Just a quick note– this blog passed 300,000 last Friday (September 26th). I don’t remember exactly how long ago it passed 250,000. It was somewhere in the vicinity of Father’s Day.
Anyway, I wish I had something more substantial to add, but I’m pretty tired and I really just wanted to get a timestamp of the milestone recorded.
Oh, but I am not too tired to say:
Thanks, everyone! Thank you for the views! 🙂
Christina recently challenged her blog readers to come up with a list of sites in their town that are off the beaten path. Meanwhile, September 24th – September 30th is Take a Child Outside Week (HT Ryan Somma). Being in beautiful southwest Virginia, there is no shortage of great places outside to take a child. The Huckleberry Trail, the Caboose Park, Pandapas Pond and the Virginia Tech Duck Pond are all very popular. BUT– I can also recommend some outings that are a little less crowded, a little closer to nature, and still child friendly.
So here are Five Off the Beaten Path Places to Take a Child Outside. To help illustrate the outings, there are pictures of one of my favorite hiking partners, little Penn.
Falls Ridge Preserve
In 2005 when the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club took a group hike over to Falls Ridge Preserve, some of members never even knew the preserve existed. This is particularly surprising because this hike has a lot to offer. There is a giant grassy field to run around in. There is a waterfall! There are the remains of an old furnace! There are CAVES! And…. you can see it all with almost no elevation gain (There is a hill to go up to the top of the falls, but you don’t have to do that if you don’t wanna).
|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
As for off the beaten path, a hiker from Blue Ridge Country described Barney’s Wall as “the region’s best-kept-secret stunning views“. It is indeed stunning and very often secluded. And here’s the kicker– it is a very easy hike!
For an added treat, I suggest packing in milk and cookies.
P.S. If you are your child are still thirsting for more scenery, keep driving down VA-714 to the Butt Mountain Overlook and the old fire tower.
Keffer Oak is one of the largest blazed trees on the 2175 mile Appalachian Trail and it isn’t that far from Blacksburg. You know the tree is impressive when it makes it in a book called Remarkable Trees of Virginia. Estimated at over 300 years old, the Keffer Oak is 18 feet in circumference. To a small child, it seems even bigger! From the VA-630 trailhead, it is only 0.6 miles to tree. There is a hill, but an easy one. If the tree is not enough, next to the tree is a stile, which Penn loved to climb. It was like a mini jungle gym in the middle of the woods!
Penn at Keffer Oak, 4 years of age
On the drive to the tree, be sure to take a detour on VA-601 to see the historic covered bridge!
|Appalachian Trail – Keffer Oak
Length: 1.2 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: There is a brief hill near the beginning of the trail, but nothing too scary.
Driving and Parking: The roads are all paved and there is a small gravel parking lot at the VA-630 trailhead.
Directions from Blacksburg, VA
Wind Rocks is another contender for your child’s first Appalachian Trail hike! From the parking lot, there is not even a half mile walk to the overlook. Of course you have to drive to the trailhead, but along the way, you can stop at Mountain Lake to explore the dry lake bed or marvel at the life size chess and checkers set. Your child will also get exposed to Civil War history, when you pass by “Mini-Ball Hill” where soldiers, weary from climbing the steep mountains, abandoned their ammunition to lighten their load.
In this area, you hear a lot about Smith Mountain Lake and you hear a lot about Claytor Lake. But have you ever heard of Gatewood Lake in Pulaski? Unlike the other two lakes, Gatewood Lake does not permit gas motors. The result? A very peaceful and quiet lake experience where you can really concentrate on nature. There are number of easy hiking trails that run along the lake and if you yearn to be even closer to the water, they rent kid-friendly paddle boats!
This past weekend, a father and son were exploring the dry lake bed looking for old soda cans and bottles when they uncovered something else– a human skeleton. Investigators are working to identify the remains.
Love Cactus (Photo by mtchm)
heart-shaped cactus section (Photo by Martin LaBar)
Oh and as a side note– if you are thinking you are going to be clever with the line “Love Hurts”, you’ll want to go back to the drawing board. That line already appears in the comment feed of BOTH pictures!
Hat Tip: Ryan Somma
I received word from my mother last weekend that one of our former family goats, Courtney, passed away.
Courtney the Goat (Photo from ClintJCL)
And you read that right– our family used to have goats. Circa 1995ish, we got two small goats to help eat all the poison ivy and brush in our yard. We had a male and a female. Originally my siblings and I pitched the names “Mickey” and “Mallory”, but once my mother realized the inspiration was Natural Born Killers, that idea got vetoed.
So we named them “Kurt” and “Courtney” instead– after Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.
Like her namesake, I found Courtney the Goat to be very loud-mouthed, particularly that very first summer when she was young. I remember times I would be sleeping inside and awake to her crying at the top of her lungs. We would tie the goats up at different sections of the yard each day, so I thought maybe her leash was tangled. I would run out and discover that she was not tangled at all. She was complaining because she wanted to eat something that was just outside the scope of her range.
Meanwhile, I would look over and see that Kurt WAS tangled. He couldn’t even take a step in ANY direction. And yet he was quiet and as happy as he could be munching on the vegetation he could reach.
Courtney is also the reason I ended up getting poison ivy ON MY FACE. She liked to climb things and one day she climbed my Dad’s woodpile…and fell off into the vegetation behind it. So once again I woke up to her crying. I ran outside and found her stuck in all this brush behind the woodpile. I got on my hands and knees and crawled through a thicket of plants to retrieve her and bring her back to the fence (where she was free to find something else to complain about). I did not realize it at the time– But some of those leaves I was crawling through were poison ivy. Yeah, that was fun.
(It could be worse, I know at least two people who managed to get poison ivy on more private areas!)
I think my mother said she saw Courtney one day on the top of old tires looking down at the town at Occoquan and screaming– for no apparent reason. Sometimes, I think, she just liked to be heard.
And I can still remember the horror I felt standing on the Supreme Court steps at 3 AM with the goats and watching them both release their bowels RIGHT as a security guard approached. And goat poop! It’s crazy– the tiny, tiny, little black balls scattered with remarkable distance and contrast across the white marble steps. I scrambled and tried to gather up all the poop onto a single sheet of paper. I failed. Those stupid little balls kept rolling away! Luckily the security guard could care less about the poop. He just wanted to make sure the goats had a good home and weren’t crammed into an apartment in D.C.
Despite all her complaining (and pooping), I was fond of Courtney the Goat. She did put up with a lot from Kurt and she was so cute with her slender, dainty, physique. I liked watching her and Kurt buck up on their hind legs and head butt each other. I liked seeing what they would eat and they wouldn’t eat (Tostidos and cigarette butts were on the “Will Eat” list). And I loved watching her “talk” to my Mom– she would bleat when my mother called her name.
I think Courtney ended up with a very full life– first with my family in Occoquan and then later at the farm they moved to when my parents got a townhouse. And how many mammals out there get to say they pooped on the Supreme Court steps with no repercussions?
One of Courtney’s Accomplishments (Photo by Christopher Chan)
I’m glad for part of her full life, I got to be around. I’ll remember it as a time of wonderment and learning– getting to know the goats and watching all their antics. They are definitely interesting animals!
P.S. I would have better Courtney pictures for this post, but all my photo albums are 250 miles away!
P.S.S. These memories are how I remember them. If any of the details are incorrect, I’m sure my mother will correct me in the comment feed. 🙂
The U.S. Forest Service has a hotline you can call this autumn to see how the fall colors are progressing– 1 (800) 354-4595