Archive for October, 2008

Hearts in Nature: Flower

I am far from the only one who has spotted hearts in nature. There are multiple Flickr groups dedicated to the same theme (Hearts OF Nature, in the shape of a HEART, Hearts in Nature, Hearts by Nature to name a few).

Here is an absolutely gorgeous example from one of those groups. This picture is courtesy of pikkumyy1985 in Finland. She found this flower in her mother’s garden.

Heart (Photo by pikkumyy1985)

October 19, 2008 at 8:00 am 3 comments

One Ziplock Bag Meals: Tomato Caprese

Today on Stacy’s blog he links to an article that shares some “one-pot meals” for under $10. Since I’ve been living very minimally the last few months with almost everything I own (including all my pots, pans, plates and bowls) in storage, I was able to provide Stacy with a “one-ziplock bag” meal!

Supper made entirely in a ziplock bag

It’s tomato caprese (tomatoes with mozzarella cheese). Ryan Somma taught me the recipe and I’ve been eating it for supper pretty regularly since August. In fact, I had it last night (ask Matt)!

Ziplock Tomato Caprese

1 package of cherry or grape tomatoes
Mozzarella cheese
Olive Oil

1) Rinse tomatoes and if necessary, cut cheese into bite-size chunks
2) Put tomatoes and cheese in ziplock baggie. I try to make relatively equal proportions of cheese and tomatoes
3) Pour in some olive oil (amount is your preference- I like enough to coat everything with just a little leftover at the bottom)
4) Salt and sprinkle oregano to taste
5) Seal bag and mix all ingredients together
6) EAT!!!!

And here is the best part about this meal! It is so easy and convenient that you can do this hiking or camping!!! This meal made an appearance at Assateague this past summer.

P.S. If you do have the luxury of pots and pans and you like Thai food, keep an eye on Christina’s blog! She just started a series of Thai Cooking Lesson videos!

October 17, 2008 at 1:04 pm 9 comments

Poverty Creek in the Fall

Last weekend, Ryan Somma and I took a quick trip to Poverty Creek and then over to Caldwell Fields. Both hikes were flat and short which means they are great runners-up to the Take a Child Outside (T.A.C.O.) Hikes list. And since the hikes were indeed so brief and easy, that meant that handicapped Henry was able to tag along.

(I think I will appoint Henry the Beagle my official T.A.C.O. Litmus Test. If he can do it with his bad back and leg, so can a kid!)

Anyway, our outing to Poverty Creek was short, but a great way to get outside and witness the beginnings of fall.

Walking down a fire road to get to the Poverty Creek Trail

Yellow and red leaves

Changing Leaves in the Sun

Floating leaves and reflections in Poverty Creek

More pictures of Poverty Creek are available on my Flickr site.

Poverty Creek Trail

Length: Up to 7.2 miles one-way (you can increase this length with side trails)

Elevation Gain: Neglible

Directions from Blacksburg, VA

Take 460 West

When Craig’s Creek Road is on your right, take a left into the Pandapas Pond entrance.

You can get to the trail from the upper parking lot.


Take 460 West

Pass the Pandapas Pond entrance

Turn left on Forest Road 708 (gravel road). The Poverty Creek Trail system has a number of trail crossings off of that road which you can use to get to the Poverty Creek Trail.

October 17, 2008 at 8:00 am 2 comments

Season Compare: Tinker Cliffs

After seeing the great combinations of Mountain Lake photos done by Richard Cobb and how meticulously he lined his shots up, these combinations of Tinker Cliffs are kinda weak.

But…I went to all the effort of getting out my external harddrive to look at old photos, including some from 2003.

So you’re getting this post courtesy of sunk costs!

Tinker Cliffs – February 3, 2008

Tinker Cliffs – October 5, 2008

Tinker Cliffs – February 3, 2008

Tinker Cliffs – October 5, 2008

View – September 3, 2006

View – October 5, 2008

Tinker Cliffs from VA-779 – March 6, 2003

Tinker Cliffs from VA-779 – October 5, 2008

October 16, 2008 at 8:00 am 1 comment

links for 2008-10-15

October 15, 2008 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Tinker Cliffs

Two weekends ago, Mike Newman was visiting from Denver. Mike is a great companion for mountain adventures, be it skiing or hiking. In fact, he makes TWO appearences in my About Me section. We could not possibly let Mike leave our beautiful area without squeezing in a trip to a mountain. So the Sunday before he flew home, a group of us went up to Tinker Cliffs.

It was a beautiful hiking day. The weather was great and our leaves were just starting to turn, with Virginia Creeper enthusiastically leading the charge.

Virginia Creeper is one of the first things to change

Just a few trees are changing

Virginia Creeper is cutting edge

We ascended 1700 feet in about 2.8 miles. With the climb, I didn’t mimic the leadership of Virginia Creeper. My little slow legs and my habit of taking numerous photographs meant I was, by far, the caboose.

I can’t help but stop and take pictures of mushrooms and flowers

But, as usual, I did eventually make it to the top.

Me and Mike at the top

We enjoyed the views and then got to share each other’s company the remaining 2.8 miles back to the car. It was a very good day. I enjoyed spending time with everyone and most of all, I enjoyed being out in the fresh air.

More pictures of our Tinker Cliff hike can be found on my Flickr site.

Tinker Cliffs – via the Andy Layne Trail and the Appalachian Trail

Length: 5.6 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 1700 feet

Driving and Parking: The roads are all paved and there is a large gravel parking area at the trail head.

Dog Owner Note: There are a number of stiles you have to cross, but for each one, there is plenty of room for your dog to walk under the barbed wire.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA

Take Harding Ave. through Ellett Valley into Catawba. Harding will turn into Blacksburg Road (VA-785).

When you reach the stop sign at 311, turn right. Pass The Home Place
Turn left on VA-779 (the Catawba General Store will be on your right)
Take VA-779 about 8.3 miles. The road will cross a bridge and make a sharp bend to the right. Shortly after that bend the parking lot will be on your right.

October 15, 2008 at 9:00 am 4 comments

[Another] Wisteria Wednesday

The Greenbrier gave a lot of love to rhododendron, but it also found room to highlight another beautiful bloomer.  Check out this painting of wisteria.

A painting of Wisteria at The Greenbrier

Beautiful!  I think the painting really does the vine justice!

October 15, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

links for 2008-10-14

October 14, 2008 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Cavity Filling

When we were at The Greenbrier, we did stumble upon something interesting. A lot of their Weeping Mulberry trees had their holes filled in with cement.

A Weeping Mulberry… filled with cement

This perked my curiosity enough to do some Internet research when I returned home. It turns out this is a practice called “Cavity Filling”. It was invented by a tree surgeon named John Davey. The idea was to fill in hollow trees or crevices with cement to stabilize the tree and give it a chance to grow around the filling and heal itself. In 1901, the practice made multiple appearances in Davey’s book, The Tree Doctor.

(Photo from John Davey’s The Tree Doctor, published in 1901)

Modern research has indicated that all trees do not in fact heal when properly filled. Here’s an excerpt from Greensboro, North Carolina’s “Tree Myths” page:

Filling of hollow trees, a process called “cavity filling,” was practiced by arborists for many years. Thanks to modern research, it has been discovered that cavity filling is not needed to support or improve the health of hollow trees.

Tree experts have found that cavity filling with cement can actually damage a hollow tree. According to Bob Rouse, Staff Arborist at the National Arborist Association, “The column of cement created in the tree by a cavity fill doesn’t move, just like a column on a building, but the tree is always moving. It sways with the wind constantly. The rubbing created by the swaying tree and the solid column of cement further damages the tree.

Decay organisms, such as rot fungi, that created the hollow in the first place are able to take advantage of the new injuries created by the rubbing and invade the healthy tissue of the tree. Rouse adds, “If that wasn’t bad enough, the cement holds moisture, creating a favorable environment in the filled cavity for the decay organisms!”

Research contradicting conclusions from the past didn’t strike me as odd– that happens every day. What did surprise me about cavity filling was that it had been a common practice by arborists for over 100 years. In recent times, I’ve paid quite a bit of attention to trees. How have I not seen this before?!?

And then I remembered… The hollow trees and the trees riddled with deep crevices I run across are typically in the woods!  Looking at them, Bob Rouse from the National Arborist Association may be correct. These trees don’t have the luxury of cement and they are managing to get along.

Bottom Creek Gorge – Duvall Trail

Appalachian Trail – Guillotine Rock

Andy Layne Trail – Tinker Cliffs

Appalachian Trail – Brush Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Petite’s Gap

Appalachian Trail – Kelly’s Knob

October 14, 2008 at 8:00 am 9 comments

Rhodos All Around

Walking on an old road in Clay County, I managed to baffle a former MENSA member with a simple question.

“Would it surprise you if I told you my favorite tree was not the American Chestnut?”

And for a brief moment, I was accompanied by a silent and perplexed Ryan Somma. He finally answered, “Uh… yeah!”

The truth of the matter is I really don’t know what my favorite tree is (Good thing that wasn’t on the Mosaic Meme). There are so many species that are sentimental to me, it is challenging to pick a clear-cut favorite. Of course, I’m increasingly passionate about the American Chestnut and its restoration efforts. But at the same time, Sycamores remind me of my Grandmother. Black Locusts remind me of my childhood. Tulip Poplars make me think of my sister. I have suddenly developed a distinct fondness for the Pawpaw just in this past week! 🙂 The Keffer Oak entices me to visit repeatedly and I ever so covet getting to see a real live Virginia Round Leaf Birch.

But if there is one contender that sticks out above them all…. it would be West Virginia’s State Flower, the rhododendron.

Rhododendrons are so ingrained with my Appalachian Trail experiences (and year round– they are an evergreen!) that now the sight of them is synonymous with happy hiking memories. They make me think of the beauty and the freedom and the fulfillment that comes from a day in the mountains. Rhododendrons feel like home to me.

And so, when we were at The Greenbrier, I was excited to see a painting that featured rhododendrons.

A rhododendron painting!

And then I was excited to see there was a cafe named after the tree.

Rhododendron Cafe?!?

But little did I know there was more to come! The interior design of the entire spa was based on the rhododendron. They had rhododendron murals, rhododendron wallpaper, rhododendron curtains, rhododendron tile work. They even had a rhododendron themed laundry hamper!


Wallpaper and Curtains


More Paintings


Laundry Hamper

I may have stunned Ryan Somma the day before with my favorite tree confession, but at The Greenbrier Spa, it was he who took my words away.

He pointed out a spot where you could see rhododendron wallpaper, rhododendron curtains and real live rhododendrons growing outside a window!

Rhodos, rhodos, and real live rhodos!

How cool is that?

More pictures from The Greenbrier and all of their rhododendrons decor can be found on my Flickr site.

October 13, 2008 at 8:00 am 3 comments

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