Archive for June, 2010

National D-Day Memorial

On Sunday, Ryan and I stopped by the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. Bedford is a small town near the Blue Ridge Parkway and doesn’t seem like the most likely candidate for a national memorial. The planners, however, paid attention to every single detail. The memorial’s location is no coincidence.

On the morning of June 6, 1944, 30 men from Bedford landed on Omaha Beach. By the end of the day 19 were dead. Bedford is a small town now and it was a small town then. With a wartime population of 3200, Bedford suffered the highest per capita loss that day.

You couldn’t ask for a more gorgeous spot than Bedford– perched at the top of a hill, the memorial has great views of the mountains, including the Peaks of Otter.

National D-Day Memorial - Overlord Arch and Peaks of Otter
Peaks of Otter Between the Overlord Arch

I think this is the most well-thought out structure I have ever visited. Every detail was chosen for a reason. A plaza separated into five parts represented the five landing beaches. A peaceful garden was actually in the form of the SHAEF seal. Hidden above a statue of Eisenhower was a replica of the map they used for planning. Marble in the form of Higgins Boats. Bathrooms that looked like pillboxes. A fountain reminiscent of the scattered gun fire at the beaches. Even the aesthetics of the Overlord Arch were selected to match the stripes the Allies had on their planes.

National D-Day Memorial - Plaza and Plane
View of the Plaza– Separated in Fve sections for the Five Beach Heads

National D-Day Memorial - Valor, Fidelity and Sacrifice by Overlord Arch
Valor, Fidelity and Sacrifice

National D-Day Memorial - Beach Head, Higgins Boat From Front
Beach Landing Fountain – Complete with Sporadic Water Sprays Reminiscent of Gun Fire

National D-Day Memorial - Higgins Boat and Soldier
Marble Higgins Boat

National D-Day Memorial - SHAEF Gardens from Sword Tip
SHAEF Garden – That’s Part of the Sword from the SEAL

National D-Day Memorial - Eisenhower and Tedder
Eisenhower and Tedder

National D-Day Memorial -Eisenhower with Map
Hidden Above Eisenhower – An Invasion Planning Map

National D-Day Memorial - Overlord Arch Inspiration (Portrait)
Inspiration for the Overlord Arch

Like I said, the planners of the memorial thought of everything, including traveling pet owners! Pets aren’t allowed on the monument, but the National D-Day Memorial has a shaded area with crates and water bowls for your pets to wait. That allowed Jimmie and Henry to sit back and get attention from the gift shop staff, while Ryan and I took in the sights.

National D-Day Memorial - Jimmie and Henry in Shade (Far)
Jimmie and Henry Wait in the Shade

More pictures of the National D-Day Memorial can be found on my Flickr site.

June 30, 2010 at 8:22 am 2 comments

“Penn Compare”: Falls Ridge

One of my favorite hiking buddies is my friend’s son, Penn. He has been accompanying me on outings for six years now! Penn and his family now live about 11 hours from me, but we got to have a little hiking reunion this past weekend.

We chose to hike to the Nature Conservancy’s Falls Ridge Preserve near Blacksburg, Virginia. Penn had been there twice before. In fact, I had pictures documenting his previous visits. So it is with great pleasure I get share young Penn in front of the same waterfall on three seperate occassions— Age 2, Age 5 and now Age 8.

Two year old Penn at Falls – June 2004

Five year old Penn at Falls – May 2007

Falls Ridge - Penn at Age 8
Eight year old Penn at Falls – June 2010

The falls look pretty much the same, but Penn has definitely grown!

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.

June 29, 2010 at 10:41 am 2 comments

Wedding – The Pink Daisy Blanket

In recent years, I was exceedingly lucky to have a number of supportive loved ones who helped me make my way to Ryan Somma. One of those individuals is my friend Ann. When it came time for my wedding, I wanted to thank her for her contribution to my happiness. All the laughter she brought me with her stories and observations. The times she let me galvanize my resolve by listening to grievances she had heard dozens of times before. And most of all, the times she made me field tough questions– the kind whose answers are hard to say aloud even though they are surprisingly common-sense.

At Ann’s wedding she designed and constructed handbags for each of her bridesmaids. Her creations proved to be so popular that after her wedding, Ann was able to build a business off of her designs. I decided even though the bar was high, that I would like to hand make something as well. I don’t sew and I know very little about handbags. I can, however, crochet.

Ann loves daisies, so I scoured the Internet for a daisy crochet pattern. That’s when I found Krochet Krystal. The site shares a free pattern for a beautiful daisy square. There’s a small (and uplifting) catch! In return for the pattern, you are to crochet at least one square and mail it back. The squares are sewn together and donated to hospitals and charities in the Buffalo, New York area. The effort has quite an impressive following and daisy squares have been mailed in from all over the world!

For colors, I chose black, a light pink and a bright pink. My inspiration for the color palette is drawn from one of Ann’s own classic handbag lines.

Color Inspiration from Handbags

I started the daisy effort in November 2009. Now my recipient was Ann. I didn’t want to just turn over anything. I had to practice first! I made seven daisies in blue. Once I was satisfied I had the hang of it, I moved on to the pink.

The daisy blanket proved to be the most extensive of all our wedding DIY projects. Even near the end of the daisy effort, each square was still taking me between one and two hours. I needed forty and as time ticked by, I had to squeeze in daisy making whenever I could. I worked on daisies while we watched TV (but never during Lost– Lost required complete attention). I worked on daisies in the car. I worked on the daisies during ZJ’s Super Bowl party. I even worked on a daisy on the floor of the Virginia Air and Space Museum while I waited to see Avatar in 3D IMAX.

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Daisy Blanket - Making a Daisy Waiting for Avatar 3D
Working on a Daisy Waiting for Avatar 3D (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Despite all that diligence, it wasn’t looking good. So I recruited the most prolific crocheter I know:

My mother!

Crochet is like breathing to my mother and still tried and true, she volunteered to take on the less fun part. When I finished a batch of squares, I shipped them to Occoquan. Mom would weave in the loose ends, surround each square with single crochets and stitch them together. We would send pictures of our work back and forth and it was exciting to see everything come together through team work!

Alas, Mom and I still fell short of the March 20th wedding date. We had 30 daisy squares completed and 20 of them sewn together. But it was enough to present to Ann and give her a preview of what’s to come.

Final Afghan
This past weekend, I met Ann in Blacksburg, Virginia for her birthday. I was able to hand over a pot of a succulents from her bouquet (which are still growing!) and…after seven months– the pink daisy blanket!

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Daisy Blanket Finished
Finished Blanket

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Daisy Blanket - Closeup of Daisies
Closeup of Squares

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Daisy Blanket - Gwyn and Daisies
Blanket in Use

Ann and I live eleven hours away. While I worked on the daisy blanket, I couldn’t help but think about why I was working on it. I relived happy memories and thought about all the reasons I had to be grateful for the friendship. Now that the blanket is finally done, I do believe I’m going to miss working on it. 🙂

June 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm Leave a comment

Social Networking – Then and Now at the Smithsonian

In the new Hall of Human Origins in the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, a lot of the displays focus on key traits and behaviors that help make us human. One item they highlighted was group survival and the building of social networks. Pooling resources helped us to adapt to our changing environments. Groups also gave the young, the old and the injured a better chance at survival.

Smithsonian - Hall of Human Origins - Group Survival and Social Networks
Panel at Hall of Human Origins

One thing I particularly appreciated about the Hall of Human Origins– while some panels taught us how our ancestors started gathering at hearths roughly 800,000 years ago, other panels promoted a more contemporary form of social networking. 🙂

Smithsonian - Hall of Human Origins - MEanderthal
MEanderthal App

Smithsonian - Hall of Human Origins - Twitter Logo
Twitter at the Hall of Human Origins

For more pictures of the Hall of Human Origins, I direct you to Ryan’s Flickr set. With 289 photos, it’s a much more comprehensive than mine.

June 22, 2010 at 10:31 am Leave a comment

Kayaking: Perquimans County Blueways – Lower Perquimans River Trail

Last summer I was driving around with the dogs exploring the area around Belvidere, North Carolina when I saw a a familiar site.  A trailhead!  Excited about a surprise hike, I made a U-Turn and unloaded the dogs.  I examined the map and sure enough there a trail.  But I looked around and I couldn’t see.

Perhaps it’s overgrown, I thought, so the dogs and I wandered along the perimeter of the park.

Ooooh, maybe it’s across the street! With the dogs in tow, I crossed the street and checked for beaten paths.  Still nothing.

I went back and referred to the trail map a number of times.  There was clearly a trail.  Why couldn’t find it?!?

It took me quite some time to realize.  The trail was the water.  It was a paddle trail!

A year later, Ryan and I are proud owners of kayaks. Now I can finally finally explore the trail perplexed me so.

Paddling Perquiman County Blueway - Vicky at Trailhead (by Ryan Somma)
Yeah! Now I can Explore the Trail!

Trail Overview
There are over 40 miles of paddle trails in Perquimans County. Ryan and I explored just part of the Lower Perquimans River Trail. From Belvidere, it travels 12 miles down the river to the town of Hertford, North Carolina. We went down 7 of those miles and back. There were no rapids and no currents. The water was still enough to support numerous lilypad communities.

This was a very secluded outing. We were the only boats on this section of the river and for most part the shore was undeveloped. We saw two houses and one landowner the entire trip.

Paddling Perquiman County Blueway - Peaceful Spot
Nice Spot About Seven Miles End

Paddling Perquiman County Blueway - Lilypads and Duck Box
Lilypads and Duck Box

Paddling Perquiman County Blueway - Vicky on River (by Ryan Somma)
Miles of Undeveloped Shoreline

Paddling Perquiman County Blueway - Ryan Near Milemarker 14
The Only Person I Spoke To The Trip

This section of the Perquimans River Trail is also considered an official birding trail and with good cause. Ryan and I were surprised to find a wild turkey high up in the trees. A giant owl crossed the river right in front of Ryan. Herons and ducks were common.

The trail could also be an official insect trail. We had some problems with biting flies. I still have itchy red bumps scattered across my body. On the upside, dragonflies quite fancied all the lilypads in the river.

Paddling Perquiman County Blueway - Dragonfly From Side
Dragonfly on Lilypad

We paddled by a number of familiar faces– Red maple, Spanish Moss and the ever-prevalent Bald cypress. The Tupelos, Lilypads, Swamp Roses and Willow Oaks (?) were all flowering.

Paddling Perquiman County Blueway - Lilypad Flower
Lilypad Flowers

Paddling Perquiman County Blueway - Pink Flower
Swamp Rose

Paddling Perquiman County Blueway - Catkins
Willow Oak?

Meanwhile the poison ivy and wild blueberry bushes (?) were sporting berries. We didn’t ingest either. : )

Paddling Perquiman County Blueway - Poison Ivy Berries
Poison Ivy

Paddling Perquiman County Blueway - Blueberries
Wild Blueberries?

Crock Pots and Adventure Time
We were pooped by the time we got back to the parking lot. But once we got our boats secured back on the car and we got back to Elizabeth City, we had a fragrant home and a hearty warm meal waiting for us. Before we left for our outing, we had loaded up some chicken in the crock pot. And that– I highly recommend. From skiing to day hikes to paddling, crock pot meals are just a wonderful way to welcome weary, tired muscles back home.

More pictures of our Lower Perquimans River Trail Outing are on my Flickr site.

Paddle Trail: Lower Perquimans River Trail

Trail Map

Length: 12 miles one way from Belvidere to Hertford, NC

Directions from Elizabeth City, NC

Take US-17 South

Turn right on 37 (Wiggins Rd.) at Winfall

In about 7.5 miles you’ll pass through Belvidere. Shortly afterwards, the trailhead and parking will be on your left.

June 18, 2010 at 8:44 am Leave a comment

Bear Bags and Construction Crews

When camping, it’s a common practice to consolidate all your food in a bag and suspend it overnight high up in a tree (preferably away from your campsite). You do this in part to keep the bears from stealing your food while you sleep.

Bear Bag (Photo by Flickmor)

This past week, construction has continued on the Charles Creek Bridge in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. With some amusement, Ryan and I noted a similar practice being employed. Each evening the crew consolidates their supplies and tools in a trailer. Then they hoist it high above the ground with a crane. Only this time, they are trying to thwart the human thieves. : )

Elizabeth City - Suspended Trailer (Close)
Bear Bag for People

June 14, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments

Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve…via Facebook!

After the first annual Qualtrax’s User Conference in 2005, I went hiking with a couple of the Qualtrax customers. We went up to Mountain Lake on Salt Pond Mountain which we found snow covered in October!

This year I had hoped to attend the conference and do more hiking with all the friends I had met when I worked at Qualtrax. Unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out. It was the same week as our local Relay for Life which and I had a number of obligations to attend to.

Luckily, one of the Qualtrax customers, Robyn Ruth, had me covered. Not only did she upload pictures of the hike to Facebook… she uploaded a video of the summit made especially for me. How do I know this? The video opens with “So…Vicky, I’m making this for you.” 🙂

Video of Buffalo Mountain Summit (courtesy of Robyn Ruth)

She and two of the Qualtrax employees hiked Floyd County, Virginia’s Buffalo Mountain. They kept their eyes open for the giant mealybug species (Puto kosztarabi) that is indigenous only to Buffalo Mountain. They didn’t have any spottings of that but thanks to the rainy weather, they saw plenty of red efts!

Buffalo Mountain - Red Eft (By Robyn Ruth)
Red Eft (Photo Courtesy of Robyn Ruth)

As far as I know, this is the first video uploaded to YouTube with me specifically in mind (Jeremy Turner did upload a rendition of Round Here, but he said it was for his “old, old friends“).

It pleases me that like five years ago, a hike accompanied the Qualtrax User’s Conference.  And it pleases me even more to know that when they got to the top, Robyn Ruth thought to include me on the adventure. 🙂

June 11, 2010 at 1:46 pm Leave a comment

Heart in Nature – Via Facebook!

Recently Facebook sent me a message that an old co-worker tagged me in a picture.

Ooooh….that can’t be good,” I thought. I hadn’t seen her in about a decade. Whatever picture she had of me was one I didn’t remember. It had the potential for embarrassment.

As a I clicked on the link, I noticed the picture was in a folder called “Mobile Uploads”.

Mobile Uploads?!?! Did cell phones even take pictures back then?”

It turns out it was indeed a mobile upload shot. It was a recent one. Not of me, but of something I would appreciate!

Courtesy of ever-lovely Jennifer Maccherone, here’s a great Heart in Nature… via Facebook!

Heart In Nature By Jennifer Maccherone
Heart Shaped Knot (Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Maccherone)

June 10, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Old Rag – Favorite Shots

A number of months ago, my camera was disemboweled by a faulty memory card. Really. A loose piece of the memory card snagged on part of the camera and pulled it out.

I finally went ahead and procured myself a new camera (A Rebel EOS T1i). Two days later, the camera was on its very first hike! It felt so good to be empowered to take pictures again! Here are a few of my favorite shots from the outing.

Old Rag - Somma Takes in View
Ryan Enjoys View

Old Rag - Relaxing
Hiker Relaxing on Ridge Trail

Old Rag - Curvy Trunk, Holey Trunk
Curvy Tree, Holey Tree

Old Rag - Backlit American Chestnut Leaves
American Chestnut Leaves!

Old Rag 2010 - Moss and Log
Mossy Log

Old Rag - Two Ryans Near the Top
Two Ryans Near Top

Old Rag - Lichen Rock
Lichen on Rock

More pictures of our Old Rag Hike:

My pictures on Flickr
Ryan Somma’s pictures on Flickr

June 9, 2010 at 5:00 am 3 comments

Hiking in Vibrams – Old Rag

For my 35th Birthday hike, Ryan and I did a 6.7 mile hike in our Vibram Five Fingers. But– it was a flat hike mostly on packed soil. We didn’t really get a feel for how the footwear would do on a “real hike”.

So two weekends ago, we found out. A small group of our friends decided to hike Shenandoah’s Old Rag. In 2009, Backpacker Magazine readers voted Old Rag to be the best hike in Virginia. It’s 8.8 miles, at least one mile of which is a rock scramble, and has an elevation gain of 2,510 feet. Should be a suitable test!

My concerns going in were traction and lack of ankle support. Because I wasn’t certain about the Vibrams, poor Ryan completed the whole hike with my boots tied to his backpack… just so I would have backup footwear. : )

Pros – Ascent and Rock Scramble
I was very pleasantly surprised with traction of the Vibrams. I felt sturdy and safe on all the different terrains we encountered that day, including the boulders.

Old Rag - Vibrams At Work
Vibrams – Traction is Great!

I really didn’t notice the lack of ankle support I was so concerned about. I did, however, note that I felt very nimble in the Vibrams. I think they were particularly handy on the rock scramble. The free toes and added flexibility allowed my Vibrams to sneak into small dents in the rock surfaces and help me climb up. My clunky boots wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of such small crevices.

Old Rag- Nicole, Greg, Ryan Rock Scrambling
Vibrams – Added Flexibility and Less Bulk for Rock Scrambles

We got up to the summit with surprising ease. So I would say with the ascent and the rock climb the Vibrams were fabulous. In fact, I preferred them over my Asolo hiking boots.

Old Rag - Vibrams at Summit (Far)
Ryan and Vicky’s Vibrams at Old Rag Summit

Cons – Descent and Stubbed Toes
I did, however, find the descent down the mountain to be uncomfortable. I can’t be certain if that was due to the fact that we were going downhill or just a product of all the mileage we had put in (walking on flat terrain my feet typically get sore around 6 miles in the Vibrams).

What I am certain of is stubbing your toe(s) is entirely unpleasant. I nicked a rock few times as we descended. Each time, as the pain traveled up my body to my brain, I’d instantly covet my boots. But, I’d continue walking, take deep breaths and within moments, I’d be good again. It didn’t take Ryan and I long to adapt and put in place preventive action. You simply have to concentrate even more than normal on every little step down the mountain. So you can expect conversation to falter. 🙂

Will I Do It Again?
Even though I know the risk (not to mention the pain) that can come from the more exposed toes, I’m going with yes! They felt so great on the ascent and the rocks. It would be hard to pass that up.

June 8, 2010 at 8:13 am 8 comments

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