Posts filed under ‘Hiking’

Family Hike – Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge’s Woodmarsh Trail

In late April, we took the boys to visit the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge Area. The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Area encompasses 2000 acres of hardwood forests and six miles of Potomac River shoreline, which means hikes there get a nice mixture of marsh and forest. So “Woodmarsh” was an accurate name for the trail. The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge is free. There is an entrance fee if you choose to drive to the nearby Mason Neck State Park afterwards.

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Vicky and Dyson Hiking (By Ryan Somma)

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Clouds and Marsh

Trail Overview
The Woodmarsh Trail is about three miles long. With a couple of cut-through trails at Hickory Pass and Fern Pass, you have the ability to “Choose Your Own Adventure” and loop back whenever you feel like it. We took the Spur Trail down to Eagle Point and since we were hoping to see Great Blue Heron nests (See Fauna below), we kept on the eastern most section of trail to skirt along the marsh. We returned via the western section of trail through the woods.

Back when I hiked alone, my decision criteria for “a good trail” would be something like:

  • Invigorating climb (to make you feel accomplished)
  • An overlook or a waterfall (to make you feel awed)

Now that I’m hiking with two small children, a previously overlooked trail feature has taken on new importance:

  • Bridges or wooden walkways.

Wooden structures just call to my older son. He loves running across them. Sometimes over and over and over and over again. : ) For younger children who are just learning to stand and pull up, bridges are a nice opportunity to practice. This trail sported a number of bridges so it was a win for the boys. And then more importantly, there was a nice wooden viewing platform at Eagle’s Point. That simple structure was probably the highlight of the trail for the boys. It was wooden with benches for the boys to climb and crawl on… AND it had a FREE telescope to take in the views. It was their own little private jungle gym with great water views. We only had to walk a flat mile for a “home run.”

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Woodmarsh Trail - Vicky and Dyson Silhouettes at Eagle Point (By Ryan Somma)
Dyson Practicing Standing and Taking in View at Eagle Point

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Vicky Holds Sagan Up to Look Through Telescope
Sagan Looking Through the FREE Telescope

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Woodmarsh Trail - Crawling at Eagle Point
Crawling at Eagle Point

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Woodmarsh Trail - Sagan and Dyson Play with Telescope
Climbing and Playing with Telescope

The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest Blue Heron Rookeries. Nesting peaks in April and May, so we came hoping to see one of those 1300 Great Blue Heron nests. Alas, nesting views can only be approached through water or during the annual Bald Eagle Festival at the nearby Mason Neck State Park. We couldn’t see any nests from our vantage point on the land. Nonetheless, we saw our fair share of wildlife. We saw herons and Bald Eagles flying by. We saw a large brown bird (perhaps an an owl) in the tree canopies. Small, but just as entertaining, we found an inch worm at the viewing platform at Eagle Point.

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Heron Flying
Not a Nest– but Still Got to See Some Blue Herons

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Bald Eagle Flying - Cropped
Bald Eagle Flying

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Woodmarsh Trail - Inchworm with Big Shadow (By Ryan Somma)
Wittle, Baby Inchworm

Mayapples are a favorite wildflower of mine. I love how the big umbrella leaves conceal a tiny, single white flower underneath. We saw Mayapples on this hike and they were budding, but we were just a little bit too early to see the blooms.

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Mayapple

What we did seem blooming was Virginia’s State Flower, the dogwood.

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail - Dogwood (By Ryan Somma)
Dogwood Blooms

The trail passed through a section called “Fern Pass.” Our assessment was that was aptly named. It was one of the more beautiful sections, carpetted in green, with the fiddleheads uncurling away.

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - Wood Marsh Trail -Single Fiddlehead (By Ryan Somma)

More pictures of our Woodmarsh Trail Hike at Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge can be found on my Flickr site.

Brochure and Trail Map

Length: Varies – 3.0 Miles of Trail to Choose From

Elevation Gain: Flat!

Entrance Fee: FREE!

September 9, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Family Hike – Delaware Seashore Fresh Pond

Our first afternoon at Bethany Beach, we were in the market for a Family Hike. I pulled up Google Maps on my phone and scanned for green patches near us. That’s how I found a section of Delaware Seashore State Park called “Fresh Pond”. I’ve been coming to Bethany Beach ever since I was a little girl, but I was never aware of this park 2.1 miles away from our beach house!

It turns out there were other relatives interested in hiking. We ended up with Ryan, Vicky, Sagan, Dyson, Mom, my Aunt Priscilla, my Aunt Denise and my first cousin once removed, Mya. It was a Family Hike…with 100% more family!!!

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Family Hike - With More Family!
Family Hike– With TWICE as Much Family! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Dyson and Great Aunt Priscilla
My Aunt Priscilla (my muse for my grey hair) Holds Dyson

After serving us extraordinary well the past two days, Google Maps had a little bobble. It directed us to a residential neighborhood with less than optimal park access– it required bush-wacking. Instead, we parked at a trailhead on the northeast corner of the park off Coastal Highway 1, about a half mile north of Silver Sands Drive.

Fresh Pond Hike Route
Parking and Route (By Google Maps)

We took a 0.2 mile connector trail and turned right on the Prickley Pear Trail. In about a 0.5 miles, the trail took us to a gorgeous view of Beach Cove and arguably less than gorgeous views of horseshoe crab corpses in various stages of decomposition. : ) We continued along the Prickley Pear trail and formed a loop back to the connector trail. I believe we went roughly 1.4 to 1.6 miles total. The trails were flat and well-worn, perfect for the children.

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Sagan Runs After Mya
Mya and Sagan Run Along the Trail

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Ryan and Dyson
Ryan and Dyson at the Beginning of the Prickley Pear Trail

On the connector trail, we found two women who were crabbing. They were vibrant and friendly and were kind enough to show the kids a Maryland Blue Crab. Then they interrupted the amorous activity of a pair of horseshoe crabs (poor things) so the kids could get a closer look. Sagan declined to touch the living horseshoe crab. Later, to my dismay, he would want to touch some dead ones at Beach Cove. We compromised and I let him “pretend” to touch the dead one. : )

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Sagan, Mya, Ryan Look at Crab Catch
Crabbers Show Kids Maryland Blue Crab

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Mating Horseshoe Crabs
Mating Horseshoe Crabs

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Touching Male Horseshoe Crab
Sagan Declines to Touch Horseshoe Crab

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Sagan Pretends Touch Dead Horseshoe Crab
Sagan Pretends to Touch Dead Horseshoe Crab

The best part about this trail was I got to learn a new plant. I have been on other trails called “Prickley Pear” before, but it never occurred to me to find out what a Prickley Pear looks like. My Aunt Priscilla, a resident of Arizona, was quite familiar with Prickley Pears. She recognized the cactus immediately. They were plentiful along the trail and we even saw one blooming.

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Prickley Pear Bloom
Prickley Pear Bloom (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Another lovely find was Passiflora incarnata (Purple Passionflower). They are so intricate and lovely.

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Purple, Wavy Flower
Purple Passionflower

We also found some blueberries, but they weren’t ready for eating yet. At least, that’s what Ryan reported after tasting one. : )

Although short, it was a great family hike with plenty to see. We all had a great time visiting with each other, particularly little Sagan and Mya.

Bethany Beach - Fresh Pond - Prickley Pear Trail - Sagan Smiles at Mya

More pictures of Delaware Seashore – Fresh Pond can be found on my Flickr site.

Delaware Seashore – Fresh Pond

Park Map

Length: Varies – 4.2 Miles of Trail to Choose From

Elevation Gain: Flat!

Entrance Fee: FREE!

August 5, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Family Hike – Meadowlark Botanic Gardens

The National Park Service deemed the peak blooms for the District of Columbia’s cherry blossoms was Thursday April 10, 2014. The following weekend seemed to be a good time to go out and see them. Alas, we were quite busy and suddenly our groggy children were waking up from naps on Sunday afternoon. We really didn’t have the time to metro it out to the National Mall, so we decided to go a quick hike instead. I did some googling and found a Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority park in Vienna, Virginia that boasted more than twenty varieties of cherry trees. It was called Meadowlark Botanic Gardens.

Remember a few years ago visiting Washington State, when I sounded like an idiot speculating which mountain was Mount Rainier? Well guess what, I’m perfectly capable of sounding like an idiot back here at home as well. I had never heard of Meadowlark Botanic Gardens. You know what I thought? I thought Ryan and I were going to check out an undiscovered gem. “Oh I never heard of this, so no one has.”

If you go by the crowds at the Botanic Gardens that day, we were apparently one of the few people who had NOT heard of that park. It was packed! When we paid our entrance fee (kids under six are free!), the cashier even mentioned he had not had a chance to sit down all afternoon.

Park Overview
The gardens are 95 acres strong and have a series of paved paths and more rustic hiking trails through the property. We were able to walk most of the available mileage that day. All the flowering trees were gorgeous as you would expect. Sagan had fun playing at the Children’s Tea Garden. Sagan and Dyson both really enjoyed the Korean Bell Garden, particularly the nearby fountain. My favorite parts were the Young Forest Nature Trail and the Fred Packard Grove. Both of those trails were more like hiking trails… and we didn’t see a single other person on either one.

Near the end of our journey, we did spy a “Historic Tree Trail.”

My husband knows me well. Knowing how immersed I could get photographing and reading about historic trees and that it was dreadfully close to the park closing time, he asked, “Sweetie, do you mind if we come back and see the Historic Trees a different day?” : )

Meadlowlark Botanic Gardens is a popular destination for portrait photographers. We saw maybe a half dozen professional photographers congregated by scenic bridges, fountains, and blooming trees dangling diffusers and taking photographs of families and engaged couples. It’s easy to see why they picked this destination. It’s beautiful.

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Sagan Cheers Tea with Stranger
Sagan Shares Tea with a Stranger

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Fountain and Cherry Blooms
Fountain and Trees – Don’t Be Fooled By the Lack of People in this Shot. I Got Lucky!

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - New Carrier in Action on Nature Trail
The Young Forest Nature Trail – More Our Style

I’ll focus this section on the flowering trees. They were definitely lovely and worthy of the crowds.

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Cherry Blossoms and Shadows

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Magnolia Blooms By Visitor Center

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Cherry Blossoms From Shoreline

Like Huntley Meadows, there is a lot of fauna to see. Nesting geese (some more aggressive than others) were prominent. We saw turtles, including two turtles fighting which Ryan and I never saw in all our years living in the swamps of North Carolina. For some reason I chose to take a shot of Sagan and Ryan watching the turtles fight. Once I got that shot done, the turtles had already resolved their differences. Lake Caroline also featured some large koi.

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Canadian Goose Nest
Nesting Goose

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Ryan and Sagan Watch Turtles
Sagan and Ryan Watch Turtles Fight

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Turtle
The Victor Turtle, The Loser Retreated

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens - Koi

Although it wasn’t a hike-hike, we definitely enjoyed our visit to Meadowlark Botanic Gardens. I expect we’ll do return trips in the future, particularly to read up on some historic trees.

More pictures of our Meadowlark Botanic Gardens Outing can be found on my Flickr site.

Meadowlark Botanic Gardens
9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court
Vienna, VA 22182

Park Map

Length: Varies

Elevation Gain: Negligible

Entrance Fee: $5 for adults, $2.50 for children 7-17

April 29, 2014 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

Family Hike: Whiteoak Canyon Falls at Shenandoah National Park

For my 39th Birthday Hike, we made a special family trip out to Shenandoah National Park. We decided to hike the Whiteoak Canyon Falls Trail. We learned about it from Bob Canton’s Northern Virginia Day Hike page. We noticed he ranked Whiteoak Canyon Falls a 5– the same rating he gave Old Rag. We knew Old Rag is spectacular, even when you are hiking in Vibrams, so that was instantly an excellent endorsement for Whiteoak Canyon!

Trail Overview
Spring is a good time* to see waterfalls because there is usually a lot of ammunition. Whiteoak Canyon Falls Trail sports multiple waterfalls, including the second largest falls in Shenandoah National Park. From the parking lot next to Sky Land, the trail to the Upper Falls is pretty wide. You are hiking downhill, but it’s not especially steep. The trail does get rockier as you get closer to the falls, but my toddler saw that as a perk. πŸ™‚

Shenandoah National Park - Whiteoak Canyon Trail - Ryan and Sagan Hike Through Mountain Laurel
A Glimpse of the Wide Trail

Shenandoah National Park - Whiteoak Canyon Trail - Ryan Helps Sagan Climb
Sagan Enjoys the Rocks

The trail to the Upper Falls skirts along the creek, so you get plenty of water views.

Shenandoah National Park - Whiteoak Canyon Trail - Creek Above Upper Falls From Bridge
Creek Near the Upper Falls

And the Upper Falls themselves are gorgeous. There is a well marked viewing area.

Shenandoah National Park - Whiteoak Canyon Trail - Upper Falls
The Upper Falls

Once you pass the Upper Falls, the trail gets rockier and steeper. You are still heading downhill to get to the Lower Falls, but if you’re doing a round trip like we were doing, you’re gonna have to hike back up. As luck would have it, Sagan was pretty tired at that point, so he moved to the Ergo Baby where he stayed most of the rest of the hike.

Shenandoah National Park - Whiteoak Canyon Trail - Stairs Up From Lower Falls with Sagan and Ryan
A Sampling of the More Rockier Trail

We actually thought the Lower Falls were a little more scenic than the Upper Falls. We found a nice flat rock to sit and have some lunch. On the menu– Avocado, Cashews, Red Peppers and for little Dyson– pureed carrots.

Shenandoah National Park - Whiteoak Canyon Trail - Lower Falls (Landscape) (By Ryan Somma)
Lower Falls (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Shenandoah National Park - Whiteoak Canyon Trail - Snack Break! Cashews, Red Peppers, Avocados, Pureed Carrots 3 (By Ryan Somma)
Lunch Break! (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Our favorite part of the hike was not either waterfall. On the trail between the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls, we passed a rock wall that was almost a waterfall in of itself. All the spring’s thaw above was raining down the rock. The afternoon sun was positioned perfectly to give us our own little personal rainbow… or as Sagan called it, a “Rainbow Dash” (We watch My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic at home).

Shenandoah National Park - Whiteoak Canyon Trail - Waterfall from Rocks (By Ryan Somma)

*Spring is good time, but it is not the best time to see waterfalls. The best time would be the coldest, most frigid part of winter… when you can see Frozen Waterfalls. : )

If you are ever feeling small and helpless and need to see how even the little creatures of this Earth can have an impact, hike this trail and see the “accomplishments” of the tiny Woolly Adelgid. By just feeding themselves on the sap of the hemlock trees, they have dramatically changed the landscape. In short– they’re killing the hemlocks. In large numbers. Really large numbers.

Part of the trail to the upper falls winds through what was once a vibrant hemlock forest. Although I had seen ailing hemlocks here and there on my hikes, I had not witnessed so much tree carnage in one spot. And it’s amazing to me how different this section of the forest felt. The deciduous trees hadn’t yet woken up for the spring. I would have thought naked hemlock trees would just blend in with slumbering oaks and maples, but they didn’t. Their skeletal trunks and the snags of broken branches announced their presence. I was reminded of a passage from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like “Poo-tee-weet?”

But this section of forest was eerily silent. No birds to say what there is to say after a massacre. Even our two year old chatterbox, stopped talking and just stared from his Baby Ergo, as if something instinctual, something deep in his brain adopted from our tree-dwelling ancestors told him, “This forest is different.”

Shenandoah National Park - Whiteoak Canyon Trail - Sagan and Ryan Walk Through Hemlock Graveyard
Sagan and Ryan Walk Through a Hemlock Graveyard

On a more lively subject, the trail was crossed by a small herd of deer on our way back to the car. It made for an excellent end to our journey.

Shenandoah National Park - Whiteoak Canyon Trail - Ryan and Sagan Watch Deer Cross Trail
Deer Crossing

Sappy Closing on Birthday Hikes
When I started celebrating my birthday with a hike nine years ago, I hiked alone. Well, with my dogs. I took selfies before I knew they were selfies. : ) I would have great days and I would cherish my annual birthday hike, but then in 2009, suddenly I had a boyfriend to hike with me and that was quite nice. Birthday Hike 2010, that boyfriend and I practiced our first wedding dance surrounded by Long-Leaf Pines. Birthday Hike 2011, I hiked with our first son squirming in my belly. Birthday Hike 2012, that son took his first assisted steps on the Appalachian Trail. Birthday Hike 2013, I was pregnant with my second son while I watched my first one run around the boardwalk in front of Maryland’s largest cascading falls (denying me a nice photo-op). And this year, that second son hiked with us.

Birthday Hike Evolution
Evolution of Birthday Hikes

I used to hike alone on my birthday. Now I hike with my family. Birthday hikes just keep getting better and better! : )

Shenandoah National Park - Whiteoak Canyon Trail - Vicky, Dyson, Sagan All Smiling
Me and My Little Boys. Best Birthday Hike Yet! (Photo by Ryan Somma)

More photos of our Whiteoak Canyon Falls hike can be found on my Flickr site.

Whiteoak Canyon Falls (Round Trip to from Skyline Drive to Lower Falls)
Skyline Drive Mile Marker 42.6

Length: 7.3 miles

Elevation Gain:1100 Feet

Trail Map

April 21, 2014 at 3:00 pm 2 comments

Season Compare: Dead Tree on Chestnut Ridge Trail

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Season Compare! Here’s one from our Bull Run Mountains Conservancy hikes. On the Chestnut Ridge Trail, between the Mountain Trail and the Quarry Trail, there is a dead tree. Here’s that dead tree in September of 2012 and then again November of 2013. Enjoy!

Bull Run Mountain - Trail (Portrait) (By Ryan Somma)
Chestnut Ridge Trail – September 9, 2012

Bull Run Mountain - Dead Tree Season Compare 2
Chestnut Ridge Trail – November 2, 2013

April 16, 2014 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Family Hike: White Rocks Overlook at Bull Run Mountain

Living in Occoquan, our family is surrounded by parks– Occoquan Regional Park, Fountainhead Regional Park, Mason Neck State Park, Pohick Bay Regional Park, Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge, Veteran’s Park, Julie J. Metz Wetlands Area, Leesylvania State Park, all within striking distance of a family adventure. We even have Prince William Forest National Park just 10 miles south of us. But sometimes… sometimes I miss the mountains. As luck would have it, with a 42 minute drive, we can be at Bull Run Mountains Conservancy. It’s probably my favorite hike in the Northern Virginia area.

All our trips there have been accompanied by children. We’ve hit up the Quarry Trail and the Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail which are pretty in their own right.

Bull Run Mountain - Creek Off Quarry Trail
Creek Off the Quarry Trail

But the cream of the crop is a loop made with the Ridge Loop Trail and the Chestnut Ridge Trail. The top— White Rocks Overlook/High Point, which is just stunning.

Bull Run Mountain - Happy Family at Top
White Rocks Overlook/High Point – September 2012

Bull Run Mountain - Rocks and View at High Point Overlook
White Rocks Overlook/High Point – November 2013

Bull Run Mountain - Evergreen at High Point Overlook
Changing Leaves

Bull Run Mountain - Ryan and Sagan and View
Ryan and Sagan Take in View of Mountains!

For the most part, the trail is well maintained and wide, so great for the little hikers.

Bull Run Mountain - Sagan Runs After Carl
Sagan Hikes

You do climb roughly 800 feet to get to the overlook. If you want an easier grade, I would recommend going up the Chestnut Ridge Trail. The Ridge Loop Trail is steeper (but still do-able– we carried Sagan up that trail in 2012).

There are tons to see on all the trails – mosses, wildflowers, mushrooms.

Bull Run Mountain - Leaves, Rock and Moss (By Ryan Somma)
Moss on the Chestnut Ridge Trail (By Ryan Somma)

Bull Run Mountain - Yellow Wildflower (By Ryan Somma)
Yellow Wildflower

Bull Run Mountain - Mushrooms (By Ryan Somma)
Mushrooms (By Ryan Somma)

One hike I got to see Chestnut Oaks demonstrating their “oak-i-ness” — making acorns!

Bull Run Mountain - Acorns on a Chestnut Oak
Chestnut Oaks Doing What Oaks Do – Making Acorns!

Up near the top, an extra bonus. American Chestnut trees still exhibiting hope and trying to grow.

Bull Run Mountain - American Chestnut - Blighted Bark and New Shoot
The Blighted Bark of a Dead Chestnut and Its New Shoot

We’ve seen the usual squirrels and deer and variety of birds. One time, we got to visually confirm the reptiles are in the mix as well. : )

Bull Run Mountain - Lizard on Tree Bark (By Ryan Somma)
Lizard on Tree Bark (By Ryan Somma)

It may not be as close as some of our other hikes, but the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy hike is one of our favorites.

More photos of our Bull Run Mountain hikes can be found on Flickr here and here.

White Rocks Overlook Via the Chestnut Ridge Trail

Trail Map

Bull Run Mountains Conservancy
17405 Beverley Mill Dr
Broad Run, VA 20137

Length: ~4.2 Round Trip

Elevation Gain: Roughly 800 feet

April 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm 3 comments

Family Hike – Julie J. Metz Wetlands in the Winter

I am not even three years into my journey as a parent, but my small glimpse into parenthood has me believe that going outside is incredibly important…at least in our little family. If we stay inside, sequestered around the TV, we all (Mommy, Daddy, Big Brother, and Little Brother), ALL go a little stir crazy. So we try to keep a steady stream of outings in the mix.

Polar vortexes sometimes make this challenging, but that’s what IKEA is for.

January 25 - Sagan Runs Through IKEA
Sagan (the blue blur) Runs Through IKEA

Two weekends ago, we bundled up and braved the cold with a short hike to Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank. We were rewarded with the views of a frozen marsh and some fun times as well. Since everything was frozen, Ryan was able to give Sagan a quick introduction to “ice skating.”

Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank - January 2014 - Anonymous Binker User
Sagan in His “Spiderman” Hat

Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank - January 2014 - Frozen Marsh
Frozen Marsh

Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank - January 2014 - Mommy and Dyson By Marsh (By Ryan Somma)
Vicky and Little Dyson

Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank - January 2014 - Ryan and Sagan Hike (From Front)
Ryan and Sagan Hike

Sagan “ice skates”

February 9, 2014 at 9:12 am Leave a comment

Views While Nursing – Sacagawea-ing It


Sacagawea (Photo by MudflapDC)

I’ve been continuing to take an ongoing collection of views while nursing my second son. One of my favorite subset of photos are what I refer to “Sacagawea-ing It”. Sacagawea was an interpreter and guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. She gave birth to her first child, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, and continued her travels with her infant son. Whenever we are out on the trails with infant Dyson, I think of Sacagawea hiking with her son.

We hiked with my older son as well, but we’ve been getting significantly more mileage in with our second. I think part of this is we know we aren’t going to break him. But another factor is the breastfeeding. You don’t have to bring along a cooler and bottles and you don’t have to time your hike between visits to the breast pump. I’ve been really enjoying how easy family hikes are and I certainly don’t mind feeding the youngest… particularly when he decide he’s hungry at a glorious overlook. πŸ™‚

We’re still only 4.5 months into our breastfeeding journey, but here are some new “Views While Nursing…While Hiking.”

September 22, 2013 View While Nursing...from the Appalachian Trail's Angel Rest near Pearisburg, VA
Appalachian Trails’ Angel’s Rest, Pearisburg, Virginia

View While Nursing for September 29, 2013 - Fishing Pier Through Trees at Leesylvania State Park, Virginia
Fishing Pier, Leesylvania State Park, Virginia

View While Nursing for October 20, 2013-  Wetlands at Veterans Park.  Woodbridge, VA  Http://
Wetlands, Veterans Park, Woodbridge, Virginia

View While Nursing for November 1, 2013 - High Point Overlook on Bull Run Mountain.
High Point Overlook, Bull Run Mountain, Virginia

View While Nursing for November 3, 2013 - Bald Eagle Nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Bald Eagle Nest, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Woodbridge, Virginia

P.S. Instagram allows me to upload photos directly to Tumblr, so more Views While Nursing can be found at

November 19, 2013 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Sagan’s Peak and Dyson’s Peak

I live about four and half hours away from my former home in Blacksburg, Virginia. Although I don’t get back to see “my mountains” as much as I would like, Ryan and I still managed to hike an Appalachian Trail staple during both pregnancies.

With my first son, Sagan, we hiked up to the most photographed point on the Appalachian Trail, McAfee’s Knob, at 33 weeks. With my second son, Dyson, we hiked up to nearby Tinker Cliffs at 25 Weeks. That means we now have an Appalachian Trail landmark that will remind us of each son.

McAfee's Knob - Mountains and Motherhood (by Ryan Somma)
Vicky on McAfee’s Knob (33 Weeks Pregnant with Sagan)

Tinker Cliffs - 25 Week Belly at Top (By Ryan Somma)
Vicky on Tinker Cliffs (25 Weeks Pregnant with Dyson)

Now get this– from Sagan’s Peak (aka McAfee’s Knob), you can see Dyson’s Peak (Tinker Cliffs) and from Dyson’s Peak, you can see Sagan’s Peak! If you are on one boy’s peak, you can still think of the other. : )

McAfee's Knob - Vicky and Ryan
Ryan and Vicky and In Utero Sagan with Dyson’s Peak (Tinker Cliffs)

Tinker Cliffs - McAfee Knob, Vicky, Ryan
[A Poorly Lit] Ryan and Vicky and In Utero Dyson with Sagan’s Peak (McAfee’s Knob)

Here’s my favorite part– a day hike that hits both overlooks is only 13.1 miles long. One day, our family can go up the Andy Layne Trail to Dyson’s Peak (Tinker Cliffs) and then continue on to Sagan’s Peak (McAfee Knob). I’ve done that day hike before. I know first hand that it’s an amazing trip and will be even more amazing to share with the boys.

It’s a hike well-worth waiting a decade for. : )

August 14, 2013 at 1:00 am 1 comment

Surprise Family Hike with Surprise Finds – Ballywhack Creek

This morning Sagan, Ryan, and I were intending on doing some yard work over at my grandmother’s old house, but we ran into some mechanical difficulties.

Memorial Day 2013 - Sagan Supervises Lawn Mower Repairs

So instead, we decided to explore the nearby woods and get some recordings and photos of cicadas. We ended up walking along a nice fireroad that paralleled the Ballywhack Creek and eventually we found ourselves in the River Ridge section of Lake Ridge and made our way back to the broken lawn mower. It was a good outing and we had plenty of opportunities to hear and see cicadas.

Memorial Day 2013 - Cicada on Beech
Cicada on American Beech

Memorial Day 2013 - Cicada Shells and Sweet Gum Leaves
Cicada Shells Left on Sweet Gum Leaves

Memorial Day 2013 - Cicada Shell on Tulip Poplar
Cicada Shell on Tulip Poplar Leaf

We also had a cute little bit of cicada-related dialog with 22-month old Sagan.

Vicky: Sagan, do you want the cicada on your head?
Sagan: (matter-of-factly) No.
Vicky: Sagan, do you want the cicada on your hand?
Sagan: (matter-of-factly) Yes.

Memorial Day 2013 - Daddy and Sagan Smile at Cicada
Sagan Holds His First Cicada

Sagan had a little bit of dialogue of his own with the cicada including telling it “Bye Bye”

Our mission was simple– we wanted to see cicadas. But we ended up with a lot of surprise finds as well. First off, we got to see an unfortunate cicada who never successfully molted being devoured (albeit slowly) by red ants.

Memorial Day 2013 - Ants Eat Cicada 1 - Cropped

We got to see a number of water insects and large tadpoles in the creek.

Memorial Day 2013 - Water Insect and Tadpoles
Water Insect and Tadpoles

Even though it hadn’t rained recently, there was a large amount of earthworms out. Here again, we had an opportunity to converse with Sagan.

Vicky: Sagan, do you want the worm on your hand?
Sagan: (matter-of-factly) No.

Memorial Day 2013 - Sagan Meets Worm
Sagan Does Not Hold the Earthworm

Our biggest surprise was right behind the River Ridge houses on Farversham. We came across a little white-tail deer fawn waiting for its Momma.

Memorial Day 2013 - Fawn
Awww….Cute Enough to Make Forget Deer Eat My Chestnut Trees

One last surprise– shortly after we made our way back home, Ryan uncovered the problem with the mower and it resumed working better than ever. Apparently sometimes it pays to step away from a problem for a while. : )

More pictures of our Memorial Day Family Walk can be found on my Flickr site.

May 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm 1 comment

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