Posts filed under ‘Appalachian Trail’

Views While Nursing – Sacagawea-ing It

Sacagawea

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. đŸ™‚

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://viewswhilenursing.tumblr.com
Wetlands, Veterans Park, Woodbridge, Virginia

View While Nursing for November 1, 2013 - High Point Overlook on Bull Run Mountain.  http://viewswhilenursing.tumblr.com
High Point Overlook, Bull Run Mountain, Virginia

View While Nursing for November 3, 2013 - Bald Eagle Nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge  http://viewswhilenursing.tumblr.com
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 http://viewswhilenursing.tumblr.com.

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

Farewell, Jimmie Dog

My most steadfast hiking buddy passed away this morning. His name was Jimmie (after the band Jimmie’s Chicken Shack). He spent 15 years and 4.5 months on this beautiful earth.

I have written before how adopting this small puppy from the Montgomery County Humane Society in 1997 impacted my life (See Happy 10th Birthday, Jimmie Dog). Jimmie’s adoption led to an active lifestyle. Finding adventures for my dog introduced me to my love of hiking and the mountains. His mere presence meant I was never really “alone” on any endeavor so he gave me the confidence (placebo?) to head into the woods alone and find my independence. He is a dog I will remember with gratitude.

The trails Jimmie has hiked over the years can be measured in “hundreds of miles”. Along the way, he has seen some amazing views. The slideshow below is an excerpt of some of the scenery we shared together. (You don’t have to have the attention span for all the slides, but do please note at how many slides there are. Epic!)

Last night, Ryan, Sagan and I took Jimmie across the river to Occoquan Regional Park. Jimmie was too weak to walk, so we drove to the park and we carried him to the shoreline. We sat under a sycamore tree. We watched ducks commute and ospreys tend to their young. We listened to the summer buzz of cicadas and people splashing on the west shore of the river. The sun set and together Jimmie and I took in one final view.

Jimmie's Last Outing - Jimmie and Vicky Take In One Last View (By Ryan Somma)
One Last View (Photo by Ryan Somma)

I love you, Jimmie Dog. I wish you happy trails.

More pictures of Jimmie’s Last Outing can be found on my Flickr site.

August 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm 9 comments

Sagan’s First Appalachian Trail Hike

The best part about my 37th Birthday Hike was including my eight month old son. We drove by the Appalachian Trail when he was 14 weeks old, but this was the first time Sagan actually got to be on the trail!

Manassas Gap Hike - Sagan and Mommy at AT Sign
Sagan at his First Appalachian Trailhead

He rode most of the way in his Moby Wrap. He slept through most of the ascent and the old apple orchard when we hiked southbound. When he woke up, he got to do some [assisted] hiking of his own.

Manassas Gap Hike - Sagan Smiles and Hikes With Ryan
“Hiking” with Daddy

Manassas Gap Hike - Sagan Smiles and Hikes with Mommy
“Hiking” with Mommy

He joined us for our lunch on the trail and took a surprise liking to a kiwi. Sagan kept pulling the kiwi back to his mouth and sucked it like a vampire.

Manassas Gap Hike - Sagan Tries Kiwi
Sucking on a Kiwi

When we arrived at the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter, Sagan was ready for some more walking practice. And by the time we were climbing down the mountain, he was sound asleep in his Moby Wrap again.

Sagan has a lot of “firsts” to come and I’m sure they will weasle a way into my heart.  But “First A.T. Hike”… that memory is already cemented.


Sagan Hikes Southbound


Sagan Hikes Northbound

March 26, 2012 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

37th Birthday Hike – Appalachian Trail VA-55 to Jim and Molly Denton Shelter

This year for my annual birthday hike, Ryan Somma and I introduced eight-month old Sagan to the Appalachian Trail! After some research, I found there was an AT crossing just an hour away from our home! The trail crosses VA-55 and under I-66 in Linden, Virginia. We hiked from the VA-55 trailhead southbound in Manassas Gap to the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter and then turned around for a six mile round trip.

Trail Overview
The trailhead at VA-55 is well marked with a nice prominent sign announcing it is the Appalachian Trail. You cross over Goose Creek on a bridge and then you have a nice wooden walkway to keep your feet dry during flooding season. Almost immediately you cross over some railroad tracks and then you begin a pleasant ascent. I say pleasant because I found the grade and the switchbacks to all be quite manageable, even carrying an eight month old. There are rocky portions, but nothing too severe or trecherous. The trail starts to flatten out and you enter a large field reminiscent of Grayson Highlands.

Manassas Gap Hike - Trailhead
The VA-55 Trailhead

Manassas Gap Hike - Vicky and Sagan on Rocky Trail
Some Rocky Portions– But Not Too Bad

Manassas Gap Hike - Ryan and Henry Walk Through Field
The Field (Facing Northbound)

The trail reenters the woods, passes close to the homes of some individuals I now envy dearly and crosses over Fiery Run Road. There are some slight ups and downs and a couple of creek crossings before you hit upon the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter. This shelter is nicknamed “The Hiker’s Hilton” and with good cause. It is quite a fancy shelter, featuring large adirondack chairs… and a rain barrell shower!

Manassas Gap Hike - Vicky and Sagan Come Up Hill
Wouldn’t Be Nice to Live Here?

Manassas Gap Hike - Henry on Moss Rocks
Henry on a Creek Crossing

Manassas Gap Hike - Sagan Practices Walking at Denton Shelter
Sagan and Ryan at Jim & Molly Denton Shelter

Manassas Gap Hike - Family Portrait 2
Family Portrait at Denton Shelter

Flora
I’m sorry to report that I didn’t pay that much attention to the dormant trees we were passing. I know from the Virginia Hiking, Manassas Gap South video that this section homes Sassafras and the field has remnants of an old Apple Orchard. We did document the first spring activity of a couple of trees and were surprised by one lone daffodil who made a home in the middle of the woods.

Manassas Gap Hike - Seeds
Seeds Just South of the Field

Manassas Gap Hike - Lone Daffodil
Lone Daffodil

Fauna
Although we saw a hawk on our drive to the trailhead, fauna sightings were pretty scarce this hike. Ryan did catch a shot of a frog at a creek crossing south of Firey Run Road. Finally, like my 35th Birthday Hike we were serenaded by spring peepers near the end of our journey.

Manassas Gap Hike - Frog - (Cropped)

When I lived in Blacksburg, Virginia, I had many nearby Appalachian Trailheads to choose from. My options are more limited here in Occoquan Virginia, but I have to say the trailhead closest to me is most satisfying. There is a whole lot to see in just three miles.

More pictures of our Appalachian Trail Hike from VA-55 to Denton Shelter can be found on my Flickr site.

Appalachian Trail – VA-55 to Jim & Molly Denton Shelter

Length: 6 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: ~500 feet

Directions from I-66 West Bound

From I-66, take Exit 13

Turn left off the ramp

Turn left onto VA-55 East

In roughly 2.5 miles there is a parking lot to your right (at the intersection of VA-725)

March 26, 2012 at 1:00 am 4 comments

American Chestnut – Identification by Catkins

In May of 2008, Wayne Bowman of the Virginia Department of Forestry surprised me when he said winter was a great time to find American chestnuts. I was skeptical because the trees would be missing their leaves, but eight months later, I saw how right he was when some dark, blighted bark drew my eye to chestnuts near Mountain Lake.

At McAfee’s Knob last weekend, Ryan and I were able to spot a American chestnut from a distance thanks to another part of their anatomy– their catkins. We were up at the Southeast section of the Knob (the side facing Roanoke Airport). Looking East, we saw this:

McAfee's Knob - Chestnut Oak AND Behind It-- Catkins Give Away American Chestnut
One of the Many Rocks at the Top

In the foreground is a Chestnut Oak. But it was what was behind it that caught our attention. Back by the rocks– catkins.

McAfee's Knob - Blooming American Chestnut
Catkins By The Rocks

The passage was a little too tight for the pregnancy belly, but thin Ryan went closer to investigate.

McAfee's Knob - Ryan in Pursuit of Blooming American Chestnut
Ryan in Pursuit of Possible Chestnut

And we were right! The flowers were from an American chestnut blooming at the top of McAfee’s Knob on June 26, 2011.

McAfee's Knob - American Chestnut Catkins at Top (By Ryan Somma)
American Chestnut Catkins from McAfee’s Knob (Photo by Ryan Somma)

It goes to show that the more you know about a tree, the more it is going to stick out!

July 5, 2011 at 1:00 am 3 comments

More McAfee’s Knob Shots

The pregnant hiking shot I shared yesterday was definitely my favorite of our McAfee Knob hike this past weekend. But, there were a lot of other wonderful memories of Sunday’s hike. Here are some more shots I fancy.

View
The first time I visited McAfee’s Knob in 2003, I wrote in my journal that none of my other hikes prepared me for the view I would see at McAfee’s. We had great weather that day and the views did not disappoint.

McAfee's Knob - Knob and Tinker Cliffs
View – That’s Tinker Cliffs in the Background

McAfee's Knob - Vicky and Ryan
Me (33 Weeks) and Ryan at the Top – That’s Tinker Cliffs in the Background

McAfee's Knob - Ryan at Top.
Ryan at Top

Fauna
In addition to lizards and millipedes, we saw a couple of deer, one with a surprisingly low flight distance.

McAfee's Knob - Millipede (By Ryan Somma)
Millipede (Photo by Ryan Somma)

McAfee's Knob - Deer (By Ryan Somma)
Deer in Powerline Field (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Flora – American Chestnuts
Along the way, we spotted four American chestnuts of decent sizes. There was one at the top of the knob that was flowering.

McAfee's Knob - American Chestnut Leaves From Below (By Ryan Somma)
American Chestnut Leaves From Below

McAfee's Knob - Switchback Chestnut Leaves From Below
An American Chestnut On the First Switchback After the Fireroad Intersection

McAfee's Knob - American Chestnut Catkins at Top (By Ryan Somma)
American Chestnut Catkins at Top

More pictures of our maternity visit to McAfee’s Knob are available on my Flickr site.

Additional Links:
My Other McAfee Knob Posts
Virginia Appalachian Trail License Plate with McAfee’s Knob

July 1, 2011 at 1:00 am 2 comments

Mountains and Maternity!

Last weekend, Ryan and I traveled to Blacksburg, Virginia for a baby shower thrown by my Southwestern Virginian friends. At 33 weeks, we have an awful lot to celebrate and be excited about. All that joy was compounded on Sunday with a reunion with the mountains!

Before heading back home, Ryan and I took a detour to the one of the most photographed points on the Appalachian Trail, McAfee’s Knob (as seen on the Virginia Appalachian Trail License Plate). We ascended 1200 feet and had a round trip of about 7.5 miles. Amazingly enough, even though McAfee’s Knob is a very popular hike, when Ryan and I arrived at the top, we had it all to ourselves!

A happy moment from a happy day from a very happy time in my life!

McAfee's Knob - Mountains and Motherhood (by Ryan Somma)
Mountains and Motherhood!!! (Photo by Ryan Somma)

June 30, 2011 at 1:00 am 6 comments

Henry’s Valley Forge

A few years ago, my boss Larry and I were on a business trip in Pennsylvania with some extra time. We decided to stop by Valley Forge on our way to the airport. As we made our way to the National Park, Larry and I rambled on as we tend to do and we both talked about all the things we remembered about Valley Forge. When we arrived, we were dumbfounded at how consistently inaccurate our recollections were. For example, the men did not in fact leave Valley Forge to sail across the Delaware River to win the war.

But, one thing I DID remember correctly was the bloody footprints. During the winter to 1777-1778, the men were ill-clothed and if they had shoes, they weren’t up to the winter weather. Ice and snow were not kind to the soldier’s exposed feet. They cracked and bled and left souvenirs in the snow. In a letter to Congress, George Washington wrote, “marches might be tracked by the blood from their feet.”

The most treacherous part for the humans on our snowy Kelly’s Knob hike was our drive back down icy VA-601. For Henry, it was the snow itself. All seemed well at first. Henry was having a good ole time and was as happy as I was to be reunited with the Appalachian Trail.

Kelly's Knob - Henry the Trailblazer
Happy Henry

Then suddenly, history in action. We started to notice blood in the snow. The footprints got bloodier and bloodier. We didn’t have a Martha Washington on hand to knit some socks for Henry. But we did have a Ryan Somma. Henry soldiered on for as long as he could. Finally, he acquiesced and let Ryan carry him the rest of the way.

Kelly's Knob - Henry's Paws (Cropped)
Bloody footed Henry is carried down by Ryan

In a few days, Henry’s paws were as good as new.

At least, that’s how I recall it now.

January 11, 2011 at 1:00 am 3 comments

Kelly’s Knob in the Snow

Greetings everyone! I hope you had a happy and healthy holiday season. The weekend before Christmas, Ryan Somma and I headed to my old stomping grounds in Blacksburg, Virginia for a five day visit. There I got one of the best early Christmas presents a girl could hope for– a reunion with the mountains! : )

On Sunday, December 19th, we got to hit the Appalachian Trail with the dogs and our friends Tony and Meredith. We went from the Rocky Gap/VA-601 trailhead up to Kelly’s Knob. It’s about a 3.8 mile round trip. It starts off steep with a roughly 500-600 foot ascent in the first half mile (Source: Elevation Map from weaselworks). Don’t let the beginning fool you though, once you make it up to the intersection of the John’s Creek Mountain Trail, it is all ridgeline and smooth sailing.

I’ve done Kelly’s Knob a number of times (see my other Kelly’s Knob posts), but this time was by far the snowiest. When we started our hike, there was a lone set of footprints already in the snow. Apparently that hiker was fooled by the steep beginning because surprisingly soon the footprints disappeared. That left us with fresh snow to hike in.

Kelly's Knob - Pristine Trail
Appalachian Trail En Route to Kelly’s Knob

The top was as gorgeous as usual. As I have written before, you can see the Virginia Tech campus from Kelly’s Knob. That particular day, we didn’t take advantage of it. None of us were courageous/foolish enough to climb out onto the snow-covered rocks. Luckily, what we could see from the security of the trail was quite striking.

Kelly's Knob - Blue Sky and Frosted Tree Tops
Frosted Tree Tops

Kelly's Knob - Snow Covered Rocks and View (Far)
Snow Covered Rocks at Kelly’s Knob

Kelly's Knob - Snow Covered Rocks and Ridges
Rocks and Ridges at Kelly’s Knob

Kelly's Knob - Tree Hole and Ridgeline
The Knotty Kelly’s Knob Tree and Ridges

I didn’t see any American chestnut trees as we hiked (there are a whole bunch of them south of Rocky Gap) but I did spy an American Chestnut leaf in the snow!

Kelly's Knob - Possible Chestnut Leaf in Snow
American Chestnut Leaf in the Snow

The most trecherous part of our journey (for the humans) was actually driving home. With intentions I’m certain were good, someone had attempted to plow the gravel VA-601. Unfortunately the efforts had produced a formidable sheet of ice. We had 1.5 miles back down to paved and cleared road. 1.5 miles of a steep icy road with particularly unnerving dropoffs in lieu of shoulders. Ryan, Meredith and I all agreed Tony would be the most qualified to get us off the mountain. He did not let us down! In 4WD low and in first gear, with occassional brake pumping and steering the vehicle onto exposed gravel or loose snow, he slowly but surely got us down.

My heater in my car was broken which proved to be advantageous to our trusted driver.

“It’s a good thing [the heat’s broken]” Tony pointed out. “Otherwise, I’d be sweating balls right now.” : )

Thanks to Tony’s patient driving, we all got to go home with untainted memories of another great adventure.

Kelly's Knob - Jimmie, Tony, Henry, Meredith, Vicky on Trail
Jimmie, Tony (The Hero!), Henry, Meredith and Vicky

Kelly's Knob - Henry, Jimmie and Ryan Descend
Ryan Descends with Henry and Jimmie

More pictures of our hike to Kelly’s Knob can be found on my Flickr site.

Rocky Gap to Kelly’s Knob
(Appalachian Trail from VA-601 to Kelly’s Knob and back)

Mileage: 3.8 miles round trip

Elevation Difference: Est. 800 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 in non-icy conditions.

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.

January 10, 2011 at 1:00 am 5 comments

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