Posts filed under ‘McAfee’s Knob’

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

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.

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

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

Google Earth Compare: McAfee Knob and Angel’s Rest

I recently downloaded version 6 of Google Earth so I could check out some of the new 3D trees they added to locales such as San Francisco, Chicago and Tokyo. While I was flying around, I took a quick detour by one of the most photographed points of the Appalachian Trail – McAfee’s Knob (also featured in the Virginia Appalachian Trail license plate). The knob itself appears a little more green in Google Earth than in real life, but I was quite impressed by the view of Tinker Cliffs. It made me instantly nostalgic. The ridgeline was perfect!

Vicky, Jimmie and Henry at McAfee’s Knob in 2003

Google Earth - View of Tinker Cliffs from McAfee KnobGoogle Earth’s View of Tinker Cliffs from McAfee’s Knob
Credit: Commonwealth of Virginia via Google Earth

I also found the view of the New River, Pearisburg and Butt Mountain from Angel’s Rest to be accurate enough to make me smile and wish I was there.

Angel's Rest 2002: Jimmie Admires View
Jimmie at Angel’s Rest View of Pearisburg and Butt Mountain – November 2002

Google Earth - View From Angel's Rest
Google Earth’s View of Pearisburg and Butt Mountain from McAfee’s Knob
Credit: Commonwealth of Virginia via Google Earth

I would still prefer the real thing, of course, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed visiting my favorite hiking spots in Google Earth!

December 13, 2010 at 1:00 am 1 comment

McAfee’s Knob in the Snow

This time last week, I was a little bitter. It seemed everyone I knew got tons of snow. And not just any snow. Great snow. Fun snow. Perfect snowball and snowman making snow. The kind of snow that just lights up the Appalachian Mountains. The kind of snow that makes the air pure and crisp and invigorates you as you breath. The kind of snow I would love to hike in.

But…outside my window in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, everything from my level yard to the flat horizon was still brown and green.

Luckily, it is Flickr to the rescue! Even though I was snowless and separated from the mountains, I still got to appreciate a wintry version of the Appalachian Trail’s staple, McAfee’s Knob. One photographer snagged a shot of McAfee’s Knob from Roanoke’s Mill Mountain. Meanwhile another spent 4 hours hiking to get pictures from the top.

McAfee’s Knob from Mill Mountain (Photo Courtesy of konrad_photography)

Top of McAfee’s Knob (Photo by daveelmore)

View from McAfee’s Knob – I Highly Recommend Viewing the Full Size Version (Photo by daveelmore)

Ah…. just lovely.

Bitterness gone.

March 9, 2009 at 6:00 am 7 comments

Appalachian Trail from the Air

From Tinker Cliffs, you can see McAfee’s Knob.

McAfee’s Knob from Tinker Cliffs

From McAfee’s Knob, you can see Tinker Cliffs.

Tinker Cliffs from McAfee’s Knob

And from an airplane, you can see both!

McAfee’s Knob (the closer ridge) and Tinker Cliffs from an airplane

Need help identifying the landmarks? Click on any of the pictures to view the copy in Flickr with notes.

November 6, 2008 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

Five Great Platonic Non-Date Dates

Earlier this week, GeekHiker posted about how one the biggest ironies of him being single is that he does “come up with some damn good ideas for dates.” It sparked some thought on my part here in Virginia and I polled a few of my male friends to hear about their great dates. And wowzer! The men I know can really crank out some great ideas.

It also opened my eyes a bit. I never really thought about “date ideas” being a task that fell on the shoulders of the male. Part of it is definitely, I’m female, and I get to just take all that stuff for granted. Suck it, Y Chromosomes!

But at the same time, it may be that I had little cause to think creativity was involved with planning dates. While I listened to elaborate tales involving rented boats, surprise flowers, expensive wines and batteries of candles, I realized– as far as dates go, I don’t have many that deviate from an age-old, tried and true formula. Throughout my dating career, my experiences are dinner-movie, dinner-movie, dinner-movie with the occasional dinner-movie-ice cream (w00t!).

But don’t shed tears, even if you think my dating life was deprived, because you know what? I have been lucky enough to share some PHENOMENAL days of my own with men. PHENOMENAL. Great days, adventurous days, inspiring days that I will remember forever and ever.

They just happened to be totally platonic.

I’m not ready to declare these to be my Top Five Platonic Non-Date Dates. But here are five I remember fondly that come to mind right now on this chilly Thursday night.

Great Platonic Non-Date Date #1 – Butt Mountain and Frozen Cascades
January 2003
Who: Tony Airaghi

One weekend morning, Airaghi asked me if I wanted to go hiking. It was January, so this seemed odd, but I heard him through. We took both dogs, drove on a snowy road, checked out Butt Mountain Overlook and then hiked DOWN to the Cascades. Lo and behold, the falls were almost completely frozen. It was— amazing. The whole hike with all the snow, the trees and the curled up rhododendron was beautiful, but it was the waterfall that stole the show. And this hike taught me an important lesson– hiking in Virginia does not have to be confined to summer and fall.

Tony at the Frozen Cascades, January 18th, 2003

Great Platonic Non-Date Date #2- Roanoke Symphony
Fall and Winter 2003
Who: Leith S

My friend Leith had season tickets to the Roanoke Symphony. Anytime he didn’t have a date, I got to accompany him! Although this isn’t as adventuresome as hiking, boy, I grew very fond of our outings. Each month, on a Monday night, I got to dress up and put on makeup and meet my companion for an evening of music. It was winter, so the days got dark fast. As I drove to Roanoke, I’d look at the crisp stars that frequent the winter skies, I’d listen to NPR and I’d feel introspective. And nothing compliments an introspective mood better than beautiful, classical music.

Great Platonic Non-Date Date #3 – Speedboating on Smith Mountain Lake
May 1999
Who: Mike Miller, Ryan Schutt

Okay, this one has just a little bit of threesome action going on. Ryan Schutt, Jimmie and I drove up and met Mike Miller in Roanoke. Together we went to Smith Mountain Lake and rented a speed boat. It was the weekend before Memorial Day so it was still considered off season, meaning we got a cheap rate! And yet, it was the weekend before Memorial Day, meaning the weather was still great. We all had a splendid time driving the boat and checking out the scenery of the lake. Before that day, I didn’t even know one *could* rent a speedboat. But you can! And it is quite fun!

Ryan driving the speedboat at Smith Mountain Lake

Great Platonic Non-Date Date #4- Rollerblading the Huckleberry Trail
Spring 2002
Who: Tony Airaghi

What would eventually become a yearly tradition, Tony and I met after work to rollerblade the entire Huckleberry Trail. Back then our 11 mile journey was unprecedented for me and quite a feat for my little legs. The route may be the same six years later, but it sure feels a heck of a lot easier nowadays!

I remember a lot of laughter, I remember visiting with Larry at his house half way, but most of all I’ll remember that final half mile. It was getting dark and a thunderstorm was approaching. In a distance, we could see the hazy lights of the mall where our cars were parked. I couldn’t really see Tony except when lightening streaked across the sky– then I could see his skating silhouette ahead of me and at one point a pole I was about to run into. We were able to barely beat the weather to the mall. Tony opened the back of his Explorer and we sat down. As soon as did, the rain hit! With the subtle nagging soreness of accomplishment in my legs, I removed my skates and just absorbed my favorite of nature’s many shows — a summer thunderstorm.

Great Platonic Non-Date Date #5- Tinker Cliffs AND McAfee’s Knob
May 2005
Who: Mike E

One morning I woke up and signed onto AOL IM with the intent of asking Mike E on a hike. He beat me to it. As soon as I logged on I saw a message from him.


I was so in. We met at the Easy Chair Coffee Shop to pick up breakfast and then we headed to Catawba with Jimmie and Henry. Our journey began at VA-779. We hiked two and a half hours to Tinker Cliffs. There we shared an orange (which would later become a tradition). We then hiked another three hours to McAfee’s Knob. At one point, I wanted to cry. But before I knew it, we were at the most photographed point on the Appalachian Trail looking at where we were earlier in the day. It was an energizing feeling.

Just 3.5 short miles later, we were reunited with a car at VA-311. At the end of the day, we had finished 13.1 miles of hiking. We promptly drove to Fuddruckers and treated our bodies to a lot of greasy, fatty food. We may have even had ice cream (w00t!). It was a very fulfilling day and when I think of a great hike– this one is one that will always come to mind.

Me pointing to the day’s trek

And so there are five non-date dates that I remember. Most of them weren’t even planned! Just a quick call in the morning was all that was needed to spark an adventure. Some were on weeknights, some were on weekends. And they spanned all four seasons. With speed boating, a good amount of capital was required. But on the other extreme, seeing the Frozen Cascades didn’t even cost a dime.

It seems to me… that regardless of budget, day of the week, or time of year, a great experience can be had.

All you need is a good friend.

August 28, 2008 at 10:42 pm 3 comments

Season Compare: McAfee’s Knob

McAfee’s Knob was featured in my very first Season Compare post, so I wasn’t planning on doing another when I hiked there Sunday. But half way through the hike, PassionPhish said (paraphrased), “Do you know what my favorite part of your blog is? Those before and after shots you do.”

That inspired me enough to look through my March 2003 trip and I did find some similar shots. Here is McAfee’s Knob over 5 years apart:

McAfee’s Knob – March 22, 2003

McAfee’s Knob – April 27, 2008

This next set is a little weak, but I like looking at the trees in the bottom right corner:

McAfee’s Knob – March 22, 2003

McAfee’s Knob – April 27, 2008

With this next set, the tree underneath the famous ledge is visibly taller. I also like how the puddle is still around:

McAfee’s Knob – March 22, 2008

McAfee’s Knob – April 27, 2008

This side of the mountain looks just as bare on April 27, 2008 as it did on March 22, 2003:

McAfee’s Knob – March 22, 2003

McAfee’s Knob – April 27, 2008

More pictures of McAfee’s Knob in 2003 and McAfee’s Knob in 2008 can by found on my Flickr site.

April 30, 2008 at 1:19 am 1 comment

Lecture: Hiking with Dogs

Five years ago, when I struggled on the 1872 foot ascent of Rock Castle Gorge, Tony Airaghi encouraged me to take my time and then he said something that I expect to remember for years to come:

We aren’t here to kill ourselves. We’re here to have a good time.

I think about Tony’s statement almost every time I take a break and at times I paraphrase it to struggling strangers. And today, I declare with great conviction – That goes for dogs as well.

This weekend at McAfee’s Knob, we encountered a hiker with a female dog that was obviously struggling. Slow and stiff, she was not enjoying the ascent.

“How old is that dog?” I asked.

“Fourteen,” the owner replied.

Apparently, the owner could tell what I was thinking.

“It’s okay,” the owner added, “I gave her two [painkillers] this morning.”

First off–just because you drug a dog does not mean it is not injuring itself. Second off– what does it say if you drug a dog and it is STILL hurting?!?

Just a little while later, we could see this poor dog try to call it quits. Not once, but TWICE, the dog crawled off to the side of the trail and tried to lay down under the shade. Even from my vantage point, I could clearly see its legs shaking.

Both times, the owner became very frustrated, yelled at the dog and yanked it back up.

Dogs go out of their way to please their owners. If a dog is trying to lay down while you are walking, it is DONE.

Even though the owner and the dog eventually made it to the top and probably did not need to have the dog carried down the mountain on a stretcher, it is my personal assessment that they should have turned around. The moment it was clear this was no longer fun for the dog is when the return trip should have commenced. You got out, you enjoyed the day, summon the strength to wuss out, for goodness sake.

A different, but as miserable, hiking dog.

As Jimmie and Henry continue to age, it is a very real concern of mine that I will push them too far. So I’m constantly assessing (aka worrying about) their readiness. I’m already accepting that both dogs may have made their last trip up to Dragon’s Tooth. Anything six miles or over, I make a call about Henry (who has some back problems) on a case by case basis. He hasn’t done anything over ten miles since 2006. He’s sat out my last two birthday hikes. Even smaller hikes, like Pearis Mountain in the snow, I leave him behind if he seems sore. Henry did join us at McAfee’s Knob this past weekend. With him in mind, we took the less strenuous fire road for the first 2.5 miles and watched him for signs of soreness.

Now, it’s never easy to leave either dog behind. They are well conditioned to know what the hiking boots and the backpack mean and get extremely excited when those items emerge (for my last birthday hike, I actually hid my boots the night before so Henry wouldn’t see me get them in the morning). When I do leave either one behind, I can hear a lot of crying as I get in my car. It makes me sad. They want to come along so badly. But you know what? I know where we are going– they don’t. I know the ascent, the length and typically have an idea of the terrain. They don’t.

So I do my very best to use that extra knowledge to make a decision that is best for the dog. It’s not always black and white. One day I very well may make the wrong call. And if I do– I’ll turn around.

I’m not out there to kill myself or my dogs. I’m out there for all of us to have a good time.


April 29, 2008 at 3:33 pm 14 comments

McAfee’s Knob!

One of my high school classmates, Christina, lives in Germany now. From what I gather, she has met other expats through her blog and now they schedule dinners and other events to meet up and visit. I have never met anyone through my blog in person… until today!

I got to meet PassionPhish and MissesPhish from They just moved into Virginia and have not yet had a chance to hike any of the Virginia Appalachian Trail miles. So what better place to take them than the overlook that may very well be on our Virginia AT License plate?

Two bloggers at McAfee’s Knob – Me and PassionPhish

Sean had never been to McAfee’s Knob before so he came along as well. That means I got to expose three newcomers to the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail. The dogs, on the other hand, are old pros. This was their fourth trip. But don’t admire Jimmie and Henry too much. On the way up the trail, we read about a man who hiked to McAfee’s Knob 300 times (200 of those occurred after his 85th[????] birthday).

We could not have gotten a better day for this outing. The weather was perfect and regardless if it is your first trip or your 300th, the views of the valley and Tinker Cliffs are stunning.

McAfee’s Knob in the foreground, Tinker Cliffs in the background

I was pretty into Tinker Cliffs today. A lot of my photos shared a common formula – something in the foreground and Tinker Cliffs in the background.

Tree Branches…and Tinker Cliffs

Mountain Pieris…and Tinker Cliffs

Pine Cones… and Tinker Cliffs

Jimmie…and Tinker Cliffs

I wasn’t able to come up with a new and creative McAfee Knob pose. But, we did contribute to the growing collection of people sitting on the edge:

PassionPhish on the edge

Me on the edge. Note how Henry stayed back. 🙂

Mother Nature seemed to going out of its way to make sure I don’t forget about Pieris floribunda. Catawba Mountain was absolutely covered with it. How did I not notice this plant before?!?

Mountain Andromeda/Mountain Pieris/Mountain Fetterbush on McAfee’s

Baby Fetterbush growing on the rocks

PassionPhish reported taking 144 photos. I took 212. As you may expect with such extensive coverage, we did get pictures of people taking pictures.

Jimmie watches MissesPhish take a photo. By the way, Tinker Cliffs is in the background. 🙂

MissesPhish takes a picture of PassionPhish

They snagged a shot of me taking pictures as well.

All the picture taking was certainly not a futile exercise. It was such a beautiful day, even a picture of a puddle that had bloated Goldfish Crackers floating in it came out looking pretty.

Flowers growing in a puddle… which also houses old Goldfish crackers.

Needlesstosay, this was a great outing, filled with fascination and fun. The first people I met in person through my blog could not have been nicer people. It was such a treat to spend the day with them!

Who’s next? 🙂

Additional Links
My McAfee Knob Pictures on Flickr
PassionPhish’s McAfee Knob Pictures on Flickr
PassionPhish’s Post on the Outing

April 27, 2008 at 10:40 pm 7 comments

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