Posts filed under ‘Tinker Cliffs’

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

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

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

Season Compare: Tinker Cliffs

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

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

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

Tinker Cliffs – February 3, 2008

Tinker Cliffs – October 5, 2008

Tinker Cliffs – February 3, 2008

Tinker Cliffs – October 5, 2008

View – September 3, 2006

View – October 5, 2008

Tinker Cliffs from VA-779 – March 6, 2003

Tinker Cliffs from VA-779 – October 5, 2008

October 16, 2008 at 8:00 am 1 comment

Tinker Cliffs

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

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

Virginia Creeper is one of the first things to change

Just a few trees are changing

Virginia Creeper is cutting edge

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

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

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

Me and Mike at the top

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

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

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

Length: 5.6 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 1700 feet

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

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

Directions from Blacksburg, VA

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

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

October 15, 2008 at 9:00 am 4 comments

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

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

Tinker Cliffs

Two Saturdays ago, I got to hike with Tony Airaghi again.  This time we were joined by Tony’s cousin, Bruce and Bruce’s old college roommate, Dave.  We chose Tinker Cliffs via the Andy Layne Trail.  Our trip was about six miles.

When I left my house, I left Tony a voicemail message.

“If it is really only 45 minutes, I’ll be on time, ” I said, “But you know me…  I would bet on me being late.”

As I neared our rendez-vous point, Tony called to report he was just leaving his house.  He was quite a ways behind me.

“Knowing me, you should have known *I* would be late!” he joked.

I am slow at ascents and the Andy Layne Trail sports a number of doozies.  I wasn’t worried about Tony.  On my very first hike over 10 miles long, it was Tony who encouraged me to go on my own pace and reminded me “We aren’t here to kill ourselves, we’re here to have a good time.”  (To this day, whenever I pass a hiker who appears to be struggling on hills, I repeat what Tony said to me).

Anyway, Tony witnessing a slow Vicky did not bother me.  He’s done that for years.  It was the two guys I did not know, this Dave and this Bruce (Hey both Kids in the Hall names!) who concerned me.  I could just see all three men waiting for me at the top of a hill and one of them turn to Tony and say, “I thought you said this girl hiked all the time!”  Also remembering our recent War Spur hike, I didn’t want to give anyone reason to throw snowballs at me from switchbacks. 🙂

So I decided to get a head start.  My goal was to get past the two giant hills before the guys caught up.  I achieved my goal…and then some.  I made it past the giant hills, past the hollowed out tree, past the seven switchbacks, past Scorched Earth Gap and then to our final destination–the cliffs.  I waited at the cliffs for about an hour and still had no companions.  Luckily, I have all that self-portrait experience to rely on.

Me by me

Finally, I decided I should start my descent.  I left a quick voicemail on Tony’s cell phone, grabbed my pack and my dogs and suddenly Tony emerged out of the woods and our group was united.

This time, we did not get to see a jeep stuck in the mud, but I did get to see something pretty comparable.  As I approached that second giant hill, I passed two hikers.

“There’s a big hill coming up with a lot of mud on it,” one of the hikers told me, “You’re probably going to bite it– I did.”

The hiker’s clothes supported his story.  His entire backside was covered with mud.  And when I did inch my way up the “Mud Hill”, I could see distinct markings in the mud where the guy slipped and slid down the hill.

Everyone in our group managed to make it up without incident.  And a few hours later, we all managed to descend the hill cleanly as well.

Bruce and Tony celebrate making it down the mud hill

Near the top, the trees were still coated from a recent ice storm.  With the warm air and the afternoon sun, some of the ice was melting.  As a result, sections of the forest “rained” broken ice.  It made for some pretty scenery too.

Freshly broken ice on the ground

The sun shines through icy trees

We had a clear day and nice weather, so the visibility from the cliffs was perfect.  I would still take Tinker Cliffs over McAfee’s Knob any day.

Rocks and Ridges

The Cliffs

Evergreens in the Mix

More Links
Kevin Myatt’s Article on the Andy Layne Trail for the Roanoke Times
More pictures of my Tinker Cliff hike on Flickr

February 11, 2008 at 9:59 am 5 comments

A Couple of Couples Who Are Engaged

This week two couples I know got engaged!  June is a big month for weddings… apparently proposals too!  Congratulations to the following couples:

Emily and Cory
Cory is Sean’s brother, humorous and compassionate, and Emily is a purely beautiful person inside and out.  They are both very active and enjoy the outdoors.  Already they have an admirable repertoire of adventures– and their lives together are just beginning!  It is reported that Sean’s mother was so excited at the news that she hurt herself while celebrating!

Emily and Cory at Tinker Cliffs Last Fall

Louise and Stacy
Stacy has been a friend of mine since high school and Louise has been a steadfast friend of his for years.  And then they fell in love!  You only have to look at the captions on their respective Flickr sites to see the strong affection they have for each other.  It so apparent, in fact, that even a stranger (my friend Ann) marveled at how touching it is!  Stacy and Louise’s wedding website is at

Louise and Stacy Somewhere I Haven’t Been

I’m going to have to start thinking of some good wedding gifts.  I wonder if I can get away with four more pairs of SmartWool socks!  😉

June 14, 2007 at 8:44 pm 1 comment

Jimmie and Henry: Been There Done That

Yesterday, Stacy snapped this picture of Jimmie and Henry at the top of Tinker Cliffs.  They are drinking out of a puddle that collected in a crevace in the rock.  Emily and Cory’s legs are in the background, along with the view.

I remembered when I got home– that I have a picture of Jimmie and Henry drinking from a puddle on the same rock from May 2005.  It’s from a different angle– but it is the same rock:

Do dogs get deja vu?

September 4, 2006 at 3:13 pm 8 comments

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