Posts filed under ‘Bull Run Occoquan Trail’

Favorite Tree of 2011, Punctuation Category

On Christmas Day I met a retired park ranger and had a most delightful conversation with him.  I knew we were going to get along when I asked him what his favorite type of tree was and he broke his answer down in categories (Flowering tree, general use tree, shade tree, etc).

He’s a wise man.  I would have a similar issue trying to narrow down my favorite type of tree.  I would even be challenged to pick my single favorite tree of 2011.  But if I were to be asked, “What’s your favorite single tree in 2011 that resembled a punctuation mark?” well, then, that’s a question I could provide a definitive answer to!

Ryan, Sagan and I ran across this “Exclamation Point Tree” (or if you would prefer, “Bang Tree”) on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail between Bull Run Regional Park and Hemlock Overlook.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Exclamation Point Tree
Bang Tree

So there you go! My Favorite Tree of 2011, Punctuation Category.

January 1, 2012 at 11:28 pm Leave a comment

Some Things That Did Not Get Blogged About in 2011

Well, goodbye 2011! I’ve seen a number of blogs highlight their favorite posts of the year. I’m going to highlight some of the forgotten posts– the ones I never got around to writing. 🙂

Billy Goat Trail – A Return Trip

Billy Goat Trail - Greg, Ryan and Ryan Climb Rock Wall

My Birthday Hike this year was on Maryland’s Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River. Ryan and I thought it would be fun to do a group hike on that trail. As luck would have it, my friend Greg Z organized a group hike that following month. The weather was sketchy at first and we did have to wait out a storm under a bridge, but after that we had the trail almost all to ourselves.
Billy Goat Trail - Purple and Blue Wildflowers

My favorite part– my friend Greg Z told me when some of the people in the group were struggling on the rocks, he watched me get further and further ahead. Apparently he pointed and said, “THAT’s the one that’s pregnant.”

We walked the trail the opposite direction Ryan and I took in March. It was nice to see the trail from a different perspective. Also since it was a month later, we got to see wildflowers bloom!

A Most Pleasant Day

Mother’s Day Weekend, Ryan and I went down to visit our old neighborhood in Elizabeth City. We shared honeysuckle in our yard with some of the neighborhood kids. When Ryan went to shake Khalif’s hand, Khalif would have none of it.

“Nah, man.” Khalif said, “We hug.” And so they did. I believe that was our first neighborhood kid hug.

I was six months pregnant at the time and some of the kids marveled at how fat I was.

“It’s only temporary,” Ryan chimed in. Then when the subject came up again, “The pounds are going to just melt off.” Although he directed his statements to the kids, I know who his real target audience was! He was making sure his wife kept her self esteem in tact. : )

We went by Earth 383 for Free Comic Book Day. A number of the neighborhood kids joined us and Ryan organized a large game of RoboRally.

Elizabeth City May 2011 Visit - Moving RoboRally Pieces

One family wasn’t present, so the dogs and I walked over to their new home. When I was still a block away, the youngest kids spotted us and started shouting out my name. They ran inside and their older siblings emerged. The 17-year old son who always seemed somewhat indifferent, came running out with the biggest smile and hugged me in the middle of the street. I spent the remainder of our time in Elizabeth City visiting with that family.

Elizabeth City May 2011 Visit - Vicky and Vick (By Ryan Somma)

The next stop was Ryan’s parent’s house in Virginia Beach. When we returned home, I went swimming in the lake behind their house with my sister-in-law and her fiance. The water was the perfect temperature and it was so pleasant and relaxing to be swimming by manicured back yards along side of ducks and seagulls.

We finished our day with a big family dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant. There, I got my very first Mother’s Day card… that Ryan had secretly gotten his relatives to sign. It was a great day from start to finish.

My Relatives Kick Ass…Literally

New York Shaolin Test Day - Rachelle with Broad Sword
In May, Ryan and I got to visit the New York Botanical Gardens and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. That was just an added bonus though. We were really in New York to watch my sister-in-law test for her black belt in Shao-Lin. All the forms she and her classmates had to remember and execute was simply awe-inspiring. That afternoon also brought me the worst heartburn of my entire pregnancy courtesy of a “Magic Bar” I bought as a concession. I still made it through the entire gestation period Tums-Free.


Seattle Bug Safari

Seattle Bug Safari - Goliath Bird Eater Tarantula 4 (By Ryan Somma)
In May, Ryan and I visited Seattle. Our outings were blogged about except the Seattle Bug Safari. We very much enjoyed our visit there. The employee working that day was extremely friendly and informative. You could also see that they take their Yelp reviews seriously. One of the reviews indicated that people were getting confused and thinking the Gift Shop was the extent of the business. When we arrived, there were signs making it clear the Bug Zoo was in the back.

Annual Black Friday Cookie Decorating

Cookie Decorating - Sagan Decorating with Daddy
My family held our annual Black Friday Cookie Decorating again this year. Although we were late on the invites, it was heavily attended. When all the sugar cookies got decorated, some enterprising young girls started to decorate the other variety of cookies. Sagan also decorated his first cookie (with Daddy’s help).


Bull Run Occoquan Trail – Bull Run Regional Park to Hemlock Overlook

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Henry, Sagan, Vicky (By Ryan Somma)
In December, Ryan started playing Skyrim. The scenery in that game is amazing and Ryan found all the walking in the game made him want to get out and do a real hike. So on December 3rd, our family took on a one way trip along the Bull Run Occoquan Trail. We traveled 7.5 miles from Bull Run Regional Park to Hemlock Overlook. This section may not have been as scenic as Skyrim, but it was still gorgeous in its own right. You walk along the water, get to see some rapids, pass by a memorial pet rock pile and see some neat trees along the way. This outing was Sagan’s longest hike to date (post birth).

January 1, 2012 at 11:02 am 2 comments

Hungry Tree – Hemlock Overlook

One of the parks the Bull Run Occoquan Trail passes through is Hemlock Overlook Regional Park which happens to be home to “Adventure Links“, an outdoor adventure program. While in the park, you’ll encounter rope courses and other neat obstacles affiliated with the program.  Adventure Links infrastructure isn’t the only interesting sight, however. Hemlock Overlook is also home to a Hungry Tree.  : )

Hemlock Overlook - Hungry Tree
Tree at Hemlock Overlook Eating a Fence

December 6, 2011 at 1:18 am 2 comments

Geekhiker Sighting – Occoquan, Virginia

To those of you who read my comment feed, the username Geekhiker might look familiar.  He first commented on this blog in May of 2007 (on “Cell Phone…As Versatile As Duct Tape?“) and over the last four years has managed to be the top commenter.  He drew the attention of other commenters.  Ryan was impressed by how consistently Geekhiker could churn out a humourous comment.  And, the very first time I saw my mother use the @username convention, was in a response to Geekhiker (on 200,000 Views). 

Mom's First @ Comment
My Mother’s First @Username Comment…Sigh, They Grow Up So Fast!

Well you may also have noticed a rapid decline in Geekhiker’s comments this summer.  The day Sagan was born, Geekhiker also experienced a life change.  This summer he embarked on an epic road trip! He’s been traveling around North America, visiting National Parks, hiking, camping and meeting some bloggers along the way.  A few weeks ago, he just happened to be passing through Virginia, so we put him up a few nights!  I had absolutely no idea what he looked like– I didn’t even know his real name! He, on the other hand, was a little more armed with knowledge. He instantly recognized Jimmie and Henry upon arrival! 

If this happened a few years ago, I most certainly would have opted to take him to the Appalachian Trail.  But time is tight nowadays and the mountains (or “hills” as Geekhiker likes to call them) are farther away than I would like.  So Geekhiker got to watch “diapie changes” instead.  🙂  Luckily, he is a very laid back houseguest and happy to go with the flow. Along the way, he got to go to Dixie Bones, the Garden Kitchen, Ledo Pizza and…. Taco Bell.  He also got to watch me make broccoli salad for my birth class reunion.  It was riveting.

We did get an opportunity to hike together though!  It was a short hike– between 3-4 miles at the nearby Bull Run Occoquan Trail.  Henry and my Mom’s dog, Willy, were in attendance as was Ryan and little Sagan (his third post-birth hike). The section of trail we did may not have showcased Virginia as much as I would have liked, but we had great conversation and lots of fresh air.

Plus Ryan and I ended up with a great souvenir! I’m usually the one taking pictures, so there are very few shots of Sagan and I together, let alone shots of Ryan, Sagan and I together. Those of you who read Geekhiker’s blog will know that he is a talented photographer. So we ended the day with some top notch photos of our little family!

And for all you Geekhiker fans out there wondering what he looks like… I snagged a picture of my own! 

Sagan - November 21 - With American Chestnut Shirt
Geekhiker holds Sagan!

I think the thing that surprised me the most about Geekhiker in real life is his quick wit. I knew he had a smart humor from his comments and posts, but I somewhat expected he had to brainstorm and revise to get the final product. In other words, I thought he had to work for it. But as we shared meals in real life and he rattled off line after line, I realized– it all comes naturally to him!

As his journey winds down, I look forward to seeing how that quick wit of his describes all his adventures.

December 5, 2011 at 1:00 am 5 comments

Take a Child Outside Week – Pawpaw Hunting and Sagan’s First Hike

Saturday was the first day of Take a Child Outside Week!  It was also National Public Lands Day.  And in case we needed another reason to get out, late September – October is also pawpaw fruiting season. 

George Washington was quite a fan of Asimina triloba, North America’s largest indigenous fruit. He declared “chilled pawpaw” to be his favorite dessert. Although I rather enjoy the taste, I wouldn’t quite go that far. It would be hard to top crème brûlée!

Ryan and I have been growing some pawpaw seedlings for a couple of years now.  It’ll be a while before those trees fruit, so we thought we would see if we could locate some more established trees near our new home.  During National Walk in the Woods Day I took a shot of a small pawpaw tree near a creek at Fountainhead Regional Park.  Figuring where there is a small tree, they may be bigger ones, we decided to retrace our steps and see what we can find.

We brought little Sagan along, fulfilling the requirement of taking a child outside.  This journey would be Sagan’s very first hike!  He pretty much slept through the entire thing.  🙂

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Sagan and Trail
Sagan’s First Hike (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Had Sagan been awake (and had fully developed vision), he would have seen a squirrel, a daddy long-legs, a crayfish nest and a heron flying overhead.

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Crayfish Nest
Crayfish Burrow

Flora – Pawpaws
It didn’t take us long to get to the creek. We saw plenty of small trees without fruit. It didn’t look too promising until a small grove near the creek shoreline caught my eye. Upon closer examination, we found fruit laying on the ground!

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Vicky and Sagan with Pawpaw Fruit
Vicky and Sagan with Discovered Fruit (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Then we looked up and saw examples of pawpaw fruit still in the trees.

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Pawpaw in Tree
Pawpaw Fruit

The non-bug infested fruit wasn’t quite ripe yet, but we still got the thrill of the hunt. It was also nice to establish that the favorite dessert of our nation’s first President was still alive in well in Northern Virginia!

Flora – Fungi
Between Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and various other storms, this area has had more than its fair share of rain. It may have had its miserable moments at the time, but on Saturday we sure profited from the extra moisture. The trail has what Ryan deemed a “mushroom explosion”. We had plenty of neat fungi to marvel at while we walked.

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Mushroom Explosion
Hillside with Scattered Mushrooms

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Coral-like Mushroom
A Coral-Like Mushroom

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Orange Mushrooms on Log
Bright Orange Mushrooms

Sagan’s first outing was definitely a brief one. I doubt we even traveled a mile round trip. But I find myself very satisfied with everything we saw in that short journey.

More pictures of our hike at Fountainhead Regional Park are on my Flickr site.

Additional Pawpaw Posts
2009 Pawpaw Hunt
My First Pawpaw Tasting

September 26, 2011 at 11:04 am 3 comments

Bull Run Occoquan Trail – Miles Four Through Six

The Last B.S. (Before Sagan) Hike

On Sunday July 10th, Ryan and I went out for another hike.  We decided to continue our progress on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail.  For National Walk in the Woods Day, we had started at Fountainhead Regional Park and did the first four miles of the trail.  This time we parked at the Bull Run Marina, hiked to where we left off last time and then returned back to the car.

Originally, a couple we know were going to join us on this hike.  The male was full of jokes about me being delivering on the trail.  “Should I bring water and towels?” he kept asking.  Ryan and I laughed at his silliness.

When Ryan and I finished the hike, I tweeted how “We only went 4.3 miles…but I think we get extra credit because it was so freaking hot out! :)”.  A friend replied that I should get also get extra credit because I was “super pregnant”.  I’m not super pregnant I thought.

Little did Ryan and I know, our son would be born just TWO days later.  I guess I was “super pregnant” afterall…and we were a lot closer to delivering on trail than either of us ever expected!

Miles 4 through 6 of the Bull Run Occoquan Trail is a beautiful section. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club has done a great job maintaining the trail which was particularly lovely skating the waterline.  I would rank this section more scenic than the first four miles we did in May.  

Although at the time, I didn’t classify myself as “super pregnant”, I did notice pregnancy more this trip on the downhills.  So that day pregnancy is like hiking in Vibrams— the downhills are more unpleasant than the uphills.  : )

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Bull Run Marina - Trail and Greenery
Part of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Maintained Trail

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Bull Run Marina - Return View From Trail
View From Trail

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Bull Run Marina - Ryan and Henry
Ryan and Henry on the Water

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Bull Run Marina - Ryan and Carved American Beech
Ryan and Carved American Beech (No Poop Message On This Tree)

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Bull Run Marina - Jimmie Still Likes to Wade
Fourteen Year Old Jimmie Still Likes to Wade

More pictures of our Bull Run Occoquan Trail Hike can be found on my Flickr site.

July 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm 1 comment

National Walk in the Woods Day and the Bull Run Occoquan Trail

One of the advantages of following The Year of Living Unofficially on Facebook is you can have a dialogue with Britt and Chris about upcoming unofficials. When I heard that May 21 was National Walk in the Woods Day, I suggested it and they decided to put it on their agenda!!!

Trail Selection
I researched local hikes and discovered the 18 mile Bull Run Occoquan Trail nearby. It came with rave reviews:

“Every once in a while you can get surprised by a trail. The Bull Run/Occoquan Trail falls into the category of being a BIG surprise. Right in the midst of the urban sprawl of Fairfax/Prince William Counties is a small piece of paradise. ”

“Hikers going from the Hemlock Overlook Regional Park to the Bull Run Marina may pinch themselves to make sure they haven’t been transported to a stream somewhere in West Virginia – it’s that kind of experience. ”

“It is a truly amazing resource in the heart of Northern Virginia ”

Originally we were planning on doing a 6.45 one way hike between Fountainhead Regional Park and the Bull Run Marina. Alas, I was running late with shuttling the vehicles, so we did a round trip from Fountainhead Regional Park. We went four miles up and then four miles back.

The Hikers!
The Year of Living Unofficially‘s Brittany had to attend a bridal shower that day, but Chris hiked along with us. My mother joined us and did a three mile outing with her two dogs Sunny and Willie. Ryan, of course, came and even though the dogs are getting up there in age, both 14 year old Jimmie and 11 year old Henry finished all eight miles.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Mom and Sunny
My Mom– Still Tried and True!

Section Overview
Our section was the first four miles of the trail. There were enough hills to get your heartrate up, but not too many to exhaust you. Much of the trail skirted creeks and offshots of the Occoquan River. It was pleasant and peaceful.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Still Waters
Water Off the Trail

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Scenery From Trail
View From Trail

We didn’t see any deer, but we did see deer tracks. As far as actual animals, we saw a toad, a millipede and we got to be introduced to two new species. We spotted a Scarlet Tanager (Sadly no pictures). The most interesting newcomer was a group of Ichneumon Wasps busy using their long tails to bore holes into a dead tree to deposit their eggs.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Deer Tracks in Mud
Deer Tracks in Mud

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Toad (Without Flash)

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Millipede

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Ichneumon Wasp Profile
Icheneumon Wasp

May 21st was a good day to hike this trail to see some flowers. We got to see blooming Azaleas, blooming Mountain Laurel and various wildflowers along the way.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Blooming Azaleas
Blooming Azalea

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Mountain Laurel
Blooming Mountain Laurel

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Yellow Wildflowers
Yellow Wildflowers

Although it’s not the Appalachian Trail, I’m thrilled to have such a wonderful trail so close by. The Year of Living Unofficially has a recap of this hike as well. Acknowledging that I am biased, I share my favorite line:

Vicky was an inspiration — she just entered her third trimester but with her energy and perseverance you would never know she was carrying around the extra weight of a baby in her belly.


More pictures of our Bull Run Occoquan Trail hike can by found on my Flickr site.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail – First Four Miles
Trail Map

Length: 8 Miles Round Trip

Elevation Gain: 400 – 700 feet?

Directions from Occoquan, Virginia

1) Take 123 North for about 5 miles to Hampton Road. (Look for the brown sign for “Fountainhead Regional Park.”)

2) Turn left on Hampton and go 3.2 miles to the park entrance on the left. (Look for another brown sign.)

July 7, 2011 at 1:00 am 4 comments

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