Posts filed under ‘Butt Mountain’

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

Barney’s Wall

After talking about it for a few months, today Mike E and I managed to finally get over to Barney’s Wall. We were accompanied by Sean and the dogs. Barney’s Wall is a big steep rock face. One hiker describes it as one of the “the region’s best-kept-secret stunning views.”

Although you can get to Barney’s Wall from the Cascades, it was my first choice to not go that route. The Cascades is always crowded (even in winter there are plenty of visitors). On a beautiful day like today, the Cascades Trail was about as appealing to me as a Saturday visit to Walmart.

Luckily, there is another route. You can get on the Nature Conservancy Trail from the dirt road that takes you to Butt Mountain Overlook (otherwise known as VA-714). The only problem– we didn’t quite know where the trailhead was. Information on the internet was frustratingly hard to come by and the only map we stumbled upon failed to inspire confidence– it incorrectly labeled VA-714 as VA-71! I had hiked a section of the Nature Conservacy Trail in 2003, but to get on it I, uh, sort of cut across private property. That wasn’t going to fly today. So many times, I’ve passed by trailheads that were obscured by neglect and vegetation. So when we all loaded into the XTerra in Blacksburg, I wasn’t entirely convinced we would find the trail.

Turned out to not be a problem. The trail is beaten enough to be easily visible from the road and a “Nature Conservancy Trail” sign eliminates any ambiguity. There are small pull-offs nearby for vehicles and oh, there is an orange rock (some local campers gave us that particular landmark).

This is obviously a trail– beaten path AND a sign.

Orange rock near the trail

Driving on VA-714 is no picnic and you definitely should take a 4WD vehicle. But the hike itself is quite simple– a quick (~15-20 minutes), gentle decline to the view.

Jimmie at Barney’s Wall

The view took a backseat to something more interesting, though. There were some rappellers out taking advantage of the sheer drop. It looked scary and at the same time, extremely intriquing. Now I want to learn!

Getting ready


As usual, more pictures of our Barney’s Wall hike can be found on my Flickr site. If you are interested in taking the VA-714 route, Mike found some detailed directions (including coordinates) a good four hours after we got home.

September 3, 2007 at 11:07 pm 3 comments

Fireworks from Butt Mountain

Our venture on Wednesday was a great success! I knew we (Barrett, Tony, Paul and I) were in for treat when we got to the overlook and saw other people there. To get to Butt Mountain Overlook, you have to take a dirt road (VA-714) a number of bumpy, dusty miles. To see other people pursue the view despite the drive was a very good sign. One woman said she counted 27 spectators!

From the overlook we were able to see numerous celebrations:

  • Pearisburg, Virginia
  • Narrows, Virginia
  • Pembroke, Virginia
  • Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Princeton, West Virginia

Now, if you like being in the thick of it– you like the big bangs and the thrill of the explosions right in front of you, then Butt Mountain is not quite the place for you. The fireworks are off in a distance and the sounds are distant pops.

That said, I found a new thrill of seeing the sizes of the celebrations. On one hand, the enormity of it all is impressive. Everywhere you looked, you could see fireworks going off. Some of them, we couldn’t attribute to a specific town– a lone firework emerged out of total darkness. From our vantage point, you got a real sense of how all across the land people were celebrating.

Then on the other hand, the smallness of the fireworks prompted awe. Pearisburg was especially was interesting. Backdropped by looming Pearis Mountain, you can see just how low the fireworks are when they actually go off. With that, you got to see just how great this land is and how tiny we, and our fireworks, really are.

We did get a taste of both worlds. One of the other spectators brought their own mortars and let them off at the top of Butt Mountain. So much to Henry’s dismay, we got a brief nearby show along with the distant ones.

When all the showings had ended, everyone got in their respective four-wheel drive vehicles to return home. Lo and behold we had a traffic jam… on a remote, dirt road. I guess that goes to show that after any great fireworks display, you’re bound to see brakelights. 🙂

My pictures from this adventure pretty much suck. I had the exact opposite of a tripod — two leashed, restless dogs. There was absolutely no hope of keeping the camera still. But, for what it’s worth, I’ll share a few.

Crowd of strangers wait. The old lookout tower is in the background.

Crowd of strangers on the overlook, look towards Pembroke

Pembroke at night… when one does not hold the camera steady

The inevitable post-fireworks traffic

More Fourth of July pictures can be found on my Flickr site.

July 8, 2007 at 6:18 pm 3 comments

ISO: Fireworks From a Hike

I realized this week that I’m going to be in town on the 4th of July!  I’m on a mission– This year I would like to camp and watch fireworks from an overlook.  Last night I came up with some possible contenders. 

Please note these are all speculations at the moment.  I can not confirm fireworks can be seen from these spots:

Kelly’s Knob (Appalachian Trail)
From Kelly’s Knob you can see Blacksburg and Virginia Tech…. so it makes sense you would be able to see fireworks above Blacksburg.  The area has plenty of room for camping and some existing fire rings. 

McAfee’s Knob (Appalachian Trail)
From McAfee’s Knob you can see Roanoke Airport as well as plenty of valleys.  With its 270 degree view and its vicinity to Roanoke, it seems like a good candidate to see fireworks somewhere.

Angel’s Rest (Appalachian Trail)
This one I think is iffy.  You can see quaint Pearisburg and Narrows from the overlook– but a portion of Pearisburg is not in sight.  I couldn’t find any information on Pearisburg’s celebration plans.  Not knowing where the fireworks are being launched from (I highly doubt it is from the supermarket directly ahead of the knob), it’s a bit of a risk.

This morning I consulted my original hiking buddy and New River Valley sherpa, Tony Airaghi.  Turns out he was already working on similiar plans.  He brought a new candidate to the table, which is our tentative winner:

Butt Mountain Overlook
Butt Mountain is not off of the Appalachian Trail, but it does provide expansive views of Pearisburg, Narrows, Pembroke and Newport.  Tony believes we may even be able to see Blacksburg fireworks from that spot as well.  If all goes right, we’ll be able to watch multiple communities celebrate in one sitting.  And the thing that really gave Butt Mountain the edge– you can drive pretty darn close to the overlook with 4WD.  This is a plus as Tony sprained his ankle this past week.

Welp, I’ll be sure to report back next week.  In the meantime, if you have any other candidates or any details on these locales– let me know!

July 4, 2007 Edit:
The Roanoke Times introduced another contender in their July Fourth celebrations article– Sharp Top to watch the Peaks of Otter display:

Fourth of July at Peaks of Otter

National Park Service rangers lead the annual walk up to Sharp Top to view the fireworks. Bring sturdy shoes and a flashlight for the 6-mile round-trip hike. 7 p.m. Wednesday. Nature Center, Peaks of Otter. 586-4496.

July 1, 2007 at 1:13 am 2 comments

Something the Thru-Hikers Miss

Each year over a thousand hikers embark on hiking the whole Appalachian Trail. I think there is roughly a 20-25% completion rate. These hikers, even the ones who don’t manage to finish, gather up memories of the trail that I, as a mere day-hiker, can only imagine. I certainly enjoy my showers and hot meals, but I do envy the unique experiences those hikers must have. Parting with all the daily obligations of their lives, all the views they see as they travel through fourteen states, the comradery they have with other hikers and finally, the fulfillment they must feel 2000 miles later when they have completed their challenge.

Yesterday, Bill and I made a trip down to the Butt Mountain Overlook. It was a quick trip– We headed that way, admired the view, took some pictures, watch Jimmie take three dumps and two hours later we were back home. Last night when I was looking at one of my pictures of the view, I recalled I had a similiar shot from a July trip with Mike E. It was neat to flip back and forth and look at the difference.

Then I was reminded… The thru-hikers who pass through this area each year certainly have a wealth of experiences that I do not have, but there is one thing I have one thing that they don’t. I get to see this area year-round. I get to see the same spots through different seasons and different weather conditions. I get to see the blooming rhododendrons in June and I get to see them all curled up in the winter, adding a green contrast to the white snow. I know that Angel’s Rest is best in the fall, the Cascades are the prettiest in the winter* and Wind Rocks is so very haunting in the fog. In the early spring and winter I get to see extra views before the leaves are on the trees that you would never notice in the warmer months (for example you can see only Mountain Lake from Bald Knob when there are no leaves) when the thru hikers are passing through. And then when the leaves are there in the summer, I get to marvel at the beauty of all the green along with all the other hikers.

I’d say the score is still about 1279 to 2 (I’m also counting “Sitting in Larry’s Hot Tub Afterwards” as a point for me). But for what it is worth, here are some samples from my hiking photos of similiar shots in different seasons (Note: Not all are Appalachian Trail hikes). Enjoy!

Butt Mountain



Bald Knob

Spring – You can see Mountain Lake in the upper right

Summer – No Lake Visible

Falls Ridge


Late Fall

McAfee’s Knob




Strong Winter

Mild Winter


Carvin’s Cove



Pearis Mountain (Past Angel’s Rest)

Spring (this was my 30th birthday hike!)


*The Thru-Hikers would certainly struggle to know Cascades is prettiest in winter seeing as how it isn’t on the AT.

January 29, 2007 at 1:26 am 13 comments

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