Posts filed under ‘Falls Ridge’

Sagan Compare: Falls Ridge Nature Preserve

When Sagan was 14 weeks old, Ryan and I took him to the Nature Conservancy’s Falls Ridge Nature Preserve. Last week, I was able to take him, now 22-months old, on a return trip. That empowered me to snag a quick “Sagan Compare”. Enjoy!

Falls Ridge - Sagan Compare - 3 Months, 22 Months
Left – October 17, 2011 – Sagan is 3 months old, Mommy is 3 months post-partum (Photo by Ryan Somma)
Right – May 5, 2013 – Sagan is almost 22 months old, Mommy is 30 weeks pregnant (Photo by Merry Leigh)

May 17, 2013 at 1:00 am 2 comments

Spring Wildflowers at Falls Ridge Nature Preserve

My mother accompanied Sagan and I on a weekend to Blacksburg, Virginia. The weekend went by super fast, but on the way home, we were able to meet some of my friends for a quick hike at the Nature Conservancy’s Falls Ridge Nature Preserve. I’ve been there numerous times before, but this time was one of the most beautiful of trips. Not only did the falls look spectacular, but we were greeted with a rather large variety of blooming wildflowers.

Some snippets of the falls:

Falls Ridge 2013 - Small Mossy Falls (Close)
Mossy Waterfall

Falls Ridge 2013 - Sine Wave Falls
Curvy Falls

A snippet of the wildflowers:

Falls Ridge 2013 - Columbine and Ferns
Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) with Ferns

Falls Ridge 2013 - Single Columbine Flower
Closeup of Wild Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Mayapple Buds
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) Not Quite Blooming Yet

Falls Ridge 2013 - Trillium By New Stairs
Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Jack in the Pulpit
Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Purple Orchid Like Flower
Possible Showy Orchid (Orchis spectabilis)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Possible Star Chickweed?
Possible Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Buds and Leaves
Possible False Solomon’s Seal (Smilacina racemosa)

More photos of our Falls Ridge Wildflower Hike can be found on my Flickr site.

Falls Ridge Preserve

Length: You can make it as long or as short as you want

Elevation Gain: Flat, except for a hill to the top of the falls.

Driving and Parking: The final approach to the preserve is a flat gravel road.  There is plenty of parking.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA
From Main Street, turn on Ellett Road.
Turn left on Jennelle Road and cross over railroad tracks
Turn right on Den Hill Road
Turn left on Northfork
Turn right on Falls Ridge Rd.
Turn left immediately after the railroad tracks and follow the gravel road to the preserve.

May 16, 2013 at 1:00 am 4 comments

Pawpaw Alert – Falls Ridge

Blacksburg, Virginia Pawpaw Enthusiasts – When we were at Falls Ridge with Sagan, we saw some pawpaws by the creek above the falls. If you yearn to see a pawpaw fruiting in the wild, that may be a spot worth your attention next fall.

Please note- you’ll want to research The Nature Conservancy’s rules regarding eating them.

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Pawpaw Leaves and Trunks
Pawpaw Trees

This pawpaw sighting has been added to iNaturalist.org

October 21, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Falls Ridge Preserve with Sagan, 14 Weeks

This week, Ryan and I had a business meeting in beautiful, gorgeous, splendidly stunning Southwest Virginia. Our boss could not have scheduled a better time! We were visiting right in the midst of the changing autumn leaves.

Blacksburg - Fall Colors in Ellett Valley
The View From Where We Were Staying

Although the primary purpose of the trip was business, we had to sneak in a hike with Sagan as well. One afternoon when Sagan was awake, we drove over to the Nature Conservancy’s Falls Ridge Preserve.

When I lived in Blacksburg, I used to take my friend’s son, Penn, out hiking. Over the years, I managed to get a picture of my young hiking buddy in the same spot at Falls Ridge at two years old, five years old and nine years old.

Falls Ridge: Two Year Old Penn at Falls
Falls Ridge: Five Year Old Penn at Falls
Falls Ridge - Penn at Age 8
Penn at Falls Ridge Through the Years

This week, the tradition started again. Ryan and I got a picture of Sagan at the same spot. He needed a little help posing.

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Sagan Stands on the Falls Ridge Stump 1

Some other shots I’m fond of:

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Sagan and Ryan At Falls 1
Ryan and Sagan at Falls

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Vicky Smiles as Sagan Stands on Stump (Close)
Helping Sagan Pose

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Changing Maple Leaves
Changing Maple Leaves

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Vicky and Sagan on Trail
Sagan and I on the Trail

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Creek
Creek Below the Falls

Sagan was awake for most of our hike which was exciting. Of course in the end, he did what he usually does during outings with the Moby Wrap… he fell asleep. : )

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Vicky and Sleeping Sagan
Sleeping Sagan

October 20, 2011 at 1:00 am 4 comments

“Penn Compare”: Falls Ridge

One of my favorite hiking buddies is my friend’s son, Penn. He has been accompanying me on outings for six years now! Penn and his family now live about 11 hours from me, but we got to have a little hiking reunion this past weekend.

We chose to hike to the Nature Conservancy’s Falls Ridge Preserve near Blacksburg, Virginia. Penn had been there twice before. In fact, I had pictures documenting his previous visits. So it is with great pleasure I get share young Penn in front of the same waterfall on three seperate occassions— Age 2, Age 5 and now Age 8.


Two year old Penn at Falls – June 2004


Five year old Penn at Falls – May 2007

Falls Ridge - Penn at Age 8
Eight year old Penn at Falls – June 2010

The falls look pretty much the same, but Penn has definitely grown!

Falls Ridge Preserve

Length: You can make it as long or as short as you want

Elevation Gain: Flat, except for a hill to the top of the falls.

Driving and Parking: The final approach to the preserve is a flat gravel road. There is plenty of parking.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA
From Main Street, turn on Ellett Road.
Turn left on Jennelle Road and cross over railroad tracks
Turn right on Den Hill Road
Turn left on Northfork
Turn right on Falls Ridge Rd.
Turn left immediately after the railroad tracks and follow the gravel road to the preserve.

June 29, 2010 at 10:41 am 2 comments

Frozen Waterfall Season!

Greetings from Blacksburg, Virginia! I have meetings in town in the coming week and Ryan came up with me over the weekend to help me empty out a storage unit. When I checked the weather forecast, I got very excited to see the highs have been in the 20’s for some time.

Do you know what that means?!?!?

Frozen Waterfalls!

“Operation U-haul” finished much earlier than expected today. That left Ryan and I with just enough daylight to check out the waterfall at the Falls Ridge Nature Preserve. Enjoy!

Falls Ridge - Top of Falls
Waterfall at Falls Ridge

Falls Ridge - Vicky and Frozen Falls
Me at Falls

Falls Ridge - Ryan and Falls
Ryan with Ice

More pictures of our trip to Falls Ridge can be found on my Flickr site.

Falls Ridge Preserve

Length: You can make it as long or as short as you want

Elevation Gain: Flat, except for a hill to the top of the falls.

Driving and Parking: The final approach to the preserve is a flat gravel road. There is plenty of parking.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA

From Main Street, turn on Ellett Road.
Turn left on Jennelle Road and cross over railroad tracks
Turn right on Den Hill Road
Turn left on Northfork
Turn right on Falls Ridge Rd.
Turn left immediately after the railroad tracks and follow the gravel road to the preserve.

January 9, 2010 at 10:29 pm 4 comments

Frozen Falls Ridge

Greetings from Blacksburg, Virginia where I’ll be most of this coming week. I am here for business, but as soon as I heard about the trip I started to covet frozen waterfalls. It just so happens my drive into town took me right by the Nature Conservancy‘s Falls Ridge Nature Preserve. There was still a little bit of daylight, so I stopped by and see how the falls looked. They were indeed frozen!

If you have never seen a frozen waterfall in real life before, definitely put it on your life’s “To Do”  list.

Falls Ridge - Falls and Frozen Stream

Falls Ridge - Columns of Ice

Falls Ridge - Cylinder of Ice

Falls Ridge - Tree Grows in Ice

Falls Ridge - Shelves

More pictures of Frozen Falls Ridge can be found on my Flickr site.

Additional Posts from this Blog on Falls Ridge

January 26, 2009 at 8:00 am 4 comments

Take a Child Outside Week – Falls Ridge

Today is September 30th, making it my last chance to take an actual child (Larry doesn’t count) outdoors to celebrate Take a Child Outside Week. So this afternoon, my friend Mandy and I took her two children over to the Nature Conservancy‘s Falls Ridge Preserve for a quick hike.

As I mentioned before, Falls Ridge is a little off the beaten path, making its beauty all the more special. Our quick trip today didn’t disappoint! In just about an hour, the children got to see trees just starting to turn, a deer hop across the field, a waterfall, a creek, an old furnace, some caves, a weimaraner, and a surprisingly celebrated snail.


Gwen and Xavier walk in a field


The leaves are a-turning!


Gwen and Xavier on the bridge above the falls


Xavier holds up a snail

Once we left the preserve, the great views were not over. A brief rain provided us a very lovely rainbow over beautiful Ellett Valley!


Rainbow over the Blacksburg Country Club

We had a great trip and I very much enjoyed catching up with my friend Mandy at the same time! More pictures of our outing to Falls Ridge can be found on my Flickr site.

September 30, 2008 at 10:33 pm 9 comments

Off the Beaten Paths: Hikes for T.A.C.O. Week

Christina recently challenged her blog readers to come up with a list of sites in their town that are off the beaten path.  Meanwhile, September 24th – September 30th is Take a Child Outside Week (HT Ryan Somma).  Being in beautiful southwest Virginia, there is no shortage of great places outside to take a child.  The Huckleberry Trail, the Caboose Park, Pandapas Pond and the Virginia Tech Duck Pond are all very popular.  BUT– I can also recommend some outings that are a little less crowded, a little closer to nature, and still child friendly.

So here are Five Off the Beaten Path Places to Take a Child Outside.  To help illustrate the outings, there are pictures of one of my favorite hiking partners, little Penn.

Falls Ridge Preserve
In 2005 when the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club took a group hike over to Falls Ridge Preserve, some of members never even knew the preserve existed.  This is particularly surprising because this hike has a lot to offer.  There is a giant grassy field to run around in.  There is a waterfall!  There are the remains of an old furnace!  There are CAVES!  And…. you can see it all with almost no elevation gain (There is a hill to go up to the top of the falls, but you don’t have to do that if you don’t wanna).


Penn at Falls Ridge, 2 years of age

Falls Ridge Preserve

Length: You can make it as long or as short as you want

Elevation Gain: Flat, except for a hill to the top of the falls.

Driving and Parking: The final approach to the preserve is a flat gravel road.  There is plenty of parking.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA
From Main Street, turn on Ellett Road.
Turn left on Jennelle Road and cross over railroad tracks
Turn right on Den Hill Road
Turn left on Northfork
Turn right on Falls Ridge Rd.
Turn left immediately after the railroad tracks and follow the gravel road to the preserve.

Barney’s Wall
As for off the beaten path, a hiker from Blue Ridge Country described Barney’s Wall as “the region’s best-kept-secret stunning views“.  It is indeed stunning and very often secluded.  And here’s the kicker– it is a very easy hike! 


Penn at Barney’s Wall, 4 years of age

For an added treat, I suggest packing in milk and cookies

P.S. If you are your child are still thirsting for more scenery, keep driving down VA-714 to the Butt Mountain Overlook and the old fire tower.

Barney’s Wall

Length: ~1.5 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: Small downhill there, small uphill back.

Parent Stress Level: I did find this hike the most stressful of all my outings with Penn because of the sharp dropoff at the overlook.  Keep children under close supervision.

Driving and Parking: To get to the trailhead, you do have to travel on gravel/dirt VA-714.  The road’s maintenance level does vary.  I would recommend 4WD.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA
Take 460 West
Turn right on Doe Creek Road
Turn left on Paces Gap Road/Little Meadow which will become gravel
Travel roughly 5.5 miles and look for “Nature Conservancy Trail” on the left.

Keffer Oak
Keffer Oak is one of the largest blazed trees on the 2175 mile Appalachian Trail and it isn’t that far from Blacksburg.  You know the tree is impressive when it makes it in a book called Remarkable Trees of Virginia.  Estimated at over 300 years old, the Keffer Oak is 18 feet in circumference.  To a small child, it seems even bigger!  From the VA-630 trailhead, it is only 0.6 miles to tree.  There is a hill, but an easy one.  If the tree is not enough, next to the tree is a stile, which Penn loved to climb.  It was like a mini jungle gym in the middle of the woods!


Penn at Keffer Oak, 4 years of age

On the drive to the tree, be sure to take a detour on VA-601 to see the historic covered bridge!

Appalachian Trail – Keffer Oak

Length: 1.2 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: There is a brief hill near the beginning of the trail, but nothing too scary.

Driving and Parking: The roads are all paved and there is a small gravel parking lot at the VA-630 trailhead.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA
Take 460 West
Turn right on VA-42
Bear right to stay on VA-42
Turn right on VA-629
Turn right on VA-630
The trailhead will be on your left shortly after passing over a bridge

Wind Rocks
Wind Rocks is another contender for your child’s first Appalachian Trail hike!  From the parking lot, there is not even a half mile walk to the overlook.  Of course you have to drive to the trailhead, but along the way, you can stop at Mountain Lake to explore the dry lake bed or marvel at the life size chess and checkers set.  Your child will also get exposed to Civil War history, when you pass by “Mini-Ball Hill” where soldiers, weary from climbing the steep mountains, abandoned their ammunition to lighten their load.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tgaw/2440238745/
Penn and Uncle Ted at Wind Rocks, 1 Year of age

Appalachian Trail – Wind Rocks

Length: ~1 mile round trip

Elevation Gain: There is a uphill there, but not too bad.

Driving and Parking: The trailhead is off of gravel VA-613.  For the most part the road is flat and well maintained.  There are some sections with some water damage.  However, 4WD may not be a requirement.  I once saw a Mini Cooper make the trip!

Directions from Blacksburg, VA
Take 460 West
Turn right on VA-700 and drive 7 miles to Mountain Lake
Once at the resort, turn left on VA-613.
Pass by the turn off the to Biological Station
Pass by the trailhead for the War Spur Trail
Pass the Mini-Ball Hill sign on your left.
The AT Trailhead will eventually be on your right and a large dirt parking area will be on the left.

Gatewood Lake
In this area, you hear a lot about Smith Mountain Lake and you hear a lot about Claytor Lake.  But have you ever heard of Gatewood Lake in Pulaski?  Unlike the other two lakes, Gatewood Lake does not permit gas motors.  The result?  A very peaceful and quiet lake experience where you can really concentrate on nature.  There are number of easy hiking trails that run along the lake and if you yearn to be even closer to the water, they rent kid-friendly paddle boats! 


Penn at Gatewood Lake, 5 years of age.

Gatewood Resevoir

Length: Can be as long or as short as you like.

Elevation Gain:  Flat!

Driving and Parking: All roads and lots are paved

Directions from Blacksburg, VA
Take 460 East to I-81 South
Get off Exit 94
Take VA-99 into downtown Pulaski
Follow signs to “Gatewood Resevoir”

September 29, 2008 at 1:20 am 5 comments

Shortest Hike Ever

So it turns out getting a divorce could easily be a full time job. Putting a house on the market could be a full time job as well. Add that to a real full time job and you are one busy bee (or should I say yellow jacket?).

With all those items on my plate, hiking has been pretty far down on my list of things to do. So it’s been some time since I’ve been out and about. A couple of weekends ago, after an exhausting week and weekend of working on the house, I loaded up the dogs for a run to the dump. They were both so excited to be in the car and I had a somber thought. I used to take my dogs hiking. Now they get to go to the dump.

Honestly, I don’t think the dogs minded all that much. They were just happy for an adventure and the dump does have its fair share of smells. Still, when I descended Harding Road and saw those beautiful, beautiful green mountains, I decided action must be taken!

After I hurled old furniture and a disgusting, outdoor carpet out of my life, I took the dogs to nearby Falls Ridge. I still have to be careful of Henry’s leg, but the beginning of the Falls Ridge trail is a completely flat field. So I figured we would mosey across the field and back, all along monitoring Henry’s leg.

That was the plan.

But it wasn’t Henry who was our limitation. It was me! I got out of the car, walked no more than 50 paces and suddenly laying down sounded awfully good. So I did. I laid on the grass and rested while the dogs sniffed things and enjoyed the fresh air. And then I got up, returned to my car…and went back to work.

It was my shortest hike ever, if you can even apply to word “hike” to this context. But even those few moments were refreshing. And guess what! You can still take pictures when you are laying down. 🙂


Henry, my foot and the XTerra. That’s how far I made it from my car!


I didn’t even make it across this flat field!


It is not often that I photograph Henry from below

August 14, 2008 at 12:08 am 5 comments

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