Posts filed under ‘Tony Airaghi’

Kelly’s Knob in the Snow

Greetings everyone! I hope you had a happy and healthy holiday season. The weekend before Christmas, Ryan Somma and I headed to my old stomping grounds in Blacksburg, Virginia for a five day visit. There I got one of the best early Christmas presents a girl could hope for– a reunion with the mountains! : )

On Sunday, December 19th, we got to hit the Appalachian Trail with the dogs and our friends Tony and Meredith. We went from the Rocky Gap/VA-601 trailhead up to Kelly’s Knob. It’s about a 3.8 mile round trip. It starts off steep with a roughly 500-600 foot ascent in the first half mile (Source: Elevation Map from weaselworks). Don’t let the beginning fool you though, once you make it up to the intersection of the John’s Creek Mountain Trail, it is all ridgeline and smooth sailing.

I’ve done Kelly’s Knob a number of times (see my other Kelly’s Knob posts), but this time was by far the snowiest. When we started our hike, there was a lone set of footprints already in the snow. Apparently that hiker was fooled by the steep beginning because surprisingly soon the footprints disappeared. That left us with fresh snow to hike in.

Kelly's Knob - Pristine Trail
Appalachian Trail En Route to Kelly’s Knob

The top was as gorgeous as usual. As I have written before, you can see the Virginia Tech campus from Kelly’s Knob. That particular day, we didn’t take advantage of it. None of us were courageous/foolish enough to climb out onto the snow-covered rocks. Luckily, what we could see from the security of the trail was quite striking.

Kelly's Knob - Blue Sky and Frosted Tree Tops
Frosted Tree Tops

Kelly's Knob - Snow Covered Rocks and View (Far)
Snow Covered Rocks at Kelly’s Knob

Kelly's Knob - Snow Covered Rocks and Ridges
Rocks and Ridges at Kelly’s Knob

Kelly's Knob - Tree Hole and Ridgeline
The Knotty Kelly’s Knob Tree and Ridges

I didn’t see any American chestnut trees as we hiked (there are a whole bunch of them south of Rocky Gap) but I did spy an American Chestnut leaf in the snow!

Kelly's Knob - Possible Chestnut Leaf in Snow
American Chestnut Leaf in the Snow

The most trecherous part of our journey (for the humans) was actually driving home. With intentions I’m certain were good, someone had attempted to plow the gravel VA-601. Unfortunately the efforts had produced a formidable sheet of ice. We had 1.5 miles back down to paved and cleared road. 1.5 miles of a steep icy road with particularly unnerving dropoffs in lieu of shoulders. Ryan, Meredith and I all agreed Tony would be the most qualified to get us off the mountain. He did not let us down! In 4WD low and in first gear, with occassional brake pumping and steering the vehicle onto exposed gravel or loose snow, he slowly but surely got us down.

My heater in my car was broken which proved to be advantageous to our trusted driver.

“It’s a good thing [the heat’s broken]” Tony pointed out. “Otherwise, I’d be sweating balls right now.” : )

Thanks to Tony’s patient driving, we all got to go home with untainted memories of another great adventure.

Kelly's Knob - Jimmie, Tony, Henry, Meredith, Vicky on Trail
Jimmie, Tony (The Hero!), Henry, Meredith and Vicky

Kelly's Knob - Henry, Jimmie and Ryan Descend
Ryan Descends with Henry and Jimmie

More pictures of our hike to Kelly’s Knob can be found on my Flickr site.

Rocky Gap to Kelly’s Knob
(Appalachian Trail from VA-601 to Kelly’s Knob and back)

Mileage: 3.8 miles round trip

Elevation Difference: Est. 800 feet

4WD Requirements: The last 1.5 miles of VA-601 is a gravel hill, but it is well maintained and I have seen non-4WD vehicles make it up in non-icy conditions.

Trailhead Parking: The VA-601 trailhead has a small parking area to the left. On busy days, cars park on the side of the gravel road.

Driving Directions:
(from Blacksburg, Virginia)
Take 460 West and turn right on VA-42.
Bear right to stay on VA-42
Shortly afterwards, turn left on VA-601
When VA-601 turns to gravel, you have about 1.5 miles to the top.
Once there, AT Southbound is to your left and AT Northbound is on your right.

Along the way, you’ll pass by Sinking Creek Bridge, a covered bridge built in 1916.

January 10, 2011 at 1:00 am 5 comments

Kayaking on the New

I love the act of rowing. I think it is the rhythm. It’s mediative to me. The other week, I worked on-site in Roanoke and I was ever so lucky to get to go kayaking one evening after work. I went with Tony Airaghi and we paddled along River Road in Eggleston, Virginia. There were some tiny tiny tiny rapids, but nothing to get flustered about. Just peace.

Kayaking in Eggleson - Tree Over New River
View Upstream

Kayaking in Eggleson - Tony on Lit Water
Tony in Kayak

Kayaking in Eggleson - New River at Dusk
New River at Dusk

Kayaking in Eggleson - Tony Paddles at Dusk
Tony Paddles at Dusk

Kayaking in Eggleson - Tony on River
Tony with Mountains

Kayaking in Eggleson - Vicky

More pictures of our Eggleston Kayaking Trip can be found on my Flickr site.

September 2, 2009 at 5:00 am 7 comments

Opening Your Eyes to Fungi

Earlier this year, I ran across a wonderful quote by Alexander Graham Bell:

We are all too much inclined to walk through life with our eyes shut. There are things all around us, and right at our very feet, that we have never seen; because we have never really looked.

Bell’s thoughts were particularly fitting a few weeks ago when Tony Airaghi and I hiked the 0.6 miles to the giant Keffer Oak. We brought along a copy of the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. With our eyes on the lookout, this section of trail– mind you a section I have done numerous times before– unveiled a whole other world. We found mushrooms all around us, sometimes right at our very feet.

Sinking Creek Mountain - Possible Chrome Footed Bolete
Possible Chrome Footed Bolete
Sinking Creek Mountain - Possible Chanterelle
Possible Chanterelle
Sinking Creek Mountain - Yellow Unicorn Entoloma
Possible Yellow Unicorn Entoloma
Sinking Creek Mountain - Some Kind of Cup Mushroom
Some Kind of Cup Mushroom
Sinking Creek Mountain - Walnut Mycena Mushroom
Possible Walnut Mycena Mushroom
Sinking Creek Mountain - Emetic Russula and Baby Pine 2
Possible Emetic Russula
Sinking Creek Mountain - Spindle Shaped Yellow Coral
Possible Spindle Shaped Yellow Coral
Sinking Creek Mountain - Tacky Green Russula From Side
Possible Tacky Green Russula

We found so many mushrooms, in fact, our journey to the Keffer Oak was incredibly slow. Every few steps, we spotted another specimen and began flipping through the field guide again.

Sinking Creek Mountain - Tony Looking up Mushrooms
Tony Looking Up More Mushrooms

It took us well over an hour to make it to the tree. Where, with our eyes calibrated for fungus, we discovered yet another mushroom– this one growing right on the giant oak. : )

Sinking Creek Mountain - Tony, Mushroom  Book and Mushroom on Keffer Oak
Tony with Mushroom Growing on Keffer Oak

Sinking Creek Mountain - Tony, Mushroom  Book and Mushroom on Keffer Oak (Cropped)
Mushroom on Keffer Oak

With all these new discoveries on a familiar section of trail, I have to applaud Alexander Graham Bell. When it came to fungus, I was all too inclined to walk this section with my eyes shut.

More pictures of our mushroom discoveries and the hike to Keffer Oak can be found on my Flickr site.

P.S. Do not eat anything based on my photo captions. We are beginners and have very little confidence in our identifications!

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

August 31, 2009 at 5:00 am 5 comments

Fun with Bubble Wrap

On Saturday, I went accompanied my friend Tony to his company Christmas party. This party was also open to employee children and they planned a few activities targeted for the younger attendees. Santa, of course, made an appearance and even without the aid of Zwarte Piet, he managed to hand out gifts.

But more uniquely…. they had a Bubble Wrap Stomp. They laid out giant sheets of bubble wrap to make a dance floor. All the kids gathered around and when the music began– they kids got to stomp!

I got a video of the very beginning.

And some pictures to boot!

Enjoying the Holiday Bubble Wrap

More fun with Bubble Wrap

Popping and Dancing

This kid was sort of doing an tilted version of the Running Man

The event was educational too. These children discovered when they roll, they had more surface area.

The children had an excellent time and I have to say– it was pretty entertaining for the adults as well. Whoever came up with this idea is brilliant.

More pictures from Tony’s Company Christmas Party are available on my Flickr site.

December 16, 2008 at 8:00 am 1 comment

American Chestnut Smells

This past year, I’ve been in a continuous learning mode with the American Chestnut. With each month, it seems, I learn a little bit more. Sometimes through conversations, sometimes through American Chestnut Foundation events, or sometimes through the good ole Internet. I think no property of the tree demonstrates my increasing knowledge more aptly than the tree’s flowers… or rather, the smell of those flowers.

On May 31, I went up to Lesesne State Forest in Virginia to attend an American Chestnut Field Day. While I was there, one chestnut hunter shared how he searches for trees during flowering season.

“I just drive around with my windows rolled down and when I smell one, I stop.” he said.

So that prompted someone to ask, “What do they smell like?”

That was a perfect question to be fielded by Kathy Marmet, the VP of Education for the American Chestnut Foundation.

“They smell very… organic.” she said.

Fast forward to June 26th. When Tony and I were rollerblading in Radford we talked about chestnut flowers and I mentioned I heard they smelled “organic”.

“Oh yeah!” he agreed, “They smell like semen.”

He rattled off that last bit so matter-of-factly, like he was describing the sky being blue.

Early Flowers from an American-Chinese hybrid

It is now October and I’m continuing my education on the American Chestnut. I’m currently reading American Chestnut: The Life, Death and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree. Chapter 4 starts off with a discussion of the catkin flowers and says “A blossoming chestnut is beautiful, but the smell is not.” The book repeats Tony’s observation and then it shares an even more vivid description of what the odor is like:

a whorehouse on a hot summer’s day

I have yet to smell full blooming flowers for myself, but thanks to my ongoing studies, I think I have a very good idea what to expect.

Continuing education can certainly be effective. Here is a quick graph that shows how my perception has changed as I learned more on the subject.

October 2, 2008 at 1:52 am 13 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

Christmas Card Patterns

I love Christmas Card Season. I love writing Christmas cards and I love receiving them as well. So…. it turns out I had quite a collection of Christmas cards to sort through with my move. On a year to year basis, you receive the card, you enjoy it and you move on. But when you are presented with roughly nine years of cards, suddenly patterns emerge. Here are a few trends I noted:

Stacy always sends a funny card.

Tony Airaghi always thanks me for my friendship.

Kim Kalten (my old boss’s wife) consistently misspells my name (not a big deal– I don’t mind when people misspell my name).

Whoops, I didn’t realize Kim always misspells my names until I saw cards from multiple years.

June Randolph always tells me how much she misses my grandmother (I miss my grandmother too).

I get a lot of love from my friends’ parents. Brian V’s parents, Brian N’s parents and Stacy‘s parents all write wonderfully detailed messages.

A lot of people reuse the same cards from year to year including my grandmother, the Phelps, Virtual IT.

Roanoke-based companies really like that Christmas card that features the Roanoke Star. I had roughly eight of those.

Dave and Monica always include a “Go Hokies!” somewhere in their card.

AE’s mother likes to underline the message in the card for emphasis.

Three years in a row — underlining the message

It was an interesting exercise. And great timing! After a five year hiatus, the St. Jude’s Ranch of Children started accepting recycled card fronts again this summer. So my Christmas cards, or rather the fronts of those cards, have a destination!

July 17, 2008 at 10:12 am 7 comments

Pig Pickin’ 2008

Saturday, was Kathleen and Charlie’s annual Pig Pickin’ in Craig County, Virginia. I’ve attended this event a few times over the years– the first being 1998…ten years ago! Time flies!

A lot of my immediate friends who were with me in 1998 have moved away to different locales. For example, Ryan S moved to Maryland. Brian and Jodi are in North Carolina. But looking at the 1998 pictures, I see do someone who made both 1998 and 2008.

Tony Airaghi at 1998 Pig Pickin’

Tony Airaghi at 2008 Pig Pickin’

This event has always been dog friendly, but this year was the very first time I contributed to the pack. Jimmie accompanied me! I was pleased with his attendence. With a few infractions involving interest in the garbage or some of the dead opossums (a staple), he was well behaved. Poor Henry’s back foot is still weak, so I felt it was best to keep him away from all the other dogs and excitement.

Jimmie (on left) playing with some other dogs

Most of the time, Jimmie just chilled around me (those are my feet)

Last year, I got a lot of photos of the pig chopping process. This year, I went ahead and took a short video:

The food has consistently stayed delicious for a decade now and the party is always a fun time. I’ll part with a few more pictures:


Mavis Yawns

I thought Charlie looked especially manly holding his Kahlua White Russian

A brief rainstorm (it did not stop the party)

Roasting marshmallows

Plenty of more pictures from the Pig Pickin’ 2008 are up on my Flickr site.

June 30, 2008 at 11:58 pm 2 comments

Rollerblading Radford Riverway

As I mentioned before, Tony Airaghi and I have a long standing tradition of rollerblading the Huckleberry Trail. We decided to mix it up a bit. We went rollerblading last Thursday, but instead of the usual Huckleberry Trail, we drove down to Radford and tried out the Radford Riverway Trail. What’s our verdict?

The Radford Riverway Trails are AWESOME for rollerblading!

Here are some features the Radford Riverway has over the Huckleberry Trail:

1) The Radford Riverway… has a river. It’s absolutely beautiful to skate next to.
2) The Radford Riverway has water fountains!
3) The Radford Riverway has bathrooms!
4) The Radford Riverway pavement is new and smooth, providing a very easy skate.

Now the Huckleberry does have more mileage (11.0 round trip as opposed to 6.4 round trip) and the Huckleberry hills are significantly steeper, so it is definitely the superior workout.

But as far as enjoying a summer evening, Tony and I found the Radford Riverway to be a pleasant vehicle. We parked at Bisset Park, bladed up to Sundell Drive and back and then we went along the river to the Dedmon Center and back. One of the nice surprises was getting to eat ripe mulberries. Very delicious.

I didn’t have my camera with me, but I did have my trusty LG enV:

Look at that beautiful pavement… and there is a RIVER!

River from a Bird Observation Deck

Additional Links
Map of Radford Riverway

June 29, 2008 at 2:14 pm 2 comments

Rhodo Photos by Tony

In February, I posted some Mount Roger pictures by my friend Tony Airaghi. The very last picture I shared, he was experimenting with the color accent feature of his camera. On our recent trip, Tony once again put that feature to use on Mount Rogers- this time to take pictures of the rhododendron blooms. I love what he ended up with:

Long live the color accent mode!

June 26, 2008 at 8:00 am 2 comments

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