Posts filed under ‘Tony Airaghi’

How Fast Can I Post About Mount Rogers?!?

Okay. Been busy. Been real busy. And I promise to be busy for the rest of this month. But, I do need to revel in how awesome Mount Rogers was. So let’s see how fast I can get through this.

Time: 9:25 PM.

Our Crew
This year, we had 5 people in our crew. Tony Airaghi and Paul Ely went up Friday night. Meanwhile, Bill C, PassionPhish and I (oh yeah and Jimmie) hiked up on Saturday.

Our crew – Bill, PassionPhish, Jimmie and Me. (Photo by PassionPhish)

Saturday afternoon, we joined up with Paul and Tony at the campsite.

Paul blows on the fire while PassionPhish and Bill watch

It seems I pick up a food souvenir from every hiking partner. When I pack an avocado, I think of Tony Airaghi. When I pack an orange, I think of Mike E. And now, whenever I pack a big block of extra sharp cheddar cheese, I’ll think of PassionPhish. That was by far the most addictive dish (and we had smores ingredients with us!!!!). I could not get enough of that cheese. And when it got warm… it looked nasty, but it was even MORE delicious.

We were a little early in the bloom cycle for the rhododendrons. But that was good news because it meant the Roanoke Outdoor and Social Club, who was hiking the following weekend, got to see the peak blooms!

As we hiked to camp via the Pine Mountain Trail, I said to my companions, “Well… maybe by tomorrow they’ll open up a little more.” I was just being optimistic. I didn’t really believe there would be much of a difference between Saturday and Sunday, but there was! We hiked the same trail back and lo and behold there was a stunning difference.

Second Day Blooms

Second Day Blooms

Baby ponies were as cute as usual.


Okay. Well, I just recently watched a recent Jessica Piscitelli story on YouTube where she describes the fear she felt one camping trip when she heard a “bear”.

I had a moment of my own at Mount Rogers. In the middle of the night I woke up and could hear a bunch of coyotes yelping around to each other. They seemed awfully loud, so in my mind they were pretty close. I never reached the point where my fear had me call out to my companions. But I definitely laid awake a while, wide-eyed, monitoring the situation. And actually, I was not afraid for me. I was worried this vicious pack of coyotes would decide that Jimmie was particularly appetizing. And what was my beloved dog doing during this imminent attack? He was curled up at my feet, sound asleep, oblivious of any danger. And perhaps the dog knew best because I never heard any more from the coyotes.

When we were on Wilburn Ridge, we walked single file southbound on the Appalachian Trail. Suddenly a giant buzzing cloud passed to our right. It was so substantial and so loud, it didn’t seem real.

“Was that–?” Thomas uttered.

I pointed and said, “Bees?”

The cloud continued its way south. Suddenly the swarm took an abrupt left turn, right in to a couple of northbound hikers who promptly started doing a skin-crawling jig and swatting session. Alas, the couple did get stung. In retrospect, I wish that I had yelled out something, but I was so dumbfounded at the bees, I really did not digest the danger.

The two northbound hikers, after their bee attack

Emetophobe No More
Saturday evening, Paul and I were chatting with the father of the next camp over. The father is a mountaineer. Last year he climbed McKinley and this year he will be climbing Siula Grande. His stories were just fascinating, but as he talked I did notice something peculiar behind him. One of his young sons fell ill by the campfire. At first, I thought the kid was just spitting. The second wretch, it became clear it was not saliva exiting his lips. And by the third bout I interrupted the father and pointed.

“Uh…. your boy is sick.”

That boy went to bed shortly after that and the next day he was up and at ’em, climbing rocks and looking cute. So all ended well.

Which would not have been the case 7 years ago. That incident would have easily sent me in a tailspin. I would have spent the rest of the weekend worrying and thinking about all the germs on my hands. I may have cried and wanted to go home immediately. Whereas now, I can sit around the same fire, listen to stories and cook smores. So all ended well.

See all better already! Nothing to worry about!

Sunset and Smores
The seven-year old daughter of our mountaineer neighbor was not afflicted by her brother’s illness, so Tony, Paul and I spent a lot of time with her. We were the first people to expose her AND her mountaineer father to smores. I’m not sure if the father cared for the concoction or not, but the daughter asked for seconds! I think we may have also taught her another lesson. At dusk, Tony, Paul and I were heading to a rock on the Lewis Fork Trail to watch the sunset.

“Why would you want to watch a sunset?” the little girl asked.

So with permission from her parents, we took her with us.

Tony, Nikola and Paul wait for the sunset.

The colors and views were absolutely gorgeous. I can’t be certain, but I think she may understand the appeal now. ūüôā

Sunset at 8:42 PM EST

Sunset at 8:55 PM EST

This was the third June in a row where I’ve made a trip down to Mount Rogers. I don’t intend for the streak to break. It’s a great trip and I will look forward to next year!

More pictures of our Mount Rogers trip can be found on my Flickr set as well as PassionPhish’s Flickr set.

Time: 11:27 PM

June 24, 2008 at 10:28 pm 6 comments

Lecture: Hiking with Dogs

Five years ago, when I struggled on the 1872 foot ascent of Rock Castle Gorge, Tony Airaghi encouraged me to take my time and then he said something that I expect to remember for years to come:

We aren’t here to kill ourselves. We’re here to have a good time.

I think about Tony’s statement almost every time I take a break and at times I paraphrase it to struggling strangers. And today, I declare with great conviction – That goes for dogs as well.

This weekend at McAfee’s Knob, we encountered a hiker with a female dog that was obviously struggling. Slow and stiff, she was not enjoying the ascent.

“How old is that dog?” I asked.

“Fourteen,” the owner replied.

Apparently, the owner could tell what I was thinking.

“It’s okay,” the owner added, “I gave her two [painkillers] this morning.”

First off–just because you drug a dog does not mean it is not injuring itself. Second off– what does it say if you drug a dog and it is STILL hurting?!?

Just a little while later, we could see this poor dog try to call it quits. Not once, but TWICE, the dog crawled off to the side of the trail and tried to lay down under the shade. Even from my vantage point, I could clearly see its legs shaking.

Both times, the owner became very frustrated, yelled at the dog and yanked it back up.

Dogs go out of their way to please their owners. If a dog is trying to lay down while you are walking, it is DONE.

Even though the owner and the dog eventually made it to the top and probably did not need to have the dog carried down the mountain on a stretcher, it is my personal assessment that they should have turned around. The moment it was clear this was no longer fun for the dog is when the return trip should have commenced. You got out, you enjoyed the day, summon the strength to wuss out, for goodness sake.

A different, but as miserable, hiking dog.

As Jimmie and Henry continue to age, it is a very real concern of mine that I will push them too far. So I’m constantly assessing (aka worrying about) their readiness. I’m already accepting that both dogs may have made their last trip up to Dragon’s Tooth. Anything six miles or over, I make a call about Henry (who has some back problems) on a case by case basis. He hasn’t done anything over ten miles since 2006. He’s sat out my last two birthday hikes. Even smaller hikes, like Pearis Mountain in the snow, I leave him behind if he seems sore. Henry did join us at McAfee’s Knob this past weekend. With him in mind, we took the less strenuous fire road for the first 2.5 miles and watched him for signs of soreness.

Now, it’s never easy to leave either dog behind. They are well conditioned to know what the hiking boots and the backpack mean and get extremely excited when those items emerge (for my last birthday hike, I actually hid my boots the night before so Henry wouldn’t see me get them in the morning). When I do leave either one behind, I can hear a lot of crying as I get in my car. It makes me sad. They want to come along so badly. But you know what? I know where we are going– they don’t. I know the ascent, the length and typically have an idea of the terrain. They don’t.

So I do my very best to use that extra knowledge to make a decision that is best for the dog. It’s not always black and white. One day I very well may make the wrong call. And if I do– I’ll turn around.

I’m not out there to kill myself or my dogs. I’m out there for all of us to have a good time.


April 29, 2008 at 3:33 pm 14 comments

Meet Mountain Fetterbush

One day after work last week, I went hiking with Phifer. We decided to drive up gravel Brush Mountain Road and make a visit to the Audie Murphy Memorial off the Appalachian Trail. It is only 0.7 flat miles from the parking at the top of Brush Mountain to the Memorial.

I doubt anyone remembers, so I’m going to call myself out. Last year, I said that if I wasn’t with a young child, this particular hike would be “a waste of time.” Welp, I was wrong. Our outing last week was decidedly not a waste. In fact, I ended up finding it fairly educational.

Very early in our journey, I was in the middle of yammering on about something. Out of the corner of my eyes, I could see familiar shrubs pass by. Suddenly I lost my train of thought. I believe I may have even stopped talking in mid-sentence. There was something very unfamiliar about these familiar plants. They had white bell-shaped flowers.

You see, I had assumed it was mountain laurel. And any other time of the year, I probably would have uploaded pictures of those plants and tagged them on Flickr as “mountainlaurel” and never been none the wiser. But mountain laurel has different flowers– little compact stars before they open and then interesting pentagon-y things when they do. There is nothing bell-shaped about mountain laurel flowers.

Mountain Laurel
Mountain Laurel

Mountain Fetterbush
NOT Mountain Laurel

And so, the mystery began. What were these imposters? Well, I did my own frustrating research for a while and after looking at pictures of bladdernut, sparkleberry, a variety of silverbells and doghobble, an answer was still absent. So I pulled in the big guns:

Tony Airaghi (He studied horticulture in college)

I emailed him pictures. His response:

Hmmm, I’m not sure at the moment. It looks the same as the bushes out of my window at work.

I always assumed they were mountain laurel, but now that I’ve paid closer attention to them I don’t think that is what it is because of the small flowers.

Now Tony was intriqued enough to adopt the quest as his own. A few hours later, he had the answer:

Pieris floribunda

It was discovered on North Carolina’s Pilot Mountain on September 16, 1807 by a man named John Lyon. And as any good imposter would, Pieris floribunda has a number of aliases – Mountain Pieris, Mountain Andromeda and Mountain Fetterbush.

I may be 200 years behind John Lyon… but I still found my own discovery fulfilling.

…and definitely not a waste of time. ūüôā

Additional Links
My Mountain Laurel Pictures on Flickr (How many of these are mistagged?!?)
More Pictures from our Audie Murphy Hike on Flickr
Smoky Mountain News: Lyon was among [Western North Carolina]’s notable botanist
The Nature Journal: Fetterbush delights with spring blooms, abundant foliage

April 24, 2008 at 1:40 am 5 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. ūüôā

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

War Spur in the Snow

This weekend I sequested myself on various home improvement projects.  But last weekend was more adventurous!  I got to go out with Tony Airaghi and his pals in the snow.  We decided to go to the War Spur Trail in the Mountain Lake Wilderness Area.

Our venture started off slowly.¬† I drove to Eric L’s house where I was supposed to meet Tony.¬†¬†Every August I get an email about a party at Eric’s house, but I’ve never actually been there and I have never actually met this Eric.¬†¬†So when I arrived and did not see Tony’s car, I rapped on the front door and had to resort to this¬†confident greeting:

“Uh…. do you know a guy named Tony?”

I had the right Eric and he invited me into his home.¬† I¬†sat around and avoided awkwardness by¬†engrossing myself in¬†an activity I’m good at– petting dogs.¬† Meanwhile, Eric paid a bill online and¬†tinkered with a remote control helicopter.¬† Time passed and still no Tony.¬†¬†¬†I chatted with Eric and a guy I did know– Paul!¬† Still no Tony.

Tony’s Pre-Adventure Adventure
So what happened to poor Tony?¬† He stopped to fill up at a local gas station.¬† The pump was incredibly slow.¬† After a few minutes of waiting and still only 0.90 gallons pumped successfully into his car, Tony aborted the sale and then moved over to the next pump.¬† That pump was just as slow.¬† Tony left his radio on to pass the time and just stuck it out.¬† When Tony’s Explorer finally had a full tank of gas, he finished his second sale, returned to his vehicle and discovered… his battery was dead (Tony’s battery had preexisting issues).

Luckily, a nearby patron caught wind of Tony’s dilemma and volunteered to give him a jump.

“Just let me finish filling up.” he said.

So Tony had to wait on the slow pumps AGAIN.

Once he got his vehicle started, Tony realized it probably wasn’t wise to take a car with a sketchy battery out to a remote trailhead.¬† So he went by¬†NAPA and bought a new battery.¬† Then he installed the new battery.¬† And THEN, he was ready to start his journey.

More Waiting
When Tony finally arrived, one would think our departure was near.¬† Welp, it turns out, Tony wasn’t the only arrival that was highly anticipated.¬† So was the vodka in Tony’s car!¬†

One round of Bloody Marys later (and three seperate individuals observing that celery burns more calories to digest than it provides), our crew of five hikers and four dogs were off.

To the Trailhead
Our trailhead journey was uneventful except for one thing.  We passed this jeep along the way:


The driver did an amazing job at making a bad situation worse.  Tony says the driver should have just waited.

“There are rednecks who drive this road all the time just looking for people to¬†tow.”

The hike itself was gorgeous.  Beautiful snow, beautiful virgin hemlocks and my personal favoriteРthe rhododendrons.  I love how rhododendrons curl up in the winter (five years ago it was Tony who first pointed that out to me).  

Rock at the overlook

My favorite evergreen– rhododendrons in the wild

Jimmie at the overlook

Snow covered branch and the sky

My California Knowledge is Lacking
I have a lot to learn about the Golden State.¬† As we hiked, I thought, “Ha!¬† GeekHiker may get a week to celebrate Arbor Day, but I get to hike in the snow!”¬†

It was only when I got home, I read about¬†his snowshoe outing to Highway 2.¬† ūüôā

The Strategic Nature of Switchbacks
One hiker in our party was troubled with a bad back, so he was a lot slower than the rest of us.  At one point we stopped and waited for him to catch up.  Following in the footsteps of accidental discoveries such as LSD and Penicillin, Tony and Eric stumbled upon a previous unknown property of switchbacks:  They make great vantage points for snowball ambushes. 

Eric throws snowballs from the switchback

Drive Home
The drive home was uneventful until we ran into a traffic jam of three vehicles.¬† The drivers of all the vehicles were standing outside¬†in the snow surveying the situation.¬† One of the vehicles was stuck on the right side of the road.¬† Guess what it was!¬† It was that SAME jeep from before!¬† The driver had returned with some buddies and they successfully freed the jeep from the mud.¬† The driver drove down the road about a half of a mile before deciding to make a U-Turn.¬† It was during that manuever when he managed to get his car stuck AGAIN,¬†this time¬†on the OPPOSITE side of the road.¬† That’s got to impress the ladies.

More Links
My War Spur Hike Pictures on Flickr
Kevin Myatt’s Article on the War Spur Trail for the Roanoke Times

January 28, 2008 at 12:43 am 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. ūüôā

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

Rollerblading the Huckleberry Trail

For six years now, Tony Airaghi and I make it a point to rollerblade the Huckleberry Trail at least once each year.  It was a gorgeous spring day out today, so it was a great day for us to continue our tradition into 2007.

The Huckleberry Trail was a Rails to Trails conversion.  What was originally a railway built in 1902 to transport coal evolved into a passenger line between Blacksburg and Christiansburg.  That line stopped seeing use in 1958 and over three decades later the area evolved again.  It became a fully paved pathway, slightly over 5 1/2 miles, from the Blacksburg Library to the New River Valley Mall. 

It is perfect for rollerblading (though the area near Margaret Beeks Elementary School could use some smoother pavement) and brings with it a variety of sites and scenery.  You go over a quaint bridge over Southgate, by the Corporate Research Center / Virginia Tech Airport, next to cow fields, through a tunnel under 460, past the Coal Miner Heritage Park, along a bridge over active train tracks, through rocky outcroppings and finally the mall.

Today Tony Airaghi and I did a 9 mile round trip.  Here are some shots from our outing:

The Huckleberry Trail (near Mile Marker 2)

Tony poses by some wildflowers and cattails off the trail (Between Mile Markers 2 and 3). VA-460 is in the background.

Equipment on display at Coal Miners Heritage Park

A souvenir of the trail’s past purpose – a train depot (Close to Mile Marker 5)

Tony on¬†a bridge that passes over an active railway (roughly 3/4 miles from the New River Valley Mall).¬† In past years, we’ve skated that bridge as a train passed beneath us.

Tony skates a section that is surrounded by steep rock walls (close to Mile Marker 5).  In the summer, delicious wild raspberries and blackberries grow on the rocks.

Additional Links
More Huckleberry Trail Pictures on my Flickr site
Friends of the Huckleberry Site
Coal Miner Geocache
Happy Trails to You Geocache

May 10, 2007 at 12:01 am 7 comments

Journal Excerpt: 2006 Snowshoe Ski Trip

In January 2006, I joined my sister and a number of friends for a five day ski trip at Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia.  By request, here are my journal entries from that trip.  I think they will be of little interest to the people who did not attend.

Lodging Woes 

306 C The Summit
Showshoe Mountain

Greetings from Snowshoe!  Our trip is going wellРwhich is very impressive considering all the obstacles with lodging and [the abscence of viable] cell phone signals.

Our arrivals were stratefied– as everyone had their own plans and differing departure points.¬† Carolyn came up with a valeuable idea — have us all meet at Foxfire Grille at 3:30 PM.

We weren’t all prompt– but we did all convene at the restaurant eventually (except Christian and Shannon).

I made it there nearly 30 minutes late.¬† I was certain I would have missed the rendez-vous.¬† We didn’t know what our address was beforehand– Carolyn only found out at check in.¬† So it was pretty important to meet up with everyone — so I’d know the lodging details.

As luck would have it, everyone was still at the Foxfire.¬† And– I wasn’t even the last to arrive!¬† Greg and Nicole arrived some time after me.

So the seven of us (Tony, Lud, Carolyn, Stacy, myself, Greg and Nicole) all ate an early supper.

Carolyn had already been to the check-in counter and knew we were staying at Unit 15 in Treetop.¬† But we couldn’t get the keys until after five.¬† So after supper we (Carolyn, Vicky, Stacy, Greg and Nicole) moseyed over to Top of the World to get the keys.

WellРthat was easier said than done.  After a lengthy delay they said the keys were at the bottom of the mountain and on the way up.  

Meanwhile while we were on that mission, Tony and Lud were securing rentals.  The plan was to meet at 15 Treetop.

Back at Top of the World– the employee helping us mentioned a couple (supposedly Shannon and Christian) was looking for us and would be waiting at Foxfire Grille.

So Carolyn, Greg and Nicole decided to wait for the keys (which would supposedly be another 10-20 minutes) and Stacy and I went on an expedition back to Foxfire Grille to look for Shannon and Christian.

Stacy and I waited sometime at Foxfire, just in case Shannon and Christian were taking the slow shuttle.  We finally aborted and went to the Treetop lodgingРthinking everyone would have keys and be good to go.

The parking lot was vastly empty.¬† Stacy and I parked and Tony and Lud came out of Lud’s jeep.¬† Turns out the keys had not been secured yet!¬† Tony and Lud had been waiting the entire time.¬† Stacy and I were the first to show up!¬† Needlesstosay, Tony and Lud were disappointed Stacy and I were not bearing the key.

Night Skiing 

Lud was anxious to go night skiing– Tony wanted to lay low as his knee was sore and Stacy leaned against night skiing as well.

So– I added some layers and prepared to join Lud on the slopes.¬† There was only one problem– I didn’t have¬† my lift ticket yet– it was with Carolyn!¬† But– Stacy had a lift ticket!

“Stacy– switch coats with me!” I demanded.¬† He had his lift ticket already attached.

Stacy complied and then a few minutes later I made a poor decision.¬† I took my shoes off and stood on the parking lot…when it had been raining all day.¬† I quickly realized my mistake and leapt into the dry safety of the car… only now my shoes were out of reach and I had no dry means to retrieve them.

“Stacy!” I called, “Hand me those shoes!”

Stacy chucked and said, “I always wondered what it’d be like¬†to be Brian.”¬† ūüôā

Lud and I headed out and had a good but brief night skiing adventure.

1 + 1 + 1 + 1  Does Not Equal 3

The highlight of the whole evening occurred while Lud and I were waiting in a ski lift line (an unlikely spot for a night’s highlight).¬† The chair lift was a triple chair lift.¬† In other words– it holds three people.

Well– FOUR fully grown men (who should have known better) all tried to get on at once.

It was not a successful ventureРthey were too wide for the chair.  It was a big commotion when the chair reached them.  One guy got reamed in the behind.  Skis fell off and lots of noise was to be heard.  It was hilarious.

More Lodging Woes

Lud and I had some adventures after skiing.  When we returned to the condoРstill no familiar cars were in the parking lot.  I walked up and determined the door was locked.  I knocked but I knew there was little hopeРthe lights were out.

So Lud and I decided to try to track them down.  We checked all sorts of bars in the Village and the Shaver Center.

No luck– bar after bar was filled to the rim– but all with strange faces.

Finally we returned to the townhouse.  Still no carsРso I relieved Lud and told him I could hang out in my car.  He left and I made one more stab at the door.  As I walked up, I was cursing my travel companions.

“A damn note would have been helpful!” I thought.

Lo and Behold- I get up there and there was a note!  In factРthe note had been there all alongРI somehow missed it the first go around.

It turned out Carolyn, Greg and Nicole waited for over an hour for those mysterious keys that were at the bottom of the mountain!  And still no keys.  So we got upgraded to a bigger townhouse at the Summit.

All in all– it was a good deal for us– no one had to sleep on the floor (Tony Airaghi opted to sleep outside on the balcony but he had a bed if he wanted it).

Still– it sure brought forth a lot of confusion and that confusion seeped into today as well.

When Lud dropped me off– he and I made plans.

“I’ll just come up here and meet you,” he said, “when I wake up.”

He had no idea we had moved.  SoРI left the original note at the townhouse.

This morning time ticked by and still no Lud.  So we left two more notes.  One at the new place, one at the old.  In itРwe proposed three time and places to meet up.

I used some price tags from canned goods to stick the notes to the respective doors.  Carolyn have an inventive way to post her note as well.  She ripped out a hole and attached it to the handle of the door.

AnywayРour notes were not appreciated by the intended audience.  Lud never found any of the notes!

“I’m amazed at the total ineffectiveness of notes,” Stacy commented later.

Well– just like St. Matthew writes God will take care of the little birds and like Mao writes Heaven will not delay a traveller, Lud was taken care of.

Early in the afternoon, Carolyn, Shannon and I ran into Lud!! Our group was reunited and Tony knew where his ride was!

Commercial Contradictions

Tonight we are all pooped– so we’ve laid low.¬† I noticed one pattern– we seem to be laughing a lot at pharmaceutical commericials.

“There are ones,” Christian said, “Where the side effects contradict each other.¬† It’ll say may cause insomnia and it’ll say right after that– drowsiness!”

I told them about Sean’s antibiotics for his surgery.¬† One said as a side effect your urine may turn dark– but it was normal behavior.

The other one said, “Call your doctor *immediately* if you experience darkening of urine!”

Luckily Sean was not put in the predictament to determine which medicine was causing dark urine– the harmless one or the troublesome one!

Best Conditions 


Skiing went well.  I skied a little bit each day I was there.  The funnest day was Monday and it seemed like it would be the most miserable day.  It was rainy & foggy.  We were determined to get out on the slopes, however.  It turned out to have the best conditions of all the days!  The rain kept the top level of snow soft so it was easy to steer and stop.  AndРmore importantly, the rain detered the other skiers from coming out so the slopes were pretty abandoned.  No lines, no dodging fallen snowboarders and no ice.  It made for a very peaceful day on the mountain.

We also went night skiing that night– I had to meet the others as I had some contract work to do at Starbuck’s.¬† After my work– I drove to the Silver Creek area and walked out to the slopes.¬† As I skiied down to the lift from the lodge, I was literally the only person on the trail.¬† With the darkness all around me (except for the lit snow on the trail) and the silence (except for the whish of my skis in the snow), it was an invigorating, uplifting run.

It didn’t take long to reunite with my friends– on my second run– I eyed the passengers on the ski lift and soon enough, I spied familiar outfits!

Time Flies

Time really flew fast on our trip.  On Saturday and Sunday I was full of plans.

“Maybe I’ll take a snowboarding lesson,” I thought.


“Hey I think I’ll do cross country skiing one day.”

Over the weekend, it seemed I had all the time in the world.  But before I knew it, it was our last day and I had not fit in a snowboard lesson nor tried out cross country skiing.  Perhaps another trip.

I still have vivid recollections of riding a ski lift at Greek Peak on a Tuesday and thinking I had a lot of days left on the mountain.  My childhood experience was very similiar to the one this past weekРbefore you know itРit is time to return home and resume your daily duties.

Worst Conditions 

Tuesday’s conditions were fairly rough– a lot of ice.¬† Then Wednesday I found the most miserable (still fun though).¬† Overnight we got a great deal of natural snow– plus they ran the snow machines overnight and throughout the day.¬† To top it off, it was dreadfully windy– it seemed no matter which way I faced, snow was pelting my face.

I took a lot of pride throughout the week of carrying my skis.  I was proud of the extra exercise I got by doing that.  Well Tuesday night my resolve weakened and I locked my skis up with Carolyn and Christian right by the slopes.  Tuesday night, of course, was the night the big storm rolled in.  So Carolyn, Christian and I learned a very important lesson:

Do Not Lock Your Skis Up Right Next to a Snow Making Machine

When we returned on Wednesday, we discovered that snow and ice were packed into the keyholes of the ski holders.  It took us *at least* a half an hour to drive our respective keys in the hole and turn them clockwise 90 degrees.  It was an amazing struggle.

Our victory was short lived, though.¬† Carolyn’s ski bindings were frozen shut!¬† Christian, Carolyn and I struggled in the wake of a running snow machine to get her skis on.¬† Not only were her bindings inflicted with ice– but her boots had about 3/4″ of ice caked on her heel.¬† We must have combatted that challenge another half an hour.¬† Finally, Carolyn and I went inside and manually worked the bindings to loosen them up.¬† At long last, her skis would click on her boots.

We went back out, Carolyn snapped her boots on.  Sweet success and THEN


I had similiar issues with caked on ice.  I was able to resolve it, but in order to do so, I had to bend over.  My 5 layers of shirts slid up and exposed my midriff skin.    I also had to take my gloves off to have the necessary dexterity to get everything on.

By the time we were all set to go– we were already cold and miserable.¬† I couldn’t feel my pinky finger!

Still our struggles weren’t over.¬† Due to the wind and the diligent snow making– there was a lot of very, very thick powder at the top, flat part of the mountain.¬† It was very difficult to get moving and with all the snow machines, our slow, struggled stride had repercussions.

Powder Power

Luckily after that first laboured run, everything picked up.¬† Snow machines weren’t running lower on the mountain and once we got on steeper runs it was great fun and the thick powder was an asset.

“It’s like skiing on clouds,” Christian said.

“Even if you fall,” he said, “You’re falling in a puff of powder!”

I originally found it very unnerving to be in snow so deep that I couldn’t see my skis, but after Christian’s recommendation– I gave it a try.¬† Sure enough– it is quite fun!

One thing that was impressive is how much difference slope conditions can affect a run and how quickly those conditions can change.

On Tuesday– runs that were okay in the morning were downright treacherous in the afternoon.

For example, in the morning, Carolyn and I rode a lift over “The Widowmaker.”¬† It didn’t look too bad and we considered going down it.

“We’ll be okay,” I told Carolyn, “It’s called ‘The Widowmaker’ not ‘The Widowermaker.'” She laughed.

In the end– we decided to play it safe and didn’t go on it.¬† In the afternoon, we rode up a lift over it again with Christian.¬† It was riddled with ice patches.

“This morning we could at least consider it,” Carolyn said, “Now you look at it and think, ‘No fucking way!'”

The next day it was brand new powderРit looked great!  So Christian and I went down it.

Meanwhile, Carolyn discovered another slope was greatly improved by the fresh snow.  That slope was called J-Hook.

The day before Carolyn and I skied down it.  It started out nice enough and then all of a sudden:


They were huge round ice boulders all over the trail.¬† It wasn’t just a few here and there– they were prevalent.¬† It was one of the most unpleasant runs.

Fast forward a day.  I asked Carolyn how J-Hook was.

“Peaceful and powdery,” she said.

Sure enough, it was.

This was my very first ski trip without rented equipment.  Melanie had sold me her skis.  That saved me a lot of trouble and timeРI will have to write her and let her know.

We ate really well.  Sunday we had vegetable chili.  MondayРChicken caccitore.  TuesdayРpot pies.  Mmm!

March 3, 2007 at 1:01 am 16 comments

Early Birthday Cake

This past weekend, Sean’s parents (Barbara and Ted) visited.¬† Barbara surprised me by presenting Sean and I with a homemade co-birthday cake.¬† If I thought about it, I would have expected a cake for Sean.¬† His birthday was in January.¬† But I would never have expected cake honors for me– my birthday is still over a month away!¬†

Happy Birthdays, Sean & Vicky

Turns out, Barbara’s gesture was¬†even more¬†thoughtful than it appeared!¬†

“I checked the calendar and Lent hadn’t started yet,” she said.

Smart lady.¬† I may not attend Mass every Sunday (or…ahem…every month), but one thing I am religious about is Lent.¬† I won’t eat meat on Fridays and each year I pick something to give up.¬† I’m actually quite fond of the exercise.¬† Quote from an email to Ryan Somma during last year’s Lent:

…I get the opportunity for a similar affirmation each year. It‚Äôs called Lent. I used it to test my resilience to my own addictions‚ÄĒmost notably TV and desserts. I appreciate the trials I give myself and find pride in my successes. Truth be told, I look forward to Lent and discovering will power I didn‚Äôt even know I had.

The most common item I give up is desserts.¬† As a non-smoker and a pretty rare drinker (wine during football games is about it), my biggest¬†weakness is desserts.¬† Even when I give up something else, desserts usually earn a spot on the list as well.¬† For example last year, I gave up beef and desserts.¬† One year I gave up desserts… and credit cards. ūüėȬ†

Anyway, since my birthday always falls¬†during Lent, I haven’t had a birthday cake for quite some time.***¬† I don’t even¬†remember the last time I ate a birthday cake for me.¬† So it was a very nice and thoughtful treat Barbara provided me!

***This isn’t to say I don’t get special birthday treats.¬† I am very lucky to have supportive (and creative!) friends.¬† Last year, Meredith Webber threw me a birthday dinner.¬† The dinner fell on a Friday so she made a vegetarian lasagna.¬† Instead of a dessert, Tony Airaghi provided some¬†freshly¬†sliced¬†mangos.¬† They were just as fulfilling as any cake!¬† And each year for my birthday, Ana Sanchez makes me a batch of her divine taco salad (it is DELICIOUS!!!).¬† Last year, she thoughtfully made her recipe with ground turkey to accomodate my beef restriction.¬† With friends like this, who needs cake?

February 12, 2007 at 7:38 pm 3 comments

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