Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’

Bridge to Terabithia and 3D Printed Dice

What does the Young Adult classic Bridge to Terabithia have in common with amazing 3D printed dice?  Both of their creators really knew how to capitalize on their brain’s downtime.  They were still challenging their brains even if they were roped into menial or repetitive tasks.  Since I’m a working mother of two little boys, I am definitely familiar with limited free time.  As a result, I found these two quick quotes to be particularly inspiring.

BridgeToTerabithiaAndCeramicsByWombatDice
Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, Chuck Stover’s Botanical Dice

Katherine Paterson, the author of Bridge to Terabithia, on writing with small children.

And then, of course, you can’t be a writer unless you actually write, and it doesn’t take as much time as people think. You know, the number of people who say, well, I’m going to write a book when I have time, they’re never going to have the time. And I started writing seriously when I had four tiny children. Well, I mean I had one tiny child, two tiny children, three tiny children, four tiny children in just over four years, and that’s when I began to write seriously. And I figured out that a lot is going on in your head when you’re changing diapers and washing clothes and doing all those things that have to be done. And if you’ve got 10, 15 minutes a day to sit down and write, you’d have a book by the end of the year.

Source: Beloved YA Author Katherine Paterson Shares Wisdom

Chuck Stover, the force behind Made By Wombat 3D printed tabletop RPG acccessories, on his former factory job

It gave me a lot of time to think about design during the day because of the repetitive nature of the work. Kind of put half of my brain thinking about design questions and the other half to work. Then I would come home after work and get onto Sketch-Up and work on designs until I passed out.

Source: Episode 15 of the Printing Everyday Podcast

 

January 22, 2015 at 2:00 pm 2 comments

The Fussypants Song

Like all toddlers, my oldest son has his fair share of emotional moments. And like a lot of mothers, I often find myself perusing various “Mommy Blogs” on the Internet. Somewhere along the line, I read an article (whose author completely alludes me at the moment) that talked about how kids need to feel safe to express their emotions–positive AND negative. When Sagan is upset, we often “take a lap.” One of us carries him in the circle through the rooms on our second floor. Inspired by that now nameless article, I started to sing a simple little song to the tune of Frère Jacques:

You’re my Sagan
You’re my Sagan
I love you
I love you
Even when you’re fussypants
Even when you’re fussypants
I love you
I love you

Well Sagan isn’t especially communicative when he’s upset. He would just sort of zone out and sniff, occassionally wiping his nose against my shoulder. Really, I didn’t think he even noticed the song. Then one day, he bumped his knee and I had the nerve to switch it up a bit and sing Elvis instead.

“No! no!” His crying intensified. “The fussypants song! I want the fussypants song.”

Now that’s our thing. When he’s upset, I’ll ask him, “Do you need a lap?”

He’ll nod.

“Do you need a song?”

He’ll nod.

“Which song?”

“Fussypants song.” he’ll croak out.

I’ll carry him a few laps and sing our song.

I have failed miserably at getting it on video, but Sagan has a stuffed monkey he occassionally plays with. He does baby stuff with it– puts on diapers, feeds it, etc. On a few occassions, I have spied Sagan hugging it and singing the Fussypants Song. It’s super adoreable, but super elusive. Everytime I bring the camera out, the moment subsides.

BUT– two weeks ago, I heard Sagan singing the Fussypants Song to Dyson and I did have success convincing Sagan to sing a few bars for the camera. Sagan’s version of the Fussypants song. Enjoy!

September 17, 2014 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Family Adventure – DC Skydiving Center

In mid-August, Ryan and I took the boys to Warrenton, Virginia for an afternoon at the DC Skydiving Center. Don’t worry– we didn’t take a 3 year old and 1 year old skydiving. We’re not that adventurous. : )

My friend Meg is fighting cancer for a second time. One of the long-standing items on her Bucket List was to go skydiving. I absolutely did not want to jump out of a plane. No way. But you know what I can do? I can *pay* for someone else to jump out of a plane! (This was made even easier by a serendipitous Groupon). Meg’s longtime friend, Karen, also jumped. Meanwhile, Ryan, the kids, and I watched from the ground. Meg was relaxed and at ease the whole time (She reports skydiving is no where near as scary as cancer). Karen, on the other hand, seemed to be a tad nervous.

DC Skydiving Center - Meg Getting Ready DC Skydiving Center - Karen's Tentative Face

They were both equally ecstatic after the jump and concur it was thrilling and peaceful at the same time. I even heard the phrase “life-changing” when they would re-describe their experiences in the coming days. See also Meg’s recap from her CaringBridge site.

As for the Sommas, even though we stayed put on the ground, the DC Skydiving Center was a fabulous adventure for the kids. In an intimate and disarming setting (so disarming I actually thought, “Huh, maybe I could do this too.”), we got to watch people learn their skydiving basics. We were right there when the plane took off and landed which was a huge thrill for Sagan. We got to watch the sky for the tiny black dots after the plane passed by and we got to watch those dots get bigger and bigger. Eventually the skydivers would land right smack in front of us. And 1 year old Dyson? It turns out skydiving instructors can also make great playmates.

DC Skydiving Center - Instruction 5
Group Learns Basics

DC Skydiving Center - Sagan Waves Bye to Meg and Karen
Sagan Waves Bye to Meg and Karen’s Plane

DC Skydiving Center - Meg Landing 3
Meg Coming to Land

DC Skydiving Center - Dyson with Parachute Instructors
Dyson with his New Friend

If you think about, our family adventure that day was watching someone else’s adventure. But it was just as fun as our usual Sunday adventures… and more fulfilling.

More photos of our visit to the DC Skydiving Center are on my Flickr site.

P.S. Ryan’s already talking about taking the boys skydiving…when Dyson turns 18.

September 15, 2014 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

Bethany Beach 2014 Recap – Day 4 – Kayaking, Crabs, and a Shopping Cart

Kayaking!
Tuesday, July 29th was Ryan’s last day at the beach as he had to return to work. The ONLY thing on his request list for the beach was to kayak with Sagan. First thing in the morning, we went back out to Coastal Kayak. This time the conditions were much better. We also had company! My Aunt Denise and Sagan’s Best-Beach-Bud Mya joined us.

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Denise and Mya on Shore
Family Kayaking- Now with 50% More Family!

We saw an osprey’s nest and mussels growing in some of the tidal grass.

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Osprey Nest
Osprey’s Nest

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Sagan Touches Mussels
Sagan Touches Mussels in the Grass

Sagan was all smiles. He really enjoyed the kayaking.

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Sagan and Vicky
Sagan with Mommy

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Sagan and Ryan
Sagan with Daddy

Mya seemed to enjoy kayaking a little less than Sagan. She and Denise turned around shortly after arriving at the wetlands. I had the only keys to the car, so we followed them back. The outing was more abbreviated than originally planned, but as a side perk, Sagan never had a chance to tire of it. He left his first kayaking outing wanting more, which is a good thing! Oh and once on land, Sagan still found joy in the oar. He used it to dig sand. 🙂

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Sagan Uses Oar as a Shovel
Sagan Digs with Oar

And here’s something neat. Back in 2007, when Mya was just a little baby, I went kayaking with her mother at the exact same place. So now I have kayaked with both mother and daughter.

Kayaking: Kara
Mother in 2007
Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Mya
Daughter in 2014

Mickey’s Family Crab House
For lunch, we took the kids to Mickey’s Family Crab House. Dude. That was fun and delicious. We ordered clam strips, steamed shrimp, steamed Maryland Blue Crabs and grilled asparagus. This was a GREAT destination for young children. It’s socially acceptable to make a lot of noise. It’s socially acceptable to make a gigantic mess. And the meal comes with its own entertainment– mallets! Both kids really, really enjoyed hammering.


Sagan and Dyson Having a Good Ole Time with Hammers

We had such a great time picking apart and devouring crabs, Ryan declared this is what he wants to do for his birthday. Done and done.

More Biking and Beach
After lunch, we did some more biking. Little Dyson would not keep the bike helmet on (It was ill-fitting anyway), so he just got a quick bike debut up and down the street. Just long enough for us to say he went bike riding.

Bethany Beach - Dyson Hates Helmet
Dyson Removes His Helmet While I’m Not Looking

Bethany Beach - Vicky Take Dyson on First Bike Ride (Close)
Dyson’s Bike Debut

After that, Ryan and Sagan took the bike out for a couple of hours.

Bethany Beach - Suave Sagan on Bike Ride
Sagan Ready to Ride Again

While Ryan and Sagan were out and about, I took Dyson back down to the beach. He was in a much better disposition today. He was so courageous, in fact, when he saw some cousins he wanted to play with, he just crawled across the sand to get to them.

Bethany Beach - July 29th - Dyson Spies Olivia Hayden and Tucker
Dyson (in green) – “Hey I wanna play with them!”

Bethany Beach - July 29th - Dyson Crawls to Olivia and Hayden
Dyson (in green) – “Oh hey guys, I’m here to play!”

Binky Down
We packed five binkies for the trip and only came home with three. One I have no idea where it went. And one…well, it fell down a storm drain.

Bethany Beach - Lost Binky
Lost Binky

Adventure in the Small Things – Harris Teeter Shopping Cart
Remember yesterday when I talked about adventures coming in smaller packages with kids? Well, on the flip side, you get to see things through your children’s eyes and small things, even mundane things, become exciting and fresh again. With kids, anything can be an adventure…even going to the grocery store.

Before Ryan got back on the road to head home (Sadness), we went for a family shopping trip to pick up some provisions. We put the two boys in a specialty shopping cart shaped like a truck where both boys could have their own steering wheel.

Sagan and Dyson LOVED it. They spent the entire trip wrestling and laughing and tickling.

It was probably the most concentrated amount of fun they had the entire trip and it was just a joy to watch.

Mommy Nap
When we arrived at the beach the previous Saturday, I mysteriously lost my voice. By the end of Tuesday, I had some congestion. I thought it was pretty safe to take some Benadryl, but boy, the drowsiness was really getting to me. So I left the children on the beach house deck with my mother to take a nap.

Before I could fully drift off the sleep, I heard Sagan in the living room. I went out there to see what was going on and found him laying on the floor with a beach towel over him like a blankie trying to take his own nap.

He looked up at me and asked, “Can I nap with you, Mommy?”

Well, who could turn that down? We returned to the bedroom and we both fell in such an extended sleep, my mother had to wake us both up for supper.

Taco Night!!!
A still-sleepy Vicky and Sagan meandered their way over to Aunt Julie’s Beach House where we were having Family Taco Night (one of my favorites). The food and company energized both of us.

Most Pleasant Night Night
I was somewhat worried about the notion of putting both kids to sleep by myself in such an exciting environment, but “night night” could not have gone smoother. The kids and I got back to the beach house before everyone else. In the dimly-lit bedroom, I changed diapies, put on jammies, and other night-time tasks. Both Dyson and Sagan went to sleep right away and I wasn’t too far behind them.

August 7, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Bethany Beach 2014 Recap – Day 3 – Working Through Failures

Sometimes if takes a little while to get your stride. The important thing is to keep trying. : )

Beach Fail
Our second full day, we paid homage to my late father and walked down to The Frog House and had breakfast. We made another quick stop at Comics and Games and then we went to the beach! We like to consider us an adventurous family. We hike and kayak and camp and canoe and bike. But our kids are significantly less adventurous when it comes to the ocean. Sagan is more vocal with his fear. Ryan did get him a little more comfortable with being in the ocean… that is until a wave splashed him in the face. Dyson, on the other hand, liked looking at the ocean, but would whimper when a big wave touched my feet (It wasn’t even touching him!). Dyson did enjoy playing in the sand.

Bethany Beach - July 28 - Dyson in Sand
Dyson in Sand

Bethany Beach - July 28th - Sandy Dyson
Sandy Dyson

Sagan, however, was so miserable from the whole “water in the face” incident that not even the binky, or the arrival of Uncle Jay could convince him to enjoy the beach.

Bethany Beach - July 28th - Miserable Sagan with Daddy
Miserable Sagan and Defeated Daddy

Mommying Fail
And I learned a very good lesson that day. Don’t wait until the baby is exhausted and tired to leave the beach. Why? Because you still have to walk back to the beach house. You still have to contend with all that sand. You still have to get him in a dry diaper and clothes. This produced a lot of crying from an already over-fatiqued baby. Lesson learned. I would not make the same mistake in the coming days.

Nap Fail
And then another obstacle to adventure. Dyson napped…. and then when he woke up, Sagan went down for a nap. Gah! This was somewhat disappointing to Ryan. He only had a limited time at the beach and he wanted to get out and do things, not wait for the children to sleep.

Corn Husking Fail
One of my fond memories of the beach as a child was husking corn with my cousins and squealing should we peel away the green and find a worm underneath. I mentioned yesterday I had hoped a new generation of cousins could have the same experience. It didn’t quite work out, but Sagan, Mom, Ryan and I had fun enough husking corn and snapping beans. Dyson didn’t exactly help, but he had a great time moving beans back and forth between the bag and the colander.

I didn’t take any pictures of the husking that day, but corn husking is something I enjoy, so I happen to have pictures of family husking from 2012 (when Sagan was 1), 2013, and 2014.

Husk Three Years Labeled Small
Husking – 2012, 2013 and 2014

Kayaking Fail
When Sagan woke up, we left Dyson with my mother and headed down to one of my favorite places– Coastal Kayak! In the past few months, Sagan has gone canoeing and rowboating and he loved both. We wanted to add kayaking to his resume and kayaking was the only thing on Ryan’s list when you asked him what he wanted to do at the beach. Unfortunately, as soon as we arrived, the flapping windsocks and the ample whitecaps in the usually calm Assawoman Bay made it clear it wasn’t going to happen. The Coastal Kayak staff was kind and upfront. They didn’t think it was going to be a great day for Sagan’s kayaking debut.

Bethany Beach - Coastal Kayak - Sagan in Kayak
Aww… the Closest Sagan Got to Kayaking That Day

Bike WIN
Defeated, defeated, defeated, Ryan and I started back to the beach house. The vibe in the car wasn’t a particularly happy one. This day was definitely not going as planned.

“We’re Ryan and Vicky!” I said, “We’re adventurous! We can turn this around! We can find something!”

“No, we used to be adventurous,” Ryan mumbled.

And then, a brainstorm. Biking! We got down to the Bethany Bike Shop right at closing. We had just enough time to rent their last beach cruiser with an attached car seat for 24 hours. Ryan loaded up Sagan and went for a long ride back down to the Delaware Seashore Fresh Pond park we hiked the day before. He had a phenomenal time and found better trailhead parking for the park.

Bethany Beach - Happy Sagan in Bike Seat
Yay, Finally a Success!

MobyWrap WIN
While Ryan and Sagan biked, I wrapped up little Dyson in the MobyWrap and we went for a two mile walk in the wet sand of the shoreline. Oh my goodness. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed that walk. The sea breeze on my face, the salt air in my nose, the purring of the ocean and laughter of children in my ears. Everything about that walk was just perfect. Unlike the morning, Dyson was unconcerned with the waves, he rested his head on me and just watched as they rolled in and out, in and out. Soon he was asleep. His left ear was against my chest, listening to my heartbeat. The right, the ocean. How peaceful that must of have been.

While he slept, I loved watching the teenagers surf their wakeboards from the shore *into* the incoming breakers. The forces propelled them up into flips in the air. And then my favorite part– I saw not one, but two, ospreys dive into the ocean and catch a fish…on the very first try. For some reason, I thought they would have to make a lot of attempts to catch a fish. They made catching fish look easy, though they did make flying around with a fish look a little awkward.

I didn’t have my camera, but this wonderful Creative Commons photo by Andy Morffew is a good illustration of what I saw.

Male Osprey and Barracuda
Osprey and Barracude (Photo by Andy Morffew)

Dinner and a Defection from Dickey’s
Dyson and I returned home right as Sagan and Ryan finished their bike ride. Together, we all walked over to my Aunt Julie’s for supper. My Aunt Denise made a delicious pork roast with fresh rosemary. We also had the freshly husked Farmer’s Market corn which solicited a lot of compliments. But what took the cake– my Uncle Timothy took those Farmer’s Market green beans, microwaved then for 4 measley minutes, and added the Farmer’s Market mushrooms, which he sautéed in white wine and butter (I believe this recipe was his inspiration). It was delicious. I normally try to do everything I can to encourage my children to eat vegetables. But that dish was so delicious, I actually stole some from Sagan’s plate when he wasn’t looking.

After supper, Ryan and I walked the kids down to the main drag to get some frozen custard. In past years, our family has had unwavering support for Dickey’s Frozen Custard. We defected that night and got Kohr Brother’s instead. 🙂

Final Assessment
Although the day had a series of fails and frustrations, we ended up with an ample supply of happy memories. As parents, adventures come in smaller packages and sometimes that is a mental adjustment for Ryan and I. Compared to our previous selves, it feels like we aren’t get anything done. But you compromise, you regroup, you do what you can, and little by little you end up with a full experience.

And as little as it felt like we got done that day, we still eked in tons more adventure than we would have if we stayed in the beach house all day looking at our phones. : )

Bethany Beach - July 28th - Mark, Sam and Frank on Couch
Cousins Looking at Phones

August 6, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

A Fee Free Easter Celebration in Prince William Forest National Park!

A couple of years ago, Ryan and I made an accidental discovery– The U.S. National Park Service does about a half dozen “Fee Free Weekends” a year. Score! The Fee Free Weekends are usually to celebrate national holidays like Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, etc. They do this every year and you can even check the schedule to see the Fee Free dates in the coming year.

This past November, I had forgotten a Fee Free Weekend was coming up for Veteran’s Day, so I was quite happy when Twitter reminded me.

Seems like an innocuous tweet, right? Who could complain about free access to National Parks? Free hiking! Free camping! Free picnicking! Free views! Free fresh air!

Well, a lot of people apparently! I was dumbfounded to read all the replies to the National Park Service’s tweet. It was full of vitriol and bitterness and snide remarks. People didn’t realize “Fee Free Weekends” was an established thing, planned well in advance. In the absence of that knowledge, they assumed it was a motivated event, a bribe. They thought the Fee Free Weekend was an attempt to make up for the government shutdown in October, the one that forced the National Parks (and the National Monuments, most famously the National World War II Memorial) to close.

Hate for Fee Free Weekends
A snippet of the replies to Fee Free Weekend

All the negative-vibes didn’t stop the Sommas from having an awesome Fee Free Day at Prince William Forest National Park!

We thought about going to a playground instead of a hike...but it turns out we got the best of both worlds.  Sagan found this leaf-covered slope to be very slide-like.  :) Fee Free Weekend at National Parks.  You don't have to tell the Sommas twice.  :)

Fee Free Weekends Aren’t Sinister… They’re Fun!

So forward ahead to April. I was excited to recall another Fee Free Weekend was approaching. April 19th and April 20th were Fee Free to celebrate the beginning of National Park Week! This Fee Free Weekend was a lot less controversial on Twitter… but I realized it may pose a conflict in my family. Easter was April 20th. How could we do Easter AND take advantage of the Fee Free Weekend at the same time?

Well here’s a lesson for you. It never hurts to ask. I thought my mother would be vested in having Easter at the house. I thought she would have no interest in a picnic. But I asked anyway.

“What if… what if we did an Easter Picnic at Prince William Forest National Park instead?”

I found myself as surprised as I was about all those bitter tweets to the National Park Service. My mother LOVED the idea! Not only did she love the idea, she TACKLED the idea. She invited people, got all the paper plates and supplies organized, bought TONS of food for the event and handmade 40 hamburger patties the way my Dad used to make them– with delicious Lipton Onion Soup mix. I was just the idea person. My mother made the event happen.

And it was a great event! Everyone who joined us brought a potluck dish. In addition to our grilled meats, we had homemade taco dip, Watergate salad, broccoli salad (my contribution), homemade hummus, potato salad, stuffed olives. To celebrate Easter we had dyed Easter eggs. To celebrate National Park Weeks, we had s’mores! We had two visiting German high schoolers with us. They instagrammed their very first s’mores.

Easter 2014 - Burgers
Gone But Not Forgotten– Hamburgers the Way My Dad Made Them

Easter 2014 - Vicky Looks at Sagan
Me and My First-Born Son

Easter 2014 - Carl and Sagan Play Soccer
Soccer

Easter 2014 - Ryan
Husband!!!

Easter 2014 - Grandma Holds Smiling Dyson
Grandma and Dyson

Easter 2014 - Hannah and Milla Prepare to Eat S'mores
Instagramming S’mores

Best of all, when I was a child, Easter was a time to play with your cousins. Our kids are still young, but Sagan and Dyson are already getting to to visit with their cousin Lincoln– outside. In the beautiful, beautiful outside.

Easter 2014 - Lincoln Smiles at Dyson
Cousins Dyson and Lincoln

This is probably my most memorable Easter since I was a child and got baby ducks. It’s hard to top baby ducks. But Fee Free National Parks… that can come pretty darn close. : )

1990 - ducks @ grandparents' house  (by Vicky) - Louise, Vicky, Jordan, Adam - laying, kneeling - 445767648_5c4384954a_o
Flashback to an Easter Past. I’m Second from the Left.

P.S. The next Fee-Free Day — August 25th for the National Park Service’s Birthday. : )

May 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm 4 comments

Tire Tunnel Compare – 2013 and 2014

Lake Ridge, Virginia has an epic playground. It’s aptly named “Fantasy Playground.” We’ve only been there a couple of times, but it turns out two of those visits were almost exactly a year apart. So I present, the Tire Tunnel Compare:

Tire Tunnel (from a quick stop at Lake Ridge, VA's Fantasy Playground)
Sagan in Tire Tunnel – March 3, 2013

Tire Tunnel 2014  (I got the same shot a year and 2 weeks earlier)
Sagan in Tire Tunnel – March 4, 2014

April 18, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Season Compare: Dead Tree on Chestnut Ridge Trail

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Season Compare! Here’s one from our Bull Run Mountains Conservancy hikes. On the Chestnut Ridge Trail, between the Mountain Trail and the Quarry Trail, there is a dead tree. Here’s that dead tree in September of 2012 and then again November of 2013. Enjoy!

Bull Run Mountain - Trail (Portrait) (By Ryan Somma)
Chestnut Ridge Trail – September 9, 2012

Bull Run Mountain - Dead Tree Season Compare 2
Chestnut Ridge Trail – November 2, 2013

April 16, 2014 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Family Outing – Friends of the Occoquan River Cleanup 2014

For the second year in the row, Ryan and I participated in the Friends of the Occoquan River Cleanup. Last year, my mother watched young Sagan at home. Meanwhile, we launched our kayaks from the Lake Ridge Park Marina. Without children, we were hardcore productive and picked up tons and tons and tons of trash.

Occoquan River Cleanup 2013
Flashback to 2013 – Our Collected Trash at Just *One* of Our Stops

Occoquan River Cleanup 2013
Flashback to 2013 – Ryan With a Big Ole Bag Of Trash

Of course, there was a challenge with last year’s cleanup. : )

This year, we didn’t take advantage of the free babysitting. We decided to clean up with the two boys. We stayed land-born, moseyed down to the Town of Occoquan Town Hall, signed in, and picked up a trash bag. Two year old Adela joined us with her Daddy. With two toddlers and an infant, we found ourselves slower… and a lot less productive than last year. Our little group of 2 Daddies, 2 Toddlers, 1 Mommy, and 1 Infant totaled 1 Bag of Trash. But hey, that’s one less bag of trash out there on the banks of the Occoquan. And, boy, it was super cute to watch the kids help. : )

Friends of the Occoquan River Cleanup - Sagan and Adela Look Off Wall
Adela and Sagan Looking for Trash

Friends of the Occoquan River Cleanup - Adela Throws Away Trash
Adela and Her Daddy Throw Away a Bottle

How do you pick up trash with a sleeping infant in the MobyWrap? Squatting. Lots and lots of squatting! My thighs were pleasantly sore the next day. : )

Friends of the Occoquan River Cleanup - Picking Up Trash With a Sleeping Baby (By Ryan Somma)
Squatting!

My favorite shot of the day– an action shot. My husband throws trash uphill.

Friends of the Occoquan River Cleanup - Ryan Throws Trash Uphill
Ryan Hurls Trash

After we turned in our one bag of trash, our crew had a delightful lunch outdoors at the Blue Arbor Café. As much fun as 2013’s River Cleanup was, I do have to say, 2014 just might have been even better. : )

Friends of the Occoquan River Cleanup - Sagan and Ryan At Lunch II
Sagan and Ryan at Blue Arbor Café

More pictures of the Friends of the Occoquan River Cleanup 2014 can be found on my Flickr site.

April 15, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Family Hike: White Rocks Overlook at Bull Run Mountain

Living in Occoquan, our family is surrounded by parks– Occoquan Regional Park, Fountainhead Regional Park, Mason Neck State Park, Pohick Bay Regional Park, Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge, Veteran’s Park, Julie J. Metz Wetlands Area, Leesylvania State Park, all within striking distance of a family adventure. We even have Prince William Forest National Park just 10 miles south of us. But sometimes… sometimes I miss the mountains. As luck would have it, with a 42 minute drive, we can be at Bull Run Mountains Conservancy. It’s probably my favorite hike in the Northern Virginia area.

All our trips there have been accompanied by children. We’ve hit up the Quarry Trail and the Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail which are pretty in their own right.

Bull Run Mountain - Creek Off Quarry Trail
Creek Off the Quarry Trail

But the cream of the crop is a loop made with the Ridge Loop Trail and the Chestnut Ridge Trail. The top— White Rocks Overlook/High Point, which is just stunning.

Bull Run Mountain - Happy Family at Top
White Rocks Overlook/High Point – September 2012

Bull Run Mountain - Rocks and View at High Point Overlook
White Rocks Overlook/High Point – November 2013

Bull Run Mountain - Evergreen at High Point Overlook
Changing Leaves

Bull Run Mountain - Ryan and Sagan and View
Ryan and Sagan Take in View of Mountains!

For the most part, the trail is well maintained and wide, so great for the little hikers.

Bull Run Mountain - Sagan Runs After Carl
Sagan Hikes

You do climb roughly 800 feet to get to the overlook. If you want an easier grade, I would recommend going up the Chestnut Ridge Trail. The Ridge Loop Trail is steeper (but still do-able– we carried Sagan up that trail in 2012).

Flora
There are tons to see on all the trails – mosses, wildflowers, mushrooms.

Bull Run Mountain - Leaves, Rock and Moss (By Ryan Somma)
Moss on the Chestnut Ridge Trail (By Ryan Somma)

Bull Run Mountain - Yellow Wildflower (By Ryan Somma)
Yellow Wildflower

Bull Run Mountain - Mushrooms (By Ryan Somma)
Mushrooms (By Ryan Somma)

One hike I got to see Chestnut Oaks demonstrating their “oak-i-ness” — making acorns!

Bull Run Mountain - Acorns on a Chestnut Oak
Chestnut Oaks Doing What Oaks Do – Making Acorns!

Up near the top, an extra bonus. American Chestnut trees still exhibiting hope and trying to grow.

Bull Run Mountain - American Chestnut - Blighted Bark and New Shoot
The Blighted Bark of a Dead Chestnut and Its New Shoot

Fauna
We’ve seen the usual squirrels and deer and variety of birds. One time, we got to visually confirm the reptiles are in the mix as well. : )

Bull Run Mountain - Lizard on Tree Bark (By Ryan Somma)
Lizard on Tree Bark (By Ryan Somma)

It may not be as close as some of our other hikes, but the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy hike is one of our favorites.

More photos of our Bull Run Mountain hikes can be found on Flickr here and here.

White Rocks Overlook Via the Chestnut Ridge Trail

Trail Map

Bull Run Mountains Conservancy
17405 Beverley Mill Dr
Broad Run, VA 20137

Length: ~4.2 Round Trip

Elevation Gain: Roughly 800 feet

April 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm 3 comments

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