took a hike, took a camera: Lewis Falls

Want to know what happens when I go on a hike with 6 kids: I don’t take many pictures. That’s what. Those kids had my attention directed and redirected all over the place! All six kids and four adults, including me, hit the trails to Lewis Falls. On the hike back to the car, my daughter and I led the pack. We sang songs and talked and laughed. I think it’s safe to say that we all had a great hike that ended with a much needed stop at Jack Brown’s Singlewide on our way off of Skyline Drive. We refueled and headed home. Also, there are no photos of the falls on this post. As mentioned, I was easily distracted and never got a shot. Wamp. But hey, go see it for yourself!

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took a hike, took a camera: Bearfence Mountain

One time when I was a little girl, living with my Nanny, she made a quick run to the grocery store. Nanny left me home alone watching He-Man and She-Ra, coloring innocently at the coffee table. She walked out the door and a beacon of light shined down onto a bowl filled with mini Snickers, placed just out of my reach, on top of the microwave. I tossed my crayon and tugged a chair across the thick carpet. Wobbly legs and tippy-toes. The dog, Fluffy, gave me a sideways stare. That bowl was mine. I tore into those Snickers like a boss. I probably threw back 15 of those suckers! One after another into my little tummy. I heard Nanny’s car pull up so I quickly put the bowl back (empty wrappers and all), returned the chair and resumed my coloring. Within the hour I was in full regret mode. I felt gross….then, I yakked. And if you’ve ever yakked a candy bar, you know exactly the terrifying alienesque blob that was staring back at me from the toilet. I didn’t eat a Snickers bar for 10 years after that day.

Ben and I woke up one Sunday a couple of weeks ago and realized that, for the first time in a long time, we were kid-free and obligation-free onthesameday! A beacon of light shined on our day and we were eager to get out. I was so pumped I skipped a shower and threw my hair up in a tangled knot, put on some week old shorts and grabbed my backpack. We decided to hit a trail that a co-worker had recently told me about with beautiful 360 views called Bearfence on Skyline Drive. The trail was rugged and included some rock scrambling that will put your ego in check. As promised, the views were amazing. The layered gray clouds hovering over layered blue mountains were perfect. The kind of perfect you see in magazines and wish you could visit one day. I showed off a yoga pose (which is really dang hard to do when you’re on top of the world!), Ben ate a bagel, we took some selfies and then we hiked back to the car. We filled the rest of our day with a stop at two vineyards: Kilaurwen where we got to go on a property hike and Moss where we watched a rainband move in over several sets of hills before heading home to watch a movie.

When I was a little girl, that day of over-indulging in mini Snickers taught me a very valuable lesson. Mainly: the good things in life are best when savored, not indulged. There aren’t many free hours in my life these days and that makes those rare gems of unplanned days better than any candy bar, mini or deluxe, that I can imagine. I truly savored our time on the mountain and every drop of wine that followed….and I did not yak up an alien blob of remorse that day.

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took a hike, took a camera: Doyles River Falls

I was the first one awake on Mother’s Day morning. My son returned home after midnight the previous night because of a band trip to Busch Garden’s. He was exhausted and my daughter likes to savor the morning so the house was quiet that Sunday at 7:15am. I filled a small pot with water and scooped some rich grounds into my french press, hearing the grounds hit the glass for maybe the first time ever. Light poured in the window as my coffee steeped, the house still and quiet. I tidied and swept the main floor carefully then tippy-toed the trash and recycling to the bin outside. The kids woke up one by one and greeted me with a hug and a “What’s for breakfast?” They ate sleepy-eyed and I packed our bag for the hike. We arrived at the Doyles River Falls lot around 11am and it felt a little like my house that morning. It was calm and still, as if our presence alone would wake up the residents. Not far onto the trail we rounded a turn and met a deer. Then, one after another, we saw lots of life on our hike: flowers, snails, millepedes (so many millepedes), gnats (so many gnats) and a snake (which I did not get close enough to photograph). We even passed our Harrisonburg friend Danielle and her boyfriend Cody on this trail! Doyles has two falls: upper and lower. The trail guide I have says “two waterfalls with different personalities.” I didn’t know what that meant until I saw the second waterfall. They were equally beautiful but so very different. And, they’re close to each other so you get two falls in one hike which is sweet. On our way back we passed a group of hikers that let us know there was a black bear ahead, peacefully turning over rocks, looking for food. I had a little tinge of fear, I’ll be honest. But it was way helpful to know it was up ahead and that the people who told us about it lived to tell us so… We saw it, I took a blurry photo of it and then we hauled it up the path. On the last leg of the climb, Ben and Blake raced to the parking lot. They each met their match…neither wanted to keep going and neither of them would quit. It was a fun sight for me and Ella, casually lagging behind. The day ended with one more pull-off along the Drive to take in the rolling mountains under gray skies followed by a Mother’s Day barbecue courtesy of my little sister, Brook. It was the perfect gift from her and a delicious post-hike meal for all.

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Bonus mini-waterfall on the hike.
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Upper Doyles
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took a hike, took a camera: Dark Hollow Falls

It was me, three kids, a baby doll and enough snacks to survive a week in the wild. Snacks are essential. My kids are not cool when they’re hungry…and that says a whole lot because my kids are pretty cool.  So there we were, snacks and all, driving up Skyline Drive. The sun was shining, the windows cracked, the radio up. My daughter and niece wailing T. Swift in the backseat. My son riding shotgun and happy to be next to me. (sigh) Things were looking good…then I rolled the window up and my son did a silent breakdance in the passenger seat until I realized his hand was stuck and those Elvis-inspired hip thrusts were actually jolts of pain. Dang it. He recovered quickly and we were back on our way. Even after that, I wasn’t nervous about the solo hike with three kids because, well, I’m always surrounded by kids: my kids, their friends, my friend’s kids, my family’s kids. Plus, it’s my job. I’m surround by teenagers all day Monday-Friday and they’ve got me well trained to expect the unexpected.

We pulled into an overflowing parking lot at 10:30am. It was filled with cars from all over the U.S. The kids read the license plates aloud as I searched for parking and I found myself feeling very thankful that this gorgeous part of the world is right in the Valley’s backyard. For our hike, I chose Dark Hollow Falls because 1) I know it’s a popular hike, would be highly traveled and therefore help would be near should I encounter a human-eating animal. I kid. Sort of. 2) I’ve hiked this trail with my kids before and they loved it. And 3)  It’s a good workout but not a full day commitment. It’s a 1.4 mile hike with an optional .4 mile addition to the bottom of the falls (which we did). I read once that the Dark Hollow hike is .7 miles down and 7 miles back. That seems about right with the seemingly leisurely stroll down to the falls with a heck-of-a haul on the way back up. Shew. We passed lots of friendly hikers and everyone we saw that day greeted us with a smile. The kids enjoyed the day…and I think the baby doll did, too.

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Cell phone summary:

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took a hike, took a camera: South River Falls

My front door was a revolving door of family and friends all weekend, leaving my heart happy and full of the stuff: laughter, love, home-cooked meals, hugs, family. It made sense to keep the good vibes going and complete the weekend with a hike…this time, to South River Falls. Rather than being greeted with snow and ice-covered trails like in January and February, we were greeted with blue skies, dripping icicles and fresh mud. The mountains are thawing…specks of green reaching to the sun. We squelched our way along the trail enjoying this time of transition in nature. My friend, Howard Zehr, is working on a photography series for his upcoming show that compares leaves to human aging. I thought a lot about his series as I walked and watched my kids explore that day, their grandfather by their side. The kids, like fresh little green buds. I also thought a lot about bears. I mean, it is Spring…and they’re probably pretty hungry. As much time as I’ve spent in the woods, I’ve only seen a real live bear once…just outside of DC, of all places. No bears today though. Just a few falling icicles that I was certain would have me for lunch…until I realized they were icicles. And icicles don’t have teeth. Or stomachs.
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South River Falls! I can’t wait to see it again surrounded by more green!SouthRiverFalls7688SouthRiverFalls7641SouthRiverFalls7645SouthRiverFalls7655SouthRiverFalls7657There’s always an injury. Next time, I will bring actual bandaids.
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cell phone summary:SouthRiverFalls CellShots

Field Trip: New Market Battlefield

Blake is in the 5th grade and this particular field trip was pretty special to him. Not only was it his second-to-last field trip as an elementary school student *gulp* but he is particularly fond of the Civil War. As in, he absolutely knows way more than me about the battles that happened in this area. And I’ve lived here my whole life. My smart little smartypants. I took the day off work to join Blake and his classmates at the New Market Battlefield for a little history lesson.
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The two 5th grade classes:
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The tour guide explained the symbolism in the stained glass window installation:FCLIMG_5244

Dressing the part of Union and Confederate soldiers:FCLIMG_5248

During the reenactment video Blake didn’t take well to the bloody soldier scene. And by ‘didn’t take well’ I mean he keeled over right beside me and slammed his head on the seat in front of us. Pretty sure that’s the closest I’ve come to a heart attack. The paramedics were called just to be safe and after a few questions they diagnosed him with a weak stomach. Check out the two photos below: 1) pale serious Blake with a paramedic and his teacher in the background and 2) full color Blake, happy and feeding. *shew!*FCLIMG_5245 FCLIMG_5250 FCLIMG_5251

After lunch we toured the grounds including the Bushong House and the Field of Lost Shoes which was particularly eerie. As the tour ended, dark clouds rolled in followed by a refreshing rain. It was a great day with Blake and his classmates. 🙂FCLIMG_5254 FCLIMG_5260 FCLIMG_5262FCLIMG_5281C FCLIMG_5265COLLAGE FCLIMG_5272BW FCLIMG_5273 FCLIMG_5278

The Field of Lost Shoes

The Field of Lost Shoes

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Copyright © 2013 · Photos by Brandy Somers. All Rights Reserved · friendlycitylens.com & brandysomersphotography.com. This material may not be copied, downloaded, altered, cropped, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting my creative property.

18 hours at Smith Mountain Lake

Being fashionably late is kinda Spring’s thing this year. I can’t complain. It really couldn’t have made more of a grand appearance than this passed weekend. Smith Mountain Lake was the spot for the wedding of lovebirds Rahul and Jennifer. The drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway was amazing. Here are a few shots from my fine time with some fine folks.

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Oh hay Spring!

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What a good looking family.

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Happy 7th birthday!

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Hey handsome!

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Men in suits cleaning up baby vomit.

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I’m not really sure what’s happening here.

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