Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Update on power line along W&OD Trail

According to the Wash Cycle and this article in Leesburg Today, the State Corporation Commission examiner has recommended that the proposed new power line between Leesburg and Purcellville be placed parallel to the Trail, on what is known as the Modified D route.
The Modified D route was created by Anderson after conducting a site visit last year. In this week's recommendation of the Modified D route, Anderson said, with overhead construction would "reasonably" minimize the adverse impacts to the scenic assets, historic districts and environment of the area concerned.

That is not likely to allay the concerns of those using or living along the trail, who note that widespread clearing will have to be undertaken whether the route is on the trail or paralleling it.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

All clear!

Well, that didn't take long. Friday morning the trail was just about completely snow-covered, Friday night it was slushy all over, and Saturday evening it was clear of snow entirely, even on the bridges.

So, when's the next storm?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Studded tires are back!

Yep, it's that time of year again! Thursday I drove to work, because my winter commuter was a the shop, halfway through mounting the studded tires and internal hub gear. I finished both of those up and rode in today. The trail between I-66 and downtown Vienna was mostly covered with packed snow, with only a few short clear stretches. The photo here is from just west of Gallows Road, looking west.

It looks like several other riders have been there since the snow fell, which is fun to see. I was really glad to have my studded tires (Nokian Hakkapelittas) today, as it was pretty slippery and bumpy on the trail. I'm sure with skill and patience and a serene mind, one can navigate this with regular tires, but I find the serenity of mind is much easier to come by when I know I've got a hundred-odd metal spikes per tire keeping me stuck to the trail!

Either way, be careful out there. Pick your path based on the smoothest, best packed areas, trying to avoid any serious ruts from other tire tracks. Also, it's best not to stay too close to the edges, just so you have room to manuver. And you generally have more control when pedaling, rather than coasting.

I've also included a picture of the front end of my Miyata 210 commuter, showing the studded tire, front rack and basket, and Lumotec generator-powered headlight. Now that I've switched it over to an 8 speed Shimano internal hub, it's pretty much an ideal commuter.

Friday, November 9, 2007

It's that time of year...

... when, in addition to the change in color, you have to watch for wet leaves on the trail. Remember, they can be very slippery and cause you to lose traction before you realize it.

But they sure are pretty, huh?

This was taken near mile 9.5, between Gallows and Cedar, but I'm sure these conditions exist in many locations.

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's dark out there

It's that time of year when more people are on the trail before or after dark. On my evening commute I see many people in dark clothes without anything reflective material. Approaching cyclists have very little warning in these situations. Many cyclists are also riding without lights. I've heard of one serious accident so far this year; two cyclists without lights who collided head-on. Luckily the injuries were not major.

Lights don't cost much and even the smallest ones at least let others know you are out there.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Critter report!

Well, on my ride in to work this morning, I saw this fella avidly staring into the brush... no doubt waiting for some small creature to make a fatal mistake! He didn't even notice I passed a few feet away from him.

This evening on the ride home, after dark, I was rolling along between Cedar and Gallows when a movement just out of my headlight beam caught my eye. I couldn't see what it was at first, but quickly realized it was a fox, a few feet away and scampering off the trail ahead of me. I wonder if it was one of the group of kits from last spring.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Piney Branch bridge now open

On my commute home today I was surprised to see the detour gates had come down at the entrance to the Piney Branch bridge. There was some fresh asphalt leading up to the bridge as I headed west. There is still a large gap in the asphalt but it was a treat not to have to ride the gravel detour. My body was expecting the bumps at that point in my ride, having ridden the detour almost daily for over a year, and it was a somehow odd sensation to ride smoothly over the bridge. I hope it's permanent.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Piney Branch bridge repairs near completion

It appears that the Piney Branch bridge repair work is nearly completed. The stonework on the bridge abutments is repaired and today there was work being done on the bridge deck. It looks like the work should be completed in the next week or so.

Grape Kool-aid

It is not a hallucination: the trail smells like grape kool-aid. You have not been transported back to 2nd grade or off to Jonestown. The kudzu is in bloom (left photo near mile 10). This Japanese plant was introduced across the southern U.S. in the 1930s and 40s as a forage crop, and to reduce soil erosion. Now it is considered an invasive weed.

More purple: The poke berries are getting ripe. The berries are not edible to people, although birds and wildlife can use them. This is certainly a handsome plant! The photo below was taken directly across the trail from the Kudzu.

Caution: Tree Trimming

The crews are trimming trees along the W&OD these days. Be especially careful when passing the trucks and chain saw crews. They have been considerate in my experience, but it is still a dangerous operation. This morning I snapped a photo of two men high in the trees south of the trail near Vienna (left). One of the men is cutting the top of the tree he is in. The photo on the right is an image taken moments after the top fell. The crew was in Falls Church yesterday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Monster plants and little friends

We have entered that part of the year where the monster plants dominate the trail. I'm talking about the ragweed. The GIANT ragweed that is 12 or more feet tall looming over us with its spikey florets (right photo near mile 10). This is a shrubby, messy looking plant, but more to the point: It is responsible for untold misery in hay-fever sufferers. It is a wind-pollinated plant, and when you are 12 feet tall, you catch every breeze, if you catch my drift.

Fortunately for those of us with limited allergic reactions, there are other, nicer, features of the mid-september W&OD. One of my favorites is Gaura. The blossoms are only open early in the morning...they are wispy and butterfly-like. The plants are also big, but not as tall as the giant ragweed. Maybe 4-5 feet tall and covered with white-pink blossoms (left photo just east of Cedar Lane).

Most exciting for this time of year are our little friends, the Monarch butterflies. The females laid their eggs on our milkweed plants in mid August and now we need to try to NOT MOW THE MILKWEED before the little ones get through this critical life phase. The Monarchs have human friends as evidenced by the signs and flagging at several points along the trail (below, near mile 11).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Shooting stars

Today, the trail was brimming. A cool front moved through the area and everyone piled out of their houses and onto the W&OD. Tonight though. Tonight will see quiet darkness for a few hours, then a show! The Perseid meteor shower should begin at about 11 and continue until dawn.

Hidden treasure: A side trail to a creek near mile 11, look closely in the dappled shade and you will see Cardinal Flower in bloom.

Meteor image from Southdown Planetarium. Cardinal Flower photo courtesy Southern Indiana University.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Little Friend

It was 87 F for my commute this morning. Over 100 F yesterday and didn't bother to cool down much I guess. Still, I would rather be out on the trail among the statuesque Joe Pye and stalwart Queen Anne's Lace than standing in a crowded stuffy train car or, worse, lugging a ton of steel around to get me where I want to be.

Today I saw a little friend. A honeybee. It was crawling on the trail at about mile 6 and I remarked to myself on how long it has been since I have seen one. I wished it strength and good pollinating and a healthy hive as I rode by. The rise and fall of the honeybees will be written in the deep cores when future paleontologists puzzle out the secrets of the Anthropocene.

Photo is copywrite Mark Cassino, courtesy FCPS.

Friday, August 3, 2007


The construction under the Sycamore Street bridge in Banneker Park looks to be almost complete. The trail in early August is showing signs of our severe drought: even the ragweed --- soon to be in bloom --- is hanging its leaves. The bunnies at mile 4 are venturing closer to the trail for tender growth. Four-mile Run is very low.

The trail is also showing signs of the high levels of CO2 in the air. Vines are rampant: Chocolate Vine (you wish! no, not real chocolate) at mile 10.5, Kudzu at the Gallows Road intersection, wild grapes over everything, prickly mile-a-minute vine cloaking even the hardy bamboo in spots. These are all encouraged to grow more aggressively by the greenhouse gas that is trapping heat in our atmosphere. Code Orange indeed!

On a positive note: the Sundrops are blooming mornings now. Striking flowers in the primrose family. Photo is from

Thursday, August 2, 2007

I ride to eat

The W&OD Trail Report has provided insights into the wonders of nature along the trail and reported on activity on the trail. This item begins reporting about food along the trail. One of the true reasons that I ride a bike is so I can rationalize the calories I take in. So why not share the information of where the best tasting calories are lurking?

This idea of food reporting came to me as I read the Washington Post on Wednesday. As you may know, the Post publishes a Food Section each Wednesday. Every other week Greg Kitsock writes a column devoted to beer. Kitsock in this week's edition reported on the change of ownership of the Old Dominion Brewing Co. He ended the column with:

"And there is no question that the Old Dominion crew can produce memorable beers. Recently, the brewers made a superb, limited-edition porter, deep ruby-red and full of mocha flavors with licorice and herbal notes.

The problem is, the porter is available only in the brewery pub, a 40 minute drive from Washington. Will beer geeks continue to make that trek?"

Greg, the brewery pub is a couple of hundred yards from the W&OD Trail. If the beer geeks won't make the trek then there is just more for the trail users to enjoy.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Piney Branch detour: Good news/Bad news

The good news about the Piney Branch bridge detour is that a lot of progress is being made by the construction crew working to shore up the existing bridge supports. I hope the work will be finished soon. The bad news is that there has been a lot of construction traffic on the gravel detour route, and the trail is getting soft, especially near the metal bridge. Be extra careful when riding through the detour.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Night Critters

Tonight I rode home after dark, due to a meeting I had to attend. No hazards or trail issues to report, but it was a lovely night, with lots of fireflies, katydids, and frogs out there. Keep your eyes peeled for deer if out at night, as well as the occasional rabbit which you might startle. And don't be surprised to find bats swooping and weaving just overhead!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Lotus flowers in full bloom! (Reston)

The Lotus flowers in the pond adjacent to the Trail & Old Reston Ave are in glorious full bloom!

These photos were taken on Wednesday morning, 11July. On previous years you could see most of the pond from the trail -- however, this year the underbrush has been allowed to grow high, & it's only possible to get a short glimpse from the trail itself. You need to get off the Trail & follow the short path over to the pond for the full view -- well worth it!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gravel on trail in Reston

Watch for sand and gravel in the north lane of the trail under the Sallie Mae bridge at mile 17.5. This section of trail is very close to the unpaved parallel trail and there is no barrier for the loose gravel when there is a heavy rain. It happens frequently and the situation was reported to the park authority quite a while back. They will eventually come out and sweep it clear, but a long term solution is needed. It's a difficult section to fix. In the meantime, it's advisable not to go into that lane at full speed because the sand/gravel is deep.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sky blue morning

The lush summer is here on the W&OD. If you like abundant moisture in your air, you are at home.
For my morning commute I enjoyed the heavy air, rich with the fragrance of mimosa and the lulling repetition of catbird calls. There was chicory all along the trail. Sky blue. Staring at and tracking the rising sun. It is a morning flower (top photo). Deep rooted and gritty. By afternoon the flowers have given up trying to understand solar physics and closed for the day (bottom photo).

Chicory seeds are loved by Goldfinches. The plant is a European native with many food and beverage uses. New to me was this one: "While modern farmers might use reapers to cut their chicory, there was a time long ago when only a golden sickle or a knife made from the horn of a stag could be used to cut the plant, which was harvested on certain special days, not as food for livestock but as an aphrodisiac for man." (J. Sanders. 2003. The Secrets of Wildflowers)
I did not see anyone with a stag-horn knife on the trail today.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Piney Branch bridge repair

It's been a year since the bridge over the Piney Branch washed out and repairs are finally underway. As you see from the photo, the streambed is dry beneath the bridge where the work is being done to shore up the old stone footings. They water is being diverted by a pump that runs continuously. It may be a while before the bridge is repaired, but at least there's hope that the end of the unpaved detour is in sight.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Beware: Glass at Rt. 29 intersection

I guess I crowed about my brand new "flat proof" kevlar-banded tires too soon. When I went to get my bike out for the ride home last night the rear tire was flat as a pancake. Why is it always the rear tire? Anyway, I wheeled it into an out-of-the-way spot and we eyed each other warily for a moment. Then I went through my little tool bag and got out two plastic tire levers and a patch kit. I managed to disengage the brake and, after some exceptionally black and greasy maneuvers, got the wheel off the bike. Then I spent 15 minutes or so trying to get the tire off the rim, I even got an assist from another biologist who rides in. He couldn't budge it either but we did answer the question that has plagued philosphers for centuries: How many PhD's does it take to change a bike tire? [answer: more than two!]. Finally I gave up, piled the carcass back in the bike cage, walked to the metro and provided amusement to bored commuters by attempting to clean the black stuff off my hands with a tube of lotion and a used napkin.
Back home, my sweetheart gallantly offered rescue, explaining that I just didn't have enough experience for this kind of skilled job. We drove to my office, got the bike, brought it home, and he attempted to fix it using only the tire levers that I had used. They didn't work for him either! He declared them useless, trashed them, and fixed my tire with HIS tire levers, which due to his immense generosity, are now MY new tire levers. My patch kit was also questionable, so he put a new tube in the tire after carefully removing the shard of glass that caused the flat.

My hero!!
Lesson #1 - don't bother with cheap plastic tire levers.
Lesson #2 - be sure to have a hero waiting in the wings.

Monday, May 28, 2007


It is Memorial Day weekend and we have spent 80 miles of time on the W&OD trail. We are training for a long tour and appreciate the auto-free beauty of the trail for these many miles. We saw a tiny box turtle out near Leesburg, and a pair of chipmunks chased each other on the Reston plateau. Bird song followed us everywhere, and a bluebird darted across in front of us near Ashburn. The wildflowers are transitioning to their summer glory. As the multiflora rosa and blackberries fade, the elderberry is near peak. Mountain laurel and goatsbeard are out now, and in the quiet corners you can find the small but perfect Deptford pink and Venus' looking glass. Goatsbeard photo (left) courtesy Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Box turtle photo courtesy Steven Pinker, Harvard University.

Riding home we saw the lively celebration of Viva Vienna, and we thought of the reason for Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A New Wheel

Commute this morning was my first outing on my brand new rear wheel. There were many bicycles on the W&OD today. Faster ones. Shinier ones. Fancier ones. But none had a wheel quite like mine. It has 36 spokes and a sleek black rim enchanted with resilient strength. My old [cracked] wheel now adorns the Wall of Worn-out Bicycle Parts.

Nature was overflowing onto the trail today: Two baby bunnies and a racing Chipmunk near the intersection with Custis Trail. A Baltimore Oriole at ~mile 5. And Yellow Flag iris along Four-Mile Run through Falls Church. The Yellow Flag is a wildflower native to Europe and can be invasive here, but it is lovely nonetheless. Oriole photo courtesy Arlington County Public Schools. Iris photo courtesy University of Connecticut.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bike to Work Day 2007

Streams of the sleek and the sturdy flowed along the W&OD this morning. The overcast skies didn't stop anyone from having a wonderful time passing cars creeping along in traffic.
Stop to smell the roses at about mile 7.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rhapsody in Pollen

Summertime.... and the weather is windy

Pollen is flyin', and the temp'rature's high

One of these mornin's, I'm gonna rise up singin'

"Git outta my eyeballs, you're makin' them dry..."

With apologies to DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. Mixed pollen photo courtesy Iowa State University.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I am reveling in this spring. Taking each day and turning it to the light. Pulling the welcome warmth from the rising sun. Today, the trail was bulging with riders and walkers and strollers and bladers and chipmunks and catbirds. Watch the glass at mile 21.

A jaunt from Vienna to Herndon with friends was a wagon train of 'on your left's and the lean sound of speed bikes passing and passing us. In our wake, the buttercups and wild geraniums (pictured) swayed in the breeze. Wild azalea and wild cherry are about over --- although the tent caterpillars are just peaking in the cherry trees. Be sure to watch for the glorious mountain laurel just bursting into bloom at the crest of the hill west of Hunter Mill Road.

Multiflora rosa and blackberry perfumed the moist air for our morning ride. Riding back through Vienna I saw Cathy Delgado making final preparations for the dedication of the new Vienna Town Green next to the trail. She was instrumental in bringing this urban jewel to fruition, and we all owe her a debt of gratitude.

Late today I was able to get back out for a ride with my son, and we left the trail in the Difficult Run valley. We were transported to a land before time: a bottomland swamp forest dense with enormous skunk cabbage, blooming Jack-in-the-pulpit and mammoth tulip poplar trees. While we ate a picnic supper at streamside, we watched a swarm of midges gaily dancing above us. I explained to him that they were all males, swooping and darting, waiting for a female to enter the swarm and then rise with her chosen mate above the remaining males below. He suggested that the technical term for the remaining males should be "losers." We watched this ballet with great interest until the sky began to darken, and then we explored the stream for a while until it started to rain.

Back on the trail we looked west through the light rain to where the setting sun was a rich red dipping below the clouds. Then we headed east toward home, nodding to the deer watching from the shadows and racing each other in breathless sprints that he somehow always won.
Biophilia is love of nature.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Breezy Byway

The wind was strong and fickle today. Mostly from the north, but gusting from the northeast and northwest just enough to give me a tippy adrenalin jolt every now and then. The leaves have filled in since last weekend, and many of the early spring wildflowers are over. Trees are still blooming though, including a few late Dogwood, the lacy white Viburnum, the lovely creamy Black Locust (tasty scattered on a salad if from a clean, car-free area), the regal purple Empress of India tree, and of course the various oaks and other hardwoods. The pollen was pretty dense --- helped in its mission to find other tree flowers by the high winds.

Watch for the glass on the trail in Leesburg. We got some of it, but a bike that came by later flatted anyway.

The cathedral area between Leesburg and Purcellville shown in the photo was spectacular. We saw signs that warned of a battle to save the trail from a new powerline.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Falls Church - Vienna, Monday 4/30

Trail conditions are excellent overall, and lots of living things are re-emerging as the weather warms. Lots of blossoms of various types... unlike idabike, I can't help you identify them, unfortunately. Critters are also out and about... Monday evening I slowed to a stop when I saw the three fox kits cavorting right next to the trail! They are getting bigger, and clearly more independent of mom, but I have to admit, it worries me to see them right at the side of, and at one point on the trail, when people were about. Bizarre moment.. a pair of joggers went by, one after the other, within five feet of the little kits, and didn't even notice them, or apparently wonder why I was pulled over watching the underbrush. I guess they were "in the zone" or something. Me, I look around and enjoy the scenery when I ride, but I don't view it primarily as a workout, so I'm different.

Anyway, if you see the kits, please give them a wide berth... wild things need to stay wild.

One other incident of note... near the Vienna Community Center in the morning, there was a crew cutting up a fallen tree right on the path. Apparently they had moved the barricade on the east end of their work area to move a truck, and hadn't replaced it yet, so the obstruction was a suprise to me and another rider. Also a surprise was the anger of the guy with the chainsaw, who yelled at us for not stopping, saying "couldn't you see I had a chainsaw?" Well, yes, but without the barricade, it was too late by the time I saw him. And if they were so concerned about cyclists coming upon them with the saw running, why didn't they wait until they had restored the barricade? Ah well, just a series of missteps on both sides... I should have stopped and announced my presence, and they should have made sure the barricade was up while cutting.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Beavers in the valley

Westbound at dawn I cleared Vienna and was zooming down the grade toward the Difficult Run valley when I saw a pair of beavers in the creek below mile 12.5. One was pale brown, the other dark brown, and they seemed to be chatting, or perhaps courting. At any rate, after a few minutes, one swam away and the other followed.

Continuing west I saw a big herd of deer having breakfast among the Skunk Cabbage while being serenaded by the squeaky hinge call of the Red Winged Blackbirds in the marsh to the south. Farther west, an Indigo Bunting flew across my path and the Wild Azalea scented the air up on the Reston Plateau.
Out near Goose Creek about mile 30 the dogwoods and redbuds were spectacular on either side of the trail. Toothwort is blooming out there too.

Returning home I was handed a safety brochure by police at the trail in Reston. They were giving out information this weekend, and one of them said that they were going to start enforcing the safety guidelines along the trail in the near future. The Boy Scouts were clearing brush along the trail near Maple Avenue in Vienna. Be careful riding in that area, there are lots of people on and around the trail and the chain saws are making a lot of noise.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Purple Haze

The fox kits were out again last night east of Gallows. I try to watch them without turning my head their way: Tim is right, not good for them to become too accustomed to humans. But they are pretty high up on the cuteness scale.

What is that purple stuff out there? Everything! I never realized it before this spring, but lots of the purple wildflowers bloom in April. Of course the rare and priceless bi-colored birdfoot violets that I showed in my last blog. Today I reveal that on that same day I also photographed the less charismatic plain lavender birdfoot (below). Am I a violet snob? Maybe.
The common violets are out in force along the trail now too (top left). Gill-over-the-ground (top center) and Purple-dead-nettle (top right) all add to the low purple haze along the trail.
Finally, Virginia Bluebells carpet the bottomlands near Broad Run west of Rt. 28, and if you look up around mile 10 east of Cedar Lane you will see Wisteria in the trees.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Critters and Blossoms

Well, today was gorgeous out on the trail. In the morning, at around 8:30 - 9;00, there were plenty of dogwood blossoms, like the ones here at the Beltway overpass.

About halfway between Gallows and Cedar, I saw a fox slipping off into the brush to the south. And then, between Cedar and Park, I spotted a young buck crossing the trail. We both eyed each other before going on our way. He went into the brush behind the houses there, to join another deer.

Then, on the ride home this evening, around dusk, I saw a couple standing at the south side of the trail, looking at the bank on the north side, just west of Gallows. Remembering idabike's earlier posts, I stopped and walked back to the spot... and there, on the opposite bank, were three young fox kits, eyeing the humans with curiosity and a measure of suspicion. The other folks and I wisely decided to leave them to their business, as it's best that wild critters not get too used to humans.

No pics of the kits... too dark, and I didn't want to use the flash.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sweet Breath of Spring

Sweet Breath of Spring is a bush honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima --- great Latin name!). But today, it was in fact the sweet, warm breath of the season that charmed me on the W&OD. Another beautiful long ride out to test my lungs and legs and let my mind spin slowly for a while.

Sound of the day: The toads were calling along Difficult Run. There is nothing that quite says springtime like the call of a toad. It is a clear, rich, musical "Breeeee" at a pitch that a human can imitate quite easily. Here is the URL where you can hear American Toads:

Adrenalin Rush of the day: A Black Ratsnake slipped across the trail just as I rode by --- narrowly missing my wheels. Coluber constrictor. Coluber means "snake" and constrictor means... you don't want to be a mouse around this specimen.

Wildflower of the day: Bi-colored Birdfoot Violet. This was a good test of my peripheral vision. There were only a few clumps of the birdfoots, all on the lean clay soil exposed on the north side of the trail just west of Sunrise Valley Drive. Some were unicolor (pale violet), but the bi-colored ones were much showier, and I clambered up the steep slope --- to the astonishment of 'serious bikers' passing below --- to photograph them.

Runner-up Wildflower of the Day: Trout Lily. I had to take a little side trail off of the W&OD to find these. It is located on the north side of the trail about Mile 11, and runs through a little stream valley. The Trout Lilies were surrounded by Spring Beauties, another lovely little spring wildflower. Trout Lilies get their name from their leaves, that are speckled like a trout.
The sweet breath of spring blew me gently home.

An Introduced Species?

Along with the many wonderful signs of spring along the trail already noted, Saturday evening, on my way home from the shop, something caught my eye on milepost 11. Not AT the milepost, on it.

Okay, so it's a kid's toy... still, it made me smile. I hope it wasn't lost by someone.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Earth Day 2007

The W&OD called out all of our senses this morning. Shivering westbound through the Difficult Run valley just after dawn we heard scores of birds: Carolina Wrens, Mockingbirds, Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers ("Kwerrrrr"), White-throated Sparrows and the ubiquitous Towhees ("drink your TEA!"). A pair of Canada Geese were acting like they were nesting in the wetlands south of the trail (right, photo courtesy FCPS). A Crow chased a Red Shouldered Hawk through the woods east of Reston.

The trees were in bloom too. And the young leaves, especially of the Tulip Poplar, were the brightest, gentlest green imaginable. A Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, whose caterpillars feed on Tulip Poplar, floated on the gentle breeze. The caterpillar and butterfly images (left) are also courtesy FCPS.

As the morning grew warmer, the trail filled with riders and walkers and skaters and many many canines. There was an Earth Day festival in Herndon, and the band was tuning up as we rode by. Delectable smells came from several directions.
The sights, sounds and smells of the Earth brought some peace to my badly bruised VT alumnus heart.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Falls Church - Vienna

Lovely day to ride today... sun, birds, and happy people on the trail. The only real "issues" of note are the construction at the soon-to-be Vienna Town Green, and across the street from that, the nice folks who take care of the landscaping around Whole Foods are working, and they aren't too observant of the fact that there's actually a thoroughfare right there. This morning one of them had parked a cart right in the middle of the west bound lane, right by the traffic light. Argh. Ah well, otherwise a great day to ride.

Oh, and the spring peepers were singing again, last night and this morning. They've sort of come and gone and back again as the weather keeps changing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A damp day

I am learning something about the W&OD trail. If you want the trail to yourself, ride on a cold, rainy day. But my companion and I did not have the trail to ourselves today, despite the 1+ inch of rain that fell during our 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. ride. In addition to boatloads of worms and their avian predators (see "Wormicide" blog March 16) , we were watched by sentinel deer, raced by cottontail rabbits, and honked at by territorial geese. A brash chipmunk catapulted across the asphalt, a Kingfisher chittered in the ashen arms of a sycamore, and a dead vole reminded us that we had missed lunch.

The water ran down the trail. It pooled on the trail. It coursed across the trail. It ran down our arms and legs into our gloves and shoes. The water eased up over the banks of Difficult Run to inundate the floodplain. It gushed down every little bank and swale. It burbled along the bridle path that parallels the paved trail. The water pelted our faces when we turned them up. It drummed on our helmets when we looked down. Broad Run was out of control under the new bridge (left). It swirled angrily around the [detestable] golf course that slew the bottomland hardwoods south of the trail last year. A few Virginia Bluebells held their heads above the brown swirls on the remaining floodplain.

Most of the wildflowers were saving themselves for more spectators, but the Bloodroot was in bloom near mile 12.5 (right), and violets were looking cheery on the thin soil of the Reston plateau. Of course the oaks were blooming too, but seeing their dangling yellow-green flowers required close attention, which we found increasingly difficult after we wrung out our gloves at Smith's Switch and turned for home.
It was a splendid ride, and who needed to fiddle with a backpack hydration system? With the amount of water that collected in our hoods, we just needed a straw.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A deep breath

Wood ducks by Four-Mile run. Bunnies hopping all over the place in Falls Church. Marsh Marigolds blanketing the wetlands near Banneker Park. It may be chilly, but spring is here. As plants leaf out in the Northern hemisphere, the planet effectively takes a deep breath - of CO2! You can almost hear it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A Summer Day?

I couldn't resist the warm weather on Tuesday, April 3rd with temps in low 80's. A planned errand ride to the bank in Leesburg found me on the way to Hamilton and back. It was very warm and I thought riding West under the canopy of trees would provide some shade. Wrong! The leaves are not fully out yet, especially in the "cathedral" area of Paeonian Springs/Hamilton. Good thing I applied sunscreen. The water fountains at the Old Mill Kennel and near the High School are not "on" yet either. Of course, I had run dry by then. Mother Nature surely can be confusing with these roller-coaster days of Spring.

I did see grafitti on some of the new signs along the way. Thanks for the email link to report it.

Keep riding and have fun.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Falls Church - Vienna: Lovely ride!

Well, nothing particularly of note today, aside from the beautiful weather. Surprisingly, I saw very few folks on the trail today on my ride to the shop. I did see one gentleman, who was excitedly pointing out something in the trees... to his dog! It was fun to see... I like when people appreciate the things that excite their pets.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...

Eeevvvvrybodddyyy.... sing along!

Anyway, there is new signage and pavement marking going up on the trail. Last night on my ride home I noticed the new "ROAD XING" markings on the pavement, along with pseudo-rumble-strips. Today I noticed an additional signpost at road crossings, announcing the road name and town, such as "Gallows Rd. Dunn Loring". Should be a big help for riders unfamiliar with the trail. And while I think the rumble strips might be silly, at least they aren't too bumpy.

At about 9:30 this morning, the crews were getting set up around Sandburg Road, apparently working eastward.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Please report graffiti

As the warmth and sunshine have greened the edges of the trail, the annual opening of graffiti season has inevitably followed. The park authority folks try very hard to remove or cover graffiti as soon as possible. Trail users can help out by notifying the park folks of the location of new vandalism. Just send an email message to: and give a brief report on the location. Photo shows graffiti on shelter at Mile 4.