Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Our Anniversary Trip to Roanoke, VA!

When Ben and I got engaged we spent the weekend calling all of our long-distance family to poll which weekend of 6 would be most convenient for everyone to come to town for our sealing and reception. One after another they all gave the same reply- the first weekend possible; which happened to be over Easter. Everyone flew or drove in on Thursday, we were married on Good Friday, and spent the weekend celebrating.

It has worked out so well that our anniversary now falls around a holiday weekend every year! Ben gets Good Friday off of work, so we love considering where we should go to celebrate :D This year we used the extra time to go to Roanoke, VA. We couldn't decide between a mountain or beach vacation (we love living close enough to so many beautiful areas that anything is an option!), but quickly settled on Roanonke- a city nestled in the Appalachian Mountains only 2 hours away- after seeing that one of favorite (and clean) comedians, Jim Gaffigan, was scheduled to have a show there on Saturday, March 30. Ben did some extra research and discovered some really terrific activities Roanoke has to offer. We spent the weekend hiking 2.5 miles to the top of a mountain and sinking hundreds of feet below the Earth into a cavern, seeing one of the most wonderful comedians in the country and one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

This natural bridge was formed after a cavern collapsed. Along with Niagara Falls it has been one of the most popular natural tourist destinations in America since the 1700s, and has been included in many Wonders of the World lists. (I had never even heard of it, even growing up a few hours away in SC. But I'm glad I've finally learned more of my nearby history and visited!)

Roanoke, VA. Dixie Caverns
The only caverns in SW Virginia, the Dixie Caverns are nearby the Natural Bridge. The caverns were discovered in 1920 and are now open 363 days for 50-minute tours. The tour takes groups deep into the mountain and from "room" to room of discovered caverns. We go up and down different layers, see stalagtites (from the ceiling), stalagmites (from the ground up), water pools, and bats. 

I, foolishly, didn't set up my camera on a tripod so I didn't get many good pictures, but it was really, really cool! (And only a little cold ;)

Dragon's Tooth Hiking Trail
There are many hikes around the Roanoke area due to it's proximity to the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, but Ben quickly chose Dragon's Tooth as our Saturday activity due to it's name. That was fine with me- you may remember I referred to Whit as "Dragon" before he was born! Portions of this hike were pretty strenuous, though, and, in hindsight, may not have been the best choice... 

It started off as a tame walk gradually uphill...

Then there were a few areas of necessary wall scaling... 
(during which I kept repeating, "Be careful with my baby!")

And the last .7 miles (or so) was almost exclusively scrambling over giant, awkward boulders.  It's been hailed one of the hardest hiking portions of the entire App Mountains! I have breathing trouble due to Tourette's Syndrome, Ben has a cranky knee after years of competitive downhill mountain biking, and we (Ben) was carting around Whit the whole time! If I'd realized this last section had such a tough reputation I might have discouraged the trip! 

The trail is called Dragon's Tooth because there are giant Tuscarora quartzite rock formations that straddle the cliff which resemble giant fangs. After climbing for about 2 hours I sat down with Whit at the base of the cliff while Ben climbed the extra 30 feet to get a view from the top of the "teeth". This is the very top of Cove Mountain!

I was here: 

Changing Whit's diaper, 

and nursing. 

 We left Whit under the watch of some VT student hikers so Ben could guide me up to the top of the rock: 

It was sort of terrifying. 

But beautiful! 

Ben carried Whit in our new Osprey Poco Baby Backpack, which garnered lots of attention! This we heard from passing hikers:

"Wow! Do they make those in my size?"
"He's got the best seat on the mountain!"
"He looks tired from this hike."
"Hey! There's a baby in there!"
"You're a better man than me..."
It's funny how having a baby automatically makes you popular :)

We contacted the Roanoke YSA group on Facebook for a babysitter and found tickets to Jim Gaffigan on Craigslist for the fourth row!! It was INCREDIBLE. We also went to two local restaurants, Wildflour (which is organic, local fare in a unique restaurant covered with paintings done by local artists) and The Quarter (named the best new restaurant of 2011 and designed with New Orleans food. We ate gator! It may have been one of the best meals of my entire life!)

All in all we had a really terrific visit! There is also an impressive-looking modern art museum, a fun downtown square, and the second-largest municipal park in the country so I'd say another trip to Roanoke is in our future! 


  1. How fun! sounds like a great weekend and love the pics!

  2. We have the same backpack! Only ours is red, and let me tell you, that thing is AWESOME.

    What a fun weekend, I'm totally going to check it out for our summer plans!

  3. Looks like fun and it's so pretty! Happy anniversary!


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