Category Archives: State Parks

Mason Neck State Park and Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Lorton, VA

About the Trip

Well, the weather was fabulous. The scenery? Didn’t really match the weather……very brown for the most part, but we saw some green that was starting to peek through. Mason Neck State Park and Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge are about 20 miles south of Washington, DC. Who knew?! Did you?! Our main goal was to do some hiking and see some wildlife. If you click on the wildlife refuge link, it lists the hundreds of species of wildlife that can be seen on the grounds. We didn’t entirely strike out on our scouting expedition as we did see a fair number of birds, so if you like bird-watching, this is a must-go-to place. This is what we saw:

• Heron
• 1 other bird that we’re going to go out on a limb and call the Tufted Titmouse just for the heck of it though we have no idea what bird this really is. (that is a real bird’s name)
• 1 Hawk
• 3 Bald Eagles
• Seagulls

We started off at the State Park and hiked the Kanes Creek Trail–>Eagle Spur Trail (which leads to the bird blind…we think this is where you can see eagles, but we only saw the heron and some people canoeing and fishing ) and then we hiked back to our starting point and then walked along the Beach Trail. We then drove to the refuge, which is located on the same road and hiked to a pavilion that has a spotting scope. We saw the eagles from afar with the spotting scope. They were a good half of a mile away, but we certainly did see them and they were beautiful.

The state park/refuge is fantastic if you are looking for solitude and the terrain is pretty flat and the trails are well-maintained too. The park was pretty empty when we arrived at around 1:00 pm. (We got off to a late start thanks to Daylight Saving Time.) Dave was sure the park would be JP (jam-packed, the kid loves to abbrev. everything. ;) but to his surprise it wasn’t.



  • Panasonic DMC-FZ8
  • 1 Camelbak
  • Layered clothing
  • Hiking boots
  • PBJ
  • Trail Mix
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats



We’d like to go back early in the morning so that we can catch a glimpse of the eagles feeding. We’ve also been thinking that we may need to invest in a good pair of binoculars. Any suggestions?

Show me the dough

Fuel Cost=~$2.50
Park Fee= $4.00




Sky Mountain State Park (Delaplane, VA)

[confirmation]Experience level: 2/5 | [/confirmation]

About the Trip

We were all itching to get out and see the infamous fall foliage in Virginia, and today was one of the last days to really see it in its entire splendor.  Our very good friend Sheila made a guest appearance and joined us on this trip.  From D.C, the ride to the Blue Ridge Mountains is a one hour drive.  The drive to the park was very scenic and we passed an array of vineyards along the way.  Upon arrival, we learned that the park was having its annual Fall Festival.  How fun!

We started our hike on the North Ridge Trail and followed it to the Appalachian Trail, and then hopped onto the Ambassador Whitehouse Trail and looped back onto the North Ridge Trail.  Note: There were parts of this trail that had some steep inclines that really got our hearts pumping.

When we arrived back at our starting point, we checked out the festival and took some pictures of the Mount Bleak House, a historical stone house that was built in 1842.

[warning]Freshly fallen leaves can be just as treacherous as wet ones![/warning]


Canon Powershot SD1000, casual clothes, Camelbaks, credit card, cash, sunglasses, trail mix, PBJ, and apples.


Seeing what we came to see of course—the spectacular fall foliage.  After our hike we stopped by to check out the Fall Festival, a very small event that was hosted by park employees and volunteers.  Volunteers were dressed in 18th century garb and were playing tunes on their fiddles and the local food vendors were selling BBQ and homemade ice cream.  It was the picture perfect fall day.  We walked through the local pumpkin patch and Dave and I scoured the already picked over bunch of pumpkins to find the best one.  NOTE: They were charging an outlandish price of $1.00/lb for a pumpkin, but I was feeling festive and bought the pumpkin regardless.  The catch to it all was that when I went to pay my credit card bill, I noticed that I was only charged $0.84 cents for it!  I bought a 15-17 pound pumpkin too!  Tee-hee!

[info]Be sure to pack snacks![/info]


We should have toured the house!  We did not even know that they offered tours.

Show me the dough

Park entrance fee:  $10.00 (increased fee due to park event)
Fuel Cost:  Round trip of 55 miles = $13.00
One pumpkin from the patch: $0.84