It’s no secret to anyone who knows me or has spent even 15 seconds with me: I. Love. Dogs.
“More than people?” I’ve been asked.
I work in politics, so most especially.
My coat is covered in dog hair, as is my pillow, my food, my kids, anything that comes into my home.
I didn’t choose the dog life, the constant barrage of negativity and ugliness in politics chose the dog life for me.
I kid. Sorta.
In 8th grade my BFF and I had the brilliant idea to adopt sister dogs. We were a deliriously happy pair of weirdos whose parents made the mistake of leaving us alone with our unchecked creativity. We spent hours researching the best breeds (which at that time meant libraries and card catalogues and rides from parents), we researched what supplies we’d need and what kind of time/energy commitment our puppies would need.
Finally, we wrapped all of this knowledge up, and presented the idea to our parents. Keep in mind, this is also the pre-powerpoint era so my presentation included hand drawn posters of me and my little pumpkin. Many posters. If I wasn’t going to win my parents over with the things I was promising, dammit I was going to get them with sheer perseverance.
Not sure which it was, but I got the dog. So did my friend. We had Golden Retriever sisters and named them Lucy and Kestra. We took them hiking and joined the 4H dog club. I took care of my little Lucy just like I promised my parents I would.
My little awkward self was hooked. I’ve always had a dog since then. Indy then Oliver then Arnie.
Now I have Max and Dax; two fellas who needed good homes, and who got that and so much more.
Sometimes we hike, and then sometimes we don’t. It’s no big deal, but sometimes it is.
When Mark and I first started dating, and through our engagement years later, we hit those Adirondack Mountains hard. Every other weekend, packing up our gear, prepping snacks, strategizing where we’ll shower after one hike before crashing in the back of the car to hike again the next day.
(A post for another day: the time I broke down while trying unsuccessfully to bathe in a gas station bathroom.)
We didn’t treat it ”like it was our job” because who actually puts that much effort into their job. Be honest, this is a safe space. No, we treated this like it was our life. The hours during the week were dedicated to figuring out where we’d go next. It was the thrill of planning and exerting and rewarding and finally crashing in bed laughing about how old and aching our stupid joints were that made us happy and alive.
But then another season ushered itself in. And that was one of house projects and new jobs and new shifts and, just, life. During ”hike life” we would run on the side, a few races here and there, but running took over more of our focus and so did training. So we shifted from one body draining activity to another.
And that was fine.
But then another season came and has lingered that has been less…fine. One of the dreaded ‘Rona which sidelined races and activities and most devastatingly our motivation. Healthy habits: gone. Desire for activity: nope. Marathon training: you gotta be kidding me.
By now I’ve realized life has been a series of seasons. Some good and some bad, but all temporary. I can’t say if these seasons are entirely my conscious choice, because I DO go to sleep every night with a plan to wake up early to (insert every potential activity that doesn’t actually happen here), but factors that feel beyond my control keep me snuggled warm in my bed with a dog under each arm until the last possible second.
Not exactly fine, but a temporary season.
It’s just our lot in life; Mark and I were made to be on a mountain, or on our way to a mountain, or planning to be on our way to a mountain. And if there isn’t a mountain in our future, we were made to do something else that pushes us to the extreme.
(Another future post idea: Mark’s competitive beer stein holding ambitions.)
So in the meantime, we carry on until the next season arrives, taking advantage of the moments of motivation here and there that still find us prepping and climbing and sometimes allowing friends to talk us into long walks.
*This post is 100% unsolicited by AllTrails. They have no idea who I am, although I’m sure they wish they knew me because I know for a fact I drove at least two Facebook friends to buy a Shark vacuum after my numerous endorsements.
**Shark vacuums are amazing, btw.
Today I want to give you a BIG piece of advice, and by “you”, I’m talking to anyone who plans to step out-of-doors today, tomorrow or at any point in the future:
It’s just that easy–you’ve signed up for the technology magic that is GPS and saved your hike, and possibly your life.
And the best part is that you can use this app for just about ANY outdoor trail on any mountain or in any community park that has ever been trekked!
This is what I find when searching my location. And when I settle on a trail the app gives me just about everything I need, even driving directions!
If you knew better, and if you are just now starting out on any kind of outdoor adventure plan, you would profusely thank me. I don’t even want to tell you what Mark and I went through before we found AllTrails.
But I will, because you are my friend and my embarrassing failures are your teachable moments. My only problem now is deciding where to start; we did many dumb things.
Waste the trees to see the trees
This is probably the one I can laugh the most at, it’s the least dangerous misstep but still a very rookie move.
Mark and I started hiking with the big hikes. We don’t do things small or gradually, so in researching our adventures we followed what a lot of other hikers were doing. There were blogs and websites and we had to ingest all of the hints and tips and landmarks to use on our own hikes. To keep track of all the “turn at the rusty pails” and “make sure the water is on your rights” we Printed. Everything. Out.
Mark carried pages and pages of blog posts and maps and pictures so that we were sure to get it all right! We got it right, all right, but boy did we look stupid.
Picture this: you’re walking along a trail and you come to a junction with a sweaty couple, frantically flipping through pages to see if this junction was THE junction because ohmigoshwhatifwemakethewrongturnahhhhhh?!
Getting lost is serious, but this level of detail made us doubt our own sense of direction and common sense. The map says blue trail. Follow the blue trail. Miss the blue trail? Backtrack until you find the blue trail.
Less headache. Less paper.
Don’t be like us.
Of course we got lost
(Mom, maybe you stop reading, mmmkay?)
This is a given. Because every trail is going to have that “hmmmmm….” moment where you can’t quite tell 1) where the next marker leads, and 2) if/when/where you’re supposed to turn.
On our way down from a peak, trying to navigate the many junctions with our trusty paper map, we came to a fork in the road we weren’t expecting. Some of the longer trails deep in the Adirondacks take several turns and some are more clearly marked on the map than others. This particular turn we were unsure of. Mark said “right”, I said “left”, the guy that came up on us said “left” and then whipped out his phone confirming the dot was us, the trail back to the car was in red, and it was indicating to head left.
What sorcery?! This was our first experience with AllTrails. And it was when we first started noticing all of the hikes it would have come in handy, including some of the shorter hikes we were already very familiar with!
Friends, download AllTrails and discover what is around you! Discover a new trail in that park you frequent. Discover a waterfall tucked away in the woods. Pack a bag of snacks and get out!
And AllTrails, you are as dear to me as my Shark vacuum! ❤
But shhhhh…don’t tell the Adirondacks I said that!
The truth is, I’ve been a BIG fan of the Northwest for more than 30 years, and it’s hard to beat that kind of history.
Back in the early 80s when I was just a wee lass of three, my aunt and uncle moved from our town in Southern California to Washington State, on the Puget Sound. A few years later, at just six years old, I hopped on an RV and rode up the coast with family friends to spend what turned out to be about a month with my aunt and uncle at their home in Bremerton. (From where I sit at thirty-something, this still looks like an epic adventure!)
We caught crabs on the shore, hunted for clams, visited the mountains, ferried to Canada, climbed the Space Needle in Seattle. To this day (well, yesterday, actually) the friend I tagged along with and I still talk about that vacation.
Side note: this is the trip where I discovered I’m afflicted with terrible motion sickness. Apparently, I can’t have all the luck.
My most recent jaunt to the Evergreen State in early May proved to be no less exciting, although much more condensed! (To my Instagram friends, I sincerely apologize for the volume of stories, it was excessive.) My aunt and uncle’s daughter, also known as my cousin, was getting married and so I flew out for a week of shenanigans.
This is going to be less of a trip recap and more of an adventure guide. As my main, number one, ultra special goal is to help YOU enhance and enrich your lives through authentic adventures, I’m not sure going on and on and ON about how I spray painted a building is going to propel YOU into your best life.
But I will tell you about it because it’s awesome, you guys. I tagged a building. #SoRebel.
Just remember, memory making adventures are everywhere. You don’t have to travel across the country to find them.
Take the road less traveled
Sometimes that means not taking a road at all!
There is a perfectly maintained highway that goes from the airport in Seattle to Bremerton, our destination on the other side of the Sound. It would have been a quick and comfortable trip. But there’s a ferry, and guess what: in my every day life I don’t get to ride a ferry. And guess what else: sometimes there are cafeterias on ferries. If you are anything like me, snacks drive your decisions, so drinking a glass of wine and eating a yogurt parfait while riding to your destination majorly enhances the experience. Never mind there’s the opportunity to see killer whales, no joke.
On my last day, my travel day, I chose the ferry again. From where I stayed, I walked the short few blocks to hop on the boat, which took me to the port in Seattle. I then had to walk the few short blocks to the train that would take me to the airport. Along the way I discovered Biscuit Bitch and the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had, no joke.
Another side note: I don’t like sausage, so that closes the biscuits and gravy door for me. Biscuit Bitch has a vegetarian gravy that blew my world. I mean, blew it wide open. Go there. Tell them the girl who precariously balanced all of her luggage on one chair sent you.
Allow yourself to break your budget…a bit
Disclaimer: I’m not telling you to miss a mortgage payment to splurge on a gold plated memento, please don’t do that!
When you head out on a memory making adventure, you are already doing something out of the ordinary.
Every other day you forgo the extras because you are responsible human being (go YOU!), but during your time away you are not doing the every day. So splurge… a little!
Get the bucket of seafood down by the sea, especially when it comes with tiny mallets and oversized bibs! You won’t forget those times with loved ones in which you whacked a crab leg so hard you shot meat to the table beside you.
Stop and smell the roses
Everything is new and different, let yourself check out ALL the beautiful details!
Sometimes that involves pausing your morning run (because fitness doesn’t take a vacation, amiright?!) and chatting with the nice young man spray painting a wall because you just might have the opportunity to literally leave your mark on that moment.
To be clear to the authorities: this is a “free wall” for local artists to “decorate.”
But also, while you’re at it, look at what’s around you. If you’re not in your home, your neighborhood or your community, you are in a place that is different and the things you will see are worth really seeing.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
I know you have a picture in your head of how your weekend away will go. It will involve perfect timing, blue skies, and happy children//pets//spouse.
Wake up, buttercup.
Either one, or all of these things, will go the exact opposite of your perfect plans. But that’s ok…
Step One: breathe.
Step Two: remind yourself that disaster and chaos don’t take a vacation either.
Step Three: pivot, you’ll find an adventure and make memories somewhere else!
Above all, stay positive, friends. Life is so good ❤
This is not a firetower. This is an OX. His name is Chip and I met him on his walk through town. Why am I showing you a picture of Chip the ox when I’m supposed to be sharing our latest adventure to Hadley Mountain?
To draw you in and never let you go. ❤
So yes, I met a two ton ox in the Town of Hadley on our way home after a hike. I can’t promise this will be your experience, too, but I can promise you won’t regret this hike!
Hadley Mountain Firetower
Trailhead: head north through Hadley on Stony Creek Road; turn left on Hadley Hill Road; turn right on Tower Road; the trailhead will be on the left.
Distance: 3.4 miles
I love this hike. It’s one of those “hey we have a few hours to kill before we have friends over for dinner” kinds of hikes. Short and sweet, and for those of us in the Capital Region of New York, practically in our backyard. It’s a sparsely forested mountain, where you find yourself walking up slabs of rock, sometimes through running water.
But it’s not easy. Hadley gives you very little warm up before you start to climb, it’s not a steep climb but it does go up for about a mile before you get a break. And when you hit that straight patch, breathe easy because you only have a few short hops up before you see the tower.
Oh and that summit; big, bald and beautiful. The tower is open year ’round, however the cabin at the top is usually only open during the summer. Expect wind and bring an extra layer for the top so you’re able to find a nice rock and hang out for a bit. This is one you’re going to want to spend some time on. I always do!
And on your hike back down to your car, remember there is a chance you might, too, see//pet//ride a giant cow.
BONUS! Hadley General Store
Second best stop to make in Hadley (if you don’t run into Chip) is the Hadley General Store at the corner of Stony Creek Road and Rockwell Street. Grab a hot sandwich at the lunch counter and a brownie as big as your face. Chat with the locals who are friendly and welcoming and love that you are 1) in their itty-bitty town, and 2) are staying long enough to say hello!
And then make it home in enough time to have dinner with friends.
So, so many important things to remember to do//pack//know when heading out for an adventure, your safety and enjoyment are on the line and keeping track of it all can be overwhelming.
You need food and water, an emergency kit and map, you need to know where you’re going and how to get there. You need to consider weather and timing. If your head isn’t already spinning, here’s one more item to consider: your footwear!
From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been throwing on old sneakers before heading out to climb something, explore something, or just be active outside. But here’s the problem with old sneakers: They. Are. Old!
Do you paint without a paintbrush?
Do you canoe without a paddle?
Do you jump out of a plane without a parachute??
For the love of Pete, no! Nor should you disregard the importance of what you wear on your feet, you know, those things that literally carry you from point A to B to C.
Let’s be clear: I don’t want you to buy the top of the line trekker boots for your stroll through the neighborhood park. That would be ridiculously overboard! But I do want you to make sure you’re not neglecting those precious feet.
Like Mark and I did. Many times.
Lesson One: as a baby hiker Mark wore sneakers on our smaller hikes. They weren’t necessarily old or worn, but as we progressed into higher and more challenging mountains with rocks and boulders and things to watch out for above and below it became clear FAST that low-top shoes were no longer appropriate. One wobbly rock and one sprained ankle was all it took for him to realize (painfully!) that he needed something sturdy and with ankle support.
Moderately priced; sturdy, comfortable and waterproof. These shoes have carried Mark many miles and through many muddy bogs. (They may or may not have formed an emotional bond.) But eventually the tread wore thin and he had to retire them to yard work duty. His new pair is a different brand, he wanted to try something lighter, so he’s in the process of breaking them in.
Lesson Two: I wore a pair of boots that was uncomfortable from the very first mile. Constantly rubbing on the back of my heel was the red flag I ignored and when we set out on our first really challenging hike (Giant and Rocky Peak), I started feeling pain in my feet and it slowly crept up my legs. By the time we reached the car six miles later I could barely walk, the pain had spread up through my hips and I was miserable. Thank the LORD for Chapel Pond in Keene; Mark and I crossed the street to the pond where I waddled my way into the ice-cold water for some much needed relief.
Enter the Danners. The true loves of my life. (Sorry Mark)
Pricey, guys. But given the amount of hiking I knew we were going to do, I considered it an investment. Years and hundreds of miles later, I’m still going strong. I mean, 30 miles is still wicked painful, but that’s to be expected, knowhatImean?
So what should YOU do?
Consider your activities as an investment in your health. And happy feet are the literal vehicle to good health.
For those quick walks through the neighborhood park, or your community’s bike path consider a lightweight, supportive shoe. Everyone’s foot is different, so find your perfect fit. My feet love:
Nike Zoom series: Mark and I both have run a number of half and full marathons in these.
Not every hike is going to be a climb, but if you are on a nature trail, you are most certainly going to find roots and rocks and other obstacles. A thicker, harder soled trail shoe is going to give you the foot support you will need to maneuver safely and comfortably. Friends and the inter webs recommend:
Look for enough ankle support for those technically difficult adventures (news flash: the High Peaks are going to be technically difficult!), these boots will have the hard soles, but come in lightweight materials:
If you live in/near the Capital Region of New York, you’re probably familiar with Prospect Mountain. This popular Southern Adirondack mountain sits on the west side of Lake George; overlooking the lake and its village, Prospect’s summit allows for barbecues and picnics, and its history includes Prospect Mountain House where visitors would ride an incline railway car in the early 1900s for a night of dinner and dancing. (Some of the railcar remains can still be seen at the summit!)
There is also a road leading to the top.
Did you hear that? It was the sound of ears perking all around you!
The Veterans Memorial Highway takes visitors to the top of Prospect Mountain from Memorial Day through mid-October for a small fee where visitors of all abilities are able to enjoy a beautiful Adirondack view.
One early spring morning, after a full night of celebrating his colleague’s retirement, Mark and I set out to explore this regional hotspot. But as the road was still closed for the season, and we had pizza calories in our future, we planned to hike the one-and-a-half mile trail to the top.
His first trip up, my second. As we set out, I ran through my memories of this hike:
Harder than I expected.
Accurate. For once, my memory served me correctly. Not that it made any difference, we were hiking it no matter what. No matter one of us had whiskey-belly. No matter it was raining and windy. No matter the trail was mostly likely a sloppy mess.
Trailhead: 108 Cooper Street in the Village of Lake George
Distance: 2.8 miles, round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,535′
From the Cooper Street trailhead, you cross a metal footbridge that spans I-87. This unnerving experience is completely unavoidable and my best tip is to look straight ahead. Don’t. Look. Down.
After signing in at the trail register, climb. Just go up and keep going up. Sometimes there is steeper up, and sometimes you go up in a rush of water. But you are just going to go up. In my opinion, there is nothing significant to report here as you will mainly see 1) rocks, 2) water, and 3) pines.
Nature is enough, people. But some trails are prettier than others. On this trail, a road crossing occasionally breaks up the pine and climb, and my favorite light and airy birches take over the landscape toward the top.
And then, the moment arrives. You can see the finish line!
But you will be mistaken, because just when you think you’re at the top, there are just a few more ups to go. But then you’ll finally reach the summit and all the whining about water and rocks and up will be so worth it, you guys.
I’ve hiked more interesting trails. And I’ve seen better views. But the summit has a vibe. It’s what an outdoor space should be as it welcomes you to sit and stay and relax, oh and cook up a few hot dogs and maybe sing a few camp songs while you’re there.
For this trip, Mark and I forgot the hot dogs, and it’s my sister who knows all the camp songs, not me. But we saw the value in coming back, and planned a future trip up. Maybe a day not so rainy, and with the kids.
If you hiked Prospect Mountain, you’re already in Lake George so take advantage of the Village! In the off-season you’ll have less options, but regardless of the time of year, the lake is always there. And so is Caffe Vero.
These people know their coffee. My tip is to know their coffee, too.
Do you throw a few bags of chips and some juice boxes in a cooler and hope for the best? Maybe you rely on an entire pack of Oreos to get you where you need to go?
Or do you carefully plot your next fifteen moves and corresponding snacks?
We fall somewhere in between. Mark mentioned in this post about the ADK 46er Challenge how much he enjoyed getting to know the mountains these last few years. As a result of all of that exploring, we most definitely got to know how best to put fuel in our bodies.
It’s been an interesting journey of trying new things, seeing what worked and what bloated. (An awkwardly real post about pooping in the woods is inevitable, I’m afraid.) And even though we are still very open to trying out new types of fuel, we try to stay within a range of the foods we know give us the boost we need.
Popular adventure outfitter, REI, gives great advice on the best foods for going out and staying out, for days long back-packing excursions. You and I, we need to get from mile one to mile 3, or 7 or 15.
Goldfish are a staple for us. The salty treat is a welcomed change to all of the sweet energy bars and drinks.
However, I can eat Lara Bars all the live-long day. It might be the natural ingredients, they range from only five to seven ingredients, and most of the sweetness comes from dates.
Mark’s energy bar of choice is Clif.
But I would say the best snacks we put in our packs are fruits. Apples are our go-to for that last push to the car. We put so much energy into a climb that sometimes on the way down we’ll hit a rough patch that we physically and mentally have no energy for. Apples are life savers, I hear they also keep the dentist away. So, yay apples!
For longer hikes, we’ll add clementines. Peeled, separated, and ready to pop in our mouths, they are a good boost of energy mid-climb. Citrus is also a great mood booster for when you hate the climb, you hate whoever suggested the climb and you vow to never climb again.
Saving the best for last, a celebratory snack is a must. You made it to the top? Break out that brownie, pack of Oreos or, in the case of our first major hike, leftover pancakes from breakfast! If you’re Mark and me, you save a celebratory snack for reaching the car, too.
It (hopefully!) goes without saying, you will need to hydrate no matter the level of activity you plan for your day. The general rule for hiking is to plan on consuming one liter every two hours. Of course the time of year, temperature and your own body are going to make this estimate differ wildly, but until you know how you are going to react, bring more, not less.
Lesson learned: Mark and I took his 9-year-old daughter on a quick three mile hike on a cool fall day. She was so excited to use her new backpack and water bladder she drank two liters of water before we reached the top. Needless to say, she learned two very important lessons that day; 1) her little body does not need two liters of water per mile of hiking, and 2) how to pee in the woods.
On longer hikes we add a bottle of Gatorade. I’m not a fan of sugary drinks in my everyday life but….#electrolytes.
If a 7+ mile adventure is in your future, you’ll want to think about a snack that’s more hearty and packed with beneficial ingredients that will be sure to give you the energy you need and also satisfy the belly.
Our hands-down favorite summit meal is a burrito. Made with refried black beans, rice, cheese and hot sauce, it’s easy and tasty and best of all it’s contained in a handy tortilla wrapper!
We also pack PB&J (or PB and honey for me) sandwiches that we halve and snack on along the way. Particularly challenging sections of a trail call for “bites of encouragement.”
For winter hikes, we’ll fill our baby thermoses up with stew and treat ourselves to a warm meal with a view. Our stew of choice: this slow cooker sweet potato stew.
Obviously, you might have different fuel needs than we do. I would put us in the high-metabolism/must-eat-every-mile category. We’ve hiked with others who zipped through 30 miles with just a handful of trail mix and a smile.
Long story short: know your body. Trust your body. Ask me for fuel advice because…
Picture this: a cool fall afternoon. Light, crisp breeze. Reds and oranges and yellows dotting the mountainscape in front of you, to the side of you, all around you. A field of dark green pine, a field of bright yellow birch. Soft patches of sand beneath your feet.
This is the picture I painted for Mark of my first trip up Hurricane Mountain in the fall years ago. We were packing up our gear for his first hike up Hurricane in the winter of 2017. However, that hike and the one we did last weekend would end up being nothing like my first beautiful fall hike.
Instead, picture dark and moody. Low clouds and spitting snow. Imagine icy wind whipping through every layer of clothing.
But oh Hurricane, you are still one of my favorites.
Trailhead: 3.5 miles on Route 9N, off Route 73, North of Keene
Distance: 7 miles, round trip (although the sign says 6)
Elevation Gain: 2,000′
This mountain features a firetower at the top, and in each of my three hikes that tower has been in three different states:
In complete disrepair, stairs removed to discourage brave climbers.
Fixed! Beautiful! Open cabin and magnificent views!
Roof is literally in the process of being blown off.
This mountain is reclaiming it’s authority, and it’s happening in a pretty bad-ass way. Mark and I both recognized we didn’t need to be made a lesson in how powerful nature can be, so we snapped a few pics and ran for cover.
I literally ran, because the wind was brutal. And it was cold. Which is a real shame, because the near-360-degree views are astonishing. I’ve never not been amazed by the expansiveness of the Adirondacks from my little perch on top of Hurricane Mountain.
But this hike really is worth the trip. As long as you’re prepared.
Hurricane Mountain trip summary: get out of car and climb. That is all. Just step out and go UP.
You really do go up! Other mountains give you a little gradual incline for a mile-or-so to warm up before the up. Not the case with Hurricane. Your warm up is the up!
Get ready for the wind.
This is one of those mountains where you’re more likely to have a windy day than a calm day. In the spring, fall, summer and winter, bring a coat. Or an extra coat. Keep in mind that we’ve done a season or two of winter hiking with temps as low as 15 degrees, and this was the only hike I’ve ever felt my usual winter attire was not adequate. So be safe and bring extra.
On the ticket: my favorite geraniums, lots and lots of geraniums. We have a family history of growing these beauties in Southern California, so it feels like important pieces of my story are here with me as I spread them around the inside and outside of my house.
And thanks to Mark, they’ll spread even further around my house as he has tentatively agreed to build window boxes, in which I will fill with the reddest of red geraniums I can find!
Friends, I hope this nearly spring day is filled with warm, happy, and hopeful thoughts of new growth and new life; because in the darkness of winter, there is always the promise of spring!