New Year’s Resolutions: read a book or defy death!

In 2023 I would like to grow.

Physically.

As in, I would like to add back the 1/2” of height I lost over the last 25 years since I stopped growing. Not too much of a stretch (pun absolutely intended).

In reality, I try to set realistic and tangible goals for myself each year based on areas in need of improvement. One year I felt disconnected to my fellow man and so I set out to send at least five greeting cards to friends and family. That is, five non-holiday, non-birthday, just because greeting cards.

Another year I made the goal to run two 5k races.

My best New Year’s Resolution, one I recycle every year, has been to read one book each month. Some years I’m better about sticking to it. And then other years I add books like Moby Dick and the Life and Times of Emily Dickinson.

My favorite completed resolution is the one I set for 2014: to go on one bad ass road trip. This was the year my whole self needed a hard reset; I needed something that would take me out of my comfort zone and really put me to the test. I didn’t know in January as I was writing out the words that very soon my grandfather would pass away, that his life in Mississippi would need to be packed up and put away, and that his truck would need to be transported from his home in Hattiesburg to my sister’s in upstate New York.

This was it; my bad ass road trip.

In July of that year I joined my family in Mississippi to clear out his home. We packed up the memories, we donated and sold everything else and then there was nothing left but to bring the ‘92 Chevy home. I climbed in my seat next to a crate of worn bungee cords, an authentically old industrial workshop lamp and two sets of mounted antlers and powered up the ol’ Garmin.

Lol. Garmin. Better than printed Mapquest maps, but tells you what your next move is as you are passing it.

I planned to do the trip in three days—two half days bookending one full day—but that’s as much of a plan that ever developed; I figured I’d just drive until I didn’t feel like driving anymore and then I’d stop for the night.

Preferably near a Waffle House.

And so I drove the first day until I couldn’t drive anymore; and I checked myself into an unassuming hotel I found all lit up on the side of the highway and slept until I didn’t feel like sleeping anymore.

I treated myself to a Waffle House breakfast.

It was an uneventful, yet totally exhilarating trip. Freshly on my own again, I was able to make the decisions on when I stopped and for what. I discovered Starbucks XL Trenta sized drinks and the thrill of thinking thoughts fueled by 32 ounces of cold brew. I left the radio off for most of the trip, and many times those thoughts wandered into what would happen if the truck, already over 20 years old, broke down.

But it didn’t break down. It didn’t even shudder. We cruised up the highway just barely above the speed limit, respecting boundaries and not pushing limits. This is where you’d probably like, but I can’t deliver, a Hallmark movie connection to that truck, one where I felt the shadow of my grandfather sitting with me in the passenger seat, guiding my journey. First, I’m terrified of “shadow people.” Second, I already had the old man starter kit sitting with me in my passenger seat. Those seemingly random items I grabbed from his work shed were the perfect embodiment of the country work horse that was my grandfather, who we called granddaddy. So instead, I felt love and gratitude for the man who took such great care, as a country work horse does, of this ancient truck.

And then I hit West Virginia.

My apologies in advance to anyone from or in love with West Virginia. I’m sure in the light of day it’s a beautiful place. I’m sure you have excellent schools and everyone loves their fellow man.

In the dark, however, your slogan, “Wild. Wonderful” makes a single gal traveling on her own a bit fearful of the pitch black that is your everywhere.

On that second night of driving, as I hit West Virginia, my third Trenta cold brew wore off and I pulled off the highway toward the nearest hotel. Booked. I drove down the street to the next hotel. Booked. On the third hotel I was told there was a sports tournament in town and most rooms within 30 miles would be booked, “but you can try such-and-such motel, just go left then right then left.”

So I pulled out of the lot and went left. Then I went right. And then I entered the Twilight Zone where there was no light, no sound, just blackness and my headlights.

And then someone else’s headlights. Someone was following me.

A person. Was in a car. Driving on the same public road as me. Obviously a serial killer who hides in the shadows as all future true crime podcast obsessed women know to be true.

But then I took a left and the lights came back on and there was the motel. It had one room left and I took it. Still fearing the stranger obviously following me on the wild yet wonderful back country road, and fearing literally every other thing, I shoved a chair under the door handle and turned on the TV to set the you’re-not-catching-me-unaware vibe.

I woke up the next morning. Alive. And I set out for home.

That afternoon I made it to my sister’s house and the truck died a week later.

I wasn’t sad. It served its purpose as the literal vehicle to bring me home physically and emotionally. Four months later I met Mark and two years after that I moved myself, and my old man starter kit, to his home where we became a family.

Life is funny sometimes.

And other times it scares the sh*t out of you.

But it all shakes out in the end.

Now, what to set for myself in 2023…

Wait. How far is a marathon?

My youngest sister decided on a whim to sign up for the race Mark and I are running in her Wisconsin town next summer. She comes from a line of impulsive adventure seekers, the same line from which I descended, those who say yes first and ask questions later.

Which is why I got the follow up text, “wait, how far is a marathon?”

Inspirational speech and new running shoes later, she’s still in; it’ll be tough, but I know she’ll do the thing.

If I can do it, you can do it! Is what I tell her and most people who have something to say about our running adventures.

No doubt, you’ve heard the line before; in general it’s supposed to show you that if a terrible/horrible/no-gooder like me can do it, so can you! person who is obviously in a much better position physically/mentally/financially!

Does it ever really inspire confidence? The sayer is never actually terrible, horrible, or no-good, they’re usually pretty excellent, and the hearer already had a running list of their own detractions to talk themselves out of it.

Ok. But in this case you have to trust me:

If I can do it…

Growing up, I listened to the stories my dad would tell about his time in the Navy. He would talk about being on ships and in tents on top of mountains, about being pushed into pools with hands tied behind his back and treading water for hours with boots and uniform on and all the running. I thought “SURELY this is NOT for me!”

I had wanted a career in the military, to be just like my dad, but I knew I absolutely could not/would not force my body to do those things. I was pampered and pristine. And so I completely altered the course of my life and went the civilian way, the pampered civilian way, where I wasn’t asked to lift heavy things or run for no reason.

My dad, by-the-way, was part of the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, a special unit based in Okinawa, Japan that crawled around in the mud and jumped out of planes; not exactly the most accurate, all encompassing representation of military life. A fact I only just recently learned.

This is the epitome of lazy, my friends, and I challenge you to find a lazier fellow than the one who could not be bothered to go down a path of service because running was just too sweaty and hard.

It is terrible, horrible and simply No. Good.

And yet!

I’ve since run a marathon.

In fact, I’ve run five.

I’ve climbed the highest peaks in New York State and started climbing the highest in New Hampshire.

I’m also in the process of joining the Navy Reserves.

So believe me when I say if I can pick myself up and off the couch where I thought I was perfectly content with my bag of Hostess Donettes and do it…

You really can do it!

I’m not telling you to go run a marathon (but hey, if I can do it….wink). I’m saying you really can do that hard thing you swore you absolutely could not/would not do.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

My sister is going to take her training one bite at a time; slowly and deliberately she’ll add to what she did the day before and by August that will have taken her over 26.2 miles. She’ll use a training plan that has laid out exactly what she will need to do in order to reach that goal.

I started out in much the same way and picked up a few lessons:

Have grace for yourself!

Recognize that you are starting something new and unfamiliar and will not be the best at it. I struggle to overcome this daily. You might think it the trait of a type A perfectionist and good on you! for demanding the very best of yourself, but you’d be wrong. It’s the act of the most lazy of all the lazies; of someone who paints themselves a failure after getting it wrong on the first try and can’t be bothered to put in the hard work to reach the finish line. Don’t be that guy, but until you’re not that guy, give yourself a little grace as often as you need it.

Be patient with yourself!

I see you. I know you. I am you. Your body does not respond well to changes. It is going to try to overthrow your ruthless regime and take away your ability to walk, bend, or sleep. If you take your time and keep at it, you will regain control over your body and you will reap those glorious rewards that come with doing the thing.

When I trained for my first long distance race, a half marathon, I had knee pain that radiated up and down my leg making it hard to even walk; it was discouraging and I didn’t know how I’d be able to finish my training. But I learned what strength training exercises would build up the muscles around my knee, muscles I literally never ever use, I did them, and I ran my race. It wasn’t pretty, I still had some pain in my knee, but by my third half marathon my legs were conditioned enough that I was able to run pain free.

There were side stitches and heart issues I had to overcome too—please don’t make me tell you to check with your doctor before taking any of my advice!

Sometimes you have to force yourself!

I have to tell myself daily to do the things that need to be done. I’d rather sleep. I’d rather snack. I’d rather clean the toilet some days than go out on a cold morning to run around my neighborhood for an hour. But I know that 1) I’m training for a goal and if I veer too far off course it’s only going to be that much harder to cross the literal finish line, and 2) I’m going to feel like I let myself down by not doing it. It’s a lose-lose situation; I’m miserable if I do and I’m miserable if I don’t, but read: Glorious Rewards above and you see there is a “win” at the end of one of those miserable tunnels.

Mark’s advice is to get up, get dressed, lace up the sneaks and head out for just a mile. If after that mile I’m still not feeling it, come home, put the comfies on and and get back in bed. Of course I never come back after that mile, that’s the whole point; by then the blood is pumping, the endorphins are pumping and I’m ready to finish my workout.

It’s ok to hate it!

Life is not sunshine and puppy kisses all the time, neither is pushing yourself toward your limit. But if you do, you’ll find that you have a much higher tolerance for the tough stuff. As a wise man once said said, “after the Olympics, everything looked so damned easy.”

I remind my teenage step-daughter that she’s allowed to be miserable as we’re climbing the worst-of-the-worst rock scramble to get to the top of our mountain; that she can stop and breathe and rest her legs and let out an age appropriate swear like “balderdash!” and “barnacles!” She usually skips the swearing but does haul her butt to the top and enjoys that glorious reward.

Don’t recreate the wheel!

Others have come before you, they did the thing and learned a lesson or two so listen! When climbing the mountains in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Park, Mark and I read blogs on what others did, we scoured Facebook posts, we found out which trails to avoid, where there might be broken bridges and mud pits. When we run we use Hal Higdon’s training plans that give us the workouts our legs need to be able to cover the distance and we cover the damn distance. Although we could figure all this out on our own, why waste the experiences of the ones who’ve done the work? Look to your adventure-elders, they might know a thing or two.

My sister is going to learn her own lessons along the way. When it comes to the nitty gritty of running before work vs. running after work, fueling with burritos vs. gel blocks, through trial and error she’ll figure out what works best for her; but she will have a foundation of advice to build a successful training plan on…in a really good pair of shoes.

Runners gotta run

To run a marathon, or not to run a marathon?

That is actually never the question in our house; we’re most likely already training.

Are we old and tired? Yes.

Do we have WAY too much going on? Also, yes.

Does this even matter? Sadly, no.

Mark and I thrive on creating epic stories and making the kind of memories that you can feel in aching knees and scars.

If only it was appropriate to show the full-butt bruises that lived with me through the winter from our ultimate sledding sessions. Instead, just picture the black and blue mottled skin of a bruise, a bad bruise, one that’s ringed by green and puffy after the full damage makes its way to the surface and it takes away all excitement that you were thinking about a butt.

Bring on the snow.

But until then, we run the thing.

The most recent thing: the Mount Desert Island Marathon in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Since late 2019 this race has been on the agenda:

  • We’ve never been to Maine, how better to explore a new place than to take a 26.2 mile tour on foot?
  • Cool medal.
  • Increased odds of seeing a moose.

But then COVID hit and burst our bubble.

Twice.

Eventually we forgot we had even signed up. We stopped running and started packing on winter/spring insulation. Life was grand and carefree! Nothing ruling our days but the things we wanted for ourselves!

But wait…

…ah sh*t.

“Training starts this weekend…”

“…with a 6-mile run.”

Friends, perhaps you are familiar with the phrase, “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”** We did not use our running legs so we lost our running legs and had to suffer extra to get back our running legs in the four months it takes to get ready for a marathon.

**Fun fact: the origin of this phrase is believed to be less euphemistic and more beaurocratical: if your agency does not spend all of its budget it must give the money back to the treasury.

But this is not a post about our toils through the ups and downs of training for an impossible distance that would take us through 1,700 feet of elevation gain. Nay-nay. I am here to slather you with the good, the bad and the truly ugly that made this race an A+, 9/10 adventure that will be forever imprinted in our brains, laminated and saved in our memories for future visits.

Points taken off for no moose sighting.

First, The Town.

Bar Harbor is the start of the race and so it’s where we stayed. It is Cabot Cove come to life; small and quaint and you should never visit because I’d like for it to stay charming and untouched by commercial entities capitalizing on increased tourism, mmmkay?

The seafood: aces.

Acadia tchotchkes: a’plenty.

Views from the harbor: bury me, I died.

Of course we also had to do our part to support the wild blueberry industry in Maine. My advice: when you don’t take your trip to Bar Harbor, don’t try the blueberry pie. And certainly don’t eat at Jeanie’s Great Maine Breakfast.

Now, The Race.

Hard. The race was hard.

Early on we clocked a mile-and-a-half hill; a lot of runners hit the wall on that hill, you could almost see the bonk in their gait. It was an accurate indication of what was still to come; but we were prepared, we trained in the hilliest sections of our neighborhood.

And our bodies held out well beyond the halfway point.

But then we broke down HARD.

Mark had struggled with a nagging Achilles issue. A trainer looked at it the day before the marathon, felt around his calf and told him to skip the race. He specifically used the words “crutches” and “ruined for life.” Obviously Mark ignored his qualified advice and ran, overcompensating with other less-developed leg muscle groups and spent the last four miles on pins and needles.

For me it was the angle of the road that derailed my life’s ambition of making Mark eat my dust. The pitch was so extreme that it threw my right hip out of alignment causing my leg to give out every 50 yards for the last few miles.

We walked the last two miles. Didn’t even attempt a light jog. Couldn’t even attempt a light jog. But we still finished; we collected our medals and our pizza slices and celebrated with everyone else who just did the same. I’m not even mad at the women who commented that we looked like we’d been on a nice Sunday stroll as we crossed the finish line.

I mean, I’m not mad now.

I do hope they see this, though.

Broken bodies aside, I said at mile 15 I would do this race again and I still mean it.

The weather, the course, the scenery, the runners behind us blasting Queen from a portable speaker; it all lined up perfectly. The golden lobster claw medal, the finishers’ dinner party and a thousand people hobbling around town, nodding in solidarity, were the added bonuses.

It’s the full picture that will keep me coming back, the things you don’t necessarily hear when runners talk about their races: four months of my life dedicated to training, the excited buzz at the starting line, counting down the miles of the race, the instant relief at the finish line, and then reminiscing about it hours, days, months and years later.

It also helps if there’s chowdah at the finish line.

But speaking of pictures…

This tree is what the race logo is modeled after; I felt like I was meeting a celebrity when I finally saw it
Still smiling at the halfway point!…but not for long

Of course we’re already training for our next race; the start of our next four races if 2023 is kind to us. Myrtle Beach 26.2 or bust!

Black Friday madness

I’m in *it* for the chaos.

*It* being most things. The best stories to tell around the table or in a blog post decades later come from those wacky and wild and utterly ridiculous moments; the more ridiculous the better, in my opinion.

I should really put that on a shirt.

And so, in the spirit of the holidays, and all the joy, excitement and utter chaos they bring, let’s take a deep dive into to the mother of all shopping experiences*, one that is upon us now…BLACK FRIDAY.

*Filene’s Basement’s Running of the Brides deserves a chance to argue its case here, which I will do at a later date; there are brides, and they do run. And they yell and they sweat and they develop a bartering system to score the perfect 90% off dress.

Early aughts Stacie was keepin’ it real, keepin’ it authentic. I had the idea to enter the wild world of predawn shopping at the same time I realized (gasp!) I was an adult and could spend my money on whatever I wanted, leave my home whenever I wanted, and eat dessert whenever I wanted.

Mind you, I was already fully employed, paying taxes and health care premiums at this time. #latebloomer

So on that first Black Friday morn of my newly discovered liberation, I packed up my youngest sister and our friend and at 2:30am we cruised in style in my dad’s hand-me-down Caddy to the store that opened up earliest in our town: Best Buy. Home of the best buys on that day, for sure. You want a 50” plasma TV for less than what you spent on yesterday’s Thanksgiving dinner? Come to the Best Buy, but you’d better get there early!

We got there early, but not early enough. No matter, we weren’t there for a dirt cheap plasma TV. We weren’t there to get a sound system or refrigerator either. In fact, we had no plan and almost no money as we stood there, frozen to our place in line like the hundreds of people in front and behind us.

No doubt they all had a list, checked it twice, compared it to the flyer they got with their newspaper the day before and brought money.

After the first round of shoppers entered, shopped, paid and filtered out, we made our way into the store. It was a scene; people bustling around, DVD players under their arms, a look of terror and rage in their eyes knowing the fate of Christmas Day rode on this very moment. I stood there and took it all in. Then I grabbed a $5 movie and stood in line.

It was a really long line.

Too long, I eventually realized, to wait for (insert 2007 relevant movie title here), so I put it back and asked my sister and friend if they were ready to go.

I’m gonna be honest: there was fire in their eyes. It was a quiet ride back home.

We all learned a valuable lesson:

1. Have a Plan.

The next year, I knew to be ready:

  • know what the deals are
  • bring money.

The sense of adventure in my DNA salad came from my dad, so he jumped in on the fun, replacing my sister and our friend, no surprise there. We scoured the Thanksgiving Day flyers. We made spreadsheets with rows and columns listing stores, doorbusters and opening times. We knew where we needed to be and when to maximize our time and our dollars.

It felt good to be ready! To know that my 3am wake up call was going to result in the most efficient use of Black Friday time.

But…

2. Use Your Brain.

With the help of flyers and spreadsheets, my dad and I determined the absolute BEST place to be at 4am was in front of JC Penny for their doorbuster deal on slipper socks we wanted to snag for my mom.

On the spreadsheet, “JC Penny” and “slipper socks” were bolded AND highlighted. For good measure we added our own drawn in stars. At the appointed time we strolled through the doors of the mall; breezing past the line already formed at Old Navy, second guessing ourselves only slightly, we hustled on down to our starting point, fearful of what we might find formed there.

They did have doorbuster slipper socks, after all.

We were a line of two. At 4am. Until the doors opened at 5am.

Apparently, slipper socks were not the hot ticket item we expected. Graphic tees were all the rage at $5 that day.

Friends, use the sense God gave you. Black Friday shopping has morphed in so many ways, but efficiency and time maintenance in spending is alway in style.

These days, my Black Friday shopping looks a lot like my Cyber Monday shopping: jammies and coffee on the couch. I talk about my days of pre-internet shopping the same way my parents talk about life without cell phones, with fondness but also with gratitude that I never ever have to do that again.

Midnight hiking

When I was a wee-babe of 11 my fifth grade class went on a weeklong field trip to Camp Hi Hill in the Angeles National Forest; cabins, bunk beds, KP duty, it was everything you saw in Parent Trap minus the twin sister. My city school district owned a camp and every year would ship city kids off to have a little slice of nature. Among the many, many, memories I still carry with me, like my crusty beech counselor and her obsession with shaving her legs, was the most exhilarating yet totally inappropriate activity for children: the night walk.

Picture this: the mountains of Los Angeles, at night, in the dark. Our counselors take us to a trail and we are instructed to turn off our flash lights and walk a half mile of the trail, alone, to a counselor at the other end.

In the dark.

It was both terrifying and exciting, and I had ZERO hesitations despite the obvious fact that serial killers live and thrive in all dark places.

Mom, I survived. Calm down.

But this little adventure now lives in my brain and lingers in that area that pushes me to say ”YES!” to terrifying, exciting, and dumb ideas. Like running a marathon after just running a marathon, or baking Mario and Sonic cakes for my nephews’ birthdays.

Kids are serious about their cakes.

So last week when Mark said ”let’s do a sunrise hike!” I did not even have to agree. It is an unspoken rule that I am ON BOARD for a challenge. Then he said ”let’s hike Wright Mountain!” and I just kept packing my damn bag.

For context:

Sunrise hike: what to expect

Option 1: pack a sleeping bag, drive to the trail the night before and nap in your car. Wake up with enough time to strap on your shoes and your pack before hitting the trail.

Option 2: book a bunk at a local hostel, sleep commune style with strangers, hope for the best. Wake up with enough time to drive the short distance to your trail.

Option 3: sleep in your comfortable bed. Wake up and drive for hours in the middle of the night to the trail. Pass the cool kids who are heading home from a night on the town.

Headlamps. You’ll need headlamps. And Mark asked that I instruct you to make sure you pack extra batteries because hypothetically speaking if your headlamp did not function properly that would be bad.

Wright Mountain: what to expect

An Adirondack High Peak; over 4,000 feet, with 2,800+ elevation gain.

Windy. So windy. Nearly blew me off the peak the last time we hiked.

Not sure why anyone would choose to go here.

Cool plane crash just off the summit.

Beautiful summit, tho!

And so, after running 6 miles Saturday morning and doing chores all day, we decided on option 3 and settled into a nice comfortable bed for a hot second before waking up and rushing out the door with gear and snacks at midnight.

Oh but it wouldn’t be a true Agostino adventure without a touch of mayhem.

Picture this: the last potty break for our dogs just before we left. Also the last potty break for, Lucy, a neighbor dog. Mid-pee, my two realized they were not alone, and so they darted across the road, dragging me in my sandals, then after I fell, dragging my full body across their lawn. Dog fight ensued. At midnight. With me still attached to the end of the leashes.

Everyone was fine.

Annoyed. Furious. But fine.

And then it was off we go!

Fortunately, no more hiccups. Just driving and chatting, and dancing to House of Pain. After that, hiking and cursing and completely missing the sunrise.

Our legs were tired. Our entire bodies were tired. The climb took so much more out of us than we expected and we made it to the mountain in the full light of day.

Did I mention it was cold?! Like, 13 degree wind chill, cold??

(We wouldn’t have seen much anyway; a cloud came and enveloped the whole mountain range until we were well into our descent.)

Happiness.

Leading up to the peak, though, in the darkness, it was cool, quiet, and serene. The forest critters were all still nestled in their beds.

Every now and then I’d remember that behind me (I was following Mark) was absolute darkness, and then I’d remember that serial killers lived and thrived in absolute darkness; filling me with terror and dread for just a quick second.

A sunrise hike that starts in the darkest part of the night is the adult version of my childhood night walk at camp. Maybe that experience is what nurtured an adventure streak in me. Regardless, walking in the dark, not knowing what’s out there, is just so creepy cool.

As long as you stay clear of the serial killers.

On Cape in Wellfleet, Mass

The absolute No. 1, 2, & 3 reasons to live in the Northeast is the ability to leave.

Just pick up for the weekend and leave wherever you are to be somewhere else, but then come back renewed and refreshed and ready to tackle life again.

Our corner of the Northeast is prime location, we’re central to all* the places I’d rather be, the places my hyperactive soul can disappear to for a hot second without actually having to commit to giving up my job and friends and family and life.

*Most places, I should say. We are not central, for example, to the Napa Valley bachelorette weekend I will be missing out on because it is, in fact, not central.

And disappearing for a hot second to take a quick pause from the sometimes grueling demands from jobs, kids, lawn maintenance, etc. is crucial to maintain sanity. In our house we are usually in need of a sanity-boost.

Sanity boost in progress.

I have a very high standard when it comes to lawn presentation.

So we said ”um yes plz!” to friends on Cape Cod who invited us out for a quick session of togetherness. Ohhhh that sweet sweet sea air; the squatty, scraggly trees. Even a quick trip is a time of rejuvenation.

Laid back, no demands

We hit our favorite breakfast spot where we usually find our favorite cranberry and blueberry scone; we ran through the woods (future post idea: tell the people about our newest dumb adventure commitment), and snuggled the h*ck out of a few pups.

Good boy Fletch gives good boy kisses

It was A-okay.

But that’s not to say things didn’t go off-kilter a tad. Like a not-bringing-a-bathing-suit-to-a sleepy-beach-community tad.

Because I felt rushed while packing I over-over-thought. See if you can follow:

  • Weather forecast showed 60 degrees and cloudy
  • This is not ideal bathing suit weather
  • The ocean is cold
  • I will not be in the ocean
  • We are only going to be there for two days
  • This can’t possibly be enough bathing suit activity time
  • Bathing suit not necessary

But the weather shifted.

And our friends had just installed a hot tub.

And you can always just sit on a beach in a bathing suit without actually getting in the water.

Packing fail. I should have followed my normal routine:

  • Is there a chance it will happen?
  • Pack it
  • Period

Did I still enjoy myself?

Absolutely.

Do I have weird tan lines?

You betcha.

Am I going to learn a lesson?

Like, pack an article of clothing for every possible weather condition because we live in the Northeast and can potentially experience freezing cold and blistering hot all in one day? YES. Yes I am.

Adventure fam

How to: poop in the woods

Alternative title: Does an Agostino poop in the woods?

This is going to be a fun, TMI-filled, topic, friends.

I’ll give you a moment to consider your next move.

*checks nails*

*looks around, awkwardly*

*pretends to read something*

*realizes it’s upside down*

*resumes awkward gazing*

Ok. If you’re still with me, you’re about to learn a valuable, yet obscure skill: how to do your business in the woods while considering your fellow, future explorer.

Look around you; the world can be your bathroom!

First, why this is important to talk about:

  • You probably assume people doo as the dogs doo, squat and go; and you’d be incorrect. Dogs are down with OPP (other pups poops); people are not.
  • Poo is gross and no one wants to know that yours is out there. A squat-n-go will leave some kind of trace. A trace your nose knows.
  • It’s just good manners to “dispose” properly, wherever you are. Period.

As we know, sh*t happens. Like, literally everyday. And so those all-day, multi-day adventures will most definitely include a bathroom break of the No. 2 variety.

The poop-bladder, as my sister calls it, will not cease on command.

So it’s best to be prepared. And I don’t mean with just toilet paper.

There is a process.

So let’s dig right in!

(lol, #funwithpuns)

The faces of relief.

Let’s say you’ve spent weeks planning a special day out. You’re hitting the trails; you’re climbing hills, crossing streams, feeling the wind in your hair! It’s going to be friggin’ magical.

You fuel up on coffee and bran, lace up your best adventure shoes and leave all modern conveniences behind!

You are having the time of your…..

“Oh crap.”

Oh crap, indeed; something’s happening.

If you’d read this post prior to making plans, you’d be ready. Although, most likely a little apprehensive, you first-world, enclosed-room, privacy-pooper, you.

You would have the right tools.

Like at home, you’d have toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Not like at home, you’d also have a little, portable shovel, like THIS one from Walmart. The newbie outdoor poopers that Mark and I were, we bought a plastic shovel that doesn’t adequately pierce the undergrowth layer that sits on top of the dirt like a metal one would. The plastic shovel is lighter, but my preference, and that of most I’m going to assume, is that I erase allllllll traces of my deed with a tool that is made for digging holes and burying things.

This girl comes prepared. You know there’s shovel in that pack.

You would know where to go.

Once the urge hit, you would start looking for that special place. You would know to walk the recommended (in New York State) 70 paces away from the trail, and 70 paces away from water; although you’d use your best judgement and not walk yourself over a cliff or into an unsafe area. You would naturally look for privacy.

I pooped there.

**Pro-tip: be mindful of the trail and where it twists and turns; your private place might be in direct line of a trail that makes a sharp bend in your direction**

You would know what to do.

You would dig a hole with your trusty metal shovel. Only you know your body, specifically what your body does, and so only you know just how deep that hole should be. But you would dig that hole and *ahem* fill it. You’d include the toilet paper (it’s biodegradable) and cover everything with the dirt, leaves and whatever else covered the ground before.

Then you’d feel a pep in your step as you carried on with what’s probably shaping up to be a pretty great day and wonder why you were so apprehensive to do what bears do every day.

Yes. Agostinos poop in the woods, and you should too.

Two happy poopers!

Livin’ Aloha all the days

As an advocate for authentic adventures, which is just a pretentious way of saying ”you should do you, mmmkay?”, I felt it was my responsibility, my duty, if you will, to embark on a most epically authentic adventure.

I tell you to get out there! To get moving! To have some fun!

My motivation comes from my own struggles with depression and anxiety, so I tell you to get off the damn couch because I need to get up off the damn couch.

I tell you to take it easy on yourself when things get hard in your adventures because I need to take it easy on my own self when things get hard in…life.

A big ’ol trip that encompasses both aspects of what we need to hear and say and do is what we all needed, amiright?!

So Mark and I went to Hawaii!

Just a man catching a fish on Waikiki Beach, no biggie.

This is how much I care about all of us. #sacrifices.

We had the most perfect, yet exact-opposite-of-travel-magazine-write-ups kind of trip.

And it all started with sickness.

In both of us.

Mark caught his daughter’s cold the day before we left. (We thought she had allergies the whole time, whoopsies; sorry kid.) He spent the first few days in a DayQuil/NyQuil fog.

For me, after three flights bouncing across the country and then the ocean, I succumbed, actually my equilibrium succumbed to the constant bobbing and I spent parts of three days green with motion sickness.

Through sneezes, Mark reported that our first sunset in paradise was actually quite lovely.

Sigh. I would have liked to see it.

I would see others, though. That night as I ducked under a pillow to keep the room from spinning and my belly full of airplane cookies from heaving, I reminded myself that I would be better in the morning. And even if I wasn’t better, I knew could lie the day away on a pool chair, with a bucket by my side, if necessary.

Front row seats at the infinity pool, living our best life obviously.

But we rallied. Eventually. And even as we trudged through the thick, beautiful air with heads and bellies on the verge of chaos, we knew we were feeling awful in Hawaii.

There were things we had to forgo. No snorkeling, no surf lessons, we missed some of the ”must eat” restaurants, and the north shore of Oahu. But we saw parrots, and ate fresh pineapple, and floated in the Pacific Ocean (a first for Mark!).

Truth bomb: water was COLD.

We found the most excellent local coffee shops and breakfast spots that sprinkle macadamia nuts like us East Coasters sprinkle everything bagel seasoning.

We caught a show at the Polynesian Cultural Center, a luau at our own hotel, and toured the memorial at Pearl Harbor. We lounged and lounged and lounged at the adults only pool, the infinity pool and the beach, but also strapped on our sneakers to climb Diamond Head and walk through a MAGICAL arboretum on the University of Hawaii campus.

Pineapple walkway, Lyon Arboretum
My No. 2 favorite place on this island, waterfall trail near Lyon Arboretum
Bury me at Inspiration Point, Lyon Arboretum, because I saw this spot and died.

I took a few turns at the waterslide and I even convinced Mark to take a trip!

In other words we did some things.

We did just the right things, at our pace, and left the un-done things for the next trip. Because we’re already planning the next trip.

We went to our first luau and all we got were these necklaces, mai tais and a palm leaf headband!!

But we did try to take away a few lessons we can put into practice in our everyday lives:

Be patient, be flexible.

I’ll be honest. I was not. I’m usually not. But moment by moment, I reminded myself that I was in Ha-freakin-waii and nothing was going to change that. No idiot drivers or inattentive waitstaff or rain. I enjoyed that wild ride.

Take a (figurative) piece home with you.

For us: ukulele love. They were everywhere. And so it just stuck. Maybe it’s the sweet sound and slow, easy rhythm that brings us back to that slow, easy island life. Birthdays from now on will have an accompaniment, if Mark can just get that G7 chord down…

Wipe down sprayed sunscreen.

Spray. Then wipe. Don’t fall into that false sense of coverage security when spraying sunscreen, or when a trusted loved one sprays sunscreen on your hard-to-reach places. Take that inconvenient extra step and just rub it in. Ensure that FULL coverage to save yourself from ”Z” shaped burns, and marital strife.

Burnt, but still in love ❤

Aloha friends!

Extreme Sledding

**Warning, controversy alert.

We are going to cover a topic that on mountain forums is hotly debated.

And no, for anyone with a single minute of winter hiking experience, I am not talking about the “P” word.

Me: looks around nervously.

Absolutely no one:

Post-holing, I mean I’m not talking about post-holing. For now at least. That’s an argument that deserves a good amount of rest before tackling.

Vague much?

Today we cover EXTREME SLEDDING! Also known as hiking up a mountain and instead of trudging down, weary and cold, sliding down…on your butt!

WOOSH! WOOSH!!

Start ’em young!

For me, this is the number one reason to hike in the winter.

Maybe tied for first. The views are spec-tac-u-lar.

The quietness and serenity: also grand.

So one of the TOP THREE reasons to hike: sledding.

The controversy comes in when you find a group of purists who believe you walk up a mountain and then walk down, as nature intends for you to travel. You leave the trail in pristine condition, and anything other than a snowshoe track is an affront to the mountain and to your fellow man.

Please. People who are more knowledgeable: educate me. Because after years of sliding on my backside down trails of all conditions, after climbing up trails after someone has previously slid down, I cannot find a way that this practice is a no-no.

In light of no contradictory information, let’s talk about BUTT-SLEDDING!

I always end up carrying the baboon-butt-sleds up; small price to pay.

STEP ONE

Get yourself a real sled. You are not going to be able to fashion something small and sturdy enough on your own with everyday household items.

Like dollar store plastic placemats and twine.

Like cardboard and duct tape.

Like grocery bags.

Like your plain ’ol snow-panted butt.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

THIS (pictured above) is the sled that we use. Inexpensive and sturdy. Came quick and the whole family has gotten many fast and furious miles of enjoyment out of them.

STEP TWO

Find your climb.

In THIS POST I directed you to our favorite hiking implement, the AllTrails GPS hiking app. In addition to keeping you from wandering blind and lost through the wilderness and the inevitable death by hypothermia, AllTrails also tells you the grade of your hike! A 20% grade is great for meandering up to the top. A 20% grade is not going to be steep enough to make a grand descent.

We’ve found that sweet spot around 35%.

Of course that depends on the condition of the trail and weather. Is it a warm, above freezing day? Great! But the snow is going to be mushy and bunch up under your sled. Look for trails with a steeper grade. Is it cold? Cloudy? Icy? Hang on to your butts because you are in for a teeth-rattling ride at any grade.

STEP THREE

Go. Hike. That. Mountain!

Scout out the sweet spots for sliding on your way up. Take note of any rocks, downed trees or other impalement hazards.

For the 40ish-and-over club, mentally prepare yourself for the eventual bruising and soreness to come because you are not made for this. I spent the winter of 2020 with bruises on my thighs the size of my face from bouncing off boulders and trees AND YET: totally worth it.

TIPS

Let’s talk safety.

First, you’re hiking a mountain in the winter, remember, so plan accordingly:

  • Warm clothes, socks and mittens
  • Insulated boots
  • Spikes and snowshoes
  • Water (remember, DLIFS: don’t let it freeze, stupid)
  • AllTrails App

And second, on your way down:

DO look ahead at the trail you’re planning to sled down. Are you near a cliff? Maybe DON’T sled there.

DO watch for hikers on their way up. DON’T run them over, plz.

DO use your spikes as breaks.

DO shriek with wild abandon.

DO freakin’ enjoy yourself, you wild and crazy kid.

Vacay in the ADKs

When they go low, we go high…in altitude!

While most kids head down south to warmer weather and sandy beaches for their mid-winter school break, for the past two years we’ve headed north with the 12-year-old to drag her up and down mountains in near zero temps.

Child abuse?

We prefer to call it ”character building.”

She loves it.

Golden hour on a picture-perfect day 😍

On deck for this year’s break were just two mountains, one super easy warm up, the other a bit of a ball-buster. (Down from two ball-busters because someone wanted to have a life and, like, go home early to make it to a sleep over birthday party, or whatever.)

(And with that I’m done saying ”balls” because I know it’s making my mom uncomfortable.)

The first day of our mini-break provided clear blue skies, views for miles and smiles, lots and lots of smiles. We have been climbing the firetowers in the Adirondack Park lately, and this one was short and sweet. A quick two miles, hard packed snow and only 200 feet of elevation gain.

A quick walk up to this lil’ guy

We didn’t even earn the mac ’n cheese skillets we devoured back at our hotel later on.

The second day brought a winter storm. One that dumped half a foot of snow before we even got to the mountain, and another half a foot while we were out trudging to the top. The kind of storm that weather guys and gals recommend you stay inside for.

It was miserable.

All ”smiles” on day two

Mark and I were miserable, and the poor kid was miserable.

The climb was hard on its own. Elevation gain from the very first step. The driving snow that filled in our tracks with every step and soaked into our clothes only made the hard stuff harder.

Snowshoes, a winter must-have for this very reason!

Every ten yards we stopped to breathe, and every hundred yards we stopped to remind the kid that we can turn around if she doesn’t think she can make it.

She made it.

This picture spells r-e-l-i-e-f.

Of course she did. Girlfriend is tough as nails. Despite all that pre-teen angst, she pushed through with strength and determination she might not have known was even there. But she knows now. And I’m so excited to see what she does with it.

(The pizza and ice cream promised at the finish was probably a bit of a motivator too, but let’s say it was a solid 90% strength and determination that got her there.)

Snowy tower