Archive for the ‘favorite things.’ Category

Because I’m still working diligently on the new site, I figured I’d share a post that could last you all week. And not just any post. The post including one of our most favorite recipes, the best vegan buffalo dip in town!

I know what’s going to happen after you read this and see the corresponding photographs. You are going to run out and grab all of the necessary ingredients that you don’t already have and make it tonight for dinner. And then, because you are going to love it so much, you are going to make it again this weekend for your Superbowl party. Don’t feel guilty at all. I don’t, even after devouring almost half a pan of this stuff! You think I’m kidding?

Vegan Buffalo Dip serves two very hungry people or can be shared at a gathering like any other dip

  • 1 15 oz can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup raw cashews (they don’t have to be soaked overnight if you have a Vitamix)
  • 3/4 cup Frank’s original Red Hot Sauce
  • 1/2 cup unflavored, unsweetened non-dairy milk (we always use coconut)
  • 2 tsp of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 heaping tbsp of nutritional yeast (don’t skimp- this adds a cheesy flavor)
  • 1/2 tsp of both onion and garlic powder
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained*
  • 1 cup of shredded vegan cheese**
  • fresh chives or scallions for garnish (optional)

*We’ve experimented with baked tofu instead of chickpeas. Just as delicious, but preparation will take longer if you are baking the tofu yourself. You can purchase small blocks of baked tofu at your local market, including Trader Joe’s, just diced it up finely. We personally prefer the chickpeas for a heartier bite.

**We’ve always used Daiya cheddar-style cheese but found that it didn’t melt like regular dairy cheese. Go Veggie! Mexican style shreds melt and have a great texture. This is now our “cheese” of choice and you can find this brand at both Hannaford and Price Chopper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the white beans and cashews into your food processor/blender.  Pulse several times to break them up a bit.  Add the hot sauce, non-dairy milk, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of black pepper.  Process until the mixture is entirely smooth (this time will vary depending on what machine you are using), stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary.

Scrape the mixture into a 9×9-inch square baking dish. Stir in the chickpeas and 3/4 cup of the shredded vegan cheese.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese on top. (Note: Dip can be made up to this point a day or two ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to heat and serve.)  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until warmed through. Garnish with thinly sliced chives or scallions and serve with tortilla chips or veggies for dipping.

You’re welcome.

Recipe adapted from here.


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To piggy-back off of a previous post, instead of buying gifts for each other for the anniversary of our first date, the beau and I decided to take a day trip to Woodstock, NY. I had only driven through this little town after hiking once before but he was more familiar with it because his art had been featured in a gallery down there. I got up early to run my long run, shower, have a hearty breakfast at our regular spot and hit up the local car wash thanks to the HUNDREDS of crows that live in the trees outside of my apartment this time of the year. We were on the road by eleven and at the trail head by noon.

A co-worker suggested that we hike up Overlook Mountain, which I didn’t know the beau  would be interested in doing. Luckily, I was wrong! I think the short distance (just over a mile) combined with the fact that it was on an old carriage road were the selling points. We bundled up and started up the trail!








We passed a bunch of people who were already heading back to the car, it was a gorgeous autumn day, and within no time had to stop to take our coats off. By the time we made it to our destination, it was getting a little grey out and snow flurries were floating in the air. We decided not to hike to the fire tower and just to the abandoned hotel because we wanted enough time to walk around town before dinner. I loved it! I read up on this old building and it was originally built in 1871 but unfortunately burnt to the ground in 1923. It was so much fun to walk within it’s walls and imagine what it had looked like over a hundred years ago.


We spent quite a bit of time wandering around but it got cold fast, so back down the trail we went. And then decided to explore the Buddhist monastery across the street from where we parked! There was a retreat happening but we did get a peak inside of the meditation hall.


Once downtown we shopped, visited a couple of galleries, dreamt about purchasing antiques and laughed plenty of laughs in a neat children’s toy store.

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Seriously, what are those naked baby angels? And did you ever get to dissect owl vomit?

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The beau had originally suggested a trip to Woodstock because he had found an all vegan restaurant for us to have dinner at: Garden Cafe on the Green. Reservations were at five and we had a cute little seat in the window.

I think we were both overwhelmed to have so many options! We both agreed that we should try as much as we wanted/could and that we did! Besides the wine and side salads, this is what we ordered:

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For appetizers: the caesar salad with toasted almonds and the quesadillas with roasted red peppers and kalamata olives. The salsa, guacamole and sour cream were a big hit in my book!

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Dinner for him: pasta with “meatballs” and garlic bread. A classic!

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Dinner for her: wild and brown rice mushroom saute, cornmeal crusted tofu with red wine fig sauce, butternut squash terrine with pistachio swirl and roasted brussels sprouts. Out of this world delicious!

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For dessert: warm chocolate brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This serving was huge! Bigger than my hand! My only criticism of this rich, creamy dessert is that it wasn’t a brownie; it was a cake. Of course neither of us complained!

It was a wonderful day. Not buying gifts for each other was a great decision and I enjoyed spending time with him rather than money on an object. I would highly recommend this small town to any New Yorker looking for a day trip, even with the winter weather pressing us. Just remember to bundle up and hold the hand of your loved one.

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Happy Halloween my friends!

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pumpkin picking

This past weekend the beau and I went to our favorite farm (Engelke) to pick pumpkins! Unfortunately for us, we were a little late in the season and they were pretty much picked over. But on a positive note, they still had peppers and swiss chard for picking! We packed a whole whopping bag full of different varieties of peppers: sweet red, purple, snacking (orange), chilies, and jalapenos. Dinner that night were the most delicious fajitas with tempeh and lunches this week have been wraps with sliced peppers, raw chard and lots of spicy hummus!

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All Hallows’ Eve arrived and I knew it was going to be tricky to carve those little pumpkins, so I picked up the biggest pumpkin I could find in downtown Troy on my lunch. Thank goodness for The Grocery! I carried that thing all the way back to work, all by myself.

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After dinner, we put on a record, poured some red wine and carved our pumpkin. I decided we’d carve the Scorpio constellation because this time of the year is pretty special to the beau and I; our first date was during this week two years ago.

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I think it came out pretty darn good. Tonight I’ll light it back up and put it out on the front porch as soon as the sun sets. The seeds were seasoned and baked and will be gobbled up for dinner. I still haven’t seen Hocus Pocus this year… maybe I’ll find it online somewhere. No partying for me tonight! I’ve got the Turkey Trot in 28 days!

To check out last year’s Halloween festivities, click here and here.

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Loving: Don’t you dare hate or judge: I love the new Miley Cyrus album. When her first single was released and I saw the music video, not going to lie, I was a little disgusted. The tune had me hooked but her image, I couldn’t get use to it. For years, the kiddos looked up to her and idolized her in every way. Then when I saw this and knew that they were still hooked (I saw the twelve year old’s Instagram account quoting the lyrics), I got a little angry. Now, I’m over it. She is a smart business woman. I don’t believe that she’s going to have a breakdown like previously successful female artists. Her choices are her own and have brought her much fame. I’ll just keep hitting repeat as I ignore her personal behavior.

Looking forward to: Monday night date nights with the beau! Last night was the first night of the classic movie series at The Palace Theatre and we saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This was my first time seeing it, ever. So many questions running through my head! I wasn’t expecting all of the costumes nor the participation that came from the audience throughout the ENTIRE show. I.e. throwing of rice, confetti, decks of cards, toilet paper, toast, and wearing newspaper over one’s head while being soaked by squirt guns. Blew my mind! Can’t forget the dancing of the time warp! I WILL be prepared for next year! Next week is Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds; I’ve never seen this film as well.

Planning: With having reached official 46er status and not having anything else on my plate, I am realizing that I am a VERY goal-oriented person. As my mom always points out, there’s always something. But if I don’t have a short term goal to work toward, I am not the same person. I am lazy, unmotivated to keep my personal space clean and organized, and grouchy. With that being said, I’ve already chosen my next goal and I’m going to share it to hold myself accountable. If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I’m already registered for the Troy Turkey Trot; one of my favorite annual traditions. What you may not know, is that I’m registered for the 10k, my first 10k ever. My goal: finish under 56 minutes. I am not a fast runner, at all. But I am determined to finish with an average under 9 minute miles.  If you had asked me a year ago what my goal would have been for the distance, I would have said 62 minutes. Which is an excellent time. I’m just ready to really start pushing myself physically in ways I never have before. My workout calendar is made and this morning’s run is done.

Watching: We are caught up with Sons of Anarchy and watch it the day after it airs on television. The only other show that I’ve been watching, slowly, is Mad Men. We are only on season five and can’t imagine where is goes in the future episodes.

Excited about: This weekend celebrating Halloween! I have been too busy to really plan my costume this year but have a general idea of what I’d like to pull off. Spoiler alert: it’s not going to be a slutty anything. I’ve got a costume idea for the beau and I during TNO this Friday, but we’ll have to see how much energy I have Thursday night. It’ll be a good time regardless; we’re going to have glow in the dark ink for printing, spooky music playing in the background and candy for trick-or-treaters. I’m also going to be watching Vito this weekend, and we may visit the pumpkin patch for some fun on the farm!

Wondering: Where did The Brown Bag go?

Eating: The first half of the month was great in regards to the beau and I not eating out. This past week has been, well, bad. Our fridge is packed with autumn veggies but the kitchen is a mess and I have no motivation to cook. Tonight is the big night: I will conquer those dishes! With my new running goal, I’ll be even more motivated to eat clean. That big bag of spinach is calling my name!

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Well, we did it! Most importantly, my little sister crossed the finish line of her first half marathon! This was a gorgeous route- I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been training on a bike path week after week or because this was the city I fell in love with running, but the miles seemed to tick by. I found myself repeatedly saying out loud that it was the most perfect day for this race; something I tend to do a lot in the mountains when hiking. I was thankful that there wasn’t a tiny percent of humidity in the air and that it was quite brisk when we started- my two favorite things about autumn running.

Here’s a little recap of the miles:

Miles 1-3: If you follow along with my training on DailyMile, you’d know that the past couple of weeks I have been running the biggest hills in Troy to prepare myself for the incline up North Broadway to Skidmore College. I remember running this route with Marla years ago and it would KILL me. I didn’t want to start this race dragging, or dragging my sister back, so hills have become part of my routine. This morning I could have flown up that incline. I could have flown up the two hills throughout the campus and breezed back down toward downtown. I could feel my body pulling myself faster but I stayed right along with Naomi, encouraging her the whole way. See, she hadn’t trained with hills. She did exactly what I told her to do: run comfortably up those hills and we’d gain our ground later in the race. Start slow and finish strong.

Halfway up North Broadway she gave me a look and asked me if there were people behind her. I said yes, but not many, and not to worry because if we were the last two people to cross the finish line, I’d let her go first. I knew we wouldn’t be the last two people and reassured her that she was doing great. I caught her looking at her Garmin far too much and she would ask why she was going so slow or how the pace felt to me- I just told her to STOP looking at that watch or I’d take it away from her. (Great words my friend once said to me last year during my marathon attempt.) I didn’t want her worrying about time; I wanted her to finish. We passed our family and were thumbs-up with smiles!

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Miles 4-6: The best part about this race was that I knew where all the hills would be and when to prepare her for them. She made it up the hill on Broadway heading toward the Saratoga State Park and I just followed her pace. She fell into a nice little groove and held that consistently until about mile 5.25. At this point in the course, we could see the runners that were MILES ahead of us and some were MUCH older than us. She had me laughing out loud when she made a comment about a “grandpa” who was beating us but I reminded her to run her own run and not to think about those people. To me, those people are inspiration. This was when I saw a No Meat Athlete and a friend named Gabe run by and had to give them a holler. This was also when I saw the competitive side of Naomi come out; she started to verbalize “targets” of whom she wanted to pass. I did this earlier in the race to her but backed off because I didn’t want to push her too soon. I reminded her that if she were to pass people now, she better hold it to the finish line; not a problem.

Miles 7-9: I refueled around mile 6.5 and started taking routine sips of water every two miles. Naomi also shared the water bottle I carried which was great because we didn’t stop at any water stations. We hit our last hill of the day and she passed people going up! These weren’t memorable miles for me until about mile 9.75 when we saw our family a second time… I’m still all smiles and thumbs-up! I think this was a huge relief for my mom because this was right around the time I was pulled from VCM.

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Miles 10-12: Once we hit ten miles and high-fived (we did that at every mile marker), I reminded her that we had just a 5k to go! She really started to pick up the pace and it was tricky for us to fall into a new groove because it was much more crowded and practically single file on Crescent Ave because of traffic. She let me know when it was safe to pass. She said mile 10-11 was her most difficult but I couldn’t tell. By this time, I had to pee but couldn’t imagine stopping. She told me all the better to pick up the speed and finish, so I did. Once mile 12 came, she kept asking, “where’s the Farmer’s Market?!”

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Miles 13-13.1: We booked it! As we were passing those who were walking, I couldn’t help but try and encourage them during the last mile. Once we rounded the corner near the police station and could see the finish, I really fell into stride; and she was right there with me. We passed her boyfriend, my dad who was on the phone looking for her boyfriend and then there at the finish line was the beau and my mom. I grabbed Naomi’s hand and crossed we did! My DailyMile friend John even announced the two of us and the fact that it was her first race! She looked like she was going to barf (sorry Naomi) and I couldn’t help but smile because I knew she gave it all she had in her. We found our family, including the beau’s! and relaxed for a while before heading home.

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It was a great day! Once the beau and I made it back to Troy, we sat down for a delicious meal at Carmen’s with a celebratory mimosa! That mix of spinach, seasonal veggies and rice were just what I needed to refuel. I got home and passed out to take a short nap and when I woke up, I was surprised to find out that the beau had made homemade tomato sauce (seriously impressed with the flavor), pasta and fried/baked eggplant… oh, and had a 12 pack of Saranac seasonal beers chilled! Isn’t he great?! I stuffed my face had a hearty serving of dinner while watching Sons of Anarchy- season five is getting better and better! It was a wonderful way to wrap up a busy weekend.

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Other highlights from this weekend: we finally got the record player up and running! I love looking through the box of records and dancing around the apartment. Now if only I was productive while dancing around, say, sweeping or picking up dirty laundry. Oh! And the beau ran his first (ever) 5k on Saturday! I loved to see him participate and I think it’s safe to say that he’s hooked: I’m pretty sure he’s going to run the Turkey Trot with me!

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I’m sticking with what my mother taught me; if I don’t have anything nice to say…

No, I’ll be honest: this was my least favorite hike to date.

IMG_3519Not because of the mud. Not because of the distance. Because it was difficult and mentally a tough trip. This was a thirteen hour day and close to 17 miles. My toes were numb during the last 1.8 miles out on the gravel road, as the sun was setting behind the mountains. I am beyond thankful for Mother Nature and the weather that we had; we went into this hike expecting rain with absolutely no views. Despite the humidity, there was not a drop of rain and plenty of blue sky. We even had gorgeous views on top of Panther!


Favorite quote of the day: Can we go somewhere and hike on marshmallows or something?



Favorite food of the day: Hummus sandwich on Ezekiel bread with sriracha, lettuce and tomatoes.



New friend of the day: David Lord from Horseheads- you’ll be seeing us real soon in the magazine!


Favorite sight of the day: the car.


Favorite scare of the day: the giant rock I was hanging from, by a root, and all I could see below me was a cliff. At this point, we had a good 5-6 miles to go and I was ready to cry from mental exhaustion. Thank goodness for Paula who convinced me to just slide down on my butt; sounds simple enough but at that point, I needed someone to talk me off the ledge, literally.


Favorite self-trait: I’m really good at balancing across mud swaps on tiny logs.



I don’t know if I’ll ever become a Winter 46er because of this hike- I never want to think about re-doing this! On the other hand, there is a lot of potential for the ADK butt-slide…




12 more peaks to go!

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I’ve been wanting to hit the trails solo for about a month or two but to be completely honest, I had a fear of something happening to me while out there. But with the gorgeous weather last week and an urgency to take one last vacation day (I can’t take time off in August) I just had to make it happen. I wouldn’t say I’m a pro, but I felt confident enough that the 25 previous hikes/peaks gave me enough experience to give it a go.

The next step of planning which peak(s) to climb had me going back and forth between two options: hike a 15-20 mile day and bank one or possibly two peaks, or hike a thirteen mile day and bank four? Of course the second option seemed more appealing however I must add, that those four peaks were going to be on unmarked trails = added chance of becoming lost in the woods. The beau thought I was out of my mind for even considering it.

So, I spent a lot of time researching the unmarked trails and came to the conclusion that I could do it! Hey, I thought if the new National Geographic ADK map shows these unmarked trails, they must be there and easy enough to follow. My back up plan would be to follow the marked trails all the way out to Dix Mountain and I’d at least get one peak and those 15-20 miles.


The night before I wrote out an itinerary for the beau, packed my bag, and prepared all of my meals for the hike. I brought more than I typically do, but wanted to play it safe by bringing extra food and a warmer shirt, hat and extra pair of socks regardless of the weather report. I laid everything out so that it would be a simple morning and I wouldn’t wake the beau shuffling around; I was on the road by 3:30am Tuesday.

You can access the Dix Mountain Range from Elk Lake Road by taking exit 29 off the Northway (87). It’s an easy trip and I loved seeing signs of the rising sun as I made my way to the trailhead parking. I was shocked to seeing the 8 or 9 cars in the lot, and after checking in, I realized that they had all been there from the previous day; most of the people/groups were making a two or three-day trip out of what I was about to complete in one day. I was walking into the woods at 5:42am.


I knew from reading that I was looking for a cairn after 2 miles that would signal me to take a right up toward Macomb Mountain. This was a hike that Paula and I had attempted this past spring but with the snow, completely missed our turnoff. On this brisk summer morning, it was easy to spot.



I was shocked by how easy it was to follow the herd paths and was making great time. Within an hour I could see where I was headed and the rocky slide that I’d have to scramble up. Let me note: when hiking alone, every little sound is loud. And when a deer JUMPS across your path just ten feet in front of you, it scares the crap out of you! Your senses are definitely heightened when you have no one to talk to or listen to. This was right about the time when I took a wrong turn; but I didn’t know it until I had hiked for fifteen minutes or so in the wrong direction. I was following hikers previous to me, but still, my intuition told me it wasn’t right; by then I should have already been climbing the slide. So, I turned around and retraced my footsteps and easily found where I had gone wrong. Up the slide I went!




The slide takes you up and back into the trees (and gives you great views of Elk Lake!) and you have another half hour or so until you reach the summit. This side of the mountain was still dark because the sun was rising on the other side and I must say, it kept me cool while doing all that climbing. I summited at 8:18am and the views were already breathtaking.



I stayed only a few moments to take a couple of photographs and turn on my phone to try to ease the beau’s mind that I was doing it… this was when a flood of messages came through from the night before… one of my good friends was engaged! A view and good news?! I couldn’t take it; I then continued on to South Dix. Again, the trail was easy to follow and because it’s about 400 feet lower than Macomb, the down had me gaining distance quickly. I reached this tree covered summit at 9am and stopped briefly to have a snack of fresh mango slices and a handful of cashews.



My spirits were high at this point because I was already half-way done with my planned day very early on. I had put in my itinerary that I *may* attempt to complete the entire range if I felt great and it had crossed my mind, but I didn’t want to commit to anything until I reached the fourth peak. I set off to reach East Dix, which was only a mile from the summit of South. I summited at 9:47am.

The views!!! I could now get a clear look at the entire East side of this mountain range and I was smiling ear to ear. At this point in the hike I really wished that I had someone to share these views with; the skies were blue, the temperatures were low and the bugs were nonexistent. I hiked back to South Dix and was on my way to Hough Peak.




Now this leg of the trip was difficult for me mentally. This was a much higher climb than the previous two and was technically my fifth up for the day. I was also approaching my sixth hour on the trail and I was starting to get hungry for lunch. At one point I kept telling myself, okay, another half mile and if the peak isn’t there, I’ll stop and eat. It was steep and I had to stop and catch my breath a couple of times but I had pushed myself up and reached Hough Peak, my fourth summit of the day at 11:18am. You better believe that I plopped myself down and enjoyed the views (and a sandwich).



Probably five minutes after arriving, a group of three came up and joined me; they were the first people I had seen or heard all day. It was a gal my age and her parents who had come up the Lillian Brook trail to hike Hough, her 36th peak, and were then planning on hiking over Dix out to Route 73. They seemed super impressed by my time and distance so far, and encouraged me big time to hike over to Dix to finish the range. They even offered to let me join them if I was looking for company. I kindly declined but insured them that they’d probably see me again on the connecting trail to Dix because I was growing tired and slowing.

That 10-15 minute break was just what my body needed to recharge; the climb to Dix was steep but I powered thru! All until I came to this MASSIVE boulder and realized that the only way up to the summit was over. I stood there. Almost began to cry and then decided that I should give it a try before crying. So there I stood, in the middle of this boulder, about five feet up off the ground, with my foot stuck in a crack and not being able to move. This was a good enough spot to cry but instead, I stood there for a good three minutes, trying to calm myself down and think of a new plan. I secretly hoped that those people behind me would show up and offer a hand, but I was too far ahead to hear any chatter. I was on my own.




I don’t know how I did it, but I dislodged my foot and shimmied my way up the boulder. It still blows my mind that my hands  gripped that rock that hard, which explains why the day later I didn’t have a single fingerprint left. The marked trail came up from my left and within a few hundred feet, I was on the summit of Dix Mountain! It was 12:52pm and I joined at least ten other people who were taking a much needed break. There was a group of boys from a camp that were out for a three day trip and I shared some of my most recent stories with them. There was a family of three that were about to head down the marked trail and suggested that I take the shorter route for the most direct route out of the mountains.


Little did I know, that this trail was steep! The two miles coming down off of Dix was slow and very calculated because I didn’t want my jello legs to give out and cause me to get hurt. Once I reached the connecting trail that would take me back to my car, I had about four miles of the toughest part of the day: convincing yourself not to stop. By this time, my legs were achy and tired and the patches of fluffy grass that appeared every so often looked like the perfect spot for a nap. But I kept going, slowly but surely, and reached my car at 4:30pm just ahead of the family of three that I had met a few hours earlier.

I was more proud than exhausted and couldn’t wait to get home to tell the beau what I had done and seen. The views on top of Dix Mountain were by far the best I have seen to date in the Adirondacks; a 360 view of New York and Vermont. And if you’re keeping count, I’m officially at 30 High Peaks (out of 46)!

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