Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

Paula and I were up early around 5 am and had water boiling in no time. It was still pretty cloudy out/we were in the clouds; it usually takes a couple of hours for the sun to burn them off. After a quick breakfast and packing everything up, we slid our packs on and started for Lake Tear of the Clouds.


The trails were still wet and it was slow moving at first to get use to once again carrying all that weight, but before I knew it, we were seeing water. Did you know that Lake Tear of the Clouds is said to be the location where Teddy Roosevelt heard that President McKinley took a turn for the worse? He had just hiked Mount Marcy and then proceeded to hike the ten miles out, to then travel to Buffalo where he was sworn in. I’m not a big history buff but I always enjoy learning bits and pieces about these mountains and the people who have hiked them prior to me.


From here, we saw the heard path leading up to Gray Peak; an unmarked trail but an official 46er. We hiked in a short distance, dropped our packs, took the essentials (camera/iphone and water) and started upward. It was a steep trail that required a lot of actual rock or boulder climbing with water flowing over everything. This might not be so tricky going up but always requires extra attention going down to prevent slipping and being hurled forward. With speed due to no packs, we were soon at the peak. This was Paula’s 23rd peak and we did a little dance, took photographs and high-fived each other. There wasn’t a view and that was perfect because the clouds were still heavy. Down we went.




By the time we got down Gray, the kids that were camping near us caught up and were taking a break; they were heading straight for Marcy. We kept on the trail to Skylight and I had a little pep in my step: I miscalculated and thought at the time, that this would be my 23rd peak. Once we got to the trailhead, we once again dropped our packs and basically sprinted up. All I kept thinking was, “this is it! Halfway there!” We got there, in the clouds once again, and I searched for the marker. Faster than Paula could whip out her camera, I was on the ground kissing the plaque; I hadn’t been that happy in a while. Little did I know… Marcy would actually my halfway point- ha!




We didn’t stay for long on top of Skylight because of the cool breeze and I think we both wanted a snack…that was conveniently down the mountain in our packs. Once we got down there, I realized my water bottle had unhooked from my pack and was no where to be found. Luckily those kids had caught back up to us and had seen it along the way and picked it up. I made sure to thank them a ton before heading toward Marcy.


To be completely honest, I don’t remember much of this trail until the tree line broke; looking up at the bare rocks that we had to climb was overwhelming and exciting all at once. The sun was starting to shine, the clouds were starting to disappear and those kids were right on our tails. As a group we were all staggered climbing the last quarter mile or so and it was encouraging to hear them all motivate each other. They were a high school group completing a final project together and based on the teamwork I saw for that short while (and for returning my bottle) I would have given them an A.




The last section of the mountain was so steep I’d take about twenty steps, pause for 20 seconds then take another 20 steps. The clouds were opening up and showing blue, the breeze kept the bugs away and my attitude got lighter; I was climbing the tallest peak in New York!



I got up there! We took some photographs, ate a quick snack and then started down the other side because we had about ten miles to hike until we reached the car. Within fifteen minutes of working our way down, the sky became cloudless and it was crystal clear out. I *quickly* debated on whether or not to turn around and go back up, but decided on not returning due to the weight of the pack.

The last leg of the trip was tough for me mentally because after getting brief cell service on top of Marcy (the first time in three days), all I could think about was getting home to the beau. Of course I missed him prior to that two-text interaction, but knowing he was cooking me a big pan of pad thai really made me wish I could speed things up. It was an easy trail, long but easy, and just as I started to complain, there was Marcy Dam; only three more miles to go!




The water was significantly lower than it had been the previous day and the slides were all shining in the sun. The sights sure did lift my spirits. And as Paula and I were signing out for the weekend at the parking lot, out trotted two of my friends from Troy! They had just hiked their first 46ers, Algonquin and Wright. I didn’t stay and chat for long; I raced over to the car to take off my boots and replace them with my Birkenstocks. Next time I’m packing those puppies along for the hike!

To read the first two posts, go here and here.


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photo (30)

photo (29)

In this week’s bag:

  • head lettuce
  • tuscan kale
  • arugula
  • hydroponic tomato!
  • baby turnips
  • red radishes
  • golden delicious apples

I didn’t get the opportunity to take a photograph of the sweet little bouquet that we got this week right after picking it up- but it has been on display to brighten our spirits. I of course can not wait to see the peonies bloom, and appreciate the iris, for it reminds me of my mom.

Both the beau and I were super excited to see all that lettuce waiting to be gobbled up! We had a big storm two nights ago that had a tornado warning and unfortunately wiped out some of our lettuce in our mini garden on the back porch. The winds were so so strong and blew over most of my violas and nastoriums; they are growing stronger in the sun each day. Our broccoli and kale were unharmed and are about a foot tall or so. When we get a free chance, our string of lights will be hung and the debris from the store will be swept up, it’ll be better than ever. I do love our little porch.

You better believe that that tomato is in my salad today! Along with some head lettuce, dried cranberries, crumbled raw pecans and a homemade honey lemon dressing- so good! I’ll be leaving very early Saturday morning and won’t be returning until Monday night, so it’ll be up to the beau to use up all this fresh deliciousness. Who knows what he’ll create when on his own. We did make a big batch of arugula pesto this past week for a pasta dish and I ended up using the last batch of turnips with a potato to make a morning bowl of “pancakes” with a tofu scramble… the consistency was a little… soupier than I anticipated… but it was still tasty. I’m a mixer of food anyway.

Despite it being my five year college reunion this weekend, I’m heading out of town to hike! Of course, right? Tomorrow is National Trails Day so Paula and I are volunteering to clean up after the winter melt. Sunday and Monday will hopefully be spent dodging the rain and reaching new summits. I am so close to the halfway mark! We both have a lot of new gear that we can’t wait to test out (sleeping bags, tents, stoves, a BEAR CANISTER!). This will be my first official overnight as a backpacker and it’s exciting to put all my research into action. Hiking gear is expensive and I did a lot of reading to ensure the products that I was purchasing would last me years. Once tested, I’ll share what I brought, what I’m planning on bringing during my big trip in July and how well everything worked out.

Oh! And I also can’t wait to share a post about hiking and eating VEGAN! There are so many options out there and I haven’t even started dehydrating my own meals! I think the number one question I get is: what do I eat when on the trails? And the answer is always: food! Yes, a day trip is different than an overnight but not by much; as long as you are eating calorie dense *and* nutrient loaded foods, you’ll feel full and strong. More on that definitely to come.

It’s going to be a warm weekend, I hope you all stay happy, active and hydrated my friends!

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hike your own hike.


paula hiking



summit of madison

the three of us on madison

in car after madison

sleepytime tea

There’s something the mountains always do to me when I spend a short time in them: remind me to stay grounded and hike my own hike.

My hiking partner knows exactly when I’ve fallen into this spell. I become quiet; my head filled with random thoughts, often of ones to get me to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes I’m trying to write out in my head how to describe everything that I’m experiencing in that moment. Other times I’m thinking of my future and what I expect of myself. I pull away or drop back behind her, hiking my own hike.

It’s hard not to compare oneself  to others who are joining in on the hike- one who may be better prepared, faster, or more experienced. And the moment I find myself allowing those thoughts in, I struggle with my next step. I have to force myself to stop, take a look around (being miles into the woods) and be proud of how far I’ve come. Just me and my body, no one else to rely on or thank but myself.

I experienced this multiple times throughout my hikes this past week- hiking with new friends. At one point the snow was too deep and I didn’t have the right gear. At another, the trail was so steep, I couldn’t see the person in front of me. At the top, the wind was so strong I was terrified to take the next step. It got to the point that I didn’t care about the (missing) view, but had to mentally finish the hike. I had to get to the tippy-top. And I did, with tears in my eyes: excited that I had raced up to the top but terrified because I didn’t know how I was going to manage to get back down. Fear kicked in and I had a little panic moment, for about ten seconds. I said to myself out loud, “hike your own hike” and I did. I focused on me and got myself back down to the treeline where I could finally breathe a full breath of air without struggling. It was with the help of someone more experienced, better prepared and faster that I made it down safely. If I had continued to compare myself to that person, I would have let fear overcome that last leg of the trip and not summited. And then, I would have been disappointed.

We don’t always summit the peaks we set out to reach, and I don’t mind. The mountain isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so I know I’ll always have a second chance. Or third. Or fourth.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”– Albert Einstein

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simple Christmas.



giving tree

kitty gift


It’s almost embarrassing to admit that these are the only photographs that I have of the holiday in my apartment and at my parents’ place. But in my defense I can say that I wasn’t glued to my cell phone the entire day- just for about five minutes to wish some of my closest friends a Merry Christmas.

The beau and I drove up on Christmas Eve to spend the night at my parents; my sister and her boyfriend drove up later that night to join us. It was great waking up and rolling out of bed like we use to. As a family we decided to keep our holiday very simple, each of us received three gifts total. One gift from each family member. I can tell you this- I prefer it! Shopping was easy and there was no pressure. We bought items that we absolutely, positively knew that person wanted or needed, or surprised them with something we knew they’d love.

To follow along the lines of keeping things simple, the beau and I agreed on getting each other three gifts within a specific budget. A want, a need and a surprise. We only exchanged our want gifts in front of my family and then waited until the evening to open the rest- and I’m glad we did! It kept things low-key and I could really appreciate what was given to me, rather than be distracted by others in the room. I loved it and fell asleep with a smile on my face.

kitty waiting

This morning was easy not having to scramble to find room for all my gifts; everything already fits right in! I did venture out onto the fire escape to hang kitty’s bird feeder that Santa left him and now we’re both laying here patiently waiting. I’ve managed to give away all of my shifts this vacation despite needing the cash to have a real vacation from all work- completely forgetting about tonight’s random Wednesday shift that I never have. Hopefully someone will pick it up for me so that I can have dinner and open my stocking with the beau’s family.

And then be snowed in! I love a good, heavy snowfall and would be over the moon if I woke up with shoveling to attend to. Can you tell I’m loving my vacation? I’d shovel, come in to warm up and cook with my fresh veggies! Oh do I have a story to share about my vegetarian Christmas! I’d also write that while watching the snow fall. But for now, I’m off to the bank and the hair salon to chop off the length that I’ve managed to accumulate over the past year. ‘Tis the season!

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Watching: Sometimes, when the beau and I start a great season of something on Netflix (Sons of Anarchy for example), we “aren’t allowed” to go further without the other person; just out of common courtesy. Well, I have a hard time not doing that. So instead, I’ll start watching a really lame series that has a million episodes so that I’m never tempted to watch the other. Recently, that has been Say Yes to the Dress. I don’t know what I’ve gotten sucked in? I mean, it’s the same thing over and over and over again and yet I can’t click away. Other than that, we haven’t been watching much of anything; both of us being extremely busy this time of the year. I’d love to watch some classics: Rudolph, Frosty, ELF!, Love Actually… and it came about yesterday while on the subway that the beau has never seen Ghost… this Redbox will be my go-to this vacation.

Thinking about: Well, this one is conflicting. I’m thinking about all that needs to be done for the holiday (ie shopping) and then last Friday’s happenings, well, happened. And although I don’t have a television to watch the updates as they are happening, I have been flooded by information on social media sites. And I think it’s a little much. Yes, what happened was HORRIBLE. Yes, I think changes need to be made (not getting into any politics here people) but I also think that the way the media deals with situations such as this needs to also change. I am not a mother. I can not even imagine what it feels like to lose a child. But I was a nanny. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I work in education. We all have family and have lost someone that we love. To be bombarded by this constant coverage must be overwhelming. I will be lighting a candle tomorrow between 3-8pm to honor the life of Dawn L. Hochsprung, who was a doctoral candidate in Sage’s Educational Leadership program and the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal. We are all connected, somehow, and I think it’s important to stop for a moment and honor, thank and appreciate every single person that surrounds our daily lives.

Listening to: Christmas on Pandora! I’ve got some cleaning, organizing and decorating to do around this apartment and just a lot of errands and will be tuning in the holidays as much as possible. The beau and I have started this little ritual of having a mini 90’s dance party as we get ready in the morning (sorry neighbors). Me being on vacation has kind of halted this. I miss it and will be making an effort to get up at a decent hour to make this happen.

Excited about: Having the time to catch-up on life. I’ve never been so excited to do my laundry, cook!, write, and shop with one week left before Christmas. I’m going to head out early and get it all done in one day. It’s simple this year with my family; we are only buying 1 gift for each other. That means, with only four people in my family, I will receive three gifts. Not huge, expensive gifts. Three gifts that we really want or need in our lives… and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m truly appreciating the smaller things in life and experiences, rather than the number of “things” in my apartment. It should be a simple and easy day… once I figure out what I’m getting everyone.

Reading: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl. Ruth was the food critic for the New York Times (I think for a decade) and tells her stories behind some of her favorite, and famous, reviews. I’m about half way through and love it. For every restaurant that she writes about, she chooses a new disguise so that they can’t recognize her and give her better treatment/food. It’s a fun read and with just having been in the city yesterday, it was almost as if I got to be a part of the book and what she describes…if that makes any sense at all?

It was a wonderful day in the city with the beau and we walked for miles! Just soaking it all in, eating some delicious vegan meals, and being tourists while visiting the tree and other must-see landmarks this time of the year. The city also reminds me of how much I love Troy/the capital district… I am not made for the hustle and bustle!

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…we were only an hour or so away from Washington D.C. when we left Virginia and we thought because it was after nine that we wouldn’t hit any traffic. Wrong. There was a ton of roadwork which delayed our timing but before we knew it, we were downtown circling the monument looking for a parking spot. And patience paid off because we scored a spot with two-hour parking. We figured we’d walk around, put more cash in the meter, eat lunch then hit the road. It was a hot day in D.C., a really hot day. So much so that I felt compelled to take my top off right there and change into a tank top; leaving the beau speechless. He had this look like, I can’t believe you just did that in the president’s backyard. My response, I’ll never see these people again. And then, we were on our way.

We visited the Washington monument, the Lincoln memorial (my favorite), the WWII memorial, the reflecting pool that was unfortunately under construction, and the Vietnam memorial. I loved being the little tour guide as we wandered the area; I had visited the city on my last road trip back in 2009. Soon after checking out the White House, we were hot and starving and when you pair those two together, you get a mean craving for sushi. Our first instinct was to plug-in the request on Yelp, and we got a few suggestions. So off we walked.

And walked and walked. With my backpack on and sweat soaking my tee, we walked. And could not find the damn sushi place. So we plugged in another. And could not find that one. At one point I asked a random stranger if she knew where one was. And she did! She gave us directions and pointed us in the right direction… but they closed at three and it was like three fifteen. I stepped outside and held back my tears. I was hungry. I was hot. And I was sick of walking. We made the decision to walk in the direction of the car and just stop at the first place we saw– I secretly wished it was a McDonald’s.

At this point I was on a mission. And when a panhandler ask me for money claiming he was a veteren, I quickly ignored him and pressed on. But when I heard him mumble something along the lines of “something something you ungrateful bi-otch,” I turned around and gave him the look. Which prompted him to state that he wished I’d choke on my next meal. That was my new goal: not to choke on lunch. Easy enough.

Which was at this ghetto Thai place. It made me nervous because there was no one else in there; I like to go where it’s crowded because that typically means the locals like it. But they did have air conditioning and I was hoping the lack of other customers meant we’d be served quickly. I went to my go-to pad Thai choice and was more than satisfied! It was fabulously delicious! I can look back at it now and think, wow, I over reacted. Sorry, beau. I didn’t mean to take out my hanger (hungry anger) on you. And look, I survived without choking.

At this point we were close to two hours past the meter and were racing the blocks back down toward the monument. It seemed as though we were getting caught at each light/crosswalk and I made a comment about the traffic and if/when the prez rolls thru town. No joke, within five minutes there were helicopters above us and the city shut down. The prez was coming to town. And we got a video of it! It’s funny how use to his arrival they are but when he shows up to Troy, NY people freak out. Not going to lie, we were more than excited!

Finally, we reached the car and were back on the road. Because we had the time, we decided to stay in Maryland and drag out our vacation. It wasn’t too difficult to find a state park on the Susquehanna River and it was a plus to see that it wasn’t packed. In fact, we were the only people in the park other than one father and son and a couple that we think were either doing drugs or exchanging sex for money. No big deal. We set up the tent one last time and rolled into town to find an ATM when I spotted the golden arches… there was no turning back! Nothing better than a couple of McDoubles and boxed wine.

Another note: this was yet another DRY park. Lame. So to solve this problem, we climbed into the tent to drink our Bota box (like that would hide our laughter). We downloaded connect-four, made it a drinking game and at one point remember laughing so hard because the beau was terrified of a park ranger coming by. I was designated the official speaker of the site if this problem were to arise. It didn’t take long for us to pass out under the clouded sky.

And we woke up to pouring rain! We waited hours until we decided that we just had to pick up in the rain and get on the road. It was the miserable kind of rain that made it really difficult to see for hours. But we had a stop in sight: Philadelphia! You know, the home to the Philly cheesesteak sammy. We just had to know which one was better. First stop: Pat’s King of Steaks.

The beau had me nervous because he said that if you didn’t know how to order the “right” way, they’d kick you to the end of the line. Alright. One wit and cheese, please. Oh, and a cheese fry. Review: so effing good! The cheese didn’t harden, the meat was tender, and the attitude was mean. Got it. After hitting up yet another ATM and driving around the block when we really didn’t have to, we walked over to Geno’s. Review: much nicer people, way worse sammy. The meat was tough, bland and the cheese wasn’t as hot and creamy. Oh, and the fries were soggy. I’m a Pat’s fan all the way!

With our bellies full, we hit the road and were uneventfully back in New York around rush hour. As I was pulling up to his parents’ place, I remember asking him if he was sick of me yet… and he wasn’t! The trip was a success! I’ve learned how to travel on my own, it’s a whole new experience when you have someone to share the memories with. As I drove back to Troy alone to unpack, it was sad, I already missed him being in the passenger seat beside me.

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This is long overdue, I apologize. And I can not believe that this vacation was over a month ago! Time surely does fly. Although it’s not fresh in my mind, I’ll share with you all of the little details I can remember of our great escape from Bonnaroo.

If you remember, it was the beau’s birthday the day we decided to pack up and leave. We were outta there before nine a.m. and hit the road searching for a diner… and settled on Sonic. Afterall, if that’s what the birthday boy wanted, that’s what he got. Bonus for me: I had never been! This surely was an experience speaking to someone on an intercom with a thick Southern accent. Did you know that they serve tater tots?! I do believe we ordered the chicken strips, tots, jalapeno cheddah bites and a breakfast burrito with hash browns… not too sure about the hash browns but I’m pretty sure he had a potato of some sort. Quick bathroom break and we were back on the road, with no plans at all.

Because we had two extra days to get home (four days total before our expected return home), we decided to wing it and see where the road would take us. First stop: Kingsport Tennessee. But before we settled in, I must share our experience about half way through this day when I decided I wanted to bungee jump. You know, hurl myself over a cliff. I pulled off the next exit and we found a welcome center with a kind woman with her little accent all excited to help me. Yes, she said, there’s bungee jumping and handed us the simple directions. After about thirty minutes of driving, we rolled into what is known as Pigeon Forge. Google it. Now. It was like Vegas for kids on crack. The “bungee” jumping she suggested was a mini theme park and only about 50 feet high. Yeah, right lady. We laughed. We stared. We got out to eat an apple at some outlets. And then got back on the road. (FYI if you are a fan of The Bachelorette, you may remember that she brought Arie to Pigeon Forge to Dollywood. Now imagine that.)

After finding a state park, setting up and hitting up a local man for firewood (he delivered right to our site free of charge), we found ourselves at a local market picking up the camping essentials: hotdogs, buns, corn on the cob, a block of cheese, mustard,and most importantly, beer. See, this state park was a dry state park and this just wasn’t going to work for the birthday boy. So, we recycled and reused the massive plastic soda cup from Sonic and took turns running back to the car to refill. Problem solved. We got the fire going nicely and I decided to make the hotdog stick when the following words escaped my mouth, “I wish I had a pocketknife.” And then immediately thought, “damn, my dad would be proud.” Hot dogs are perfect cooked over an open flame.

I had planned long before we left for Bonnaroo what I would do to celebrate his birthday on the road. I wrapped his gift with recycled papers from around the apartment and “hid” it in the back of the car (“hid” meaning in a paper bag hoping he’d never check it. He never did but later assumed it was his because I hadn’t yet opened it for food or clothes). I knew I couldn’t bake a cake that would last that long so I thought, why not a watermelon? When the time came, I ran back to the car, shoved the appropriate number of candles into the watermelon using my trusty key chain, lit them and blasted the Beatles’ birthday song on the iPhone. He was surprised for sure and couldn’t stop smiling. Life on the road: zero. Jona: one.

Day two we slept in a little later than expected, took a solar shower for all to see (yes, the neighbors were very confused seeing as their were nasty public showers available for all to use- gross) and hit the road to continue north. For lunch, we ended up stopping in Roanoke; I needed a little break because I was a little grouchy and needed a stretch. We ate at this fabulous place called Thelma’s Chicken and Waffles, that had homestyle cooking and the best fried green tomatoes a girl could ever have. Please, don’t compare these with Dino BBQ’s.

The beau got the fried catfish with mashed potatoes and I got a breakfast sammy with a side of homefries. Hit. The. Spot.

Back on the road we decided that we would spend the night in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. I slept for the majority of the ride. I know, I know. I’m a horrible girlfriend who instantly falls asleep when put in the passenger seat. But before I knew it, we were in the beautiful mountains of the Appalachian Trail! This was by far my most favorite part of the trip. The drive into the park was gorgeous- so secluded, so untouched, so quiet and peaceful. We were told that bears frequent the area and to keep all food safe in a vehicle (they didn’t have boxes) and to watch out for poisonous snakes– this was the kind of camping I enjoy.

Once again, we set up the tent (we were pros by then), started a warm fire, and dug into some MRE’s. If you don’t know what they are, Google it. They impressed me when in action. With a full belly, we greeted a guy on a bike who rode in from Ohio- who had seen a bear on his ride in. P.s… those hills were no joke entering that park. That man hustled his way in and then to see a bear, I would have fainted. I suggested that he leave his belongings in my car and for that I could tell he was grateful.

The only animal sightings we saw were of these giant black birds that sounded like pterodactyls. And while the sun was coming up, we heard some rustling near the tent… but it was only two deer; not a bear. And for that I was grateful. We ate breakfast on the road that morning, luna bars and fruit, and set our sights on Washington D.C..

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