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I gotta fever. And the only prescription is less cabin.

27 Mar

I’m sick of the indoors. Even our charming love shack. Sick of the cold. Sick of the exorbitant cost of oil heat. Sick of making tea instead of smoothies. Sick of wet wood in the fireplace and dirty snow on the sidewalks.

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But I’m trying to channel happy. Spring, my usual least favorite season, is coming. It has to be. ‘Tis the season for eyeing new outdoor gear, making hike hit lists and planning excursions!

Allow me to share our trip list for 2014 (a work in progress).

  1. Block Island, RI
  2. Indian Lake, NY
  3. Baton Rouge, LA (sis just got residency placement down south!!)
  4. Ithaca, NY
  5. Richmond, VA (it’s a NASCAR thing)
  6. Honeymoon TBD!!!!! (out west is the plan)

And our hike list:

  1. Devil’s Path
  2. Breakneck Ridge (a holiday tradition)

What have we missed?

We Snowshoe Now. On Date Night.

15 Feb

Winter won’t leave us alone.

So instead of deprived and freezing hikers we’ve become enthusiastic snowshoers, embracing the never-ending snow and making tracks in all weather!

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In fact, yesterday, we took a lovely loop at Topstone Park in Redding, CT (of previous post fame) for a little Valentine’s day celebration and it was just beautiful in the almost-setting sun. It was my idea of a perfect V-day….a morning spent shopping for a very important dress with my sis, breaking a sweat snowshoeing with my man and our pup, an evening spent cooking and drinking moscow mules in the comfort of our love shack cottage. I just don’t think life gets better.

Back to the woods…We’re currently renting some MSR Lightning Ascents and are liking them…certainly an upgrade from my much lesser Red Feathers of the past and we both throw snow baskets on our trekking poles, and voila! The only one that struggles a bit is Miss P. Her paws are small and her enthusiasm doesn’t quite match her efficiency in inches and inches of snow and ice. But she does look badass, or cute, in her Ruffwear jacket. There’s something about a snowshoe trail with just the right amount of pack, just the right softness of snow and the untouched nature of the rest of the woods that make it a special way to experience the woods in the winter. Plus, it kind of makes me feel like those hardcore survivalists who live off the land in Alaska, trapping and snowshoeing and fending off bears. Except I’m wearing DriDown and Gore-Tex instead of fur and leather. I guess they have me beat.

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Also, we’re in the midst of also researching xc ski trails and rentals in the area. It’s the next winter sport on our list, as I refuse to go ice skating, considering HT’s pro hockey history and my relative lack of coordination on slippery surfaces and hip injury…we’ll see how long it takes him to wear me down. XC skiing though is something I enjoyed in the past and would really like to get better at, and something HT hasn’t yet tried.

Sounds perfect for 2014, the year of change and trying new things!

How do YOU get outdoors in this oppressive winter weather?

Bra Burning & 90s Gear: Backpacking Mt. Greylock, MA

21 Oct

HT and I agree hands-down, fall is the #1 season of the year. So, we took a little trip up to the Berkshires two weekends back to fit in a backpacking trip before the weather gets colder and our weekends get busier. Leaves, chilly nights and new toasty gear, fires, what’s not to love?

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We’d just picked up the AMC’s Best Backpacking New England book so we started there in deciding on a hike and we landed on the “Have a Grey Day” Mt. Greylock loop. I love how this book titles its hikes like the Abs Diet titles their recipes.

We also just got our hands on a new digital luggage scale (cool!) so we packed up our packs and weighed them for the first time. Yikes. Can you guess how much we carry for ONE NIGHT in the woods? Well first, I was super impressed with my base weight of 14.7lbs. But then, I added water and a few more toiletries. And I’m a BIG hydrator so I don’t skimp. Hello 24 lbs. Sheesh.  HT’s pack was heavier still…I’ll have to ask him to reweigh so I know for sure. To be fair, he carried the tent and a bit of my food…thus the uneven loads. And he’s a gentleman, of course.

So we headed into the woods with our usual gear and some grub left over from the Long Trail stock up (Mary Jane’s Farm Organics, Umpqua oats- now at Costco!) plus a box of those delicious Anna’s super-thin ginger snaps. We started up the mountain mid-day (later than we ‘d hoped) amidst beautiful changing leaves and rolling farm country hills. The trail from the bottom is the Hopper Trail, which meandered for a bit before it started to climb and climb. I was happy to hear HT huffing and puffing as much as I was on some stretches. I stopped him at one point to remind him that I’d been not only out of the hiking groove a little lately but also hadn’t carried a pack since early July. I just wanted to be clear that this hike was not a race. To me, at least.

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The trail was gorgeous. In that area, the leaves had clearly already peaked but enough remained on the trees to make for some spectacular forest views as the sun descended in the sky. There’s also just something so striking about orange and red leaves rimming a flowing creek. I love that kind of imagery.

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Mud, Sweat & Tears: The Long Trail 2013

12 Jul

It’s been a while!

There are many, many reasons why, but the biggest may be that we’ve been prepping for Hardtack’s Thru Hike of the Long Trail in Vermont’s beautiful Green Mountains. I’m happy(ish) to report, he’s deep in the mountains now!

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I’m also happy to report that I successfully completed the first 58 (or so) miles of the trail with him last week, July 2-6..so today’s hike profile will cover my stint as a Long Trail section hiker!

To begin at the beginning…

DAY 1

We started our journey with an early morning run to Stop & Shop to A) dump the change HT had been saving as his Trail Fund in the CoinStar machine; and B) grab some last minute fresh food (wax-coated extra sharp VT cheddar and apples).

Then we drove to Enfield, CT to drop the Duchess off at her country retreat (aka grandmother’s house) for the duration of HT’s hike. HT’s mom graciously drove us to the (rough around the edges) Springfield, MA bus station, where we caught a bus to Williamstown, MA, where the LT (sort of) begins.

We jumped off the bus somewhere near the middle of town and navigated to a coffee shop and hippie sandwich joint based on HT’s memories of the town from traveling through in his hockey coaching days. We packed a sandwich for our first night’s dinner, charged up our phones and walked….2+ miles…to the trailhead (talk about an annoying 2 miles).

Note: The trailhead was not the beginning of the Long Trail, as we were actually still in Massachusetts. We proceeded to hike the Cobble Hill Trail to take us to the Long Trail. We didn’t even BEGIN hiking until 5pm on Tuesday night. Hardcore, right?

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And of course, the SECOND we stepped foot into the woods, the skies opened up and the downpour didn’t stop until we reached the…

Seth Warner Shelter (the first on the LT, NOBO/northbound) where we pitched camp and attempted to dry off before scarfing down sandwiches and passing out.

DAY 2

Next morning, we picked slugs out of our soaking shoes, put our wet trail clothes back on and suited up for another day of anticipated rain. The rain held off but the mud more than made up for it. Continue reading

Get Me Outta Here!

29 Apr

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods 
There is a rapture on the lonely shore
There is society, where none intrudes
By the deep sea, and music in its roar
I love not man the less, but Nature more

-byron

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I sit at my desk today with a stress fracture in my foot and my darn crutches leaned up against my desk, stalking SmartWool 2012 closeouts and dreaming of dehydrated trail meals. Hardtack spent his weekend backpacking a stretch of the AT in Harriman State Park with a hiking buddy, testing out some new gear and soaking in the first gorgeous weekend of the spring. I’ll encourage him to post some reviews and pics.

I’m wondering when I’ll be back in the woods…

A Celebration in Asheville, NC: The Ithaca of the South

22 Apr

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Oh what a treat. I recently returned from a great trip to Asheville, NC with my (big) little broski. He even earned a trail name on the trip. I’ll reveal that in a minute. The trip feels like a blessing now, considering the past year’s events…

Why Asheville, you ask?

We’ve both been told for years, “Ya know what town you’d really like? Asheville. It’s like the Ithaca of the South.” So about a year ago, we planned a trip, just for fun. Our sis had a companion flight she donated to the cause and we booked an airbnb. Then the unthinkable happened and one year ago today, little bro got in a really, really brutal car accident. He teetered on the edge of survival and was in the hospital and rehab for months. He underwent surgery after surgery and my family took turns manning his bedside. On top of repairing damage to internal organs, he had extensive, complicated orthopedic reconstruction in his hip and ankle (which he’d previously had reconstructed after jumping off the 2nd story porch onto a trampoline. lovable idiot.).

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HIKE : Taughannock North Rim Trail & Gorge Trail (Ithaca, NY)

3 Apr

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As promised, before Spring is ACTUALLY upon us, I want to share a favorite, favorite hike when I go back to Ithaca, NY, my happy, hippie hometown.

Taughannock Falls State Park is located just down the road from my Mom’s house, on the outskirts of Ithaca proper. It’s on the west side of Cayuga Lake and ultimately the falls feed into the lake at Allan H. Treman State Park.

A couple weekends back Hardtack and I took a little trip to Ithaca and I finally got to introduce him to some of the waterfalls of “Ithaca is Gorges” fame. We hiked at Taughannock two days in a row because he was so impressed by the scenery.

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On Saturday, my mom and family pooch Moose, AKA Macybean joined us for a short but beautiful trek. We parked on the turnoff on Gorge Road, just up the hill from the intersection with Willow Creek Road. You can see it in the bottom left quarter of this little map. Start hiking up the gorge from here (a left turn into the woods from your car). Continue reading

HIKE & EAT: Sleeping Giant & (GF) Quiche Fit For a King

11 Mar

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We just had the most beautiful weekend weather, so we set out in search of a sunny day hike, less likely to be snow-covered at this point in the season. HT suggested Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, CT (literally across the street from Quinnipiac). This hike is a little different than our usual trails because it’s a lot closer to civilization and therefore more populated, but the trails are unique, views are great (even if you’re looking out over suburbia) and the biggest draw for me—the terrain is interesting and varied. image-4

The trails start out at well marked trail heads with plenty of parking, maps and all-season composting toilets (bonus!). We wandered our way into the woods with much less of a plan than we usually do, but it didn’t concern me, considering the “contained” nature of this set of trails. Continue reading

HIKE & EAT: Bear Mt. & Birthday Treats

4 Mar

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Hikes taken with HT are a little hardcore, always fast-paced and embody our “Hike the Hard Way” mentality. I like that, usually.

This weekend was different.

To my delight, my sis and some close girlfriends ventured ALL THE WAY out to the country from Manhattan and Brooklyn to celebrate my birthday with a girls-only hike on Saturday. For their lack of trail names, let’s call them (in order) Brooklyn, Blondie and Bells (Blue Bin Barbie fits right in!). No one made me the cake, above, but it does embody our day. Sweet and outdoorsy.

Brooklyn, Blondie, Bells, BBB

So they took the train to Peekskill (easy!), we awkwardly stopped at a really enthusiastic tea room in Peekskill for a pit stop and herbal tea (I had a bad cold) and headed toward a favorite hike HT had suggested up Storm King Mountain.  The city girls wore sneakers and even outfitted in my trusty Merrells, we quickly deemed the trail too icy to be safe or fun.

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We re-routed and decided to go for a sure-thing hike up Bear Mountain, just over the Bear Mountain Bridge in Bear Mountain State Park. The girls were impressed by the pretty buildings in the park and we all loved the smell of wood stove in the air as we passed the outdoor skating rink full of happy, chilly kids. I’d say the one drawback of this hike is that ANY time of year, they charge $8 per car for parking. As we were forking over the cash I remembered why HT and I usually park across the bridge along the road and walk to the park. C’est la vie, this time. At least there were public bathrooms.

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HIKE & EAT: Camp Smith Trail & Grown-Up Grilled Cheese

25 Jan

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A challenging day hike a mere 45 minutes from New York City is the Camp Smith Trail from the Bear Mountain Bridge Toll House to Anthony’s Nose and back.  We recently completed this hike on Martin Luther King Day.   According to our mapmyhike reading, it is a 7.77 mile hike back and forth.   I have found mapmyhike to be relatively accurate in determining distances.  The Town of Cortlandt lists the hike as only being 2.5 miles each way—this is absolutely wrong as the road distance between the two trails is 2.5 miles and the trail is anything but straight.  In fact, part of what makes it a challenging day hike is the constant change in direction and elevation changes. 

Given our struggles at Storm King as detailed in my last post, we came prepared with Yaktrax.  Bear Mountain to the West appeared covered in snow.  Fortunately, the trail was in great shape and except for a few icy areas we could hike at a quick pace.  As with most of our hikes, the Red Headed Stranger led the way.  We can always tell if there are hikers ahead as she pushes the pace to absurd levels in their pursuit. 

There were a few stretches where we might as well have been running. 

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HIKE: Storm King (The Howell Trail)

11 Jan

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On Saturday we made our way to Storm King State Park for a challenging winter hike.   I’ve done this 9.6 mile loop many times and I consider it one of the toughest day hikes in the Hudson Highlands.   Storm King Mountain lies on the west side of the Hudson River, just across the river from the far more famous and busier Breakneck Ridge hike.   Storm King is blessed in that unlike Breakneck Ridge, it doesn’t have a convenient train stop from NYC near the trailhead, and therefore, far less traffic.     For whatever reason, trail guide books never include the Howell Trail in their suggested hikes for Storm King.  I don’t know why.  The trail starts about 5.5 miles into the hike at a mere 200 feet above sea level and quickly ascends to 1200 feet.  Along the way, the views of the Hudson River are spectacular.  It eventually drops back down to 520 feet before rising back to 1100, all of this in just a couple of miles.  If you think the elevation gains are paltry, you are wrong.  This stretch is tough and the terrain can be unforgiving.  I’m not going to compare it to difficult stretches of Devil’s Path in the Catskills, but it isn’t Bear Mountain either.  I’ve never encountered another hiker on the Howell Trail. It is the road less travelled.

We set off around 11:30am.  It was crisp, cold day, but perfect for a hike.  We expected snow on the ground, but not as nearly as much as we encountered.   For most of the first 5.5 miles the snow had been packed down by previous hikers.  I always find hiking in New York to be deceptively hard as most trails have a myriad of rocks, roots, fallen trees, and rarely if ever, a switchback.  You tend to go straight up and straight down.   This day we were making great time as the packed snow created a sometimes slick, but mostly an easy path to travel on.  The Red Headed Stranger, a veteran of this hike, led the way and pushed the pace.  Blue Bin had no idea what was ahead. Continue reading

HIKE & EAT: Topstone Park & Turkey Con Chili

30 Dec

Today we took a beautiful, snowy hike through Topstone Park in Redding, CT. What a way to wind down 2012. It might be our new favorite local spot for winter hiking. Here’s the Map My Hike link.

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And then, of course, we hike so we can eat, so we must share the feast. We decided last night to make chili today, so all the ingredients were waiting for us when we returned—wind burned, worn out and happy.

Chili Con Turkey

The original recipe was from Men’s Health (no, we are not both men, but the recipes are frequently great). Adaptations are in italics.

1 pound ground turkey

half a white onion, chopped fine (more flavor is better!)

1 can (14 ounces) mexican-style diced tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 ounces) whole-kernel sweet corn, drained
1 package (1 1/2 ounces) dried chili mix (we used lower sodium)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1/4 cup water

half a jar of Green Mountain Gringo Hot Salsa (late in the game addition to use up items in the fridge)

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