I Belong in the Mountains

So anyone who follows me on Facebook or Instagram knows that Chris and I recently went on a 10 day adventure around Colorado. Ten days and I feel like we barely scratched the surface of what that amazing state has to offer. If I write one post about the trip it will be several pages long so I’m thinking I’m going to split it up.

So first let’s get the negative out of the way: Colorado is DRY AS FUCK. They say you should drink tons of water in order to acclimate to the higher altitude…but that shouldn’t be a problem because if you don’t drink a thousand gallons of water a day you will literally dry up!!! I seriously had to put chapstick on no less than 30 times a day. And I was constantly obsessing over where my chapstick was…did I leave it in the car?!?! END OF THE WORLD! You’re not supposed to have scented items in the tent with you at night because bears could smell it and then want to come say hello…but fuck it, my lips would have just dried up and fell off my face without my chapstick so that stayed with me at all times!! Good thing I’m a little chapstick crazy in the first place and brought three with me!! And by chapstick I mean Aquafor because that stuff is THE BEST. Thank you first triathlon I ever did for giving that shit out for free, you changed my life.

pikes peak

Can’t breathe up here but the view is soooo worth it!!! Pikes Peak, CO

Positives: Ummmm where to start!!!! There are so many. How about when you fly in and there are just snow capped mountains in the distance beckoning you to drive up them and then feel faint because they are in the goddamn stratosphere but who cares if you’re passing out because YOU ARE ON TOP OF THE WORLD. Or the fact that everyone is so effing nice there!! The first full day we were there we were surprised by multiple coffee and restaurant workers being the nicest people ever, asking what our plans were, giving us advice, genuinely helping us out…what?! That just doesn’t happen on the East Coast. And what’s up with the lack of bugs in Colorado?! 10 days and we only had one night where we saw mosquitoes!! And we spent a lottt of time outdoors. Glorious.

Woods Walk sign

First hike in Colorado

Us on hike in CB

Check out those snowy peaks!!! I want this to be my view every day.

So, let’s talk hiking. We did 3 hikes while we were there, I’ll cover the first hike in this post. On Saturday we spent the night in Crested Butte and it was one of the best places I’ve ever been. Mountains on all sides, snow caps visible in the distance, green meadows with flowers and lakes in the shade of the mountains, and a small town that was, shocker, filled with super nice people. The town itself is about 8×8 blocks total so you can walk the whole time you’re there. We lucked out with amazing weather, 50’s and 60’s at night and 70’s during the day. We decided to hike on Sunday morning after checking out the local coffee shop, Camp 4 Coffee. Super cute and unique place serving breakfast and lunch items. Our hike was on the Woods Walk trail that begins on the west side of the outskirts of town. We hiked that trail and then looped back to the town via Peanut Lake Road. All in all it was about 3.5 miles and was pretty easy and we got to enjoy views of forest, fields, lakes, and mountains. It was my favorite hike of the whole trip and was a great way to kick off our Colorado hiking.

Trail on hike in CB

So. Gorgeous. Can’t handle it.

Mount CB w lake

Mount Crested Butte

Hike in CB

I couldn’t stop saying WE ARE MOVING HERE NOW

Hike in CB Mount CB view

Mount Crested Butte with the town in the foreground

In Crested Butte we stayed at a cute little hotel and got lucky with a room with a balcony that looked out to Mount Crested Butte, where the ski area is. We never ventured up there, but watching the sun come up over the mountain was great. (Sidenote: I guess because of the time difference we were up around 6 every single day of vaca. More time to explore!!)

View from Balcony

View from our balcony…Mount Crested Butte is off to the right outside of the frame

Leaving Crested Butte was sad because it was such a great place, and we secretly wished we could just up and move there for a year (damn you being an adult!!!), but our next stop was a campground in the middle of nowhere outside Carbondale, CO. I mean it when I say in the middle of nowhere. To get there we took a 2 hour drive through a dirt road pass that is closed in the winter time and offers AMAZING mountain and forest views. Chris took his daily vacation nap during most of this drive and I got out several times to take pictures. The drive reminded me a lot of driving on the roads back where I grew up in New Hampshire. The views…New Hampshire is amazing and has fantastic mountain views but I’ve never seen anything like the mountain views I saw on this drive in CO!!

Drive to camping2

This picture does not do justice to this towering rock-faced mountain

Drive to camping

Prettiest drive ever. And bonus, no other cars were on the road.

Best thing about our campsite in Carbondale? Nooooo cell phone service!! There’s something to be said about being disconnected in this day and age when everyone expects to be able to instantly be in contact with you at all times via multiple social media platforms. I was sad I couldn’t add to my Instagram story my amazing over-the-fire cooking skills that first night camping, though!! I’m sad I didn’t take pictures but I made mac and cheese and hotdogs over the fire that night. The campground was next to a rushing river so we were lulled to sleep by the sound of the river.

carbondale campsite

Our campsite in Carbondale. In a canyon, next to a river, what more could you want.

real mpa

No cell service = breaking out my map skillzzzzzz

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Sky Meadows State Park, VA

Sky Meadows State Park, VA

I found a hiking partner! For limited time, as she’ll be returning to Chicago at the end of June, but still, yay for someone to share nature with!! Most of my hikes thus far have been solo, which I actually enjoy, but it’s always fun to have someone to grumble to when the trail is steep! A good friend of mine, Lynne, has the most amazing family, and her cousin Lauren is back in VA for a couple months and she reached out and said she’d be interested in joining me on hikes!

So since she’s in Northern VA (my enemy) and I’m in the Baltimore suburbs I thought I should find some place we could meet up. I’ve been dying to get into the Appalachians in VA but driving 3.5 hours didn’t appeal to me. I looked on Google maps (seriously what did I do before Google maps existed? It’s the best), found some green area north of Shenandoah, and randomly happened upon Sky Meadows State Park in VA on the map. It’s a little less than 2 hours away from me with no traffic, so still a jaunt, but turns out it was tooootally worth it!!

Pretty cabin at the visitor’s center

Lauren and I met at the park at 8:30am. I like to get a jump on the trails because getting to a hiking destination and there being no place to park is reallllll irritating, especially after driving two hours. Plus, I wanted to get a good hike in before getting home to watch the Caps play at 3!! We ended up being some of the first people in the park that morning. It was much colder and windier than I expected and I was glad for the first time that I had brought my hat and gloves and fleece. Normally I way over pack and end up lugging around all my cold weather gear. Finding the trail proved to be a bit of a conundrum but eventually we got on track. My plan was to do a 4.5ish mile loop around the park. The initial couple miles were mostly uphill, some rocky, then the trail branches off to the north on the AT, and then veers east (are’t you proud of me for knowing which direction we were going?!) back towards the visitors center.

Snack break view!

We took a snack break at Whitehouse Lookout which provides a fantastic view of the small town of Paris, VA and beyond. The wind was really whipping up there so after we finished our snacks we decided to get back on the trail. In about a mile the trail heads back into the woods, where we saw an amazing tree that looked like it had split into four trees at some point. Very cool.

Exploring the fun tree

Hiiii!

At around 4 miles we ran into an intersection in the trail and a sign saying our trail went one way and the other way headed to backcountry camping. We had been discussing doing some backcountry camping so we thought we’d head that way and check it out. We were sooo glad we did!! There were such great campsites tucked into the side of the hill! And even better than hardcore backcountry camping, these sites had fire rings. Everybody loves a good campfire. They had nice tent pads and access to primitive toilets and were all about a 1 mile hike from the parking lot, so no cars allowed. We were so excited we immediately found a weekend in June we both had free and booked our favorite of the sites! Here we come backcountry camping! We just have to figure out how to keep our food stuffs away from the bears…..

So, after taking our camping exploration detour we hiked a total of 5.8 miles that day! Oh! I forgot to mention that Lauren brought her dog, Taco! He is super sweet and was great company on the trail.

I thought this was a fantastic picture but it looks like I focused on the trees in the background instead of Lauren…oh well, still a good representation of the fun we had on the trail!!

Week 17, Goal: 51, Hiked: 46.4

Here are some other photo gems from our hike, we realllly lucked out on a beautiful hiking day!

Hello tick grass….

View from the beginning of our hike

After a good section of uphill you come to this lookout spot, so pretty!

Camping Fun Despite Foils!!

View of the Potomac River from the top of Weverton Cliffs.

Ever have one of those days where it seems like nothing is going right?

That was our recent hiking and camping experience!! It was foil and misstep and then foiled again! We woke up late and were rushed getting our stuff together. Then an hour away from home I realized I had forgotten my sleeping bag. We pulled over and I boiled in anger at having done something so stupid and then we decided to push on and just buy another one. Chris’ was borrowed anyhow so it wouldn’t hurt to just own two of our own. I was particularly mad because I had just bought my sleeping bag and hadn’t used it yet, I was so excited!! Oh well…next time.

Then we went for a hike in Harper’s Ferry that I had mapped out and I figured would be around 7-7.5 miles from the town up to Weverton Cliffs. It ended up being more like 8.6 in the end. Also I had lied to Chris to get him to agree to the hike and told him it would only be 7 even though I knew it might be a littttle big longer. Didn’t know it’d be THAT much longer!! Lying, the key to getting your husband outside! Sorryyyy!! But the hike was still really fun and Chris actually enjoyed it, so I count that as a win. (For those of you who don’t know, Chris isn’t exactly an outdoors enthusiast, despite his beard that disguises him as a lumber jack) We saw an eagle at the top of the cliffs which was pretty amazing. I did not get a picture because I was too busy being excited and then it flew away.

The easy part of the hike, 5 miles of flat tow path walking along the river. Don’t forget sunscreen! (whoops…)

Off of the towpath, starting to go up towards the cliffs. You’ll notice the white trail blaze, this hike also took care of a chunk of the MD portion of the Appalachian Trail, getting me closer to that goal.

Chris was really ready to take a break and was running ahead a bit towards the cliffs. Don’t run towards cliffs, Chris.

Good view of where we came from, we started out a little past where those two hills come together.

By the time we made it back to the car it was 2pm. The Capitals had a playoff game at 3pm, so our plan was to speedily go set up our campsite and then find a bar to go watch the game at. The Schoedels don’t mess around and will find a place to watch playoff hockey and drink beer at all costs. We were camping at Greenbrier state park in Boonsboro, MD. We set up our tent in record time and then rolled out our air mattress to blow it up….and it had a giant hole in it. Ok, so now we’re down a sleeping bag and an air mattress! Well, guess we’ll get one of those while we’re out buying a sleeping bag later!!! So with our campsite set up we continued on to the bar we’d found in Boonsboro. Dan’s Restaurant & TapHouse. It could not have been more perfect! They had so many craft beers on draft, including some craft ciders, amazing food on the menu, and they had all three of the TVs in the bar turned to the Caps game, with sound. There were also several Caps fans at the bar. It was quite the find. The Caps won and we left to find a Walmart to purchase our newly needed camping gear at. We also stopped at a liquor store because what is a campfire without some drinks? Don’t tell anyone, state parks don’t allow alcohol in them anymore, but we were sly and poured ours into red solo cups like the grownups that we are.

Back at the campground we got to work blowing up our new air mattress (which came with a battery operated inflator….of which we had no batteries for!! of course! No worries, the inflator for the mattress full of holes worked fine on the new mattress!) and making a fire. I think this was the end of our foils. In writing it doesn’t seem like a day full of foils, but we sure chuckled a lot over all the obstacles we ran into that day!! We cooked hot dogs and beans over the fire and then later on had s’mores. It was a chilly 45ish degrees but we bundled up and really enjoyed ourselves.

Thanks to my dad I can build a badass fire.

Bundled with beverages around the fire!

Our campsite! I’m pretty sure this was the best site in the campground. We had nobody to our left and it was on the tent-only loop so not too noisy. The other loops looked more packed together with less privacy.

Oh wait, the damn fire wood. That was definitely a foil-fest. It came in packs with handles stapled on. Nice, handy for carrying. Not particularly handy for when you’re trying to actually burn the wood and there is nylon stapled to the wood. I don’t want to burn nylon and then breath that shit in. I attempted to pull the nylon straps off but all I did was bash the wood into my leg and hurt myself. Wood injury. Chris decided he would burn the wood apart with our lighter. It worked surprisingly well, but we did still breath in the fumes I guess. Also, that damn wood was moldy!! So we had to dry it out next to the fire.

I’m already looking forward to our next camping adventure!! Maybe a few less hiking miles next time though….and maybe I’ll remember my sleeping bag…and MAYBE our air mattress will last more than one inflate…although that might be asking for too much out of life!!

Week 16, Goal: 48, Hiked: 40.6 (catching up!!)

Hiking, Road Rage, Parking Lot Leg Shaving….

Recently I had a baby shower to attend in Northern Virginia at noon on a Saturday. I wanted to get in some hiking miles on Saturday because I knew I would be busy on Sunday, so I got up early and left the house by 7:45ish. My plan was to hike an easy loop in Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, along the VA side of the Potomac. I chose this trail because since I had to attend the shower afterwards and wouldn’t be able to shower in between, I wanted an easy, flat 2-3 mile trail. My plans were foiled, however, because by the time I arrived at 9am both of the parking lots for this location were filled with cars waiting for a spot. I figured arriving around 9 might be a little dicey and it definitely turned out to be correct!! So, with 3 hours until baby shower time, I had to find an alternative fast. I knew there was Great Falls National Park nearby, so I headed there. It hadn’t been my first choice because of the $10 entrance fee.

After waiting in the entrance line for a few minutes and finding a park spot it was already 9:30, and I definitely wanted to get in at least 3 miles so I took off towards the trails after glancing at a map, not bothering to do any research on the terrain. I figured how bad could it be? WELL, it was a little effing rough. For a while it was just flat walking in the woods, but once the trail made its way along the rive it was straight up rocks and then straight down rocks. And the weather went straight up into the 80’s. (Isn’t that Maryland for you? Freeze warning one night and then up into the 80’s the next day. How’s about a nice 65 degree spring day?!)

Flat part of the trail, easy and pretty!

This isn’t the real steep party because I had to put my phone away so I wouldn’t smash it, but this is some of the more tricky terrain I ran into. 

Hiking along the Potomac. You forget how much beauty there is so close to DC!

So needless to say I was sweaty AF by the time I reached my turnaround point, and even grosser when I got back to my car. I had made a quick detour to go check out the rapids since I’d never been there before so my total mileage turned out to be more like 3.6. This put me back at the car around 11am and the baby shower started at noon and was about 17 miles away.

The Rapids at Great Falls, VA, pretty impressive

As I’ve mentioned several times already, because I can’t emphasize it enough, I looked like a rat drowned in sweat. I definitely needed to do something about that situation before this baby shower. Not only was I going to somebody’s house I didn’t know, I was about to see a slew of people I only see once or twice a year. So I battled the outrageous Northern Virginia traffic, legit almost lost my mind at the amount of people there were on the road, causing my 10 mile trip to take THIRTY GODDAMN MINUTES, and finally found a grocery store near the baby shower location. I sprinted in, it now being past 11:30 thanks to NOVA hell, bought some deodorant and wipes, and cleaned myself up and changed like a vagabond in the grocery store bathroom. I even had some hairspray in my purse to get my braid back in line with (I’m sure it looked good for a hot second before spiraling into frizz-city again).

When I made it back out to my car I realized I probably should have planned ahead and shaved my legs. But, true to myself, I had not planned ahead! And they needed some attention. I have a razor in my gym bag in case of emergencies (emergency being every single Wednesday I forget to shave before group personal training class and do so 5 minutes beforehand in the locker room) (stop judging me) so I thought ok, I’ll just touch up these legs now before I head to this shower. In the parking lot. I’m parked away from everyone, I’m just doing the bottom of my legs, nobody can see anything…..what could happen? Well, I’ll tell you what can happen. A gross man can drive up in his truck and try to hit on you, that’s what can fucking happen. WTF guy!!! Are you for real right now?! Did you think I was trying to attract a man by shaving my legs in a fucking parking lot? Did you think I noticeably parked away from ALL THE OTHER CARS because I wanted you to come park directly next to me?! NO. On all accounts, just no. And then he had the audacity to look HURT AND CONFUSED when I stormed around my car and drove away without acknowledging him. Pro tip: don’t fucking talk to me.

SO, legs half shaven but actually relatively clean and put together, I did make it to the baby shower on time. It was wonderful celebrating Katie, mom to be, and hanging out with so many amazing ladies!!!! So, despite the road-rage-inducing traffic in NOVA, it was a great day!!

Image may contain: 11 people, including Amanda Marie Elizabeth Kreis, Kristen Duffy, Elissa Halloran, Lynne Duffy, Erin Miriam, Kathy Duffy and Lizzie Temme Duffy, people smiling, people standing, tree and outdoor

Baby shower group! I stole this pic from Lynne’s facebook!

Week 15, Goal: 45, Hiked: 32 (this was the count as of that hike a couple weeks ago)

Learn to Backpack Like a Lady

Ever since last fall when I was suddenly struck with the realization of just how little I was getting into the great outdoors, I haven’t stopped thinking about trying out overnight backpacking. I’ve been doing well with getting outside and going for walks and hikes, but I want to immerse myself in nature!! I want to get away from all the people and pavement and cars and cars and cars and cars and strip malls that is most of Maryland. Sadly, as is the case with most hobbies, backingpacking equipment is priceyyyyy AF. So I’ve been stalking sales and borrowing and inheriting some items here and there. I have a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and now backpacking pack. I still need to figure out water filtration system, backpacking stove, and how the fuck you hang your shit in the air so that a bear doesn’t eat it, among some other items. Maybe a multi-tool. Maybe some fucking mace.

So last week my friend Kate and I went to a Women’s Backpacking Basics class put on by REI. It was pretty informative but a lot of the info could be found on the web. The best part was that since it was for women it talked about a lot of obstacles men don’t have to deal on the trail. AKA we can’t pee standing up and we get periods and being alone on a trail as a woman can be dangerous.

The instructor didn’t seem as concerned as I always am about being stalked and murdered in the woods. I’m never concerned before my hike. Before my hike I’m all like The chances of that happening are so low, that’s just being paranoid, I just listen to too many true crime podcasts, just my anxiety talking, bla bla bla. And then I’m out in the middle of the forest and I see someone else on the trail and I immediately jump to HE IS A MURDERER!! God forbid some poor guy be hiking a trail and catch up to me, then he’s not only a murderer, in my mind he’s a murderer THAT IS CHASING ME. So I think I might want to invest in some mace, juuust in case.

My biggest hang up with actually going on a backpacking trip is not actually maybe I’ll get murdered, it’s more omg I will have to sleep alone in the dark in the woods. And I will definitely have to pee in the middle of the night. And I hate the dark. So I will absolutely be paralyzed with darkness fear. And every forest movement noise in the middle of the night will be terrifying. Sunlight = safety and darkness = NOPE. I’ll have to work on that.

So, while it’s not like I’m going to take off on the Appalachian Trail anytime soon (the whole having a job, maybe getting a kid soon, being a responsible adult thing gets in the way), I do think I’m going to attempt an overnight trip at some point this summer/fall. Hopefully Kate will come and we can be scared of the dark together. Or at least tell each other comforting things like that wasn’t a bear, it was just a large boulder crashing through the bushes.

Isn’t it Spring Time??

Why is it still freezing out?!?!?!?

On the first day of spring my area of Maryland got its one and only good snow storm of the year. And it wasn’t even all that great! But we did get a snow day out of it so I suppose it was acceptable. But the fact that it happened mid march….and now in early April it’s below freezing when I’m waking up….that is incredibly unacceptable in my book. Yes, when it’s 90 degrees and humid a month from now I will also complain about that!!

So today I went for a three mile walk around a local quarry with a friend around 8am. It was about 30 degrees and chilly but it was a gorgeous walk and it was great to catch up with my friend and hang out with her and her cute pup. Sadly my shin splints were crushing my soul for the first two miles. However, they usually adjust a couple miles into any walk or run and that’s exactly what they did today. So the third mile of our walk felt great and my legs were all warmed up for the hike I had planned for after the walk!

After leaving the quarry I headed over to local hiking trails at Soldier’s Delight Natural Environment Area. I’ve hiked here before but I decided to mix up my route this time and try a trail I’ve never done before. I parked at the visitor’s center and hiked northeast on the Serpentine trail until it hit the parking area on the road and then crossed the road and made a large loop combining the Dolfield, Red Run, and Choate Mine trails, circling back around again to the parking area and then back to the visitor’s center using the same route I came in on. All in all it came out to be about 3.6 miles. It was mostly flat but had a good bit of water and mud to hop around and some hills here and there.

I only saw one other person out on the trails which was great, having nature to yourself is always the best. I love seeing other people enjoy nature, especially kids, because I think it’s so important to get out into the woods….but man do I hate hearing other people when I’m out hiking!! I don’t wear headphones while I’m hiking because 1. I want to try and soak in the calming sounds of birds and wind and 2. I don’t want a murderer or bear to sneak attack me from behind!! Today when I passed the only other trail-goer I had my cell phone pre-dailed to 911…too cautious you say? Oh definitely, for sure, but I’d rather be safe than sorry later!!

So we’re 14 weeks into the year (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE!? Wasn’t it just New Years Eve??!!). If I were averaging 3 miles a week I’d be at 42 miles hiked. I’m currently at 28.4 miles for the year, putting me 13.6 miles behind schedule. I’m realizing that if I want to make longer hikes a priority I have to schedule them in advance since they take up such a long chunk of the day between the drive to the hikes and then actually completing the hike. I’m going to work on pre-scheduling some longer hikes so that I can work on catching up to and passing my weekly goals so come winter I’m ahead of schedule!

Here are some pictures from today’s gorgeous hike!

Week 14, Goal: 42, Hiked: 28.4

2018 Hiking!

So every year Chris and I come up with goals for the year. Last year I realized how much I missed getting out into nature and hiking, so I decided one of my 2018 goals would be to hike 154 miles within the year. (Another goal was to write more, hense you reading this) That’s an average of 3 miles a week. I figured it would be slow at the beginning of the year and then I would get ahead in the summer during the nicer months.

So we’re in the 13th week of the year and that would put me at 39 miles. I’m actually at 25 miles, so I definitely have some to make up in the summer. Luckily it seems like the weather may have finally turned towards spring time!!

Another of my hiking goals is to hike the entire Maryland portion of the Appalachian Trail this year. Not all at once but in sections. Yesterday I had Chris follow me to drop my car off at the Fox’s Glen AT parking and then he drove me to the 70 AT parking lot. I hiked from there along 6 miles of the AT back to my car. So, leg one of the MD AT done yesterday!! This was the shorter of the legs I’ll be doing but had some pretty tiring uphill sections. My feetsies are still breaking in these boots and unfortunately it was blister city. I could feel them forming while I hiked but they didn’t actually bother me very much, they just look real gross!

It was a gorgeous day for hiking and I can’t wait to get out and do more!

Here are some pics from the hike!

At about halfway the trail crossed through Washington Monument State Park

This was pretty much the only good view of the hike, the rest was mostly in the woods

I hiked from US 40 (Annapolis Rocks) to Reno Mnt Rd

Just a pretty church near a road crossing

I checked out the back packing camp while I was walking through