Life is so easy these days (Part 2)

“When you put yourself out there, in the world, and into different situations, the strangest things happen; but I mean like in the best way,” he trails on with his eyes focused on his pint glass, now less than half full.
“You just meet the most unexpected people, and it’s made me realize people aren’t so bad, ya know? The world can be shit, but it can also be awesome.”

She’s intently listening to him speak, wondering if he would even notice if she walked away because he’s so focused on his thoughts, gazing into his glass. She sits still, only really moving when she nods her head or sips from her glass, and occasionally urges his stream of consciousness onward with a “mhm” reply.

“Life just works out in funny ways…” he takes another drink, and she wonders if she should order another beer when he does, just to keep the conversation flowing.
“Like when I lived in Bali for 3 months a couple years back,” he turns in his chair a bit facing her, his shift in energy and focus luring her into his story even more. “I just put up a post about how I was going to Bali and if anyone wanted to join, and I had a bunch of people reach out, but two people actually came with me! And it was this guy who I hadn’t spoken to in a few years and then this girl who I had met somewhere along one of my trips and we had gone on a hike together. That was our only connection! So these two people who had never met came with me to Bali, and we hadn’t even really been friends either in years or ever. And it was one of the best times of my entire life,” he smiles to himself.

“So you just lived in Bali? For 3 months with friends?” She’s shocked, wondering how people actually pull this kind of lifestyle off. And assuming he’s not totally full of shit, it means that average people are truly doing these things, and it’s not just a facade on Instagram.

He laughs and dives into his life timeline: “Yeah, so before Bali, I was living in Phoenix—”

“My God,” she interrupts, “I could never with that heat. I would end up killing myself within in the first month.”

“Well, yeah, so that’s the thing… I was living there and working a job that I landed after leaving San Diego, and once the first summer season rolled around I was bracing myself. And then one day it hit 112 degrees — people were just saying how that’s normal — and I had to get the fuck out. I quit my job, packed my shit, and left. That’s when I started traveling the world, and my first big trip was Bali.
Making the average person’s salary in the US, I was able to live like a celebrity over there… we went out every night, had dope houses with pools, did crazy shit every day, it was unbelievably amazing.”

“So, I guess I should add Bali to the top of my travel bucket list?”

He goes wide-eyed and laughs, “Yes, you absolutely should.
So, what’s your story?”

“My story? Such a cliche question, and I have a really dull answer…” She looks at him, hoping he’ll just continue talking about his wild travel adventures instead.

But instead, he says, “Let’s hear it.”

“Well, I grew up in the western part of the state, and I wanted to get out of there, so I chose to attend the college that was the furthest away while staying in the state, just for tuition cost purposes. So living at college for four years is what makes this area feel like a second home. I tried moving West or finding work around here so I could live in the mountains and just have that be my life, but that hasn’t worked out… yet, at least.”

“So, you went back home?”

“I went back home.” She drops her eyes from meeting with his, feeling like a failure even though the person she just admitted it all to is a total stranger.

“How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking? 25? 26?”

“27.”

“Alright, I was close; so yeah, we’re young. I’m 29, and I’ve always viewed people’s twenties to be the time to just life life, do the craziest shit, sometimes it’s stupid shit, but that’s what makes a life. Once we hit our thirties and later on, that’s when we start settling down, it’s inevitable, it’s in our nature.
I’ve been taking these 10 years as a way to sample life, make mistakes, do shit that I won’t be able to do years from now, but will look back and be so happy that I did now.”

“Yeah, I have to agree. I’ve thought the same things, but thinking and doing are very different,” she raises her eyebrows in a matter-of-fact way. Her fear could be spotted from a mile away.

“So you wanted to move to the mountains? Ever been to Colorado?”

The word stings like alcohol in a cut. “Oh yeah… that state has been my dream for the better part of a decade, and I visited just a couple of years back, and it was everything I had imagined and more.”

“So why not move there then?”

She opens her mouth to reply, but no words really come out. She half shrugs her left shoulder instead.

“You just have to go. You’re 27; this is the time. There are jobs everywhere, so just get there.”

She deters the conversation with a “we’ll see” and steers it back to his life story. She doesn’t want to listen to her own anymore.
“So, where do you think you’ll be headed next?”

“I’d really like to get back to Alaska—”

“Damn, I loved it there.” That state has been in her dreams sporadically over the course of the last several months, REM stages littered with hiking mountain peaks during the summer solstice and gazing up at shooting stars so close they look like they’re landing in her hair, patiently awaiting for the Northern Lights during the peak of autumn.

“Oh, so you’ve been? Awesome! Yeah, I went up there with a buddy of mine who’s a photographer… we hiked around Denali and slept on the mountains… it was incredible; look…” He pulls out his phone to show pictures of mountain peaks glowing from a sunrise with his booted feet silhouetted in the foreground.

“That’s the dream right there,” she goes to throw back the last big gulp of her beer, but decides to savor it a little bit longer.

“Climbing mountains really changes a person,” he says while still scrolling through pictures. “and I always cross paths with the dopest people.”

She agrees, “I’ve never met a friendlier community than hikers and people that just generally love the outdoors like that.”

“Seriously though! I have ample stories that just outdo each other every time I travel somewhere new. When I went to Yosemite awhile back — which, by the way, you need to go there if you haven’t yet because I have a feeling you’d fuckin’ love it —”

“Oh yeah, it’s on my long list,” she adds.

“So the one morning, I woke up hungover and decided to hike anyways because screw it, I’m in Yosemite. So I hike one of the tallest peaks with a hangover and after I hadn’t drank enough or eaten anything that day…”

“ha! You’re that guy… idiot move, man”

“Yeah, I know, trust me. So I reach the summit, it’s unreal, and then I get real dizzy and basically start blacking out. I had never felt that way before, and honestly, I was pretty scared. There was this guy nearby on the peak, and I just said something like ‘hey man, I really need water; I think I’m gonna pass out.’ And this guy who I had never spoke to in my life, gave me food and water and then we hiked down together. The guy literally saved my life on top of Yosemite, and we stayed friends after that.”

“Damn… that’s something…”

“Right? Then about a year ago he died…”

“Holy shit… what?”

“Yeah… he was hiking with people in the fall, his boot hit some black ice, and he slipped right off a cliff with a 2,000-foot drop. His body wasn’t found for months.”

“Holy Hell… that’s insane.” She’s in shock, thinking about all the times she has hiked in fall with the peaks starting to freeze over, and about the time she climbed three high peaks in the dead of winter, not knowing if the packed snow beneath her crampons was solid ground or a snowdrift over a cliff ledge.

“Life has a weird way of working out,” he says, as they both finish their beers.

“Would you like another?” The bartender walks over to her first. She looks over to her new barfly friend.

“You having another one or are you out of here?”

“I’ve already had two, so I’m gonna close out for the night.”

She tells the bartender she’s all set, as well, and gets her tab. As she’s signing off her tab, he puts a cash tip down on the bar.

“I know you said you’re sleeping in your car, but I’m staying just down the road at a hostel. It’s really nice and only $20 if you stay in the bunk room I’m in. I was supposed to have some friends meet me, but they all bailed, so I have a discounted friends price from the owner, if you’re at all interested. No pressure, just wanted to extend the offer for a warm bed and hot shower.”

She thinks about it for a minute. How big of an idiot am I if I follow this guy back to a hostel down a dark route through the mountains? I mean, that is a horror movie scene. I can defend myself, for sure, and he’s not a big dude. He never made any awkward advances… not every guy is a piece of shit. If it’s bad, I can always leave. My car will be right there, and I can just sleep in there if it’s awkward. I have pepper spray and my knife, so I’l just discretely bring that with me in case he lunges for me or some shit.

“Ya know what? Why not? That sounds pretty good; thanks.”

“Yeah, of course. Just follow me down 73. It’s on the right.”
They grab their keys and head out of the brewery, saying goodnight to the bartender. She wonders what the bartender thinks; does she assume they’re going home with each other to hook up? Is she laughing to herself because this guy has done the same shit to girls every time he comes by this bar?

She calls her boyfriend in the car and shares the details of where she’s going, who she’s with, and how long she intends to be there (just for the night and out by somewhat-early morning).
She sets up her bed — warm and dry — washes her face and brushes her teeth with running water. Her safety blanket tonight is pepper spray and a knife under her pillow, just in case. She never needs it.

Meanwhile, frost embraces the world outside.

She sleeps like a rock. Wakes up with a hot shower. Drives away to find some coffee and enjoy the area before she heads home again.


He is not Derek Shepherd and she is not Meredith Grey.
He is not a psycho and she is not a victim in a horror film.
This is just bar talk between a man and a woman, where everything goes right.
Because not everyone is scary, and every move we make doesn’t always result in damage.

Life can be so easy.

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Enjoy the journey back home

Solo Adirondack Trip – Day 4

Another sunny morning, but this time, the world was caked in frost. Boy, am I glad I slept at the hostel that night instead of my car. I quickly wash up for the day and load my things in my car and tiptoe out of the hostel around 9am, while many of the other tenants are still asleep.

I know my destination as soon as I wake up: one last latte at the Big Mountain Creperie & Deli. I take a scenic route – driving down 73, crossing over to 86 on River Road (aka Route 21). It’s a quiet, windy road that is sandwiched between the Ausable River and cozy homes and cottages on the opposite side of the street. Like everywhere else in the North Country right now, it’s all lit up with glowing foliage.

I slowly, and I mean slowly, drive down River Road, peering through tree leaves and into the marshy areas of the river, hoping to see any sort of wildlife. Unfortunately, no such luck. But having that slow drive into town was enjoyable nonetheless.

I park along the south end of Mirror Lake in front of the Pub & Brewery and walk into town. The short walk is my morning stretch before my coffee. Before I know it, I’m at the cafe, where the two-person window seat is vacant – score.

I order a latte and start writing, exploring what happened the night before. This short trip has been a turning point for me, opening up opportunities for me to revisit this region alone again because it’s not so scary going solo after all. Reborn might be hyperbolic, by reformed, redesigned could be the better way to describe it. With a place like Lake Placid and the entire Adirondack region, it truly feels like visiting a second home.

And a second home it really is to me. I lived in a town just an hour north of Placid for four years while earning my undergrad degree and working as an assistant manager at a Subway (eat fresh, y’all!), so after living here and the countless visits back up to the North Country, I’ve begun to know these roads like the back of my hand.

And speaking of, it was time to take those roads back home. To my real home, my first home. I opt for the scenic route (because how could you not?) and drive through the village of Lake Placid into Saranac Lake (Route 86) and travel down into Tupper Lake and Long Lake with the little ponds in between (Route 30). On a bright blue-sky day with the sun shining unapologetically, I couldn’t help but to pull over every so often and take some pictures along the way, too. (Photos to come soon!) From there, I passed little ponds and marshes and into the town of Blue Mountain Lake, Raquette Lake, and eventually back into Inlet and Old Forge, which brought me full circle to the first stops on my solo trip just a few days prior.

I passed on Blue Line Coffee House because I was already well awake, but I revisited Old Forge Hardware to get my last fill of the Adirondacks and its quaint shops with trinkets. From there, it was b-lining it for the interstate to get back home. Overall, the 6.5 hour drive flew by, thanks to foliage and podcasts, and it’s a trip that I won’t hesitate to do solo again.

To all my fellow travelers or to those who have wanderlust but are too afraid to grab onto it alone – go. Go alone. As a woman, it’s okay to go alone. #OvariesOffRoad Think ahead. Be prepared. Do research. Understand your surroundings. And there’s nothing wrong with having some pepper spray and pocket knives on hand.

Trek on, ladies, and adventure always.

 

When the climb became worth it

(Somewhat) Solo Adirondack Trip – Day 3

Waking up in a big hotel bed after sleeping soundly for 8 hours felt amazing. This is my (somewhat) solo ADK trip day because my friend was in the other bed in the hotel room, and a third friend was meeting us in just a couple of hours to go hike McKenzie Mountain, the tallest mountain of the Saranac Lake 6er group.

Because I aimed to travel cheap this trip, like every other morning so far, I scrounged up some snacks and food from my car supply in place of buying breakfast and dropped $1 and change on a coffee. But not just any coffee. My favorite: Green Mountain’s Wild Mountain Blueberry. Every sip tastes like adventure and the love for the great outdoors.

Our friend, Amanda, arrives and we all hop into one car and drive out to the trailhead, just 10 minutes from the hotel we stayed at for the night. We park on the road and start making our way into the woods via Jackrabbit Trail. This mostly flat, wide trail, heads into the McKenzie Wilderness that’s splashed with bright shades of yellow and the crunching of sticks and leaves that fell much earlier in the season. The smell is exactly the scent that we all feel nostalgic for each and every time it makes its way back into our lives each year. Rylei and Amanda walk side-by-side and take the lead while I happily trail behind, sipping what’s left of my coffee and enjoy the watercolor palette around me.

This day of my trip proceeds two days of consistent rain; rain that some may refer to as a washout, so imagine the state of the trail. On the Jackrabbit Trail where elevation gain was minimal, large puddles and quicksand mud littered the trail in certain spots. We jumped around it on rocks and logs and big leaps like how children do when they pretend the floor is lava. At this early point in the hike, we thought that mud was bad, but we had no idea what was ahead of us.IMG_8422

The Jackrabbit Trail intersects with McKenzie Mountain Trail, which is where we veered off to the right and began the real ascent to the summit. Don’t be fooled; this turn doesn’t mean we were almost there. It just marks when the real mud got involved. The McKenzie Mountain Trail was essentially hiking up a mountain stream, scrambling up muddy rocks and slippery mudslides. The trail was not clearly marked as many trees were fallen down and people were trampling off the trail to try and avoid the heavily trafficked and beaten down path. Many times we had to stop and check that we were on the right course, and a few times, we had to turn around a backtrack, but thankfully not far. (Thank you, AllTrails!)

Needless to say, no one left the McKenzie Wilderness clean.

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Amanda at one of the overlooks, where she opted to stay on soil and not climb this cliff.

When there are little overlooks along the way to the summit, I find that to be Mother Nature’s way of rewarding hikers for their efforts. And this trail definitely had a few spots that offered great views on our perfectly-clear, blue-sky day. At one point, we reached the top of a smaller peak that had a perfect view of McKenzie Mountain’s summit, so it was cool to see where we were headed. (This “smaller peak” is just a point on McKenzie, not a separate mountain.)

After an hour of encouraging each other with “We’re almost there,” we finally reached the summit – 3,780 (?) feet. One lookout outstretched views of Lake Placid and the other was mountains and valleys of pine and foliage.IMG_6588

Despite the perfectly sunny day, the summit was c o l d. We could see our breath before we reached the top and once we summitted, there was a bit of breeze, which made it even colder, especially being damp with sweat and mud. We all put on jackets to enjoy the views for about 15 minutes before making our way back down.

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McKenzie Mountain reaches 3,862′ and is the tallest of the Saranac Lake 6er peaks. McKenzie is said to be easily recognizable because it appears to have two peaks, which is where we were able to get a good view of McKenzie’s summit on our climb up. McKenzie resides between Haystack Mountain (one of the 46er peaks) and Moose Mountain.

We decided to switch up our hike down to (hopefully) avoid the mudslides and steep descent down wet rocks. IMG_1954So rather than an out-and-back trail, we looped around and continued on McKenzie Mountain trail to the first trail crossing, where we headed right and down the mountain on the Lake Trail.

The trail makes its way down and walks along the shores of Bartlett Pond, which was an unexpected surprise. Had we been there early in the morning, I’d expect to see some wildlife, which could be a really cool experience – or a scary one.

 

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After checking out the pond for a couple of minutes, we continue down the trail, maintaining an astounding pace compared to the way up. In total, the trail was 6.5 miles and took us 4.5 hours; however, the way down only took us about an hour to 90 minutes of that time, which really goes to show how much maneuvering we had to do in the mud to get to the summit.

A bit of a way down from Bartlett Pond, we stumble across a meadow. It was a beautifully open and seemingly maintained valley of bright green grass with the wilderness as its border, and a few trees spotted throughout the yard, full of foliage. On the far side of the meadow sat a cabin. Assuming this was private property, I only peaked through for a minute or so to get a picture.

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Once we reached the base elevation and were just less than a half-mile from being out of the woods, the trail stretches along the shores of Lake Placid, bringing meaning to the trail’s name. IMG_0676.JPG

Not only was this a beautiful viewpoint, but the sun was warm as it reflected off the water onto our faces, and the water was refreshing. Of course, it was too cold to swim, (It is October after all!) but it was perfect to rinse some mud off of our boots and take a few breaths to reflect on the climb we just accomplished.IMG_7440.jpg

After winding through the last bit of woods to get to the road, we finally make it to the car, drop our gear and jump in to head to our next stop – the one that makes the hiking worth it – the bar.

We sit at Lake Placid Brewery & Pub for a beer and grub that we ate ridiculously fast. Hopefully, no one noticed us scarfing food down, looking like we hadn’t eaten in days. Afterward, we headed back up to the hotel, sat around their outdoor fire pit and chatted before both Rylei and Amanda had to hit the road back home.

And just like that, I was back to my Solo Adirondack Trip. The quiet was nice, and it made me realize that being alone isn’t all that scary. In fact, it’s something that we all probably don’t do nearly enough.img_4512.jpg

Like every other night before this one, I drove through Big Slide Brewery for a nightcap in the form of a DIPA, met a fellow barfly who was a world traveler, and after over an hour of engaging conversation, I found my next place to stay for the night.

Life can be so easy, can’t it?

 

Life is so easy these days (Part 1)

Skin cold and breath freezing in front of her, she climbs in her car and drives to the bar. Just one drink to warm her up inside before she crawls into the backseat after parking in the dark to sleep as well as she possibly can after a day of hiking in the mountains.

She walks in an hour before their proposed last call, sits at the bar with two empty stools on either side of her, orders the beer with the highest alcohol content, and ends her phone call from back home. “This will warm me up,” she thinks to herself and takes the first couple sips without clinking glasses with someone else. With just a few nights in on her first solo trip, she’s gotten used to this routine of being alone, and it’s one she’s not afraid of growing accustomed to.

“Hey, have you ever hiked Marcy?” A tall, young guy a stool down asks her, breaking her out of her trance.

“No, I haven’t actually.”

“Oh okay, because I’m thinking of starting that hike at sunrise tomorrow, but I’m undecided.” He takes a sip from his glass, beer a golden color that looks to be the same as hers.

“Well, I hear the weather is supposed to be as beautiful as it was today, so I’d think it’d be a great day for it, or for any high peak. The biggest risk when hiking Marcy is cloudy views from the top, but I don’t think that’ll be the case tomorrow.” She offers up the minimal details and tidbits that she’s heard from friends and other hikers about Marcy, the tallest peak in the region.

“Yeah, for sure. Well, it’s either that or a short hike with friends that I’ve already done a few times.” His right fingers run up and down his pint glass. “It really just comes down to how early I feel like getting out of bed in the morning.”

“I can’t blame you there. I hiked McKenzie today, which isn’t a high peak, but the muddy climb was still exhausting.”

“I’m pretty new to this, ” he admits, “so I’m not even sure what makes a high peak actually is.”

She explains the 46 high peaks in the Adirondack State Park and how there are other hiking lists, like the fire tower hikes and the 6 highest peaks in the Saranac Lake region.

“So, you know all of this, but you’ve never hiked Marcy?” he laughs.

“Yeah, I guess that is a bit surprising,” she admits. “There are just so many hikes around here that I haven’t quite gotten around to the tallest peak yet.”

With talks of NY summits and commutes from all points of the state to this ADK region, conversation branches off into other travels. Where they’ve been and where they want to go.

She asks him where he’s been, and she sees a spark flicker in his eye, a smirk on his face. “Well, I’m from downstate originally, but I came back East after living in San Diego and meeting all kinds of characters.” He jumped in a bounce house with Wiz Khalifa, hung out with 2 Chainz, shared some dirt on Taylor Swift that he heard from friends at celeb parties. “It was a crazy time, but that’s just how life can be.
It’s funny, though, ya know? Having a ‘real job’ with good money, and that’s when you’re most miserable.”

She laughs under her breath, thinking about her current situation. It’s a Tuesday night, and she’s 6 hours from home because her job has essentially been shut down. She decided to await the inevitable lay off away from the city, escaping all the other obstacles with it and hit the road, only to end up here – her home away from home.
“It’s those big companies that make you the most miserable, but they try to compensate it with a dollar amount. For some, that’s just never enough.”

“God, that’s so true,” he says after swallowing a gulp. “But you can do anything these days. Anything you really want to do or want to be, you can be it. I never knew anything about photography but always thought the art of it was cool. I started watching YouTube videos on it and did some research, and then I found myself quitting my San Diego job and traveling the world, taking awesome pictures and meeting the coolest people. When you think about it, life is so easy these days.”

She looks down into her pint glass, thinking of her grandma with stage 4 cancer in a hospital back home, her office getting packed into boxes and the uncertainty of where her next paychecks will be coming from.

“Yeah, life is easy.” She takes a gulp from her glass.

 

Taking time for the simpler things

Solo Adirondack Trip – Day 2

I haven’t been so comfortable being alone in months, maybe years, honestly. With that being said, however, at the end of my second day in the ADKs, one of my close friends who just relocated from NH to VT (who I hiked with over the summer in my previous blog post!) came to Lake Placid to spend the night and plans to hike with me on day 3.

But that aside, the first 36 hours have been wonderful, even in the rain. I mention the weather because it played a big role in my day 2 activities, which turned out to be time spent in cafes, bookstores, and cooking under the hatch of my Forester.

From 2 a.m. while I was parked overnight at a local lot getting some rest until 4 p.m. – so 14 hours – the rain kept on coming. “We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain, and big ol’ fat rain, rain that flew in sideways, and sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.” Okay, so it wasn’t quite as intense as Forrest Gump makes it out to be during the Vietnam War, but you get the idea.

I slept mediocre in my car, mainly because the rain was so loud. So with moderate refueling for my body followed by a complete washout of a day, my motivation wasn’t necessarily at an all-time high, but it worked out well this way.

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Big Mountain Deli & Creperie

With the rain came the excuse for me to spend the morning in the village, enjoying coffee, taking time to write, and some people watching – all things I would never stop and do if I were here with a group of friends, or even just one other person. Taking time to think, reflect, write, and wander through bookstores was the total relaxation that I’ve been wanting and should probably continue to seek out more regularly.

As lunchtime rolled around, rather than sitting at the next cafe to order some food (even though I know it would’ve been amazing), I stopped in a wine & cheese shop, grabbed a block of local Maple Cheddar Cheese, and jumped into my car and headed for the Olympic Scenic Bypass, aka Route 86. I parked at an overlook along the Ausable River, opened the hatch, and set up my small cooktop with pot and pan to whip up a gourmet meal: oriental Ramen and a grilled cheese sandwich.

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I indulged in my first hot meal since I’ve left home (I know it’s only been 28 hours at this point) and curled up in my trunk to journal a bit and watch the water go by. The foliage was glowing, and so after sitting for a bit, I walked around the overlook area and continued to drive up and down 86 to get some (hopefully) great shots. (Those pics to come later on!)

By this point, it was early afternoon and the rain finally started to subside. I drove back into the village, parked along the southern part of Mirror Lake and walked around in its entirety, admiring homes, dreaming of living in the ones that were up for sale, and smiling at all of the friendly lake walkers. Honestly, why can’t life always be this simple and happy?

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Mountains beyond Mirror Lake

Once making my lap around the lake, I oh so conveniently ended at Lake Placid Brewery & Pub where I had to get a pint, of course. I sipped on a Leaf Peeper Pale Ale while out on their patio overlooking the mountainscape past the Lake, Perfect way to end the afternoon, which brought me up to when my friend arrives.

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Lake Placid Brewery & Pub feat. Leaf Peeper Pale Ale

I head to our hotel for the night, and there she is in the parking lot. We check-in, wash up, catch up, and drink up at Big Slide Brewery (night 2 for me)! After a day of solid rest in a warm, dry, cozy bed, and with the forecast set to total sunshine, I know we’ll be more than ready to hit up a trailhead in the morning.

But until then…

 

Face your fears – You won’t regret it

Solo Adirondack Trip – Day 1

For the past several weeks, I’ve been basically stalking the Adirondack region on Instagram by following their hashtags and watching posts roll in by the handfuls. It’s pretty cool that social media allows for us to watch a certain region transition through the seasons even when we’re hundreds of miles away; but we all know, seeing a square thumbnail post day by day isn’t even close to as good as it feels to have your boots in the dirt with pine in the air.

So I left. I packed my car, and I drove. Heading east for the first 3 hours, I finally was able to start heading north on Route 28, cruising through Old Forge and making that my first stop. I had to stretch my legs and pee even more, but I’ve also been told to stop by Old Forge Hardware because it was worth the detour. Conveniently, it’s not actually a detour – it’s right on 28N, but their shelves are stocked with items beyond normal tools and hardware. It’s that, plus kids’ toys and books, spices, jams, and hot sauces, Christmas decorations, home decor and dishes, camping gear, pet supplies, and my personal favorite – a bookstore.

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Old Forge Hardware Store – Bookstore

After wandering the store for 20 minutes or so and dancing in line for the bathroom (it was a really close call, guys), I got back in my car and tracked down my next need: fuel.

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Leaving Old Forge and heading North to Inlet, NY

Fuel for me, not the Subaru. After binge-watching old “Will & Grace” episodes until 1 a.m. the night before and getting in the car and driving alone for hours, I needed a real pick-me-up. Blue Line Coffee House had exactly what I needed. The “blue line” reference is in regard to the boundaries set in place around the preserved Adirondack (and Catskill) Park back in 1890 and 1891.

The cafe is also on the main route – 28N – about 30 minutes passed Old Forge in Inlet, NY. It’s a cozy cafe with other merchandise too, like sweaters, hats, mugs, stickers, and more. In fact, they had a next-level fuzzy zip-up that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about in this rainy, cold weather.

Coffee is always hard to turn down, but considering I spent the whole day in the car with minimal nutrition, I opted for a matcha latte.

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Matcha is a highly-caffeinated green tea that’s packed with antioxidants. Yes, please! I chose a hot latte because rain and cold and fall, ordered it to go, and was back in Flo heading North on 28N. It was finally time to face the trailhead.

I chose a hike that had great views with very little effort involved, not because I’m lazy (for the most part), but because this was going to be my first solo hike ever. Any time I’ve come to the ADKs or traveled elsewhere for hiking trips – Alaska, Colorado, New England – I have always had at least one other person with me. So, this was really outside of my comfort zone. But before I conquered that fear, another unexpected one was placed in front of me. I used AllTrails to get the trailhead coordinates and plugged them into my GPS. I’m driving happily through the winding roads, singing along to one of the many new albums some of my favorite musicians have blessed their listeners with this year, and then the directions tell me to turn off onto Route 84. I had never been on 84, but no big deal, right?

I’m driving along, and thankfully there’s one car ahead of me, which is just a silly relief for me because I tell myself “you’re not alone” even though that person could be a psycho killer, but I digress. Mile after mile are lines of pines and trees in a gradient of autumn colors. Views? Beautiful. Feeling of peace? Rapidly declining.

There wasn’t one single house or sight of life as I drove miles and miles down this backroad headed to God only knows where. I had no phone service, which is expected, but then my GPS also gave out, so it was just this blue arrow blindly guiding me into the abyss.

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Route 84

Oh, the woes of having anxiety. My heart rate was 100-plus as I sat behind the wheel. Moments after realizing this (thank you to my Garmin Forerunner watch), the GPS directions kick in: “In 9 miles, merge onto I-87 North.” I exhale for the first time in 10 minutes… I’m about to be on the 87, which I have traveled a painful amount of times back in my college days when I’d commute from Plattsburgh back home (Buffalo). All was well in my world again.

I arrive at the trailhead where there was plenty of parking and also many other cars there, so again, “you’re not alone.” I jumped into the Roaring Brook Falls upper and lower trails. I signed in the book at the start of the trail and proceeded to hike the lower falls trail to get to the base of the waterfall first. It literally took me less than 5 minutes to reach the waterfall, and I ended up hanging out for about 10-15 minutes. Then I backtracked and hiked up to the upper falls (the trail doesn’t do a full loop).

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Roaring Brook Falls Lower Trail

I’d be lying if I said I was sketched out hiking alone. I’m not afraid of creepy people. It’s not like a Stephen King film plays out in my head, but more so “The Revenant” where Leo DiCaprio gets brutally mulled by a bear roughly three times for 15 minutes straight. At one point, I heard a rustling, and I was stopped dead in my tracks for about 2 minutes, talking myself out of turning back but also telling myself how stupid it would be to keep going and then end up face-to-face with a pissed off mama bear. As a result, my conscious compromised, and I turned on my Bose speaker and played Caamp and sang along as I stomped loudly up the trail.

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I reach a turn in the trail, which guides you down the brook to the edge of the waterfall. As soon as I made that turn, I was hype. I just started jumping rocks and splashing down the brook whilst singing and smiling. Thankfully, no one was around to see this.

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Yes, I went to the edge because how could you not? I had a good 2 steps of space behind me, though it may not look it in the picture. Below, you can see Route 73 with traffic trickling between Keene and Lake Placid and I-87. (Keene and Lake Placid are down the road to the right in the picture.)

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Despite the fact I didn’t have to work very hard to get to this amazing outlook, I spent time up there like I had just put forth hours of cardio. What pushed me to hike back down was that the sun was setting in less than an hour, and I still had to go scope out where I’d be parking and sleeping in my car overnight, so down I went.

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I traveled through Keene, stopped at a shop but didn’t stay because by 5:30 p.m. in these little mountain towns, everything is shutting down. But for those of you who pass through Keene, I highly recommend checking out The Mountaineer. (I’ll be stopping on my way out of town this week!)

Continuing down Route 73, I make my way to Adirondack Loj road where you get a breathtaking panorama view of the high peaks as a backdrop to acres and acres of farmland.

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Adirondack Loj Road

A few miles down the road, the paved road turns into a less-paved road riddled with potholes that reach down to China. After miles on this segment of the road, you reach Meadows Road, which is a narrow dirt road with more potholes. But here is where there is legal overnight parking in designated camping areas. These camping areas are little nooks along the lane. It’s densely wooded, no phone service and no campfires allowed.

I hate to be the girl that’s afraid of the dark, but here I am. It’s barely 6:30 p.m., so I’m not ready to settle in for the night. I now know that this is a legal option, but I choose beer before parking my car until tomorrow. I make my way out of Adk Loj and head to my favorite local spot.

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High Peaks Panoramic view

Shout out to Big Slide Brewery – you guys are the real MVPs. Hot Pepper Ale is fire (no pun intended), so I was stoked to see it was still on tap. I chatted with the bartender who was also originally from WNY, chatted with a group of people next to me where I was offered up a parking lot in town to park that’s quiet and, bonus, legal! Then, bumped into another group at the bar of people from WNY, one who just had bought a house in my actual hometown. Small world, even when you’re hundreds of miles from where you call home.

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Big Slide Brewery in Lake Placid

I warm myself up from the inside out with some of their craft brews and head to my camp for the night: the historical museum, just a mile or so from Lake Placid’s village. I curl up, tell my homies I’m safe and sound, and crash for the night, with rain on the windows being the only thing waking me.

Day one was a success, and I can now say I’m Ovaries Offroad (s/o to Ally Couke; you’re my inspo, girl) and a woman that is continuing to take my fears by their horns.

 

Celebrating Sunshine & Greenery

Before I jump face-first into a pile of leaves and then drool over the thought of fresh powder, I found it only respectable to Mother Nature to celebrate the joys that summer brought this year. Per usual, there were afternoons spent swimming in the river, boating and jet skiing, day drinking, bike rides, (way too sweaty) runs, and never enough soft-serve ice cream. There was a trip to the Adirondacks packed with hiking, paddling and craft brews, and then there was this trip – New Hampshire.

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I am learning the routes of the Adirondacks like the back of my hands, but New Hampshire and most of Vermont both are pretty new to me. A friend of mine was packing up her apartment to leave Lebanon, NH for Burlington, VT, so I wanted to visit her in the Live Free or Die state one last time.
Some hate car rides; I love them. Hours behind the wheel with your favorite music or podcasts playing mile after mile – no one to tell you to change what you truly are in the mood for listening to. But after 8 hours behind the wheel alone, the next day, it felt pretty good to be a passenger as my friend and I hit the road for the first trailhead of the weekend.
Living in Lebanon, NH, she’s right on the NH-VT state line; I mean, quite literally. So despite her living in NH, hiking in VT is just as convenient. Our first stop was to Mount Sunapee State Park, where the sun was shining and even hotter than originally anticipated. No complaints (even though I usually whine about the heat). After a pretty easy hike through densely-wooded trails, we reached the summit of Mount Sunapee, which in the winter, is a ski slope loaded with powder.

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Summit of Mount Sunapee in July at Vermont’s state park.

This time, it was all sunshine and wildflowers with a setup for wedding ceremonies at the peak, complete with a chairlift to bring guests and visitors to the top. Talk about convenience.

"It was all sunshine and wildflowers..."

Despite chairlift access, we chose the challenging route and hiked up and down on foot. Before heading back down to the car, we explored the summit – it’s overlook deck, which is a winter ski lodge, as well; the chair lift and people watched those who were riding up; and the picturesque lookout where wedding ceremonies are held.

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Mount Sunapee’s ceremonial area

After hiking down, driving home, washing up, refueling and resting, we were back at it again the next day. Just like day 1, we started our day off with black coffee and delicious breakfast from The Skinny Pancake. This place is a staple for me any time I head east to VT or NH. Its first location is still open in Burlington, VT, walking distance from Church Street, but since their  first opening, they have popped up other shops throughout Vermont and its neighboring state (unfortunately, not NY).

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One of the many delectable creations from The Skinny Pancake.


Fun Fact: Whether I have a big hike planned for the day or I want to live my best, laziest life by becoming one with the couch, I value breakfast to be just as important. Literally, breakfast sets the tone for my day. It’s really all that matters. I go to bed the night before thinking of breakfast, then I dream of it, and it’s what drags my feet out of bed each morning.
Now back to the regularly-scheduled blog post.


So after rest and Skinny Pancake fuel, we hit the road in her Rav4 again. This time, we’re headed to the White Mountains, New Hampshire’s mountain range. We decide to take on the state’s tenth-highest mountain, reaching 4,802 feet in elevation, qualifying it in the list of four-thousand footers of the White Mountain range: Mount Moosilauke.

nh hike driveWe drove up a somewhat-narrow, roughly-paved road with a canopy of rich-green trees as a canopy over us. It really set the mood for a late morning hike. We were fueled by coffee, sunshine, and thirst for more fresh air. This road took us to the Dartmouth Outing Club’s Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, complete with restrooms, cabins, and a cafeteria. Truthfully, we didn’t even check out the lodge; we headed straight for the trailhead.
We planned ahead of time for a longer hike with not only summitting Mount Moosilauke at 4,802 feet but also hitting up South Peak on the way back, which reaches 4,560 feet. We couldn’t have asked for a better day, weather-wise, and because the sun was out and the grounds were rich with greens, it meant there could be mud, but there would definitely be bugs.
Like the boujee-bitch I try to be, I opted for a more natural bug spray because not only is it safer for us humans, but it also feels 10x better on my skin and doesn’t smell like toxic death. Yay natural and thank you, Wegmans.

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From the trailhead to Moosilauke and South Peak summits and back down to the car, it was a four-hour hike full of laughter, exploring, and snacks. Because are you really having fun if there are no snacks?

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Recently learned trees often grow like this because they root in a fallen tree, using its nutrients for growth. Eventually, the dead, fallen tree completely decays, leaving the new tree’s roots lifted.

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In the words of Miley Cyrus, “It’s the cliiiimb…”

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Follow the cairns.

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Overlooking New Hampshire’s White Mountain range.

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Protect alpine growth. Stay on the trail.

 

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View of Moosilauke summit from the trail down, heading toward South Peak.

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I love a good narrow path while climbing the tree line.

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Views from South Peak summit.

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Rylei & I feeling accomplished after summiting twice before heading back down to level ground.


Now that I’ve celebrated summer, bring on the fall foliage.
And with that, autumn adventures to come soon.