Halfway There – Pregnancy Purchases (or make-dos)

I’ve spent a fair amount of time perseverating over whether to buy certain products (mostly clothes) while pregnant, and which ones. I thought I’d share what I’ve found it worth my dollars to spend money on so far in my pregnancy (and what I’ve somewhat regretted). I’ll probably do another post like this near/after the end of my pregnancy.

I may also do a post on our baby registry, which required way more research and thought.

Hopefully this is helpful to someone! Jumping right in:

Workout bottoms:

  • Lululemon high-waisted full on luon ankle tight (non-maternity)I bought these around 11 weeks pregnant in a size 8. I’m normally a size 6. (Ankle length fits me full-length.) I figured they would work for the first part of my pregnancy and again after birth. They’ve been great, and they’re still working at 22.5 weeks (and a big bump) without slipping down below the belly too much. (I actually originally purchased these in a 10, since I’d seen a recommendation to go two sizes up, but they seemed too large, so I returned them for the 8.)
  • Lululemon high-waisted full on luon crop (non-maternity): I bought these at the same time as the ones above, in a size 10. I decided to keep these in a size 10, thinking I’d probably still need the room to grow. However, at 11 weeks I had to constantly pull these up during a workout. And the same is true now at 22 weeks. They don’t stay up on my bump as well as the 8s. So I guess I should have just gone one size up after all. Still, I’ve been using these regardless (especially now that I’ve started prenatal yoga that allows for more pulling up than CrossFit does), and I’m glad to have the second pair.
  • Ingrid & Isabel ‘Active’ maternity leggings: Around 19 weeks, I finally broke down and bought a maternity pair of workout pants. I got these in a size small, which is my pre-pregnancy size for most leggings. Hopefully these will last me til the end. They’re super comfortable and good for all kinds of workouts, plus lounging (if they’re not already sweaty from the day’s workout…). If my Lulus stop working, I might need to get another pair.

Workout tops:

  • GapFit Maternity Breath short sleeve crew tee: So far, this is the only dedicated maternity workout top I’ve purchased. I got a medium, as I’m often between a small and medium in shirts (pre-pregnancy). A small probably would have worked fine so far, but the medium is fine too and I’m only going to get bigger. I only started wearing this around 18 weeks or so because it really accentuates the belly. But hey – I really have one now.
  • Other than that, I’ve just used longer Ts that I already had on hand for a while, though I think that is coming to an end. I’ve also been able to wear my Sweaty Betty Athlete tank tops (I had one already and then purchased another recently in a sale, both size M), and I also purchased an Athleta Speedlight tank (size small) when I was in Colorado because I forgot a workout top. It’s still working. I have NOT been wearing my Lululemon racerback tanks since about 11-12 weeks because they would ride up and be super stretched out (the SB and Athleta tops have that grippy stuff around the bottom hem that helps keep them down below the bump).

Sports bras:

This has been the area of biggest frustration for me. Many years ago, I decided that investing in good, supportive sports bras is worth it, even though they are expensive. So, I’ve been annoyed that I’ve had to invest in MULTIPLE, and even some of those aren’t really working anymore. Here’s what I’ve been wearing (only the last three were new purchases):

  • Sweaty Betty Victory padded run bra: I bought this in a 34C (my pre-pregnancy size) JUST before I found out I was pregnant (at about 4 weeks). I was able to wear it through… maybe 8-10 weeks? #frustrating
  • Lululemon Enlite bra: I had this pre-pregnancy in a 34C. I was able to wear this until maybe 16 or 17 weeks.
  • Moving Comfort Juno bra: I had this pre-pregnancy in 34C. I was also able to wear this until maybe 16 or 17 weeks.
  • Sweaty Betty Victory padded run bra: When the two bras above started getting tight AND SB was having a holiday sale, I bought this again in a 36D. I bought this at 16.5 weeks, probably started wearing it at 17 weeks… and now at 22 weeks, it’s already too tight. Gaaaaaah. This one is the most frustrating. It was only $32 on sale, but still. 5 weeks of use?! Maybe it’ll be useful post-pregnancy. I don’t know. #veryfrustrating
  • Moving Comfort Juno bra: This bra is a recurring theme. I love it. I also had this one pre-pregnancy in a 36D, saved from several years ago before I’d lost some weight and when I had bigger breasts. Hallelujah! I’m still able to wear this at 22.5 weeks, but it’s getting tight.
  • Juno bra by Brooks: I just purchased this in a 36DD and wore it for the first time this morning (22.5 weeks). This version is slightly different than the Moving Comfort ones I already had, even though I know Moving Comfort is by Brooks. I think this one still has a little room to grow… (thank god).

So let’s take stock of my current sports bra situation. As of today, I can wear the 36DD Juno, the 36D Juno (but it’s tight)… and the 36D Sweaty Betty Victory if I can handle being fairly uncomfortable. The last two aren’t going to last much longer at this rate. SIGH. I think it’s so important to have a good fitting high-impact sports bra, but this is EXPENSIVE.

Casual bottoms:

  • J. Crew signature leggings (non-maternity): I bought these very shortly after I found out I was pregnant, knowing that I would want something that was stretchy as my body started to grow but before I really had a bump. I tried a small and medium. Normally I would have kept the small, but since I was purchasing them to have room to grow, I kept the medium. I haven’t tried these on in a week or two, but so far they’re still working, though they don’t really have much to keep the waist band up on the belly instead of below it. I might start wearing them with my belly band (see below). I think they’ll work for a while. I’ve thought of getting maternity leggings, but I’d prefer to make do with what I have while I can.
  • JUSTBLACK Maternity skinny jean in dark grey from Stitch Fix: When I was about 8 weeks pregnant and realized I needed some maternity clothes but didn’t know where to start, I decided to start with a Stitch Fix box. I ended up keeping all five items in it (a questionable decision, as you’ll see). I got these in a size 28, which I thought was too big, but now is probably about right. I’m usually a 27 or 28. I still wear these with my belly band (see below) to hold them up, but I think they fit right in the hips/thighs. Hopefully these will work all the way through! I wear them a lot.
  • GapMaternity full panel best girlfriend jeans: Got these in a size 28. They’re roomy in the hips and thighs. I guess I’m glad I got these to have another jeans option, but I usually just wear these at home on telework days or weekends. If I’m going out of the house, I’ll usually wear the grey jeans above. I probably could have foregone this purchase.

Work bottoms:

  • LOFT Maternity skinny ankle pant: I got these in a 6 petite, which is usually my pre-pregnancy size. I started wearing these around 12 weeks, and they’re still working great.

Tops:

I was able to wear my pre-pregnancy tops for maybe the first 12 weeks. Since then, it’s been more limited to certain sweaters (generally longer ones) and some button-down shirts. Most of those are starting to become inappropriate, so I’m down to a few maternity tops. Purchases include:

  • Bowie 3/4 Sleeve Dolman Knit Top from Stitch Fix (non-maternity): This was in that one StitchFix box I got (size small). I think I’ve worn it twice. It is roomy and flowy and was advertised as being good for the in-between period, and it seemed it would be. But I just don’t love it, and the in-between period really only lasted a few weeks. While it’s roomy and flowy, it’s not super long, so (I just tried it on again) it doesn’t completely cover the pants belly panel, especially if I raise my arms. But I should wear this one or two more times before it really becomes impossible. And maybe it’ll be useful post-pregnancy for a bit.
  • Chiana Graphic Open Drape Cardigan (non-maternity): Also in that StitchFix box, size S. I’ve never loved the super-long cardigan look, but I actually LOVE this and wear it all the time. It was great for the in-between time and now the early bump time. I imagine it will take me through to the end and beyond.
  • Loveappella Charlote Ruched side maternity knit top from Stitch Fix: Also in StitchFix box, size S. Since this is clearly a maternity shirt, I didn’t start wearing it until 17-18 weeks. But I love it.
  • H&M MAMA Jersey top (maternity): size medium. In addition to the Loveappella top above, this is one of three maternity tops I own right now. Essential. If you’ve seen me in the past four weeks, I was probably wearing this or the Loveappella top, the chiana cardigan, and my grey maternity jeans.
  • Old Navy maternity classic white popover shirt: Size small. This is bordering on the tent-like-maternity-shirt-necessary-in-the-third-trimester, but given my shortage of shirts, I wore this for the first time to work yesterday. Roomy, so far.

Dresses:

  • Renee C Lior Maternity Cross Front Aline Dress from Stitch Fix: Size M. This was the last item in that StitchFix box. With the 25% discount they give you if you buy all five items, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to return an item. I haven’t worn this yet, but I’m just now probably getting to wear I’m pregnant enough for it to make sense. The print is a little louder than I’d normally choose, but I decided I liked it enough to keep it (especially when the marginal cost is free). It could be nice for a shower dress or for work.
  • GapMaternity 3/4 sleeve wrap dress: Size S. This dress, along with the LOFT pants and couple shirts above, rounds out my work wardrobe for the most part. (Plus Le Tote, see below.) This one should work all the way through, and I don’t think I’ll need to buy more work clothes, though maybe another shirt or two. I only go into the office 3x/week, and one of those (Fridays) I can typically wear jeans. So my LOFT pants one day, my dress another, and my jeans the last. That’ll do for about 6 months, right?
  • Kimi & Kai Lace Maternity Skater Dress: After a) realizing that it costs at minimum about $45 to rent a dress and b) that I have three weddings to go to in the next four months, I decided it would be worth it to spend $90 on a maternity dress that I can (hopefully) wear to all three and that I can guarantee I like (which isn’t always true of rentals). I ordered no less than 8 dresses from Nordstrom to try on, including this one in teal and a medium as well as in black and a small. I kept the small, black one. I’ll wear it to a wedding next month in Houston and hopefully to another in April and a final in mid-May. There’s definitely room for belly growth, some room for boob growth, and generally otherwise forgiving. Fingers crossed.

Hosiery and Undergarments:

  • H&M MAMA tights 100-denier: The denier indicates opacity. These are pretty opaque. Size medium. I needed tights to wear with my dress.
  • H&M MAMA tights 30-denier: Size medium. Again, just generally need tights in the winter. I’ll wear these to those weddings (but don’t want to wear them every day, because they’re pretty thin and therefore colder and more likely to snag).
  • Belevation Maternity Support Belly BandSize medium. Belly bands are advertised as being for women who want to keep wearing their pre-pregnancy pants so that they can wear them unbuttoned and this will keep them up. Well, I only wear this with maternity pants. I’m not sure why, but the panel in maternity pants isn’t enough to hold the pants up… they start to slip down and pull my underwear with them. It’s very uncomfortable. It’s probably for a similar reason that I ALWAYS have to wear a belt with regular jeans. I think I’m just shaped funny (and have proportionally larger thighs than waist, although now I don’t have a waist, so who knows). Anyway, whatever the reason, this has vastly improved the maternity-pant-wearing experience. I’ve also worn it once on a long run with my Lulu Wunder Unders, and I’m going to start wearing it with my non-maternity J. Crew leggings.
  • ThirdLove Classic T-Shirt Bra: Size 36D. This (and by ‘this,’ I mean a bigger bra) became a desire around 10-11 weeks and a must around 11-12. It was a little too big when I got it, but now (22.5 weeks) fits quite well and is starting to approach maybe too small. This is the only real bra I have that fits. I wear it a lot. Like, most days if not every day. I’m getting close to buying a new one, but I would like my next purchase to be a nursing bra, so I want to get closer to estimating what my final bra size is going to be. Like sports bras, I believe in investing in good quality regular bras, but unlike sports bras, I’m comfortable not washing this after every single use. Also, I have two Patagonia Barely Bras that I had pre-pregnancy (size M) that I wear when I’m at home (which is 2x/work week and on the weekends). I wouldn’t wear these out of the house at this point, though.

Other Clothing ‘Purchases’:

Not wanting to buy a lot more clothes but knowing I’d want some more variety over the last five months of pregnancy, I decided to try LeTote’s subscription service. They have a maternity option. I selected the one where you pay a flat fee per month and get three clothing items and two accessories per box. Why pregnancy necessitates new accessories, I still can’t explain. You can wear the items as many times as you like and then return them, at which point LeTote will send you another box. Boxes are unlimited and you get to select the items you’re going to get in your box. In my first box, I only wore one clothing item (a size M Seraphine black pencil skirt) and the two accessories. The other two clothing items (a VERY low-cut dress – why are so many maternity dresses V-neck??? – and a tent-like maternity top) were no good. I just got my second box last night, and I will wear the shirt for sure, the sweater most likely, the accessories definitely, and not the dress. So. I cancelled the subscription. I’ve only paid for one month and got several days’ outfits out of it (while avoiding making unnecessary purchases), so I’m okay with having made this purchase, but also think it’s right that I cancelled.

Other purchases:

  • Honest Organic Belly BalmI started using this around 20 weeks. I haven’t noticed any new stretch marks so far and there’s no real evidence that using something like this prevents them, but why the hell not try? It supposedly also helps prevent itchy skin which commonly occurs as the belly skin stretches. So far so good.
  • Thorne D3/K2 dropsMy early pregnancy bloodwork indicated that I’m ‘deficient’ in Vitamin D. I’ve paid enough attention to people like Chris Masterjohn and Chris Kresser to know that that statement is more complicated than people suggest, so I put off doing anything about it for a while. I did try to make a more concerted effort to get sunshine during the day, but then temps were in the single digits for a few weeks and work was super busy and that just didn’t happen. So I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try these. I use 2-4 drops (which is only 1,000-2,000 IU of Vitamin D3) per day.
  • PaleoValley GrassFed Organ Complex: Because I’m not even pretending to try to eat organ meats right now. And, assuming this is as potent and real-food-like as it claims it is, this is so much easier.
  • Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver OilBecause I haven’t been making salmon a priority, and I want baby to have all the DHA he needs to grow a fully functional brain and nervous system and I trust Liz Wolfe.

Those supplements, along with the prenatal vitamin and probiotic I was taking well before I got pregnant, make me feel like I’ve turned away from my real-food roots and am succumbing to the supplement hoo ha. Maybe I am. But just for pregnancy. I expect to go back to assuming my diet fulfills all my needs as soon as I’ve given birth. Or as soon as I’m done breast feeding. You know. Eventually.

Assessment:

So there you have it. Those are all the things I’ve spent hard-earned money on (or in some cases already had) as a result of being pregnant. Not a short list. That’s depressing. But I really feel like most of it has been worth it, with the possible exceptions of the second Sweaty Betty sports bra, the Bowie knit top from Stitch Fix, and maybe the Gap jeans and Stitch Fix dress.

I also have my eye on this cozy sweatshirt. I’ll probably break down and buy it. But unlike the other items I’ve bought, which I intended to buy as living essentials (to work out, go to work, have clothes that fit, etc.), this one would be pure luxury. I want it just because I want it. We’re going to Telluride for almost a week in February, and I want this to go with me. We’ll see.

 

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Lately – December 2017

There’s been a lot going on lately, which partially explains the lack of posts. The main things are:

  • It’s budget season again. I talked about this briefly in this post. Budget season typically starts in September when we (OMB) receive budget submissions from agencies. And it ends in February with the release of the President’s Budget. Last year the timeline was different because the Administration changed in January, so budget season shifted to the spring. Anyway, all of budget season is crazy, but October and January are the craziest. So that’s happening. I’ve been working more than usual.
  • We’re buying a new house! New to us and new new. It’s a few miles away from our current house (which we rent and where we’ve lived for almost five years). It’s new construction and will likely be complete in March or April. I’m expecting we’ll move in April. It’s been a lot of fun to pick stuff out (first floor floorplan, cabinets, tile, hardwood, carpet, countertops, sinks, etc.), but it’s also taken up a lot of time. And there have been a lot of meetings, both during work and outside of work hours. Plus all the general house-buying and mortgage paperwork.
  • I’m pregnant! 16.5 weeks. It’s going great, but I was more exhausted than I could ever imagine feeling in the first trimester, so sleeping cut into my free time more than even normal. My 9pm bedtime became 7:30 sometimes. With two naps every Saturday and Sunday. It was the worst weeks 5-10 (so, late September through the beginning of November). Plus, there’s been prenatal appointments and ultrasounds and lots and lots of reading, so it’s been keeping me busy.

Needless to say, I’ve been a little lazy in the kitchen. I went through a period of relying heavily on Sweetgreen and Taylor Gourmet salads for lunch, but I’ve mostly resolved that. Then I started picking up the pumpkin spice yogurt pots from Pret in the mornings as I made my way from the Metro to my office in DC. I’ve also been voting for pizza delivery somewhat frequently – not quite once a week, but not too far from that either. Often on Sunday nights when we’ve had a busy weekend or been out of town.

My diet in general in my first trimester kind of went downhill. Not terribly. I still ate mostly really well. But I was definitely more lenient with the Halloween candy that was around the office and the frequent pastries people brought in. I also was testing out my recently-resurrected sourdough starter and making/eating much more bread than normal. I got it together for several weeks before Thanksgiving though, and since Thanksgiving it’s been so so. Better than before, but not awesome. Starting to sort of slide downhill again. This week has been a week of holiday parties and socializing (and treats – so many treats!). I’m thinking of doing a Whole30 again in January, as I’ve done the last two years, but maybe including grass-fed (usually Greek) yogurt which I just can’t get enough of. We’ll see.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

Things I’ve been reading:

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This was for bookclub (I hosted this month!). I really enjoyed it, but it took me a long time to read.
  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. This was our last book club book – my recommendation. I loved A Visit from the Goon Squad, and Jennifer Egan happens to be Dan’s best friend’s cousin, so we’ve anticipating this one for a while. LOVED it.
  • Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James Clapp and Catherine Cram. Made me feel better (and optimistic) about continuing to CrossFit through pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin and others. It took me a while to get into this because it launches pretty quickly into making decisions about birth itself, and I was still in a what-should-I-expect and whats-okay during pregnancy stage. But I’ve started to transition, and now find this really useful. It has a clear but fairly subtle bias toward unmedicated childbirth (which I am interested in), but I feel it presents other options objectively and fairly without speaking negatively/judgmentally about them. Mostly, it just explains the processes of labor and giving birth and post-birth in detail, which is really helpful. Because I’ve never done it before!
  • The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer. I’m not really into this one yet. It’s much more biased about preferring midwifery (which I’m using) and unmedicated childbirth (which I’m interested in), but at this point, I’d prefer the information being presented to me without judgement and with facts about all options. I can’t even remember where I got the recommendation for this. We’ll see if I get through it.

Things I’ve been watching:

  • Fine, I admit it. I’ve been watching the entire series of Gilmore Girls. Again. Really, for like the millionth time (more honestly probably the tenth or so). I start it every Fall and watch the whole series. I don’t actually watch most of it, it’s just on in the background as I cook, fold laundry, etc.
  • Stranger Things Season 2. Dan and I are trying to watch this together. I think we’ve made it to episode… 4? Maybe 5?

Fitness I’ve been doing:

  • CrossFit 3x/week. So far so good. I maybe missed one or two workouts during the first trimester to prioritize sleeping, but as usual, my energy is highest in the morning and it’s later in the day that I start to flag. So workouts were mostly fine. My gym offers three sets of suggested weights/programming for each WOD – ‘fitness,’ Rx, and Open. I worked up to being very comfortable with the fitness weights through my first year of CrossFit, and before becoming pregnant had started to work towards Rx. But since becoming pregnant, I’ve mostly stuck to fitness. I was still doing strength maxes, though. Starting around week 10 or 11, I started to scale back on those as well (opting to do more like 70% of my 1 or 2RM), and also to pay closer attention to whether I would be able to converse during WODs. Now that I’m in the second trimester, I’ve decided to stop kipping pull-ups and any sit up things and will instead do things like strict pull-ups, ring rows, and planks.
  • Baltimore Running Festival Half Marathon. This was when I was about 9 weeks pregnant. My pace was 8:50 (total time: 1:55:51), which is slower than my half marathons from the past 3 or so years, but still respectable. Training runs were tough leading up to it due to how tired I was. I’m also just less into running lately, and don’t think I’ll keep doing half marathons twice a year. But, got ‘er done and was pleased with it. The weather was amazing (high 60s, low 70s, sunny – actually felt hot at points).
  • Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 5K in Grand Rapids, MI. My sister, her boyfriend, Dan, and I all ran this. This was my 6th or 7th year doing a 5K on Thanksgiving Day. Pace: 8:34, Time: 26:35.
  • Upcoming – I’ll be running the Celtic Solstice 5-mile run in Druid Hill Park this Saturday. It’ll be my third year in a row.

Hikes I’ve Been On:

  • A friend couple came up from Houston for a weekend in early November. We went camping in Catoctin Mountain Park at Owens Creek Campground. Before heading to the campsite, we did the 8-Mile Loop Trail. Dan and I had done this once before with his mom (or maybe just a part of it.) The leaves were beautiful, and there were a couple of nice overlooks. The weather was slightly on the chilly side, but it was really nice to hike in. As we drove from the end of the hike to the campground, it started raining. And it continued to pour through the next morning. We attempted a fire for a while, but finally gave in and gathered together in one tent to eat trail mix and play cards.

Things I’ve Been Listening To:

  • Holiday music!
  • The Modern Mamas Podcast. Trying to binge-listen to get up to current, but they keep just putting more out! I’m only up to number… 13 I think. I’ve most enjoyed hearing about Laura’s birth story and being introduced to Aware Parenting concepts.
  • Occasional Girls Gone WOD podcasts, but I’ve definitely fallen behind.

 

Five Hikes in Japan (aka Japan: Part 2)

While in Japan, we hiked the following:

  1. Mt. Fuji
  2. Shin-Hotaka Ropeway to Kamikochi (Japan Alps)
  3. From the top of the Happo One ski resort chair lifts to Happo Ike pond (Hakuba, Japan Alps)
  4. Kurama to Kibune (outside Kyoto)
  5. Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine (Yakushima)

A few general observations on hiking in Japan:

  • I underestimated the first few. My experience of hiking in Japan now is that it is almost invariably steep and usually involves a lot of stairs or rock scrambling. It was like doing hours of stair stepper. But prettier.

(Okay, to be honest, three of those photos are from the same hike. But seriously – all the hikes had either built stairs like this, rocks-as-stairs or rock scrambling like the last photo, or steps made out of the landscape.)

  • Japan is a small country with a lot of people. The hikes are not very remote and are generally fairly developed/built. And crowded.
  • MontBell seems to be the hiking gear brand of choice for Japanese, though I’m not sure if that’s because they offer rental equipment. Speaking of, it seemed like many people hiking Fuji rented their equipment – from packs to shoes. A good option if you don’t want to carry a pair of hiking shoes and warm clothes all over Japan in the middle of summer for the rest of your trip.
  • While some people were outfitted head to toe in serious hiking gear on each of these hikes… there were also pretty ladies in kimonos and sandals on at least one of them. And everything in between.
  • Japan’s got some pretty cool stuff to see on hikes.

Mt. Fuji

We hiked up Mt. Fuji from the Subaru Fifth Station on the Yoshida Trail. There are four main trails up Mt. Fuji. Yoshida is the most popular. You can begin Yoshida, and I believe the others, further down the mountain. I think most people begin at this or another fifth station, and the Subaru Fifth Station is where most of the tour busses and other public transportation go.

I wrote about getting to the Subaru Fifth Station in my main Japan post. We each packed a day pack (Dan used the top of his Osprey backpack and I used this awesome Sea to Summit sack) and then stuffed our packs (i.e., our luggage) in a somewhat random-seeming pay locker (1000 yen) in one of the buildings. Then we paid 1,000 yen donation to the folks asking for a donation and set off.

It started okay. The trail was relatively flat (even downhill – which ended up seeming unfortunate the following day when we hiked back) and wide for a while. There were a lot of people, but there was a lot of space. Before long, though, we started switchbacks up the mountain along a trail that soon had ropes on either side. It turned out that this would be what the rest of the trail was like.

I estimated it would take us 4-5 hours (max 6) to get to the hut where we would sleep that night. It took us 2.5. We were definitely moving, and more quickly than most people, but it was manageable. We were also willing to be jerks a little bit. Not too long after we started switchbacking, a few things happened to cause some backlogs: the trail narrowed a bit, the trail became very rocky and required some scrambling, and we began passing huts along the trail. At the first backlog, leaving a hut area, I was a bit flummoxed. I was sure it was an anomaly. But no, they got worse. Luckily, Dan and I were able to rock scramble around the crowds (still within the ropes of the trail, but to the sides where no one else was scrambling). We made it to the hut around 4ish, were asked to eat dinner right away, and enjoyed a beer at 3,400 meters looking down at the hikers continuing their way up the trail. This particular hut holds 300 people and was sold out, I believe. After a bit of a fiasco with our sleeping area (one sleeping setup was missing), Dan and I went to bed at 7pm and got a little bit of sleep. At 2am, we got up with the rest of the hikers that intended to make it to the summit by dawn. Using the previous day as my guide, I assumed it would take us less time to get to the summit than I’d originally estimated (1-2 hours), and I was worried about getting to the summit too early and being cold. I was already cold. So we set out around 2:30/2:40, and DAMN, we should have left earlier.

We almost missed sunrise. The trail up the mountain was SO crowded that we were literally in a traffic jam the whole way up. Sunrise was at 4:40, and we literally got there at 4:35 and raced to a spot where we could see. It was infuriating. The trail was narrower, so we couldn’t be jerks and go around anymore (though we did a bit early on – then we started getting chastised). Sometimes it narrowed to single-file from two, causing further backups. It was like step forward. Wait two minutes. Step forward. Wait two minutes. The sky started lightening around 3:15 or 3:30. It was pretty. But.

Thank goodness we made it for sunrise. It was really beautiful. I’m pretty sure that makes the whole experience worth it. And our hike around the rim of Mt Fuji was also really nice. We got to walk through a snow field and see the shadow of Mt. Fuji projected on the valley below it.

Then we were ready to go down. It was about 6am. We were among a crowd of hundreds of people trying to enter the trail (while some others were still coming UP the trail). By 7am, we had gone two switchbacks (maybe 100 yards). It was like that until we got back almost to our hut where the trail finally split off and there was a separate down trail that was even less pretty than the up trail, but was at least wide. Still steep, though, and mostly gravelly.

We made it all the way down by 9:30, and we were ready to be finished. I’m very glad for the experience, but I don’t think I’d ever do it again. At least not on a Saturday in July. (For the record, we were warned that it would be crowded; I just never imagined.)

 

Shin-Hotaka Ropeway to Kamikochi

This hike started from the top of the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway. I’d read in our Lonely Planet guidebook that you could hike this either direction, but that Kamikochi to the Shin Hotaka was very steep. We’d just hiked Mt. Fuji and just the timing and bus schedules made this direction more manageable. There was no information in the main Shin Hotaka observation deck building about hiking, nor were there clear signs upon exiting the building onto trails. We saw a couple going one direction, which seemed to be the only direction to go, and tried to ask if it was the way to Kamikochi. They told us that no, hiking to Kamikochi was ‘very hard mountain’ and that they thought it was ‘impossible from here.’ It was hard to know whether they actually meant impossible (like, that was the wrong direction), or it was just known to be a difficult hike. So we returned to the building to ask and got a sorta map written on the back of a receipt by the store clerk. We  determined that had been the right trail and set out. But all the signs were in Japanese until we got to a mountain hut.

So, the Japan Alps do have a good network of huts that allow for multi-day hiking trips. We were strongly advised to fill out a form in a small cabin before setting out regarding our intended itinerary or face a 50,000 yen fine, which we did. But we were only going for the day, of course. The trail was pretty steep uphill until we got to the only hut on our route, where we stopped to eat snacks. Then we continued on, and the rest of the trail was pretty steep downhill (many of it actual steps) into the Kamikochi valley. I think it took us about 3 hours total? This was the least developed of the hikes that we did, but it was still fairly developed. We passed a few people along the trail, but not many, so it was also the least crowded. We were trailing a trio of American guys that we then later saw in the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima – see, small country.

Kamikochi was beautiful. It’s not really a town (at least what we could see). There’s a bridge on the south end, where we arrived, and then another bridge about half a mile north on the north end that crosses the river. On the side of the river we arrived on, that half mile is dotted with several ryokans (one of which had a public onsen that closed at 3pm and we arrived at 2:45, sadly, so we didn’t go). We walked to the north end and crossed over. That side had a couple restaurants/stores and the bus terminal. I think that’s all there is.

Hike to Happo Ike

I believe ike means pond. This hike is from the top of the Happo One ski resort chair lifts (a gondola and two chair lifts) to a pond. The trail continues further to the summit (dake) of Mt. Karamatsudake, but we didn’t have the energy or time for that – we wanted to get back to our Hakuba ryokan and relax! Also, the clouds were rolling in and we didn’t want to get caught in a storm. I was less worried about hiking in the rain and more worried that the lifts would stop operating in a thunderstorm and we wouldn’t be able to get back down in a timely fashion.

Again, this trail was super rocky and pretty steep. Partly, this was the route we took up. On the way down, we took a slightly different route that had more built boardwalks and steps that made it easier. The views of Hakuba and the valley and the surrounding mountains were beautiful. And we saw (and walked through!) snow fields! For the top half of the hike we were primarily in clouds, including at the pond, which made it look very misty and dreamy.

I think we got to the top of the lifts around 1 and were back to the lifts by… 2:30? So this wasn’t a super-long hike. But it was really pretty. And made us sorta feel like we earned our onsen :-).

Kibune to Kurama

I don’t have a lot to say about this one. Read this for more information, better pictures, and a generally more positive perspective. (Note: we did this in the opposite direction of that description, as we wanted to eat above the river before starting.) As I mentioned in a previous post, the heat and humidity while we were in Kyoto killed my soul a little bit, and getting out of the city in the mountains a little bit didn’t help. At all. Plus, it was a Saturday, and this is a common excursion from Kyoto for tourists and Kyoto residents alike. It wasn’t crowded like Mt. Fuji by any means, but it wasn’t remote at all and we were hiking with many other people. This is the hike that many women in kimonos were hiking! With slow, short steps, as their strides were limited by their outfits. They looked wonderful with their perfect makeup and nicely done hair, while I was sweating like crazy and a little grumpy. It’s almost not even right to call this a hike. It was more like a stair climb to a summit and then a stair climb down, via a temple. We only took one picture.

However. On a day that is not 95+ degrees F with 95% humidity, I can see where this would be a really lovely outing, with or without the crowds.

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Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine

This is one of several popular hikes on Yakushima. The other we strongly considered was a full-day hike to Jomon Sugi, the oldest and largest cedar on the island, estimated to be 3,000-7,000 years old (!!). However, this was the last full day of our trip, and we were staying in a fancy hotel, and we wanted some time to relax, unwind, and enjoy ourselves. So we opted for Shiratani Unsuikyo, which offers three different loops of varying lengths. We essentially did all three, except for portion of the shortest one that didn’t overlap with the other two. I estimate that it was about five miles total??

To get there, you drive up a very windy, often one-lane road with very beautiful views of the valley and the town of Miyanoura on the coast below. We passed a family of monkeys on the side of the road! (We’d also seen monkeys in Kamikochi walking along the bank of the river.) The parking lot was full when we got there, but there they let us park on the side because we had an itty-bitty rental car. Others had to park further down the mountain road and walk up. It cost 500 yen (or maybe 300?) per person to enter.

The path started with boardwalk and steps, but once we veered off onto the longer loops, we found ourselves in what felt like very deep, very misty forest. We passed several very old cedars, all of which had signs marking them and observation platforms (usually with a bench) for sitting and admiring. There are also several large ‘second generation’ cedars in which a seed germinates in the stump of an older cedar. In a few places, there were signs describing how the forest has been cleared and replanted to some extent, and that all of the cedars in a particular area are from a ‘mother cedar’ in the area.

It poured on us at one point and was generally just wet and misty, so a lot of my photos have the film of mist over them. Apologies. We were able to hike to a rock summit with a really nice view of the valley. It was cloudy so pictures don’t do it justice, but it was a nice panoramic view. We had planned to eat lunch up there, but no food was allowed (understandable since it’s a popular hike and it would probably get too crowded having people hang out up there too long), so we ended up having to eat our hotel-boxed lunches (rice, fish, and orange slices) off the side of the trail soon after.

So that’s my experience of hiking in Japan. I would love to do more, especially multi-day hikes, in the Alps. We saw such cool stuff everywhere though, despite my grumbling about crowds and heat. Super awesome experience!

 

 

 

Japan – Part 1: Itinerary

This will be my first of at least three posts about my trip to Japan (which I’m currently on – four days to go! – but I probably won’t be when I publish this). In this one, I’m just going to share my itinerary. And some observations. In the other two, I’ll talk about food and hiking. Of course.

You can visualize our itinerary and get more details here on the Google map I made. It went like this:

  • Tuesday, July 4: Flew to Japan via Toronto from BWI. Arrived in Haneda airport in Tokyo a bit late due to a mechanical issue (just what you want to hear before embarking on a 13-hour flight around the world, eh?), around 4 or 5 pm on July 5.
  • Wednesday, July 5: Basically lost this day by crossing the international date line. But arrived at our airbnb in the Bunkyo neighborhold in Tokyo (near Ueno). Got dinner nearby (our first meal in Japan!) at a nearby izakaya called Shinsuke, recommended by our Lonely Planet guidebook.
  • Thursday, July 6: Walked around the Imperial Palace gardens. Subwayed to Shibuya to see Shibuya Crossing (a very busy intersection), found ramen lunch in a small side street. Walked up Cat Street (boutiques and other shops) to the Harajuku neighborhood. Fancy stores. Then we needed to kill time before going to Kodokan (judo training facility and museum), so we crossed over to the Meiji-jingu grounds (a Shinto shrine dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken). We walked around the Gyoen (inner garden) and up to the Yoyogi-Keon (a park). Then we made it to the Kodokan. After touring the small museum, we realized there would be a competition in 1.5 hours. So we left, got a beer at Hub, a chain ‘British’ pub that we’ve seen in almost every city here, and came back to watch. It was quite entertaining. Finally went back to the apartment for a bit before heading out for conveyor belt sushi dinner in Ueno, recommended by our airbnb host. 33,631 steps that day.
  • Friday, July 7: Woke up early (Ok, I always wake up early. This means I woke Dan up early. Maybe before 6). Went to stand in line for super-fresh sushi at Tsukiji Market, the largest fish market in the world. We considered waiting in line for the most popular Sushi Dai but decided instead to wait in line for the second most popular Daiwa Sushi. It was amazing. Walked around the nearby Ginza neighborhood. Then did the Lonely Planet guide recommended walking tour of Ueno and Yanaka, including the main building of the Tokyo National Museum. Which was super cool – the main building is organized chronologically with select pieces/ exhibits showcasing a lot of Japan’s history. Then a sake and beer at a hostel in Asakusa followed by tonkatsu ramen dinner at a chain ramen place (Ippudo). Then Tokyo Sky Tree! We arrived right at dusk and were 450 meters up to see the city light as night fell. It was pretty cool. All indoor, so I wasn’t freaking out like I did at the Eiffel Tower. There was some weird anime film projected on the walls while we were there about a villain trying to capture Sky Tree? It was super loud and not my favorite thing.  27,059 steps.
  • Saturday, July 8: Mt. Fuji day!! I’ll talk more about the actual hike in my hiking post. We took a bus from Shinjuku Station to the Subaru Fifth Station. We’d reserved and bought the bus tickets a week prior, and already couldn’t take the bus of our choosing. So we went an hour later than we would have liked (and the bus was 45 minutes late to the destination due to crazy traffic leaving Tokyo all the way into the mountains), but it was fine. Started hiking just after 2pm. Stayed in the Fujisan Hotel hut at 3,400 meters that I’d reserved months ago via Mt Fuji Hut Reservations Service. 15,834 steps.
  • Sunday, July 9: Woke up (without really having been asleep much) just before 2am. Left the hut at 2:30 or so. Again, I’ll talk about this more later. But we almost missed the sunrise due to RIDIC TRAFFIC (yes, on foot). I have never experienced anything like it. But we made it just in time and saw the sunrise, which was awesome. Then, after circling the summit, we experienced more traffic going down, but were back at the Fifth Station before 9:30am. Grabbed our packs from the locker we’d stuffed them into the previous day, got on a bus bound for Kawaguchi-ko station, and then took some trains to Matsumoto in the Japan Alps. Including this cute Thomas the Engine train. Got slightly lost before finding our Matsumoto Marunouchi hotel. Dinner at an izakaya found on Yelp. We were the only customers. The attentive proprietress (read: we had an audience the entire time) spoke no English. It was delicious, but an experience. Also walked around Matsumoto a little. It is SO cute. There is a lovely little street along the river with several coffee shops and small restaurants as well as shops carrying pottery, printed paper, printed cloths, fans, etc. Very charming and pretty stuff. (There is also a castle in Matsumoto that we walked by while lost looking for our hotel, but didn’t really see otherwise, which is a little too bad.) 24,833 steps.
  • Monday, July 10: Lovely hotel buffet breakfast in a fancy dining room, followed by an early bus further into the Alps to Hiroyu Onsen and then a transfer to another bus to the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway. The ropeway was a set of two trams up the mountain to an AMAZING view. Also to the start of a hike over the mountain to Kamikochi in a valley on the other side. Kamikochi was not really a town. It was more like a series of ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) and small restaurants, plus a bus terminal, on both sides of a river surrounded by incredible mountains. Really lovely. Returned to Matsumoto by bus. Dinner at a cold soba and tempura place found on Yelp. A specialty of this region is horse meat, including raw horse meat. Dan ordered it. I had a bite, yes. 24,727 steps.
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View from the top of the Shin Hotaka Ropeway
  • Tuesday, July 11: More Alps. We left Matsumoto after another delicious breakfast and headed to Hakuba, a ski town and site of some of the 1998 Winter Olympics. We took a bus from the train station to the bus terminal in the center of town and then found our way to the ryokan  (Shiramou-so) we were staying at (it was a two-minute walk!). Even though it was only noon, they let us check in, drop our stuff, and leave immediately to go for another hike. We took a gondola and two chair lifts up the Happo One ski resort and then hiked to Happo Ike pond. We were back at the ryokan by 3, just in time for the skies to open up. We had our first onsen (hot spring) experience and then relaxed in our room wearing yukatas (light kimonos) until our DELICIOUS ryokan dinner, and then relaxed some more. 15,623 steps.
  • Wednesday, July 12: Early morning onsen time at the ryokan followed by amazing ryokan breakfast. Then we walked to the ski jump that was used in the 1998 Olympics, and is still used today. We weren’t planning on it, but ended up taking the chair lift to the top. It was actually so cool. And terrifying. Then a series of trains, including our first Shinkansen (bullet train), along the west coast for a bit and then down to Osaka. This was our longest day of travel (almost 7 hours total), but that included layovers, etc. and didn’t seem that bad. And then… OSAKA at night. We came here to eat. And we did. We first dropped our stuff at our hotel (Hotel Code) and then did the Lonely Planet guide walking tour from our hotel through Amerika Mura, down the Shinsaibashi shopping street, across the Ebisu-bashi bridge, and along the Dotombori street. Mostly along Dotombori, we ate some takoyaki and then okonomiyaki that I’ll talk more about in my food post. We also drank a fair amount. We ended the night looking for a simple bar and ended up in a place where… hmm. It wasn’t unclear. Two young women were serving, and there were only male customers. They served us some sake very nicely (one using google translate on her phone to confirm we didn’t want food and to see how we liked the sake). And then we left. It was awkward. Osaka was awesome though. My favorite big city. Super funky, super hipstery. Lots of lights and energy and people out.
  • Thursday, July 13: Osaka morning. We headed straight to the Kuromon Market, which was a street food paradise. I’ll say more in my food post. It was incredible. There wasn’t much else we wanted to do in Osaka, so we trained to Kyoto, dropped our bags in a locker in Kyoto Station, and made our way to Fushimi Inari-Taisha, a large mountainside complex of many Shinto shrines and torii gates. We took a detour off the main path and ended up on a hiking trail to the top of the mountain, where we met up again with the main path. This was the hottest day ever, and I was fairly unhappy. We finished, grabbed our packs from Kyoto Station, and made our way to our airbnb where I passed out from heat exhaustion. Or just took a nap. We went to dinner at a nearby okonomiyaki place recommended by our airbnb hosts. 20,815 steps.
  • Friday, July 14: Kyoto. Kyoto has amazing temples. We started the day at Nanzen-ji, a large temple not far from us. Then we made our way across town to Otsuka, a small steak restaurant, for a truly delicious wagyu beef lunch recommended by one of Dan’s colleagues. We hadn’t originally planned it, but since we were over there, we walked through the Arashiyama bamboo grove and then along the river. We then intended to do a walking tour of Southern Higashiyama from our guidebook, but ended up on the right bus going the wrong direction, so instead took a bus tour around Kyoto and got off in a more northerly bit to visit Ginkaku-ji, a temple, and walk the Path of Philosophy. We ate dinner of sort of Japanese tapas at a small restaurant that also served fancy cotton candy by day. We’d passed it on the previous night in our neighborhood. 28,824 steps.
  • Saturday, July 15: Kyoto still. We spent the morning doing the walking tour we’d intended to do the previous day and visited two more temples: Koidi-ji and Shoren-in. Shoren-in was very close to our apartment, and less crowded and very lovely. Then we took the train out of the city to Kibune, where we walked along the road until we found a restaurant that would take us (sans reservations, on a busy Saturday) for kawa doko – eating a set course meal while seated on platforms over the river. It was great. Then we did the hike over the mountain to the next valley over, Kurama, and trained back to Kyoto. That night was the first of two eve festivals for Gion, an annual festival in Kyoto involving portable shrines (floats). On the 17th, the floats would parade through the city, but were parked for visiting as part of the street festival before then. It was awesome to be part of this. We ate lots of food from vendors. 28,664 steps.
  • Sunday, July 16: We left Kyoto and headed to Onomichi, a small part town that is the beginning or end of the Shimanami Kaido – a 75km bike route across bridges and islands between Onomichi and Imabari. We stayed at Hotel Cycle, which is part of a larger market that contains the hotel, a coffee shop, a restaurant, a gift/wares shop, and a Giant bicycle store. Except for the Giant, they are all essentially the same company, it seems. We arrived too early to check in, so got ice cream and sat on the outside chairs to relax. We got our rental bikes from the Giant, ate dinner at the restaurant, and just took it very easy. 10,301 steps.
  • Monday, July 17: We got up early to take a 7:10 cycle express bus to Imabari where we started cycling around 8:30am and did the entire Shimanami Kaido! We were tired and hot (and a little sunburned) by the end, but I think this was my favorite thing. It was so awesome. Bridges, gorgeous views, citrus groves, gelato, biking. All the things. When we were done, we showered in the public shower stalls outside our hotel, relaxed for a bit in the coffee shop, and then made our way to our Hiroshima airbnb. We walked to dinner at Okonomi Mura – a crazy three story building filled with various okonomiyaki shops. 7,016 steps. But 76km of biking!
  • Tuesday, July 18: Dan wasn’t feeling well this day, so we took a super relaxed morning. Then we visited the A-bomb dome, the Peace Memorial Park, and the Peace Memorial Museum. I actually learned a lot about the development of nuclear weapons and some of the politics and the museum. This was generally very sobering. Afterward, we ate lunch at a place recommended by Lonely Planet, which was really cute and wonderful, and then had a lazy afternoon. We were really losing steam by this point in our trip. We went to a Japanese curry place around the corner from our apartment recommended by our airbnb host. 8,905 steps.
  • Wednesday, July 19: We traveled via Shinkansen to Kagoshima, another port town. From there, we took a taxi to the ferry terminal and then a hydrofoil ferry to Yakushima. The car rental company we’d booked through met us as we disembarked the ferry and miraculously handed Dan keys to drive away, on the left side of the road. He drove us to the south side of the island to our hotel (JR Hotel Yakushima), which was also heaven. After settling in, we partook of the onsen and then the amazing set course dinner. 5,949 steps.
  • Thursday, July 20: Last real vacation day! After the excellent buffet breakfast at the hotel, we (Dan) drove back north and we made our way up the mountain to the Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine where we hiked for approximately 5 miles by waterfalls, across streams, and past HUGE very old cedars that the island is known for (the largest/oldest, which we did not see, is estimated to be 3000-7000  years old). We then stopped at the Senpiro waterfall on the way back to the hotel. Our evening was very similar to the previous… except! After dinner we made our way to the Hirauchi Onsen, which is part of the rocky sea shore and only accessible within two hours of low tide. Low tide that night was around 11pm, and we arrived sometime after 9. It was dark and we had trouble finding it, but we made it, and it was a really incredible experience. Unlike other onsen we’d been to, it was mixed gender. There were other people there, but no staff or system or lights or anything – just an honesty pay box and a place on the sidewalk to leave one’s shoes. There were several pools. It was hard to tell how many with no light. And there were STARS! It was amazing. A kind of bizarre, otherworldly sort of experience – bathing with strangers on the beach in the almost pitch darkness, staring at the sky. 15,751 steps.
  • Friday, July 21: We ate another great breakfast, then left :-(. We returned our rental car at the tiny Yakushima airport and took a flight from there back to Kagoshima, then Kagoshima to Tokyo. Then, after a bit of delay, we flew 11 hours to Toronto and then a few more hours back to Baltimore. All told, it was four flights and over 30 hours of travel. It was nice to get home.

And that’s that! The trip was really incredible. It all worked out almost exactly is planned, which is amazing. We had no major (or really even minor) disasters. Partly that was due to a ton of planning (it takes hours and hours and hours, and recommendations from friends are super helpful – feel free to ask me if you want more information about how we went about planning this), but it was mostly due to just how organized, efficient, and punctual traveling in Japan is. A few general observations about the trip and Japan:

  • Obviously Dan and I prioritize being outside (hiking, walking, gardens, paths) to doing more cultural things like museums. But Japan has it all, whatever you’re interested in.
  • The food is delicious. But I missed vegetables. I eat so many vegetables.
  • Trains not only run on time, but run super-frequently. Everywhere. Which was awesome.
  • Japan is hot and humid in July. I’m not sure if this is consistently true or if it was just the weather while we were there, but Kyoto was by far the hottest. Tokyo was warm, but not as bad. Osaka was also probably hot, like Kyoto, but we were really only there and out and about at night. I had some periods of misery in Kyoto.
  • There are many wonderful hikes in Japan. I’m sure we missed a bunch. But based on the ones we didn’t miss… they are also crowded. Our hike from the Shin Hotaka Ropeway to Kamikochi was the least crowded.
  • People stand on the right and walk on the left on escalators (opposite of DC, which makes sense, because Japan also drives on the opposite side of the road). Except in Osaka, they do the opposite – stand on the right and walk on the left.
  • Japan has got it figured out with the ryokans. Bathe in hot spring waters, eat delicious food, sleep in a super-relaxing room on futons and tatami mats, repeat.
  • We never had to use many of the Japanese phrases I spent time trying to learn. Even in the more rural areas, there was enough English to get by.

I’ll try to get the other two posts up soon!

Spring Hiking (Part 1)

I already wrote a spring hiking post, but I’ve been fortunate enough to go twice this spring. Here’s what I did for my first trip, which I took with my friend Easter weekend. We were both pretty busy at that point (my friend was in the final stretch of law school, and I was in Budget season), so we decided to make it easy by going to the AT in Maryland. The AT goes through a pretty narrow section of Maryland, has a lot of entry points, and is only an hour or so from both DC and Baltimore, so it’s easy to get to and requires little planning.


***Quick aside: I generally spend a lot of time planning these trips. That was true when we lived in Atlanta (and similarly would plan at least one trip each spring and fall), and it’s true here. I think my criteria are fairly simple:

  • Within max 3 hours drive (here in Maryland, we sometimes stretch this a bit since most of the VA and WVA hiking is juuuust a little further)
  • Reasonable length for two at-least-partial days of hiking (so… anywhere from 8-20ish miles)
  • Has backcountry camp sites

In addition to those essentials, I have some additional preferences:

  • Loop. But out and back is fine
  • Elevation change
  • Water source
  • Campground or other car camping available near trailhead for Friday night
  • Haven’t done before

I have a hard time finding ideal candidates, and then it takes a long time to find ones that meet some of the criteria, to compare them to each other, to find nearby car camping spots, to make sure there are backcountry camping spots, to figure out permits if necessary, etc. If you have suggestions for resources, let me know! I frequently use midatlantichikes.com and backpacker.com.

In any case, I hope this blog can be a resource for you for hikes that generally meet those criteria. Aside over.***


Needless to say, I did not put a lot of time or effort into planning this trip. And you get what you plan for. While the AT in Maryland is nice and convenient, it is not the most memorable nor scenic part of the AT. And the easy access means that it’s easily accessible to lots of people. I wouldn’t say the trail was crowded exactly, but it wasn’t very remote. We were never very far from a road, and our campsite (near the Crampton Gap shelter at mile 1029.4 of the AT, according to cnyhiking.com) was only 0.5 miles from Gathland State Park and its access road – which allowed for our nearby campers (we were one of maybe six groups in this camping area near the shelter) to haul in beer their friends brought for them and have a pizza delivered by one of their mothers.

Still, lovely to be in the out of doors, as always, and to spend quality time with my good friend and dog.

We hiked from South Mountain Inn to the Crampton Gap shelter (with an additional short addition to Gathland State Park), which was a little over 7 miles, and hiked back the following day – we essentially did this hike backwards.

On Saturday, we took a break (after only 2 miles) at the recently renovated Rocky Run shelter. We met a volunteer there who was hiking out from another shelter further down the path that he said was used more by locals for partying and therefore had a lot of crap. We took the same break on Sunday on our way back, this time going further to check out that other shelter (and let Clio run in the water that was down there to cool off – it was over 90 degrees that Sunday!). It was definitely much more rundown. No pictures of that one.

The trail itself was largely on a ridge. There wasn’t a ton of elevation change. It was pleasant and walkable.

The main points of interest were Lamb’s Knoll and White Rock Cliffs. We stopped at White Rock Cliffs both ways for pictures.

After arriving at the shelter and claiming our campsite, we continued on without our packs to Gathland State Park. The land used to belong to a Civil War journalist named George Alfred Townsend, who for some reason was nicknamed Gath. It has a monument to Civil War correspondents. It had a few other buildings and nice open spaces as well. There were some people in costume and filming (I think) in one of the ruins. Or maybe just taking photos. I only got a picture of the monument.

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After that, we relaxed at our campsite. We had a fire in the evening, watched the sunset, and I enjoyed early morning coffee and relaxing by myself before others started to get up.

On Sunday, we hiked back to the Old South Mountain Inn. It was hot. I got sunburned. After the hike was over, we stopped for lunch at Brew’d Pub on our drive home. I had a saison and a local wild boar kielbasa (sans bun). Clio rested her overheated and weary body on the patio. Mm mmm.

Dan and I are booked pretty solid this summer. We’re already talking about when to go in the Fall, but we have been invited to four weddings in five weeks between September and October (prime fall hiking months). At this particular moment in time, I’m feeling way too busy and reluctant to give up weekends at home. Plus, Dan will have just started a new job in August and won’t be able to get so many weekends off. So. We’ll see. Maybe it’s a really good thing I went twice this spring.

Spring Hiking (Part 2)

I want to tell you about two hiking trips I’ve been on recently, but first, a few updates, mostly about my general state of mind:

  • My job is to assist in developing the President’s Budget (or rather, the small portions of it that fall into my portfolio area, which are all health policy related). The FY 2018 President’s Budget (which is a proposal to Congress for how to fund the government and a grand statement of the White House’s priorities) will be released soon. So I have been working more than usual. This time of year is usually in January, but because this is a new administration, it’s now.
  • I ran the Sole of the City 10K (pace: 8:09, although the last five miles were 7:51 – the first was so crowded) and the North Face Endurance Challenge trail half marathon (pace: 9:34) in April. They were both so fun!

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  • I am tired. Not physically so much (though a few weeks ago, I was that too – sleeping better now). But mentally. Emotionally. I haven’t had a lot of recharge time over the past month, month and a half, and I’m feeling it. I’ve been working a lot, busy on the weekends, around people a lot a lot, and just going going going. I haven’t meal prepped since I wrote about meal prepping, and I’ve run out of pre-made meals in the freezer, so this week I’ve been eating lunch out (hallelujah for sweetgreen order-ahead-and-pickup). This week feels a little better, even though I’ve had something every evening which has meant that I’ve had only around an hour at home each night before trying to get to bed. We have guests coming into town for the weekend tomorrow. Next weekend I’ll be in Denver (BolderBoulder and sister visit!) and the following weekend I’ll be in Grand Rapids (family trip and fishing!). The weekend after that is already super-packed. It’s just a lot. I’m trying to figure out strategies to recharge as I go, instead of needing a whole day (or even a whole evening, because those are rare too) with nothing planned and little human interaction.
  • Last week might have been less stressful and busy in the evenings had we not bought a new car! Mine broke the previous Friday night. On that Saturday, we made the decision to get a new car instead of fixing it. And we planned to shop on Sunday… but dealerships (and things like CarMax) are closed on Sundays in Maryland! ARGH. So we spent five hours on Tuesday and four hours on Thursday night dealing with that. And now. New car!! Hooray!

Hiking Trip 2 (most recent)

Despite feeling very tempted last weekend to stay home (see above), I joined Dan and another couple for a short (9-mile) backpacking adventure on the AT outside of Harrisburg, PA to Pulpit Rock and the Pinnacle. We originally planned to drive up Friday night, but due to stress of car shopping (and not being able to pack on Thursday night), we decided to go early Saturday. Our friends were driving down from Rochester, NY and had spent Friday night further north in Pennsylvania. Saturday’s weather forecast was for steady rain, but we met up at the trailhead around 11am anyway. We decided to give the weather a chance to resolve itself, and headed first to Hijinx Brewery then Taqueria Los Amigos in Allentown followed by Funk Brewery in Emmaus, PA.

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We made it back to the trailhead by 4 (still raining), made a plan to hike only to the AT shelter about a mile away and hang out there till Sunday morning, and set out.

Unfortunately, the shelter was super-crowded. So we continued on, hoping the rain would let up soon.

We made it to Pulpit Rock, enjoyed the almost-view, and continued on….

The rain never let up, so around 7pm and maybe 4.5 or 5 miles in, we finally called it quits and set up camp. My sleeping bag and pad had gotten a little wet around the edges (note to self – buy a rain cover for my backpack), but they were fine. It was lovely to take off all my wet clothes. Dan and I ate a sad dinner in our tent (sandwiches he’d made for himself, trail mix and a Larabar for me) and were asleep by 9. The rain ended sometime overnight. I of course work up early and was out of the tent before 6. It was chilly, but nice to just sit and enjoy the surroundings (and coffee with hot chocolate). By the time my fellow campers were up, it had become overcast again. We stopped at The Pinnacle further along our way and again enjoyed almost-views. But as we hiked on, the sun finally came out. We stopped to enjoy a mid-morning coffee (spiked with fireball that our friends brought) in a field before finishing the hike.

So that was that! As tired as I was (and annoyed at the rain), I’m still of course glad I went. This got long, so I’ll write about my other spring hike in another post :-).

Lately – February 2017

Lately:

Things I’ve been reading:

  • The Bone People. About three people – a man, a woman, and a child – all damaged. Set in New Zealand. Really beautiful, really hard to read at points, and really wonderful.
  • Big Little Lies. I read this on a short vacation in Park City last weekend. I was in the middle of reading Underground Railroad, but switched to this so that I could start watching the HBO series. I thought I had read it already, but I hadn’t. (Instead, I’d read The Husband’s Secret by the same author.) Anyway, a quick, fun, suspenseful read!
  • The Underground Railroad. Currently reading. Isn’t everyone? I’m going to a book club for this book on Wednesday (in three days!) and I’m only 30% into it. I should not have deviated last weekend to read Big Little Lies. Sigh. Anyway, I’m into it, it’s not that I’m not into it. I was just feeling a little beaten up after The Sympathizer and The Bone People and not wanting to read something with torture and abuse. Hence the deviation. But I’m back at it, and maybe I’ll be able to read enough by  Wednesday.

Things I’ve been watching:

  • Big Little Lies. I’ve watched the first two episodes. I think it’s good. It’s so hard to watch things based on books I’ve read. So far, it has only minor deviations from the book. I think it’s good. Certainly good enough to have on while I’m cooking dinner!
  • The Putin segment of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I don’t actually usually watch these types of shows (I group this with The Daily Show, SNL, Colbert, etc.). But I always wish I watched them more, and on the particular evening I watched this, I really wanted some perspective and comic relief on the media.

Things I’ve been eating:

  • Many of the recipes from Cassy Joy Garcia’s Fed & Fit book, including:
    • Cold Cut Roll-ups
    • Basic Pork Tenderloin and Easy Parsnip Mash
    • Roasted Fruit Pops
    • Anti-inflammatory Smoothie (I added spinach.)fullsizeoutput_aa9a
    • Buffalo Ranch Bison Burgers and Braised Greens (Really enjoyed these, and have been eating the leftovers in a salad with roasted sweet potato chunks and leftover homemade paleo ranch dressing, also from the book.)fullsizeoutput_aa99
    • Plantain Protein Pancakes with Salted Raspberry Jam (Yum.)
    • Sausage & Cranberry Stuffed Acorn Squash with Rosemary Orange Cream Sauce (thought I would love this, but I think I could have cooked my acorn longer, and citrus-y anything is really hit or miss for me. The orange cream sauce was a bit of a miss.) (Photo is from before I cooked it. You couldn’t see any red after I cooked it.)fullsizeoutput_aa98
    • Lemony Kale & Sausage Soup (wasn’t sure I would like this because, again, citrus. But turns out it was delicious and the lemon wasn’t lemon-y tasting, just bright.)
    • Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash Casserole (quite a lot of prep but pretty good).a2e19108-4b8a-401e-ba8e-3a1021aea263
    • Buffalo Chicken Casserole (made for the Super Bowl, and made with spaghetti squash instead of potatoes, which I didn’t have. Very good.)

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  • And… HelloFresh! Dan and I tried it out for two weeks. We meant to only do one week (we had an introductory offer), but I forgot to cancel it in time. I have to say, all the meals were really, really, really good. Easy to prepare, not too time consuming. I’ve always sort of pooh poohed these home delivery dinner things, since I have no trouble prioritizing grocery shopping and making dinner. But. It was convenient and delicious. And I was able to make them all paleo/Fed&Fit compliant. We’re trying Blue Apron with an introductory offer next week 🙂 (but those will be more difficult to make paleo/compliant). Some photos:

Races I’ve registered for:

Fitness I’ve been doing:

  • Still CrossFitting at CrossFit Federal Hill. 3x week, except the past two weeks. I developed some fairly intense low back pain throughout January, and it got so bad a few weeks ago that I totally put the halt on everything. Then I saw a PT and met with the gym owner and gained back some confidence to keep moving but taking it easy. So now I’m back at it, with lower weights.
  • Still running 2x week. Yesterday, I did a 6-mile trail run in Patapsco State Park. I combined the Soapstone Trail with the Grist Mill Trail and road, then the River Trail, and returned on the Grist Mill Trail from the swinging bridge. Clio had a blast (so did I). It was near 70 degrees! I’ll be doing more trail runs to get ready for the half marathon. Fun!
  • Easy C1 yoga at CorePowerYoga in Fed Hill and Canton. This has been amazing for my back. I hadn’t been in a while, but have been 3-4 times over the past two weeks.
  • Skiing at Snowbird and Deer Valley in Utah last weekend.

So that’s that! I’m going to do a cooking class tonight with Baltimore Delta Gamma alumnae at Pier Point Restaurant. Looking forward to it!