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

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 1 (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!

Eating and Skiing in Park City

Dan and I had a romantical weekend in Park City, UT last weekend. Here’s what we ate:

  • Handle. We ate here our first night. We shared four starters (beet salad, mushrooms, smoked trout, and buffalo cauliflower) and one entree (venison). They’re famous for their buffalo cauliflower, apparently, and it was good… but I could have taken or left it. It was probably good to have because Dan was hungry. But the beet salad (with a duck egg), mushrooms (with crusty bread slathered in some kind of fat), and smoked trout (with pepper jelly and ricotta cream) were really great. The venison was simplegreat but not the star. The service was pretty good (definitely acceptable but not impeccable), and the atmosphere was nice.
  • Firewood. We ate here our second night in Park City. This restaurant has only been open for about 8 weeks, I believe, and you could tell. As I mentioned in my Charlottesville post, the entry process at restaurants can make or break the experience for me. When we arrived, there were several other groups in the entryway of this restaurant. It was unclear what they were all doing, but it seemed that one was waiting for a table, one was getting their coats hung up (nice touch – something I looked for and was missing at Handle). But the walkway to the host podium was clear, so I walked up to it, where the hostess was looking down at her iPad. And continued to look down, doing stuff. And continued. After a minute or so, she finally looked up and greeted me. Not. Cool. Then we had to ask to get our coats hung (the coat hang lady didn’t realize we were not part of another group or waiting for that, but that’s forgivable). Finally, we were seated. When our server walked up, he had a card in his hands, and he too, was looking down at it (I think reading from it, actually), as he approached our table, and he did not make eye contact for the first several seconds. He ended up being a fine server, though a little awkward. The food was really good, though. We split two starters (oak wood roasted acorn squash with baby greens, goat cheese and cardamom spiced pumpkin seeds – YUM!; and the applewood smoked burrata with beets and tarragon pesto) and each had a main (Dan had the rack of lamb with lentil ragout, and I had the berbere spiced duck). All very, very good. Especially that roasted acorn squash. God.
  • Wasatch Brew Pub. Nothing special, just burgers and beer (my burger was pretty salty, actually). But the service was notable. Again, nothing special, very casual… but very well-timed, no awkwardness. It was in stark contrast to the evening before at Firewood. (We overheard that our server was also a server at a fancy restaurant, I believe at Deer Valley, so that might explain it.

We skied at Snowbird and Deer Valley. Snowbird was white out conditions – not my fave. Deer Valley started out with some windy, white out conditions, but the weather improved, and I had a really, really enjoyable day. I didn’t want it to be over! (Usually by 3 I’m ready to cuddle up with my book and a drink in the lodge, but not this day.)

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Revelstoke

Six or so years ago, my husband and his best friend spent a day skiing with a classmate of my husband’s and her father. They raved about the skiing in this place called Revelstoke in British Columbia, Canada. I think it was a new resort at the time. (Wikipedia just told me it opened in December 2007.) My husband and his best friend have fantasized about skiing there ever since.

The two of them have been skiing together out west at least once a year (and usually more) for the past ten years. For the first six of those years, it was just the two of them and occasionally me and/or someone else who was available for a somewhat random ski hill meetup, like with Dan’s classmate. But for the past four years, it has been a bigger group/reunion, with a core group of six of us that all went to the same college, plus a few other friends or significant others each year. Four years ago, we rented a house outside Park City. I believe there were 7 of us that  year. The next year, we got a house (the best house ever) in Big Sky, Montana. We were… 12? that year. Again, friends from college, Atlanta, a friend of mine from Madison, and friends of friends. Last year was thrown together a little late – we were 8 staying in a not-as-great house in Salt Lake City and driving to ski resorts, but I had one of my favorite days skiing ever at Powder Mountain. And this year, finally, we made the trek to Revelstoke, Canada. This year there were 8 of us total.

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It took 17 hours of traveling to get there, and 17 hours to get home yesterday. Both travel days, we had to wake up at 3 am local time. But it was worth it.

We got to see friends:

 

There were some amazing views of Revelstoke and the Columbia River:

 

And Lake Louise in Banff:

 

Plus I got to go for a short 3-mile hike, all by myself, fresh tracks, in Mount Revelstoke National Park (with snow up to my waist when I accidentally stepped off the path – the pictures don’t quite capture it):

 

And see wildlife. In the middle of the Trans-Canada Highway:

 

And eat good food. Some of which was only good-tasting if not good for me:

As far as eating goes, our MO has become a huge Costco shopping trip as soon as we arrive to purchase food for the week. Each person/couple takes a night to cook and populates a shared grocery shopping list in advance. We spend the last night (or in this case, two) eating leftovers. One or two people also take on sandwich-making duties each morning for everyone for on-mountain lunches. It works out great. Our Costco trip for 8 people this time for the week was under $500. That’s about $60/person for food for the week. Not bad. And everyone makes really good food. In the picture above, Dan is eating a taco filled with mole chicken we made together. For dinners, we ate:

  • Saturday (arrival day): burgers and sausages, salad, and sweet potato fries
  • Sunday: meatballs and pasta (atop kale for me)
  • Monday: homemade pizza
  • Tuesday: chicken in mole sauce, plus taco fixings
  • Wednesday: tofu stir fry
  • Thursday and Friday: leftovers

We did pretty well this time not wasting any food. In past years, we’ve eaten at least one dinner out. This time, we didn’t do any (though I did fill up on that poutine in the picture above on the last day at the Lake Louise ski resort), but we probably should have eaten out the last night. We were really scrounging. But we got back from Lake Louise late after a harrowing 3.5 hour drive through fog and snowy roads along the Trans-Canada Highway and then had to get up at 3 am the next morning to drive 2.5 hours more, so eating out wasn’t really in the cards.

I skied 4 days – 3 at Revelstoke and 1 at Lake Louise. Two friends and I (we are known as the ‘Blue Crew,’ but have sort of graduated to the ‘Blue-Black Crew’) took a private lesson on the second afternoon that was a lot of fun. I like doing stuff that challenges me (i.e., not just the blue groomers), but I like having my hand held when I do it.

Revelstoke was amazing. It has the longest vertical in North America (5,620 feet). The longest run (the green run that goes from the top all the way down) is 9.5 miles long. It was exhausting. We got a fair amount of snow mid-week and had a lot of powder on Wednesday, which was incredible. So fun. Longer lift lines, unfortunately, but worth it.

Lake Louise was okay. It was kind of icy in parts and had less varied/interesting terrain. The view across the valley of Lake Louise was incredible, though. Pictures don’t do any of this justice. And I was sort of cold that day and pretty tired from the week. I only skied about 3.5 hours. Then I went to the pub and drank a hot toddy and ate poutine.

I always try to hike at least one day while on these ski trips. I love hiking in the snow. I’ve been fortunate to find  hikes that are manageable without snow shoes. (Except for that time two years ago in Big Sky when Dan and another friend and I hiked six miles into a canyon and definitely should have had snow shoes.) This hike was easily accessible from town, didn’t feel too remote to make me feel nervous, and elevated my heart rate at times but didn’t leave me exhausted. It was a rest day, after all.

All in all, a very good trip. I’m very glad to be home, though, and back to my routine. Like  most Sundays, yesterday I grocery shopped and made lunch for the week. And I was back at CrossFit this morning at 5:30 am…

Lately – December 2016

Lately:

Things I’ve been reading:

  • The Sympathizer. I’m definitely enjoying this book, though it’s taking me a long time to get through. I was distracted early on by reading Food Freedom Forever (which I haven’t technically finished all of) and Chris Kresser’s The Paleo Cure. I was hoping to learn a little more about the Vietnam War from the book than I think I am, but it’s good regardless. I mean, would I question a Pulitzer anyway?
  • The December 2016 issue of the Atlantic. Before they knew the result of the election. Sigh.

Things I’ve been eating:

  • Alanna’s Cranberry Pumpkin Nut & Seed Loaf posted on Love & Lemons. I’ve made this four times now, and I’ll probably make it again this weekend. I’ve been eating a piece each day for breakfast. I’ve never followed the recipe exactly (I don’t use dried cranberries, and I mix up the nuts and seeds according to what I have). I’ll post about it soon, hopefully.
  • The Logan salad with grilled chicken at Taylor Gourmet. Love. Fall/winter should never end.

Things I’ve been listening to:

  • The Spotify playlist I made of the The Bitter Southerner’s Best Southern Records of 2016
  • Daphne Moreau of Mode and the City‘s Ultimate Christmas Playlist
  •  Podcasts:
    • Paleomg Uncensored. I don’t know what happened. I used to find Juli Bauer a little annoying. I think that began when I read her About page and it said something about being from Colorado but NOT loving the outdoors. As someone  who really misses living in Colorado BECAUSE of the outdoors, that annoyed me. And she’s loud. But. She’s won me over with her honesty, opinionatedness, and who-gives-a-fuck attitude. (Not that she has any idea who I am or should care how I feel about her.)  Now I follow her on Snapchat and Instagram and listen to her podcast. Her podcast skills are beginner, but she’s going for it.
    • Girls Gone WOD. Ugggghhhh. I actually love this one. They’re smart and funny and relatable. I say ugh because I’m realizing how many things on this page are paleo or CrossFit. I’ve been drinking the paleo kool aid for a while now, but now CrossFit too. Sigh. I especially enjoyed episodes 176, 171, and 168. That last one because Juli Bauer.
    • You Had One Job, a short story read on This American Life. Written by the brother of one of my husband’s colleagues.

Things I’ve been watching:

  • The original Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I do this every. year. No joke. I don’t actually really watch it anymore, it’s just on in the background, usually while I’m cooking. But also sometimes while I’m brushing my teeth, putting away laundry, and other mundane things.
  • Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Of course. So…. okay. Part of me kind of wishes it hadn’t happened, because it actually affects how I’m feeling when I’m rewatching the original. But… mostly it was really great.

 

 

The Nearest Outdoors

I’ve been feeling a little stifled by the urbanness of my environment lately, so I’ve been trying to get outside as much as possible. Our backpacking adventure in Virginia a few weeks ago was great, but isn’t getting me through. So I took the opportunity a few weekends in a row to go to Patapsco State Park, which includes several different areas across central Maryland. I most frequently go to the Orange Grove and Avalon areas, because they are the closest, but I’ve been to several of the other areas and they are also nice.

I did the same quick trail on both of these two weekends, once just with my dog and the second time with Dan and the dog. The trail is called Buzzard Rocks, which I got to from the Orange Grove area parking area and by crossing the swinging bridge over the Patapsco River. It starts out very steeply but then evens out and is fairly flat. The leaves were lovely. Afterward, on the first weekend, Clio took a dip in the water.

Weekend 1:

 

Weekend 2:

 

Patapsco is also great for picnics and mountain biking. Last summer, I planned a surprise picnic for Dan to celebrate the end of his residency, and I tried to do it in one of the many Patapsco pavilions. I quickly learned that the largest pavilions start getting rented out in January (or before) for summer weekends, so we weren’t able to do it there. (We ended up doing it in a county park.) There were many smaller picnic pavilions available, but either they were to small or they didn’t allow alcohol (some do, some don’t).

Before the picnic, I surprised Dan with a mountain biking adventure in the McKeldin area, which was a ton of fun. Until Dan got a flat tire and we had to bushwhack our way to a road so that I could uber back to the start and then come back to pick him and the bikes up. Anyway, I’d like to do more mountain biking there. We’re talking about giving each other mountain bikes for Christmas. We’ll see. MTB Project is a great resource for finding mountain bike routes.

Anyway. A decent place to get outdoors.

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