Snowy Adventures and My Secret Spot

It’s a brand new year folks (where does the time go?!) and so far, 2017 is going swimmingly! (Again, I know there are plenty of valid fears and disappointments out there over the state of politics and our world today, but I’m keen to keep this blog about positivity and finding happiness so am going to do my best to keep those worries out of it. Know that I’m not ignoring the situation, but trying to live my own life in the most stress-free way I can). I feel like by nature of being an adult (though in the words of my dear dad – “YOU? An adult?!” Hehe) and realizing how quickly time goes by, plus all the work I’ve done trying to get myself in a calmer, happier place over the past year and a half, has really helped me be in the moment much more than I used to and enjoy the place I’m at.

For example, I have never liked winter. Don’t get me wrong – there have always been things about winter that I’ve enjoyed, especially as I grew up in a part of the country with the infamous Lake Effect snow, which equaled tons of sledding, snowball fights, and snow forts as a kid and lots of skiing as a teenager. But I’m not a cold weather and drear kind of person. I like to be outside as much as possible and I feel so so much more energized after being out in the sun. (I swear to you, I need so much more sleep in the winter, which doesn’t always work out with the scheduling of modern society PLUS trying not to put on the winter chub as my body desperately wants to do). But this year, I have to say, I’m really kind of enjoying it!

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New Year’s Eve view.

I spent the holidays winter hiking through a bout of bronchitis – not allowing it to bring me down! Just perhaps moving a bit slower than I normally would have up through the rolling hills of western NY. My parents live in an incredibly beautiful part of the country and you can literally access a huge chunk of forest just by walking out their back door. When I was recovering there from my back surgery a couple of years ago, I liked to refer to it as my “country house” and I hoped people would picture me sipping tea in the sunshine while sitting in the garden (which is basically what I was doing between my many, many recovery naps and long, drugged walks down the tree and farm-lined road). The woods are full of logging roads and snowmobile and four-wheeler paths, which are quite convenient for a person who likes to wander among the trees. Especially since I rarely see another person up there. Plenty of deer, but rarely any other people, which is how I like it. I can spend my entire hike in silence, listening to the birds chirp and the chipmunks rustle through the undergrowth, or I can sing at the top of my lungs and not have to worry about assaulting another person’s poor ears. It’s pretty amazing!

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My best hiking buddy – Shamrock.

I actually spent the last day of 2016 with Shamrock (my dog nephew and best hiking buddy) and two close friends – Beth and Carolyn – hiking through about a foot of snow on my very favorite loop behind my parents’ house. If you’ve seen the movie North (which is amazing and you need to if you haven’t – don’t trust Rotten Tomatoes, or really any movie reviews about it except mine, which is glowing), you’ll remember that the main character talks about his secret spot, where he goes to think. Well, this particular loop is my secret spot (though there are very few people who know of this spot and you’ll never find it just by way of me mentioning it, so don’t worry – I’m not giving away a secret here). We played in the snow, sweated out some toxins, talked about our favorite moments of 2016 and our dreams for 2017, and generally had a pretty jolly time. It was the perfect way to end the year. Not to mention, I usually hate New Year’s Eve – I think it’s overrated, expensive, and cold. I feel like I always end up disappointed. Last year, I was still heartbroken over Rich and I was the ONLY non-couple at the party I attended. This year, I went on amazing snowy hike with two of my favorite people then to a family party to ring in the New Year (and my dad’s 60th birthday) with some of the most influential (and wonderful) people of my life where I stuffed myself with fruit and chocolate chip cookies, two of my favorite things. Life is what you make it. You don’t have to stand in line outside in the cold to get into a bar you don’t really want to go to – you can spend time doing your favorite activities surrounded by people you love. You just have to choose to.

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New Year’s Eve hike!

New Year’s Day was my dad’s 60th birthday, and I had actually originally been planning to drive back to DC that day so I’d have a day to unpack and recover before going back to work. But my dad had repeatedly talked about how he wanted to try cross-country skiing, so I told him I’d stay an extra day if he’d go with me. I was a downhill skier (though not a particularly good one) from high school until the time I hurt my back. I used to do it all winter long and it really did make winter a whole lot more fun. A few days before New Year’s, I went out with my brother Andy to Holiday Valley, a local ski resort about an hour from our parents’ house where we skied all throughout high school, to try it out for the first time in years. I was SUPER nervous that it would bother my back and I’d have to stop, but the only thing holding me back once I got here was my wobbly legs and fear. I almost forgot how to ski! But I picked it up again by the end of the day and remembered why I used to do it all winter – what a thrill!

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Dad having fun cross-country skiing at Allegany State Park.

Anyway, so on New Year’s Day, the only clear and sunny day we had for the entire week+ that I was home (western NY only gets about 150 days of sun per year – too gray for me!), my dad and I journeyed up to Allegany State Park (where we camped out and vacationed constantly when I was a kid – I love it there so much), to try out cross-country skiing. It was my first time trying it, and I have to tell you, I fell in love. It wasn’t as smooth and easy as downhill skiing, but it was accessible enough to us newbies that we were able to handle it, and there were already paths carved by previous skiers, which made it easier for us. It gave me the free feeling of running without the impact and stress on my back, and my abs were even sore the next day! My dad had trouble getting his ski on at first and this extremely nice, patient man stopped to help us. (Don’t believe what you hear about Northeasterners – I promise we’re a nice bunch of people!). We had also just had a snowstorm for a few days prior, so the forest was filled with this bright white, gorgeous, powdery fresh snow. Combine that with the quiet of the woods and the deep blue of the sky and you had: winter heaven. I had such a good time in fact that I found myself wishing I lived in a place with a real winter (I never in a million years would have pictured myself thinking this a few years ago). After, I went sledding down a hill with a big open field at the bottom then tried to snap a few lovely winter scenic photos, though my phone froze from the cold so that ended my photography for the day. We ate oranges and chocolate chip cookies that I had stolen from the party the night before and were content in our exhaustion and accomplishment. Then, we went home to eat homemade pizza and cake to celebrate his birthday. It was the absolute best New Year’s I think I’ve ever had.

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Cross-country skiing at Allegany State Park.

I should note that when I embarked on this little adventure with my dad, he had told me he’d never been cross-country skiing before and wanted to try it. Turns out, that was a stretch of the truth! He had actually been about 30 years before. He bought a pair of skis and secretly went out into a field after dark to try and learn how because he was embarrassed to do it in front of people. After a couple of sessions and not totally getting it, he gave up. Glad I was there (30 years later) to give him another shot at it! And he did just fine.

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Sledding at Allegany State Park.

Since I’ve been back in DC, I’ve tried to get back into the groove of rock climbing and yoga, and of course finding alternatives to hazy nights out, which has so far meant spending Friday night cooking an amazing, vegan, healthy curried potato and lentil soup that I’m eating for lunch all week and Saturday night out to dinner with friends. Not too shabby – I’m enjoying life.

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A little photography before my phone died. View from the beach at Red House Lake, Allegany State Park.

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