Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Where is the Snow

With a new year about to begin and reflecting back on 2015 I have realized that many moments, adventures & trips spent outside are what I remember most and what has made me happiest. While planning some of those adventures I often  found myself reading articles or finding different blog posts that were helpful in planning. I've decided to share some of my adventures here, with a little bit of lifestyle mixed in. Thank you for stopping by & reading. Enjoy!

When Alex and I took a trip to Vermont towards the end of October, we were SO excited to see snowfall and it got us really excited for winter

Now knowing that it was a tease, lack of snowfall in the Northeast has become quite the joke. Just take a look, here, here, or here and my favorite, here. As I mentioned in my first post, Alex and I would normally be planning a ski weekend in December. When we planned our trip to the Highland Center Lodge for the day after Christmas, we knew backcountry skiing wouldn't be an option. We were hopeful to still maybe see some snow? Maybe have enough to use snowshoes? As the weekend came closer and we looked at the weather, it was not favorable for either of those options and we packed our hiking boots, and only our hiking boots. We had big plans & originally wanted to check off another 4000', Mt. Tom.  It would be a 5.7 mile round trip hike, gaining about 2380 ft and estimated to take about 4 hours. On Saturday night knowing the forecast was even less favorable, we made plan B which was to hike Mt. Willard. A 2865' peak, 3.3 miles round trip from the lodge, a 971 ft. elevation gain estimated to take just about over two hours. When we woke up on Sunday morning, the wind was howling (it actually kept me up a lot of the night it was so loud) and there was ice.
Looking out from our room with ice covering the window

We took our time getting up, enjoyed our breakfast and sat by the fire. I was enjoying the morning drinking coffee and reading my new book I had just purchased.

We would have intermittent conversations of, "are we going?" "ok, lets go" "no, its really raining hard..." As our checkout time approached we finally decided together, "OK Let's Go!" As hard as it was to tear my self away from the warm fire and go out into the rain, I am glad we did. The ice actually made things very beautiful and as always, it was wonderful to be outside.

 The hike was an easy-moderate grade up the the Mt. Willard Trail. It got my heart rate going and left my legs with a slight reminder the next day. My fibit surge actually clocked it at 3.78 miles round trip and it took us just under two hours, Strava claims it was a 921' gain. (Stats mentioned in the paragraph above are from the AMC White Mountain Guide one of my favorite trip planning tools!) The trail climbs next to a brook for a while, crosses over it twice and about 1/4 mile in there is a clearing at the brook with Centennial Pool which looks like an amazing spot to take a dip in the summer. The trail was slick in spots, I never felt like I had to use micro spikes. However, Kristen had just got them for me for Christmas and I wanted to try them out! Unbeknownst to us we put them on at a slick part which was right before the summit. 

I enjoyed wearing them.They made walking around the icy granite at the summit easy, as well as aided on the way down.
Along the way up we passed some hikers and one told us the view would come and go, mostly go. We heard from our friends who hiked the trail the day prior that the views were awesome and unexpected for a small peak. We unfortunately didn't get to see any of it. 

Still, with smiles on our faces, we enjoyed walking around the peak for a bit, ducking into the woods and thinking that this would be a really cool spot to camp (until we saw the sign for no camping). It would make for a great shorter hike in the summer, a good relaxing spot for lunch & a perfect spot for the hammock

Since I am just beginning this blog, I welcome any comments or feedback! Thanks for reading.

*Update* Since beginning this post Boston has seen some snow! I think my Christmas Cocktail is working! We are heading up to Killington for New Years so lets continue to pray for [more] snow. Happy New Year all!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Day & A Weekend Getaway

With a new year about to begin and reflecting back on 2015 I have realized that many moments, adventures & trips spent outside are what I remember most and what has made me happiest. While planning some of those adventures I often  found myself reading articles or finding different blog posts were helpful in planning. I've decided to share some of my adventures here, with a little bit of lifestyle mixed in. Thank you for stopping by & reading. Enjoy!

Christmas Day 

Alex and I hosted Christmas Day with my family at our apartment. My Mom, Dad, my sister Kristen and her boyfriend Bob all came over for an afternoon of apps, drinks, presents and a great dinner. The meal was a joint effort from many and came out perfect. Kristen made the twice baked potatoes. Mom made a Mushroom Medley Tart and an amazing Port Wine Demi Glaze for the Beef Tenderloin Roast that Alex cooked perfectly! In a joint effort, Alex roasted parsnips, carrots & brussels sprouts which I glazed with butter and maple syrup. I also made a signature cocktail which I named a Pray For Snow Sparkler and put together a Hot Chocolate Bar!

I have many things from my Grandparents house in our apartment - this chalkboard is one of my favorites. The glasses on the table below & the ones uses for cocktails were also my Grandmas.

Pray For Snow Sparkler; Muddled ginger in a shaker, added fresh lemon juice & Creme De Casis, shake with ice then pour over champagne. Topped with a dash of angostura bitters & pomegranate seeds

This was the first time I baked camembert and I don't think I will eat it cold again! I scored the top of the cheese & popped in some garlic cloves & rosemary, baked on 300 for 30 min right in the wooden box it came in. So delicious, I will add more than 4 small cloves of garlic next time!

I found a great recipe for home made mocha hot chocolate which I amended a little bit: 1 C. unsweetened coco powder, 10 oz bag milk chocolate chips, 10 oz bag dark chocolate chips, 1 vanilla bean, 2 Starbucks Via packets, blend in blender until you have very fine powder!  Kahlua and Peppermint Schnaps were perfect additions.

Everyone got to go home with their mug from the hot chocolate bar

Center cut beef tenderloin with garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper & butter

How could I forget to previously mention Moms home made Chocolate Eclair Wreath!
This has been a tradition at our Christmas for as long as I can remember.

This is our cute cat Saidie who positioned herself perfectly under her ornament that says "Meowy Catsmas"


Weekend Getaway

A few weeks before Christmas Alex and I decided it would be fun to get out of the city the day after Christmas. Usually our first thought would be "where do we want to ski?!" However, with lack of snow so far (my Christmas Cocktail is not working fast enough) our thought was more "should we go hike?" We thought about renting this adorable Yurt we found on Airbnb...but we weren't sure that we wanted to think about meal prep and bring supplies. When planning weekends or a night away three main things often play a factor in our planning: budget, distance from home and looking for a place with charm or character. The White Mountains are always a top go to spot for  many of our weekend getaways. Franconia notch is about  2:30 hours from Boston with Crawford Notch  @ 2:45. We spent some time up there this summer and visited the AMC Highland Center Lodge for the first time & talked about wanting to stay there since! Originally looking at the price ($102pp/night was the member rate) it was seemingly more than we wanted to spend. When you factor in that dinner and breakfast is included in the price, we thought it was worth it. 

Highland Center Lodge is perfectly situated in Crawford Notch. It has the Southern Presidentials sitting on its east and the Willey Range to its south west. So many hikes and routes to choose from! Also a hike away are some of the AMC High Huts. You can also connect to the Bretton Woods Xcountry trail network from the lodge (I believe they require a day pass). If you are not an overnight guest at the lodge you can not park there, but there are a few lots 1/4 mile or less away. It makes a great beginning point for a hike to fill up water bottles, use the restroom and purchase last minute supplies or gear in their store.

Staying at Highland Center Lodge is not a place I would recommend for everyone. It is a very communal space from the sitting room, to the library, to shared bathrooms (they do have some rooms with private bathrooms, more $) Dinner is buffet style and served in a large dining room where you will often share tables with other guests. We love it. You get to meet and interact with lots of people who are there for the same reason as you, to enjoy the outdoors. It is a very warm, welcoming and comfortable atmosphere. Not to mention the inside of the lodge is beautiful.

I loved all of the rooms names. I think we got placed in one of the best with Mt. Eisenhower!  In the picture of the lodge above it is the top doghouse window on the far left which looked out to the Willey Mountain Range. 


Just after we checked in and settled I was kicking my self for not bringing wine and cheese. We left the room to explore the lodge and in the large living room they were having a social which was free for guests. It included these delicious little spicy chicken wings, cheese & crackers, & wine for sale. Perfect!

Having stayed in a few of AMC's lodges and huts before one of my favorite things about them is the library with a great collection of books and journals. You could stay occupied in there for hours.

I choose to read up on a very old edition of winter hiking and camping. Alex chose to read... his cell phone. Just kidding, he did eventually pick up a really cool journal on the New England Ski Museum. 

We loved our stay at the Highland Center and would definitely go back for another stay.
Thanks for reading my first blog post! Next up I'll write about our (little) hike the next day!