Never Forget

I know it’s not news to any of you that today marks the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11.  This particular day always sneaks up on me.  I get so busy with the beginning of school and getting back into a routine that before I know it special documentaries are playing on the TV and survivor stories are being featured on the Internet.  I’m glad that we still put so much significance on the anniversary instead of letting it fade away to annals of history like so many major events do.  I know as the years go by that will start to happen, but for those of us who lived it, albeit from a safe distance, acknowledging our country’s tragedy is way to pay tribute to the men and women we lost.

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This year I was fortunate enough to witness a tribute to the brave men and women of the New York City Fire Department that lost their lives on September 11th.  Most of you know that John is a Hot Fireman on the side.

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He tried out and was hired for the local fire department (it’s a part-time department) about two years ago largely because he thought it would be a really great experience.  Thus far, he’s really enjoyed it.  Of course, he may be feeling differently today since he was out until 1:30 on a call last night, but I digress!

A few months ago, some of the guys at his station started talking about the third annual Oklahoma City Stair Climb.  This is an event in which firemen and women from all over the state (and others!) come to Oklahoma City to climb 110 flights of stairs, the number of flights in the Twin Towers, in full bunker gear.  Some of the local guys participated last year, and they talked John into coming along this time.  It didn’t take much for him to jump on board, and he spent a few months really training for it.

Fast forward to this last weekend.  We made the three-hour trip to OKC on Friday night, checked into our hotel, and tried to get some sleep before the alarm went off.  John had to be there to register by 7:00 so I dropped him off in front of the First National Center, and tried to find a parking spot downtown.  It was raining like crazy which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  The temperature was right around 65 degrees which was heaven in that stairwell for everyone participating.

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The building they were climbing has 29 floors which worked out to about three trips up.  They only open registration to 343 people who represent the number of fire personnel that were killed.  Most everyone participating chooses to do so in all of their bunker gear including their air tank.  It is a lot of weight, but the main problem is the suits hold in ALL THE HEAT so the lower temperatures were wonderful.  Trust me-Oklahoma in September can be very, very different!

They deployed the 343 climbers in groups, and the first group started up at exactly 8:46, the time the first tower was struck.  The lobby of the building was crowded with families and various spectators who would give a rousing round of applause for each group entering the stairwell.  There was a definite feeling of camaraderie.

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I was able to get a few pictures of John as he passed on his first and second trips up.  After that last time, I moved across the room to get a good spot to take a picture of him finishing which was truly the most touching part.

Each person was given the name of a fireman that died on 9/11, and they carried that person’s picture and name tag during the climb.  When they finished all three sets, each climber would ring a bell set up in the middle of the room,  and then move to a board to place the name tag of their fallen fireman.

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At that moment, you could see on every person’s face the gravity of what they were doing.  Many knelt to pray, and all seemed to be taking a quite moment of reflection.  I was surprised how emotional it made me feel.

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I am so proud of John for participating, and very thankful that I was able to be a small part of it.  I know every person there felt honored to pay tribute to the fallen, and every time days like this happen, their memory is kept alive.  It’s a small way to make sure we never forget.

Enough With The Stuff

Hello!  So today I was going to jump right in, but I cannot pass up a mention of how excited I am to hear the royal couple are expecting baby number 2!  I am not a kid person by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a total Anglophile and anything to do with the royal family grabs my attention.  Ok, I’ll stop my nerding out now.

I do have a subject near and dear to my heart that I wanted to chat about today.  Stuff.  You know what I mean.  Our closets are bursting with it.  The drawers are overflowing.  Under most beds in most households live the very darkest of my nightmares.

The only serious hoarding problem I have.

The only serious hoarding problem I have.

Yesterday morning I was chatting with one of the fourth grade teachers at school, and she was telling me all about the exciting changes she and her husband are getting ready to make.  The pair is gearing up to downsize from their 2000+ square foot home to an 1100 square foot space.  ”The stuff is weighing me down, ” she told me.  ”I’m done with the stuff.”

I enthusiastically encouraged her.  We live in a society in which everywhere we turn we’re encouraged to get more, buy more, want more.  We need three cars per family, and our houses need to be bigger and better.  I mean, how could you possibly raise two kids in less than 3000 square feet?

I don’t mean disparage anyone’s choices, but I truly believe more stuff does not equal more happiness and the clutter of our lives is existing simply to tie us down.

Generally, John and I do a pretty good job to resist this temptation.  We are definitely purgers, and we have very little sentiment which makes it easier to throw things away.  The feeling I get when I get rid of stuff we don’t need is liberating.  We have a smallish house, but, when we build a house someday, we’re planning on building a smaller one.  I often say that my goal in life is to be able to pack up and move within the space of one day, and, right now, I think we could do it.  If not, we’d get very, very close.

However, like everyone, we still have stuff that we hang on to that I would never miss.  So, yesterday afternoon, I identified some areas in my house that I could do a little work on.

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This is our “catch-all” cabinet.  I feel confident that every home in America has one, and we are no exception.  It’s not overwhelming bad, but there are still odds and ends and way too many cookbooks taking up space.

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Memory boxes!  Even though I’m not overly sentimental, I still have three of four boxes of memorabilia that I collected in my youth.  I need to go through them, and only keep the stuff that actually does have significant sentimental value.  If I can’t remember why I kept it, it’s probably safe to throw away.

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Last but least, my closet(s).  Here’s what I don’t understand:  I am not a clothes horse.  I know very little about fashion, and I generally wear the same five outfits all the time.  I even purge my clothes regularly, and, yet, I still have two closets full of stuff that I haven’t worn in a year or more.  I really have no idea how this phenomenon occurs.

So I’m taking a page from my colleague, and committing to taking the next month to really do away with the extra floating around my house.  By October, I want a less stressful house so I can have a more peaceful mind.  I’m challenging each one of you to join me!  Let’s all say enough with the stuff!

Are you a hoarder or a purger?  What’s the biggest area of your house that needs to be cleaned out?

#trailtime

Today I’m joining Amanda in one of my favorite link-ups so that I can Think Out Loud a bit!

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1.  So I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Wild movie trailer has been released.  You guys, I am ridiculously excited about this.  I’ve watched it half a dozen times at this point, and I’m sure there will be at least another couple dozen viewings between now and December.  By the way, the movie comes out two days after my birthday.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence, and you better believe I know what I’m doing for my birthday celebration this year.

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2.  This weekend John and I are headed to Oklahoma City, and we are definitely going to check in with these wonderful women while we’re there.

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Brandy (the blonde in front!) just had twin boys a couple of months ago so I have two very important gentlemen to meet.

3.  Unfortunately, Hayley (the blonde in back!) won’t be around, but we’ll catch her in a few weeks when we’re back in the City for a very important event.  Our friend, Jedd, will be at the starting line of the Redman Triathlon, his first Ironman-distance event.  He’s been putting in months and months of training, and I’m really excited to be there to cheer him on.

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4.  Have I mentioned I love fall?  You know it’s coming when the fall decor and candy start hitting the stores.  My mother-in-law knows the way to my heart, and had this special treat waiting on me when we visited the other day.

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Candy corn is love.

5.  I subscribe to The Notes From The Universe website, and yesterday this was in my inbox.

“Please don’t be alarmed, dear Natalie, as you walk down the path of life, should you ever find you suddenly don’t have the foggiest idea of how your grandest dreams will one day come to pass.

This is a good thing. A really good thing.

Just keep walking…
The Universe”

I can’t tell you just how much that was the exact thing I needed to hear.

6.  I am such a sucker for old music.  My James Taylor or John Denver Pandora station is playing constantly at work.

7.  Here’s progress picture on the kitchen cabinets.

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It’s coming along!  Now we just have the other half of the kitchen to do…………..

8.  I feel like I’m back in college these days.  I’m teaching European History this year, and I spend a large majority of my  mornings reading and making sure I’ve brushed up on all the facts for the afternoon lessons.  I love digging back into some of the subjects I haven’t studied in awhile, but, wow, is it a lot of information!

9.  So the most exciting thing I need to tell you about is tonight I’m teaming up with Sierra Trading Post to host a #trailtime Twitter chat!  We’ll be talking about all aspects of camping, and there’s always a lively discussion with some outdoor people who really know their stuff.  Be sure to pop in at 4 PM Mountain Time to discuss, learn, or just hang out with us.  I can’t wait to chat with you!

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See you this afternoon!

Workout Burnout

Happy September!  Yes, I am just about to get obnoxious on you.  It is no secret that I am not a hot weather fan AT ALL so I’m always more than ready for fall to roll around.  Even though we’ll still have ninety degree weather for a few more weeks, the beginning of September always means that fall is coming, and I might have done a little dance yesterday when I turned the page on the calendar.

Speaking of the weekend, I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day.  Although we had big plans to get some stuff done around the house, we didn’t get quite as much accomplished as we would have liked.  We are horrible home improvement people.  On any given weekend, John and I can think of about 1,000 things we’d rather be doing including binge watching The West Wing which is exactly what we did most of the weekend!  We did manage to start scraping the kitchen cabinets yesterday, and my kitchen has now become a war zone with a kaleidoscope  backdrop.  It takes us a really long time to finish projects in our house so I don’t even want to think about the amount of time the kitchen is going to look this way.

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So today I wanted to talk to you guys about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.  Workout burnout (isn’t that snappy phrasing?).  It seems like ever since we got home from our backpacking trip, I have had zero motivation to workout.  I don’t feel like running.  It’s hard to drag myself to Cross Fit.  I just plain don’t want to do it.  I think this is for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, I was way too overextended last year.  Not only did I spend most of 2013-2014 (you know I measure in school years!) getting into running and training for my first two half-marathons, but I picked up Cross Fit and consistently went four times a week.  By May, I was mentally and physically exhausted.

Plus, I’m a homebody.  It’s terrible but true.  How does this manifest itself in my workouts?  Well, it means that by the time I come home in the afternoon the last thing I want to do is turn right around and go to a class.  Perhaps it’s good old-fashioned laziness, but there it is.

Last but not least, I have a little confession to make.  The truth is, I really don’t like to workout.  Hear me out.  It’s just not something I naturally like to do.  Yes, I love the way you feel afterwards, and, yes, I still do it because I know it’s what’s best for my body.  However, I don’t crave it or even really enjoy it the way some people do.  If given my choice, I would spend the majority of my free time curled up with a book or hiking in the mountains (<–if I lived near mountains, all my exercise problems would be solved!).

So how do I combat this workout burnout and get my groove back?  Here’s a few simple strategies:

1.  Walk-I think sometimes walking doesn’t get the credit it deserves because it’s not seen as a strenuous exercise.  Sure, it may not be quite as intense as running or Cross Fit, but walking can still provide a great workout.  It has always been my favorite form of exercise, but I’ve not been doing it as much lately because I feel like I have to get more bang for my workout buck.  I plan rediscovering my love of walking especially on those days when fresh air would help after a long day at school.

2.  Switch it up!-I have a ton of different workout DVDs that are just gathering dust, and I use to really enjoy doing them.  There’s a workout board on Pinterest that I haven’t glanced at in ages.  It’s time to think outside the box a little.

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3.  Sign up for a race-I really do love to race.  There’s just something about the atmosphere of a half-marathon or even a 5K that’s addicting.  Plus, I am definitely one of those people that work better with a specific goal in mind.  Signing up for a race will give me focus and a goal to work towards.

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4.  Give myself a break-A huge part of the reason why I’ve developed this attitude lately is because I’ve been putting huge pressure on myself.  All day long I think about how much I need to make the 4:30 Cross Fit class so that by the end of the day, it’s the last thing I want to do.  I’m not going to put any expectations on myself for a few weeks.  If I feel like going, I’ll go.  If not, no problem.  Hopefully, this will mean that I truly enjoy the experience on the days I go, and that will make it a pleasant association in my mind again!

So this is what I’m going to focus on in the next few months.  Mental health is just as important as physical, and, hopefully, these strategies will clear my head and give me a fresh perspective on exercise in general.  Now, if you’ll excuse, I’m going for a walk!

Do you ever suffer from workout burnout?  How do you cope?

 

Channeling My High School Self

I am a total and complete sucker for “getting to know you” surveys.  I blame it on being a teenager in the early days of email when your friends would send you surveys all the live long day.  Come on-don’t pretend you don’t remember.  I saw this on Ashley’s site a few days ago, and I couldn’t resist playing along.  So, without further ado, here are 25 things about me!

1.  I’m happiest when I’m with John.

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2…..especially if it involves being out on the trail.

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3.  I’ve always wanted to live in the mountains.

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4. My family and I have this thing about Colorado.  I am not the only one obsessed (although my obsession is the strongest!), and I totally come by it honestly.

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5. I was a terrible math student.

6. My first job was at Burger King.  How cool was I?

7. I could probably eat ice cream every single day.

8. I stole a boy when I was in high school.  Not my finest moment.

9. I was born on the same day as Ozzy Osbourne, Amanda Seyfried, and Julianne Moore.

10. My all-time favorite film is When Harry Met Sally.

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11. I do a pretty mean southern accent.  Oh, wait, that’s real.

12.  I’m still mad I quit piano when I was younger.

13. I met my husband in college.

14.  I always knew I wanted to live in the mountains.  Dream will become a reality someday!

15.  I’m not afraid to try new things. I will pretty much try anything once!

16. I make the best lasagna.  Ok, it’s not restaurant quality, but I love it!

17. I have almost no singing ability. Seriously, it’s embarrassing.

18. I always cry when people find out they’ve been picked for Extreme Weight Loss.  They’re so happy, and you can just tell they know their lives have changed forever!

19. If pressed, I root for the OU Sooners and the Texas Rangers because that’s who my family loves, but, honestly, I’m not that into following sports.

20. I spent 4 years with a crush on John before we finally got together!

Friend zone days!

Friend zone days!

21. I wish my folks lived near me!

22.  At 8, I was deeply in love with The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins.

23. I believe if everyone had a dog the world would be a better place.

24.  I can’t stand when people are self-righteous.

25.  Whenever Gilmore Girls is on, I’ll watch it.

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See, wasn’t that fun?  Now you guys play along and answer a few in the comments.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Essential Gear For The Beginning Backpacker

Hi guys!  I hope everyone enjoyed your weekend, and your week is off to a great start!  John and I are actually looking after his boss’s house while they are exploring Ireland (yes, I’m jealous!) so we had the opportunity to soak up some sun by their pool.  It was like a little vacation without leaving town!  I could definitely get used to it.

So my assistant superintendent and her family have recently decided to get into backpacking.  This makes me all kinds of happy, and we’ve talked about almost nothing else every time I’ve seen her the last few weeks.  I’ve been getting random text messages asking about pots and sleeping bags and whether or not they should get a little lantern.  Backpacking and what trails we are exploring next are always my favorite topic of conversation, and discussing it with her lately has taken me back to when I was a  new backpacker.

I remember how daunting it felt to figure out what I needed/wanted to pack for that first trip.  What was absolutely necessary?  What would make the trip more comfortable?  What can I do without to cut weight?  It can definitely be an overwhelming process.  Luckily, John loves research and set us up pretty nicely!

But, for those of you who don’t like spending hours at a time in front of a computer, I’m going to boil down the few things that are must-haves in my book to make your first trip comfortable (relatively!) and successful.

1.  Backpack

A proper backpack is a top priority because it will be the vessel that carts around extra weight for the whole of your trip, and, believe me, they don’t all fit the same.  We are a Deuter family all the way.  John and I both have two Deuter’s a piece so we’re prepared for both short and long trips.  My brother-in-law used an Osprey over the summer, however, and really liked it.  Whatever you choose, make sure it fits properly on your hips.  If you’re completely unfamiliar with the way a backpack should work, I highly recommend going to a specialty store like REI.  They can definitely show you the ropes!  Tip:  You might think about buying your backpack last.  The type and size of the other gear you buy will determine the size of the pack you need.

Caite wore my small Deuter on our trip!

Caite wore my small Deuter on our trip!

2.  Sleeping Bag & Pad

This is definitely where quality matters.  Where it might be tempting to go for the $30 bag in your local Wal-Mart outdoor section, I can promise you’ll regret that decision the first night it drops below 45 degrees in the high country.  Sleep is precious on the trail, and sleeping on the ground can get old even among those of us who wished more of our lives were spent in a tent.  A sleeping pad that states inflated and keeps you off the ground along with a well-rated sleeping bag can make all the difference.  Also, it’s not all about comfort.  Getting caught in frigid temperatures without proper cover can become a safety issue.

3.  Tent, Tarp, or Bivy

So, technically, you can sleep under the stars and it’s something I’d like to try someday, but, all in all,  a form of shelter is an important piece of equipment.  We hike almost exclusively in the mountains where weather can be volatile and unpredictable so it is essential that we have somewhere we can take shelter.

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4.  Hiking Boots or Trail Shoes

When people talk to me about getting into backpacking, I always tell them my number one rule-take care of your feet!  They are you’re only modes of transportation, and in can be a game changer if something happens to them.  Even something as minor as a blister could develop into a serious problem if you’re fifty miles from your car.  At the very least, it will be a long, painful walk back so it’s best to avoid all that by finding a pair of boots or trail shoes that feel good on your feet.  Try several different pairs on, walk around the store, take them home and walk in them exclusively for a few days.  It’s important to really get a feel for a pair of boots before you take them into the backcountry.

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5.  Water purification system

Water is one of your biggest needs out on the trail, and, unfortunately, it isn’t safe to simply scoop up a handful of it out of a nearby creek and take a sip.  Even high mountain streams can contain serious, harmful bacteria so you’ll need something to ensure your safety.  There are all kinds of products on the market that can accomplish this, and I’m going to simply tell you to get one of them.  You can use something as basic as iodine tablets to cut weight or pack in a water filter for a little bit better taste.  There is even a new product called a Steripen that is lightweight and uses ultraviolet light to purifiy your water in about 90 seconds!

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Basically, what you need for backpacking is the same things the pioneers needed-transport, food, water, and shelter.  Of course, there is a ton of other gear to consider when taking your first trip, but these items  will serve as the foundation and get you ready for your first trip in no time.  Before you know it, you’ll be an old pro!  Happy trails!

Thru-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

Two posts in one week?  I must be getting back into the school routine!  I haven’t felt like coming home and lying comatose on the couch all evening this week so I must be starting to adjust.  I remember when I first started blogging I felt pressure to post every day.  Honestly, I can’t even imagine trying to keep up that schedule anymore.  I’m glad I’m over that ;)

Before we left on vacation, I discussed the pros and cons of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that my number one passion is backpacking and being in the mountains.  That being said, thru-hiking one of the giant long distance trails in the U.S. is a dream of mine that just won’t die.  It will probably have to wait until retirement, but I definitely want to attempt it someday.

But which one?  There are three hiking trails in the U.S. that have well over 2,000 miles.  Many people attempt these trails each year, but far fewer finish.  Some brave souls even hike all three in their lifetime, earning them the coveted Triple Crown title.

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In today’s installment, let’s look at the Pacific Crest Trail or the PCT.  This long distance trail stretches for roughly 2,650 miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian through California, Oregon, and Washington.  The trail was officially finished in 1993, and since then it has become a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.

So why would you want to hike the PCT?  Here are some of the pros to this particular trail, but remember these are definitely my opinions!

Pros:

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Scenic Views

You definitely won’t be short on views on the PCT.  You’ll have more than enough wide-open vistas to keep your eyes occupied on the PCT.  You’ll start your hike in the desert, move into the Sierra Nevadas which are some of the most beautiful in the country, and head up into the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Mt. Whitney, Yosemite, and the John Muir Trail

You’ll have the opportunity to see all of these American icons while on the PCT.  Mt. Whitney is accessible as a day-hike from the PCT.  The trail will take you through Yosemite allowing you to view some of the most beautiful natural landmarks in North America, and the PCT overlaps with the John Muir in many places.

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The best of both worlds

When embarking on any thru-hike, you have to give serious consideration to resupply.  Obviously, you can’t carry everything you’re going to need for five or six months!  That means mailing resupply boxes to towns you’ll pass through or hitting up grocery stores to find staples for the trail.  One of the main unappealing aspects of the AT (for me!) is that the trail is never far from civilization so it’s a little harder to get that isolation I crave in the backcountry.  The PCT strikes a great balance.  You will certainly experience long stretches between towns, and I’ve read accounts of hikers not seeing anyone else for days on end.  However, there is just enough access to towns in strategic places to make planning a thru-hike not quite so daunting.

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Cons:

Desert

A majority of the first part of this trail is desert hiking.  After all, you’ll be hiking through southern California!  That means brutal temperatures and creepy crawly things that I want nothing to do with.  Many people enjoy desert hiking so it wouldn’t be a problem, but I am definitely not one of them.  I was just telling someone yesterday that in my perfect world it would be forty degrees all the time!  This is such a major hurdle for John and I that we would probably skip the desert section.  We wouldn’t get a true thru-hike, but we’re all about quality over quantity!

Water

Because of the desert conditions, water is a huge problem.  Many thru-hikers have to cache their water before starting the trail, and others rely on the kindness of trail angels to make it though the dry sections.  In the face of the brutal conditions, water has to be at the forefront of your mind so it is a problem not to be taken lightly.

Honestly, those are the only two major cons about the PCT, in my opinion.  I think it combines the best aspects of backpacking a long distance trail, and it’s probably the right fit for John and I when we finally have the opportunity to do one someday.  However, there’s one more long distance trail I have left to talk about, and I just might have saved the best for last.  Stay tuned!

In the mean time, have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next week!

Currently: August

Hello, friends!  As you can tell, I’m back at work, and busy, busy, busy which is why I was only able to check in once last week!  Today marks the start of our second week of school so things should settle down into a semi-normal routine fairly soon.  I’m glad!  I miss writing in this little space of mine.

I’m working on my second installment of the pros and cons of the three major long distance trails for later this week.  In the mean time, I thought it would be fun to do a mid-August check of what’s going on currently!  Enjoy!

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Current books:  I try to read as many YA novels as I can to keep up with what’s popular with my students so I picked up Period 8 by Chris Crutcher the other day.  I love all of Crutcher’s books, and he has such a talent for relating to teens.

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Current music:  One of my students gave me a page and a half long list of song titles/artists that I need to check out.  I know a total of one person on the entire thing!  Anybody ever heard of Johnny Flynn, Tom O’Dell, or Bastille?

Current guilty pleasure:  Here’s my confession-I have let my Diet Dr. Pepper habit get out of control this summer, and I feel like such a hypocrite when I preach healthy habits to my students.  I’m stating my commitment right now to go cold turkey until October 1st.  Please feel free to tweet me to hold me accountable!

Current nail color:  Remember last month when I was inspired by Hazel Grace?

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Well, I took the paint off right before we left for vacation, and I haven’t painted them since.  98% of the time my nails are naked, but I’m feeling the mood to paint them coming back to me!  Maybe this month I’ll go buy some black so I can actually model Hazel!

Current drink:  We’ve already discussed by Diet Dr. Pepper addiction so for the foreseeable future it’s going to be strictly tea and water!

Current food:  I have finally developed a taste for plain yogurt.  I have to put a little stevia in it, but I’ve really started enjoying the heck out of it and almost would rather have that than the flavored stuff.

Current favorite show:  Still gotta go with The West Wing.

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One of my best friends, Hayley, lent me her DVDs of the entire show, and John and I have been working our way through it.  We’re currently a little over halfway through season 4.  I get to see her next month, and I hope to have them all done by then.

Current indulgence:  Lately I’ve become obsessed with genealogy (blame the TV show Who Do You Think You Are!), and I’ve been spending quite a bit of time on Ancestry.com.  I’ve been indulging this passion quite a bit in the evenings lately.  It’s addicting!

Current blessing:  The blessing I’m thinking about right now is a truly wonderful senior class.  I’ve been this class’s sponsor for the last two years, but I really got to know them when I started teaching government their sophomore year.  These kids are a truly special group.  They’re thoughtful, kind, intelligent, and there’s not one in the bunch that I don’t like.  I don’t talk a lot about my students here because I know it’s not the place, but I want to brag on these guys a little bit.  I really love every one of them, and I don’t even want to talk about them graduating in a few short months.

Current outfit:  Teacher clothes.  Oh, teacher clothes.

Current excitement:  Um, Christmas Break?  No, in all seriousness, back to school for me always means fall is just around the corner.  Cooler weather, beautiful leaves, pumpkin and apple everything, and way better clothes.  Sign me up!

Current mood:  Missing this part of summer just a tiny bit…….

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 (source)

Current link:  My blogging buddy Corrie just announced some very exciting news!  Please head over to her blog and congratulate her!

What are you feeling grateful for currently?  

All Good Things: Colorado 2014 Day 6

Well, it’s that time of year again.  This morning I’m headed back to school to prepare for the 2014-2015 school year.  The students will walk through the doors on Wednesday, and I have quite a few things to do before I’m ready for that to happen!

Although I don’t hate the beginning of the school year, I’m still a little sad to say goodbye to my freedom for another ten months so today I’m going to focus on happier times!  I’ve finally come to the last day of our backpacking trip recap so let’s finish the story, shall we?

We spent the last night on the trail at Divide Lakes which is definitely in the running for one of my favorite camp sites.  We had the pristine mountain lake all to ourselves that night.  In fact, I believe we only saw three other people during Day 5!  That is just par for the course while hiking in the San Juan Mountains, and that is one of the many, many reasons why it’s my favorite place in the world.

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Everyone in our group decided we wanted to set an early alarm for our last day.  By that time we all had one thing on the brain-FOOD!  We had been dreaming and discussing the post-trail food for about 48 hours at that point, and we were more than ready to get to it.

So the alarm went off at 5:30, and I detected a little more pep in our step as we broke down camp.  It was a really beautiful morning, and Caite snapped a few pictures of the lake before we headed out.

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Off we went!  Honestly, most of the day was fairly uneventful.  Most of our newbies were tired, a few of them were in a wee bit of pain (we have some gear updating to do!), and, like I said, everyone had food on the brain.  John and I, on the other hand, realized something pretty important.  Even after six days out on the trail, we weren’t ready to come in!  Don’t get me wrong, I was as ready for real food as anyone, but I could have happily stayed out for another week.

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Since this trip was a lollipop, Day 1 and Day 6 were identical just in reverse which means that most of that last day was downhill or mostly flat.  Until the very last mile.  The last mile was all climbing to the trail head with switchbacks that seemed like they wouldn’t end.

They did eventually, of course, and we reached the parking lot with some mixed feelings (at least for me!).  There were no mixed feelings on the part of some of our group.

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They made it!

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We all gathered around the trail head sign one more time for an “After” picture before making our way to the cars for the trip back into Pagosa Springs.

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All in all, it was a great trip!  I was so excited to share my passionate for backpacking and the great outdoors with my family.  We learned a lot, laughed a lot, and made so many irreplaceable memories.  And, for the record, most of them have forgotten the pain, and are ready to head back out!

As for John and I, we’re already planning next summer’s adventure.  In the mean time, you’ll find us on some of our local hiking trails just as soon as fall hits, and that can’t come soon enough.  After all, home is where my tent is.

Day 6

Trail:  Weminuche Trail to Posion Park Trailhead

Miles:  Just over 9

Elevation Gain/Loss:  +1161/-2100

Trip Recap:

Directions to Trail Head:  Turn west on Hwy. 160/Piedra Road and follow it for 22 miles.  Turn right on Williams Creek Rd.  Travel on Williams Creek Rd. for 3 1/2 miles then turn left on FDR 664.  Travel another three miles to the trail head at the end of the road.

Trails Used:  Weminuche/Pine River/Rincon La Osa/CDT/Flint Creek

Total Miles/Nights/Days:  53 miles/5 nights/6 days

Total Elevation Gain/Loss: Approx:  +7550/-8255

Who Should Do It:  This trip is best for backpackers that have some experience.  There are several trail changes as well as some bushwhacking so you need to prepared for that.  Obviously, we took first-timers on this trip.  I wouldn’t discourage first-timers from doing it, but I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND that novice backpackers go with more experienced ones.  Also, this is a pretty strenous trip.  Please make sure you are reasonably fit, and, if you have any question about that, consult a doctor first!

Maps:  National Geographic Weminuche Wilderness #140

If you have any questions or would like the Google Earth breakdown of this trip, please email me!

Abigail: Day Four & Five Colorado 2014

Happy Friday!  It is my last official day of freedom!  The summer has flown by due to all the fun that was had.  Today I’m diving back into that fun to pick up with our Colorado backpacking trip.  If you’re just tuning in, please check out Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3!

After day two, we decided to change our route just slightly to allow for two nights at Flint Lake.  This gave us all of Day 4, and, after our wrong turn on Day 3, everyone was really excited about it.

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We all slept in a little that morning which means we were up at 7:30 instead of 5:30.  Days start early on the trail!  That particular morning greeted us with a ton of fog.  The mountain views we had enjoyed the evening before were completely covered up, and we could have been on our favorite trail in Arkansas for all we could see!

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That didn’t stop us from having an extremely pleasant morning playing cards around the campfire.  Dad, Caite, and I are a huge fan of cards, and we managed to talk Alex into playing with us.  John and Justin didn’t want any part of it, but I think they were just afraid of getting smoked!

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Gin rummy wiled away a few hours for us until the sun finally started to break through the clouds.  We decided to take the short two mile hike over to Rock Lake.  John and I had crossed the pass at Rock Lake a few years ago, and it is one of my favorite places in the San Juans.  It’s a pretty high mountain lake surrounded by craggy, jagged mountains with a ton of wildflowers all around.  I was really eager for the rest of them to see it!

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After the four mile round trip, we spent the rest of the day and evening hanging around the fire, and getting to know a new friend.

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We noticed this particular deer on our first night at Flint Lake, and we marveled at how she kept coming closer and closer to camp.  She didn’t seem to be afraid of us at all, and, during the day and a half we were there, she rarely ventured far away.  John named her Abigail, and she became our camp mascot for awhile!

Unfortunately, we had to leave Abigail on the morning of Day 5.  To make up for our day off, we had a long hike to get back to Divide Lakes where we would be spending our last night on the trail.  We left camp around 6:30 that morning, and headed down the Flint Creek Trail.  Luckily, the first eight miles of the day were all downhill, and we were able to make pretty good time.

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We came to the Pine River Trail just before lunch, and, after stopping for a quick break, we started the hardest portion of the day.  We had roughly four and a half miles left to go, and most of those were uphill.  Thankfully, it was a gradual uphill, but it was an exhausting day nonetheless.  We pulled into camp around 3:30, and most of us caught a quick nap in the tents before dinner!

As expected, Divide Lakes was an awesome place to camp.  Caite and I spent some time laying on a huge boulder by the shore, and it was so nice to relax and chat.  John, Alex, and Justin did a little fishing, and John even got a little ambitious trying to catch a few.

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We were all pretty concerned that jump was not going to go well, but he landed it perfectly!  He is incredibly surefooted.  I think he may be part cat!

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We spent the rest of the evening around the fire discussing what we were going to eat when we got off the trail the next day.  Hunger for real food had definitely set in!  But, before we could enjoy the benefits of civilization, we had a nine mile hike out to contend with.  That story coming at you next week!

Day 4

Camp at Flint Lake

Day hike to Rock Lake:  4 miles round trip

Day 5

Flint Lake to Divide Lakes

Trails:  Flint Creek Trail/Pine River Trail/Weminuche Trail

Distance: 12.5 miles

Elevation Gain/Loss:  +1300/-3700ft.

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