Beginning again

A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with – that’s poverty – but how efficiently we can put first things first…When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar. ~Victoria Moran

I know spring is generally the time for renewal, but I feel like this fall has been full of restarts and second chances. Maybe I’m just subconsciously getting a jump on some New Year’s resolutions, though I’ve never been one to commit to those, anyway.

I’ve been trying to implement some lifestyle changes…just little things that I can improve on to get me closer to the life I feel I should be living. We’ve been doing a lot more cooking at home, eating healthier, enjoying the great outdoors, and spending time with family. I’ve gone from hitting the gym 2-3 days a week to a pretty consistent 4-5 days. I’ve even started running again here and there, though not for any great distances.

We’ve been playing a lot of disc golf on the weekends, and have played courses all over New England. I’ve improved quite a bit since I started, but am definitely still a novice. Mostly, it’s just fun to get outside, and the courses are beautiful and full of pine trees.

Curtis and I have both been struggling with trying to “unplug”…we have realized how utterly dependent we are on our smartphones, our cable TV, and the Internet. We have been a bit better about not using our phones while out to dinner, and at night before we fall asleep, but it’s a challenge…the temptation to use it is always there. On the rare occasions I am forced to go without my phone, I feel like I am experiencing things so much more fully. I am hoping I can continue to chip away at the time I spend with that thing in my hand.

I think the biggest challenge I’m facing right now is finding time for friends. With work, gym, and weekly visits with both our parents, there isn’t much time left over. I feel like I need a full day to recover from the work week, and then when Sunday rolls around, we are preparing for the beginning of another week. It never ends. I’m not sure how to make time for people, unless they book me in advance, and it seems a bit presumptuous to expect that of my friends. I wish I could be more spontaneously available to them, but I am a creature of routine.

Fortunately, November is a month full of birthdays, and my calendar is slowly being filled up with dinner dates with the girls. It will be nice to catch up with all of them…we live such different lives these days. Some of them have a house full of kids, some are trying to, one is eternally single, another is a serial romantic…and here I am, married, still living in an apartment, and no plans to have children. It definitely makes for interesting conversation.

My main priority right now is simply trying not to stress out too much. There are things that I want in life that I do not yet have. But that will always be the case. As easy as it is to find things to complain about, I think it’s better to celebrate the good in life. I have a roof over my head, a wonderful husband, a supportive family, and two cats that keep me entertained. I eat well, and I have fun every weekend (sometimes, a little too much fun). It’s a good life.

Mt Washington

We finally hiked Mt. Washington. 2 hours, 20 minutes to the summit!

Hammock

Relaxing in Maine at my parents’ cabin. Good times.

Pumpkins

Annual pumpkin carving with the in-laws!

CrossFit Cape Ann Halloween Party!

CrossFit Cape Ann Halloween Party!

Side trip to Åre

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. ~John Steinbeck

During our recent vacation in Sweden, while staying with my cousin Fredrik and his wife, Anna, we innocently asked if there were any good places we could go for a hike. They are both very fit and love the outdoors, so I figured they would be a good resource. They enthusiastically suggested that we take a night train up north to Åre, a popular skiing town with a good-sized mountain, Åreskutan. We impulsively jumped on the idea, and booked the trip for the next week, leaving late Monday night and returning Thursday morning.

We spent that Monday sightseeing in Stockholm, and then after dinner and a few drinks, we made our way to Central Station. Our train was over an hour late, and when we arrived at our cabin, it was locked. We had to wait nearly another hour to get in. The beds (we each had a top bunk, with two people below us) were more like hammocks, and getting in and out of them without kicking someone in the head was pretty tricky. In addition, the 400+ mile ride up north to Åre was punctuated with multiple interruptions as people came and left the tiny 6-person cabin, and conductors came numerous times to check our tickets. Sleep, we did not. Upon arrival in Åre, we immediately checked into the hostel. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that we could go right to our room, despite it being only 9:30 in the morning. We did not hesitate, and proceeded to nap until 1 in the afternoon. It was probably the best sleep we had the entire trip.

Once we were sufficiently rested, we wandered down the steps and found a nice spot to eat a late lunch, then had coffee at a place down the street. Around 4:30 or so, we figured we should probably get started on our hike. We had neglected to bring our Camelbaks, not knowing we’d have the opportunity to use them, but we packed some water and a couple snacks in Curt’s backpack and started up the mountain, having only a vague idea what route we would take to the top. Unfortunately, we found out the hard way that they were installing new cable car routes, which made finding the hiking paths rather difficult as much of the landscape had been pretty much leveled. After walking up some steep dirt roads and then trudging through a nearly vertical field of knee-high thorny shrubs, we made our way to the saddle and were finally above the treeline, where the posts marking the trail were clearly visible.

The hike was challenging, and we traversed a few spots that were still covered by an impressive amount of snow. As we neared the top, it became incredibly windy and cold, despite the sun beating down on us from overhead. I was grateful for the knee-high socks I’d purchased, and for my hoodie that I’d nearly left behind. We didn’t spend much time at the summit, as it was cold and we were eager to get back to town for a celebratory beverage, but the view from the top was breathtaking…we could probably see Norway from where we were, and the mountain range and all the little villages below were stunning to take in. Apart from a helicopter performing some interesting maneuvers quite a distance below us, we did not encounter a single soul on our descent. The mountain was completely deserted.

It was almost 9pm when we finished our descent, but since it was midsummer and we were so far north, we still had the benefit of daylight. We cleaned up, went out for a nice dinner and a couple drinks, and then headed back to the hostel, where we were relieved to find we had the room to ourselves. At least we’d get a decent night’s sleep before having to endure the joys of another night train. The next morning, we enjoyed a tasty (and free!) breakfast, and then checked out. The manager told us we could leave all of our bags there for the day, and come and go as we please. This was excellent news, and we took full advantage. After wandering around town for a bit, we decided to rent a couple cruiser bikes and venture into the next town, Duved, which was about 5 miles away. I had some false starts on the bike (it’s been a while!), but we finally got going and had a nice ride along the lake.

When we got to Duved, we stopped in for some pretty amazing stir fry at Surjämten, a Czechoslovakian place where the owner suggested we have some Budějovický Budvar – the “original Budweiser”. I thought he was just pulling our leg, but I later Googled it and found out that it’s true. Learn something new every day! It definitely hit the spot, and the ride back to Åre was much more relaxed. We dropped the bikes off, then meandered around town before grabbing dinner and then heading down to the train station.

The train ride home to Stockholm was awful, but once we got back to my aunt and uncle’s house and were able to get some rest and a hot shower, we knew that we’d made the right decision. It was great getting to hike a mountain in Sweden, and to see a part of the country that even my mom had never been to. Looking back, it’s also pretty much the only real exercise we had while we were away. I’ll touch on the ramifications of that later…

For now, some pictures! 🙂

Downtown Åre.

Downtown Åre.

Where's the trail?

Where’s the trail?

Teeny tiny town below.

Teeny tiny town below.

Summit of Åreskutan! Hooray!

Summit of Åreskutan! Hooray!

Biking around Duved.

Biking around Duved.

Presidential Range, round 1.

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. ~Lao Tzu

Well, it’s been a while since we hiked Pierce and Eisenhower back on June 1st, so it’s about time I wrote a little about it. The Presidential Range is a section of the Appalachian Trail that hubby and I would like to hike, and includes the highest peaks in the White Mountains. Pierce and Eisenhower are two peaks that sit next to one another in the middle of the range. We decided to head up to my folks place in Maine on a Friday night, so we’d be in the area and be able to get an early start Saturday morning. An evening drive to my parents’ cabin means a mandatory stop at Pat’s Pizza in Windham, ME – they have great food, beer, and Buck Hunter…the trifecta of awesomeness. We splurged on a couple gluten-free pizzas (Hawaiian and buffalo chicken), which were delicious, then claimed a few top scores on the Buck Hunter machine while we finished our beer. After we had carb-loaded sufficiently, we continued on to Bridgton.

The next morning, after a lovely breakfast prepared by mom, we drove to Carroll, NH. Since it was going to be a very hot day – about 95 degrees – we stopped at a gas station and bought a gallon of water to fill up both Camelbaks to capacity. When we got to Carroll, we parked off Mt. Clinton Road, just past the Crawford Notch station and the Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center. We took the Crawford Trail and began our ascent of Mt. Pierce. It was slow-going and wet – very different terrain than our last hike up Monadnock. The path was frequently interrupted by streams of water coming down the mountain, which really slowed us down. I’m not sure if it was the heat, or the extra pounds from carrying a full Camelbak with a few essentials in the pockets, but I felt pretty sluggish and was more out-of-breath than I remember being when we hiked Monadnock, despite the ascent being much more gradual.

Once we got to the Alpine Zone, things were much better. It was a bit cooler, and the trail was mostly dry. I loved the contrast in flora, and the lovely scent of the short pine trees all around. It was like walking through a wormhole into a totally different place. The summit of Pierce came upon us abruptly – we actually weren’t sure we had reached the top until we looked over and saw Mt. Eisenhower. We continued on the path, which seemed like a very short walk, though it took almost an hour between peaks, thanks to some spongy, muddy areas that slowed us down. Along the way, we found a large patch of snow near the summit of Eisenhower, which was a welcome surprise on such a hot day. We couldn’t resist throwing a couple snowballs around. Now that we were well above the treeline, the view from 4,780 feet was incredible. Eisenhower’s summit affords a spectacular view of Mt. Washington, which is just a short distance away (or so it seemed from our vantage point).

So we’d completed Pierce (4,310′), and Eisenhower (4,780′), and can now officially call ourselves “peak-baggers”, which simply means that one hikes two or more mountains in one day. We had originally intended to include Mt. Jackson, but the heat got the better of us and fatigue was setting in, so we thought it best to head back down the way we came and save Jackson for another day. The descent was quite long, and a bit dodgy with all of the slippery rocks, so we were fairly “done” by the time we reached the car…we’d been at it for over four hours, which is significantly longer than our last hike.  We enjoyed a delicious meal at Horsefeathers in North Conway (got the Harvey sandwich, as usual…yum!), and had a celebratory beer while we waited for our knees to stop shaking. Definitely looking forward to our next Presidential Range expedition!

Top of Pierce.

Top of Pierce.

And now, on to Eisenhower!

And now, on to Eisenhower!

Snow! Sweet!

Snowball fight at 4,700 feet, on a 95 degree day? Sure!

Snowball fight at 4,700 feet, on a 95 degree day? Sure!

Looking back at how far we've come...and how far we'll be going, again.

Looking back at how far we’ve come…and how far we’ll be going, again.

On top of the world. Mt Washington in the background, just to the right of Curt.

On top of the world. Mt Washington in the background, just to the right of Curt.

Where does the time go?

 Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius

I haven’t had much to write about the past month or so…so I didn’t. I guess that’s sort of what this is all about, right? I suppose I could have thrown together a post about one thing or another, but I just didn’t feel compelled to force it. Besides, I don’t exactly have a huge readership, so nobody’s been pestering me to post an update. The main reason I started this blog was just to have an outlet, where I could put all of my thoughts and ramblings out there…and if someone stumbled across it and found it to be of any value, all the better.

Since early April, I’ve donated quite a few things, and purchased some new items…spring, for me, has always been a time of renewing and reinventing. I am inspired by the shift in weather and foliage and often find myself changing up my style to match the person I’ve grown into over the long winter. No major shopping sprees, though…I am trying to show some restraint. I’m finding that since I began doing CrossFit last summer, the majority of my purchases are of the yoga pants/hoodie/sneaker variety. At least these items are getting lots of use!

Curtis and I have been taking advantage of the warmer weather to get outside more often, playing disc golf on the weekends and doing some hiking. Last Saturday, we hiked Mt Monadnock, which is the first of many mountains we intend to climb this year. We’d definitely like to do the entire Presidential Range, and perhaps complete some other notable peaks in New England. This weekend, due to multiple engagements, we might just do some local trail hiking, but we intend to tackle Mt Eisenhower and Mt Pierce (and possibly Mt Jackson) one day very soon.

Disc golfing fun

Successfully avoided the water hazard and made the putt.

Summit of Mt Monadnock

At the summit of Mt Monadnock, feeling like I’m on top of the world.

As far as our apartment goes, we’ve been in the new place for over two months now, and I’ve yet to hang any artwork or pictures on the wall. Perhaps I could make time for that this weekend. It’s funny how time just slips away…I went to grab a pair of socks this morning and noticed all of the decor sitting in the corner against the wall. As much as I’ve embraced this whole minimalist thing, our walls look rather spartan without anything on them. The place still feels a bit incomplete. Next time it rains, looks like I’ll be doing some decorating!

Till next time, folks…whenever that may be! 🙂