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Our June hike – and twentieth of the year, almost halfway to 52! – is definitely going to be one of the highlights of the year.  Lake Minnewaska is a small gem set in the Shawnagunk Mountains of New York – just a stone’s throw from New Paltz and an easy drive from downstate.  My mom vacationed there with her parents, sister and brothers as a little girl growing up on Long Island, but the lodge where they stayed burned down long ago and my parents never took us.  (We had the Sacandaga for lake fun and plenty of Adirondack and Catskill adventure closer to home.)

Still, my mom often shared her memories of summer vacations on Minnewaska, and after my grandmama passed away last year, I think it became more important to her to share this place with us.  We had a golden opportunity to hike at Minnewaska as a family when my brother and sister-in-law visited from Colorado a few weeks ago – and we were in New York to attend Cornell Reunion – so we all piled into the cars and drove downstate for some family bonding on the trails.

Our first glimpse of Minnewaska was from the picnic area on one of the many cliffs, but after we enjoyed our sandwiches we all made our way down to the shore.

What a treat to get to hike with Dan and Danielle!  We only see them once a year if we’re lucky, but since we’re all avid hikers we always try to make sure that we hit the trails at least once on those occasions.

The whole group!  (Minus me, behind the lens.)  My dad, Steve (well-hidden), Dan, Danielle, Nugget, Peanut and my mom.  All together in a beautiful place – it doesn’t get better than that.

 

After a few minutes of taking in the view at the water’s edge, it was time to climb again.  My mom explained that the trail circumvented the lake and stopped at several overlooks along the way – which meant it was time to go up, up, up.

The trail was beautifully maintained and marked – Nugget made it his mission to be the first one to spot every red blaze along the way – and the views were well worth the elevation change!

World’s best sister!  How lucky am I?  She’s the coolest.  (Thanks, Dan, for finding her.)

Stopped to take in the view at one of the overlooks.  (See how well-contained Peanut is?)  Uncle Dan decided to do a little impromptu bouldering.  Brave!

Wave hi to Steve!

 

Back on the trail – Nugget kept us all on track with his map.  We were all revolving doors of kid-transport.  Nugget and Peanut both made the rounds of Mom and Dad’s backpacks, hand-holding with Nana and Aunt Danielle, and hitching rides on Grandad’s and Uncle Dan’s shoulders.

Back down to the water’s edge, all the way on the other side of the lake.

We found a little friend!  This guy was hanging out in the shallows with about a dozen of his family members.  At first, Uncle Dan thought these were tadpoles mid-transition, but when Aunt Danielle scooped him up we realized he was a newt (or salamander? anyway, not a tadpole).

Back up!  The views from the other side of the trail weren’t too shabby, either.

I’m so glad I finally got to experience Minnewaska, after hearing so many stories of it (and seeing so many pictures of the lake resort in the 1960s, looking like Johnny and Baby were about to come tangoing down the trail).  And getting to hike it with the whole family was gravy.

Until next time, Minnewaska!

Where have you been hiking lately?

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Continued from last week: another photobomb of a post with the rest of our long weekend at Cornell, because I literally couldn’t fit all the fun into one post without losing all of my readers.

We were up bright and early on Saturday morning and found ourselves almost the first people in Collegetown Bagels.  (Yes, since you asked, we did go there every day.)  We filled up on bagels and delicious Ithaca Bakery coffee (iced for Steve, hot for me) before heading off to the “State of the ILR School” talk.

There’s interesting stuff going on with the school now, and a big group of alumni turned out to hear what’s up – it’s a small program, but well-known in most of our fields, so we all have a special affinity for the school and an interest in seeing it continue to do well.  The Dean told a story about a group of students taking over his office with a list of demands – later, I told Steve that occupying an administration office was a quintessentially ILR thing to do and almost a rite of passage.  We got a good laugh out of it, but I do love how passionate my fellow ILRies are about things.  (In my day, our planned takeover of Day Hall – to convince the University to sign onto a multi-school pledge not to sell sweatshop-made apparel in the campus bookshop – didn’t end up coming off, but if it had, I will have you know that I was put in charge of paper towels and orange soda, a grave responsibility.)

After the State of the ILR School, we killed about an hour hanging out with our friend Seth in the courtyard while the kids ran around and got their wiggles out, then headed to my sorority, Alpha Phi, to see what they’d been up to.

There was fresh paint on the walls and a new courtyard, but the house looked pretty similar!  Steve and the kids and I wandered around and poked our heads into my old rooms.

The Butterfly Triple (sophomore year), shared with my roommates Megan and Mary Allison.  I remember it being bigger?

And my room in the G-wing (junior year), shared with my little sis, Betsy.  So many fun memories in both rooms…

Now that I’m a mom, I’m a little more anxious about the idea of my kids joining the Greek system, but I have to say – I had nothing but positive experiences.  I mentioned that to the current Alpha Phi house mom, who was a sister when I was a pledge, and she was glad to hear that.  I was never hazed, because our international headquarters had a strict “no hazing” policy and our local chapter had a strict policy of following the international policy.  As the current house mom put it, they didn’t see any point to hazing – didn’t think it was a bonding experience and felt there was a better way to build sisterly bonds.  So instead of scrubbing floors with a toothbrush (or worse) I was taken on ski trips, showered with gifts from my generous big sis, serenaded in my dorm room by the most popular a capella group on campus (also courtesy of my big sis), and generally loved and protected by dozens of older girls as I was finding my way on campus.  No “sketchy boy” got within ten feet of any of the pledges, but we did have a fun trip downtown to go to the movies and dominate a Vermonster together.  And did it work?  Well… my best friend (and godmother to my children) is an Alpha Phi, and we all still love and support each other today.  So I think it did.

Enough waxing poetic about my sorority!  We had fun poking around – and the house mom showed me the secret stuff, which I can’t tell you about (sorry…).  And I went composite hunting!

Found freshman Jac, looking extremely wide-eyed.  Probably fresh off being rescued from a sketchy frat boy at a mixer.

And senior Jac, much more confident in her own skin.  But clearly, I didn’t have it all figured out at the ripe old age of 21.  You can’t tell from the picture, but I’m wearing electric blue eyeshadow.  Yowsa.  I said to the house mom, “What was I thinking?” and she responded, “You were thinking that it was 2003.”  At least I had something going for me: my bestie by my side.  Rebecca and I have been inseparable since sophomore year.  (She actually started trying to be friends when we were freshmen, but I was convinced she was way too cool to want to be friends with little old me and so she must have an ulterior motive – so I blew her off.  Fortunately for me, she kept trying.  And by junior year, I had the earth-shattering realization that I am actually cooler.  Let me tell you, that was surprising.)  Also: yes, I chopped off all of my hair junior year.  This was me starting to grow it back out after it occurred to me that I didn’t actually want to look like Annette Bening.

Post-Phi House, we met back up with our dear friend Seth for more ice cream, obviously.  The Dairy Bar was bumping.

Full of sugar-fueled energy, we clearly decided that a hike through the Cornell Botanic Gardens was in order.

WHERE IS THE TRAIL.

I recapped this hike on Wednesday, so won’t bore you with a repeat of all the pictures.  After wandering through the Botanic Gardens for awhile, it was back to the Phi House for a reception, then off to the lake for our final Class of 2003 dinner.

We were early, so we squeezed in another hike – this time around Beebe Lake, where I used to run as a freshman.  Memories!  I also used to swim in the swimming hole with my floormates from Jameson Hall and…

…jump off this bridge into the gorge below.  Yes, it is as high as it looks.  And apparently, as dangerous.

Whoops.  That plaque was not there when I was a freshman with a hobby of flinging myself into the lake from 35 feet up.  For the record, the worst thing that ever happened to me was a case of swimmer’s ear, and I’ve lost count of how many times I jumped that thing.  But still – don’t try this at home, kids.

Anyway!  Trail pounded and memories reminisced, we found our way to the final Class of 2003 dinner.  The Big Red Marching Band was there serenading all the small children with a lively rendition of everyone’s favorite hockey cheer: “We’re gonna beat the hell out of you!  F*ck ’em up, f*ck ’em up, go CU!”  I fully support the sentiment, but it did seem like a weird choice for the fifteen-year crowd, most of whom had their little kids in tow.  What’s wrong with the alma mater?

No worries!  Once the Dinosaur B-B-Q was open, everyone forgot about the music.

Nugget had a bit of a tough night, but it was nothing that couldn’t be solved by hurling rocks into Beebe Lake.  Although he wasn’t pleased when he had to stop his rock-throwing to smile for the class picture.  Life is full of disappointments, buddy.  For instance, your alma mater may lose to Bemidji State in the Frozen Four hockey tournament.  That’s a thing that can happen.  And it is very upsetting.

And so ended a blissful weekend!  But not the travel – we were off to Albany to visit with family, about which more next week.  And I’m sure we will be back to Cornell – every five years for reunion, and eventually I hope quite a bit more, because I’m planning to sell the school with everything I have when it’s time for my kiddos to apply.  As you may have guessed, my four years there were some of the happiest of my life.  My only regret is not sticking around an extra year and picking up a Master’s.  In many of the most significant ways, I became who I am at Cornell.  I met my husband and my best friend, chose a career, figured out what I like and don’t like and learned a whole lot about myself in the process.  I know and love every inch of this campus; it’s home.

Far above Cayuga’s waters
With its waves of blue
Stands our noble alma mater
Glorious to view

Lift the chorus, speed it onward
Loud her praises tell
Hail to thee, our alma mater
Hail, all hail Cornell!

Far above the busy humming
Of the bustling town
Reared against the arch of Heaven
Looks she proudly down

Lift the chorus, speed it onward
Loud her praises tell
Hail to thee, our alma mater
Hail, all hail Cornell!

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Now that the high summer hiking season is finally here, I’m trying to be on the trail as much as possible – which, admittedly, isn’t much given our schedules that never seem to lighten up.  But a few days out of town was a golden opportunity to do some hiking, and we took advantage of it – hiking three times during our stay in Ithaca and once more in the Shawnagunks with my whole family (pictures to come next week).

Ithaca Hike #1: Robert H. Treman State Park

Treman State Park was one of Steve’s and my haunts during our Cornell days, but we usually just plunked down somewhere and hung out.  Since I’d read that there was a swimming hole and cool waterfall, I wanted to check out the hiking, so we added that to our reunion weekend agenda.

Sadly, the swimming hole was closed because there was no lifeguard on duty – maybe it was too early in the season.  (New York summers are glorious, but they last about five minutes – that was one of my biggest complaints when I lived up north.)  Ah, well, we weren’t wearing our bathing suits anyway.

I promised Miss Peanut that we would come back one day when the swimming hole was open.  (She is really into the idea of swimming holes right now – we’re going to have to find one for our summer vacation later in the season.)

Foot shot!

How did we never find this part of the park when we lived in Ithaca?

Ithaca Hike #2: Cornell Botanic Gardens

One of my agenda items that we didn’t actually get to was a hike in the Cornell Plantations.  Next time!  But we did hit the Botanic Gardens, which was almost as good – there were lovely trails to explore, our friend Seth was by our side (at least until he peeled off to go hear a talk about online dating???) and our tummies were full of Cornell Dairy ice cream.  Not bad!

Started out on a pretty grass path down from the Ag School into the gardens.

Note to self: order prints for grandparents.

Forgot how much I love this garden!

To keep the kids on the trail, we told them that the plants eat children.  Peanut was skeptical but didn’t want to risk it.  Nugget bought the story hook, line and sinker.

I AM STANDING IN THE EXACT MIDDLE OF THE TRAIL FAR AWAY FROM THE CHILD-EATING PLANTS.

Hey, you know what?  Whatever works.

Yard Woman: A Statue of Me.

I really wanted to explore the herb garden more (and get some ideas for my patio garden back home) but tempers were short and nerves were fraying.

Ithaca Hike #3: Beebe Lake

The final hike of the Ithaca leg of our trip was a spur-of-the-moment addition.  The final Class of 2003 dinner was scheduled for the lakeside tent (YES!) and finding ourselves with extra time on our hands, we headed over a little early.  As it turned out, we were the first ones there – so nerdy – except for the Dinosaur BBQ employees, who were still setting up.  With time to kill, we decided to walk the trail around the lake, where I used to run as a Cornell freshman.

The sun was still high in the sky, but was starting to dip a little bit, and the dappled light coming through the trees was just dreamy.

As we wandered around the lake, I pointed out my favorite spots and views.

Cornell is gorges!

I used to jump off this bridge with my floormates, freshman year.  (Yes, it’s as high as it looks.)  And there were usually people climbing the sides of the gorge and jumping down into the lake – as rainy and snowy as Ithaca can be, we knew how to make the most of nice weather.  Upstream a bit is a lovely swimming hole with little waterfalls that we would slide down.

So, this is a new addition.

Eventually we circumnavigated the whole lake and found ourselves back at the tent.  Ended the evening with Dinosaur BBQ, the Big Red Band, and my classmates, watching the sun go down on another reunion.  We exchanged hugs that had to last until 2023, and the next morning, we were driving east – toward the ‘dacks.

Where have you been hiking recently?

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Summer travel season is here, and with it – the first trip we’ve taken out of town since (I think?) December!  And it was a good one – up to Ithaca, New York for my fifteen-year college reunion.  Also: how has it been that long?  Get ready for a massive photobomb of a post…

We rolled into town around lunchtime on Thursday – the kids were excited.  We left Virginia at 6:00 a.m. and they were up, bright-eyed and raring to go, at 4:30, wanting to help us pack the car and demanding to know when we were going to Ithaca.  Keep in mind, these children had never been to Ithaca.  Our reputation for delivering awesome destinations is just that impressive.

Anywho, our first stop was a no-brainer.  Since it was lunchtime, we hit one of our favorite spots: Collegetown Bagels.  CTB, as Cornellians call it, is situated right at the intersection between Collegetown (technically off-campus) and Cornell proper.  It’s open early and late and was one of our regular haunts as Cornell students – especially after Steve and I started dating, we spent many a late night sitting at a table inside CTB, extending our evening and getting out of the cold.  The CTB patio was our meeting spot for dates, too; it was a good middle point between my sorority house and Steve’s grad student apartment complex.  Long story short, we love CTB.

Iced coffee and vegetarian bagel melts.  Clearly the bomb.

(This was my favorite order at CTB: veggie cream cheese, sliced tomato, and melted Muenster over the top.  Perfect.)

Post-bagels, the campus food tour (apparently) continued with a trip to the Cornell Dairy Bar for ice cream.  The best ice cream comes from the smartest cows, and the smartest cows come from Cornell.

The kids went with classic strawberry, Steve had “Big Red Bear Tracks” (vanilla with chocolate swirl and caramel pieces, I think) and I had “Ezra’s Morning Cup” (coffee! my favorite).  I can’t say that Cornell Dairy was one of Steve’s and my special places on campus, but I came now and then with my sorority sisters and ate way too much of this stuff in the dining halls.  Plus, we’re trying to convince the kids to follow in Mommy and Daddy’s footsteps (and go to Cornell – but not be lawyers, let’s not go crazy here), and ice cream is obviously the way to do that.

Tummies full of bagels and ice cream, it was off to North Campus for us – time to sign in at the Class of 2003 Headquarters.  (Fun fact: Steve is actually class of 2002, but he kindly goes to my reunion instead of his own.  I’ve offered to take one for the team and go to both, but so far we’re on my reunion cycle.)

Class HQ located, it was time to sign in, get our nametags and our schedule of activities, and see who else was lurking around.  Peanut put on a concert for the class volunteer crew while I chatted with a friend from my major who also happens to live in DC about her son’s awesome hockey jersey.  #ALLCAPS!  A group was gathering to watch the game that night (which ended up being the Caps’ Stanley Cup victory) but we sadly had to beg off – kiddo bedtimes and work beckoned.  We grabbed a small dinner at Wegmans, headed back to the Airbnb, tucked the babies into bed and then fired up our laptops for a long evening of way less fun than our classmates were having celebrating the hockey victory.  Boo.  What can you do?

Anyway!  We were up bright and early on Friday morning for more bagels, followed in short order by 9:00 a.m. ice cream to try to nip a Nugget tantrum in the bud.  It sort of worked.  Then we rushed back to the Airbnb so I could churn out a document and take a work call before we headed to Treman State Park – another of our favorite haunts from the early days of our relationship – for a hike, which I’ll recap separately.

We were all hungry after the hike, so we refueled at another favorite Collegetown haunt – Aladdin’s, a café serving up Greek and Mediterranean food.  Aladdin’s was an extra special place for us: the site of our first date!  I had to snap a picture of the little corner table where we sat for three hours one late August afternoon, eating fruit salad (me) and gyro (Steve) and talking about school, our families, and Altoids for three hours… and the rest was history!  We were sorry to see that they didn’t have their delicious artichoke on the menu anymore, but the dolmades and sangria made up for it.  Back to the Airbnb for more work and attempted (failed) naps, and then–

Back to campus!  Hurray!  Peanut and Nugget found a stage.  Obviously, singing and dancing happened.

We took the kids to the Johnson Museum of Art (super cool building designed by I.M. Pei) because I had thought that there were kids’ activities going on there all day.  Either I misread the schedule or we were too late, but we made the most of it by taking in the view of Cayuga Lake from the gigantic windows on the fifth floor.  I spent a lot of time at the art museum as an undergrad – first in my freshman art history seminar, and later just soaking in the peace and beautiful views whenever I needed to relax and breathe.  Peanut was pretty impressed with the view, but more impressed with the collection of ancient Chinese and Japanese decorative arts.  She asked for several of the teapots for her birthday.  (Sorry, kid, but that’s not going to happen.)

After the singing and dancing and art museum-ing, it was time for one of the events I’d been most looking forward to: the ILR reception.  New friends: ILR was my major, and while Cornellians like to refer to the school as “I Love Reading” because of the volume of reading assignments, it actually stands for Industrial and Labor Relations.  (I do love reading, though.)

I was so excited to be back.  Some of my happiest memories took place inside the walls of Ives Hall – lots of learning, studying in groups and alone in the depths of Catherwood Library, jamming to Vietnam protest songs in my “Recent History of American Workers” class, and plotting to take over the Administration building.

Home sweet home!  While I am hoping for two Cornell Engineers, I would not be sad if one or both of my kids ended up an ILRie.  Just like Mom!

We made our way to the Ives Hall courtyard, where there was a big tent full of familiar faces.  ILR ’03 turned out for this reunion, let me tell you.

We had promised the kids that there would be cheese and crackers at the reception.  Fortunately, ILR delivered.

A loved face!  That’s Julia, my sorority sister (not an ILRie, but we throw a great party so she came anyway) meeting my munchkins for the first time.  She has a little one of her own, but came from Texas for the reunion and didn’t want to fly with baby.  So she snuggled my kiddos instead.  Love!

After pretty much shutting down the ILR reception (party animals!), we wandered up to North Campus in a herd for a Class of 2003 dinner – tacooooooooooos.  I loaded mine up, sipped an Ithaca Brewery apricot wheat beer, chatted with more friends and watched my kids run around with the daughters of one of my sorority sisters.  (Does that make them my nieces?)  We hung out on the soccer field where my freshman intermural team (the Tower Pterodactyls!  Eeeeeeeeeaw!) suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Vet School (but I don’t want to talk about it, you guys) until the sun went down and we had two sleepy future Cornellians on our hands.

This post is getting out of hand, so I’ll save the rest – our Saturday adventures – for next week.

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Hello, friends!  I am simultaneously happy and sad today – happy because I had such a wonderful weekend, and sad because it’s over.  This past weekend was my fifteenth (gasp!) college reunion, so Steve and the kids and I drove up to Ithaca, New York for four days of memories, seeing old friends, eating at our favorite spots and brainwashing the kids into wanting to go to Cornell just like Mommy and Daddy.  We rolled into town on Thursday afternoon and had a jam-packed agenda of fun for the next few days – including three hikes, three visits to the Cornell Dairy (all the ice cream!), wandering around campus, visiting my old sorority, and attending receptions and talks for my major and two Class of 2003 dinners – every moment was a joy, and I just wish that we were still there!  Lots more photos and stories coming later this week, that’s a promise.  The only thing that was a bit of a bummer about the weekend was that I had a hard time disconnecting from work, especially on Thursday and Friday.  I had a few work fires to put out, and even between emergencies, I just felt tied to my email all weekend, which is a lame way of spending an event that I look forward to for five years (at least – I actually missed my tenth, so I’ve been anticipating this reunion since 2008).  But I can’t complain, because I was in a beautiful place that I love so much, sharing it with my family – what’s not to love about that?

 

Reading.  Rather a slow reading week, because I spent most of last week preparing to be out of town, juggling a personal project that I am working hard on, and then actually heading up to Ithaca for reunion.  But I’m about two-thirds of the way through Scenes of Clerical Life and still really enjoying it, and at the same time, re-reading The Turner House for my book club (which meets on Wednesday night, so I’ve got to get cracking – I’m only about 20% through the book as of right now).  I’ve got a few more library books out, so they’ll probably be next on deck.

Watching.  Lots of watching, and all great!  I watched my kids experience lots of first at Cornell – first sight of the clock tower, first bite of Cornell Dairy ice cream, first visit to the Alpha Phi house, first time running around on the Arts Quad, first Collegetown Bagels run… And I watched the Big Red Marching Band serenade our class on our final dinner by the lake (although their choice of spirit song was maybe a bit misplaced for the fifteenth reunion – there were a lot of kids in our tent, and a lot of parents singing “We’re gonna beat the… hockey… outta you!  Fork ’em up, fork ’em up, go CU!”)

Listening.  Other than the aforementioned Big Red Marching Band serenade, my biggest listening day last week was Wednesday, when I drove to Richmond and back to NoVA in the same day for my Virginia Bar swearing-in: yay!  With more than four hours alone in the car, I made good progress on podcasts – mostly Those Park Guys Podcast.  I’d been saving up episodes, so I enjoyed several hours with Jack and Colton on my drive.

Blogging.  Hikes 11-20 coming to you on Wednesday, and then a travel recap on Friday – stay tuned!

Laughing.  During the “State of the ILR School” talk by the dean of my undergrad college, the dean mentioned that a group of about 24 students took over his office with a list of demands.  While I love that the students in my major still feel so passionately about their activism, we did get a good laugh afterwards – Steve mentioned that he had never heard of students taking over their dean’s office, and I told him that it was a quintessentially ILR thing to do and almost a rite of passage for my major.  Go Big Red!

Loving.  So much this week!  I loved visiting all of my old favorite Cornell spots and seeing so many beloved faces this week.  (In a class of 3,000, I knew a disproportionately high number of reunion attendees – my major, which was very small, and my sorority turned out in high numbers.)  Loved wandering around my sorority house, checking out the old pictures from my time there and giving the password to enter the secret sisters-only room.  Loved Collegetown Bagels every morning and Cornell Dairy Bar every afternoon, and yummy tacos and barbeque with my classmates in the evenings.  Loved hearing about the direction my major program is taking over the next few years at the “State of the ILR School.”  Loved watching my kids run around on the grass outside the ILR School while Steve and I chatted with a dear friend from our college days.  Loved watching the sun set over Beebe Lake as we took our class picture and gave goodbye hugs that will have to last five years for many of us.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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Last weekend we toddled down to Mount Vernon, where we often find ourselves, and spring was springing all over the place.  The ground was an inch deep in mud, unsurprisingly – since it had been raining for days on end.  But more to the point, the upper garden was a riot of color and life.

The gorgeousness had to be seen to be believed.

Happy Friday, friends!  I hope you enjoyed these, and I hope you have lovely weekends ahead.

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2017 was a great year on the trails!  Our hikes took us all around our local area, up to the Adirondacks and clear across the country to California.  As we look ahead to 2018 hiking – and I have some big plans for this year, as you know – I don’t want to forget all the fabulous trails of 2017.

JanuaryRiverbend Park, Great Falls, Virginia.

FebruaryLake Accotink Park, Fairfax, Virginia.

MarchU.S. National Arboretum, Washington, D.C.

AprilBluebell Loop Trail at Bull Run Occoquan Regional Park, Manassas, Virginia.

MayMason Neck State Park, Lorton, Virginia.

JuneFirst Landing State Park, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

JulyGiant Mountain, Keene Valley, New York.

SeptemberJoshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, California.

OctoberSky Meadows State Park, Delaplane, Virginia.

November Stony Man Mountain, Shenandoah National Park, Luray, Virginia.

December Jiminy Peak Ski Resort, Hancock, Massachusetts.

So, there we have it!  Twelve months of fresh air and trails across five different states (Virginia, Washington D.C., New York, California and Massachusetts).  Countless miles tramped, birds spotted, high fives exchanged and views enjoyed.

Here’s to another year of hiking in 2018!

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