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Happy belated birthday to my favorite state park!  The original Adirondack Park was created on May 20, 1892, when New York State Governor Roswell P. Flower (yes, really) carved out protection for 2.8 million acres of the North Country.  The park has more than doubled in size since then, and now covers some six million acres.  It also contains some of my favorite places in the world.

The Great Sacandaga Lake is just “inside the blue line,” as New Yorkers refer to the Adirondack Park.  It’s one of the largest lakes in the park and is located in the southernmost corner of the protected area.

I basically grew up on the Sacandaga – sailing, paddling, swimming, running and playing.  I pretty much had the ideal childhood, and the Sacandaga was a huge part of it.

Not far from the Sacandaga – Lake George!  Lake George is one of the iconic Adirondack places, and it’s awash in beauty.

So many Adirondack icons can be found here.  Like the Sagamore Resort…

And the Minne-ha-ha…

I have fond memories of cruising Lake George on the Minne-ha-ha with my grandparents.  And last summer, my friend Seth and I got up close and personal with it – in kayaks!

Lake George is not “my” lake, the way the Sacandaga is – but it’s still special to me.  It’s where I enjoyed my first ice cream cone (I don’t remember this, but my parents love telling the story), the scene of many wanderings with high school and college friends, and a favorite day trip from Albany.

More recently, Steve and I have fallen in love with the high peaks region.  In this section of the park, most of the 4,000+ foot mountains cluster – beckoning climbers, trekkers and day-hikers alike.  So far, we’ve climbed three of them.  Progress toward becoming 46rs is sloooooooow.  But it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Cascade and Porter.

Giant.

There are so many Adirondack places I’d like to explore.  We haven’t even scratched the surface of all the iconic spots in the park – there’s the rest of the 46 to explore, for one thing, and the quintessential Adirondack non-high peak hikes, like Indian Head and Mount Jo.  There’s Lake Placid, which has always been a special place for me – for kayaking in the summer and fall, and skiing Whiteface in winter – but to which Steve has never been.  There are childhood places I visited with my grandparents – like Blue Mountain Lake – that I haven’t seen in decades.  There are new challenges to tackle, like the Saranac 6 and the Fire Tower Challenge, and waters to explore, like the St. Regis Canoe Area and Tupper Lake.  We could spend a lifetime combing the park and never uncover all of its secrets – and we live hours and hours away.  But no matter how far we live, we’ll always keep coming back to these places.

All that is to say, happy, happy, happy birthday to the ADK.  You’re a gift to the world and you’ve been a gift to me all my life.

What’s your favorite state park?

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As I mentioned last week, in addition to our sunny two days spent on the lake, we also squeezed in a couple of hikes.  We had a major adventure planned for Sunday, but as a warm-up and for some good friend time, we also made plans to hit the trails on Saturday.  My friend Christine is moving to Denver soon, so I knew that this trip was probably going to be the last (easy) opportunity to hang out.  Of course, maybe I’ll touch base with her on a future visit to my Colorado-dwelling brother and SIL, but we’re in Albany more often than we’re in the Boulder/Denver area.  So I suggested that we meet for a hike before she rolls out and told her to pick the spot – since she’s moving.  After some discussion, she settled on Grafton Lakes State Park.

I have fond childhood memories of the beach at Grafton, and the kiddos were chomping at the bit to go swimming.  (We dressed them in their bathing suits before leaving the house, which really ratcheted up the hype.)  But first thing’s first – a hike was in order.

We headed for the trail around the lake.  It started out fairly easy, and we trotted along comfortably, chatting about Chris’s upcoming move, her job search in Denver, and our Adirondack plans for the next day.  (Chris is a 46r – a hiker who has summited all 46 Adirondack high peaks – and she offered great advice for our trip into the peaks region the next morning.)

The trail started out very easy and pleasant, albeit a little bit muddy (which boded ill for the next day’s hiking, but we didn’t really give it much thought – not that we would have changed our plans anyway).

Spotted a cute little canoe!

Then the trail started to get a bit more challenging – with a lot of rocks, roots and massive mud puddles.  I put the iPhone away for most of it, not wanting to drop it into six inches of mud or onto a big rock.  But Nugget gave me a lovely head massage (at least until it turned into aggressive hair-pulling).

The lake was about 2.5 miles around.  About halfway through, we stopped at a little beach to regroup and sip on our water bottles.

Hi Steve!

And obviously, any stop is an opportunity for selfies.  Hi, Chris!

Eventually we made it around the entire circumference of the lake, and everyone fancied a nice refreshing swim.  Steve and Chris stood around talking while I chased after Nugget.  Hmmmmm…

Each of the lifeguard chairs had a pile of sand in front of it, that was clearly put there just for Nugget’s enjoyment.  Obviously.

As was the lifesaving dinghy.

And the rescue kayak.  Moana songs were sung.

We finally made our way back to Dad and the little mermaid.

What a fun day!  The hike was a great warm-up for the Adirondacks, and the kids had a blast splashing in the lake (which was cool but surprisingly not cold).  And of course, I was getting all kinds of chills watching my kids play in the same state park lake that I splashed in on school trips as a kid.  Full circle, you guys.  Full circle.

Thanks for a great hike, Grafton!  And best of luck in Denver, Chris – hopefully we’ll see you out there one of these days!

What’s your favorite childhood state park memory?

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Last weekend we kicked off our summer 2017 travel with a short (too short!) weekend on Virginia Beach.  Longtime readers may recall that my best friend, Rebecca, lives in VB (although it looks like she may be moving soon – sniff).  We visited her and her fiancé, Eric, for a week last summer, but hadn’t been back since.  So a visit was long overdue.  (I hope we make it there at least one more time before they move.)

We arrived on Friday around 5:00 p.m., and the first order of business was dinner.  After dinner, clearly, we had to hit the beach.  That first toes-in-the-sand moment was totally worth the four-and-a-half hour drive from D.C.

Since it was basically sunset, I took a walk on the wild side and let Nugget go without his rash guard.  He was delighted.  He’s recently obsessed with his belly button, and all he wants to do is stick his finger in it.  So strange.

 

The sun was already starting to go down, but the water felt perfect and obviously we were going to take full advantage of every sandy and salty moment we could get.  Nugget is a total fish (Pisces!) and all he wanted to do was splash.

Aunt Rebecca taught Peanut to play “Baywatch.”  Um, you’re going the wrong way, Yasmin.

That’s better.

Riddle me this: how many Virginians does it take to keep a toddler afloat?  Answer: at least two.  He’s a slippery little fella.

After the sun dipped below the horizon, we packed up and headed home.  The boys took the wagon…

While the girls went screaming down the road in the golf cart.  We blew past the boys – yesssssss!  Steve said that after we passed them, Nugget kept up a steady stream of “Mommy?  Mommy?  Come back, Mommy!  Can I ride the golf cart?  Can I ride the golf cart?  Mommy, where are you?  Come back, Mommy!” until we all reunited back at the house.  Awwwww.  Break my heart.

On Saturday, we were out the door early and headed for the beach again.  Nugget had to wear his rash guard this time!  Rebecca walked Brandy the dog to the beach, while our family took the golf cart.  Nugget got to drive, and his little baby brain almost couldn’t handle the excitement.

Loaded him up with floaties, because it was a windy day and the waves were rolling.  Not as bad as the Outer Banks, but still – not quite the peaceful cove it had been just the night before.

That kid – I’ll tell you.  I just can’t get enough of him.  He’s my joy.

Back at the house, the golf cart continued to be the hit attraction.  I’m pleased to report that no one was injured in the arguments over whose turn it was to “drive” the (parked) cart.

On Saturday afternoon, Rebecca and Brandy and I treated ourselves to a gorgeous hike in First Landing State Park – but I already told you all about it, so we’ll go straight to our evening plans.  First up, Steve and I took the kids for a too-brief trip over to our friend Elissa’s house to celebrate her son’s second birthday party.  We weren’t able to stay long, because we’d promised to attend another party…

Eric entered the annual Virginia Beach Tuna Tournament for the first time this year, and he, a friend, and his son brought home a 40-pound tuna as their catch.  The tournament is a multi-day extravaganza, with multiple fishing days and multiple parties.  Saturday night was the closing party, at which the tournament winners would be announced.  We all knew that 40 pounds wasn’t going to win the tournament, but you simply don’t miss the last night of the VBTT.  So we cleaned up and headed to the marina for the fun.

Nugget was excited to check out the boats.  He picked out all of the ones he wanted me to get for him.

This one, too, Mommy!

Peanut enjoyed checking out the local artists’ work for sale.  She and Aunt Rebecca found a surfboard painted with a mermaid skeleton and I narrowly avoided bringing it home – I won “mean mom” credentials for life by refusing to buy it for Peanut’s room.  (I also learned that after we left, Rebecca had a couple more drinks and almost bought it for Peanut; it seems that had she gotten any encouragement at all – or even neutrality – she would have come home with a gift for my precious weird little girl.  Thanks very much to Eric for staying strong, even after a few drinks himself, and insisting that buying the mermaid skeleton surfboard for my four-year-old was A Very Bad Idea.)

Nugget got loopier and loopier over the course of the evening.  After a skinned knee and a massive tantrum because I wouldn’t buy him a $400 tuna statue (are you sensing a theme here?) we called it quits for the evening and headed back to put the kids in bed while Eric and Rebecca enjoyed being unencumbered grownups.

Early Sunday morning, we were up and at the beach again!

Nugget and I spent some time looking for “treasures” on both Saturday and Sunday.  We brought home a handful of pretty shells; now I have to find a way to show them off.

Everyone relaxed in their own ways…

And the floatie giraffe came out to play!  I don’t think he actually made it into the water, though.

This kid is a total beach bum.  I know that pretty much every kid loves the beach – but seriously, I’ve never seen a kid come alive the way Nugget does when he’s around water.  He’s a Pisces through and through.

I’m so grateful to have had a weekend to escape the city with my crew, and to spend time with people we love in a place that is already so dear to us.  I do hope we make it here at least one more time before Rebecca and Eric move away.

After the beach, we cleaned up and headed out for one last weekend treat – brunch at Commune, a restaurant Rebecca had been dying to try.  I started with the lavender latte.

My breakfast – a skillet bowl with vegetables, tomato jam, and a sunny-side-up egg, and a side of cheddar grits that I shared with Nugget (he also had scrambled eggs).  The food was amazing but we were really frustrated by the slow service.  Normally, we don’t mind waiting awhile for our food – but when we have two little ones (a.k.a. ticking time-bombs in any restaurant) and are staring down the barrel of a long and stressful drive back to reality, waiting an hour for our food was not the best.  Good thing it was so delicious!

(Wait notwithstanding, we had to get dessert.  “Milk and honey” buckwheat crepe with pastry cream, local honey drizzle, peaches and edible flowers – WUT.)

Goodbye, and thanks for another wonderful weekend of salty air, sandy toes and good company, Virginia Beach!  Hopefully we won’t wait ten months before coming back for our next visit.

Did you squeeze in a weekend getaway recently, too?

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As much as I am admittedly a homebody, I don’t mind a bit of business travel – especially business travel of the low pressure, conference-attending-and-networking variety, which I had last week.  I spent Thursday and Friday in Chicago, where my firm has their home office, attending a multi-office practice group meeting.  The meeting was great – there were interesting and informative workshops, and I also got to meet colleagues from other offices, some of them for the first time (and I’m hoping that leads to some good projects).  The one drawback to business travel?  Being stuck in a conference room.  Especially when you know what you’re missing, because the view from reception is…

Oof.  It was tough to sit still, knowing that was outside.  Even amidst the fun of hearing everyone’s favorite labor relations war stories (#nerdalert) I found myself fidgeting and glancing toward the window a few times.  Knowing that Friday would be a busy day of meetings right up until I had to head to the airport, I decided I was going to get up early and take a sightseeing run around all that good stuff right outside my hotel.

Started at the hotel front entrance, and a mere two blocks later, I was at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).  No need to stop and gawk, since I was there on Thursday and would be heading back up those high speed elevators on Friday – that’s where our office is.

Next sight: the Chicago River.  Someday, I want to take one of the architecture boat tours that wend their way down this waterway.  Maybe next year.

For this year, I contented myself with a quick breather on the bridge, and a selfie.  (Alert: more selfies ahead.)

Headed down Monroe Street, and totally unexpectedly, spotted…

HAMILTON!  (I may have come to a screeching halt and shouted “THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS!” right there on the sidewalk.  Fortunately, it was very early, and not many people were out.)

My plan was to run to Millennium Park, since I’ve never been there, and then see how I was feeling – and continue on if I still felt good.  I had a specific destination within the park in mind…

Do you see what I see?  A BIG SHINY LEGUME.

Got a little closer…

I call this Red Face With Bean.

Since I was still feeling good (that red face notwithstanding) I continued through the park and headed down to that beautiful lake I’d been staring at all the previous afternoon from the conference room window.

Gorgeous.

The sun was still coming up and there were some really cool cloud formations overhead.  It actually sprinkled a bit while I was on the lakeside trail, but nothing too bad – mostly just refreshing.

Happy runner!  (That’s Shedd Aquarium and the planetarium in the far, far background.  I thought about running all the way to the planetarium, since I was feeling so great, but decided I really needed to get back to the hotel and get ready for work.)

Fortunately, the views on the way back were fabulous, too.

I had time for a few more sights on my route back to the hotel!  Buckingham Fountain…

So, so beautiful.

And finally, the Art Institute of Chicago.  I’d love to get a closer look at all of these sights – not just fly past them on a run.  But it was better than nothing!

I thought I’d probably run about two miles.  Imagine my surprise later, when I mapped it out and it was closer to four!  I felt fantastic the whole time, and could have gone much further if I didn’t have to get showered and fancy for another day of meetings (and then travel).  I’m sure it helped that I took a lot of breaks – as you can tell from all of the pictures.  But I still felt darn proud that I got up early (after a long night of cocktails and bocce with colleagues) and got some miles in.  Plus, on foot is the best way to sightsee, right?

Thanks for a great run, Chicago!  Hope to see you again for more miles one of these days…

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Spring is widely regarded as the most spectacular season of the year in D.C.  I haven’t been able to really enjoy it in the past, because I always got hideous allergies – it’s no fun to spend a month with runny eyes, itchy throat, and a completely blocked nose.  For whatever reason – knock wood, and I’m almost afraid to write this for fear I might jinx it – allergies seem to have passed me by this year.  I think it may be because I spent three years out of the area, and it takes awhile for pollen to become familiar enough to my immune system to make it freak out.  I’ve also had another baby, and pregnancy does all kinds of weird things; I’ve got to say, if one of the side effects of Nugget was that he cured me of my allergies, even for a little while, well, I already love the little guy but – that’s awesome.

All that’s to say, since I haven’t been spending my days sneezing and popping Claritin – yet – I’ve finally gotten to go out and do All The Spring Things, and D.C. has totally earned its reputation for being a spring wonderland.  The weekend before last, we took advantage of a crisp but cloudless morning to drive down to Mount Vernon and check out all the glories of spring on the estate.

Rows and rows of tulips, daffodils, and more flowers in the upper garden – flowering trees all over the grounds – and baby animals in almost every enclosure!  Does it get better than that?

We started out with a walk around the upper garden and then down past the Mansion to go check out the animals – always the kids’ favorite part.  We actually went into the Mansion this time, because we found a slot between tour groups and it wasn’t too crowded.  Peanut loved it, as expected, and Nugget was a menace, also as expected.  I think in the future we’ll just send Peanut inside with one parent, and keep Nugget out with the other.  Fortunately, no property damage was done, and he didn’t even get yelled at for banging on doors like he did at the Lee-Fendall House.  So… a win?

Headed down to the animals and right away spotted lambs!  WAY too cute.  I apologize in advance for my terrible photos.  The sun was just too blinding.  I assure you, they were much cuter in person.

My lambkins were enthralled by the sweet little woolly babies

Next we continued down the hill toward the Heritage Farm, and on our way, we discovered – piglets!

Again, pictures do no justice to the cuteness of the real thing.  These little ones were only five days old!  And already scampering and playing in their little lean-to.  Poor Mom looked exhausted.

Made it down to the river!

It was such a gorgeous day.  I could have stayed outside all day long.  Sunshine, birdsong, flowers, and baby animals – what’s not to love?

A little too sunny for some people.  Look at these spoiled kids, being towed backwards so the sun doesn’t get in their faces.  It’s the life, right?

Eventually we had our fill of the (grown-up) sheep down at the Heritage Farm and headed back up the hill, stopping about halfway up to let the kids out of the stroller – they’d had enough riding.

Yes, they’re almost the same height.  And Nugget weighs as much as Peanut does now.  It’s frightening.

Found a little grove of Virginia dogwoods!  (It’s a tree and a flower. #andrewshepardismypresident.)  I pointed them out to Steve, who had been wondering about how to identify them just the week before.

Mount Vernon is really the perfect family outing for us.  There are flowers for Peanut (and me!), animals and plenty of lawn for both kids, and a delightful walk for all.  I’m so glad we’re living close to the estate again (although I miss being just a ten-minute bike ride away!).

Where do you like to go to soak up spring?

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And now it’s 2017!  I think we were pretty much all ready to see the back of 2016.  Has there ever been a year in which more things went wrong, from a state-of-the-world perspective?  Globally speaking, I found 2016 as ridiculously absurd as most people, so good riddance.  But from a personal and family perspective, we actually had a pretty good year – filled with lots of laughter and fun, with big and small adventures all folded around a major, and very welcomed, life change.  Here’s a look.

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The biggest event in January was concluding the sale of our house in Elma, and moving into temporary housing in Williamsville, New York.  The move was phase one of our plan to leave the Buffalo area – a goal we were already working on at the end of 2015, although we just murmured vague things like “we’re looking for a better fit” when asked about our home sale.  We weren’t ready to share our ultimate plan at that point.  Most of the month was consumed with packing and moving, so we didn’t do much adventuring.  But I did finish recapping 2015 fun and posted Part I of my 2015 reading year in review.

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In February, we settled into our new temporary living situation. and I made two stealthy trips to D.C. to interview for a job.  That job didn’t work out, but getting interviews so quickly did boost my confidence and convince me that we had a chance of making our dream of moving home come true.  Those trips – planning and preparing for them, making them, and keeping them quiet – consumed my entire month and between that and work drama back in Buffalo, I had very little energy for anything else.  So we didn’t get out much in February, although I did post Part II of my 2015 reading year in review, and my 2015 Book Superlatives.

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March was all about celebrating Nugget as he turned one year old!  We threw him a storytelling birthday party with a nature theme at a local children’s bookstore, and it was so much fun.  I think he felt very celebrated and very loved.  Around the main event of the month, we squeezed in a few hikes – since the weather was unseasonably warm – making it to Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve and to Tillman Road Wildlife Management Area.  We also visited a working sugar shack as part of New York’s Maple Days.

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In April, I made another stealthy trip to D.C. to do my first interview for the job I would end up taking.  Around that, I fit in fun both bookish and outdoorsy.  We took a family hike to Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and spotted dozens of red-winged blackbirds.  We also went back to Times Beach Nature Preserve and Canalside for family playtime.  And I – as always – celebrated National Poetry Month, this time with a fun twist!  I posted two big roundups of my favorite poetry books for kids, one post for the classics, and one for newer favorites.

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In May, I continued to be all over the place.  I made another secretive interview trip to D.C. – the most stressful one yet, involving bumping into a colleague on the way there, and a nearly-missed connection in Detroit (sprinting in heels to catch the last plane of the night) on the way back.  I liked my end of month travel better – a trip across New York State to visit my parents and spend some time at the lake for Memorial Day!  We also hit up the summit of Mount Greylock and had lunch in Williamstown, Massachusetts – such a fun trip.  Closer to home, we had some fun adventures – a Mother’s Day weekend that included hikes at Tifft Nature Preserve and a 5K race in Ellicottville, New York; a family walk through Reinstein Woods; and a hike at Akron Falls, a park we’d not yet explored.

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In early June, I got the exciting news that I had a job offer in D.C., and our move was officially underway!  We still kept it under wraps, in case things fell through.  Two days after getting the exciting call from my new firm, I packed up and drove across the state to Lake George for an education law conference.  In between conference sessions and workshops, I managed to spend almost a full day with my college friend Seth – hiking, kayaking, eating delicious crab legs and drinking wine.  Back in Buffalo, we celebrated Father’s Day with another 5K (for me!) and a family hike.

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July was a blast, as we squeezed as much Buffalo fun in as we could before moving at the end of the month.  Starting with a fun Fourth of July weekend that included playground time, Canalside, berry picking and a family retirement party.  The next weekend, we were out and about again with a special treat for Nugget – Touch A Truck!  I mused on my favorite books of the first half of the year and on my personal tendency to cram as much fun into summer as possible.  Meanwhile, I dedicated the rest of the month to wrapping up work projects and lining up childcare (a school for Peanut; a nanny for Nugget) in northern Virginia.  We closed out the month by throwing an early fourth birthday party for Peanut, so that she could celebrate with her friends, after which I promptly threw my back out putting Nugget in the crib, and then our moving truck rolled out two days later and we officially said goodbye to New York State.

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August was about resting and reflecting on this big life change that we had brought about.  It was a long journey – eighteen months from the time we first started talking about moving, before Nugget was even born, to turning the key at our new place in Virginia.  And even though we had a house crammed full of boxes and a lot of unpacking and organizing to do, we decided to spend our final week of freedom before I started my new job visiting my friend Rebecca in Virginia Beach.  We spent pretty much the entire week barefoot and covered in sand and it was exactly what we needed.  When we got home, D.C. life started in earnest.  I started work at my new firm.  My cousin Jocelyn came down to watch the kids for two weeks as part of our cobbled-together bridge childcare plan (before the school year started and the nanny was available) and we did our best to induce her to move south – with hikes at Great Falls, visits to the D.C. monuments, and a morning at the Udvar-Hazy Center, not to mention two cute kids.  We also celebrated Peanut’s fourth birthday – can’t believe what a big kid she is!

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In September, we continued to enjoy being back in northern Virginia and able to visit all of our favorite spots again – including Lake Burke (pictured above), which was one of our regular haunts when we lived here before.  Most of the rest of the month was quiet – filled with settling in.  Nugget got his first haircut and I was a soggy mess.  I reflected on the summer that just ended.  And – the best part of September – my dear Buffalo friend Zan came for a visit.  All in all, September was busy – filled with back to school events and birthday parties – but also quiet, if that makes sense.  It was a lot of the business of living, which was exactly what I wanted after three years of homesickness.

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If September seemed quiet, October was packed with local fun.  We celebrated Columbus Day weekend with a trip to Little Washington for a few days, where we tasted wine, explored the adorable town, and hiked in Shenandoah National Park.  Back in the D.C. suburbs, we drove out to Loudoun County two weekends in a row for apple picking and then pumpkin picking; had a playdate with a new school friend at a children’s Halloween party hosted by a local historic mansion; and finally went Trick-or-Treating (with our mermaid and fire truck) in Old Town – a month-long funfest that I recapped in one big monster of a post.

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November was… it happened.  The month started well, with a visit to the Will & Jane exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library.  Then the election happened, and I – like pretty much everyone else I know – was absolutely stunned.  I said everything I needed to say in this post, so no more.  We finished the month with a trip up to my parents’ house for a family funeral and Thanksgiving.  (For the first time since switching from food blogging, I didn’t recap a holiday.  I just didn’t feel like it.  It was good to see family, and the kids had a great time.  That was enough.)

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After the dumpster fire that was November, we made December all about family fun.  Another visit to Little Washington (for their Christmas parade!), walks to the waterfront to see the holiday boat parade of lights and the waterskiing Santa, and last but not least, Christmas itself.  It was wonderful to celebrate as Virginians again, and looking back on the year I was so grateful that the move home happened as I’d hoped it would.

And now, onward!  Next week, I’ll be reviewing how I did on my 2016 goals and plans (spoiler alert: pretty bad) and setting some new intentions and a word for 2017 – which I can’t tease, because I still don’t know what it will be.  It feels particularly good, this year, to have a fresh start.  Can’t wait to see what 2017 brings to our family (even if I’m a little scared for the world).

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Somehow, we managed to live as avid hikers in the DC area for ten years without ever making it to Shenandoah National Park.  My college alumni club went to the park to hike Old Rag, its most popular peak, twice a year, but I never was able to join the group (it seemed I was always out of town, or running a race, or pregnant, when they would go).  Nor did we ever get there on our own.  Since we love the outdoors and love national parks, this was a huge omission that I was determined to correct as soon as possible when we moved back.  And a few weeks ago, that’s what we did!

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The most important agenda item for our weekend in Little Washington was a hike in Shenandoah.  Steve and I both researched trails and decided on the trail to Mary’s Rock.  Boots on the ground, and let’s go!

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We hiked through beautiful wooded trails and I checked out the ferns on the forest floor, thinking of the words from the Shenandoah National Park foliage report the weekend prior to our visit:

Ferns are turning gold –their kelly green fronds brushed lightly now with gold dust, but transforming frond tip by frond tip into the cinnamon and milk chocolate tones they’ll wear in winter.

(Whoever the park has writing the fall foliage reports needs an immediate raise.  I felt like I was reading Henry Beston.)

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We passed by the foundation of an old cabin, chimney still intact.  I love stumbling upon visual treats like these, and speculating on who lived here and what their lives were like.

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Finally, we made it to the first overlook.  We spent a few minutes just drinking in the views of the gently rolling slopes and valleys laid out below.

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From there we hiked on up to the ridge leading to Mary’s Rock, but after about half a mile, Steve and I looked at each other and conceded that we had to turn back without summitting.  A cold wind was whipping all around us, and while we were fine, the kids were both crying in the backpacks.  (Being smaller, and not working up a sweat the way we were, they were feeling the wind.)  It just wasn’t our day.  As soon as we got down off the ridge and back into the more sheltered forest, both kiddos perked up.  And before too long, one of them sacked out.  Too cute.

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On our way back down the mountain, we stopped to drink in more gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Marveling at this view ^ Steve remarked, “Now I see why they call it the Blue Ridge.”  Indeed!

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Longtime readers may recall that Steve and I both grew up in or near the Adirondack region in New York State.  I lived in Albany, slightly south of the mountains, and spent countless days at my family’s cabin on the Great Sacandaga Lake.  Meanwhile, Steve was in Glens Falls, in the Adirondack region itself.  We both consider the Adirondacks an important part of our personal stories.  On this trip, we talked about how much we want our kids to grow up with the Blue Ridge Mountains meaning to them what the Adirondacks meant to us.

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I guess that means we’re just going to have to go back soon and often.  That shouldn’t be a problem!

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