Trail Running Sneaks Review!

This entire week is gloomy and rainy here in Massachusetts so its a great time to dream about trail running and talk about my new trail running sneakers!! Dalmatians are very high energy dogs and they were bred to run alongside horse drawn carriages. They would run ahead and clear the crowds and then guard the goods when the men went inside. That’s why dalmatians are associated with firehouses and Budweiser, because firetrucks and the Budweiser trucks were originally horse drawn. What does that mean for someone who owns a dalmatian though? That means you are in the company of an animal that was bred to run miles and miles every day. Part of the reason why dalmatians got such a bad rep back when the dalmatian movies came out is because they are only good dogs with plenty of exercise. I once read that puppies can do 20k no problem. When we run on the trails, we do between 3-5 miles of hilly terrain…and she could totally do more. I love running with Mizpah in the woods, and I finally got my first pair of trail running sneakers about a month ago.

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I got my North Face Ultra 109 Goretex sneaks from REI. We are members of the REI coop, so we had a $20 member dividend from when I bought my crampons last year, and a 20% coupon back on the member rewards weekend. The sneakers are $120, but I think I ended up paying $76. Great deal! They are not the best looking sneaker, gray and blue are a little boring, but they have great stability so I can run on rocks and roots without rolling my ankles, and they are goretex which means I am a little more protected in mud and puddles on the trail. I also got some new socks from LLBean for trail running because I wanted socks that weren’t so low cut.

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Now, why get trail running sneakers? Can’t I just run on the trails with my normal running sneakers!?

You can! I did for years. I have noticed some huge improvements since I finally got some trail specific shoes though.

  1. Running uphill- trails in MA are covered in dead leaves with roots and rocks underneath. Running uphill with my new sneaks which have awesome dirt biting treads is soooooo much easier. No more slipping back every step, or trying to navigate the trail to put my feet on non-slip ground.
  2. Stability- these particular sneakers are made for stability so that when you are running over roots and rocks, it doesn’t impact your footfall as much. I roll my ankle and trip way less now.
  3. Goretex- the first piece of clothing I owned with Goretex was my crew jacket and I have been in love ever since. My sneakers are able to go through mud and shallow puddles and my feet stay warm and dry.

A big rule that I have to follow with these sneakers is to only use the on the trails. Running on pavement in them would damage and wear down the amazing treads.

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Thats my little Mizpah coming back to me after checking out an unfinished/abandoned beaver lodge. It was sorta a scary moment watching her traipse around on logs, but she has an explorer’s spirit that can’t be harnessed. We couldn’t hike this past weekend because of the rain….and its been raining all week so who knows about this weekend. Anyone have any fun Kentucky Derby plans!?

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My favorite gift for hiking

Those of you that read my blog or check out my instagram photos know that I am an avid hiker in the White Mountains of NH. Besides being on the back of a horse, being out on the trails is my other happy, calming, mind-clearing place.  I have a lot of gear now from hiking and camping up there over the past few years, but I have been in need of a good backpacking sleeping bag. My fiancé got me the REI Flash sleeping bag, rated for 32 deg F. He also got me one of those blow up crash pads to go with it.

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Making sure it was long enough on Christmas morning! Mizpah and Patty Cat very interested 🙂

We hike all through the winter. I have La Sportiva Nepal boots, gators, waterproof pants, microspikes, crampons, and snowshoes….gear is really important in the winter. This sleeping bag will be at the bottom of my pack this winter, because you always have to be ready to survive in the cold in the case of an emergency. Bag and tag is what Jon calls it. Jon always brings his, and now I will have mine too, just in case. It will also be perfect for some of the overnight hikes we have planned this summer for me to finish the NH 48 4000 footers!

It might sound corny, but this sleeping bag is more than just, “I wanna camp with you”. For winter hikers, this sleeping bag is more like, “I wanna keep you safe and warm always”. My sleeping bag just became a way more romantic gift huh?? Plus I know he probably spent hours researching which bag to get me!

We finally got some snow today!! Woo!

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Creating a wish list for your boyfriend/fiance’s family…

My parents retired to beautiful sunny Florida a couple years ago, and last year was their first year ever not being in Massachusetts for Christmas. Last year my sister went down to FL mid-December because she is a nurse and worked right through the holidays, and I went down for a few days right after Christmas. My fiance’s family truly took me in last year for Christmas. His parents got me a stocking and stuffed it with candy, travel size toiletries, handwarmers, and chapstick. They got me some really nice gifts including a jewelry box decopaged with a picture of my dog, Mizpah, on it. They even got Mizpah a toy and a bone. The sadness I felt over not being with my family for Christmas morning was greatly offset by the warmth from my fiance’s family. I am so lucky to be marrying into this family.

Yesterday….my fiance asked me to come up with some gift ideas to pass along to his mother…..this is a gift guide often looked over….

I had a few criteria:

  • Affordable, like under $40
  • From a well known retailer- your own mom might go to any lengths to get you the perfect gift, your boyfriend/fiance’s mom? keep it simple, don’t send her to an Etsy shop that she’s never heard of.
  • Hassle-free/free shipping- free and easy shipping is always a plus
  • Commonality- something that she feels comfortable buying, not too intimate, something that she would buy for a friend in her life

OK, here’s what I came up with!

  1. A basic cotton cable knit sweater from LL Bean, on sale for $39.99. I had to toss my black crew neck sweater this year, so this would be an awesome replacement. These sweaters are a wardrobe staple and my fiance’s parents love LLBean too! IMG_2314
  2. A nice Kate Spade mug with the words “One Smart Cookie” on it from Macy’s, $15. Some of the other little sayings might be weird for her to buy, but I am a smart cookie! This is a mug I would feel comfortable drinking from in front of my students 😉IMG_2315
  3. Smartwool socks!!! I am a Smartwool sock addict, they are my favorite. I sent along these from REI because I know my fiance put some stuff from REI on his list….trying to make it easy on my future inlaws 🙂 The socks run ~$15, especially for the 2014 closeout ones! I live in the nice warm medium cushion socks all winter. IMG_2316
  4. Books!! Books are a great gift. I am asking for Not Without Peril by Nicholas Howe from Barnes & Noble for $15.21. I have read a borrowed copy from a friend but would like my own. It’s an amazing book filled with the history and mishaps in the Presidential Range in the White Mountains of NH.IMG_2320 (1)
  5. Timex Weekender watch in plaid from Kohls, $34.42. I wrote about the Timex Weekender here and I love the plaid pattern strap. IMG_2319

Its so nice when the important people in your life ask for gift ideas. It shows that while they know you, they are interested in what you want/need right now. They want to get you something you will like!  Tis better to give than to receive for sure, but coming up with suitable gift ideas in the gifter’s price range can really make your family/close friends lives easier. I make different wish lists for my parents, my aunt & cousins, my sister, and for my future inlaws. It takes time, but really helps alleviate the mall wandering and shopping anxiety for the people you love most.  Its the thought that counts of course, but its a great feeling to be done with your Christmas shopping and be confident that everything you got for your people will be loved.

What do you think? Share your comments!

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Dartmouth Outing Club & Mt. Moosilauke

I hope that you all had a good Thanksgiving and a great weekend!! I spent the weekend up in NH with my fiancé and his family. We celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday, and then his birthday on Saturday with an awesome hike to #optoutside on Friday in between.

I only have 7 hikes left to complete the NH 48 4000-footers…..but they are all pretty long. We wanted to be back, showered, and ready to go for dinner & drinks at Poor People’s Pub (good grub, cheap beer) Friday night, so we chose Mt. Moosilauke  for our hike. The trail we picked, the Gorge Brook Trail, had a book time of 5 hours. We did it in 4.5, but we had to add an hour because the gate to the access road was shut and locked so we had to walk another 1.5 miles in and out from the trail head. That happens in the fall/winter.

The Gorge Brook Trail, Al Merrill Loop, Ridge Trail, and Snapper Ski Trail all start near the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge. The lodge and bunkhouses are owned by the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) from Dartmouth College in Hanover NH. The DOC is legendary in the White Mountains. Their love for outdoor activities, particularly winter sports has made the White Mountains what it is today, a region dotted with ski resorts, and home to cross country ski trails, snowshoeing trails, and backcountry skiing. Really  many of the first mountaineers in the Whites were from the DOC, some from Harvard too. These were the first mountaineers out west in many cases too. They were men that loved sport, competition, and endurance….and had the privilege and opportunity to travel and play in the mountains.

I have already hiked Mt. Moosilauke from a trail on the other side of the mountain, Glencliff, so this was my first time seeing the lodge. It’s really neat, bunkhouses named after different classes, a swimming hole for the class of 07, and the lodge itself is huge! They offer lodging to the public, students/alumni get a discount, and offer meals too. It’s also home to the trail crew, a group of students that maintain 17 cabins and ~50 miles of trails between the lodge and the campus in Hanover.

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Ivy league bunkhouses folks
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Walking up the main lodge, it’s huge!!
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Tried not to be too much a paparazzi, but I loved this bunkhouse. You can just barely see the screened in porch on the right with matching hunter green adirondack chairs
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The lawn of the lodge- I picture frisbee games, picnics, and stargazing out here

The hike itself was great, trail was not too rocky, lots of rock stairs, some ice towards the summit. The trails are very well marked by orange signs and very well taken care of. There are a couple re-routes which can be annoying, but are also signs of good trail stewardship. For this mountain, they have been moving the trails up and away from the riverside because of erosion and damage from hurricanes in the past.

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Mizpah is very attentive when we stop for a snack
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Selfie with Miz!

 

Dartmouth owns the Gorge Brook watershed, something like 4500 acres on Mt. Moosilauke and the surrounding area. It is named after C. Ross McKenney, an avid woodsman who oversaw the building of the main lodge in 1938. The lodge was saved after many years of disuse in the 50s by Al Merrill, the Director of Outdoor Programs and Ski Coach at the time.

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Memorial for Ross McKenney at the last sure water stop 

The summit of Moosilauke is above treeline. It can be extremely windy up there because its the furthest west of the 4000 footers and catches undeterred wind all the way from Vermont. There is a stone foundation up on the summit, the remains of an old hotel up there in 1860. It was first called the Prospect House, later called the Tip Top House. The Carriage Road Trail was originally used to reach the hotel. It was lovingly run by Dartmouth students from 1920 until it burned down in 1942. The hotel on Mt. Washington was also called the Tip Top House. I just couldn’t get a pic of it on this hike, the wind was gusting to ~50 mph. It was tough to stand up and walk at times.

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Freezing in the wind on the summit, couldn’t take too many pics
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Muddy paws and ears flapping in the wind

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I absolutely love the history in the White Mountains. All the old hotels, mountain huts & shelters from a time when the train was the only way to get up there. To see what it looked like up there in its hey day. Not all of it was good of course, the White Mountain National Forest was almost leveled for lumber and to create farmland. I definitely prefer it with the trees, but the glimpses of the past are much appreciated.

I would like to explore the lodge more when its open. They open in May and close November 1st. Don’t worry, my fiancé is doing the grid for the 48, so he has done Moosilauke in 3 months so far, 9 more to go!

What did you do to #optoutside on Friday? Have I inspired anyone to come to NH and see the Ivy League accommodations at the ravine lodge? Please say yes! 🙂

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Thanksgiving Traditions

Every year since we all turned 21 except last year, two of my best friends from my hometown and myself have gone out the night before Thanksgiving. Last year there was a snow storm the night before Thanksgiving. Yep, turkey trot 5K in the snow, that’s happened a few years. There were a few particularly rowdy Thanksgiving eves where I just couldn’t the next morning, but most years, I do a road race on Thanksgiving morning. Oh and then there was that year that I really shouldn’t have run, but I did anyway, and I tripped and wiped out and like, 10 people came over to help me…..

I am so fortunate that every year of my life, I have had an amazing Thanksgiving dinner, sometimes two depending on family and boyfriends!! Every year that I have been a teacher, we get an email the Monday before Thanksgiving reminding all of us that for our students, the holidays is often sad and very hard on them. They will not all have a warm and fuzzy Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. For some students at our school, the breakfast/lunch program are their only guaranteed meals. We as teachers excitedly ask our students what they are up to for the holidays, and while many return our enthusiasm with plans at their aunts, or grandparents, or even neighbors, a few always pointedly look away, not wanting to meet our expectant gaze. It’s always a good time to remember that even without the turkey, all the food, the decorations, spending time with friends and family is a thank worthy & thankful occasion. If my Thanksgiving meal was mac and cheese with old Pabst Blue Ribbon pounders, as long as my friends and family could come, we would all still laugh and love and enjoy our mac and cheese.

It’s easy at this time of year when the internet and your social media are showering you with the top 10 Thanksgiving apps, NYC chefs top Thanksgiving desserts, decorate for Thanksgiving like a pro, 5 tips for setting your Thanksgiving table, and so on to forget what we are all getting together for.

This year I am thankful for my amazing fiancé Jon, my happy and healthy parents, my sister Brenda, and my four pawed best friend Mizpah. I am also thankful for my great friend group from home, college, work, and the barn and of course all the talented & patient horses in my life. I am thankful to be a woman in America, able to write here and feel safe thanks to our service men and women.

I hope you all have lovely Thanksgivings, and enjoy your traditions whatever they might be. Who’s going to #optoutside on Friday with me and the employees at REI!? Haven’t heard of the #optoutside campaign? Check out my post on it here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

c/o Mon

REI’s Opt Outside Campaign

I think it was Monday night that I got the email from REI that they were closing on black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. REI is a coop company where once you join the coop, any purchases get chronicled, and you get money back each year on your purchases. I have gotten camping & hiking stuff at REI in the past. Black Friday has become a day of American consumerism like nothing else. The time for stores to open has pushed all the way to basically after dinner on Thanksgiving Thursday. The first year I headed up to NH to be with my fiancé’s family after Thanksgiving lunch with my family, there was traffic. I was shocked, how could there be traffic going through his town? It was because of the Walmart. I was driving to get to dessert with those I love, and got stuck in traffic with people going to get the best deal on a new flatscreen.

REI’s campaign asks us to go outside on Friday after Thanksgiving- get out of the stores, get off our computers, and do something outside. They created the hashtag “opt outside” for all of us to showcase our non consumer driven activities. Its fine with me because we were already planning to hike in NH. I still have to do the Tripyramids, Hancocks, and Cabot this fall/winter.

Will REI reach a new group of people to be customers? I don’t know, its a pretty specific audience that goes to REI. Maybe the campaign will inspire people to go buy new outdoorsy items for their #optoutside adventures. Maybe REI will even toss us some sales beforehand to help us get outfitted for the day. Will other companies join REI in closing on Black Friday? I don’t know. Think about everyone being able to spend all of Thursday & all of Friday with their families. REI’s 143 stores will be closed on that Friday and every employee will get paid to go do something outside! Can someone start paying me to play outside?! Here are the little YouTube videos they have created for the #optoutside campaign:

Opting outside will cost me gas money, and maybe a parking fee depending on which mountain we go to. Sooooo much cheaper than whatever I would ever buy on black Friday. Go outside more, spend less.

c/o Mon