“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.”


scan0010 copy 2When I thought about reflecting on this past year, I thought I would be thinking and contemplating about what an epic year this was.

I thought it’d be about all the lovely crazy adventures. How even though I’m terrified of planes, and I’ve only just begun to wean myself from needing some sort of anxiety easing medication to step on plane and stop myself from praying to all that is holy that my plane is not going to crash in a fireball — that I jumped out of a plane and went skydiving, twice. How I finally quit smoking. How my amazing co-workers forced me to meet my horse-riding crush idol while they streamed it live. (Thanks, Horse Network). How because of my niece, my heart grows. How I see the world differently because of her. How I want the world to be better. How I want to be better for her.

How my epic Mexico trip taught me – not having a phone for 10 days (yes, I know how privileged that makes me for that even being an “issue”. And how fucked up that is even a thing worth writing about) gave me the space to slow down, check out, and just do whatever I felt like whenever my body told me to. I didn’t try to capture the moment, I didn’t have anything to distract me. I took long walks. I danced my heart out. I read for hours. I started the winter solstice at sunrise doing 100 sun salutations on the beach. How I went parasailing. And with a crazy partner in crime, learned that with enough tequila you can convince your boat operator to let you parasail, upside down and drop from a crazy height. Even though said adventure was ill-advised and cost me my iPhone I’d do it all again.

I thought I’d be talking about all the wonderful moments of this year. And how I’m starting a new amazing chapter with a new job come January 2nd. (Woohoo!) But that is not what I’m going to write about.

I’m writing about Josie. I would not be the person I am today if I had not met him. If I had not dated him. If I had not lived with him. Even after all the stupid shit, we did to each other, like you do when you fall in love in your 20s, we were friends. But that is what I’m thinking about, because, while I was in Mexico, he passed away. That’s the first time I’ve written those words. And it still doesn’t feel real.

It shouldn’t be this hard. We had drifted apart the past few of years. We got busy. We lived in different time zones. All the usual life things where phone calls get less frequent happened. Sure we’d catch up a couple times a year but he wasn’t in my life daily. So I find myself surprised by how sad I feel. But in so many ways he still was in my life and will continue to be. Continue reading

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Whiteface: A 46er at Last!

IMG_20160725_130752It’s official. I’m a ADK46er! Woohoo. Ok, not quite official, I have some paperwork to fill out but I’ve completed the hikes so can wear my ADK46 gear with pride. It took me 2 years, 11 months and 1 day, or 1066 days – but who’s counting, right?

I’ll be doing a wrap-up of my journey on becoming a solo 46er in the near(ish) future but for now I’ll just write about the final hike. It feels pretty amazing to have completed, and yes I did them all solo. And no I didn’t die, even if I’m pretty sure my mom thought I might.

I saved Whiteface for my final hike. It was my grandfather’s final and it also meant some fam could drive the toll road and join me to celebrate (a.k.a. bring me champagne).

There are basically two trails to the top of Whiteface (not counting the driving toll road). The Wilmington Trail is by far the more popular, and many hikers combo with Esther. I had already checked that off a couple of years back as a single summit hike and dipping my toe for my first herd-path hike, so I decided to take the path less traveled approaching via Connery Pond. Whenever, I have the option I always prefer the less popular routes, particular for more trafficked peaks. And Whiteface can be a tourist destination for sure. Which I was reminded by those at the summit talking on their phone – on speaker. Yeah. Let’s add that one to the etiquette list. Continue reading

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The Runner-Up: Allen Mountain

AllenI’ve been putting Allen off, so much so, that it is my 45th climb. Nothing like saving it for the near end. But with so much history for my family Whiteface was destined to be my final peak. I’ve heard horror stories of Allen’s difficulty, length, mud and red-slime. It was one hike I was not looking forward to.

This is considered the most difficult peak of the Adirondack 46 simply because it is such a long hike over confusing forest and logging roads to get to just the base of the peak to start climbing. — EveryTrail

The longest 46’er, complete with long, boring trails, six River crossings, a slide filled with slippery red slime and four gorgeous viewpoints. 19.5 miles, RT. Expect this hike to take anywhere from 12 to 15 hours. — High Peaks MeetUp

But really I didn’t find it that bad. Sure it isn’t a walk in the park – but compared to Redfield and Cliff I found it much easier. And I didn’t find the trail difficult to follow in the least. Perhaps, a different time of year the turns would be harder to pick-up on or I’m just used to the herd paths by now. Continue reading

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To Cliff and Redfield with love

Dearest Cliff,

Cliff and RedfieldYour reputation does not disappoint. You namestake was appropriately chosen though, I still prefer Saddleback Cliffs. It is really your mud-filled cliffs that makes them a doozy. Yes, thank you for layering the slippery mud right in my foothold. Not to worry the bruised knee will be just fine in a few days time. But for all I’ve heard, I found you much more amenable than I had expected. But the mud! Really, knee deep mud. Is that necessary? I thought my gaiters would be good protection. Nope, not when it repeatedly goes above the gaiter line. And did you enjoy when I used the logs to cross one of your many mud ponds, only to discover the true slippery nature of mud and bite it, right into said mud pond. No worries, I was already covered in mud, so what’s a little bit more.

Cliff and RedfieldDear Redfield,

You were perhaps one of the more challenging climbs I’ve had. An endurance test. The combination of bedrock, boulders and elevation change wiped me out. It was already a long day but I blame you for how my body felt the next day. I earned every sweat drenched step. But following the tributary with its cascades, waterfalls, and flumes was downright beautiful. Luckily, I always carry a headlamp, since I underestimated our time together and was hiking out in the dark. Perhaps I’ll come visit again, but don’t hold your breathe for anything in the near future.

With love, Gretchen

All kidding aside. This was a long hike. I’m sure there are many that have and could do it quicker. But Redfield in particular, was the perfect storm on the type of trail I’m slow at. Reaching the parking lot at 11pm, is never my ideal, but as I’ve said many times before, I’m not the fasest hiker, and while I usually finish before the trail estimates, this hike was a beast for me.

Cliff and RedfieldStarting at the Upper Works parking lot it starts out easy as pie on a flat road and for the next 1.6 miles has some easy climbs and descents with easy-moderate footing. Don’t miss the large meadow just before the Calamity Brook bridge crosing at 1.6. The trail then gets rougher, where you get your first taste of mud, and the what feels like never ending rocks and boulders. No biggie in daylight – but in the dark with my headlamp this felt never ending on the way out. Not to mention, my feet were screaming at me. Continue reading

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The best laid plans

731210_originalNo matter how carefully you plan life can throw you a curve. That’s why I’m writing on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon and not on the summit of Redfield or Cliff.

I thought I had it all worked out. Unlike most of my hikes, I even rented a little motel to stay closer to the Upper Works Trail head the night before, to hit the trail early, get some extra rest and have all the daylight I needed. Yep. Plans did not go accordingly.

Started off strong. Headed down last night to my cheap inexpensive motel, enjoyed a nice dinner relaxing with a book. Slept hard with dreams of the hike to come.

13502021_10153722123321732_4694035759569825356_nAlarm went off at 4:01am. Sure, I was tired and felt a little off but who doesn’t at 4am, right? And things basically went awry from there – coffee machine didn’t work, forgot my cooler so had to go back for it, and then went to the wrong trailhead. That was an easy fix that I realized quickly and really only cost me 15 minutes, since it was just another couple miles down the road.

I thought. I still have this. I’m hitting the trail a couple of hours before my usual. I got this. Right? Wrong.

I should back up. Earlier in the week I had, what I thought was a ‘fabulous’ experience of food poisoning. Nothing like spending the night on your bathroom floor, blankets and all, because you can’t even keep water down. No. Chinese food will not be on my dining menu for a while.

But after a day of rest, I felt great both Thursday and Friday. And made it to the ADKs no problem or concern. Then today, about 90 minutes in, I was just dragging. And then pretty soon a headache, and then yup, starting throwing up. Nothing like running to the edge of some rocks and hope that no one is coming up or down the trail. Luckily, I made it off the trail for anyone else that might be coming on that day.

I gave it another 15 minutes. And when it happened again. I called it. I thought of pushing forward. And a year ago I may have done that. But after hiking 42 of the high peaks I’ve learned a couple of things. Continue reading

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Sky’s the Limit: Gray and Skylight

Gray & Skylight

With only six mountains left to finish off my ADK46 there aren’t many “easy” or “short” hikes left. I started the first hike of my last season with a ~20+ mile hike up Mt. Skylight and Gray Peak. The reports of the view a top Skylight did not disappoint!

Per usual, with my first hike of the season I didn’t sleep well the night before. Thinking and rethinking did I forget something. And the usual jitters of excitement. I sure could have used a more restful night for the long day ahead.

Like clock-work I woke up at 4:30am and was out the door by 5am for my first breakfast before hitting the road. I was perfectly on time to make the first ferry and shave some drive time. But alas I don’t have my routine down yet and forget to bring cash since the ferry doesn’t take the dependable debit card. There’s 20 min lost. Oh well  – if that’s the worst mistake of the day I’ll be in good order.

As expected there was a backlog at the entry to the parking lot at the ADK Loj. With no attendant yet, folks were filling out their parking slips and fee at the booth rather than parking and going back. Please, please hikers – grab your envelope, park and go back. It would keep things moving much more quickly.

My first freak out of the day was when I put my pack on and it felt waaayyy too light. After unpacking, checking and rechecking that I had everything, I’m going to say the past few months of cross-fit class have paid off with some extra strength. I’ll take it! Especially, since I’m an obsessive water packer. It was a humid day and I’d need it! Continue reading

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