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Friday, December 31, 2021

Year In Review 2021

2021.... What a year it's been. I can say for certain that 2021 will be a year I never forget. It was filled with some of the most rewarding moments of my life yet, but also some of the hardest. It was another year of the pandemic and navigating this new way of life. We also had our son early in the year and shifted a bit into a different lifestyle - one where keeping him healthy and safe was our number one priority.

Despite the challenges the pandemic brought, we had an amazing year. We made so many memories together, finished some projects on the house, and watched Whitney steal everyone's hearts. This is my 8th year writing this review (you can see 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014) and it's still my favorite post I write all year.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Adirondack Balloon Festival (September 2022) New York

There is something so magical about hot air balloons. It's a bucket list item for many to go soaring through the sky in a hot air balloon (and one I checked off while in Arizona). If going ballooning isn't in your budget or desires, I at least highly recommend heading to a balloon festival to see the balloons blown up and in flight. If you live in the northeast, there are a ton of amazing options. If Lake George is within reach, the Adirondack Balloon Festival is an amazing and free family-friendly event that needs to be on your 2022 calendar. 

The Adirondack Balloon Festival is one of those events that can be molded to fit into whatever kind of weekend adventure you are looking for. Romantic morning watching the sunrise in the morning - yep. Family-friendly day adventure - absolutely. An evening watching the balloons lit up - definitely. Stop by for an hour or pack a picnic and chairs and stay for the evening. It is an awesome event that should be on everyone's bucket list. 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Holiday Gift Guide (1 year old)

This is Whitney's first Christmas but even more importantly, it's the one Christmas where he doesn't have any say over his gifts. I know there will be a future Christmas filled with legos and toys but for now, I wanted to focus on some items he needs or things we can enjoy through the winter (okay, and a few fun toys). I know it's not as genuine and sort of"tacky" to have a list but here's the thing... some people love to find that organic perfect gift but some people really like a nudge in the right direction, or, a direct link.

These are functional gifts more than they are toys, and they are based around an almost 1-year-old. He will be one this February and we are so excited to be out in the snow this winter with our 1-year-old. If you are looking for a gift for the little one in your life, this guide is a great place to start. 

Kidkraft A-frame Hideaway & Climber Tent
I loved that his compact climber functioned as a tent too. I figured this would be really fun for his room... especially during the winter months **currently on sale $30 off **  

Seasonal Books
We have a seasonal rotating bookshelf in his room. We have a lot of Christmas and Halloween books now, but we are on the lookout for the other seasons (spring, summer, easter, thanksgiving, whatever!)

Flexible Flyer Sled 16"
Hoping we could tote him around the trails and let him sled in the front yard!

Foldable Pail Bucket Collapsible Buckets
These look super fun and easy to tote around for beach or camping trips

Water Table
Kids love water tables! Fun summer activity

LLBean Snowman Kit
How fun is this kit for building snowmen in the winter??!
10% off when you signup for their email list


REI Kids Water Bottle
No Caption Needed :)
Use discount code “gearup2021” for 20% off through November 22 anything at REI


They send high-quality age-appropriate toys on a subscription plan

This would be great for getting him and our things down to the beach or concerts on the green

Burley Encore Bike/Run/Ski trailer
This is a big-ticket item that Adam and I bought for each other and Whitney - it goes from bike trailer to running stroller to skiing trailer! We bought this as a 2 seater so it's the perfect way for a growing family in the future, to tote two kids around and have a 2 kid running stroller. I originally wanted the Thule Multisport but at over $1,000 and no discount codes accepted, I couldn't stomach the price tag. The Burley is currently on sale at REI and had amazing reviews for a middle price point bike trailer.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Mini Gallery Walls - Poster Store

You all know the past year has been one big home project. From nearly gutting our 1979 colonial to completely redoing the landscaping, we've had our hands full with big projects. 1.5 years later the bigger projects are winding down and I'm starting to focus on the details. I'm slowly hanging art in our home, trying to find that balance between thoughtfully curated pieces and that thing we like to call a budget. I had big ideas for a stairway gallery wall and some of the other empty white walls in my home. For the stairs, I envisioned this eclectic but flowing combination of art, making its way up the stairs in a series of multi-sized black and light wood frames. I started by using public domain art which was really hit or miss in some spaces but somewhere in the middle of this process, Poster Store reached out to me about a collaboration project and I thanked the art gods for sending them why way. I started browsing the galleries of posters and prints and was pleasantly surprised by the selection of themes and categories with a new poster collection released every Tuesday. 

I instantly loved the style of posters and settled into the hard part - picking art. They had it all from quotes to landscapes, watercolor to caligraphy. Poster Store has a unique selection to help create a gallery wall tailor-made for your home. If you browse through the galleries, you will quickly notice a Scandinavian design that is both beautiful and affordable (and you guys know how I feel about Scandi design and updating my home in a way that is affordable). All the posters are printed on sustainably produced high-quality paper and it felt like Christmas morning as I opened up all the boxes of frames and envelopes of prints.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Holiday Gift Guide (my favorite things)

This isn't your traditional gift guide where I put together a set of random things I don't actually own, curated for "Hikers" "Moms" or "The Runner In Your Life".  

Nope, this is a list of things I have bought myself lately (or have been gifted) that I love and think would make a great gift. It's an eclectic list with everything from hiking packs to cordless vacuums. There's something for everyone and trust me, e v e r y o n e needs a cordless vacuum. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Osprey Poco Plus Review - Baby Carrier For Hiking

If you read my travel stroller guide, you won't be surprised when I tell you I did a good amount of research when it came to our kiddo-carrying hiking pack. To be honest, this was much lighter research. This pack is constantly making the top of kid-carrying backpack reviews, and I really already had a brand and pack in mind, I just needed to make sure this was the right decision and not just the trend. For our family, it was down to the Osprey Poco Plus ($330) and the Deuter Kid Comfort ($315) and we decided on the Osprey because of the extra storage. 

However - this is another one of those "the pack that is perfect for me, may not be perfect for you". Not one pack does it all so you need to find what you need. Before we go into the pros and cons and full review, let me say this

Osprey Poco Plus Review

Get this bag if: 

You are a very active family who is willing to make an investment - you are an outdoor enthusiast who wants a trusted brand (and a quality product that will last) and a pack with a ton of storage that is just as good for an overnight hike as it is for a few miles or a day trip. Buy it/check the price here ** we waited for an REI member sale and snagged this pack for 20% off (from $330 down to $264) Use discount code “gearup2021” for 20% off through November 22.

Don't get this bag if: 

You are more of an occasionally outdoor/varied use family on a budget - you only intend to use this on occasion or smaller day trips and prefer the lightest most comfortable option. There are cheaper and lighter options for this kind of family if this is you.  Check out some of the other bags available and how they compare here

Monday, November 8, 2021

2021 Travel Stroller Review

I spent 3 days down a deep deep rabbit hole of travel stroller research. 

A deep hole isn't even accurate, it was like Marianna's Trench of googling, videos, reviews, and spec sheets. My husband never wants to hear the word "stroller" again and he thinks I have some sort of problem, but hear me out. There are so many baby products out there, begging for your money and I refuse to just give my hard earned cash to the highest bidder. I wanted to do my research, to see what even makes the perfect travel stroller. Safe to say I sort of feel like an expert and what I came back with is this: no one travel stroller is perfect - you need to figure out what your priorities are and pick accordingly. I learned there are a lot of features to consider and the key to the best purchase is to find what is most important to you. Thanks to this guide, the trench feels more like a large pothole and I'm confident that within 20 minutes, you can pick the "perfect for you" travel stroller. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Laura's Tower & Ice Glen Trail (Berkshires) Stockbridge, Massachusetts

New England will never cease to amaze me with all of its beautiful nooks and crannies. This was another one of those "rain came in we need to pivot" situations. We left the Catskills, stopped for coffee and a walk-in Hudson, and stopped again in the Berkshires (Stockbridge, Massachusettes) to be exact.

I quickly looked up hikes in the area, on the hunt for something under 5-miles with the baby and the dogs. Laura's Tower had some great reviews and the pictures offered a lookout tower that offered sweeping views of the Berkshires. I read a little further and someone suggested the Ice Glen Trail in addition to the trek to the fire tower. 

The best part about this hike (and the big sell for me)? It's only 5 minutes from downtown Stockbridge which is an amazing little town that's getting its own blog post. Pair this hike with lunch downtown and if you have the time, an overnight stay in Stockbridge. New England small town perfection.

Laura's Lookout Tower

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Windham Path - Catskills, NY

Windham Path

Katie Wandering is all about exploring and I had never heard of the town of Windham before this weekend. I'm no stranger to the Catskills... We spent several weekends in just about every season exploring some of these towns. We hiked frozen waterfalls in the winter, rode ski lifts in the summer, and hikes amongst the foliage in the fall. We've covered a lot of towns and when looking for lodging best Hunter Mountain, discovered this cute little town - Windham. It's cozy and quaint, a small ski mountain is the main attraction, with several other towns and even a ski mountain not too far away. It's a good spot to spend a quiet weekend, with opportunities to launch to some bigger adventures like famous Catskill hikes or even Howes Cavern.

The original plan was to head out on a bigger hike, somewhere with a summit and a view. The weather had its own idea of how the day would go. Rain was forecasted for the day, with a spot of sun in the morning. Instead of a big hike, we settled for more of an "off-road walk" just a few minutes from our Airbnb. It's the perfect place to spend some time outside, especially if you have kids in tow. It's not a true hike, but it's a chance to stretch your leg on safe terrain on the Windham Path in Windham, New York, just north of Hunter. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Bishop's Orchards - Guilford, Connecticut

bishops orchards

There are moments in the day where I stop and look around, where I think to myself "I am so freaking happy". 

 I'm walking through an orchard with my husband who is holding our son, who is babbling and screeching in his dinosaur dialect. It's 73 degrees a week from Halloween and the sun is shining on the orchard. The foliage is offering shades of golden yellows and deep reds in the background. It's Indian summer almost into November. It's almost Friday.

These "surges of happiness" are frequent when traveling somewhere new wandering around a new town or new hike, but lately, it doesn't take as much. Twenty minutes from home at a nearby farm with my little family on a beautiful day is all it took. Everyone talks about how hard it is to raise kids and rightfully so, but I'm here to remind you that it is so damn fun too. Whitney just makes the little things like picking apples on a Thursday so much sweeter.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Scenic Drive: Mohawk State Forest - Goshen, Connecticut

 Mohawk State Forest Foliage Drive

If you travel with kids, you know this familiar scenario: a young kid asleep in the car and a proper nap is crucial. You want to hike but you aren't ready to wake him/her up to be stuffed in a pack and toted up a mountain. 

Que the scenic drive! You want something easy, something scenic, something you can drive around slowly enjoying the sights. You've already perfected the *quiet closing of the car doors* so you are good with a slow drive and a few quick stops. 

Maybe you don't have the kids but you are looking for a way to enjoy the fall foliage with non-hikers. You need an option for a super quick walk/hike to a viewpoint or park the car for a vista, and a picnic. You also don't want to pay $30 because it's a toll road. If you want to climb a Connecticut mountain without ever leaving your car, Mohawk Mountain in Mohawk State Forest in Goshen, Connecticut is exactly what you are looking for.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

White Memorial Conservation Center - Litchfield, Connecticut

White Memorial Conservation Center Boardwalk

We planned a fall weekend in the Catskills of New York to catch the foliage before the fall fades away. Saturday morning, we packed up the car and looked at the weather forecast. 90% rain in the Catskills while 50% in Northwest Connecticut, settling into the state later in the day. It was also forecasted to be in the 70's and I fully intended to enjoy the warmth and the hues of October, rain be damned. 

Instead of heading straight to the Catskills we decided to pivot, spending the first part of the day in the Litchfield Hills - the perfect halfway point in our drive. I did a quick google search for fall hikes in this corner of the state and came up with a list of potential hikes and walks in the area. White Memorial Conservation Area came up a few times and once I saw the boardwalk and the foliage, I was sold.

White Memorial Conservation Center

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Henry David Thoreau Footbridge (Hidden Valley Preserve) - Washington, CT

In a world where I wasn't a parent, I would have paired my 4.5-mile hike at Macricostas Preserve for another short 2-mile hike at Hidden Valley Preserve (5 minutes away). After that, I would have wandered through a few of these small Connecticut towns. I would have stopped somewhere for lunch, found a brewery to try something new, wander into a shop or two, and slowly make my way home back to the shoreline. This was my typical hiking day/weekend pre-parenting.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Meeker Trail Loop Macricostas Preserve - Washington, CT

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

On a sunny morning in October at the start of leaf-peeping and slow drive season, I headed northwest to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. The leaves were changing and the 70-degree sunshine was what fall dreams are made of. I wanted to see the foliage and a trip up to my favorites spots in the northeast wasn't in the cards. How easily I forget that ( small ) mountain and impressive foliage can be found within our state. 

Northwest Connecticut is quintessential New England. It's rolling hills and bucolic farm properties. It's private boarding schools that rival most college campuses and historic inns and restaurants. It's hard to imagine anywhere in Connecticut is an hour and a half away, but the drive was easy, especially once I hit the back roads. 

By the time I passed the sleepy antiquey little towns of Woodbury, Middlebury, and Washington and pulled into the parking lot for the Macricostas Preserve, I was smitten. It's a wooded wonderland and the golden hues and pops of red and orange set the scene for a Hallmark movie. Macricostas preserve is a part of the Steep Rock Association, known for its gorgeous hiking trails and scenic conservation areas. This was a solo adventure with two dogs and a baby, a day I refused to waste inside. Whitney had slept (almost) the whole way to Washington and my brilliant plan to schedule the day around his naps was working. The dogs were happily whining in the backseat as I parked the car and the 10 or so cars in the parking area assured me the trail wouldn't be too busy. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Saratoga Spa State Park - Saratoga, New York

Saratoga Spa State Park

Once in a while, I stumble on a somewhat hidden gem, a place that leaves me totally surprised and a bit stunned. Surprises are rare on Katie Wanders adventures. I usually do a lot of research before I head to a new spot to try to get a lay of the land and plan my adventures (chronic over-planner). Having a baby has forced me to be a bit more flexible in my normally over-scheduled travel plans.

We were on our way to Lake George, New York for the weekend, about a 3.5-hour drive from the central Connecticut coast. Whitney had napped for nearly two hours on the ride and had been up for an hour. Even though we were only a half-hour away, he had lost his sense of humor and needed out of his car seat - immediately. 

I quickly looked at the map and opened up AllTrails to see if there was somewhere we could stretch our legs . The number one rated hike in the area was the Geyser Loop at Saratoga Spa State Park. I had been to Saratoga several times for a horseshow (and it's famous for its race track) but had never heard of this park or this hike and never knew how Saratoga Springs got its name. We got off the highway, pulled into the park, and I was instantly blown away.  

Saratoga Spa State Park

Monday, September 27, 2021

Wadsworth Falls State Park - Middletown, Connecticut

Wadsworth Falls State Park
Wadsworth Falls State Park

Mondays are for unpacking from the last weekend's adventure, and yes, for planning the next one. We got back from Lake George, New York last night and I am sitting here on a Monday morning thinking about where we should head this coming weekend. Today's adventure is something you can plan for the weekend, or if you are local to Connecticut, it's just the right about of adventure to spice up the weekday. It's a popular spot so heading out during the week may actually be best. This was my first time out to Wadsworth Falls State Park and we already have plans to come back.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Chatfield Hollow State Park - Killingworth, Connecticut

As many mourn the official end of summer, avid hikers are eagerly awaiting the cooler temperatures and disappearance of bugs, excited for fall on the trails. The end of summer/early fall is the best time to hike as the humidity drops and the black flies are no more. It's a time for backpacking trips and day trips, weeklong road trips and weekend adventures. 

Today, KW is sharing a popular Connecticut State Park loaded with a swimming pond, picnic areas, a fishing brook and of course, hiking trails. 

f i r s t  i m p r e s s i o n s 

Very beautiful park that is a popular spot to walk (a lot of families with strollers or small kids on bikes). A paved road loops around the lake and extends to the end of the park. The park has a lot of interesting sights including a restored water wheel, a covered bridge, a large pond and stream, and wooded areas. There are a lot of day-use areas with picnic tables and grills spread through the park. You can also rent an open-air shelter for private events. There is a beach and designated swimming area at the pond with large newly renovated bathrooms. An impressive boardwalk weaves its way through the marsh. There is a small network of hiking trails that runs through the park. The park also borders Cockaponset State Forest which adds additional trails to the area.  We hiked a 4-mile loop around the park and only saw two other people. While we had a nice hike and enjoyed the quiet, there was nothing "special" about the trail system (no great vistas or scenic areas). Great place to picnic or spend some time in the park but there are a lot more interesting hiking trails in the state. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Green Animals Topiary Garden - Portsmouth, Rhode Island

I have spent plenty of time in Newport, almost always stopping at the mansions to walk the grounds in the summer or see the mansions decorated for the holidays. The Green Animals Topiary Garden was always on my list but for one reason or another, we never made the trip. We were planning on visiting my grandparents in Fall River, a quick 15 minute drive from the gardens and the perfect opportunity to finally get out to the gardens. 

f i r s t   i m p r e s s i o n s

The gardens are in Portsmouth, Rhode Island (the top of the island, 25 minutes north of the Newport Mansions) so be prepared for a bit of a drive if you are coming from the mansions. 

We enjoyed our visit and the lovely grounds.  It's a great place to walk around (bring a picnic), relax, and enjoy the gardens and the view. The property has a large lawn that stretches right down to the water (Narragansett Bay). The topiaries are the main attraction and it is fun to walk around and try to identify the sculptures. The rest of the garden is also beautiful, with all different types of trees, shrubs, flowers, and even vegetables. There is a large Victorian house (closed to the public) with chairs on the shaded wrap-around porch to sit back and enjoy the views. The property also abuts a railroad where you can do one of those rail bike excursions too (extra fee). 

I thought it was a bit pricey for the short amount of time you spend in the garden and the topiary area was smaller than we thought. At $20 a person, it was a bit steep for the hour we spent. If you are a member of the Newport Mansions/Preservation Society, admission is included in the membership (they offer student discounts and some great perks if you are in the area or visit often). 

If you want to stretch your time at the garden, bring a picnic to enjoy on the lawn, in the chairs on the wrap-around porch, or one of the benches or picnic tables throughout the garden. Your ticket also gets you admission to the gardens and grounds of The Breakers, Marble House or The Elms. I would pair this visit with a trip to the grounds of the other Newport mansions (10 miles south) or, visit the nearby Greenvale Vineyards (6 miles southeast) or an afternoon at the Newport Polo grounds to watch a match (4 miles south) 

Great spot for kids as they can play on the lawn, see the gardens, and enjoy being outside. Everything is outside so it is a safe place to be during the pandemic. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

New England (and New York) Fall Road Trip - Must See Sights

Once September hits in New England, I start planning my favorite getaways. Days spent hiking, evenings spent camping, nights in cozy cabins and morning in the crisp New England Air. Leaf peeping and scenic drives, apple picking and fairs - all the good things we are so ready for after a toasty humid New England summer.

Last month, someone asked for some advice on planning a fall New England road trip and I was embarrassed to admit that post didn't exist yet. I quickly got to work, going state by state to share some of my favorite places in the northeast.

Waterville Valley Ski Resort/Mount Tecumseh

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Beaching with a Baby - Long Beach Island, New Jersey

I went to Long Beach Island, New Jersey for three days/two nights with the hopes of writing a weekender's guide. But the reality? It was a few days spent relaxing at a beach house with friends - days spent on the sand and evenings spent back at the house cooking dinner together. 

It's a family-friendly beach vacation destination, the place you go to be with friends and family, to relax and unwind. 

I can't tell you a ton about what to see, where to eat, or what to do on the island but I think that's the beauty of it all. I can tell you a bit about the beaches and the island, a few popular things to do, and most importantly, how to make a beach vacation with a baby a little bit easier.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Weekender's Guide to: Adirondacks (Lake Placid area - summer!)

Lake Placid
Lake Placid, New York

We had big plans for our anniversary weekend. A familiar theme for 2021?

When the delta variant made travel insanely complicated and questionable, we decided to find some adventure and relaxation here in the Northeast. I had always loved the quiet and the beauty of the Adirondacks and past trips took me snowmobiling and snowshoeing in the winter and hiking and rafting in the summer. 

I recommend the Adirondacks to just about anyone because there is something for everyone. Want to camp deep in the woods and climb some of the region's tallest peaks? This is the perfect place. Want to stay at a 5-star hotel, golf in the mornings and visit the spa in the afternoon? Yep, that's here too. For me, it's the solitude and all the different ways to play outside and evenings spent in quaint lake towns.  I wanted a mix of relaxation and adventure, I wanted my weekend warrior outdoorsy adventures and to see a bit of the wildness. 

The High Peaks area of the Adirondacks is considered to be the most consistently high, wild, and remote mountain area in the eastern United States. Adirondack Park also contains 3,000 lakes and ponds, and 30,000 miles of rivers and streams.  New York has expanded both the Adirondack and Catskill parks and they now cover an area of more than six million acres, larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountain national parks combined. 

I visited Lake Placid on our last visit to the Adirondacks. It was a quick afternoon while we spent the long weekend exploring the Ausable Chasm area. I wanted to go back for a few days and see what the area was all about over a long weekend. And so, this Weekender's Guide to Lake Placid, New York was born. 

Indian Head Hike
Indian Head Hike - Keene, NY 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Cliffside Coaster - Mt Van Hoevenberg- Lake Placid NY

I don't usually go crazy for rides. I'm the kind of person that stays off roller coasters and stays out of busy amusement parks in general. When do I make an exception? When I have the chance to ride the longest mountain coaster in the United States on a control-your-own-speed coaster through the mountains of the Adirondacks through parts/alignment of the former 1932 and the 1980 Olympic Bobsled course.

This is another one of those "I wasn't expecting to love this experience as much as I did" sort of moments. I thought the $50 per person price tag for one quick ride was a little steep and doubted it would be worth the cost. I am happy to say we had such a fun afternoon at Mt Van Hoevenberg and a ride on the coaster was worth the price tag. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Wild Center - Adirondacks, NY

I love the kind of places that make you feel like a kid. The Wild Center in the Adirondacks will do exactly that as you make your way through suspended bridges, climb into an eagle's nest, walk through what feels like an enchanted forest, and watch otters play. This space was formerly known as the Natural History Museum but I have to admit, the rebranding as The Wild Center just sounds like a lot more fun. I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did but I can say that this trip is a "must-see" when visiting the Lake Placid area of the Adirondacks. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Jay Mountain and Ridge - Adirondacks, NY

I couldn't plan a trip to the Adirondacks without going out for at least one hike.  

The Adirondacks are known for their High Peaks and many hikers head to upstate New York to tackle this "46 list" (hiking the 46 tallest summits above 4,000 feet).  The 46 list wasn't on my agenda for this weekend but I did make a little list of potential hikes before we left. My list focused on hikes with a view and ranged from a 2-mile round trip trek to a fire tower to a 15-mile day hike to New York's tallest peak. I looked at this list, reminded myself we were on this trip to relax and decided that something in the middle might just be perfect. Jay Mountain only 25 minutes from Lake Placid was exactly that.

When I was reading reviews and trail guides trying to pick a hike, I wanted something that was a workout, a little quieter, and super scenic. The second I read Jay's description that included "hiking along the ridge" and "picking wild blueberries" I was sold. Hiking here in the northeast often means you spend most of your time below the treeline, putting in a lot of effort just to see a view at the top. Hikes like Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire and Mount Mansfield in Vermont feel so special because of the amount of time you spend above the treeline and up on the mountain with the amazing view. Hiking up to Jay Mountain gave us a chance to hike as far as we wanted along the ridge, a chance to enjoy the clear skies and mega views on a beautiful summer day in August. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Salmon River State Forest - Colchester, CT

Salmon River State Forest

If you have followed KW over the years, you know I have a dog with severe separation anxiety. Like jumping out of second-story windows, chewing windowsills, blow through screen-level separation anxiety. It is really stressful and usually results in me bringing my dog everywhere with me. Thankfully she has excellent car manners and is happy to hang in the car while I run into the grocery store, meet a friend for dinner, or run out for a bit. In the summer months, this is a much bigger challenge and between the fireworks, thunderstorms, and heat, we are struggling. I often leave her in the basement (which she has been destroying so I could give the rest of my destroyed house a break) or leave her in the running car (I carry two sets of keys to lock it). Needless to say, we've been struggling this summer and we needed a bit of a reset. We needed a family-friendly activity on a warm day where the dogs could play and I wouldn't be out worrying about someone breaking my car window while she lounged in the AC or Olive destroying the house. I did a bit of research on dog-friendly swimming spots in Connecticut and quickly found the Salmon River State Forest in Colchester. Dog-friendly, family-friendly, swimming, fly fishing, and a covered bridge - it's a Connecticut well kept secret I am sharing with you. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Loon Mountain (summer skyride) - Lincoln, New Hampshire

Loon Mountain Skyride

Visiting ski mountains in the summer has quickly become a new favorite when we travel around the Northeast. It's my new lazy summer activity - taking the gondola up mountains, walking around the tops, and taking them right back down. It's kind of like the reward of hiking to a summit to enjoy the views, minus the whole hiking up a mountain bit. Truthfully, it's a great family-friendly alternative to long summit hikes to take in a view. If you have a small babe, and are out and about with family/friends that do not enjoy your level of hiking, take a gondola or a lift, or even a tram to the summit and enjoy the views. 

It's a super "inclusive" activity and a lot of the lifts even allow dogs. Drawbacks? It can be a bit pricey, around $100 for a family of four. 

Loon Mountain Summer

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Lonesome Lake - White Mountains, New Hampshire

Lonesome Lake

New Hampshire is so damn dreamy. It's always suprising me with the vistas you have to earn, the European style huts placed in the middle of the woods, and lakes and ponds on top of the mountains. Lonesome Lake was one of those hikes that offers a big bang for your buck - a lot of lovely for minimal to moderate effort. I used to head to New Hampshire and tackle the bigger hikes, Franconia Ridge, backpacking the semi pemi loop and so on. But for now? An older dog and a baby in tow means our priorities have changed and now we spend a lot of time looking for those low effort high reward, family-friendly hikes. Lonesome Lake is just that. 

Lonesome Lake

You will not be lonely at Lonesome Lake because of it's easy to get to status. It's a quick 4-mile loop to a beautiful lake you can swim in. Dog-friendly, kid-friendly, swimming, a short distance (but a bit of a climb) will have some company but it's worth the crowds.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Weekender's Guide: Catskills, NY (Summer!)


The Catskills have become one of my favorite places and I never saw it coming. Meeting Adam who lived in Fairfield County (the insanely busy part of Connecticut that touches New York basically) sort of changed things, putting the Catskills that much closer.

In my Rhode Island Weekender's Guide, I talked about how Jamestown was like Newport in miniature. Well, the Catskills are that for the Adirondacks. The Catskills are a smaller less populated version and while you don't have the Adirondack High Peaks and famous lakes, you have some amazing hiking, stunning vistas and the scenic Esopus Creek. It's also a much easier drive as the Catskills are about 3.5 hours closer than the Adirondacks for us in coastal Connecticut, only 3ish hours from home. Adirondacks are beautiful but pretty far for just a weekend but the Catskills? You can leave on a Saturday morning if you wanted to avoid the traffic. The Catskills are a popular spot for city dwellers as it's also a 2 hour drive from New York City, making this the perfect weekend getaway for New Englanders and New Yorkers alike.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Weekender's Guide: Stowe, Vermont (summer edition)

Stowe Vermont

Stowe is one of those four-season towns that New Englanders keep coming back to. There is something fun to do when the leaves change, when the snow falls, when the flowers bloom and when the summer sun is out. Stowe even made the cut on Travel & Leisure's 11 of the Best Small Towns in America and after a weekend in this mountain town, you will see why. I've been spending time here in the mountains with friends on a girl's getaway, a weekend ski trip with significant others, and now, a summer getaway with my little family and I promise, Stowe is worth the hype. 

Not only was this one of our first family getaways, but this was Adam's first time in northern Vermont (ever) which meant I had a jam-packed weekend planned - Katie Wanders style. I had a fun weekend planned and working around a 4-month old baby and our two dogs gave me a new perspective on travel as a family of 3+. Stowe is a great place to bring the kids and the dogs and we were so thankful for all the dog-friendly patios, budget-friendly lodging options, and opportunities to be outside with our sometimes fussy babe. 

Mount Hunger
Mount Hunger (nearby Waterbury, Vermont)

Stowe Recreation Path
Stowe Recreation Path

There is something for everyone in this small mountain town. Active adventurer? There are a lot of great hiking and biking options. Relaxing foodie? You have so many options when it comes to breweries and restaurants and you can spend the weekend eating and drinking your way through town. Bringing the family? Take the kids to one of the swim holes, take a gondola ride up the mountain, and check out the miniature golf course. Whether you are heading up solo or traveling north with a little one or the family dog (or both), this guide is for you. 

Keep on scrolling to see an example of what our weekend in Stowe looked like. You can also make this a "Mix & Match" sort of guide by scrolling to the bottom and picking your kind of weekend from the Eat, Play, Hike, Drink categories at the bottom of the post.