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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Lake Iseo and Monte Isola - Italy's quiet lake and Europe's largest lake island

Lake Iseo and Monte Isola

You probably know the saying, popular places are popular for a reason. Sometimes I embrace this as I head out to do something "touristy" - packed with extra patience and high expectations but often, I try to find the quieter options, stay in the smaller towns. and choose the lesser known attractions. 

When we headed to northern Italy, I got the normal questions "are you visiting Milan? Lake Como? Venice?" and the answers surprised everyone. While I'm sure these places are lovely, I want to travel and not see American tourists, I want to find the local spots and more hidden places. So on my first trip to Italy, we drove right past Milan, decided to skip Como, and saved Venice for another time. 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Riding the Bernina Railway (Italy to Switzerland) - Everything You Need To Know

Bernina Express and Regular Train

We went to northern Italy for nine days and let me tell you   i t   w a s   m a g i c a l . 

We avoided (most) of the touristy places and spaces and truly had an amazing week+ exploring the mountains and lakes of northern Italy. The trip included it all - planes, trains, and automobiles and I fell in love with Italy. 

To be a bit more specific, I fell in love with parts of the country many Americans haven't spent much time in. While busy places tend to be busy for a good reason, I know I prefer natural places and quiet spaces. We skipped Lake Como, passed right on through Milan, and said "Maybe Next Time" to Venice. Instead, we set up home base on one of Italy's lesser known lakes, Lake Iseo, explored beautiful little towns and mountain lakes like Lake Garda, and took an other worldly "commuter train" into Switzerland.

Today's post is all about the latter, our wild train ride into Italy's northern neighbor and how to do it in the least touristy way possible (quiet spaces, natural places). This post is going to be a long one because I have so much to share. The first half is all about the railway, the train cars, and everything you need to know **including why you should skip the panoramic trains and ride the commuter train**. The second part is a recap of our trip. 

Let's talk about Bernina.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Losing a Good, Bad Dog

Grief is consuming. It consumes our thoughts with their name and memories, the only thing in our brain from sunup to sun down. It consumes us whole, that "elephant on your chest" feeling and the shaky nerves, lack of appetite and numbing brain fog.

You can't understand the feeling unless you've been in it and it feels different every time. When I was in my early 20s, I put down my beloved horse I had since I was 12 after he had a sudden stomach problem. I spent days in bed crying and googled "can you be dehydrated from crying". In my early 30s just when our son was born, I put down my cat and felt a different kind of grief from my sweet simple companion who had traveled across the country and back with me, a kitten I bottle fed at a few weeks old and had until her late teens.

And then there was Marshall. 

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Bolton Notch State Park - Bolton, CT

Bolton Notch State Park is a pretty little state park with one of the scariest entrances I have ever seen. You are traveling at speed down a turnpike and need to make a sharp turn into the parking lot. I'm not even sure how its legal but regardless, it's still worth a visit. At the park you can hike the loop trail, follow the trail by the pond, or to connect over to the Hop River State Park Rail Trail. 

I stopped by the park while working in the area, just Olive and I on a sunny day with an hour to spare between jobs. The parking lot was small and served as a starting point for the state park or to jump on the connecting Hop River State Park Rail Trail. I jumped on Alltrails to see a 2 mile loop around the park and headed out. 

The hike itself was pretty, a loop which took you to a vista and ended by the pond. Nothing to really brag about but a quiet park with some pretty scenery to stretch your legs and the option to log miles at neighboring parks. The section of the park that included the Hop River State Park Rail Trail was probably the prettiest, with these high walls on either side of the wide flat trail. 

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Winter Hike up Mount Willard, New Hampshire - 52 With A View

Winter Hike Mount Willard

It was day two of our Girl's Hiking Trip and our first full day in the Whites. The day before, Kristen and I had gotten up to the lodge before 3:00 pm and donned our snow gear to head into the woods for a short hike up to the waterfalls. We did a bit more post holing than we anticipated the following morning and decided to talk to the staff for future trail selection. After some deliberation headed up to hike Mount Pierce a beautiful hike with absolutely zero views as a summit was sucked in my gray clouds Doom and Gloom.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

7 Reasons to Stay at the AMC Highland Center in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

AMC Highland Center

It's a Sunday morning and I'm watching the snow fall and the sunrise outside of the two story windows in the sitting area of the Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center in Crawford Notch, nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I'm on a girls trip, joined by six other female hikers all staying at the lodge, organized by a friend and fellow hiker. It's my first time here and to be quite frank, for someone who has spent so much time in the woods and a fair amount of time up here in the Whites, it's a place I've never even heard of.

I knew the AMC had their famous inter-mountain hut system, these beautiful lodges tucked into mountain peaks with lodging and meals available. What I didn't realize was there there were these larger beautiful drive up lodges at the base of the mountain where for a very reasonable price, you could spend the night; bedding, towels, and meals included. For just over $100 a night in the winter with a group, we had a quad bunk room in the lodge and a home base where we could really enjoy the peace the quiet and the access to some of New England's most iconic trails. If I didn't know about it, there's a fair chance you dear reader were left in the dark as well so let's go through six reasons why you should pack your bags and head north for a stay at this beautiful lodge in the whites. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Winter Hike - Mount Pierce (via Crawford Path) White Mountains, New Hampshire

Mount Pierce NH

Unpopular opinion...Winter is an amazing time to head to northern New Hampshire and hike.

I know, I know, we love the sunshine and shorts weather, sitting on top of a summit with a snack and a view while the cool breeze goosebumps your sweaty skin, but here's the thing. We tend to glamorize the glory and we forget about all the less-than-ideal conditions. We forget about the early bird start times to guarantee parking, the swarms of mosquitos and flies, the scorching humidity, and the crowded trails. Winter hikers are a different breed from summer hikers. While I truly think the outdoors are for all, the bluebird sky and mild temperatures bring about a different crowd of hikers that don't always have the same respect for nature. It was a different scene to see clean trails, sans toilet paper and food wrappers as winter conditions truly calls a more seasoned hiker into the woods.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Putnam Memorial State Park - Redding, Connecticut

Katie Wanders is something I am so happy to have and proud to share, but it is truly a hobby and a passion project. I work as an Environmental Consultant for a firm I started, where I work on "due diligence environmental site assessments". To put it simply, I write environmental reports covering the history of a commercial property and the current use to decide if there are any environmental concerns before the bank agrees to hand over a loan. Part of my job is physically examining the properties which takes me all over the state of Connecticut, and a lot of the northeast really. I try to break up the drive with a run or a hike somewhere new. A recent work trip to the western portion of the state brought me to a beautiful Connecticut State Park loaded with history that I had never heard of - Putnam Memorial State Park

Putnam Memorial State Park is much more than your traditional state park with a variety of hiking trails and picnic pavilion. For starters, it is Connecticuts FIRST state park, designated to honor the location of Continental Army's 1779 winter encampment in Redding, Connecticut during the American Revolutionary War. The park offers a museum and visitor's center as well as hiking trails, group camping, fishing, picnicking, and educational signage around the property. There are also yearly events including reenactments, ghost walks, and winter hikes. If you want the full experience and a chance to see the museum and visitor's center, plan to visit between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. If you just want to use the trails and take in the history, the park is open daily dawn to dusk. 

I visited in the late fall when the facilities were all closed. I had Olive with me and walked the one mile loop/auto road, stopping to read various signs and take in the history along the way. The property is absolutely beautiful and during the week late in the season, I only saw a few other dog walkers.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Wharton Brook State Park and Quinnipiac River State Park - CT

Happy 2024!

Wharton Brook State Park
Wharton Brook State Park walking path

A lot of people are setting different types of fun outdoor challenges. Some are doing a certain amount of hours outside, some are doing the 52 hike challenge, and I'm sure there are many other variations. I am continuing with my state park challenge and I hope these posts motivate you to explore the shared spaces and public places in your own state. 

Today we are wandering over to the central shoreline area to two Connecticut State Parks. I don't usually share two parks in one post but I am today for a few good reasons. First off, these parks are about 10 minutes from each other and because of their smaller size, you can easily visit both in an afternoon. Second, in juxtaposition to each other, they highlight how drastically different two areas with the same "State Park" designation can be. Wharton Brook State Park has large parking areas, facilities, picnic benches, and is overall well maintained. It was a beautiful little park that would be nice for a picnic or a swim in the summer if you don't mind pond swimming. Quinnipiac River State Park is essentially an extra piece of land next to the highway no one wanted because it's in a flood plain that is well, constantly flooded. The former neighborhood moved out and the state was able to hold onto this piece of land for which does serve as an important ecological corridor for the ecosystem by the river. The park is wildly overgrown with no parking area, no facilities, and is only passable in dry parts of the year which ranks it pretty low on the list of state parks I suggest you check out in the Nutmeg state. Nonetheless, we are doing our best to visit all the Connecticut State Parks and I'm sharing them with you so you can decide which parks are worth visiting.