A January Climb of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire

Climbing Mt. Washington is not for the faint-hearted, especially when you do it in January.

The observatory at the top of the mountain has a small building with a staff that works to record wind speed and temperature conditions. In 1934, the observatory recorded a wind speed of 231 miles per hour. That record was broken in 1996, but it remains the highest wind temperature ever recorded that wasn’t associated with a tornado or tropical cyclone.

You can view the current conditions on Mt. Washington here.

The Highest Mountain East of the Mississippi?

I’ve previously stated on my blog that Mt. Washington is the highest peak east of the Mississippi, but I was mistaken. It’s actually the most topographically prominent.  To be honest, I’m not 100% sure I fully comprehend what that means. What I think it means is that relative to its base, it has the most elevation gain, but in terms of actual feet above sea level, it’s not the highest. That would be Mount Mitchell in North Carolina.

Here’s a wikipedia article about topographic prominence if you want to dive deep into this. But just know this: it’s pretty damn tall. However, compared to other mountains throughout the world, it isn’t that tall.

The challenge of climbing this mountain isn’t so much its height, but the terrible weather. You will be exposed to extreme wind speed, wind chill, and cold temperatures. Since 1849, more than 150 people have died trying to climb Mount Washington, mostly due to poor planning and naivety about what the weather would be like.

It’s definitely vital that you plan well, wear the right clothes, and have the right gear.

How Tall is Mount Washington?

Mt. Washington is 6,288.3 ft (1,916.7 m) above sea level.

If you’re going to be doing this trail, you’ll need to study your route well in advance. You’re taking the Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail for just over 2 miles, until you reach a sign that directs you to the Lion’s Head trail.

We started early in the morning, hitting the trail at 5:30 AM, since the climb takes 8-10 hours. The journey begins at Pinkham Notch Visitors Center, which has lots of parking available.

The climb starts off as a steep, uphill hike through the woods. It will be early in the morning, you’ll need your headlamp to see in the dark. After a brisk warmup of uphill climbing, you hit the bottleneck: a pretty technical spurt of climbing. It’s about a 20-foot section of steep cliff that gets covered in ice. Someone needs to climb head and secure a rope so you can pull yourself up.

I did this with 2 ropes, wrapped around my wrists, feeling a lot like Mulan.

Getting Above the Tree Line

On the mountain, there is a point where the trees no longer can survive. This point is known as the tree line. After emerging out of the woods, the trees are no longer there to stop the wind. You enter a new world, where gust of winds cut your face and the snow is deep.

Before your trip, you’ll need to rent an ice axe, mountaineering boots, and crampons. I rented mine through International Mountain Equipment (IME) in North Conway.

Summiting the Mountain

Unfortunately, this year, the weather was too intense with very low visibility due to snow blowing around. We had to turn around before we summited.

This video depicts our climb in the year 2018. That was my first time doing the climb, and I was told that the weather was unusually calm. You can see pretty well!

Check it out:

Hiking the Batona Trail in NJ

Batona stands for BAck TO NAture. Cute right?

The trail is about 55 miles long through Southern New Jersey’s Pine Barrons & the Wharton State Forrest. Like the Loyalsock Trail, it’s a thru-hike that’s challenging but very doable. In fact, the Batona Trail is pretty easy hiking. It’s very flat, and the sandy soil and pine needles create a spongey ground that’s easy on the joints.

The trail is a little swampy and very humid. The pine trees make the water red with acidity, but it’s still drinkable (after you treat it, of course!). The Trail is home to lots of unique wildlife, some even unique to the Pine Barrons!

I’ve only thru-hiked the Batona Trail once. In spring and fall, it’s one of my favorite places to visit for car camping. This is a must visit for those in the Philly Metro, or if you’re visiting the area.

Day Hikes

If you’re not in for a thru-hike, there are lots of places to park your car for a shorter one. Check out these options:

  • Paki Pond Trail: This is a 13.5 Mile Loop.
  • Wharton State Forrest Parking Area to Lower Forge Campground: This is a fun 5.5 mile hike if you’re up for a *slight* challenge. It’s ideal for your slightly squeamish friend who’s new to hiking/backpacking! Park at the Wharton Parking area and hike to the Lower Forge Campground and stay the night (make sure you get a camping permit in advance, you can’t do it at the campsite). You can also just park at Lower Forge if you don’t want to do a hike. Also, there is no potable water at this campground, so bring drinking water, treatment tools or plan on boiling water, even if you’re car camping.
  • Carrenza Memorial to Apple Pie Hill: You can park your car at Carranza Memorial and hike to Apple Pie Hill and back, which is an 8.4 mile out-and-back hike. Located in Tabernacle, NJ, Apple Pie Hill is the highest point on the Batona Trail. It’s still pretty low, though (an impressive 209 feet above sea level)! The fun thing is that they have a 60-foot high observation tower you can climb, according to NJHiking.com. However, when I went to the tower, it was roped off. It says that if there’s someone in the tower, you are allowed to climb it, but that’s only during fire season. It’s recommended that you call NJ Forest Fire Service Division B Headquarters at (609)726-9010 to check ahead of time. If you climb the tower, send me pics please! I hope you can see the ocean!

Time of Year to Backpack the Batona Trail

NOT SUMMER.

We made the mistake of hiking the trial in July. Not only was it super hot, but oh my goodness, the ticks!

I have never seen anything like this. I could feel ticks crawling around my body. Every time we took a break, we had to pull down our pants and our shirts and pluck them off. Dozens and dozens of ticks were always crawling around my skin.

When we turned in for the night, we did our thorough tick check, stripping down to nothing and pulling them off and flicking them outside. Then, we’d zip up the tent and wait for them to smell our blood and crawl out of the crevices in our gear (yikes). Then, we’d do 1 final tick check before bed.

Creepy! But this technique worked. Our tent seemed to keep out the ticks while we slept, as long as we did this double check. The two checks are crucial, by the way. We always found just as many on us the second time.

Don’t let my gross tick experience keep you off the trail! There should be far fewer ticks if evening temperatures have been consistently below 60 degrees F, or 15 Degrees C, so the ticks shouldn’t be a huge problem unless it’s summer. The trail is quite lovely in Spring!

Toading it Up on the Trail

We spotted many toads on our journey. At one point, we came upon a section of trail that was lined with hundreds of baby toads. Each time we took a step, they jumped out from under our shoes. Bart rounded them up and poured them into my hands for a photo op.

Where to Park Your Car

To do this thru-hike, you’ll want to park a car at either end of the trail. We parked ours at the following locations:

Camping Along the Trail

According to SouthJerseyTrails.com, you can only camp at these designated places. They all require booking ahead of time, so be sure to plan ahead!

  • Godfrey Bridge Campground: 10 miles from the start, 9 miles to the next campground, 43 miles from the end
  • Buttonwood Hill Camp: 15.7 miles from the start, 10.3 miles to the next campground, 37 miles from the end
  • Lower Forge Campground: 26 miles from the start, 5.8 miles to next campground, 31.2 miles from the end
  • Batona Campground: 31.8 miles from the start, 12.9 miles to next campground, 20.9 from the end
  • Brendan Bryne Campground: 44.7 miles from the start, 8 miles from the end. This is the last campground!

Camping Schedule We Followed (Strenuous 3.5 Day Hike)

All my estimated arrival times assume you hike at a rate of about 30 minutes per mile and (unless stated otherwise) take plenty of breaks.

  • Day .5: Arrive at the Bass River trailhead around 5 (we had to work!). I drove my car to the Ongs Hat Trail head with Bart following me. Then, we both got in his car and drive back to Bass River. We hike 10 miles to Godfrey Bridge Campground, take no breaks, and arrive around midnight.
  • Day 1: Hit the trail around 9 AM. Hike the 14.8 miles to Lower Forge Campground, arriving around 7 PM.
  • Day 2: Hit the trail around 7 AM. Hike the 18.7 miles to Brendan Bryne Campground, arriving around 7 PM.
  • Day 3: Finish the last 8 miles and drive home!

Obviously with this schedule, day 3 is a doozy, and day 1 is quite long. This schedule is, of course, not your only option. For a much more enjoyable hike, I would recommend doing this in 5 days (4 full days and 1 half day) but 3.5 is possible, as you can see.

Here’s a much nicer-sounding way to do it.

Recommended Schedule for Thru-Hiking the Batona Trail (Challenging but Enjoyable 4.5 Day Hike)

It would be much more pleasant to hike this over 4.5 days. Here’s how I would do it if I could do it again.

All my estimated arrival times assume you hike at a rate of about 30 minutes per mile and take plenty of breaks.

  • Day .5: Arrive at the Bass River Trailhead around noon. Take two cars to the Ongs Hat Trail head, then car pool back to Bass River (so you have 1 car on each end). Click here for a Map. It should take a little more than an hour to get the cars situated, so you’ll probably hit the trail at around 1:30 PM. From there, hike the 10 miles to Godfrey Bridge Campground, arriving around 7:30 PM.
  • Day 1: Hit the trail around 8 AM. Hike the 14.8 miles to Lower Forge Campground, arriving around 6 PM.
  • Day 2: Hit the trail around 9 AM. Hike the 5.8 miles to Batona Campground, arrive around 2 PM. You’re early! So you can have a nice, relaxing evening at camp. This camp is about 2.2 miles from Apple Pie Hill, so you could take an excursion out there after you set up, if you’re into that idea!
  • Day 3: Hit the trail around 8 AM. Hike the 12.9 miles to Brendan Bryne Campground, arriving around 6:30 PM.
  • Day 4: Hit the trail around 9 AM. Hike the 8 miles to Bass River and finish your hike by 2 PM.

That sounds like so much fun, and makes me want to go back and do the hike the sane person way! I am hoping to do the 5.5 mile hike from Wharton Forrest to Lower Forge this spring.

The Time I Went to the Grand Canyon and Just Looked at it

I wanted to go to The Grand Canyon since I was in 4th grade and read an “I Can Read!” book about a girl who rides a donkey down The Grand Canyon with her dad.

I always hated her spoiled ass for complaining about how donkeys “smell.” This was before she even was near enough to the donkeys to smell them, btw. That was her first response to her dad when he shared his spectacular travel plans with her that she would be included in. She had the nerve to just say “Eww, but donkeys smell bad.”

She also complained about having to eat freeze dried food and her only peace came when her dad found her freeze-dried chocolate ice cream to pack with them. Wow. Ungrateful, much?

I’m still a little mad at that bitch but I got the chance to go down the Grand Canyon! But I sort of botched it by having no plans for The Grand Canyon besides showing up and winging it. I went there after solo hiking The Narrows in Utah, which was incredible and very well planned on my part. But we can’t always be great.

I’m still glad I went. I secretly always wanted to decide to go to the Grand Canyon on whim, like April and Andy from Parks and Rec.

“Where’s all the presidents?”.

These photos…sum it up. Awkward. A lovely Russian mother and daughter took these photos for me. They were staying in the same hotel as me. I bumped into them at The Grand Canyon and offered to take their picture, and they were kind enough to reciprocate.

“Want to take a picture? And we make it?” they asked me. They were so nice.

But I did not help by being the world’s most awkward model. Here are some more pics. Crappy like the rest, as I had only my old phone to take pictures with.

My Blogging Goals for 2020

Happy New Year! 2020 is going to be our year, I can feel it.

If you’re reading this, I love you! I really appreciate anyone taking the time to read my blog. Thank you.

I got inspired by a post by Colorado Chelsea in which she shared her blogging goals for 2020. What a great idea! So here I am, sharing my own blogging goals for the year.

Post Ideas for 2020

This year, I plan to post on the blog twice per month. Here are some ideas I’m going to write about this year:

Climbing Mt. Washington in January: This is located in the White Mountain Range of New Hampshire and is the highest peak East of the Mississippi. I am going to climb it in a few weeks, and it will be my second time doing it. At one point, this peak had record-breaking cold temperatures. So, while the mountain is not high enough to feel affects of altitude (it’s 6,288 feet), it is often used as training to get used to windy & cold conditions in preparation for climbing more serious mountains.

grand canyon
here’s me…at The Grand Canyon…..just…standing.

2017 Grand Canyon Visit: When I did my hike of the Zion Narrows in 2017 (which I posted about recently), I also visited The Grand Canyon. I pretty much just stood there and looked at it, so this will be a short post. 🙂

Glacier National Park Trip: Bart and I plan on traveling to Glacier National Park this summer! I am so excited, I’ve always wanted to go! I hope it works out and I can share my experience with you.

batonaThe Batona Trail: This is another past experience I plan to blog about soon. During the summer of 2018, Bart and I hiked the entire Batona Trail in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey. I *absolutely no NOT* recommend going near the Pine Barrens during the summer, for reasons that will soon become clear (hint, we were absolutely covered with a notorious blood-sucking insect during the entire hike).

Bart’s Denali Guest Post: Bart is climbing Denali with his dad in May! Denali is sometimes called Mt. McKinley. It’s located in Alaska, is the highest peak in North America, and is one of the 7 summits. Bart said he wanted to do a guest post about the experience. I cant wait for this! Though not looking forward to being apart for a month. 🙁

Local Trails: I don’t plan on taking any more far-away trips, other than what I mentioned above. However, I plan on going on some short backpacking & day-hikes in good old Pennsylvania. The list includes the Wissahickon Trail in Philadelphia, The Black Forest Trail, The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, and The Old Loggers Path. I’m not sure if we’ll get to all of them, but we’re hoping to bag a few!

Video Content: My goal is to post a piece of video content each quarter. The first video idea I have is to tell my story about what happened when I taught English in South Korea in 2016, and had to leave early. There’s a story there, and America wants to know!

Style Changes to My Site

I know that the 6 people who look at my blog have been waiting for this!!!

I plan on making a better homepage. The page right now that shows my recent posts is pretty disorganized and overwhelming to look at. I also am hoping my graphic designer friend finishes creating my logo soon!

I also plan to do at least 1 guest blog post this year and keep up with sharing my posts on Pinterest.

I also plan to start up a monthly newsletter soon.

Personal Goals for 2020

Money Goals: This year, I plan on sticking to a financial plan to get my funds on track. This means investing 10% of my income for the year, putting a large chunk of money in my savings account each month, and sticking to a budget.bad with money

Fitness: My goal is to maintain my weight. I also want to cut down on my Broad Street Run Time. My goal is to run this 10 mile race in 90 minutes.

Guitar: I used to play guitar as a kid, but had to stop taking lessons because I never, ever practiced and stopped putting effort in. However, I really enjoy singing and would love to be able to accompany myself. I’ve been wanting to get back into guitar for years now, but I never stick with it. It’s tricky because I’m not a complete beginner, but I will need a lot of refreshing. My goal is to put in 5 20-minute sessions per week.

Creative Writing: My last goal is to spend 4 hours per month on creative writing, unrelated to work or to Hannah Goes Outside.

Solo Hiking the Narrows of Zion National Park

My journey to Zion National Park was fated by the alphabet.

Having a last name like Wolfe is kind of a bummer growing up. My desk was always in the back right corner of the room behind this douchey kid named Patrick Wilson (not that Patrick Wilson). I always got my report card handed back last. Not ideal, but there are definitely worse things, I know.

The Assignment

When I was in college, I took a general education course called the Geography of the US and Canada, and one of our assignments was to write a report on one of the US National Parks. My professor alphabetized our names, and he alphabetized the parks, and that’s how I got assigned Zion National Park, the best one on the list, by far. My alphabetic fortune had finally shifted. It was around this time that I realized Wolfe was actually a pretty cool last name.

“A lot of my past students have called me and said ‘I’m in my park!'” My professor would tell us that all the time while we worked on this project. I wanted to be one of the kids who made it to their park. And a few years later, I made it happen.

Going West for the First Time

 

While working on my project, I became enchanted. My head would buzz with wanderlust as I poured over photos of Zion’s vertically vast & colorful landscapes: steep orange cliffs, water the color of oxidized copper, purple pebbles, deep green pines. America the beautiful, indeed.

I wanted to go, and I wanted someone to go with me. No, I wanted someone to make my dream happen for me. I’d never planned a trip before. I longed for someone to do it for me, to plan every stitch, to guide me, to make the first move.

3 years later, I was hoping for a trip to Zion with my then boyfriend. It didn’t work out. When I’d bring it up to my friends and none of them gave a committal response, I decided I wanted to make it happen anyway. I decided I would go alone.

About Zion Canyon

The narrows hike winds through a slot canyon, which are so named because they’re deep and narrow. This is thanks to the sandstone that forms the canyon walls. Sandstone is porous, so the water quickly fills all the space in the stone, sinking in deep and, over many years, forming a slot.

The Narrows hike is strenuous. It’s filled with large stones and water that’s difficult to see through. You’ll need hiking poles and the right shoes, and you’ll need to be in decent shape.

Flash Flood Warning

The most important piece of advice is to be aware of the risk of flash floods. Since the canyon is very narrow, it fills quickly with water (that’s what formed it in the first place!). Even if there’s rain miles away, it can wash down to the trail and quickly be a huge problem.

Before your hike, be sure to check the park website for alerts about closures, and check the weather for rain. Don’t go if it’s raining! Also, when you go to pick up your backpacking permit, the park ranger will let you know the conditions. If there’s any risk of flash-flooding, they won’t let you go (and that’s a good thing).

How to Hike the Narrows

To hike the narrows, you need to make sure you get your permit ahead of time, and you also need to hire a service to shuttle you to the trail head.

Footwear: This is a unique hike, and I was not sure of what type of shoes were best. Since the majority of the hike is in a river, you don’t want to wear wool hiking socks. They are just going to get waterlogged and uncomfortable. Ditto heavy hiking boots.

Joe’s extremely helpful guide recommended a pair of LaSportiva trail runners, which I purchased, along with a pair of neoprene socks. The trail runners were perfect because they have rubber over your toes, eliminating the issue people have wearing sandals. There are tons of little rocks and pebbles that you could stub your little feet on.

The shoes also don’t absorb any water, so your feet stay light.

Knowing the Route: Honestly, you’d have to be pretty clueless to get lost on this hike. You’re just following the Virgin River. If you got lost, it would be because you did a 180 and started walking the opposite way.

Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up: You can hike the narrows as a 2-day top-down hike, as a strenuous 1-day top-down hike, or a 1 day bottom-up hike. I choose to do a 2-day top-down hike, starting at Chamberlains Ranch and ending at the Temple of Sinawava.

Permit: All overnight trips in Zion require a permit. It costs $5. You can apply for the permits 3 months in advance, starting on the 5th of the month at 10 a.m. MST. Since I bought a plane ticket before I had my permit, my stakes were sort of high.

I made sure to mark my calendar for the booking window so I could be one of the first to apply. I didn’t have any issues. If you’re doing a day hike, you won’t need a permit, and if you sleep more than 1 night in the park, you’ll need a permit for each night. Since I was doing a 2-day hike and sleeping 1 night, I only needed 1 backpacking permit.

Shuttle: The trail head of the narrows is at Chamberlain’s Ranch, which is a very remote place. It isn’t accessible by the bus that runs through Zion Park. You could drive yourself to the trailhead, but after your hike, you’re going to have to find a way to get back up to the trail head, plus have a long drive. It isn’t worth it.

I used Zion Adventure Company, which cost me $37. They loaded the hikers into a van with an impressive shock system–which brings me to another reason you shouldn’t drive yourself. The terrain is probably going to be too much for your rented Toyota Yaris.

At the end of the hike, I just hopped on the Zion Canyon Shuttle, a free shuttle that travels through the park, at the Temple of Sinawava.

Pooping: You need to pack out your poop. Which sounds gross, but think about it. It’s much better that way. The alternative is to have a valley covered with strangers’ poop. Also, they give you this nifty bag to poop in:

Sleeping at Walmart the Night Before My Hike

I flew in the night before my hike to the Las Vegas airport, rented a car, and drove all night through the Rocky Mountains until I hit the Walmart in Hurricane, Utah. The Walmart is about a 30 minute drive from the park. I slept in the backseat of my rental car with my keys and a can of mace next to me.

(The mace was in my checked bag. I probably didn’t need it, and after this trip, I realized I probably wasn’t allowed to have the mace, even in the checked luggage. Also, probably wasn’t allowed the fuel for my stove. But it turns out they don’t really searched checked luggage for dangerous items. Comforting).

If you didn’t know, Walmart is cool with people parking RVs or sleeping in their parking lots, as long as your Walmart is not on this list, so check it out first. I think that list may just be for RVs though. You’re probably fine parking in a no-park Walmart in a regular car, but don’t sue me if you get caught.

The next morning, I got in my car and set my sites on the Zion Welcome center, stopping for a coffee, smoothie, and mini quiche on the way. You may think this detail is unimportant, but I assure you it’s not. It was one of my favorite breakfasts ever. I stopped in a parking lot to eat my quiche and texted some friends that I was in Utah, and I sent them this impressively unimpressive photo.

Utah Sunrise
Just a regular-ass scene in Utah

Unfortunately, at the time I took this trip, my only means of taking photos was a very old cell phone (a Samsung Galaxy s4 Mini, to be precise). This phone came out before phones have as great cameras as they do today and the photos I took are not of the best quality as the pictures I take with my current equipment.

I know, it’s the photographer, not the camera. But still. I never claimed to be a great photographer. I’m just OK at taking pictures. For me, the camera does more legwork than I do 😉

Crappy photos or not, this hike will forever be one of my most treasured experiences.

Alan Watts: Life is Not a Journey

Back in 2009, before the internet felt like a giant advertisement created by a faceless corporation, I used to use a site called StumbleUpon. It no longer exists, but is now a site called “Mix,” which just isn’t the same.

On Stumble Upon, you would click a button, and the site would deliver an awesome webpage. I found beautiful photographs from around the world & open-minded articles from unique perspectives, including one that changed the way I thought about life.

Alan Watts’ Philosophy on Life: It’s Musical

At 17 years old, I heard words which sent me on a journey toward living my life in the present moment. I wasn’t able to find the animated video that I originally saw on StumbleUpon, but I tracked down the audio file, which you can listen to below:

I’ve also transcribed the full text:

“Existence, the physical universe, is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. That is to say, it doesn’t have some destination that it ought to arrive at. But it is best understood by analogy with music. Because music, as an art form, is essentially playful. We say you play the piano. You don’t work the piano. Why? Music differs from, say, travel.

When you travel, you are trying to get somewhere. And of course, we because being a very compulsive and purposive culture, are busy getting everywhere faster and faster and faster until we eliminate the distance between places. I mean, with modern jet travel you can arrive, almost instantaneously. What happens as a result of that is that the two ends of your journey become the same place. So you eliminate the distance, and you eliminate the journey. Because the fun of the journey is to travel, not to obliterate travel.

So then, in music though, one doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest. And there would be composers who wrote only finales. People would go to concerts just to hear one crashing cord, because that’s the end. Say when dancing, you don’t aim at a particular spot in the room, that’s where you should arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance.

Now, but we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our everyday conduct. We’ve got a system of schooling which gives a completely different impression. It’s all graded. And what we do, is we put the child into the corridor of this grade system, with a kind of ‘come on kitty kitty kitty!’ And now you go to kindergarten you know, and that’s a great thing, because when you finish that, you’ll get into first grade. And then come on, first grade leads to second grade, and so on, and then you get out of grade school and you go to high school, and it’s revving up, the thing is coming! Then you’re going to go to college, by Joe, then you’ll get into graduate school, and when you’re through with graduate school, you’ll go out to join the world.

And then you’ll get into some racket where you’re selling insurance. And they’ve got that quota to make. And you’re going to make that, and all the time, the thing is coming! It’s coming! It’s coming! That great thing, the success you’re working for. Then when you wake up one day about 40-years-old, you say “my God, I’ve arrived. I’m there.” And you don’t feel very different from what you’ve always felt.

And there’s a slight let down, because you feel there’s a hoax. And there was a hoax. A dreadful hoax. They made you miss everything. By expectation.

Look at the people who lived to retire, and put those savings away. And then when they’re 65, they don’t have any energy left, they’re more or less impotent, and they go and rot in an old people’s senior citizens community.

Because we’ve simply cheated ourselves the whole way down the line. We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end, and the thing was to get to that end. Success, or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or dance while the music was being played.”

After hearing this, I realized that I was living my life a step ahead, always looking at the goal of success and neglecting what I was experiencing in the present moment. Often, my mind would turn to regrets from the past, and I’d be consumed by the grief they would bring to me.

This quote inspired me to stop viewing life as a grandiose pilgrimage with a set destination, but as something that is happening right now, which I could easily miss out on if I wasn’t careful.

In order to fully experience life, I wanted to start staying focused on what I was doing at the present time, which is called mindfullness.

Working Toward Mindfullness

I will never be finished with journeying toward mindfullness, but over the years I’ve made strides in living mentally in the present. I learned that it’s easiest to be mindful while doing things I enjoy, no matter how simple & routine.

A year out of college, I was going through a challenging time. When my memories of the past weren’t tormenting me, I was overwhelmed with worry about my future. I thought I would never be happy again.

What really helped me out of this rut was creating a list of 20 self-soothing items in my immediate environment. Burning a candle, dancing, cooking, painting my nails, or even just looking at a flower bush outside of my apartment. While my life was in turmoil, I was pleasantly surprised at how taking part in these basic, accessible activities could bring me joy, if I did them mindfully.

Mindfullness Meditation

Next, I started getting help from a therapist who is also teaches meditation. Today, I meditate for 10 minutes every morning, using the mindfullness/contemplative meditation. The practice involves sitting in an intentional posture, with my eyes open. Each time a thought enters my head, I label it as thinking, and shift my awareness back to my breath. Doing this has increased my focus and made me aware of my thoughts and their relation to my feelings. Both of those things greatly aid me in making friends with myself and being present for life every day.

Mindfullness doesn’t mean always being happy, though it can bring great happiness. It means living fully, through the good and the bad, and welcoming whatever life brings. One of my goals in life is to have meaningful experiences. But what joy would these bring me if I never get to experience them fully?

4 Techniques for Purifying Water in the Wilderness

Water is heavy—a gallon weighs 8.35 pounds. It’s also 100% necessary, and when you’re in the wilderness, you need to have more water than you think you need. Not only is it important that you stay hydrated, but you’ll need even extra water to cook with.

Fortunately, you don’t need to carry all your water with you for your entire trip. There are multiple ways to treat water when you’re in the woods.

Getting Water, the Basics

You’ll want two 1-liter Nalgene bottles. Slip one into each of your backpack’s side pockets.

Gather your water from a stream. Water that moves is best, since it tends to have less algae, dirt, and other contaminants. It’s also easier to gather. Just hold your bottle downstream and let it flow right in.

Use your common sense. Water from Manhattan’s East River is going to have a different quality than water from a mountain stream.

  1. Boiling

    You know the drill, put your water in a pot over a heat source. If the water is super cloudy or dirty, you can filter it through a hanky or coffee filter first. When you see big bubbles, it’s boiling. Keep it going for a minute, or three minutes if you’re above 5,000 feet.

  • Pros: Easy! All you need is a pot and a heat source.
  • Cons: Boiling water makes it hot (duh). Usually, not the most refreshing to drink. The process of boiling water is also time-consuming and labor intensive.
  1. Iodine

Drop two iodine tablets into a liter of water. After 30 minutes, your water is safe to drink. At least that’s how ours work, check the package that you get.

  • Pros: Cheap, easy, & the most reliable. We always have a bottle of iodine pills with us when we’re hiking.
  • Cons: They make you water taste a little funky. Excessive exposure to iodine (like if you used it every single day for months on end) can cause nasal issues.
  1. Filter Pump

There are many types of water pumps that allow you to pump water out of a stream.

  • Pros: Very reliable. No extra supplies needed.
  • Cons: Not as easy to use as the other treatment methods. It’s more labor-intensive and takes more time to use. Most of them are heavier than other water treatment supplies.
  1. SteriPEN

This is a special tool that uses blue light to kill bacteria from your water. It’s a handled bulb that comes in a protective sheath. Just uncap, and hold the bulb in your bottle. Hold in there until the automatic timer goes off, which should take 1 minute. That’s enough to purify 1 liter of water.

  • Pros: Easy & quick. Reliable & lightweight. This is my favorite way to treat water!
  • Cons: SteriPENs are more expensive than other methods (currently listed starting at $54). They also use batteries, and it’s hard to know when they’re about to die, so you always want to have extra batteries with you. The batteries are also CR 123, not the most common.

My Pre-Marathon Food & Exercise Log

This Sunday, I ran my first ever marathon!

I really enjoyed the challenge of training and participating in this event. My time was 5:27:48. I didn’t meet my goal of breaking 5 hours, but I did meet my goal of completing the race, which is good enough for me. This is also my first race during which my pace started slow and gradually increased, instead of the other way around. I used to be pretty mindless when pacing long races, going as fast as I could at the beginning so I would end up crawling at the end and just hobbling across the finish line.

This time, I moderated my pace quite well, and I think I would have had a shorter time if it hadn’t been for the surprise wintry mix. That’s right. Surprise. Wintry. Mix. It started around mile 20, and it was blowing directly into my face. My shorts and long sleeved shirt were drenched. It was 35 degrees. I had run 20 miles and had 6 to go. It really sucked.

But then, at mile 24, my friend Val appeared to run the end of the race with me. She had already done the same for Bart, who ran the race in 4:36:15. I also had not 1, but 2 groups of friends who came to cheer me on. Running through Philadelphia, a beautiful city that’s special to me, was a wonderful experience. All of these things were special and a great reminder of how lucky I am!

My Marathon Diet & Exercise Log

I thought I would share how I fueled myself in the days leading up to the race. I am not a nutritionist, but I pay attention to what I eat and am pretty good at figuring out what works for me.

For the first few days, I focused on eating as healthy as possible, with lots of fruits and veggies. Then, I started to increase my protein intake. The day before the marathon, I switched to eating several small meals rich in carbohydrates, and of course, I drank plenty of water during the entire week.

I also was told that it’s a good idea to keep running, but run short distances at faster paces, so that is what I did.

Tuesday (5 days out)

Wednesday (4 days out)

  • Breakfast: Skipped
  • Lunch: Chicken gyro wrap, 2 apples, & a handful of almonds (I got lunch from the same place 2 days in a row. They loved me at the pita shop this week. And honestly they do every week because I get lunch there all the time!)
  • Dinner: Trader Joes orange chicken & veggie fried rice (OK, so this wasn’t the healthiest. But it was so easy and delicious!)
  • Exercise: 75 minute yoga video at home

Thursday (3 days out)

  • Breakfast: Skipped.
  • homemade acai bowlLunch: Homemade Acai bowl- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 2 frozen bananas, 1 tablespoon of freeze dried açaí powder, 2 scoops of pea protein, 1 cup of kale, and unsweetened rice milk. I put everything in the blender and go, pausing occasionally to scrape the sides with a rubber scraper and slowly add more rice milk as needed. Topped with chia seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, and homemade granola.
  • Dinner: Salmon filet, roasted sweet potato & cabbage, quinoa
  • Exercise: 4 mile run, followed by a 30 minute foam roll & stretch session

Friday (2 days out)

  • Breakfast: Skipped
  • Lunch: Trader Joes Super Spinach Salad & sesame bagel with peanut butter
  • rolled ice creamDinner: Duck & wonton ramen from a Japanese restaurant followed by rolled ice cream. An impulsive meal. Bart and I had to pick up our bibs at the expo and grabbed dinner afterward in Chinatown. This dinner did *not* make me feel good the next day, I would *not* recommend eating this two days before a marathon. However, I would recommend it on a day when what you ate mattered less, because it’s delicious.
  • Exercise: none, rest day

Saturday (1 day out)

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal cookie pancakes
  • After this big breakfast, I ate several small meals throughout the day. I ate: a sesame bagel with butter, a 6-inch Italian hoagie, a packet of potato chips, and a cookie.
  • Dinner: Since she lives within walking distance from the race, we spent the night at a friend’s house who was also running in the race. She cooked us a spaghetti dinner with very mild tomato sauce. I didn’t gorge myself, but had a large but reasonable helping, probably a quarter box of spaghetti. We also ate some chocolate covered graham crackers with sea salt from Trader Joe’s while watching a trashy realty TV show called Temptation Island.
  • Exercise: .75 mile run to get my muscles warm so I could spend an hour stretching.

On Saturday, I made sure to drink 5 1-liter Nalgene bottles full of water. I also had some watered-down Pedialite and several cups of hot ginger tea. The tea was to help with the stomach ache I had because my dumb ass ate ramen and ice cream the night before.

Sunday (Race Day)!

The race started at 7, and I got up at 5 to eat a bagel with peanut butter, half a banana, and a double shot of espresso. I also drank a liter of water and about 12 ounces of more watered down Pedalite.

To answer your question, yes, I had to take a lot of pee breaks during the race. Honestly, I’d do it again because I think being so hydrated definitely benefited me during the marathon. I also took a cup of gatorade at every stop and had 4 energy gel packets while I was running. A lovely woman was passing out fun-sized candy to the runners and I had a Reese’s peanut butter Christmas tree.

After the run, I had a banana, granola bar, and a cup of hot chicken broth they gave me before heading back to my friends’ apartment. Since an Uber XL would have taken 10 minutes to arrive and we were .5 miles from their place, we just walked home. It was brutal. I watched the Eagles lose with a bunch of my friends and had a burger from ShakeShack and 3 slices of Sicilian pizza. Also, lots of red wine. Another big mistake. Huge.

I didn’t eat perfectly, but these meals worked for my life and fueled me reasonably well. Do let me know what you like to eat before races, hikes, or other big days. I’m always looking for new ideas!

5 Things That Help Me With My Seasonal Affective Disorder

I love to go outside. As I’m the girl behind Hannah Goes Outside, you probably aren’t surprised to hear that. But starting around September, something bad happens.

Autumn weather is arguably my favorite. I love the cool, crisp nights and mornings and the golden sunshine at afternoon. The yellow and red tones in the foliage are quite beautiful. But in the meantime, the sun starts to spend less time in the sky, and I’m not able to go outside as much, because it gets so dark so early. So, my exposure to sunlight reduces, triggering my seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

About 5 years ago, I noticed that the lull in my mood seemed to always occur around the same time of year. Then, I did some research and learned about the impact that light has on our brain.

What My SAD is Like

In autumn, everyday tasks get more challenging for me. I don’t want to get out of bed, I lose motivation, and I find myself crying for no reason. In general, I just feel crappy. But after powering through it for a few years, I finally have come up with a treatment plan that keeps it at bay. Now, here is an obligatory note letting you know that I’m not a doctor! This is no substitute for professional therapy. I am sharing what works for me.

That being said, these are my 5 favorite tips for ways to get more sunshine (physically and metaphorically!) to help you make it through the winter & enjoy the process.

Five Things I Do to Curb My Seasonal Depression

  1. Kitty hanging out on the lightboxSun Lamp: The most effective treatment for my SAD (besides exercise) is probably my sun lamp. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or therapist about choosing the right one, but I use this lamp (it’s $40). My therapist told me it’s best to position the light at 10 O’Clock or 2 O’Clock, rather than directly across from you. Since 20-30 minutes in front of the lamp is optimal, most people do some sort of activity while they’re sunning. I usually write in my journal and do a mindfulness meditation session, but you may find it useful to keep it in your bathroom so you can use it while you get ready, or on your kitchen table so you can eat breakfast near it. Since my lamp has a timer, I don’t need to worry about checking a clock or running late for work. The cats also love to hang out with me in the sunshine.
  2. Keep Warm: You might be thinking wOw HaNnAh, I nEvEr ThOuGhT oF tHaT!  But I think that people neglect dressing warm in favor of fashion, or to save time and/or bulk. But when the weather gets cold, I think it’s a good time to prioritize function over fashion. Leave the flats at home, and opt for wool socks inside cozy boots. Wear a puffy, warm coat and a scarf, hat, and mittens in your favorite color. My rule of thumb is to always wear at least two long sleeve layers under my coat. You’d be surprised how much warmer you’ll be if you wear a long-sleeved cotton t shirt instead of a short sleeved one, and throw even a thin cardigan over top. Bundle up, and the winter gets just a teeny bit more bearable.
  3. Afternoon Walks: Starting in fall, I go on daily 20-minute walks during my lunch break during work. It stimulates my creativity while allowing me to see a little more of Mr. Sun while he’s shining at his brightest. Getting outside, even for a few minutes, lifts my mood & calls my inner child out to play. It reminds me a little of recess.
  4. meatballs in a potCozy Nights in With Friends: In winter, inviting your friends on a hike, picnic, or camping trip is probably a hard sell. But social activity with your friends works wonders for lifting the mood. So why not organize a cozy night in? I like to cook dinner for my friends, especially a comforting classic like chicken pot pie, meatballs and garlic bread, or lasagna. After dinner, I heat some mulled wine or spiked hot cider on my stove. Drinking your mugs of hot cider with whiskey while you play board games or watch a classic movie will help you reconnect & share with your friends while all of you fight the winter blues.
  5. Exercise: Going for a run in the winter is hard to make yourself do. But if you can fight through the feelings, your mood really will reward you. Modern people typically live unnatural lives. Human beings are evolved to be hunter/gatherers, but we tend to live sedentary lifestyles that fight against our natural instincts. Looking at a computer screen for hours while sitting in one place doesn’t make sense to your brain. Moving your body for a while helps get you back to living a more natural lifestyle. My other therapist (I’ve been to lots of therapy, OK?) told me that no study has proven a more effective treatment for depression than regular exercise.

Here’s an illustrated how-to on “How to Enjoy Autumn,” from a blogger and illustrator whose work I love, Cindy Mangomini! She was kind enough to give me permission to share her drawing.

2019-enjoy-autumn-mangomini

I highly recommend following her blog and looking at the pictures she shares. They always get me in the mood for the upcoming season!

So, if you’re enjoying the beautiful autumnal scenery and your mood takes a dip, try some of these techniques. It’s also not a bad idea to find a therapist who you connect with.

We’ll get through winter, just like we do every year, and there will be plenty to celebrate along the way.

50 Questions, Myspace Style

Remember MySpace? Maybe I’m showing my age. For the record, I’m 27, nearly 28. That puts me solidly in the middle of the younger half of millennials.

mirror selfie
Felt silly taking this, but mirror selfies were totally the thing during my Myspace days.

I don’t really enjoy social media, but thinking of Myspace makes me nostalgic. I especially miss filling out surveys and posting bulletins, and of course, those cheesy mirror selfies. That was the original selfie. Also, all of this Zuckerberg nonsense that’s been in the news has me missing Tom. What a flower he was.

Since my blog is new, I thought a Myspace-style survey would be a good “get to know you” activity. So I decided to bring back the survey in this post below. If you’re reading this, I would really love it if you filled this out too, and let me know so I can read it!

  1. Do you like blue cheese? Yes, it’s actually my favorite.
  2. Have you ever smoked a cigarette? A few in my day. Not that I’m proud of it.
  3. Do you own a gun? No, but my boyfriend does and we live together.
  4. What flavor do you add to your drink at Sonic? I don’t go to Sonic. Any recommendations, in case I ever go?!
  5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? A little bit, yea. But I don’t really know what I’m nervous about.
  6. Do you like hot-dogs? Nope
  7. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Water & black coffee
  8. Can you do push-ups? I can do about 5 before I need a break, and probably 20 total in 1 session.
  9. What’s your favorite meal? I don’t have a fav, it depends on my mood. Right now, I’m craving a burger & potato chips with corn on the cob. & crabs to pick. Clearly this craving is fed by nostalgia of picnics past.
  10. What’s your favorite piece of jewelry? Gold dragonfly earrings.
  11. Favorite hobby? Hiking
  12. Do you work with people who idolize you? No…I don’t understand the motive of this question.
  13. Name a trait that you hate about yourself? My tendency to make a strong, bold statement without thinking, then realize it doesn’t reflect my actual feelings, then I need to back peddle and it always sounds disingenuous.
    Everyones hates it.
  14. Middle name? Elizabeth
  15. Name 3 thoughts at this moment: Am I really doing a myspace survey? Are people going to think that’s conceited of me? Are they going to fill out their own?
  16. Name 3 things you bought yesterday: I didn’t buy anything yesterday!
  17. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink. Coffee, Herbal Tea, Water
  18. Current worry right now? Am I going to be able to focus today on my actual responsibilities, or will I just do more myspace surveys?
  19. Current hate right now? This guy who goes to stores and other public places, acts disrespectful to the people working there, then films the whole thing and uploads it to YouTube.
  20. Favorite place to be? Woods.
  21. How did you bring in New Years? Drinking too much at a friend’s party.
  22. Favorite place to go? Anywhere I’ve never been. Also, Old City in Philly.
  23. What is your most recurring dream? Mine don’t tend to reoccur.
  24. Introvert or extrovert? Not sure, but my Myers Briggs says E.
  25. What color shirt are you wearing? Grayish blue dress with a black cardigan.
  26. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? I’ve never tried it.
  27. Can you whistle? Only a few notes
  28. Favorite color? Dark purple. But it changes often. I have 4 or 5 favorite colors I cycle through.
  29. Would you be a pirate? Not unless I was totally out of options.
  30. What songs do you sing in the shower? I don’t usually, but when I do, I sing old songs from high school choir, which was 12 years ago.
  31. Favorite girl’s name? Hmm, tough question
  32. Favorite boy’s name? See above
  33. Who is your loudest friend? If we’re talking about my bests, I’m the loudest. If we’re talking about my comprehensive social group, I will save her the shade.
  34. What’s in your pocket right now? Nothing!
  35. Last thing that made you laugh? I don’t remember. Probably Bart or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  36. Bed sheets as a child? Thanks for asking! I remember a set of Mikey Mouse sheets with different cartoon characters (Goofy, Donald Duck, etc.) flying in hot air balloons.
  37. Worst injury you’ve ever had? A few months ago when I started my marathon training, my quadriceps were pulled and I was afraid I was going to permanently damage them. Also a few months ago, I got rear ended really hard while stopped at a red light and had some whiplash. To be fair, this may not have been my worst ever, but it was my scariest. It took me a long time to think of this. I am lucky enough that I really haven’t had many injuries!
  38. Do you love where you live? It’s my favorite place I’ve ever lived, but I think there may be somewhere I’d prefer.
  39. How many TVs are in your house? 1
  40. What is your worst habit? Mindlessly browsing the internet
  41. How many dogs do you have? 0, but 2 baby kittens:)
  42. Does someone have a crush on you? Bart 🙂
  43. Do you own slippers? Yesss and mine are perfect! I highly recommend them.
  44. What is your favorite book? My standard answer to this for many years has been The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. But it’s a hard choice.
  45. What is your favorite candy? Fancy chocolate. Like the kind in the box with tissue paper cups where each is filled with something different. Nothing with fruit in it, though. Except perhaps, raisins. I just don’t like that wet cherry stuff that tends to be in those chocolates. But toffee, caramel, peanut butter, peanuts (any nuts, really) are all tied for first place.
  46. What is your favorite sports team? Flyers, 76ers, Eagles. I don’t really care a ton, though.
  47. What song do you want played at your funeral? I don’t think that’s up to me.
  48. What were you doing at 12 AM last night? Sleeping
  49. What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up this morning? Morning? Already?