31 Days of Nature Challenge

Audrey over at AudreyWanders.com is instigating a nature challenge for the month of May, and you should sign up!

Here’s the description of the challenge:

31 Days of Nature is a challenge to spend every day of May 2017 outdoors. All you have to do is spend at least 30 minutes outdoors each day. In order to make the 30 minutes count, you have to get your hands or feet on the earth in some way, shape, or form.

I’m going to play along, even though I’m a little nervous about being able to pull it off. I’m especially nervous about May 1, given the forecast for 40 degrees, rain, and strong wind.

May 1 forecast. 😦

I’m good at getting outside when the weather is nice and when my schedule allows, but I still wimp out a lot more than I’d like to when it’s not as easy to go out. This should be a good opportunity to see when and where I run into resistance and experiment with getting over it.

I hope you’ll do the challenge too!

Here are a few ideas for what to do this May to spend time outside:

Keep me posted—I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

Project Get Out: The End

Project Get Out is my personal challenge to spend at least a half hour a day outside for the fall. Because even though I work in natural resources and write about the outdoors, I don’t get out nearly enough. 

Gosh, it’s been a long time since I wrote last! Certainly, it’s been too long and I’m overdue to write about the end of Project Get Out: Weeks 11, 12, and 13.

Update: The lake is frozen over.
Update: The lake is frozen over.

I previously left off struggling to get outside as the days got shorter and work ramped up… unfortunately, the final weeks were more of the same. The past few weeks were a failure as far as the goals of the project (to spend a mere half hour outside everyday) were concerned.

Not only did I fail during this time period, but by the very end, I just plain gave up trying. Sigh.

What Happened?

Short, short days and lots of travel kept me from being able to get outside on many days. I had two work trips out East in early December, so there were a few days that were nothing but travel from 4:30 in the morning until 6 pm or later. Other days were just busy, where I started working early in the morning to prep for the day and would then go all day long and get to bed as early as possible, just to do it all over again.

I realize I’m making my work sound awful dreary, and that’s not at all the case. Everything I did on those trips was absolutely amazing and I loved every minute of it. I think of it as exhilarating, meaningful work. It’s only when I look at it from the perspective Did I spend time outside? that I feel at all bad about not getting out.

It’s the days that I didn’t travel where I failed. When I was home, I didn’t make up for my time away and make a point to get out–on many days, I didn’t even try.I stayed inside instead, telling myself that I was tired and needed to relax, that it was okay to stay inside to “decompress” (and that while I was at it, I might as well as devour a half pound of tortilla chips).

Of course, since I spend most of my spare time reading and writing about health and the outdoors, I know that spending a little time outside to even just take a short walk is probably the best thing I could have done for myself. And yet I didn’t do it…

Why?
Because it always seemed too dark or too windy or too cold outside.

Why?
Because I was tired or stressed from other things, and when I feel like that, I’m going to prioritize comfort ahead of everything else. And for me, comfort is cuddling up in our warm house with something interesting to read and something unhealthful to eat.

Why?
Because I’m human, and that’s how most of us work. As far as I can tell, comfort is king. Our default value is that we want to avoid things that make us feel uncomfortable, whether its cold weather or awkward or challenging conversations.

I purposefully put Project Get Out at my personal worst time of year, during the fall funk I seem to get every year from mid-November to mid-December, to see what would happen. The same thing happened that normally happens: I slipped into a fall funk. This year, it wasn’t too bad and I can already feel myself creeping out of it now that the holidays are almost over and the day are (albeit imperceptibly) getting longer.

I’ll write future post about coping with a fall/winter funk, but in the meantime, I do want to capture some of the outdoor highlights from the past few weeks:

  • In New Hampshire, it felt like I was outdoors when the furnace broke at the field station where I was staying. Two nights sleeping at about 50 degrees was really only a mild inconvenience, but it was kind of funny.
  • In Maine, it was wicked cold one day and then warmed up to freezing. Sleety rain fell on pavement and froze, creating some of the most adventuresome walking conditions I’ve ever experienced.
  • Similarly, the next day in Connecticut included some difficult walking where freezing rain had transitioned to fluffy snow during their first winter storm of the season. On the bright side, the snow had stuck to the trees and was downright beautiful.
  • Back home, I had so much energy from being “locked up” in cars and airplanes. One night I chose to walk the mile and a half to the Sportsmen’s Club, rather than riding in the car with Sexy, so that I could get some outside time. It was nice out and there were lots of stars. I ended up running some of the time (in jeans and ballet flats, in the dark, with my headlamp turned off, on snow-covered roads) just to burn up some some of that energy.
  • Most notably, on two Saturday mornings, my husband and I decided to walk to the town cafe, 1.25 miles away, for breakfast. It was really nice to have to time to talk and see what was going on around the neighborhood (spoiler: nothing, except maybe a few deer), and I think we’ll do it again once in a while.

Happy winter and holidays!

Project Get Out: Weeks 9 & 10

Project Get Out is my personal challenge to spend at least a half hour a day outside for the fall. Because even though I work in natural resources and write about the outdoors, I don’t get out nearly enough. 

Ack! This fall-turned-suddenly-to-winter has gotten the best of me, making me want to give up and hibernate! On the plus side, the weekend have been extremely quiet, allowing me to sit and read (and nap!). This all makes perfect sense—last year I determined that this time of year is my least favorite.

Monday: Long day at work—didn’t make it outside. Fail.

Tuesday: Long day at work—didn’t make it outside. Fail.

Wednesday: Long day at work—didn’t make it outside. We have so much snow this year! I went skiing after work, but the conditions weren’t the best. The temperature was still well below freezing, but the snow seemed to be warmer because it was wet and sticky. I was on the lighted trails and it was snowing a ton, which meant that the entire ski was in sort of a sepia-colored version of a white out. I felt like I had no idea where I was because visibility was so poor and it was just nothing but snow.

Thursday: Because of all the snow, my outside time has had to become a lot more practical—snow blowing after work.

Friday: Long day: work, followed by errands—didn’t make it outside. Fail.

Saturday: The last cyclocross race of the season was on Saturday. I’d really wanted to go to see what the course would be like with 2+ feet of snow on the ground, but I couldn’t muster the energy to drive the two hours in each direction to go. I can’t even remember if I went outside this day, or just enjoyed being inside and relaxing when I could. I think I stayed inside. I went to a friend’s house and made a Christmas wreath, and then later to another house for a party.

Sunday: While I was mostly lazy, cuddled up on the couch reading all day, I did go outside and take a fairly long walk up one of the neighborhood roads.

Monday: More snow removal.

Tuesday: Long day—no outside time. Fail.

Wednesday: I went skiing after work. At the trailhead, when I was about to go out, I ran into a retired professor’s wife that I know from around town. She was so happy and said, “It’s beautiful out there. We’re so lucky to have these trails.” I don’t think this was a Thanksgiving-related outburst of gratitude—she’s just joyful like that all the time. Of course, I completely agree with her; it was a great day to be out. I don’t run into her often, but every time I do, I think, “I want to grow up and be like her.”

Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving!! It was a beautiful morning, and I took pictures of trees for a recent post. Then more skiing. I couldn’t get myself excited to drive 15 miles to the trails to go skiing, so for the second time this year, I just skied right down our road. With 2-3 inches of fresh snow on top of snow-covered roads, it’s good enough for me. It’s not as scenic as the trails, but it doesn’t really matter—I’m a terrible skier and spend most the time looking at my feet anyway.

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Trails are nice, but I’ll ski right down the road when I have a chance!

Friday: The day’s project was for Sexy and me to move wood into our basement for the next 6 weeks or so. It was really nice to just putter away on that project (move wood from shed to trailer, trailer to house, over and over) while chatting about things we want to buy (solar panels! a tractor! land!) someday.

Saturday: Over at the neighbor’s property, I helped snowshoe some trails in the woods with the intent of making trails that we could use during the winter for skiing.

Sunday: Travel for work tied up my day from four in the morning until after dark, so I didn’t get out. Bummer.

Ack! I guess it’s good that I at least have better than a 50% success rate, but I’m not doing so well at actually getting outside lately. (Spoiler alert: So far week 11 isn’t looking that good either.)

Last year, I attributed my fall blahs and lack of activity to the cold weather, and, to a lesser extent, to hunting. This year—especially with so much snow on the ground and the potential to ski—I’m realizing that sunlight is probably my biggest hurdle in all this. Long days and travel don’t make it any easier, but mostly I just can’t get myself out the door after dark because I get the heebie-jeebies thinking that I’m not visible to cars, but potentially more visible to anything else that might be out in the woods (like Bigfoot!).

Project Get Out: Week 8

Project Get Out is my personal challenge to spend at least a half hour a day outside for the fall. Because even though I work in natural resources and write about the outdoors, I don’t get out nearly enough.

This project was supposed to be my fall challenge to get outside more, but when I look out there, it’s already winter.

Monday: Another inside day, aka a fail. The days are just too short. If I don’t get home early, there’s no time to get outside while it’s still daylight. We’re now down to just over 9 hours of daylight: 8 am until a little after 5 pm. It’s tough to get out during the day. Of course I could go out after dark, but with two recent cougar sightings in the UP, I have another excuse to stay inside and watch that damn TV.

Tuesday: Holiday! I was going to spend the day doing some errands in town, but stayed home because we got a snowstorm on Tuesday. By the end of the day, the snow was well over a foot deep and it would have been impossible to get my car out of the driveway. Continue reading “Project Get Out: Week 8”

Project Get Out: Week 7

Project Get Out is my personal challenge to spend at least a half hour a day outside for the fall. Because even though I work in natural resources and write about the outdoors, I don’t get out nearly enough.

I am once again finding my tendency to go dormant in the fall hard to overcome. La get last week included some high points, but also several low points in my endeavor to get outside more this fall.

Monday: I traveled to Vermont on Monday for work and intentionally carved out some time to take a hike and get to know the area’s woods a bit better. I selected a hike called Mt. Horrid and The Great Cliff and wrote about that earlier this week.

Earlier in the week, I visited The Great Cliff.
Earlier in the week, I visited The Great Cliff.

Tuesday: I was in a meeting all day, so my only outside time was the walk to/from the lunch restaurant and a brief walk around town before dinner. But at least it was something…

Wednesday: I stayed at a small bed and breakfast a mile or so out of Rutland for most of my Vermont trip. I knew it would be hard to get outside after my meetings on Wednesday, so I took a half-hour walk in the morning around the local countryside.

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This was the view from the window of where I stayed. In the evenings, it was incredible to see a nearly full moon hovering over the barn with the valley and mountains in the background.

Thursday: I was busy with work and driving, and it was raining. I walked around Downtown Burlington a bit in the evening before dinner, but I really didn’t get much outside time.

Friday: Fail. No outside time. It was one of those cold, rainy, miserable days and I was preoccupied with meetings and travel. My travel home was nearly interrupted by snow back home. The plane landed in Hancock (although it had been stocked with extra fuel in case we had to turn around and return to Chicago) on more than an inch of sloppy, early-season snow.

Snow on Saturday morning.
Snow on Saturday morning.

Saturday: Happy to be home, I spent most the day being shamelessly home-bodied and lazy. At the same time, the snow and cold temperatures were threatening to ruin the last of the greens in my garden. My outside time on Saturday was spent digging into the snow to get the last of the greens and carrots from the garden, plus some other pre-winter yard work.

The last of my greens: buried under snow, but saved by a row cover!
The last of my greens: buried under snow, but saved by a row cover!
The final garden harvest for 2014.
The final garden harvest for 2014.

Sunday: We continued to get snow, with a few inches stacking up by Sunday morning. I wanted to go skiing, and I should have in the morning while it was a bit below freezing (better gliding conditions) and low wind. But I procrastinated, thinking I’d take a walk later. Well, I never did, and I spent the day inside relaxing and enjoying being home.

I keeps snowing! Here’s another pic of what it looks like now!

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The snow as I write this (Tuesday morning).

Mount Horrid and the Great Cliff

A quick special post this week. I was in Vermont for work and had a little time to take a stroll in the woods. When I looked at what might be nearby in the Green Mountains, I honed in a trail named Mt. Horrid and The Great Cliff. I needed to go there.

Mt. Horrid and The Great Cliff—how could I not go there? It sounded so mysterious and exciting, like a Harry Potter movie or something. Continue reading “Mount Horrid and the Great Cliff”

Project Get Out: Week 2

Project Get Out is my personal challenge to spend at least a half hour a day outside for the fall. Because even though I work in natural resources and write about the outdoors, I don’t get out nearly enough.

Woo-hoo! Just the fact that I’ve kept at this for two weeks is pretty impressive to me. I’m not always so great at following through on my crazy ideas (it’s hard when there are just so many many of them…), so it’s already a mini-victory.

Monday

Last Monday sucked, especially after Sunday. Sunday was the perfect fall day: sunshine, temps in the 70s, a mild breeze, and great colors.

After a weekend of amazing weather, Monday was bad. All gray. Not worth photographing.

Comparatively, Monday sucked. The high temperature fell from Sunday’s 79 to Monday’s 47. And it was a cold, drizzly, sloppy 47 degrees, and the only good thing about it was that I’d managed to plan ahead and cook cold-weather comfort foods like stuffed peppers and soup. So I found myself at home on Monday evening, realizing that I hadn’t been outside yet that day and that it would be getting dark in an hour or so. Could I get myself to go out?

I I bundled up, putting on my wool hat and a pair of knit gloves for the first time since spring… or at least early July (one sign I live in the UP: I keep these items in a drawer in the living room year-round, never bothering to pack them away).

I spent the next hour or so in my garden, tightening up a raised bed and then moving soil around to get it in place for next year. And, as usual, even though I dreaded going outside, it immediately felt good to be out and I didn’t feel cold at all.

Tuesday

Tuesday was kind of the same, although the weather wasn’t quite so dreary. I continued to move soil around (probably my favorite gardening activity…) and had the realization that a half hour each day in the garden could really add up over time. If I spent a half hour in my garden on weekdays, that would (in theory) add up to 130 hours per week. Just that teeny little bit of time everyday and  could get the equivalent of an extra 3 work weeks of garden labor every year. Of course that’s an overestimation of how much gardening I could really get done (since my garden is under multiple feet of snow for 4 months of the year), but it does illustrate how much one could get done by puttering away at something productive in the evenings (i.e., Blow up your TV!)

Wednesday

Cyclocross practice. That’s 30-40 minutes of self-induced torture riding beefy road bikes on gravel, grass, single track, and whatever else the weekly ringleader can come up with. But I love the sport because it speaks directly to my affinity for oddball, adventuresome sports and things that make me feel like I’m at least a little badass.

Just so you know what you’re missing of you don’t race cross:

Thursday

After work, I had a nice trail run with on of my best buds. It was interesting to see how many leaves had fallen since our run the previous Thursday, although there was still plenty of color to keep it pretty. If someone had told me a year or two ago that I would actually enjoy running with another person (something I’ve always avoided, and am still somewhat skeptical about in a lot of ways), I’d have had trouble believing it. But it is fun. I think the trick involved running slowly, so slowly that sometimes it feels like walking might be faster, because then you can goof off and have stupid conversations and laugh and look around and also still breathe and not gasp for air.

Friday

It turned out to be a big trails week. I hit them again for a short run on Friday (just enough to meet my half-hour minimum) and then hit the gym.

Saturday

Saturday was a bust; I spent all day inside. I went to a writers workshop for most of the day, where I at least wrote about being outside, although I didn’t take the time to get out since it  was dreary and gross.

Instead, I thought about my grapes and grape vines and also about grapes and grape vines growing up. I used to go over to a neighbor’s cottage in the fall when they weren’t around, pick grapes from vines sprawled out over a tall pile of bricks that served as a makeshift trellis, and sit at their picnic table and work on algebra homework. It did it multiple years, so that it felt like a small ritual. And then this year, because we had our first grapes, I remembered that because everything felt the same: the temperature, the strength of the wind, the smell of fall and leaves, the low sunlight filtering through clouds in the afternoon.

But better: no algebra homework!

Sunday

After being cooped up inside all day on Saturday (even after the workshop), I woke up Sunday and needed to move. So I ended up taking a walk as soon as I woke up, even though it was still dark and drizzling. A few of my coworkers have these light belts that they use for running in the dark— think of a high-powered headlamp that you wear on your waist, with a blinking red light on the back. We’ll, I’m too cheap to buy one, so this was my opportunity to see if I could just wear my headlamp around my waist instead.

The verdict? Yes, my headlamp strap can be adjusted so that I can wear my headlamp comfortably around my waist. But I’m not sure if it shines enough light, since I was walking on the road and didn’t really need it to find my way. But I’ll definitely try it again.

Walking early in the day had another advantage: I could spend the rest of the day guiltlessly lounging around the house in comfy workout clothes, reading books and being idle. It was wonderful. I napped. I journaled. I read most of a compilation of travel writing. I laid on the bed and looked out the window at a colorful maple. In the afternoon, the drizzle stopped and I rustled up enough energy to see what I could find in the garden.

More grapes. Another, my fourth, shopping bag full of them. (Bags 1-3 are in the freezer and slated to become wine!) And a surprise: I had to cut one of my three vines back this spring and so I didn’t think that it would produce anything. But it did: one single cluster of dark purple grapes, another variety than my other two vines. And these tasted the best of the three plants. They didn’t taste like table grapes from the store, and they weren’t sour like all the grapes I’ve ever picked off of vines. They tasted Grape. As in: they tasted just like grape jelly or grape juice or a even grape can of Jolly Good soda, which may have been my favorite flavor when I was 7. They tasted so Grape that I realized that I didn’t even know that grapes could taste that way; I just thought it the favor was fake, some vat of  purple gunk, industrially produced and used in Laffy Taffy. I had no idea that grapes could taste that way.

What’s next: blue raspberries?

Grapes!
Grapes! (Sorry to repeat this pic, but it’s just too fitting for this week’s post to pass up!)

What did you do outside this past week?

Project Get Out: Week 1

Project Get Out is my personal challenge to spend at least a half hour a day outside for the fall. Because even though I write about the outdoors, I don’t get out nearly enough.

Let’s call Monday, September 21 the start date. This keeps it in nice, even weeks even though fall didn’t technically begin till Tuesday. Also, I can’t remember what I did outside on Sunday, although I’m sure I got out before catching a flight to Albany. So I’ll start with Monday.

bike
Last Saturday, before the challenge started, was a big outside day. Sexy and I combined some of our favorite activities by looking for ducks by bicycle and tromping around in the woods to set up his deer hunting blinds.

As it turns out, I picked a bit of a hard week to start, as I was away on work travel almost the entire week and committed to long days inside for meetings (that I was organizing no less… arg, I did it to myself!). Anyway, I told my coworker about my intentions to get out every day and asked her to be my accomplice. Her response: of course! She usually walks her dog every morning and night when she’s at home. Instead, she’d be walking me!

Monday: Monday included a really, really pretty drive from Albany eastward into Massachusetts, but most the day was spent inside in meetings and prepping for more meetings. Outside time was covered by a nice 15-minute walk in each direction to the dinner restaurant.

Tuesday: Same walk, different restaurant.

Wednesday: This was the craziest day at work, so the main outside time was just eating outside at lunch. But we did manage to go up to a scenic lookout before going on a wild goose chase (i.e., unsuccessful attempt) to find some pitch pine forests. However, the combination of the day’s activities did reconfirm my feelings that I have the most awesome job ever.

Thursday: The crazy work was over (hooray!), which meant that I could relax a bit. I went for a run in the morning, which included getting my butt kicked as I ran/slogged up a big hill. About halfway into the run, I had the option of continuing down the road or turning around. It was too early to turn around, but continuing meant going down hill– and then having to go back up in on the return. Luckily, a third option appeared when I noticed a wooded cemetery off to one side, and I was able to take a lap around it before heading back.

The cemetery was bigger than I thought it would be, and also much more forested. It was like a park, with random gravestones sticking out of the brush. There was even a granite park bench that proved to be an actual gravestone, which seemed equally practical and creepy.

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It it weird to run in a graveyard? It felt kinda weird.

Friday: My first failure, although not my fault. I didn’t make it outside because I was stuck in airports and airplanes all day on account of mayhem with the Chicago airports. It’s crazy to think that in a 24-hour period, I did not spend more than 10 minutes outside all day, and that was just from the hotel to the car and the car to the airport at 6 in the morning.  And then it was all airport until after midnight.

Saturday: Saturday was my rebound day for not getting out on Friday, and for being so happy to be back home during gorgeous fall weather. I started the day off with an hour-long walk to the lake near our house. Then lots of relaxing on the porch. And then off to Silver Mountain and the Sturgeon River Gorge to check out the fall colors.

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Fall colors. Kaboom!

Sunday: I had intended to go to a cyclocross race, but when it was nearing time to get ready on Sunday morning, I decided I needed to spend the day with my garden. This last gardening year was pretty brutal with the late spring and cool summer (plus my attention being diverted to bike tours and writing…), so it’s the first year where my garden wasn’t better than the year previous. So, it’s time to start getting beds ready for next year.

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This year is the first year I’ve grown a reasonable amount of grapes. I can’t wait to have wine!

That was my week!

What did you do outside recently?