Two Big Questions on My Mind

I have a lot of questions. Many of these are of the existential what-does-it-all-mean variety that I suspect I’ll never have answers to.

But, for the purposes of this blog, I generally have two big questions that I’m trying to learn more about:

1) What are the ways that nature can enhance our health and happiness?

I think we generally have intuitive sense that nature is good for us, that it’s good to get fresh air, to go for a walk, to get a way from it all. As I dig more deeply into this subject, it’s amazing to learn just how good spending time in nature is for people and for entire communities. In many ways, it’s the perfect antidote to our many of our modern problems, including stress, busyness, and disconnection. Time with nature can reduce anxiety, improve creativity, and boost immunity to diseases like cancer. It can lead to longer lifespans and provide inspiration and a sense of belonging.

2) What are some practical ways to spend more time with nature?

With all of those benefits, it seems clear that many of us could benefit from spending more time with nature. But how to we realistically do that when we feel busy and overstretched? Where do we find time in the day to go outside when the rest of the world is increasingly inside? I struggle with this as much as anybody—even living rurally and being a moderately outdoorsy person, I still have plenty of days where I don’t spend any time outside or connected to nature. This is why I’m interested in  finding ways to experience ordinary, everyday nature as I am in planning big, wild adventures.

That’s where my mind is these days, so I hope that you’ll come back and learn more with me!

Places of 2014

After doing one last year, it seemed crazy not to summarize my travels from the past year—especially since I traveled so much in 2014. I saw a lot of cool places this year, only a small amount of which I ever seem to get write about here.

I often question whether I should blog, but it generally seems worth it when I consider how great it is to have captured so much from the past year, especially given my bad memory and the fact that I accidentally obliterated our photo library this year (oops).

Places I went in 2014

Here’s a list of the trips I took and one or two highlights from each:

Washington (Jan.)
I started off the year with a vacation. One day was seeing big trees on the Olympic Peninsula. The next started with breakfast and Bloody Marys in a train car restaurant followed by snowshoeing up Mount Rainier.

First trip in the forests of the Pacific Northwest: a great excuse for some tree-huggery!

Missouri (Feb.)
In the north, we always laugh about how places farther south shut down from the tiniest amount of snow. This short work trip was a great chance for me to understand why—a teensy amount of rain and snow fell at just the right temperature to create the greasiest driving conditions I’ve ever experienced. I understand now.

Maine (Feb.)
Spending two days in far north Maine was a great introduction to the forests of the area. Also notable was an egg-sausage sandwich I ate where two blueberry muffin tops served the role of bread. How brilliant is that?

Wisconsin (Mar.)
My only visit to my hometown this year. We went pheasant hunting on a friend’s farm, which was a pleasant morning outside. My dad also took on us a drive around the area, where he showed us the two adjacent houses where he grew up (his mom’s and his grandparent’s) and described what it was like in the 1940s and 50s.

fence-row

Massachusetts/New Hampshire (Mar.)
My first big road trip for work in New England that included to first signs of spring in MA (i.e., bare ground) to several feet of snow in the White Mountains of NH.

A notable form of transportation in the snow-covered White Mountains.
A notable form of transportation in the snow-covered White Mountains.

Connecticut/Massachusetts/Vermont/New Hampshire (May)
Another big trip, but mostly it was spring in the Green Mountains. I got to spend a lot of time in the woods for work, talking with various natural resource folks. I also got to stay in an 1880s house with springy floors and old school door latches and eat pancakes with maple syrup.

Minnesota (June)
My friend and I did the canoe triathlon again this year. The course was different due to extremely wet weather and impending thunderstorms, but it was a fun race. The 24-mile bike segment was like a long cyclocross race, where I had to get off my bike to cross a knee-deep stream and several places where the road was covered by water. And I got third place!

Vermont (June)
In Burlington, I borrowed a bike a rode along the shore of Lake Champlain on a gorgeous spring day. It would have been the perfect spring day, were it not for my allergies. I spent lots of time outside as part of a conference for work.

Across Michigan (June/July)
I rode my bike 480 miles in 6 days to my in-law’s house. I saw lots of cool things, but the highlight was the last day of riding on smooth county roads. It was gray and drizzly and I rode fast because I no longer had the hot weather and headwind that had been with me all week. I was completely soaked and completely happy, like a kid stomping in a puddle all day long.

It was nice to kick back and rest along the shores of Lake Superior and Michigan on my bike tour.
It was nice to kick back and rest along the shores of Lake Superior and Michigan on my bike tour.

Downstate Michigan (July)
After the bike trip, we spent a week downstate with family. I have to separate this part of the trip out, if only to mention my birthday, which included both mountain biking and canoeing. Oh yeah, and we went fishing on Lake Michigan on an actual yacht on that trip as well.

Washington, D.C. (Aug.)
A fun trip that popped up for work, allowing my to see one of my best friends and also go on a long-awaited quest to find Teddy Roosevelt Island.

TRI-4
Teddy Roosevelt Island felt like a jungle outside of humid D.C.

New York (Sept.)
The slogan is right: Ithaca is gorges! Notable on this trip was seeing a few waterfalls, climbing a five-story tree house, and eating the best ice cream I had all year.

Taughannock Falls north of Ithaca, NY
Taughannock Falls north of Ithaca, NY

Massachusetts (Sept.)
Another work trip out east. I knew I’d be spending most the time outside, so I made an extra effort to get outside more than normal.

Vermont (Nov.)
My fourth trip to Vermont in 12 months! I climbed Mount Horrid and the Great Cliff because I found the name irresistible.

It was a really big cliff.
It was a really great cliff.

New Hampshire (Dec.)
I was preoccupied with meetings during this trip and didn’t get out much. The furnace broke at the field station where I was staying and I spent two nights pretending I was winter camping.

Maine/New Hampshire/Massachusetts/Connecticut (Dec.)
A whirlwind trip across New England that was definitely a high point of the year for work. We were there for the first snow of the year in Connecticut, and it was beautiful.

Downstate Michigan (Dec.)
The holidays with family, which is always a blast. This was the first year I participated in the family effort to make over 2,000 pounds of Polish sausage for a local fundraiser. And we got outside a bit, even though it was winter. We found some new trails, and it will be fun to visit them in the summer on mountain bikes.

Home Adventures in 2014
It would be silly not to mention at least some of the cool stuff I did at home this year. We made maple syrup with our neighbors, which was a great way to cope with cabin fever. I biked more than ever before, which include two grueling organized rides that included a seemingly never-ending amount of gravel. I learned that trail running is more enjoyable when I go with a friend. I made a point to get out more, especially in the fall, and go on more mini-adventures both with my husband and alone. I even identified all the trees in our woods.

There's cool stuff around home too!
There’s cool stuff around home too!

It’ll be hard for the coming year to top 2014, but I’m sure going to work hard to make sure it does. Happy new year!

My Trek to Find a Forest Island

When I visit cities, I like to walk. I will walk until my feet hurt and I get blisters, but I rarely get sick of walking someplace new if there’s ample time and my feet are up for it. 

Washington DC is a great place to walk. It’s clean, it’s pretty, there’s plenty to see, and public transportation is usually nearby  if a trip needs to be cut short. I feel like I’ve walked over enormous swaths of metro DC in past visits there. On this most recent visit, I really wanted to walk someplace I hadn’t managed to visit yet: Theodore Roosevelt Island

TRI-6
Teddy Roosevelt Island is in the middle of the Potomac River. The island is on the right, Virginia on the left, and Georgetown is across the bridge.

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Very Spring, Very Fast

When I woke up this morning, I sat up in bed to look at the sun coming through big, beautiful leaves on the tress in our woods with the kind  of perfect low, yellow light that makes everything look super pretty. And the first thing that come into my mind was Cat Steven singing “Morning has Broken,” which seemed both a little funny and oddly appropriate for a Sunday morning.

The sun in our woods this morning.
The sun in our woods this morning.

Continue reading “Very Spring, Very Fast”