New Year’s Eve at Owl’s Head

My partner and I decided to plan a spontaneous trip to the Adirondacks to ring in the new year with some hiking and snowboarding. We found an affordable last-minute hotel room in Lake Placid (thanks to the Maple Leaf Inn, again!) and set out first thing in the morning on New Year’s Eve.

Summit of Owl's Head

Since we pre-purchased all day lift tickets for New Year’s Day at Whiteface Mountain, we decided that a short, non-strenuous hike would be best for New Year’s Eve. We both absolutely love the high peaks, but we knew we probably would be too sore to enjoy a full day of snowboarding after climbing one, so we chose a quick hike for that afternoon at Owl’s Head in Keene, NY.

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A blue sign marks the trailhead on Owl’s Head Lane

Owl’s Head is a great short hike in the high peaks region. Located right off Route 73 in Keene, the hike begins at the trailhead on a dirt road in private property and goes a mere 0.6 mile up to the summit. The trail is mostly uphill, but not very challenging, and reaches a final elevation of 2120′.

The trail was snowy and icy on December 31st, but it was packed down enough that snowshoes weren’t necessary. I used my new Yaktrax and my partner wore a cheap, knock-off pair of Nanospikes that I use for flat, icy winter runs. This turned out to be plenty traction for our brief hike, although my Yaktrax fell off my boots TWICE and by the time we got back to the car we noticed most of the spikes had fallen off the running spikes my partner wore.

The trail has a few open areas that could be mistaken for false summits, but these spots offer some nice views on the way up. Just before reaching the actual summit, there is a very steep rocky ledge that hikers must traverse on left side. Here the trail gets quite narrow, with a steep drop off on one side which can be a little intimidating. This brief section can be a little  tricky, but shouldn’t be a problem if you move slowly and step carefully.

After a steep scramble, the open rock summit offers extraordinary views of the surrounding high peaks. We stayed up at the summit for a while, enjoying the views and watching the clouds roll over the mountains. It’s an incredibly rewarding climb that requires relatively little work.

Alli at Summit 2

After a while at the summit, the wind started to pick up and our body temperatures began to cool so we made our way back down to the trailhead. Typically when hiking in the high peaks, the descent seems to take forever. On this hike, however, it feels like it took us no time at all to reach the trailhead.

Owl's Head Pano Before Summit

We passed a group of three hikers who summited just before we began our descent, and then we passed another group just heading out as we got back to the car. There is very limited parking, mostly on the side of the road near the trailhead. When we arrived we were the only vehicle, but by the time we left the area was crowded with several more.

As someone who enjoys hiking the Adirondack High Peaks, I can’t emphasize enough just how easy and enjoyable this hike is. It is a great trek for someone who wants to experience the high peaks without putting in the work required to summit one of the tallest 46. This can be done in an afternoon, evening or even sunrise hike before exploring more of what the Adirondacks have to offer. It was the perfect hike for our trip, since we were not too sore or tired to enjoy several hours of snowboarding the next day.

Owl's Head GoPro Selfie

What did you do to ring in the new year? Any exciting outdoor adventures planned? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Snow Cheap Winter Trail Series – Race 2

Last Wednesday, December 30th was the second race in the 2015-2016 Snow Cheap Winter Trail Series. It was a cooler day, with high temperatures barely into the 40s (F) and even cooler by race time that night. The day started out pretty nicely, and I decided to warm up for the evening’s event by going for a short hike with a friend of mine early that afternoon.

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Map of our hike from MapMyRun. I forgot to start recording until a quarter mile into our hike.

We hiked about 4 miles through the trails of Seneca Park in the northern part of Rochester, NY. This park features great trails along the eastern side of the Genesee River gorge. The park’s location, adjacent to the zoo, also means hikers might be lucky enough to catch a peak of the elephants from one of the trails!

It was cool and cloudy during our hike, but otherwise a nice afternoon. We brought my friend’s dog along and ran into a handful of other runners, hikers, mountain bikers and dogs on the trails. All in all it was a pleasant outing and a wonderful time catching up with a fellow trail-loving friend. We both find trail time to be incredibly therapeutic!

The agreeable weather ended shortly after our hike, however, and turned into cold rain for the entire evening. So not only were us Snow Cheap runners soaking wet, but the trails were incredibly muddy and slippery. I did manage to fall pretty spectacularly early in the race.

The race was about 3.5 miles and took 2 loops through Cobbs Hill Park. Besides being muddy and slippery, this course was also notably hilly – adding yet another challenging element. My strategy for this race was slow and steady, as I repeated the mantra “Don’t get hurt, Alli. Don’t get hurt!”

12-30 Snow Cheap run map

Since we had just booked an Adirondack hiking and snowboarding getaway for the following day, which included $85 nonrefundable lift tickets, injury was simply not an option at this event. Besides my little slip-and-fall early in the first lap, my strategy paid off and I managed to stay on my feet the rest of the race. I finished with an embarrassingly slow finish time (I can imagine many runners felt that way this night!) but no injuries, making the night a success.

Thanks to the conditions that night there were more than a couple of times I seriously considered quitting – something that almost never crosses my mind mid-race. However, I stuck with it, had a couple of good laughs, and finished strong and injury-free. That’s worth more than a fast finish time in my book!

Has there ever been a time when you were close to giving up? Did you quit, or finish what you started? There’s no shame in honoring yourself and listening to your body! Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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New Gear For The New Year

After-Christmas sales and gift cards provide the perfect opportunity to gear up for adventure in the new year ahead. I took advantage of some great sales and generous gifts in order to get some things to facilitate my 2016 exploits. I can’t wait to see what new adventures await with my bargain finds!

Snowboarding

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I visited the Waterloo Premium Outlets and scored a great deal on a Columbia jacket, perfect for snowboarding and other outdoor winter activities. I also snagged a pair of Under Armour snowboarding socks from DICK’S that were discounted more than 50% off the original price. Since I wore an old pair of my partner’s snowboarding goggles last year, I was thrilled to find a nice, inexpensive pair at my local Marshalls.

Running

Fleet Feet Sports Rochester had an “end of year blowout sale” that I just had to check out. I ended up getting a nice pair of Saucony Peregrine 5 trail running sneakers. My previous pair of trail running shoes are my three-year-old Adidas Kanadia that have almost no tread left whatsoever. Needless to say, it was time for a new pair of trail runners. Since I’ve run in the Saucony Kinvara 4 and Saucony Virrata before, I knew these would be a good fit. They were on sale for $70 at Fleet Feet, and a $50 VISA gift card from my office brought my out-of-pocket total to only $20. What a steal!

Hiking

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I used a mall gift card to purchase a pair of Yaktrax Walk traction devices from DICK’S Sporting Goods. These will help me when hiking or walking in icy and snowy conditions. I checked a couple of stores to see if these were on sale anywhere, and they weren’t. I didn’t feel bad paying full price since they were only $20 and I had a gift card to use at the mall anyway.

Yoga/Gym

I picked up a few sports bras that were inexpensive at Marshalls and on clearance at DICK’S, because there’s no such thing as too many sports bras when you’re an active woman! I also found this Rochester Marathon tank top for 75% off at the Fleet Feet Sports sale. Since I ran this half marathon back in 2014 I decided it was okay to buy the cute “Run Roc Run!” tank top! I also picked up a new pair of running shoes from the Nike outlet store to help keep me motivated during treadmill season.

Did you get any new gear this holiday season? What are you most looking forward to adding to your adventures and fitness routines in 2016? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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10 Adventurous Gift Ideas (That Aren’t “Things”)

It’s crunch time now, so if you’re in need of last-minute gift ideas for the hard to please adventurer in your life you’ve come to the right place! The older I get, the less interested I am in “things” and the more I seek out experiences. That said, here is a list of wonderful gift ideas for those who want or need a little more adventure in their life:

1. The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass

National Park Service Arlington House

An $80 annual pass offers access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites and covers entrance and standard amenity fees. 2016 marks the National Park Service centennial celebration – so what better time to find, share and support your parks at findyourpark.com. Passes can be purchased in person at a federal recreation site, or by calling 1-888-ASK USGS (1-888-275-8747), Ext. 3 (Hours of operation are: 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Mountain time), or online here.

2. Indoor rock climbing gift certificate

Alli at RockVentures

Since we can’t always get away foroutdoor adventures, indoor climbing gyms provide an excellent way to stay in shape and work on valuable climbing skills you can take outside. Here in Rochester we are lucky to have North America’s largest indoor climbing and high ropes course facility at RockVentures. RockVentures gift certificates are available online here – but be sure to check deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial for discounted vouchers as well.

3. Kayaking or Stand-Up Paddleboarding Classes

Kayaking Mirror Lake

Paddling centers offer kayaking classes, nature tours and stand-up paddleboarding lessons. Depending on how adventurous your loved one is, they might even consider a SUP Yoga class – yoga practiced while on a stand-up paddleboard! Groupon and LivingSocial are great places to check for giftable vouchers with an affordable price tag.

4. Lift Tickets or Ski/Snowboarding Passes

Sunset Trail Bristol Mountain

My favorite Christmas gift last year was the Twilight Pass my partner got me for Bristol Mountain ski resort. This was a great beginner option, since the pass was offered through a group ski club program and included lessons. Some ski resorts offer package deals with rentals, lift tickets and lessons included. Check your local ski resort for options, and consider Bristol Mountain’s lift tickets and season passes if you’re in Rochester or the Finger Lakes area.

5. Weekend Getaway

Lake Placid Getaway

Know anyone that needs a vacation? Don’t we all! A nice holiday gift, particularly for your spouse or partner who loves adventure, would be a weekend getaway in the mountains or woods. Rent a cabin and go get snowed in somewhere! Groupon Getaways and LivingSocial Escapes frequently offer affordable packages that are a short day-trip away. In Western New York you can often find deals at a Finger Lakes bed and breakfast, with tons to explore nearby, or cabins and hotels in the Adirondacks with endless opportunity for adventure any time of year.

6. Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater Rafting Watertown NY

A friend of ours purchased a whitewater rafting deal on Groupon for her boyfriend’s birthday last year and we made it a group trip. It was an absolute blast! Some of the best whitewater rafting in Upstate New York is on the Black River in Watertown. We had a great experience with Black River Outfitters and highly recommend them!

7. Tandem Skydiving

Skydiving

I was lucky enough to receive a skydiving gift certificate for my 25th birthday and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. If you know someone who has this on their bucket list, go ahead and give them a gift they’ll never forget. The professionals at WNYSkydiving made me feel very comfortable doing an incredibly risky activity!

8. Race Registration

Flower City Half Marathon

All runners know that race registrations can get expensive. It’s not uncommon for popular marathons and half marathons to cost more than $100. If you know your loved one has a goal race in the coming year (and always registers at the last minute, like me) why not offer to cover their registration cost? This could even give them more motivation during training. If someone is running a charity race this spring, consider making a donation to the organization in their honor.

9. Themed Fun Run

Color Run 2013

Maybe instead of paying for someone else’s race registration, offer to do a themed fun run with them! There are a ton of low key running events all over, and the best gift of all is spending time together, right? The Color Run is a great time, check for an event in your area!

10. Yoga Package

Yoga Class

There are so many options to chose from! Groupon and LivingSocial are full of low cost packages that allow your recipient to try a new studio or a new style. Here in Rochester you can get a Hikyoga package buy one get one free for a limited time – the perfect gift for you and the outdoor adventurer in your life.

What about you – are there any gifts you’re looking forward to giving or hoping to receive this year? Do you prefer experiences or things? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Black Friday Hikyoga™ at Corbett’s Glen Nature Park

I mentioned in my #OptOutside post last week that I planned to attend Black Friday Hikyoga™ led by Nicole Kazimer aka HelloYogaGirl. After a wonderful Thanksgiving day, I was ready to hit the trails and explore a local park I hadn’t visited before!

This Hikyoga™ event was somewhat different from the one I attended at Chimney Bluffs State Park. Instead of doing a warm up, out-and-back hike and finishing with a full yoga class, after our warm up we ventured to the trails without mats for a “stop-drop-and-yoga” style hike. Along the trail we stopped for several standing and balancing sequences, building off of tree pose each time.

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Photo from @HelloYogaGirl

Corbett’s Glen Nature Park is a 52-acre park located in Brighton, NY, close to the city of Rochester. The park offers over 2 miles of trails which include wood chip, boardwalk and dirt trails that lead patrons through wooded hills, along a creek, through a historic tunnel and alongside beautiful waterfalls. The trails in Corbett’s Glen are pretty wide and mostly flat which make them ideal for trail running. I love discovering new parks and trails in the area and this is a place I will definitely be visiting again soon – hopefully for some snowshoeing or trail running!

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I go big when I shop small!

After avoiding the usual Black Friday shopping mayhem, I ventured out to some amazing local shops in Rochester for Small Business Saturday! While I used the opportunity to get most of my holiday shopping done, I did get one present for myself – a “Yoga and Champagne” Hikyoga™ sweatshirt. You can pick up some Hikyoga™ gear for yourself at thread, a local boutique in the South Wedge neighborhood. Support local businesses wherever you are this holiday season!

Did you #OptOutside on Black Friday? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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Ten Ways to #OptOutside In Rochester, NY

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By now most of us have heard about REI’s #OptOutside campaign. Outdoor supply retailer REI, or Recreational Equipment, Inc., is closing all of its stores this Black Friday to encourage would-be shoppers to enjoy the outdoors. My favorite part? REI’s employees are getting a paid day off to #OptOutside as well!

I have to admit – I’ve been a Black Friday shopper in the past. I know, I know – shame on me. I have a hard time resisting a good deal, and waking up early the morning after Thanksgiving used to be a fun tradition. Ever since stores began opening earlier and earlier, now creeping in to dinner time on Thanksgiving Day, I’ve had a hard time justifying the craze. This year I decided to set a goal to purchase all (or at least most) of my Christmas gifts locally, and I’ve already made a list of Rochester-based retailers and businesses to visit for everyone I’ll be shopping for. This means I’ll be skipping Black Friday to #ShopSmall on Small Business Saturday.


Since my #SmallBizSat plans leave me free on Friday, I’ve decided to #OptOutside with Black Friday Hikyoga™ at Corbett’s Glen Nature Park in Penfield, NY. You can learn more or register for this event at www.helloyogagirl.com/optoutside/. Interested in what else there is to do outdoors this Black Friday? I’ve put together a list of ten ways to #OptOutside right here in Rochester!

  1. Run the Rochester Marathon course (or part of it, anyway!) on the Genesee Riverway Trail through Turning Point Park.
  2. Climb the stairs on the Devil’s Bathtub Trail at Mendon Ponds Park.
  3. Mountain bike on the winding trails at Dryer Road Park.
  4. Play a game of kickball with friends on one of the many fields at Genesee Valley Park.
  5. Hike the Crescent Trail footpath in Perinton, NY. Enjoy the view after climbing to the Woodcliff scenic overlook!
  6. Cycle the Erie Canalway Trail.
  7. Go birding at Durand Eastman Park.
  8. Geocaching at Highland Park.
  9. Play tennis at Cobbs Hill Park.
  10. Join me at Hikyoga™ at Corbett’s Glen Nature Park!

How will you #OptOutside this Black Friday? Share your plans in the comments below!

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Buttermilk Falls & Taughannock Falls State Parks

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Taughannock Falls State Park (top) and Buttermilk Falls State Park (bottom)

This past weekend we decided to plan a spontaneous trip to Ithaca, NY to see one of my favorite bands play at the State Theatre (woo, Guster!). Since my partner didn’t want to drive two hours home late at night, he proposed we stay the night in Ithaca after the concert – and I agreed on the condition that we check out at least one of the amazing nearby state parks. Luckily I don’t ever have to twist his arm to get him to join me on an adventure, and he was as excited as I was to see a fun show and check out some new parks.


This was my second time seeing Guster at the State Theatre, and it is one of my favorite venues. I always have a blast and enjoy the historic building‘s unique architecture. Ithaca, NY is in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, located at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake. The Finger Lakes are a popular visitor destination for the many wineries and breweries, outdoor recreation, historic sites and beautiful parks.

Buttermilk Falls State Park

After grabbing breakfast at a quaint local eatery, The State Diner, we decided to check out Buttermilk Falls State Park first since it is located right in Ithaca. According to the NY State Parks website, “Buttermilk Falls State Park takes its name from the foaming cascade formed by Buttermilk Creek as it flows down the steep valley side toward Cayuga Lake.”


My dad and stepmom joined us in our spontaneous adventure and led us to the park after breakfast. They weren’t interested hiking the trails with us, but we stopped to check out the falls near the Lower Park Entrance and take some pictures.

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After saying goodbye to my dad and stepmom, we set out for a hike up the Gorge Trail to the Upper Park Entrance, coming back down via the Rim Trail.


The Gorge Trail is a really nice easy-to-moderate hike and offers great views of cascading falls along Buttermilk Creek. A little more than half way up the Gorge Trail is a lean-to rest area, which makes for a nice spot to stop and take a break if needed. Unfortunately, as is too often the case with well-traveled and easily accessible trails, there was a bunch of litter and debris around the area of the lean-to. Nothing ruins a gorgeous day in nature’s playground quite like someone else’s trash.

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We made our way up to the Upper Park Entrance at a casual pace, stopping often to photograph the beautiful waterfalls. When we got up to the Upper Park Entrance, we looked around a bit where the Bear Trail continues up to Lake Treman, but we decided to just head back down to the Lower Park Entrance so we would have time to check out another park on the way home.

The Rim Trail follows Buttermilk Creek opposite the Gorge Trail, and is set back a bit farther away from the gorge with a wooded dirt trail. We made it back to the parking lot less than an hour after we started. We were only expecting to hike about 1.5 miles in total, according to the trail map, but MapMyRun showed a total distance of 2.8 miles. We did go a bit off trail to check out the Upper Park area, but I’m not sure how else to account for the extra 1+ mile.

Next on our spontaneous adventure to-do list was Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg, NY. Since we drove past the park on our way to Ithaca the day before, we knew this was a stop we could easily make on the way home. The park’s namesake waterfall is the highest vertical-drop waterfall in the northeastern United States, plunging 215 feet.

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We drove up to the Falls Overlook to get a first glimpse at the spectacular falls before hiking the Gorge Trail for a better view. Side note – we have hiked a “Gorge Trail” at each of the last three state parks we’ve visited, must be a popular trail name!


The Gorge Trail is .95 miles long and offers a self-guided audio tour at several points along the trail. Full disclosure: the company I work for provides the cell phone tour and web app service for the Finger Lakes Region of New York State Parks, so I was very excited to finally see the park and check out the audio tour as well!

It was quick, very easy out-and-back hike along the Gorge Trail. The view of Taughannock Falls from below is even more incredible than the view from the overlook above.


On the way back, we hiked through the creek most of the way since the water level was low enough.


Both parks offer great scenic hikes that are short enough to be done in an hour or less. Of course there are more trails to explore if time permits, and we hope to visit both parks again in the future to check out what the other trails have to offer.

Have you visited any Finger Lakes State Parks? Share your favorites in the comments below!

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