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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Reflections From My First Snowboarding Season

Here in Western New York the winters tend to be long and snowy. For those who don’t enjoy winter sports it can be quite dreadful. Before last winter, I was one of those people. I didn’t grow up skiing like many people in Upstate New York, so I really missed out on some of the best winter recreation available. After having ACL reconstruction surgery following injuries in both of my knees, skiing made me very nervous.

Snowboarding

For some reason, though, snowboarding always piqued my interest and seemed better-suited for my skills (and clumsiness). The first winter dating my partner, a lifelong skier and ski racer, also happened to be his first winter snowboarding. He was a natural and eventually snowboarding completely replaced skiing as his go-to winter activity. Fast-forward to the 2014-2015 winter ski/snowboard season and he was ready to get me out on the mountain with him.

Sunset Lift At Night
Riding the Sunset Chairlift at night is beautiful and serene.

We purchased a ski club package, offered through Rochester Young Professionals, that provided 12 weeks of Tuesday night twilight lift tickets at nearby Bristol Mountain. Since my partner gets a season pass at Bristol Mountain every year, we agreed to go each Tuesday after work from mid-December to early March.

First Snowboarding Lesson
All smiles after my first snowboarding lesson!

One of the biggest selling points of this package was that it included a group lesson each night, if desired. I took advantage of this option a couple times and, because I was the only snowboarder interested in a lesson on those nights, the group lessons actually turned into one-on-one lessons with a snowboard instructor. This was incredibly valuable, especially when I was first getting started. My partner was also able to provide helpful tips and instruction, though his patience turned out to be equally as beneficial as his knowledge.

Ski Pole Selfie with GoPro
Snowboarding with this guy makes winter a lot more fun!

Challenges of my first snowboarding season:

  • A collision with a skier who slammed into me from behind, causing severe lower back pain and bruising that lasted for weeks.
  • Getting the right equipment and gear – I had never even skied before!
  • Trying to master the toe side turn without catching an edge – I fell a lot.
  • Getting over my own fear of falling and crashing.
  • Getting easily frustrated with myself, and taking it out on my very patient, very loving partner!

Highlights of my first snowboarding season:

  • Finally getting my heel side and toe side turns!
  • Improving my technique and increasing my confidence.
  • Acquiring a few favorite trails. By the end of the season I was most comfortable on blue square trails.
  • Getting to experience all types of snow conditions for the first time: fresh powder, packed snow, slush, etc.
  • The Morning Star Cafe aka The Waffle Hut. I’m not ashamed of how much I enjoyed this yummy mid-mountain treat!
  • Spring snowboarding in 60-degree weather in April!
  • Bonding with my partner in a new way that brought us closer than ever.

Check out this highlight reel of my partner’s snowboarding videos from last season:

Overall it was an amazing winter and I learned that my love of the mountains definitely extends to snowboarding as well. I’m already eagerly anticipating the start of the 2015-2016 season – come on, snow!

What’s your favorite winter activity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Throwback Thursday: My First Half Marathon

Sometime around late 2011 my roommate and I had a crazy idea: let’s run a half marathon in the spring. I don’t recall exactly who first proposed the idea, but we both heard about the Flower City Challenge Half Marathon and decided it sounded like a cool thing to do. The interesting part? I could barely run a mile at the time.

FCC Race Bib
Want to start running? Why not register for a half marathon – ha!

I was definitely overweight and had been carrying around some extra post-college pounds for a few years. Despite that, and the fact that I seriously considered shopping to be a good cardio workout, I somehow still considered myself to be somewhat athletic (I guess my brain never grew out of the old high school athlete phase, even during some very sedentary years). A false sense of confidence can cause one to do things they might never otherwise do, including signing up for a half marathon with no experience, guidance or even base level of fitness.

Flyer outside in snow
Flyer – my foster greyhound and training buddy!

My “training” for this race was laughable. I started out by running one mile on the treadmill at an excruciatingly slow pace – nearing the 15 minute mark. Basically, what most fit folks can accomplish during a brisk walk. In late winter and early spring 2012, just a couple of months before the race, I decided to foster a greyhound for my aunt’s rescue organization. This was actually a good thing for my “training” (I’m using that word loosely here). I was able to get in a short one-mile treadmill run at the gym after work and rush home to take Flyer, my foster dog, out for a 1 mile jog around the block. It was all super helpful until I sprained my ankle chasing him down a flight of stairs. Luckily some R.I.C.E. and a couple of weeks off seemed to help enough to start running again – a couple of miles per day and the occasional longer(ish) run on weekends. I don’t think I ever ran more than 5 miles at a time in the months leading up to my first half marathon.

Alli Stacy at start of race FCC
My roommate and I before the start of the 2012 Flower City Challenge Half Marathon.

Does this sound like sufficient training for a half marathon? Nope! But it was also the most running I had done in my entire adult life. Over a couple of months those two miles a day did good things for my body, and I lost almost 20 pounds in just the first few months of the year. I toed the starting line of the 2012 Flower City Challenge Half Marathon ill-prepared but lighter, so much so that the running pants I purchased to start training were baggy on me by race day (I still wore them anyway!).

FCC Start Line
We rightfully positioned ourselves at the back of the starting corral. You can almost see the start line wayyyy up ahead.

Running 13.1 miles that day was every bit as grueling as I expected. I surprised myself by running the first 6 miles of the race without stopping to walk at all, and at a faster pace than I had ever run before. Of course, I paid for this during the second half of the race in typical rookie fashion.

Susan B Anthony neightborhood race signs FCC
Signs along the race course in the Susan B. Anthony House neighborhood.

The last several miles were very slow, alternating jogging and frequent walk breaks. There were times when I thought about giving up, but when I would check the time and see that I was ahead of my goal pace/finish time, I was filled with a new motivation to finish the race and crush my goal. What goal was that, you might be wondering? Well, this event had a cut-off time of three and a half hours, so I was hoping that I might finish around three hours. I crossed the line at  2:55:30, nearly 5 minutes ahead of my goal!

FCC Half Finish Line
The moment I crossed that finish line I was hooked!

Five half marathons later and that is still my slowest finish time yet (my PR is 2:26:00 – almost a 30 minute improvement!). Despite my lack of training and the needless suffering it caused – blisters, muscle aches, exhaustion, all avoidable with proper training and preparation – the moment I crossed that finish line is one of the most memorable moments in my life. That was the moment I completely fell in love with running and racing. The Flower City Challenge Half Marathon course takes runners through some of the most historic and beautiful parts of Rochester, and it was amazing to learn how much you can see and explore in 13 miles.

FCC Finisher Medal
My first finisher’s medal!

What was memorable about your first race? Share your experiences 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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