Hunter Mountain and Woodstock

I was invited to stay in my friend’s cabin in Hunter Mountain on the weekend that coincidentally was my birthday weekend. Her cabin was so cozy and with the snow I had a chance to try out my car’s brand new tires (birthday present to myself – our presents tend to be more practical as I get older).

View of Hunter mountain
Well stocked fridge with booze, snacks and desserts

We were hanging with musicians so our evenings were full of live music as well as lots of game time.

During the day we did a snow hike. I brought my poles but was too lazy to put on my yaktrax. I sort of regretted that decision but I survived. We had a great view of the almost frozen Kaaterskill Falls.

Our our way home we stopped at Woodstock. It is a charming little town that gets to capitalize on its hippie past.

We ate a very good vegan resturant.

Hiking in Mohonk (Day 1)

My husband and I have been talking forever about taking a drive to upstate NY and doing some hiking and camping. For the first time in a long time our schedules aligned and we decided to go up to near “Ellentown”, since he heard from friends it was very nice there.
After searching for campsites we found Sam Pryor Shawangunk Gateway Campground which is near the “Gunks”, the mountain area at the Shawangunks that is popular with rock climbers. We aren’t rock climbers but it appears that there are trails nearby in walking distance. We book it quickly worried that the sites will book up since it is one of the last weekends of summer.

View of gunks from campground

To check in to your campsite you must arrive between 8-10 am or after 2pm. We made a mad rush to get there before 10 am and we just made it in time.
The sites are semi private. They say you can put two tents on your site but we don’t think we could have put more than one on ours. They are kind of small and you have to pitch within the wood designated area.

After check in it didn’t take us too long to set up our tent. They provide a bear proof locker for your food and toiletries. There are composting toilets and a sink not too far from us but if you want a shower it is a hike and cost $3 in quarters.

We put our sunscreen and bug spray on and head off to whatever hike is ahead of us.
Following advice of the campsite we follow the connector trail that takes us up to the Mohonk Preserve office.

We stop in the vistors center, there is a line. We don’t feel like waiting and still really don’t know where we are going so just follow signs for a trail. Outside the trail there is a nice man who is collecting money for the Preserve. Hikers need to pay $15 for a day pass to hike the trails. You get a wristband to designate that you paid. He gives us some advice on what trails to try. We pay and start on the East Trapps Connector Trail. It is a stone path that connects you to the rock climbing cliffs and the other trails. We soon learn why the guy at the campsite called it the StairMaster.

Soon we get to a flat trail. Upon the advice of the gentleman at the trailhead we go right.

Well I go right, my husband goes up further to walk along the climbers. I feel like I will just get in the way so I continue to flat trail below, hoping we meet back up with each other at some point.

Up to the rock climbers

I walk alone for a little bit. I take in the view of the valley.

At some point the trail begins to curve and I get worried since still no Carlos. Send him a message that the trail is changing direction. I look back occasionally but still no sign. Eventually he meets up with me and we soon come to a cross roads. We must decide which direction we want to go. We decide to go toward the private resort to get a view of the lake on property. The resort shares trails with Mohonk reserve. Hikers can use the trails but are not allowed to use the resort specific amenities such as the water and resort porch (we did use their bathroom though!).
As we walk toward the resort we get a very nice view of the lake.

Map of the resort area and Mohonk Lake

We walk a little farther and we get a spectacular view of this resort in the sky.

We sit on a bench overlooking the lake to fuel up on some snacks. I enjoy this much needed break. We dream of splurging at some point and getting a room at the resort. We later find the cheapest room is $600 a night.
After our snacks we try to find the trail again to circle us around the resort. We aren’t sure we are going the correct way but eventually end up at the Copes Lookout Road and at Cope’s lookout where we enjoyed spectacular views for a few minutes.

We had the lookout to ourselves the whole entire time there. I wish we would have brought a lunch to share on the ledge. Truly spectacular views.
At this point we were turning back toward the way we came. There were a number of paths in the direction we needed to go but we stumbled upon this wooded path called Giants path. Many of the paths we were on were nicely manicured flat trails. Giants path was not. It was down hill with lots of large boulders, following the blue marks. I started to regret this path, even more so when we came these larger than life boulders and a seemingly dead end.

They couldn’t possibly expect us to traverse down this crevice? We evaluated the situation for a little while and Carlos attempted the path, talking to me as he descended. He was confused on how to move on and took each step with hesitation. While he journeyed on I looked for some sort of information on the internet (thank goodness for cell phone towers). I found a video where a mother and maybe a ten year old boy complete the obstacle. I am still extremely intimidated by it so I wander around and look for another way down. I can’t find any other path down. I see markers for a red trail but red is bad right? Why don’t they have a bypass route? Carlos gets to the bottom. He seems pretty far down there. I am still not ready. I watch the video once more. Carlos decides to come up to get me, maybe we will go back up the boulders to the safer trail? At that moment I decide to just do it. I move forward and start following the blue markers. I move swiftly until I get to a point where it is sort of a steep drop. I guess my choice is to slide down? That is what I do; but in the process hurt my knee and twist my good ankle (the other side has a long term running injury). I am injured but not dead. I keep going. I reach Carlos. He is surprised how quickly I made it to that point. I didn’t waste time making decisions, I blindly followed the blue. The area I meet up with him is sort of an open area off to the right seems to be another secret pathway. Already pushing my luck with this path I decide to stay away. However it looks like the kind of place where bats or vampires sleep for the night. We continue on out. Carlos warns me about bumping my head since he did so on his first attempt out. My hat blocks my view so I bump my head on the same spot as him. Now I have a sore knee, ankle and head, but I am out. I feel so accomplished. So proud of myself for conquering my fear.

A video journey of the Giant’s Workshop (what it is called).

I am beaten down so we walk back.

We decide to take the path back advised by the ranger “Overcliff Road”. He said was supposed to have great views. While it had at least one viewing area, it was mostly boring path that went on forever and ever. I was tired and felt like this path was wasting my time and energy stores.

Finally as we turn back toward the vistor’s center do we come across some action.  We see pretty boulders and we get to watch the rock climbers in action.

We have to head back the way we came, except going up the stair master, I stumble down the stairmaster. My legs want to stop but there is an older man with his little dog coming down behind me. I MUST NOT LET THEM BEAT ME. The treat of being overtaken gets me down the hard part. After our campsite connector, we are back. I exchange some dollars for quarters in the campsite office, thinking a shower is even possible at this point. Once I get back to the site, shower is not happening.

The only thing that is happening is sandwiches, sleeping, and this wine.

We retired semi early since once it is dark, there isn’t much to do if you don’t have a burner. Fires not allowed on sites. The campsite has a fire pit but there is no way I am walking back that way.
Time to sleep….zzzzz

What happened to my good travel luck?

July 29, 2017

Which each international trip I feel less and less prepared; or do I feel most prepared? I can’t decide. When I started traveling overseas I used to meticulously prepare – hours and hours spent on detailed research on each city, language CDs bought and listened to, and packing would start weeks in advance. Now, it seems like I just open my packing list app and throw everything into a backpack days before. Ok, I am being hard on myself; it is not really like that. The packing list I use has been tried and tested before many trips and doesn’t do me wrong (except make me over pack). I am more experienced now – there is no need to stress over every detail; Europe is not third world – you can buy what you forgot to pack. I guess what what has mostly changed I set up the hotels and number of days I will stay in each place ahead of time but all the details are fuzzy until we get there. This kind of travel used to give me anxiety but it works for me now. I utilize the “research time” as the time to rest and revive my energy store. It works.
Before leaving for Germany, I had house guests. This is also something I would avoid, again the stress and distraction from my main job – preparation; but this time it was ok. Plus I really wanted to see this friend (and meet her travel companion). I fortunately was able to schedule a reunion of sorts with this old friend and others during one of my last “mom’s estate” trips to Florida. But now I have finally closed the estate and my freedom has been restored to use my time as I wish. I will still be back to Florida for work, friends and family but there won’t be the urgent need to be down there all the freakin time to take care of business. So this visit from the friend was  very welcome because we normally don’t get to meet up too often. It was a good distraction because there wasn’t too many last minute gotchas that I needed to take care of pre-trip (ok I decided last minute I didn’t want to bring a million pairs of short shorts and needed more pairs of travel type capri pants. I did a last minute shopping expedition too near to my house – which means I came up completely empty in the pants department but picked up two new sundresses and a scarf – which I really didn’t need but brought anyway because they were new.) I digress; I was able to spend at least one evening with my friend before we disappeared to Germany.

The Journey

I arranged a car service to take us to JFK, timing it so we would get there around 2.5 hours early (to my displeasure). Part of my anxiety is that I am afraid of missing a flight and loathe running through an airport with my luggage to catch one. For this reason I most always show up at the recommended time for flying (2 hours domestic and 3 hours international) but when traveling with others I compromise because not everyone shares my travel anxiety. In this case, we still showed up pretty early but it totally backfired (more of that in a minute). As for the car service, they are pretty good value for the money and mostly show up on time but again the way they assign their drivers gives me anxiety. I book my trip hours or sometimes a day in advance but they don’t assign a driver until about 10 min or less before I am supposed to get picked up (I can see all this through their website and corresponding text message). I would be totally cool with this except ONE time they never assigned a driver for a super early airport ride. I watched the screen minute after minute and the driver never appeared under my reservation. I finally called and they sent a driver. Luckily I planned to leave early since I was travelling alone. Everything was ok but I never forgot this experience. On today it was 15 minutes and no driver was assigned. I made the call. Of course I got attitude from the dispatch “You still don’t leave for another 15 minutes” to which I exclaimed “one time you guys never showed up and I am anxious about missing an international flight”. I was probably a topic of conversation in the office after we hung up but a driver was on the way. We took the “busy” way to the airport which cuts through the middle of Brooklyn instead of the long way around the perimeter of brooklyn. Most drivers choose to take the long way since usually traffic is more stable that way. Today it didn’t matter and we were still early so it didn’t matter to me.
When we arrived at the airport it seemed strangely crowded, even for people leaving for a holiday weekend (forth of July was the next week). Lines stretched down the curb and it looked like no one was moving. It was almost like 40 tour buses dropped everyone off at once. We decided curb side check in was not an option and moved inside. Inside it didn’t get better. Wall to wall people and no one was moving anywhere. And no communication what so ever about what was going on. We inquired to a man next to us who looked like he might know what was going on and he informed us of the airport fire at Panda Express at the terminal. Everyone had been evacuated to where I was standing now. So we waited with still no communication. As time went on crowd got thicker and thicker and still no communication. We would see a little crowd movement and thought the crisis was over but alas it was just a false alarm. We were still stuck there, in the crowd. I didn’t start the countdown watch to when we arrived and when we started making progress but I would say initially we stood in the crowd for at least 1.5 hours before security was opened. People were surprisingly calm given the craziness. I was slightly annoyed but cool until one guy got mad at me for hitting him with my backpack to which I replied “what do you expect me to do, I have no where to go and people are trying to get by”. Everyone was getting pushed aside and hit with suitcases and backpacks as people pushed through the crowd trying to get “somewhere” even if they didn’t know what or where somewhere was. Eventually security opened back up. We still were not worried about missing our flight, even though I am pretty sure it took us at least another hour to get through security. No planes were leaving yet, there is no way we would miss OUR flight. They started cancelling the “missed” flights but we weren’t one of them. This did start delaying everything out of that terminal since they had a big backlog due to the fire. We probably got our first delay notice as we were almost through security but I am not quite sure.

Once we finally made our way to the security scanners, my experience was pretty uneventful except my shoes triggered a future search. So much for not having to take the shoes off anymore It was no big deal, not like Carlos getting flagged for a further search. Carlos had to wait for his bags to get searched further. It was taking a while and I had to pee really bad. We agreed to meet close to the gate or a restaurant or something. I went to the restroom then stepped to the side and waited and waited. Did Carlos go to eat somewhere without me? That is so unlike him, maybe his phone wasn’t working. Finally he appears, he just got done with his search. They flagged his protein powder and ask him a few questions about it then let him go. Why so long? Before his bag was search the guy getting searched in front of him was a work of art. Carlos told the story of him watching the security officer take large bottle after large bottle out of his carry-on bag. They took out full size bottles of shampoo and conditioner, they took out large bottles conspicuously wrapped in duct tape, and finally they took took out at least two large spray bottles of Cutter (Yes the bug spray). It was almost comical. The person would almost had to not flown in this century to know all that stuff was a big no no. Carlos tried to get a picture of it all was only able to capture a little.

We started making it toward our gate, eyeballing all the possible eateries along the way. The goal was to pick a place that met our craving requirements that wouldn’t put us too far from our gate. That proved difficult since the flight delays kept ping ponging us from gate to gate. We finally pick a place near the gate that our flight gets assigned to the most but of course we end up not flying out there. After some food and some slow service at the restaurant we finally make it to our flight for an uneventful trip. See you until we arrive in Frankfurt!

Singelcut Beersmiths

While wandering around Astoria one day we decided to check out the local brewery Singlecut Beersmiths.

Singlecut is located in a fairly residential area across the street from a grocery store.
We had a nice time trying a few of the beers and sitting at table close to the entrance.
The decor is typical of most new breweries: metal chairs, wooden tables, warehouse feel.

I highly recommend stopping by if you are in the neighborhood.

Brooklyn Botantical Garden

We happened to visit Brooklyn Botanical Gardens during a free period. I would have gladly paid for this amazing garden. A great couple of hours were spent wandering around and viewing all the garden has to see.

Butterfly watching

Great plant name.

I don’t even understand….


This interesting tree fort was built from the aftermath of hurricane Sandy.

We have many of these in Florida too!

Huge ass pine tree

I like the memorial rocks.

Daniel-son trim the tree.

Sensory Garden

These are fun leaves. Very hairy.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden is now on my must return list. There was more we missed and it would be great to check it out during a different season. All hail nature!