5 Days into the Sun

Life Balance, Outdoor Adventure

The sun is the heart of our solar system; it is a driving force behind much of the activity (seasons, climate, currents) and life on earth. Throughout history the sun has been worshiped and debated; ancient civilizations built stone structures (calendars) to mark the sun’s path through the seasons. During the days of Ptolemy, most believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Then, much later, we learned it was the other way around. Today, many people are still excited about the sun, especially during phenomenons like the solar eclipse, but most of the time it sort of goes unnoticed.

This is an exciting time of year to notice the changes! During the next 5 days, I’ll make an attempt to be a bit more mindful of the sun by noticing its intensity and position in the sky. I may try to compare to the sun’s presence a month ago. Each day, I will post a photo taken “into the sun” as a way to reflect on the sun during this time of seasonal transition, when the sun becomes a bit dimmer and more pleasant, like turning down the lamp light in the house for a more relaxing mood. I hope this little 5-day activity inspires us to notice our natural surroundings more often.

Into the Sun - Day 1

Photo taken near “green pond” at Harriman State Park, NY

Fisherman on the bank

Outdoor Adventure


Fall is here and then gone like most things. The fisherman on the bank reminds Cait and I to maybe get a license next year and partake in an old hobby. The fisherman enjoys a day on the river in the Musconetcong valley; a place that is still plentiful in scenic beauty and natural resources.  A place impacted little by thousands of years of Native American settlement, but profoundly impacted by only 150 years of European settlement. John P. Brunner writes for the Musconetcong Watershed Association, about the physical and cultural transformation of the Musconetcong valley, as described in Peter O. Wacker’s book: The Musconetcong Valley of New Jersey: A Historical Geography. Looking forward to reading it!

Wednesdays are Hard

Life Balance, Outdoor Adventure


It is not easy to look forward to a Wednesday morning, but on this Wednesday I would not spend another chaotic day darting from one meeting to the next and staring helplessly at the computer screen as 50 more emails pop up. On this particular Wednesday morning, Caitlin and I would hit the road to embark on another adventure.

We set out for the White Mountains of New Hampshire to do some hiking and camping, but first we stopped at a town called Hancock (NH) and spent the night there at Hancock Inn B&B. People have stayed in this historic building since 1789 (George Washington’s first year in office). The town itself is located in the Monadnock Region and maintains its original character. Part of me wonders what it would be like to move to a town like this, away from all the madness.

The following day we arrived at Crawford Notch Campground in the White Mountains; an immense campground near the Saco River. We immediately headed for the trail and managed to squeeze in a short hike before darkness covered the mountains. We startled some people (and their dog) as they tried to peacefully smoke Marijuana, on the way to the waterfall, which was the big scenic point of this hike. The first night in the White Mountains was cool and crisp – the kind of mountain air that you remember breathing for months after the trip.

Next morning, we hiked Mt. Washington – the tallest peak (6,289 feet) in the Whites, which likely makes it the most popular hike. Still, it wasn’t too crowded until we made it to the summit. Most people apparently drive up to the summit or take the old railway. I doubt that we will be doing this hike again, but it is a beautiful hike and worth doing at least once. There are just far too many other trails to explore in this enormous landscape. Back at the campsite, we had a gourmet dinner of Ramen Noodles and found our beds in the tent in minutes, exhausted after the 11-mile walk.

As we dozed off listening to the owls in the distance, pleasant memories of the local flora and fauna floated around in my mind. Cornus canadensis (Bunchberries) – what looked like little mini flowering dogwoods carpeted the cool, moist ground. Perisoreus Canadensis (Gray or Canada Jay) came around to investigate as we hiked through the dimmed forest toward the end of the day/hike – they flew over our heads and landed just 2 feet away. They reminded me of Blue Jays, but bigger, black, gray, and white; not as loud, and their heads not triangular, but round. Finally, up near the summit, Arenaria montana (Mountain Sandwort) made for a spectacular display of white and yellow sprinkled over the rocks and gravel. I hope it won’t be too long until we return to this mountain wilderness for another adventure.

View from Harriman

Art, Hike of the Week, Outdoor Adventure

This is a quick watercolor sketch of the Hudson highlands in the distance and a glimmer of Lake Skannatati; one of the many lakes in Harriman State Park. The park is an outdoor paradise for city dwellers as well as suburbanites who travel here on weekends.  The trailhead parking lot was a sea of screaming adults, kids, and clicking cameras. Walk about a mile up the red trail or the “long path” and all the noise and calamity fades away. It seems that most people “experience nature” from the comfort of their cars. On a beautiful day like this, the only thing that could make it better is a nice cold beer after the long hike!

Lessons from the Backcountry

Hike of the Week, Life Balance, Outdoor Adventure


On a recent trip to the southwestern regions of the USA, my hunnie and I explored these regions through a familiar routine of: rent a car, drive to National Park(s), day hike, and stay at lodge. But, this time we spiced things up a bit by adding a pinch of camping and a dash of backpacking into the mix. While I am eager to share funny stories and rave about the geology and the trees of the American Southwest I feel more inclined to share a bit about the thoughts and feelings that came to me during time spent in the backcountry.  This is the first order of business, as I am afraid I will suddenly become unenlightened tomorrow morning.

As we shouldered our heavy packs and began our decent into the Grand Canyon I couldn’t remember why I’d want to spend my days dragging around a giant backpack and my nights waking up to unfamiliar sounds, while pretending that my bladder isn’t begging to be relieved. Was it the obscenely beautiful scenery? Surely, one can attain that without enduring all the hardships by taking a day hike or even scenic drive? Why do we do it? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but maybe it’s a combination of simplicity, physical challenge, self-reliance, the longing for a greater connection with the natural world, and a deeper appreciation for the things we tend to take for granted. In a way, backpacking is like being a track runner; it looks like punishment, but the high you get from it is well worth the discomfort. Here are some lessons I may have revisited on this brief sojourn into the backcountry:


Many Native American tales have a common theme, which is the importance of appreciation and thanksgiving. The Lenape people have a story about a great corn spirit, which took away all the corn from the Lenape people once they stopped giving thanks and began to take the gift of corn for granted. Life in the backcountry makes you appreciate modern conveniences like food in the fridge, flush toilets, and a nice warm heated home. Out there, it takes effort just to boil water to make tea, but it’s also the best bag of Lipton tea you’ll ever have. The backcountry makes Ramen Noodles taste like a gourmet meal and PB&J taste like Ben and Jerry’s. It’s the ultimate lesson in appreciation and thanksgiving.

Humility (well I tried)

Not all backcountry excursions allow for immersion in solitude, especially not the South Kaibab to Bright Angel route in the Grand Canyon. There were many different kinds of folks on the trail and at the campsites doing many different kinds of interesting things. For instance, there was a fellow that believed that hiking out of the canyon was a race to the top. I have no issue with making way for those who are stronger and quicker on trail, but this particular fellow lacked the physical ability to stay ahead, and as a result he kept falling behind, and then passing again with a sudden burst of desperate energy over and over again. Here was a lesson in humility. It took a lot of effort to avoid judgment and negative reactions, and I admit that I soon failed that attempt.


My favorite thing about backpacking is the element of simplicity that comes along with it. No need to pick out an outfit; It’s the same shirt every day. And, there are only three simple things on my mind: 1) what/when to eat, 2) Hey look at that pretty bird, and 3) Where to poop. This type of itinerary allows one to “live deliberately”, as Henry Thoreau once put it. I am not talking on the phone, while reading an email, while making hand signals, while picking my ear. There is no “multitasking” and I am focused on one of the three important things mentioned above. Unless of course, I am distracted by the pretty bird while eating or pooping.

When we reached the bottom of the Grand Canyon we were awestruck by the sight of the rushing mud colored water of the mighty Colorado River. I’ve always imagined the Colorado River to be an emerald green color, which it can be depending on the circumstances and time of year. A great feeling of peace washed over me and I tried to remember that other apathetic and unsettled state of mind we tend to fall into, where all relaxation techniques or the strongest of substances aren’t capable of bringing the kind of peace I felt standing near the river. A few days in the backcountry is the best physical and mental medicine that I know of. We resurfaced at the rim of the canyon a few days later, grinning from ear to ear, and we were downright giddy. These types of feelings don’t come along too often and I’d go as far as calling it “true happiness”. Now I remember why we lug around that giant backpack :)!