They sent me to Binghamton

I've always wanted to be on the east coast, and the universe responded…by sending me to Binghamton, NY. Oh you've never heard of it? Neither had I, but I do so love adventures and that's how I choose to view this. Let the adventures begin!


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Taking the Road Less Traveled

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and Iā€”

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference”

– Excerpt from ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost

For the past three years, it has become a tradition for me to hang out on Father’s Day with friends whose fathers have passed away. My own father is alive and well but lives on the other side of the world, so I figured those of us who are unable to spend time with our fathers should spend time with each other instead.

In previous years I’ve done this more for them than for me because I know I would want to be kept distracted on Father’s Day if it were my father up in heaven. This year, I needed the distraction myself. As it turns out, it was also my friend’s birthday, the one who recently passed away. He would have been 37…thirty freaking seven! It still blows my mind that he’s gone. But I can’t be in denial about it anymore. I went to his funeral, paid my respects, said my goodbye…Ever since the funeral, I can’t get the image of his body in the casket out of my head in each quiet moment that I have. I used to love the quiet moments. Cherished them even. Scheduled them in my damn calendar so I can recharge. Preached about the importance of alone time and actively practiced what I preached, but now I can’t be by myself for five minutes without that image appearing in my mind…

I know I’ll get there eventually after I let myself go through the grief process, but in the meantime, it hurts every time. I feel a physical heaviness in my chest and a burning in my throat. I’m just so sad and the tears are never far. It’s a process, I know. I’m feeling better day by day, I know. You know what else I know? It sucks and it will always suck, no matter how much better I get at processing grief. I’m going to have to go through this again, and again, and again, and it will hurt just as much each time. I can only hope that I continue to be surrounded with people who care about me and who listen to me with compassion when I talk about it. People who ask me how I’m doing, give me space when I need it, and aren’t afraid to have the hard, emotional conversations with me. You know what else I know? I truly am blessed.

I don’t know why we are so surprised when death happens. It’s the only certainty we have in life. We all die eventually. And yet our reactions are usually to be in denial about it. “Wait, how?” “But, why?” It makes no sense. It makes me wonder if I have to change my own view of death so I can process grief better. It’s certainly something for me to think about once I’m in the right emotional and mental state.

In any case, this was and still is my current line of thinking every time I’m alone, so like I said, this year I also needed the distraction on Father’s Day.

Fortunately for us the weather has finally been cooperating lately and it was a gorgeous day to be outside! We decided to go hiking to a place neither of us had been to before, a place called Bear Swamp State Forest. The plan was to go hiking for 2 or 3 hours and then have dinner at a restaurant in Skaneateles. It was a simple plan, I printed out a map this time, how could it be anything but a straight forward, fun, distracting father’s day?

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Bear Swamp State Forest Map

Ok, first of all, the map lied. There is no parking lot on Harnett Rd. Second, Google led us astray and we ended up inadvertently going off-roading in my beautiful not-meant-for-unpaved-road Silvie (yes, I named my car)!

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Silvie’s Twin – as you can see, NOT made for off-roading

In any case, we eventually found the other parking lot and made our merry way through the clearly marked “Y” trails. We followed Y1 to Y7 to Y8 to Y9 and when we got to the juncture where it met up with Y5 and Y6, we decided to go the Y5 route because we weren’t tired yet. The thought was to follow my handy-dandy map and loop through the “B” trails and eventually back to the “Y” trails where I parked my car. Then we could go to Skaneateles, have dinner, and head home as planned.

Here’s what happened instead: We thought we were on the “B” trails because we noticed there was blue paint on the trees, so perhaps “B” stood for blue. After all, the “Y” trails were marked with yellow tags. So there we were, chatting, walking along the trail and as we got deeper and deeper into the woods, we noticed the trail got less and less maintained looking. Then we noticed a fallen tree blocking the less maintained looking trail. We didn’t think anything of it because after all, trees do fall sometimes, but after the third one I commented on it.

“Do you think they put the trees on the path, blocking it like this, on purpose?”

My friend looks over at the base of the tree and goes, “Nah. It looks like it fell naturally.”

In hindsight, the likelihood of three trees naturally falling directly on the path is highly unlikely.

Nature: 1, Our collective common sense: 0

We continue on our ignorant, merry way until the trail is looking even less maintained than before.

“Do you think this is a path?” my friend asked me.

I compare the length of the grass and weeds on the “path” we were on versus the surrounding area and conclude that it looks slightly shorter.

“Sure, it looks kinda like a path,” I said.

Nature: 2, Our collective common sense: 0

So we go on like this for a while as the “path” becomes less and less visible (truthfully, it probably never was visible) until suddenly…we are in the middle of the woods and no longer on a discernible trail. We couldn’t go back, because there was no trail to follow, and we couldn’t go down because we were already at the edge of state property, so the only way was up. Way the f*ck up.

There seemed to be a ridge at the very top, but it was a steep incline and pretty far away so before embarking on our journey, we decided to check if we could figure out where we were on GPS. I did not take a picture of our location on the map at the time, but it basically looked like this:

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We couldn’t tell which direction we were facing because the signal wasn’t great and we couldn’t do the trick of “which direction is the sun?” being that we were in the middle of the woods, surrounded by tall trees and all, so we confirmed that indeed, all the way up was our only option.

“Hey, what would you do if we got all the way up to the ridge and it doesn’t lead us back to the trail?” I asked my friend.

“I would cry. Then I would sit down and eat my banana. And then come up with a new plan,” she responded.

I probably would’ve done the same, except with the fancy pureed snack that I brought that was essentially baby food marketed to health-conscious, fitness freak idiots like me.

After about an hour of hiking up a steep incline, literally crawling on our hands at times and just aiming from one tree to the next, we finally made it. All 98 flights, according to my friend’s FitBit. For the non-FitBit owners like myself, each flight is 10 ft. We were none the worse for wear other than a few bug bites and scratches, so yeah…

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The rest of the hike was uneventful and fortunately the way out didn’t require any off-roading, unintentional or otherwise. We found the turn we should have made to avoid the unintentional off-roading so at least next time we know where to go. We did end up going to Skaneateles for dinner, albeit a few hours later than intended. Nevertheless, mission accomplished, we were both distracted from the forever absence of loved ones in our lives. Perhaps, we could have found a less scary way to distract ourselves but hey, now we both can say we’ve had an adventure and this father’s day memory will forever be remembered.

Two roads diverged in a wood.Ā Check.

I took the one less traveled by. Double check.

And that has made all the difference.Ā Err…check?

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Hiking is my therapy

“Hey, it’s supposed to be beautiful out this weekend. Care to join us for a hike?”

“I’m in town today! Free for dinner?”

“I have dinner plans in the evening so I can’t go hiking with you guys during the day…because, you know, timing…” …That doesn’t even sound convincing to ME…

“Errr…I would go but…I already made plans with my cats.” No, that’s not an acceptable answer.

“I’ll have to pass, but next time for sure!” There! Vague, but polite. Just make sure not to post pictures from my solo hike on the same day they went hiking and no ‘solo dinner, finally!’ type of posts either…

It’s still a struggle for me sometimes to say no to people I usually love spending time with without feeling guilty. I know it’s a cliche but really…

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The things is, I’m known for my need for alone time, my preference for doing things alone, and my love of staying at home in my lion onesie while hanging out with my cats. And yet…I still feel bad for saying no, especially when I intend to do the same activity I’m being invited to. Perhaps with time I will learn not to feel guilty for doing what I need to in order to recharge but for now…vague responses and setting a separate time to hang out it is!

Guilty or not I did end up pretty much not talking to anyone I know that weekend and it was exactly what I needed. First of all, it was an incredibly beautiful weekend due to the unusual occurrence of gorgeous autumn colors coupled with summer weather. Think fall foliage with 70 to 80 degrees F temperature. YES.

Thank you, Google Photos for this awesome stylized photo! (original wasn’t this cool)

Second, with the election going on and people commenting on the election on social media in ways that I feel are not conducive to intellectual and meaningful discussions, my social capacity bucket has been near empty pretty much everyday. Did someone poke a hole in it when I wasn’t looking? Because lately my inner grumpy cat has come out and I’m annoyed with everyone. Well, not everyone per se. Just certain types of people.

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This is not like me. I do enjoy being alone and I particularly love going on hikes by myself but spending time with those I consider my good friends usually makes me happy. But, unlike me or not it was clear to me that I needed to clear my head and so I pushed the guilt aside and went hiking. The day before I went to Sugar Hill State Park  in Watkins Glen, NY and this time I decided to check out Salt Springs State Park in Montrose, PA. I didn’t realize the food connection until just now lol! I guess I decided to go somewhere sweet since I was feeling salty. Pa dum ching! šŸ˜„

Salt Springs State Park is not actually maintained by the state contrary to what the name implies. It is, however maintained. What that means is there are marked trails and maps and everything!

Ooooh…

Aaaaahhh…

Even though the trails were marked, the path itself wasn’t as well maintained as state maintained parks, which means it looks really pretty with all the leaves on the ground!

It also means you have no idea what you’re possibly stepping on, as I came to find out when something jumped out from under my feet.

I’m very glad I stayed true to myself and went in anti-social mode this weekend because at the end of the weekend I felt more like myself again. Nature tends to have that effect on me. How could it not?

I was happy, my mind was quiet, and I felt excited about life again, even though Monday was fast approaching.

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Hiking is my therapy and I am very grateful to live in an area full of beautiful trails.


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Releasing my inner #basic

It’s fall season! That means it’s time for sugar and pumpkin spice and everything nice! Leggings and sweaters and fuggs (fake uggs) and pumpkin spice latte and my favorite…the fall foliage!

Yaaas! Look at ALL the trees!

Take all the pictures!

Even if you know the pictures will end up looking the same, take more pictures anyway!

Being from LA I had no idea what a true fall looked like. I mean, the leaves back home changed color too but they mostly just turned brown before dying. We did not have this explosion of colors that look almost fake in its brilliance.

I mean, just look at that! Doesn’t it look fake? Heavily filtered? Something out of a fantasy video game?

Pardon my excessive enthusiasm but I just can’t help it. Fall seems to get me every time.

Tired of looking at trees yet? Come on, just one more.

Oh come on. One more won’t hurt. Just the tip (of the tree, that is. Stop that dirty mind!).

Oh but right. Details. Where was I? I was in Sugar Hill State Forest Park in Watkins Glen, NY, a park that along with hiking trails also has horse trails and a cool fire tower. 

I thought you would be able to go all the way to the top where that enclosed shed looking thing is in the picture. Unfortunately, there was a locked shut trapdoor (that I almost walked into) on the last flight of stairs. Oh well. Maybe next time it’ll be open. 

This is the first state park that didn’t have any paper maps available. It’s also the first state park I’ve been to where I didn’t have to pay for parking so I’ll take it! But they did have this cool map:

I made sure to take this picture prior to my hike so I could follow the right trail (I didn’t follow the right trail) and so that I didn’t get lost this time (I got lost).

It was a very short hike (because I went the wrong way) but it was still exactly what I needed. It was such a beautiful day. Perfect for just being in the moment and getting away from everything else. I ended my day with a cup of hot mulled cider, and by cup I mean ginormous mug.

Just kidding. My day didn’t actually end there. It was a friend’s birthday party so I went out afterwards.

I know, I know. My face looks really different when I actually do something to it, right? šŸ˜€ 

Today was actually a very good day. It was a great combination of enjoying my solitude on a beautiful day and having a blast at night with some good company. My favorite kind of day. 

Balance is key.


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The Clueless Rebel

This past weekend I did my first hike of the summer. I was trying to figure out why I hadn’t gone on any hikes before this weekend considering it’s already mid-summer and summer is short around here. Then I realized it’s because I could barely walk. Ah. That is a critical component of hiking so no wonder.

But no matter, at least I can walk with barely a limp now so I’m ready! And for my first hike I decided to go to Letchworth State Park, which is considered the Grand Canyon of the East. In hindsight I’m not sure why I thought that would make a good first hike considering it’s 7 miles one way, but in the end it didn’t matter. I got lost and inadvertently turned around about 2 miles in so yeah… that happened last time too…sigh…

But whatever, I got some pretty cool pictures and was able to relax a bit.

I noticed the waterfall seemed a lot more dried up than the last time I was there in September. It wasn’t as powerful but it was no less majestic. In fact, because it was pretty dried up you could actually go down on the river bed, which I did.
Not shown here is a man wearing a bright yellow shirt walking towards me, almost ruining this shot for me.

Also not shown here is me getting kicked out by said man in the bright yellow shirt because apparently you’re not supposed to be down there… Oops… but I took one last shot before I got out. Take that, bright yellow shirt man!

After my short hike I decided to go home. Well, more accurately, my stomach decided it was time to go eat and my stomach pretty much rules all so off I went. On the way home I noticed a few places where one could pull off to the side and check out the overlook. So this one did just that.

Then a child kindly informed me that sitting on the ledge was unsafe and started explaining to me the dangers of what I was doing. Boy, I just couldn’t win that day! šŸ˜

So in conclusion, I found that I am a clueless rebel who has a terrible sense of direction. Next time, I swear I’ll be successful in finding and completing the trail AND won’t break any rules!


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Robert H. Treman State Park – Trees, and Trees, and Trees!

On my parents’ last day on the east coast we decided to go to Robert H. Treman State Park.

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Entrance to the Trails

As we entered the trail, my dad started looking for a makeshift walking stick to help with the hike. My mom followed suit. Once they found their walking sticks, they were ready to go!

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There were several trails to choose from, but we decided to take the Rim Trail, which went up in the trees instead of alongside the gorge. Usually, I choose the gorge trail because I love being near the water but there is something to be said about hiking within the trees. It’s beautiful in its own way.

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Much green!

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So wow!

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The moss on the fallen trees were pretty cool.

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I have about 100 pictures that look like the one below. I simply couldn’t help myself! It was too beautiful not to try and capture it!

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We came across this fallen tree in the middle of the path.

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So of course I try to lift it.

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CrossFit is supposed to be functional, right?

The cool thing about this path is we got to see the different types of vegetation and creatures living in them! There were many brown little frogs hopping about (that I unfortunately didn’t get on camera) and really well hidden spiders.

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Can you spot the spider?

We also came across this pulley system that I at first thought was supposed to be for ziplining.

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At the highest point of the trail there was an overlook of the falls.

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At the lowest point of the trail, you end up at the bottom of the falls and there we saw many people swimming, relaxing by the rocks, and just generally enjoying the view.

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My mom and I had a little rock skipping contest here

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My dad, nonchalantly sitting on the rock while whistling

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“You shall not pass!”

It was a great end to my parents’ visit! Next adventure for me is Costa Rica while the next adventure for them is Alaska!