Virginia Part #2 : Sharp Top Trail @ The Peaks Of Otter

After hiking McAfee Knob on day one while in Virginia we woke up sore and stiff. Although, we were not going to let that hamper our plans for the day which were to hike Sharp Top Trail next.

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Across the road from the trail head is the Peaks Of Otter Visitors Center where we first stopped for a trail map, restrooms, and a chat with the park ranger.

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Why??? Well, all the way to the Peaks of Otter on the Blue Ridge Parkway we saw numerous and I mean numerous trucks full of dogs and bear hunters.

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And sure enough when we were pointed across the road to the trail head there were also signs warning us of the bear problems nearby.

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We made sure before heading down the trail that our bear spray was on us at all times.

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This was a hell of a hike!!!! Short, at just over 2 miles according to our GPS, but wow was it rocky and very hard to manage at times.

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About 3/4 of the way up you reach an area with big boulders once again that lead you up some steps and brings you to an old building.

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Round the corner from this building and you will be speechless. Suddenly you are once again on top of the mountain looking at 360 degrees of beauty.

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Simply amazing!!!!

We spent a good amount of time up here where we had a small snack before deciding to head back down by the way of the shuttle offered at the gift shop at the bottom. Down is so much more painful than up for both my husband and myself that we agreed with the rolling rocks we climbed to get up here that the shuttle would be the safest route back. This shuttle can be taken both ways or one way either up or down. For us one way cost $6 each. The shuttles run on the hour and the entire ride up/down takes about 15 minutes.

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My opinion of this hike is its rough on the knees and ankles. It took us just under 1.5 hours to get to the top and the trail itself is straight up. We saw no bear on this trail but I will tell you we did see them very nearby so some type of bear repellent would be a safe idea. If you are not a hiker and don’t have the proper gear to attempt this hike the shuttle is worth every penny to enjoy the view from the top.

 

 

 

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Memories I Will Have Forever From Virginia: Part One….McAfee Knob

Memories….they are made everywhere. Many of my memories are from here in Wisconsin where I was born and raised for the past 40+years of life. However, this past week I made some more memories with my husband on a bucket list trip to Virginia where I know my heart aches to be……in the mountains.

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We live in the flattest state around(in my opinion) and I have seen almost all there is to see here numerous times. So when the chance comes that I get to escape the grind of every day life to go to my happy place I am the first one packed and ready to go. So let me share with you the past week in the mountains of Virginia.

For this vacation we drove from WI to Salem, Virginia to begin our adventure. Now you may wonder…why such an off the wall city like Salem? Well, I had a bucket list dream to fulfill and I wanted to make sure I could do this before we packed in anything else. My dream was to hike the AT up to McAfee Knob and get the iconic picture that you see in many, if not all, hiking magazines, on hiking websites and so on. Every time I would see this picture displayed I would tell my husband….some day I will get there. And as usual, he would just smile and say….I have no doubt you will. Love you honey!

The morning of our hike we left before sunrise to make sure we could find the trailhead and get a parking spot. I had read that parking was sometimes packed but was hoping it would not be too bad since our hike was happening Monday morning. We arrived with about twenty minutes to spare before the sun started peeking over the mountains. The lot had a fair share of cars but all looked to have been there overnight. The lot was easily located of the 311 and marked clearly.

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The trail itself starts across the street from the parking area. Again, clearly marked with signage once you cross the 311 carefully, since cars zip around this mountain road fairly quickly.

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The view going up was so beautiful.

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A bit up the trail you will come to a split. Signs are large and arrows point you in the correct direction. ***Now, I will tell you that many AT hikers recommend hiking the fire road up to the knob and then taking the AT back to the parking lot or vice versa since the AT is quite rugged. We did not do this. I did not train physically and drive for two days to hike any fire road for whatever reason what so ever. I came to hike the AT up to McAfee Knob and back and I am so happy we did.

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The trail we found to be difficult. Remember….we hike flat ground in WI almost all our life. This part of the AT was covered in rock, boulders, and roots in many places. Very little was ground and being we were headed to the top of of a mountain it was clearly up all the way.

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Eventually you will come to a crossing that again is well marked and will lead you across the fire road.

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Then you reach an AT shelter where you head up another clearly marked trail.

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Eventually you see the trail start to have huge boulders and you weaving around these while you make the last stretch to the top.

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By this time I was tired. And I mean TIRED!!!! Hiking up the entire trail was difficult plus our GPS clearly did not agree with the mileage that was posted with all the information I had read regarding this trail. So if you attempt this hike and find your mileage is also different keep going…..you will be so happy you did. We finally reached the top of the knob and immediately we checked the mileage to compare.

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I soon forgot about this little issue because when I rounded the corner I felt like I wanted to cry. OK, maybe I did a bit. It was truly amazing in every way!!!!!!

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We had did it and we did it together. We arrived to find a few others but the longer we stayed the more others arrived. We ate a small snack and rested a bit before returning to the bottom by way of the AT once again. We saw deer, lizards, and many, many caterpillars along the way.

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When we finally arrived back at the 311 parking lot we had clocked a total of 9.5 miles and almost 6 hours of hiking with I would say about 45 minutes were at the top exploring, resting and having lunch.

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Most importantly……I crossed something of my bucket list that I will cherish forever…..my own iconic photographs on the top of McAfee Knob with the love of my life.

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A dream come true!!!!!!!!!!!

Time To Catch Up

Warning: Long post ahead:-)

Life has been so crazy that I have been struggling to find time to blog. However, that does not mean I don’t have a ton of stuff to share with you all. So let’s briefly catch up a bit today.

I mentioned back a few weeks that we were headed out to waterfall hike. Well, I have 6 waterfall hikes that need to be written and posted on the hiking trails page and hopefully I will get to them before the snow flies but if not, winter is LONG and that will be something to blog about then. For now, I will tell you we had a magnificent time and while my husband and I ventured off alone leaving the photographers do their thing…we came across one of my favorite reptiles ever. I love turtles…even ones that bite!!!!!

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We also had another monthly dinner out with my brother recently and it was his pick on the restaurant so we ended up trying Green Bay’s newest sushi restaurant….Sushi Lover.

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Oh my….I could eat sushi every day…..it was so darn tasty. I loved this place. Everything was made fresh, you can order as many times as you wish, and it is one flat price. My husband and brother can sure pack away their share of sushi…..and I had fun watching them fill themselves to complete fullness from about that half way point of our meal.

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Then we had our first camping trip of the fall season. This time it was only the two of us and it was so relaxing.

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He was in charge of keeping the fire going so I could stay warm.

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I was in charge of meals for the weekend.

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My only request for the weekend was to relax, go out for our favorite pizza at the new location of our favorite restaurant in the Door County area which is Wild Tomato now open also in Sister Bay, and to go out just once for ice cream before the end of summer. All of which we made happen.

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We used to go out for ice cream all the time….heck, we used to go out for anything all the time…but since going artificial sweetener free for his stomach issues we can’t without causing problems. Although, since getting this all under control, it has gotten easier to go out here and there and he only gets a little stomach upset if we go overboard. Some foods and restaurants we have found are fairly safe for him to eat at…like sushi…..this causes little to no problems at all.

While camping we also got in a small two mile hike which was the highlight of the weekend. I love hiking and it makes me sad to know that very soon the ground will be rock hard and frozen solid for months.

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Then I had a mid week day off of work which I packed way to much stuff into. I had three appointments to attend and a date with my son for lunch at a new restaurant in Green Bay near his work.

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That evening my husband and I walked my favorite nearby trail to discuss the results of one of these appointments in a place I feel peaceful.

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There is nothing like a beautiful sunset to reset my mind and make me come to terms with news I don’t like hearing. Although, as with all things, we will move on and deal with what comes our way.

In the food category the fall menu has arrived here in our house. Soups are being made, the last of the fresh veggies are being enjoyed everyday and I am even sneaking in veggies where my husband and son would least expect them. So far no one has complained and they have even asked for more. From salads, to veggies added to pasta sauces for the entire family instead of just myself, and even carrot muffins…..eating clean and healthy is getting to be so much easier.

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And lastly, this past weekend I spent with a friend attending a harvest festival in Door County. I was not sure I could pull off another weekend away but when travel plans were set back a bit for my husband I went for it. We had the best time chatting, shopping, and of course eating.

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That should catch me up to date I believe. Eventually I will get to the details of those beautiful waterfalls but for now I will leave you all with the reminder to get out and enjoy life while it’s still nice. Go hike, enjoy the beautiful fall colors that are starting to appear, and breathe the fresh air……see ya!

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Feast With The Beast 2017-Our Annual Date Night Out

Every year we attend the Feast With The Beast event here at our local zoo and it never leaves us hungry for sure. Plus, every year it seems to grow in the number of people that join us which makes it all the more fun.

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This year our son joined in the festivities for the first time, my brother joined us for the second year in a row, and my husband has co workers/friends that also make the trip into the big city (as they say, since all of them are from the Algoma/Sturgeon Bay area) to join in the fun also. Here is half our group enjoying the BBQ ribs.

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This years event offered 45 stations total, all offering samples from their menus, drinks and/or both. I tried my first ever martini apparently, according to this recipe card that was being handed out at this sampling table. For me the tropical mango was absolutely fantastic!!!! That is until I had to “sample” a few more glasses to make sure this was the one that won the taste sampling. Believe me, the next morning I was not so happy with myself for over indulging. Ahhhh, we all learn this lesson at some time in life right?

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Some places offer one menu item to sample and some offer as many as three different menu items at a time. Needless to say, we never ever try everything since we never ever have made it completely around the entire zoo without filling up before the end.

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As we have found every year that we have attended this event they add new restaurants from the area and some pull out and do not take part in the festivities.

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Even though this is mostly an adult event and the zoo is closed down to the general public, there are children that do tag along with some parents. Keep in mind that no matter what age your child is they all need a ticket which go for $35 per person before the event and $40 the night of the event. So if your child cannot eat/drink $35 worth of food….a sitter may be your best bet for probably the same amount of money.

We ultimately had a wonderful time. We all agreed to meet again next year, same time and same place. We are already looking forward to a great night out, with wonderful food/drink with a fun group of friends.

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Read about past years here  and here  if you missed it.

 

 

Some Of The Best Places Are Ones We Stumble Upon

While we were in Wallace, Michigan visiting the De Young Family Zoo(read about it here if you missed it) we were hoping to stumble upon a park nearby that we could enjoy a quiet picnic lunch together at. So we drove down a nearby highway thinking we were headed toward lake Michigan and were surprised when we realized we had turned the wrong direction. Which we then turned around and passed a sign that said public boat landing on a flowage.

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Now, if you know anything about my husband, he knows just about every boat launch in our area. However, in Michigan, he knows very little but said that the ones in WI sponsored by WPS are usually pretty nice so why not check this one out in Michigan. I had no reason to complain since I know very little about any of them and plus, I was hungry and wanted to eat lunch. So we ventured down this gravel road and came upon this.

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Wow, gorgeous!!!!!!!!!!!! A big lake, with a nice gravel lot, and a porta potty. And the best part….not another vehicle in the entire lot except for us. We both used the bathroom facilities and then ate our picnic lunch of chicken salad on pitas, fresh apricots, prickly pears, and Larabar caramel seal salt bites.

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Oh, I must mention, if you have not tried this flavor if Larabar bites yet, you must….they are fabulous. Good luck eating only one serving…..the two of us finished the whole bag!

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After lunch he knew I spotted the grassy trail we passed off the gravel road that seemed to lead around the lake and suggested we go check it out.

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Now, keep in mind, we were not in any way prepared to hike today since I was suppose to be taking it easy and letting my abdominal muscle heal. However, I saw the trail, he saw that I saw the trail, and my hiking boots are always in my SUV just in case….you never know when I will come across a trail I must explore. So after lunch we both sprayed down with more sunscreen and bug spray which also never leaves my SUV and we headed out for a look where this trail led to.

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It quickly got much more wooded and the trail turned from grass to dirt. And soon we found ourselves surrounded by big tall trees as far as we could see.

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I asked my husband if he felt we could possibly see a bear here…and he said it was very possible which made me stop and look around. One of my bucket list things to do is to see a bear in the wild while hiking someday. Although, today was not the day since we soon found ourselves swatting at numerous bugs. Plus, not having any hiking supplies, backpack, bug nets, water or bear spray we decided it was probably best if we turned around and head back to the parking lot where we left our vehicle.

We walked probably about 1.5 miles on this trail with no end in sight. You all know what that means…..we will return and come better prepared next time for sure. I never start a trail I can’t finish. And next time maybe we will stumble upon a bear…who knows.

All in all it was a very beautiful place to share a lunch and explore. Never be afraid to stop and take that turn if you not sure what’s down that road. You never know what you may miss by passing it by.

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A Strange Week That Ended In An Awesome Way

This was a strange week for us here. My husband was missing in action all week and I feel every one of us noticed. Missing one person in the family makes a huge difference…from less laundry, to less food required at meal times, to no one to talk to in the evenings, and no one to wake up to in the morning. Like anything in life, some things are good and some are not so good…. in this situation we adapt, overcome, and move on.

So being I was on my own all week, I could do what I wanted when I wanted to do it. I returned to the gym, started Christmas shopping, enjoyed the exceptionally warm weather we are experiencing here in WI, and caught up on some reading. I made some great progress on the to do list for fall and made meals that would make my husband cringe.

Here is what my workouts consisted of this week.

Sunday: 3 mile walk

Monday: gym: 30 minute elliptical, stretching

Tuesday: 30 minutes on the recumbent bike, floor weights routine, stretching, 5 mile evening walk with a friend

Wednesday: 3 mile evening walk with a friend….this was suppose to be gym night but with temps so wonderful here yet, why would I go to the gym when I can spend it outside and not shiver in November…..so awesome!

Thursday: rest

Friday: floor weights routine

Saturday: off…..however, we did tons on walking while on our shopping trip.

Which brings me to the ending of our week. Saturday my husband and I took our annual shopping trip to a mall in Illinois. It’s our day to spend whatever we wish on just us….and this year was a blast. We found some awesome deals, ate at our favorite place, and enjoyed the day. And the best part is that we take a coach bus so we never have to worry about traffic, parking or being too tired to drive back home at the end of a long day. I can’t wait until next year.

Here are a few pics from our trip.

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Twenty Three Years Ago….

Twenty three years ago my husband presented me with a beautiful diamond ring, his vow to love and cherish me forever, and to be by my side in sickness and in health.

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I am happy to say today we still love each other as much as we did all those years ago and maybe even more. We have both tested the limits in the sickness and the health department and have stuck by each others side through it all. The one big thing that has changed are that diamonds are not the key to my heart anymore. Yes they are beautiful, yes I would accept them if they were presented to me, but he knows exactly the type of rock I prefer if he is looking to make me a very happy wife. And thanks to all his hard work,  once again this year we spent another anniversary climbing/hiking the dusty, gritty, gorgeous rocks of the southwest in Sedona, Arizona this past week.

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This was dream come true!!!! We spent everyday on the desert trails hiking to some of the best places I have ever seen in my life.

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I can’t wait to fill you all in on our adventures in this area. We hiked 6 different hikes, had some awesome meals on the hotel balcony overlooking the mountain sunsets and relaxed in a pool and it’s the end of October. Now that right there is amazing in itself being we are from the midwest and its already WAY TO COLD HERE TO SWIM!!!

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Thanks honey for a fabulous 23 years……I love you!

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More to come real soon….