November=58 degrees…In Wisconsin…..Seriously??? Time To Trade In My Whisk For My Hiking Boots Once Again

As you can probably assume from the title, I am one VERY happy person. When I awoke Thanksgiving morning and saw the forecast prediction for the day after Thanksgiving was going to be in the mid 50’s I immediately put things into high gear. I simply looked across the room at my husband and he knew exactly what I was thinking……..he said calmly, “let’s get it all done today so we can hit the trail tomorrow.” I love how he understands me without me even saying a word.

As you can imagine I had a load of things on the to do list to accomplish with four days off for the holiday. We literally packed all our chores into one day, we got in our annual family hike for Thanksgiving morning, plus I made Thanksgiving dinner that same evening. Oh, I was so tired by evening but so happy to be free of the long list and just had a few things that needed tending to before we hit the long trail on Friday afternoon.

Thanksgiving family hike

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Then Friday arrived and I was excited to get in some warm mileage on a dirt trail once again before the snow arrives full blast. We arrived at our chosen trail head to find just us. I did not mind this at all, I parked our lone vehicle and it awaited our return.

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The temp on my vehicle upon arrival was a balmy 58 degrees. Amazing!!!!

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And a few steps into our hike and I had to chuckle. Clearly, this lone dandelion was not ready to give up quite yet on summer either.

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The trail was wonderful. Leaves crunched beneath our feet,

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signs of deer were everywhere,

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nature could be heard and saw along the way. It was so good for my soul…to just walk, listen, and breathe the air around us.

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The only thing that could have caused me any worry was that we were hiking during the gun deer hunt season here in WI. We did see many different deer stands, thankfully no active hunters during our time on the trail . And yes, in case you are wondering, we did also wear blaze orange for our own protection on this hike.

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With 3.3 miles Thanksgiving day and just over 4 miles Friday, we could all agree that summer is going to missed.

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Hiking, along with numerous other things we were able to pack into four days, left us all with a feeling of happiness. Add that to a fabulous Thanksgiving meal……along with my first ever homemade whipped cream (which turned out wonderful I may add) so my husband could enjoy whipped cream on his pumpkin pie along with everyone else…and I could not have been more thankful for anything else in the  world.

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Now, we all have to return to normal life once again and hopefully be ready for Christmas in a few short weeks. Sadly, I have a feeling I will not be hiking anywhere where that snow is not covering the trail come this time but who knows, maybe just maybe, wishes will come true.

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Weekly Meal Plans….Back By Popular Demand/Weekend Recap

Our weekend started off as a weekend away camping…..and was changed mid week due to weather concerns. Whomp Whomp! So my husband who was suppose to be setting up our tent to sleep in, instead started preparing his ice fishing supplies by setting up his ice shack instead.

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Then I had planned a night away with a friend….and this was changed last minute due to illness! Whomp Whomp!

So ultimately, I was home all weekend. I started Christmas shopping, I ran some errands, I got in two awesome workouts at the gym, I took care of some daycare business, and the hubby and I hiked a nearby trail together.

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Not the weekend I had planned but you know, life happens and plans change and you sometimes just have to roll with it.

Anyhow, lets move on. I have had a few requests for our weekly meal plans again. I used to post these but never really thought anyone followed….I guess I was wrong. And now that we follow an artificial sweetener free diet, my meal plans have been changed up and I have found myself revamping many recipes I have prepared for years to be much cleaner than before. So back by popular demand, I will be posting my weekly meal plans for you to read. I will not be including recipes but if you find something that looks yummy, don’t be afraid to ask what the recipe was. I will be happy to share anything with you.

Saturday: dill caper farro, grilled salmon with lemon and onions, and baked squash.

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Sunday: fajita brats with onions, peppers, and mushrooms, over quinoa

Monday: mexican tortilla stack(meatless)

Tuesday: stuffed manicotti with cottage cheese, spinach, mushrooms and pesto, with marinara sauce and melted cheese over the top. served with bread sticks (meatless)

Wednesday: cowboy caviar filled wonton cups and side salads

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Thursday: egg frittata(recipe here)

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Friday: out

You will find that two nights a week we try and eat meatless meals….more if I can get away with it but my husband and son like their meat. And every meal is made strictly without the use of artificial sweeteners so my husband does not feel ill. If you missed why this diet change happened you can read about it here.

I will try and post our weekly meal plan on Sundays. Our week typically runs from Saturday to Friday since I almost always grocery shop on Fridays for the following week. Let me know if you see something you like. And by all means, if you prepare something yummy please share it with me….I am always searching for meals to prepare that are as clean as possible so everyone is happy.

 

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!!!!!!!!!!!

Miners Falls-Michigan U.P.

One of our favorite waterfalls in Michigans U.P. is Miners Falls.

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Parking here is ample when it’s not the busy season…..we visited on Labor Day weekend and it was packed!!!!! Bathrooms are available right in the parking area and a few picnic tables are also in this area to rest or have a picnic.

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It’s an easy hike into the falls with a crushed gravel/dirt path through the woods.

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That is until you hit the stairs that lead to the actual viewing platform for the falls. There are a good number of steps so strollers/wheelchairs will have problems from this point onward. And no, you cannot see the falls without taking the steps.

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This waterfall is quite magnificent….with a thunderous roar and a mist of spray while viewing. Many have trouble photographing this waterfall due to this mist…..as I did also while here.

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This waterfall/trail is free along with free parking.

 

 

 

A Surprise Training Hike Once Again and Some Meal Prep To Begin The Week

Ahhh, what a weekend. One that I really needed….I’ll tell you that much. After a major flop last week, we had some business to take care of Saturday morning and then my husband surprised me by suggesting another training hike mid afternoon. He knows I would never turn down a hike and the best way to get me to relax is either bring me to a river….which could not happen due to my finger accident last week…. so the next best thing is bring me to a trail. Which is exactly what he did.

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We knew we could not do all three laps this time around as we did the first time because time was limited today. However, we knew we had time for two full laps and we wasted no time getting started. After lunch we headed to the trail, sunscreen and bug spray in hand. Upon arriving we were greeted by a whole family of wild turkeys.

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I simply love what trails offer me. There are wild flowers everywhere, quietness of the woods, and the ability to just escape everyday life and be one with nature.

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6.6 miles later and we were done, I was relaxed and calm, and felt completely ready to face what life decides to throw at me next. I am really getting excited and feel I am closer every day to feeling like we will accomplish our next big adventure that’s on the horizon.

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Sunday then arrived and I awoke happily feeling good. No pain anywhere after our hike Saturday so I immediately got to meal prepping for the week. Nothing makes my week flow more smoothly than a weekly menu and meal prepping as much as I can for the week ahead.

I started by cutting up fresh fruit….pineapple and strawberries are loved by us all. And then I hard boiled a dozen eggs. I still felt I needed a bit more prepping so I threw together some curry lentil stew this time with sweet potatoes in it and cut up peppers for fajitas one night, I tossed together a greek veggie salad, and also made a new muffin for breakfast…carrot and coconut muffins for the win. MMMM, they are delicious!!!

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After this I bid my husband good luck fishing and headed over to Fresh Thyme for a few items, stopping at the gym on my way home for a workout and my first attempt back at weights since injuring myself back in July. Slow and steady is what I am practicing….and its slowly coming back to me.

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A few hours later my husband arrived home with dinner….apparently my wish of good luck paid off.

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I Am Not One To Back Down From A Challenge

I am not one to ever back down from a challenge but let me tell you….sometimes this bites me in the butt and it bites hard!!!!

Friday mid day I received an email from my husband saying….”Let’s try doing three laps of the trail we chose to do our training on for vacation. What do you think?” I then answered back….”why now, I thought we would work our way up to three laps the month before we leave for vacation.” He then emailed back,” come on, do you think we can’t do it?” Enough said…that sounded like a challenge and he knew darn well I would not let that go.

(*NOTE: the longest trail we plan to hike on vacation is listed at between 7.7 to 8.3 miles long with mountain elevations)

Saturday morning we woke, had a hearty breakfast, packed our picnic lunch, packed our backpacks as if we would be hiking a long trail just like on vacation, and hit the trail by 8:30 a.m..

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Lap one was fairly easy as I expected it would be. Here is us at the end of lap one…3.25 miles done.

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Lap two was good, not too hard, legs still felt good, and the heat of the day was just starting. We definitely needed another coating of bug spray and some lunch though. Us at the end of lap two, 6.45 miles complete.

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So as we would and plan to on the trail, we stopped and had a picnic lunch on the nearby lawn next to the trail head.

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Recoated with bug spray, we then started the last lap. This one was a bit different since we knew in our head it would be the final lap. And no doubt it was harder, the hills seemed to multiply, and every corner we rounded that we thought was our last was actually not the last. This was the only lap we saw wildlife larger than a chipmunk on.

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And we even came across a berry bush that next time may be ripe enough to offer us a snack mid hike.

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We were a hot, sweaty mess when we were done….here we are at the end of three laps. In approximately four hours with a half hour of that being a break for lunch, we completed three laps for a total of 9.68 miles and ironically my body felt pretty darn good at that moment.

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That is until I arrived home and removed my boots….OH MY GOODNESS DID MY ANKLES HURT!!!!The remainder of my day was spent getting my legs and ankles iced, rubbed, or elevated with compression socks on.

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Needless to say, I tossed and turned all night between fireworks going off in our neighborhood and with my very sore legs throughout the night. Which meant I was very tired on Sunday. I can’t say I regret accepting this challenge he proposed but next time I will think a bit harder about what else I wish to do before excepting this type of challenge again. Since all I really got accomplished on Sunday was throwing together a quick dinner and one fast trip to the store for a few items.

After all this I will say I am proud of us since clearly we still got it. We may be slower and ache a bit more than before but we can still pull almost 10 miles off with little effort and this makes me very happy.

 

 

 

Change Is Hard But Sometimes Necessary

Summer may have arrived other places around the world but here in WI it is not feeling a whole lot like summer. It has been so chilly again this week. I can’t even think about water activities without getting a chill and you all know how much time we typically spend in the lakes and rivers around WI. So this week it was once again all about outdoor fun, hiking, and the gym. No water fun at all….uggg!!!! Unless you count playing in all the rain we have had water fun….it’s been quite a bummer of a summer so far!

Here is a look at my week of sanity seeking fun:

Saturday: gym: 30 minute elliptical and weights

3.30 mile hike on a near by campus trail

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Sunday: disc golf 18 holes

and another 3.30 mile trail hike on the same trail as Saturday

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Monday: morning weight lifting routine in the home gym

gym: 30 minute elliptical and stretching

Tuesday: morning weight lifting routine in the home gym

3.30 mile evening hike on the same campus trail….I am loving the wildlife we see while hiking this trail

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Wednesday: afternoon weights and 30 minutes on the recumbent bike in our home gym

Thursday: morning weight lifting routine in the home gym and yoga during nap time(hurray for everyone sleeping at the same time!!!)

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Friday: rest

It has been almost three weeks since I have had my last long walk on black top/concrete roads here in our neighborhood and even though I miss what walking offered I am not missing the pain it caused my joints. I never thought I would give up walking but my body was telling me it had had enough and I had to listen. For me change is hard but sometimes necessary to be happy. I will say I am loving the gym even though it is summer time. Maybe my age is changing how I look at life but going to the gym and feeling great instead of going for a walk and aching for hours afterwards is something I am savoring. And clearly, as you see above, I am still technically walking since we have been utilizing our area trails and with the softer ground under my feet I have had no pain at all after a long hike.