Terrific Trip Tuesday: Salamanders, ‘Shrooms and Summits!

We hiked 1.5 miles in and within the first five minutes, I thought, this is the toughest thing I’ve ever done.

The first five feet were straight downhill, and my pack was set awkwardly, so it was digging into my head, and I couldn’t see. I seriously considered turning around.

And you know, I take the most pride in myself for not giving up when things get tough. Still, I’ve learned it’s important to know my limits.

It was time to push them a little farther.

We set up camp in Phoenicia and just sat around, played cards, and talked. At nighttime, we had a fire and we even found an orange salamander! (We dubbed him Charlie.)
It was nice and toasty around the fire. We played many rounds of the “picnic” game, when you have to guess different rules of what is allowed (and isn’t) on a picnic, like certain letters, or a certain number of syllables.

Charlie!

Some Jiffy-Pop around the fire.

The woods!



This is actually from the last day, but I LOVE my tent. I sleep so well outside. I just conk out. Too bad I don’t sleep that well in my dorm! I was up at five am today…eek.

My friends and I are hiking to the bus with our packs (about 1.5 miles back).

There were several small waterfalls and we even hiked along a stream. This is my favorite photo from the trip. 🙂

Our guide wanted to take some “artsy” shots. “Bend your leg! No, your other leg!”

He was so excited to find some edible black mushrooms (black crumpets) to eat.

I loved standing over the bridge. Almost there! We were very tired by this point (the third day, and the day after the hardest hiking day, when we hiked about six miles to the summit).

Actually, the second day, we made it about 2 miles to the trailhead before we heard BADOOOMBOOOOOOOOOM and within thirty seconds, it started pouring rain. We had to turn around and head back to camp. Around 3, it cleared up, and by 4, me and two other girls were bored enough to head back up to try the summit again. Boy, was it steep! The second attempt, we just took rain gear, headlamps, and water. Soooo much easier without packs.

Although it’s challenging, I love hiking! This was my first time hiking, and it really pushes your body in a different way.

Anyway, about .5 of a mile from the summit, we hit some rock stairs. These were some hard-core vertical stairs that were extremely steep. I have some issues with stairs. My balance is not the best, and I fell quite a lot as a child.

BADOOOMBOOOOOOOOOM.

I tried the rock stairs, but it was *so* steep that I was completely convinced I couldn’t make it back down in a downpour without sliding. I went back with one of the more experienced girls, and, sure enough, fifteen minutes down it started to POUR.

Turns out there were FIVE sets of rock stairs total. Eek. The others made it to the top and back down two sets, but they said it was absolutely crazy coming back down the rest of the way.

I was glad I challenged myself, but glad I went with my gut feeling (that I have so often overridden this year). After all, it was only my first time hiking EVER! I think I did pretty well. =D

On Sunday, we were never so glad to see the main road, and civilization, again.


The guides got straight to work cooking the sausages with mushrooms, though.

Three days of backpacking in Phoenicia, New York. One awesome adventure.

My first thought upon returning home? SHOOOOOOOWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Terrific Trip Tuesday: Washington, D.C.



Although my trip was only a few days, so much happened that I had to split it into two parts. (Part 1: National Harbor, Maryland and Alexandria, VA here.)

I’m going for a run! No, really, I AM!

After a day of sightseeing in Alexandria, I decided to check out the hotel gym for a quick run. I mean…super quick. I ran two miles in about 23 minutes and then ran back to my room to take a shower before the military band performance.



A workout is a workout. I wasn’t exactly planning on running this vacation (I had a huuuge inflating spider bite on my heel), but I was able to cover it up with a band-aid and some foam so I could walk (and run!) without pain. Due to this, I didn’t exactly pack running clothes…so my pajama Tweety top it was. =P

After a speedy shower, we headed down to the harbor to watch the Army band perform. They were awesome! We grabbed some subs and sat on the steps for a waterside show. Later that evening, we saw some impressive fireworks (while perched on boulders by the hotel) and I edited for several hours.

The next day was busy! We toured the Capitol. Fun fact–even though there is a crypt inside it, no one is actually buried there. George Washington was supposed to be buried there, but he requested in his will to be buried at Mt. Vernon instead. Inside statuary hall, there are “whisper spots” where you can hear people several feet away, thanks to the acoustics of the building.

Another fun fact: the statue of King Kamehameha I stood in statuary hall until the floor underneath started cracking. The statue and its base have a combined weight of 15,000 lbs. WHOA. It now stands in the lobby of the building. (more info on the statue and the man here.)

With a quick stop for some food in the cafeteria before heading over to the Library:

Corn on the cob, sauteed eggplant, and grilled chicken with olives, onions, and tomatoes.



What was probably the most expensive (yet tiny) salad I have eaten. I believe this was about $6…yikes. I was craving greens, though. Tomatoes, strawberry, spinach, and well, I’m not quite sure what else….



On to the Library of Congress! What a beautiful, beautiful building. The ceiling is engraved with famous quotes. My favorite? “The pen is mightier than the sword.” –Edward Bulwer-Lytton



I was probably most excited to see the viewing area with all the books. There is a balcony overlooking the library where National Treasure was filmed. No photos allowed, but I enjoyed it. The best part is that anyone can go in and read or research–you just need to apply for a reading permit across the street. Amazing.

The next day, we toured the White House! So. Cool. The president was awarding a Medal of Honor that same afternoon, but we didn’t spot him.

Did you know that there is no “back” and “front” of the White House? They are referred to as the North and South entrances, because they didn’t want to offend anyone by welcoming them at the “back” entrance.



We stopped for lunch at Founding Farmers. There was quite a wait, so we hopped over to CVS to buy some milk for breakfast and coffee.

Wow. It was totally worth the wait.

Founding Farmers prides itself on organic, local foods, and the place was mobbed! Everything was quite tasty. I had the butternut squash ravioli.



It was the best pasta I have ever had (outside Italy, of course). Whoa. Just looking at the photo makes me want to race back to D.C….

We topped off the day at the National Building Museum, where I saw a World’s Fair exhibit (pretty much empty, since the museum was closing–neat!) and a LEGO exhibit. I had seen some of the LEGO models before, on my Chicago trip, but this in-progress White House replica was cool.



It was a LONG, hot walk back to the hotel (my dad caved and took the metro), but a great day. We stopped at the American History museum before heading home the next day (best part: the First Ladies’ dresses and the replica of Julia Child’s kitchen!). I love U.S. history, but after a full day of touring the day before, we were all exhausted and ready to head back home.

Great trip! I hope I get to return to D.C. again. I love all the museums and historical sites.

Terrific Trip Tuesday: National Harbor and Alexandria

I was recently able to go to both National Harbor, MD and Washington, D.C.! And we also visited Alexandria, VA in between! Woohoo!

I had been to D.C. before but I’ve never stayed overnight in MD except for Baltimore, so it was pretty exciting.

I don’t know about everybody else, but I love car trips. I have yet to be the driver for a vacationing trip, but I don’t really mind being a passenger, either. I get to read (Harry Potter marathon?!), look out the window, and play the license plate game (I am secretly seven, I know, but from my love of Disney movies and my obsession with cookies…I think this was apparent already).

(I’ve seen them all by now, though! I think Maine, Utah, Missouri, Hawaii, and Alaska are the rarest for this area.)

When I was little, I always packed fake food for my imaginary journeys. I would pack up a little bag and stuff it with fake cookies, cantaloupe, and pancakes. Uh…dessert, fruit, and breakfast food??

Times haven’t changed so much.

I still pack up my stuff! Here I have a peanut butter and banana sandwich, blueberries, baby carrots (both of those packed in one of my nifty bento boxes), and a whole bushel of bananas.

Potassium oozes from my pores, I bet!

National Harbor is a cute area. Lots of little shops and restaurants are here. I couldn’t resist posing with my intense MUSCLESSS (riiight) with this statue. *flex*


We headed over to dinner at Ketchup.

Texas Two-Step. Chicken breast, corn on the cob, and cheesy mashed potatoes topped with onion crisps.

Mmmm, crab cake. In Maryland, crab cake does not disappoint.

Mini corn muffins with honey butter!

On the boat going to Old Town Alexandria.

Burger and sweet potato fries!


Where Washington’s town house once stood.


Obligatory sign photo? I think so.


I love steamboats.

On the next Terrific Trip Tuesday…Washington, D.C.!

Terrific Trip Tuesday

I love to travel.

As you’re reading this, I’m on my way home from D.C.!

I have a ton of trip photos just hangin’ out, so I thought I’d use Tuesdays for a while to talk about my past adventures.

During August 2009, I went to Chicago.


(Land of amazing architecture!)

(I loved it.)


(A trip is not complete without a cheesy photo in front of the bean.)

(Hangin’ with a pirate at The Field Museum of Natural History.)

(The museum is most famous, though, for “Sue.” This dinosaur is famous for being the largest, most complete t-rex ever found.)

I also enjoyed The Museum of Science and Industry, where there was….


(Harry Potter: The Exhibition is fantastic. I saw it again when it came to New York, where it stays until September before going on an international tour. I highly recommend it!)

(We even ate in a pizzeria where writing on the walls was encouraged! Whoa.)

I loved Chicago. The residents were friendly, the food was fantastic (and reasonable!), and the architecture was amazing. I’d love to travel back someday, and I’d even consider living there…if it weren’t so darn cold in the winter. *shiver*

Definitely yay, I love road trips and I’d love to do one on my own someday. Maybe to Louisiana (I’ve never been!), Florida (I love FL, from southwest to central and just all over), or even west to Texas (I’ve been to San Antonio, but I’d love to visit more of the state) if I’m feeling a little braver.

Road trips! Yay or nay?
I (almost) never get bored between reading, playing license plate games, and staring out the window. Singing your favorite songs helps, too. Belting out Broadway on the highway is the best!