Sipping what is quickly becoming my new favorite cocktail, Hemingway Daiquiri, thanks to the talented bartender at a.bar while people watching out unto the Square … ahhh yes. What a relaxing way to spend a hot afternoon followed by a dip in the pool at the Rittenhouse Hotel? And after a nice swim being driven (ha ha ha) to a concert outside at the Mann Center listening to Colbie. And nothing says a night out in the city to return to our room with light jazz piping from the radio and our slippers and robe awaiting…only to change into our evening attire and head for a midnight nightcap at Tria Tap Room followed by a late night walk around the square.
This is a change of pace for us. Hiking boots no where in site. Instead a last minute getaway planned as a deal popped up on LivingSocial and credit card points were awaiting use…
And what better way to cap off the weekend then a meal at our favorite Steven Star – Dandelion -in a cozy room surrounded by dogs and friendly bartenders. We could not leave without picking up Luxardo Maraschino Cherries for my new favorite cocktail and so we happened to stumble upon a cooking demo at Williams Sonoma where we proceeded to buy it all.. alas time to go… but waitbefore we go just one more stop for Sunday School at Tria at Fitler Square. Too full to enjoy more then the cheese taste of the day, we know where our first stop will be the next time we venture into the city.
Let’s begin that we our casual hikers. A good hike for us is 4-5 miles and a long hike is 7 miles…We clocked this one in at between 9.5 and 10 miles on our FitBit. Our longest hike together and probably the longest hike I have been on for fifteen years. Moderate/Difficult is what it is listed at. We agree. Map – Best to print out the one from the site the hiking trail map Stokes State Forest North. I did not and used the general one which was not as helpful. Critters along the way: Birds, and eastern (red-spotted) newt (please correct me reader if I am wrong in my identification). I loved getting down at ground level at taking pictures of him – apparently they are pretty common in this area. Starting Point – Follow Skellenger Road over a bridge (closed to cars) that connects the cabin area to the main camping area. At the junction of Skellenger and Skellenger (confusing) follow signs for the one that take you to the NJ State School of Conversation. Stay on this road until you see the turn off for the Tinsley Trail to your right. It is about .8 miles from cabins to trail. Follow Tinsley Trail (Yellow) to Swenson Trail (Red) and turn left. (It was suggested from another hiking site that this approach was better – and I agree). Then take Swenson Trail to a right on to the Catwright trail (Brown Red Trail. (along the way you pass the neat old cabin) The Cartwright trails along the Kittatinny Mountain Ridge is where the image was taken looking west to the Delaware River. Be forewarned Cartwright is rocky and overgrown. Eventually you meet up the with the Appalachian Trail and hike that past the Sunrise Mountain Overlook until turning right unto Tinsley. Ending Point: We then followed Tinsley back to Skellenger road to our cabin. End Report: It was nice starting at the campgrounds – right from our cabin. It was certainly more difficult then our past hikes – It is rocky both in the flat areas and when going uphill causing difficult for those with knee trouble. However, once reaching the summit of Sunrise Mountain looking West- the view is amazing and well worth the climb. It is also a nice loop, meeting up with the Appalachian and checking out the view at Sunrise Mountain looking east to Kittatinny Valley.
After leaving the Canyon it was time to check out the towns on Route 6… starting with Wellsboro and heading to Mansfield. Unfortunately for a Sunday evening most things were closed. ..
We checked into our very petite and very cheap room at the Microtel Inn in Mansfield… my error in not taking a picture of just how small this one bed hotel room is for there is none on the site. Think room in NYC! However, at that price I wish more hotels would choose this option. Clean, comfortable and good service. For the budget traveler I highly recommend checking it out.
We left the lowest elevation of the Gorge and climbed upward to the scenic view at Leonard Harrison State Park. Amazing. Looking out at the Canyon below and to think at what time this land had been stripped of its trees for lumber and bark for tannins.
This is obviously a different canyon then the Grand Canyon we visited in Arizona… but still very beautiful.
Arriving at the trail access for our second AT hike, driving past the main lot, the overflow lot, and then finally finding a spot in the second overflow lot — I was overwhelmed by the number of hikers to this area. I had not ventured beyond the recently found AT website ( amazing site showing trail access and parking) and did not realize that the trail crossed through the Dunfield Creek Natural Area – where multiple trail heads through Worthington State Forest start. What a beautiful spot and a wonderful place to explore with young hikers!!
My worries of a crowded trail quickly ended. Upon taking the left towards the AT, you will quickly realize how few of those visitors venture unto the AT. Although we had our packs full, we had not set expectations of how far to go (around five miles being our goal). We quickly learned we could do a nice loop – about 9 miles if we included the pond, or skip the pond and do 7.25 (that was far enough for us). A challenge but I will take a loop anytime it is offered even for an extra few miles.
Note – Hike on the AT was nice, however after a rocky descent on the green blazed Dunnfield Creek Trail, it then begins to level out and follow the Dunnfield Creek. A very scenic and fun hike skipping across the creek – by far our favorite part of the journey. Looking forward to returning to the area to the do hike around Sunfish Pond!
New hiking shoes that is. And getting ourselves in shape, too. We are just about 3 months out from our trip and have decided we needed to do something a little more challenging then our easy hikes so we hit the Appalachian Trail in Port Clinton.
Its a bit of a drive for us but well worth it.
Perhaps slightly over ambitious on our first hike – straight up climb of an elevation gain from less then 600 feet to 1400 feet – very rocky and steep until you hit the ridge – then flattens out. I’ve got some serious work to do before we head to the Grand Tetons!
As the sun just began to rise over the desert, and we could see our breath in the frigid morning air, we began our journey to Koli Equestrian Center about 30 minutes south of where we were staying. To think I had originally planned to begin our riding adventure at 7:30 AM… Due to freezing morning temperatures we changed it to 9.
A family climb up Cholla Trail was the perfect way to celebrate our first sunny day although the coldest day of the year in the dessert. We were lucky to be able to walk to this trailhead that climbs up Camelback Mountain from our hotel. We began the hike close to sunset and so only made it up to the first lookout. The view stretched to the left of where our journey began in Phoenix, to the golf course just below us where my husband had playing that morning, beyond to Scottsdale on the left where my daughter and I had explored earlier that morning, and way out to snow capped Superstition Mountain that we would explore later on this trip. What an amazing view.
We finished our day with dinner in Old Scottsdale with a restaurant chosen by my daughter, Mission Restaurant. We were lucky to get a last minute reservation at the shared table and even luckier that a table opened up for us in this packed restaurant serving delicious modern Latin cuisine. Uniquely prepared dishes wowed us from the appetizers, to our main courses, to dessert.
There is usually a Thursday night ArtWalk but not tonight. Instead we wandered the deserted streets in the freezing temperatures enjoying the freedom to browse into windows without crowds.
Although our New Years was a huge disappointment (I chose to not post that pitiful evening), the first day of the new year was perfect!
On December 30 we boarded the plane leaving behind mild winter temperatures in our otherwise usually frigid mid Atlantic region to enter similar, if not cooler at times, temperatures in the Arizona desert. This certainly was not we paid inflated airfare prices for but we were happy to arrive with sunny skies.
I was led to believe that our room at The Phoenician would be ready for an early arrival. It was not and it was hardly warm enough to stay at the resort and swim. (However the pool was filled for unbeknownst to us this would be the warmest it would get.) We decided to explore offsite and have lunch.
We drove to St Francis – a place I had wanted to visit and enjoyed a delightful meal sitting outside under heat lamps trying to pretend in our mind as we stared at the sand and cactus landscape eating unique southwestern dishes like flatbread with chilis, honey and almonds that it was indeed very warm outside. Heat Lamps can lead one to such a belief.
We returned and walked the beautiful resort property until our room was ready. Unfortunately our misfortune would continue by being given a room that did not match the category description. The hotel did correct the issue and put us in a Grande Deluxe Room – and it was very grande!
Of all the beautiful features at the Phoenician, one of our favorites was the Cactus Garden. It was lit up with Christmas lights. We layered on clothes that we thought would remain in the closet during our stay. With scarves and hats and coats on we ventured through winding and colorfully lit up trail. Cactus with Christmas lights in the desert when it is 30 degrees. Juxtaposition indeed (and a reoccurring theme during our stay).
We awoke and our hope was to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop for a nice hike. A short drive from our inn is where the Blue Ridge Parkway meets Skyline Drive. Who would have thought to call ahead? By now the roads are surely opened?….
…We arrived to find the Parkway shutdown and the Skyline drive still closed due to the snow. Well what to do? Hike ON the parkway. We arrived before most others and enjoyed a solitary walk along the rode heading upward – There was something so serene but almost eerie of being the only ones on a road usually filled with drivers. The views were just amazing down to the valley below. There were indeed some patches were the ice formed on the roadway which I am sure would make it a treacherous drive.
After our nice hike we stopped for some lunch and beer tasting at Devils Backbone. We had enjoyed the Vienna Lager and wanted to taste what else they offered. We had no idea what to expect. As we drove up we were surprised by a beautiful huge lodge-like building that looked straight out of Colorado and that was jam packed! We also visited Wild Wolf Brewing where we had expected nicer surrounding but found the shops all empty – however we ended up enjoying this beer far more and left with some very well priced bottles. So Devils offered the better atmosphere and Wild Wolf offered the better beer.
We enjoyed another hike in the valley below and returned to Iris Inn for an evening wine tasting followed by a relaxing soak in the hot tub. This ended abruptly when our power went out. After regaining power, I unfortunately fell into a deep sleep in our treehouse above the woods and would sadly not awake again until it was time to say goodbye.