Monday, June 18, 2012

Walk, Eat, Repeat: Newport, RI Adventures

Much to share after an incredible 3-day weekend with my amazing friend Hannah who visited from Maine.  I have been going non-stop at work for a few months now, so having Friday off was a welcome relief.  Judging from the disbelief of a coworker ("they let you take a day off??!  With everything going on?!" this long weekend was both a stroke of luck, and a desperately needed breather.

For a few wonderful days, I felt like I was living life in slow motion - able to truly enjoy each moment, to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings, and to treasure my time with a special friend.  But at the same time, I was SO excited to have a few days away, that I was living in high-speed - trying to experience as many things as possible, and to pack every second of my time off with pure FUN.  When we weren't walking outside, soaking up sunshine and beautiful views, we were eating six meals a day, every day!  It was my kind of vacation!  Here are some highlights from my time away:

 Sunset from the Blue Hills Observation Tower after a fabulous sushi dinner on Hannah's first night in Massachusetts

Walking the Boardwalk - literally a series of planks leading through Ponkapoag Pond in the Blue Hills, for an early morning walk.  After the rain we have had recently, a few planks were completely submerged, which made for a wet, muddy balancing act!

 Lunch on the beach in Newport, Rhode Island - it was a beautiful day, and we walked along the coast after lunch.  Although the first of multiple nature disasters happened to Hannah at the beach when a seagull ate her sandwich (and then two days later, a seagull used her sweater to relieve itself... can you believe her luck??) 

We drove along Bellevue and Ocean Ave to see the Newport mansions, and then walked along the Cliffwalk, between the rolling lawns of the mansions and Newport Harbor.  Navigating over the rocks in our flip flops made for an even more exciting adventure!

Just as we were driving along Ocean Ave to head downtown, we passed a huge sailboat regatta along Brenton Point, so we took a quick detour to watch the boats!  I later discovered that we were watching the start of the Newport-Bermuda race - a 635-mile ocean race from (you guessed it!) Newport to Bermuda.

Sunset over downtown Newport after appetizers and drinks at the Black Pearl, then dinner, then ice cream while we watched the sunset.  A day full of walking, but lots of eating to compensate!

We started Day 2 by watching the sun rise over Castle Island in Dorchester.  We were the first ones there at 4:30 am, although as it got closer to sunrise, the viewing spot got busier.  Right after sunrise and a walk along the beach, we were the first in line at my favorite local bagel shop in East Milton.

We spent a wonderful day exploring Providence together, getting lost a few times, and then wandering through Roger Williams Park.  Since neither of us are big cash-carriers (I absolutely NEVER carry cash, which can make life interesting at times!) we only had $11 to spent on a $15 pedal-boat ride.  Luckily, the boat vendor felt bad for the two pathetic girls, and offered to just take what money we had!  I couldn't believe our luck.  It was a beautiful boat ride together, and so much fun!

We finished our day with an Italian dinner on Federal Hill, the Italian section of Providence.  After dinner, the live music started in the courtyard, so we sat along the fountain's edge, listening and people-watching.  The day ended with nutella-strawberry crepes for me, and a chocolate-dipped cannoli for Hannah.  Another 5-meal day for us both!

Day 3 update to follow, once I finish downloading pictures from our trip!  First, I am off to bed, to rest up after my vacation!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

(Nearly) Worldless Wednesday

It's really hard for me to disconnect from work to get in a good, relaxing post-work run.  Leaving my Blackberry at home feels like the riskiest thing I've done in a long time!  What if I get an urgent email?  What if someone needs me?  What if.... 

The reality is, the world will move on, and people will figure it out.  And most things aren't that urgent anyway.  But it is still SCARY.  But having that precious time completely and 100% to myself, to be able to dedicate my run to me - to what I want to do, to think, and to be - it's simply incomparable. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Motivation Monday

After getting home from a LONG Monday at work, feeling achy all over from a weekend of running and cross-training, and totally exhausted from a 11-hour day of office politics, running was not at the top of my "can't wait to do" list.  I started up the first hill, and just as quickly, started thinking about walking home and calling it a day. But then I passed an old lady in her yellow convertible, blasting this song:

Talk about an instant motivator!  I spent the rest of my run singing in my head, "if you're going through hell, keep on moving, face that fire, walk right through it," and thinking about what simple, yet brilliant advice it is.  When things are at their most difficult, the hardest thing in the world to do is to keep on going.  It's so much easier to curl up in a ball, and hope that the tough times will pass.  But those times that I've pushed through and faced my challenges head on, coming out on the other side has been that much more fulfilling.  And with that, I finished my Monday evening run feeling totally exhausted and aching all over - but with my fastest time yet on this training course, and a renewed determination to keep on going!   

Sunday, June 10, 2012

St. Moritz's Pond

After a busy "domestic" day of cleaning, grocery shopping, and relaxing by the pool, I decided it was time to enjoy the beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon with a Blue Hills hike.  I had never explored the St. Moritz Pond area of the Blue Hills, which happens to be just a quarter mile from my house, so I decided that today was the day!

St. Moritz Pond was once the site of a winter carnival in Quincy in the 1920s, attracting 50,000 people each year, and hosting competitions for speed skating, barrel jumping, ski jumping, and tobogganing.  As the carnival grew, the Blue Hills Recreation Club created St. Moritz Pond by damming up a stream, naming the new body of water after St. Moritz, Switzerland - the site of the 1928 Winter Olympics.  Today the pond is absolutely beautiful, with lily pads covering the surface, an oasis in the middle of the forest.

I set off following the Blue Dot trail, but within a few minutes, got totally lost.  As I discovered several hours later, I ended up following an unmarked trail along the perimeter of the Blue Hills.  I hiked straight for almost an hour, determined to see where the trail would end - hoping it would end somewhere familiar!  The forest was absolutely beautiful - with groves of trees, grassy hills, and small streams along the trailside.

 At one point, I came along a small cluster of baby pine trees, looking as if they had just started growing a few years ago.  It was good to see how alive the Blue Hills were - constantly growing, and full of new life.  It made me feel grateful for this vast piece of untouched wilderness just steps from my apartment.  How rare it is to be able to escape so easily!  Just when I was about to give up hope of ever figuring out where I was, I came up to a sign, pointing the way to the Chickatawbut Overlook, just 800 yards away.  I had no idea what the Chickatawbut Overlook was, but after an hour of hiking, I wasn't about to miss it!

When I finally got to the overlook, I realized that I knew exactly where I was!  What a relief.  The overlook was actually a place I had visited by car several times before, along Chickatawbut Road, with a beautiful view of the Boston skyline.  This picture barely does the view justice... it is absolutely breathtaking.  Once I figured out where I was, I spent a while studying the trail map, and realized that if I could find the Blue Dot Skyline trail, it would be a straight hike back to St. Moritz Pond.  Easy, right?

I hiked past the stone overlook at the top of Chickatawbut Hill.  From the plaque at the base of the tower, I learned that it was constructed as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression, as part of an effort by President Roosevelt to provide employment opportunities and to improve the country's forests.  At its peak in Massachusetts, the CCC had 51 camps enrolling 10,000 men.  Many of the CCC's legacies, including roads, bridges, ponds, picnic areas, log cabins, and trails are still in use today.

From the overlook, the Blue Dot trail was a difficult, rocky hike back.  Although it was a much more direct route than the wandering path I took to the overlook, it took me almost as long to get back, because of the cliff-climbing path.  In many sections, I was climbing on hands and knees, hanging on for dear life.  I did discover why the Blue Dot trail is also called the Skyline trail, for its beautiful views of the Boston skyline.  At one point, I also came across a view of the Braintree Plaza Mall, right next door to my house, that looked as if it were about a million miles away.  Talk about depressing!!
Many sections of the trail looked like glorified cliffs, with blue paint indicating that this death-defying set of rocks was not just a pretty view, but was, in fact, the trail.  Most telling was an older man who asked me how to get back to the overlook.  When I pointed back the way I had come, he stared at me with a look of disbelief, and said, "That is the trail??!"  Despite the rocky trail back, I managed to make it back to St. Moritz in one piece, after just an hour (and a quick jog for the last 1/2 mile, once the trail flattened out).  What I had intended to be a short walk turned into a 2+ hour adventure, but what a beautiful Sunday afternoon! 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Boston's Harbor Walk

Today I went for a long run along the Harborwalk in Dorchester.  I started at Castle Island, which is one of my most favorite places for a run.  Castle Island is a beautiful part of Dorchester, with beaches along Boston Harbor, near South Boston.  You can see the Boston skyline, and run on a pedestrian bridge to the island where the ruins of Fort Independence lie.  Fort Independence is a granite fort, built in the early 1800's by the English, who were fighting the French for control over North America.  In the 18th century, it served as Massachusetts' first state prison, and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" is based on Poe's experiences while serving on Castle Island in the Army.  Now, it is a beautiful park with kite-flying, bike-riding, and ice cream eating.  

This time, I didn't actually run past the Fort; instead, I ran south along the HarborWalk past the yacht clubs of South Boston, and the beaches of Dorchester Harbor.  At times, the path was paved, just beside road going toward Castle Island, and at times I was running along a boardwalk next to the ocean.  It couldn't have been more scenic.  Off in the distance, I saw my destination - the JFK Library.

 As I got closer to the JFK Library, I could look back and see the Boston skyline.  I never realized how close Castle Island is to Boston, and I now look forward to running the opposite direction from Castle Island, right into Boston.  There were scenic overlooks of Dorchester Harbor, and a beautiful complex of condos as I turned the corner to run past Boston College High and UMass Boston. 

 As I got closer, what was once just a shiny dot off in the distance - the reflection of the hot summer sun off the glass wall along the harbor - the JFK Library came into view.  The JFK Library was designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, who designed famous structures across the world, including the Suzhou Museum in China, and the Louvre in Paris.  The library and museum was dedicated in 1979 by President Carter and the Kennedy family.  A glass pavilion housing an enormous American flag overlooks Columbia Point, and Kennedy's sailboat, Victura lies just steps from the ocean. 

What a beautiful, scenic run.  I finished feeling great - like I could have kept going much further!  A great sign for an early summer long run.