Three Hufflepuffs in the Haystack: A photo essay

(Aside: Yeah, that’s right. If I’m a Hufflepuff (and the harry potter quiz said I was — twice) then everybody’s coming down the hufflepuff rabbit hole with me.)

Instead of telling you about the hike I did today with Amy and Matt, I’m going to show you! We hiked up Falling Waters Trail to Mt. Haystack, then walked the Franconia Ridge to Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette, and then down the Old Bridle Trail to the car. See the loop on the map picture below. It looks teeny tiny but don’t let the map’s scale fool you. it was 8.8 miles and 5000  feet of elevation altogether!

the trail map

As a general note — there were some things I didn’t capture with pictures because I was just too tired (sleepy) or too tired (hiking out of breath) or too tired (i just want to get back to the car now) or too tired (MY KNEEEESSSS!). I’ll let you know when we get to those places.

We left Providence when it was still dark at 4:30am to head up three hours to Franconia Notch in New Hampshire. This was one of those too tired (sleepy) moments so no pictures for you, though there were some really sweet ground clouds that rolled across fields on the drive up that really deserved pictures. I suggest you imagine it instead.

Done imagining? Okay…

So when we got to the trailhead, we started on the Falling Waters Trail up to Mt. Haystack and, true to the trail’s name, we were almost immediately treated to this wonderful waterfall.

waterfall 1

And we were all like ‘WOOOAHHH.’ Except matt and amy had already done the hike before, so really i was like ‘WOOOOAHHH’ the loudest. And Amy was all like ‘watch me be a badass with my broken hand and one hiking pole.’ And then she showed us how good of a balancer she is (so good).


And I was all like, ‘hey man, you’re not the only good balancer, okay?’ So i showed them my skillz.


Matt and Amy were all like ‘yeah yeah yeah, you can balance too, come on let’s go.’ So we went. And were very soon treated to this amazingness!


and I was like ‘OMG, I just can’t even.’ So we all took pictures with mr. waterfall.

a child?

Amy, though, was all, ‘I look like a child in that picture.’ But Amy is small and always looks like a child, so I took a picture with her like that too.


And she was like ‘okay, okay, I get it, I’m small.’ And then we kept hiking on until, very soon after, we got to the MOST AMAZING waterfall. And we were like ‘WHAAAT?!’

like what?!

And the best thing about this mr. waterfall was that the hiking path hugged all up close to it like they were besties and so I got to take this incredible picture that basically blows my mind and almost makes me want to stop writing this blog post just so I can stare at it and relive the experience.


But, I’ll continue, because though this is the most beautiful of the pictures I took, I think the rest of the hike is probably worth a mention.

After this the hike got hard and I was all like ‘woaaah, I’m too sleepy (hiking out of breath) to take pictures.’ So to sum it up, we hiked up, we sweat like a TON and our legs got really tired (except for matt’s amazing robot legs) and we were all like ‘I think we’re almost there!’ a bunch of times, which of course is a sure way to know you’re NOT almost there.

And then, finally, we made it to the top of Haystack and we were like ‘hot daaaaaaamn that’s purty.’


and Amy was like, you know what would make this even purtier? ME!


And i was like ‘no! I make it purtier!’

notice my missing, blown out head

and matt was all like ‘shh, everyone’s pretty, ok? Now let me tie amy’s shoelaces together so she falls down.’


except amy is too smart for that and didn’t fall down.

so after shoving our faces full of food, we were off again, across the Franconia Ridge, which was bonkers pretty and reasonably easy to hike up even though our legs were all like NOOOOOO and our stomachs were all like “I WILL STEAL ALL THE BLOOD FROM YOUR MUSCLES AND USE IT AS MY OOOOWN.”


I was tired (hiking out of breath) for a lot of this, so even though there were some real pretty sites along the 1.5 mile ridge, the next thing you’ll see here is when we reached Mt. Lafayette, the last of the three summits of the day and the start of our descent!

We were a little tired, and going down isn’t really any fun, so we asked everyone on the summit for a ride down in a flying car (given there were no roads to the top) and they were all like “no way, we don’t take hitchhikers in our flying car, it’s expensive and you’re smelly…but if you want we can take your picture.” So we did that.


and then on the way down amy tweaked her ankle and i almost fell like a billion times and matt was like, i can’t take you guys anywhere, and we were all like OW OUR KNEES ARE DYING, and i was tired ((i just want to get back to the car now) and (MY KNEEEEEESSSS)) so I didn’t take any pictures. but we made it to the car in good time, at which point we all high-fived and agreed we were pretty much rock stars, and planned to drive home and party like them.

Three hours later, we all got home and promptly fell to sleep.

we’ll be rockstars tomorrow.

“I am the designer of my own catastrophy”

July 16 will be my last day at Amazing Charts, where I’ve spent the last 3.5 years of my life.

In large part, I’ve been happy at Amazing Charts.  I make good money, i have healthcare, my bosses are wonderful, the flexible vacation policies give me enough (though is there every really enough) time off.

And yet. I’m leaving.

Some days, it’s hard to explain why I’m leaving. Some days it seems foolish. Other days it seems brave. It’s always scary.

So why do it? Firstly, I want the time to work hard on my writing, to try to see what I can make of myself. I also want to see if there are other jobs out there that have the same benefits but that I’m also passionate about. I want to explore, to search myself, to see if there are other places — other niches — that I fit into. Aside from loans and bills (which are not insignificant), I have nothing holding me back, no responsibilities requiring me to stay at home, and that wont always be true. This is the perfect time to take this kind of leap, whatever it leads to.

Nevertheless, I knew myself well enough to know that even after I quit my job, I’d want to stay. I’d have days where my panic would overwhelm me and I’d want to walk right back into my boss’s office and say “Know what?! I changed my mind!”.

My clever way of handling this instinct was to plan a number of trips and event for the time right after my last day so that even if i wanted to stay, or thought I wanted to stay, I couldn’t. So, come July 16, I’ll be leaving Amazing Charts and I’ll be embarking on a pretty exciting and terrifying adventure that will span July 24 to September 19.

  1. I’ll be (finally) attending a 5-day Wilderness First Responder course, learning all about how to handle medical emergencies in the wilderness. Which will be right in time for my…
  2. …trip to Tanzania, where for a week I’ll be hiking (or attempting to hike) Mt. Kilimanjaro.
  3. Then I’ll head to Scotland for three weeks to travel around that magical country, with very quick layover stops in Amsterdam and Paris.
  4. After that, I’ll be coming home to the states and heading almost directly to a 10-day silent meditation course.
  5. And then ill be back, the adventures will be over and I’ll start on a new one: writing…and whatever else I want!

So, on days when panic overwhelms me, when this decision seems unbelievably dumb, when I worry about money and bills and healthcare, and question my ability to write anything good ever, and doubt my ability to ever find any other job, and eventually end up imagining myself destitute and homeless under a mountain of loans, I take a deep breath and remember that this is my time. This is the time. And sure, it may not work out. But I’m gonna try anyway.

And when that doesn’t work, I do google searches to find some inspiration :) All the images below were taken from pinterest.)

alwaysgot chances damn short passion selfimposed stubborn toughcatastrophy

On top of three presidents in one weekend…

In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, there is a range of 13 mountains spanning 19 miles called the Presidentials. Washington is the tallest (6288 ft), then Adams (5793 ft), and so on in order of the presidents themselves! (Except, Wikipedia fastidiously notes, in the case of Mt. Monroe, which “due to a surveying error… is 22 ft taller than Mt. Madison” and throws the whole order out of whack.)

This weekend I mounted three of those presidents. (Tee hee.)

My Kilimanjaro training plan called for two 2000-feet, 5 hour hikes so on Saturday morning I headed out to conquer Mount Pierce (4310 ft) and Mount Eisenhower (4780 ft), followed up by a night of camping and another hike on Sunday of the (Joe-recommended) Mount Jackson (4052 ft).

see the three mountains I climbed toward the bottom...

see the three mountains I climbed toward the bottom…

I’ve been hiking and running a lot lately as I prepare for my trip, but this was the first time I was going to hike and camp alone and as far away. It was by and large a huge success (only a little sore today!) but there were a few bumps along the way. Below is a list of the highlights, lowlights and things I learned…

1. Highlight: In the northeast mountains are MUCH smaller than in the west. This means when something “far away” looks huge and difficult, it’s actually easier and smaller (and closer) than you think (as opposed to Colorado where something “far away” looks huge and difficult and, in fact, it’s MUCH farther, huger and more difficult than you ever imaged).

On top of Mt. Pierce, fretting about how

On top of Mt. Pierce, fretting about how “far away” Eisenhower was.

2. Highlight: Summits are beautiful. Seeing the world from that height is humbling and exciting and sprawling and awesome.


I do believe this is the view from Mt. Pierce. green green green green greeeeeeen.

3. Reminder: Summits are WINDY! This was really swell when I needed my very sweaty shirt to dry out while I sat down for 15 minutes on Mt. Pierce and Mt. Jackson. But on Mt. Eisenhower…well…you listen:

Windy Eisenhower

4. Highlight: Sometimes nature looks like a technicolor painting. I ran straight into the below scene hiking down from Mt. Jackson and I was floored. The picture actually captures some of what it felt like, but it was like all the trees and all the leaves and even the mud where reflecting this incredible bright, intense, hot green light, and I was in the middle of it. It reminded me of the green I see in Rachel’s (amazing sauce) paintings.


5. Lowlight: Highlight: When it’s poured in the two days leading up to your stay, expect mud. I cannot CANNOT stress enough how much water there was. Guys. There was SO much water. Hiking down Mt. Eisenhower was basically like hiking down a very muddy, very low, very slippery brook. The ENTIRE way down. And hiking between Mt. Piece and Mt. Eisenhower was like swimming through a pool. The picture below does not do it justice…it was just the only time around any kind of puddle that I felt if I took out my phone I wouldn’t automatically drop it into a never-ending pool of mud. I find it so be absolutely amazing that I did not ONCE lose my balance and fall in. That’s basically unheard of. Also, it totally proved that my awesome hiking boots are freaking awesome and can withstand a lot. Which, you know what, means that this too is a positive.


mud. now imagine this time 20 and without the wooden planks. that was my entire hike down Mt. Eisenhower.

6. Lesson: Stakes are important. So is reserving the appropriate type of campsite. The first thing I realized after my day of hiking when I arrived at my campsite is that I’d reserved a platform campsite. A platform campsite has a (surprise!) platform, usually wooden, on which the camper is supposed to erect their tent. Which is a problem when your tent only comes with stakes. And an even bigger one when you forgot the stakes at home. And an even even bigger one when you left all your slacklining gear and ropes and such at home. What’s a girl to do? Well, instead of giving up and sleeping in the car, I tried to get creative. I unlaced a pair of boots hanging out in my car (thanks messy car!), I found an old electronics cord that I have likely never used and am not likely to use in the future (thanks again messy car!) and I found a section of rope that I forgot to unload with the rest of the slacklining stuff (thanks kate, you bad cleaner-upper!). With these in hand, I tied off the corners of the tent to the bolts on the side of the platform and, ta da, I was in business!

thank you messy car!

thank you messy car!

7. Realization: I don’t know how to build fire. I thought I did. I reaaaaallly thought I did. I still kind of think I do. But I totally, completely, could not figure it out on Saturday night. Instead, I burned up a lot of newspaper that only managed to char some sticks and never quite catch fire. And after giving up on that situation, I ate my (vegan) marshmallows and chocolate cold and they were still freaking delicious. So suck it fire! I don’t need you!

this is what was left of my attempt at fire.

this is what was left of my attempt at fire.

8. Reminder: Falling water is freaking amazing. I know it’s just gravity. I know it’s just rain. But jesus, something about seeing water find its way down a ton of rocks and spill into a pool and the sound it makes and the way it looks and the power it seems to have, it’s just really cool. I can’t get enough of waterfalls.

Gibbs Falls, on the hike up to Mt. Pierce. GORGEOUS!

Gibbs Falls, on the hike up to Mt. Pierce. GORGEOUS!

9. Learned: Hiking alone is kind of lonely. Especially when going downhill, when everything pretty much hurts and there’s no summit to look forward to, and you wish someone was there beside you to look at and grimace at.

10. Highlight: People are pretty darn nice. Despite being lonely, I had many great encounters with strangers. There was the couple I’d seen along the trail who picked me up on the road while i was walking back to my car at the end of the day. The guy who shared his hiking map with me and tried to give me some ideas of where to hike on Sunday. The many people on the trail who offered very genuine ‘hellos’ and ‘have funs!’. Thanks nice people!

11. Lowlight: Helmets are still not in fashion. I took a wrong turn on Route 302 as I headed back to Providence and ended up having to wind through a series of backroads to get back to I-93. It turns out these backroads are very popular motorcycling corridors. And it also turns out that most motorcyclists on this corridor think they’re too cool for helmets as they round blind corners and ride two by two. Smart move, guys.

But overall….my hiking and camping trip was awesome. It was tough, but in the end I liked pushing myself past my comfort level, physically and emotionally, and am feeling more and more ready for Kilimanjaro by the day.

on top of the very very windy eisenhower, before hastily retreating before I was blown away.

on top of the very very windy eisenhower, before hastily retreating before I was blown away.