Gone Exploring

When you move to a new place, you gain a new perspective about where you are from as well as starting to better understand the place you are in. As I browsed social media over the last year or so since moving to DC, I noticed many of my friends here going hiking on local trails. I suppose I could do this in Pittsburgh, but it is not something that my friends or family and I have ever done before. My brother and I have biked through trails in downtown Pittsburgh, but we’ve never really hiked. Once I figured out that there were so many cool places to hike in DC, I knew I had to do this, but you know, first I had to actually make friends. Would you just randomly ask one of your acquaintances to go hiking with you?! Hahaha

IMG_2551

Two weekends ago, my friend and I finally made plans to go to Great Falls National Park. Per her recommendations, we hiked on the Maryland side of the trails. There is a 4.7 mile loop called the Billy Goat Trail that runs between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River. This is not your average dirt path through the woods or mountains…it is a very rocky climb!

IMG_2567

We started out on the path near the C&O Canal and the Visitor’s Center, where we parked our car. There were so many people biking and walking their dogs on this path! I was thinking about how nice it would be to run here, but on second thought, I love city running. The woods are pretty, but there is always something new to see when you are running in the city! This also made me think about why my friends like to go to places like this so much…probably because it is a great escape from city life and it isn’t very far away.

IMG_2572

The trail started out as a dirt path with a few boulders that you had to get over or around…and then we ran into this small creek. There was a makeshift bridge built for those too nervous to cross the tree trunk…but I decided to go the more adventurous route. 🙂 In all honesty, I wish I would’ve had a bag on my back or left my belongings in the car! I brought my phone and a water bottle and I wish my hands had been more free!

IMG_2553

Once we crossed the creek, there was a lot of terrain that looked like this. This is REALLY where having my hands free would have been helpful! We never really had to climb straight up, but there were definitely times when I was reaching up for stability or leaping across to the next part of the rocky path and would’ve rather had two hands!

IMG_2552

The best part of this hike is that it was very populated, so I never felt alone or scared in the woods. I’m sure more experienced hikers appreciate some solitude in the woods, but since I have never been to this park before, I liked all the human interaction. 🙂 My friend and I would often give advice to the people climbing right behind us or watch the people in front of us to see how they took their next steps!

IMG_2570

On one of the first “look outs”, we were just kind of taking in our surroundings when I found this huge leaf! I attempted to carry it with me for a bit because it was seriously as big as my head, but it ended up just being another thing to hold. Photo evidence had to take the place of actual evidence that I found this. Ha!

IMG_2556

Here, we were just coming up on Bear Island. So says Wikipedia, so say I. 😉 You can see how Kristen’s feet are kind of slanted, which shows the varying heights of the rocks we were tumbling across. We were making our way down to the edge of the water…

IMG_2557

…where I pretended I was at the rocky beach. So fun!

IMG_2568

The sun was especially pretty on this day, and also very appreciated. I was wearing two layers and a scarf and I was definitely warm enough, but in those moments when we stopped and weren’t moving, I needed a little sunshine to stay warm!

IMG_2560

Below, you can see the “beach” area that I was just talking about. If you notice where the people are standing in the bottom corner, that’s where we were that was so rocky and right near the water!

IMG_2562

But to take that picture of the “beach” and the other hikers, first we had to climb up the other side. There were blue markers for us to follow the whole time, but the hike definitely got more challenging (and more rocky) as we climbed on!

IMG_2565

#victoryismine

IMG_2563

It was around this point that we were almost done with our hike. I was sad and wanted to turn around and go back the exact same way that we came so that we could be out there longer! It only took about 1.5 hours to walk, hike, take pictures, and hike some more, but it was the perfect Saturday afternoon activity! We then followed up our great outdoorsy-ness with a trip to Tyson’s Corner Center, which included Starbucks, clothes that we definitely don’t need, The Cheesecake Factory, and a new movie in theaters called “Love The Coopers” (which you should definitely see because it was filmed in Pittsburgh!).

So tell me…have you been hiking before?

***

Linking up with Katie!

MIMM.jpg

 

Tell Us About It: Pittsburgh

Have you ever noticed that everyone thinks their favorite fill-in-the-blank is the best thing ever? I’m thinking vacation spots, pets, you name it…if someone loves it, they probably think theirs is the best. 🙂 Not in a conceited way, just in a proud and happy way! Today I am linking up with Julie and Mattie to talk about my favorite things about my state!

linking-up2

To start, I wore glasses from the age of 7 to the age of 22. I thought I looked SO weird without my glasses. I loved them. Two summers ago, I was a day camp counselor who had to swim with her campers, which kind of REQUIRES you to see, so I got contacts to wear to work. And then I decided contacts were way better. So if you are looking at these pictures wondering why I was too lazy to put in my contacts…I wasn’t. I just really never had them until last year. 🙂

ANYWAYS –> I am from a suburb about twenty minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, so I am going to share all my favorite places in and around that town. If you’re interested in what’s going on in Philly…well, I’ve been there before, but Pittsburgh is better. 😉

The Stadiums

IMG_3788

Heinz Field is my very favorite. Even if it’s a cloudy day, as you can see above, the view of the city is perfect from my seats!

IMG_0765

You won’t be let down from ANY seat in the house at PNC Park, either.

DSC00904

I haven’t been to Consol for too many hockey games, but I have been there for many concerts and it is a great venue!

IMG_0309

Now that I am thinking of all three stadiums/arenas, I have actually been to games and concerts at all three locations. PNC Park hosts concerts, but they also host Pirates’ games all summer and about once a month, they do something special where there is a musician or fireworks after the game. In the above picture, Chris Daughtry played after the game. Whether you are close to or far away from the players/artists, you can see and hear it all. You won’t be disappointed at any of these venues!

The Views

IMG_5929

Carrying right on with this theme of the skyline…this was the view from my apartment in college. I love seeing all the buildings! The very BEST view of all is driving out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel onto the bridge that leads into the city. You really have a panoramic view of the stadiums, The Point, the rivers, and the skyscrapers!

I borrowed this video from YouTube. I wish I had found a video that captured what you can see to the left when you drive out of the tunnel…that’s where the stadiums and The Point are! But this one is still pretty cool. 🙂

IMG_4339

I took this picture when I was out running one morning. This is The Point where the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers intersect. In 2013, a giant duck came to visit our city. This 40 foot yellow friend brought almost a million visitors to the downtown area! It was the duck’s first stop in the United States, so Pittsburgh was excited!

IMG_1873

With or without the duck, The Point and Point State Park are always filled with people running, biking, and just enjoying the nice weather.

IMG_2918

Lots of events, like The Great Race and the Pittsburgh Marathon, end right in or near Point State Park. The entrance to the park usually has some kind of festival going on too…it all changes depending on the season. This summer when I was home, the Three Rivers Arts Festival was going on!

IMG_0144

From the other side of the river, you can rent kayaks. I have done this a few times now, and I am always so surprised how much of an arm workout it is!

IMG_9512

The last, but most important view…Mount Washington. You can drive or take a little red incline up the side of the mountain to get to the overlooks. Even as residents of Pittsburgh, we love going to the lookout!

5779_10200139010104576_146308384_n

In this particular picture, we were visiting with my friend Stef who used to live in the city, but moved away when she was young. She remembers a lot of places, but it’s fun to play tourist!

The Parks

Point State Park is downtown, but Schenley Park is a few miles away and it’s a much bigger and more “typical” park. In true Pittsburgh fashion, there is one spot where everyone likes to sit in the grass and watch the sun go down because guess what…you have a great view of the city. We really like our skyline!

IMG_7021

Schenley Park also has many fields and tennis courts as well as an ice skating rink and a disc golf course! My favorite part of Schenley Park is, of course, the trails. I love to run on them and I love to bike them!

IMG_7009

Hiking – Summer 2013

The Children’s Museum

IMG_5161

This might seem like a strange place to include on my list of favorite places, but The Children’s Museum is a place I loved going as a child and a place I love taking my younger cousins now! Other popular museums include the Andy Warhol Museum, The Mattress Factory, The John Heinz History Center, and the Carnegie museums.

IMG_5141 IMG_5139

My brother Jake (L) and my cousin Lucy (R)

This climbing area at The Children’s Museum was a favorite as a child and it’s still a favorite now. Adults DO fit. 😉

IMG_5158

These are my favorite pictures to paint! I had so many with my name on them when I was younger. Now, I make ones related to running. Of course!

Soergel Orchards

IMG_4538

I love this place in the fall for the pumpkins, the apples, the hayrides, the vendors, and the activities…like pumpkin painting.

IMG_4529

I painted it like candy corn. Because of course I did.

IMG_5053

But, I also love Soergel’s come spring for their Easter festival! The year we went with my little cousin Lucy, we got lost on the drive there…it ended up being quite the trek!

IMG_5040

I just love how festive they are!

Kennywood

IMG_1896

If you are a Pittsburgh native, you are an amusement park lover. We had a day off of school every year in the spring for a Kennywood picnic. Everyone would buy tickets and spend the day at the amusement park with their families! This is the Kennywood mascot, Kenny the Kangaroo.

IMG_1878

Lots of the roller coasters are wooden coasters, which makes them all the more bumpy and fun! This is a picture on The Racers. Two roller coaster cars race on parallel tracks and even though we have all now figured out the “trick” about how they decide which car wins every time, it’s still a fun ride. 🙂

Boyce Park and Seven Springs

IMG_3744

In my town, we have always had ski and snowboarding slopes at our local park. A few years ago, they added snow tubing, which I think is the most fun winter sport. How fun is it to lay down, fly down a snowy hill, and then lay back down in your snow tube to ride back up the hill?! A great time for all. 🙂

IMG_4768

Seven Springs is about 45 minutes away and it is THE place for outdoor winter activities. We usually make a trip to Seven Springs at least once a season!

Duquesne University

Duquesne_U

My alma mater. I had no idea where Duquesne was even located in our city until I went on a tour there during my junior year of high school! I knew as soon as I got there that it was the place for me.

DSC00865

It’s affectionately known as “The Bluff” because the campus is on top of a hill…which again, gives us a great view of the city. 🙂

The Pittsburgh Zoo

IMG_3629

Also located on top of a hill, you enter the zoo by riding a huge, steep escalator! The monkey house, the polar bears, the dolphins, and Kids Kingdom, where there are nets to climb and a huge playground, are always my favorite exhibits! It can be a hard walk if you aren’t used to hills, but there are lots of benches along the way!

Other Random Favorites

The Cultural District for the theaters and the restaurants!

IMG_6998

Razzy Fresh in Oakland for frozen yogurt.

DSC00020

Oakmont Bakery for “The Oakmonter”: bottom layer of cheesecake, top layer of chocolate cake, chocolate fudge in the middle. Topped with milk chocolate butter frosting and dark chocolate piping to finish your sugar coma. 🙂  DSC00048 DSC00063  DSC00074

Hartwood Acres for Christmas lights…but the display hasn’t been open for the past few years! I’m hoping it makes a comeback. Hartwood Acres is another suburban park that is absolutely beautiful!

IMG_4077

And my very favorite spot in the whole city…the path near the Convention Center. I spent many, many, many mornings running this path in college.

IMG_3347

We are the City of Bridges. 🙂

What’s your favorite thing about your city?

A Race + An Adventure

In the midst of working on that whole “running is fun again” thing, I signed up for a race this past weekend. One of the neighborhoods nearby is called Clarendon (which ironically is the name of one of the new filters on Instagram and that makes me freakishly excited) and this past Saturday was dubbed “Clarendon Day”. Besides the food trucks, craft vendors, and musicians all around, there was also a 5k race, a 10k race, and a Kid’s Dash to kick off the morning’s festivities. My friend Kristen and I have met some great friends through our Monday evening runs with lululemon in Clarendon, so we signed up for the 10k race with a few of those running friends!

12039660_1060558527290066_8006971331012059862_n

Kristen, who is wearing mint in the middle, and Lindsey, who is standing next to me in a black SCRR shirt, are two of my friends from Pittsburgh. We all went to Duquesne together and now we are all teaching in the DC area. 🙂

IMG_1633

Pros of the race:

-It started at 9 AM. That is very unusual for a race, but I appreciated getting to sleep a little later on Saturday morning! The 5k started an hour earlier at 8 AM.
-It was mostly downhill and flat, which makes for a faster race.
-The roads never felt crowded and the race directors made it clear where we were supposed to be going!
-We ran past part of the Pentagon that you don’t usually see while you are driving.
-Although the race ended at the bottom of a huge hill, every participant was given a Metro card to ride back to the start where the Clarendon Day festivities were taking place.

IMG_1627

Cons of the race:

-Since it was a smaller race, we didn’t wear timing chips. That means I had to rely on the clock and my GPS for my race time. I like exact numbers and wish I had been wearing a chip. 🙂
-It was described as taking you along the “eclectic neighborhoods” of the Orange line (in reference to the Metro), which I assumed meant we would hit the streets of the neighborhoods a bit before heading down the hill. Instead, we just ran down the main street (the downhill) and then headed out on the highway. Literally. One side of the highway was shut down for us to run!
-This was an out and back course, which would have been fine if there was a lot to see, but again, we were just on one side of the highway. We turned around near mile 4 and headed back. It was kind of strange!
-The finish line was slightly uphill and around a bend. That is just mean after a mostly flat course! Hahaha

IMG_1623

I did not mean to get my face in this photo…but you can see the mile 6 flag behind me, right? Well, because this was an out and back course, we ran past the mile 6 flag at like mile 1.5. Obviously I don’t expect them to wait until we all run past to hang up the flags, but to just start and then see that flag makes you kind of wish you were already done! And then once I realized my face was in the picture, it was kind of perfect. 🙂

IMG_1632

The obligatory post-race photo to send to my parents. My 10k PR is 52:45 and I ran Saturday’s race in 55:25. Again, I wonder if the clock was a bit off and what my time would have been with a chip…but I still wouldn’t have set a new record. I probably would have just come closer to my PR, which is fine by me, because I feel like I set that record when I was fast! That must mean I am getting some speed back, right?!

IMG_1634

This was the funniest sight to see post-race. You know a race just happened nearby when the garbage can is overflowing with water bottles and banana peels. 😉 #runnerprobs

IMG_1637

Our race bibs came with three drink tickets for different local restaurants. All of those restaurants had crazy long waits, which is to be expected, so we decided to have brunch at Circa instead.

IMG_1639

Girl talk, run talk, coffee and mimosas. The perfect Saturday morning.

IMG_1646

And then Lindsey and I had to satisfy our sweet tooth with a Red Velvet cake pop. I dropped half of mine on the sidewalk, but the half that I DID get to eat was delicious!

IMG_1647

Another fun sighting: one of the kids’ activities was climbing. Instead of your typical fake rock wall, the kids were climbing up the side of this fake palm tree. I wanted to climb, too!

IMG_1693

My friends all bought really pretty jewelry from one of the craft vendors, and I was SO close to also making a purchase! There were so many pieces that were perfect for every day wear, but I was just too indecisive. Instead, I bought this wooden plank spray painted with my favorite thing and favorite place. 🙂

IMG_1650

Saturday afternoon looked a lot like getting ready for an event that my runner friends and I all bought tickets to: a 90s bar crawl in DC. We took to Pinterest for clothing inspiration and noticed lots of flannel and crop tops, so that’s what I went with! Once we were out, we saw so many more good ideas that we forgot we used to wear! Jean overalls, jean on jean outfits, windbreakers, bandannas as hair accessories, and graphic tee’s with all of those classic 90s shows like Ninja Turtles and Pokemon!

IMG_1653

Everyone who registered was given a wristband and one of these neon plastic mugs. There were probably eleven or twelve participating bars, and at each location, there was 90s music playing and lots of drink specials for us. Kel Mitchell, from the show Kenan and Kel, was even at one of the locations for a Meet and Greet! I don’t go out just to drink very often, so I was excited to explore the Dupont Circle area of DC and try some new restaurants and bars. We had appetizers at Black Finn to start and hit up some food trucks in Dupont Circle later in the evening.

IMG_1656

Apparently, this was my classic shot on Saturday. See the post-race selfie above with all of my friends. Ha!

IMG_1661

My favorite thing about this event, besides the fact that everyone really got into the “costumes”, was that it was from 2 PM – 10 PM. Of course, you could stay at the restaurant or bar that you were at for as long as you wanted, but the event specials ended at 10 PM. Because we headed out at 4 PM, a little earlier in the afternoon, we were tired and wanted to go home earlier in the evening, which meant I was in my bed for the night at 10:30 PM. And to think in college, we used to wait until 10:30 PM to even go anywhere…those were the days. 😉 #gettingold #alwaystired

Sunday morning = waking up early and going to church. I can’t sleep in for the life of me, so I made myself look presentable enough to go to 9 AM church with my friend Sarah. Because our church has several locations, I really enjoy going to the Saturday evening or 9 AM Sunday services because those ones are always “live”, meaning the pastor is standing right in front of you on the stage. If you go to another location or go to a service at another time, you see the exact same service, but you are watching it on the screen. The band is always live and everyone gets really into the message as if the pastor is really there, but there is something about him really BEING there that makes it so much better. 🙂 Also, Pastor Mark must have had 12 espresso before this service because he was a ball of energy! We were talking about a parable and he made a reference to Beyonce. And broke out in an 80s song. It was a great time! Haha

  IMG_1695

I went to Target to grocery shop and buy new nail polish, ate a bunch of junk food like the pizza pictured above, and basically did a whole bunch of nothing for the duration of the day.

IMG_1699

Sunday looked a lot like laying on the couch, taking random cat naps, and watching the Kardashians and one of my favorite older movies, The Prince and Me!

IMG_1702

I did make homemade chicken and vegetable soup, so I guess I can give myself credit for that…

IMG_1701

…oh, and then I had to do this. Because for the past three weeks, I have been doing laundry, but then shoving it in the basket and never folding all the clean stuff. Three weeks worth of clean laundry on your bed means you have to fold and put away ALL of it before bed, right?! Let’s just say “almost”…

How was your weekend?!

A Weekend Adventure

This past weekend was the perfect amount of busy. Does that make sense?! I had plans but I also had plenty of time to relax. Part of that feeling probably comes from the fact that I finished all of my summer class work for the week on Friday, so the weekend really was all mine. 😉

However, among all my weekend adventures, my favorite adventure is one I went on all by myself. If you haven’t heard (because I feel like I mention it all the time), I moved to Maryland last August for grad school. I live 7 miles from Washington D.C. and I love going out and about because I still feel like I’m new to this area and there is so much to do! But at first, this “I want to go out and about” feeling was kind of intimidating, because I don’t know if you know this, but when you move to a city where you know absolutely no one, you have no friends. And you have to talk to people and go make friends. And that’s hard. Ha! It’s reality saying: welcome to the real world, you’re not in college surrounded by thousands of people just like you anymore. 😉 But it’s been a great experience so far and GUESS WHAT, I HAVE MADE FRIENDS!

Moving on –> I still went on an adventure by myself on Saturday because sometimes that just sounds like a good idea. After I volunteered at church, I drove to Alexandria, Virginia, which was about a 9 mile drive from where I was in D.C. Not too bad! (P.S. I have a Metro card, but I am a very big fan of driving. Even amongst the traffic. It’s just who I am. Hahaha)

IMG_8418

I was in kind of the town center so it was bustling with residents and tourists alike. My first impression: it looks very historic (and it is) but it feels modern and it is VERY walkable. My hometown requires me to drive mostly everywhere, which is probably why I like driving so much, but I loved that I was able to park my car and walk wherever I wanted to go. You could also hop on The King Street Trolley for FREE (I love free things) to go from place to place or get to the metro. I really feel like I could go back and spend another whole day in Old Town and do all completely new things!

IMG_8413

I started with what I know…which is shopping. There are popular store names that we all know…Banana Republic, H&M, Lululemon…and then there are antique shops and small businesses like Mint Condition, The Hour, and The Christmas Attic. All were equally fun to go into because sometimes it’s nice to know what to expect, and sometimes it’s nice to be surprised!

IMG_8444

This just made me happy.

IMG_8443

And this made me laugh. 🙂

When I started to get hungry, I just kept walking and finally I found myself at Vermilion. I wanted an omelette and it didn’t seem like any restaurants or cafes I was passing would be able to meet my request! Apparently I had tunnel vision because I noticed so many cute cafes on the way back to my car that I would have LOVED to eat at! However, Vermilion was very nice. I sat by the window which I loved because then I could people watch and I ordered the Farmer’s Vegetable Omelette so I was a happy girl. They serve “modern American cooking” and I learned, as I was sitting at my table on Google, that it was one of Washington’s Top 100 Restaurants in 2013, so I was glad to know I picked a good place. 😉

IMG_8430

This is my very favorite breakfast of all breakfasts. I didn’t know what to expect of the omelette because there wasn’t a description, but it was filled with fresh zucchini and some kind of cheese that I didn’t recognize, but certainly liked!

IMG_8422

I had a choice of pork: sausage or bacon. I like neither. This is the photo I sent my youngest brother who could eat bacon for all three meals and be the happiest person alive. I ate a bite in his honor. 🙂

Then I headed out for some more exploring…I went in a handmade jewelry store, a bookstore, a designer consignment shop, and then I got lost in Gap. And I only ended up buying one item! Ha! I also bought my brothers Levi sunglasses. I went into Alexandria Cupcake and SOMEHOW refrained from purchasing the peanut butter and jelly cupcake. Who wants to go back with me and share?!

I found a coffee shop called Misha’s

IMG_8423

…and it was the coolest. One room had a large table with a bunch of customers sitting around talking, then of course there were a few smaller tables, and the rest of the shop looked like the inside of someone’s kitchen. It was a very home-y feel with vintage refrigerators and cool paintings on the walls!

About five blocks south of the shops is the waterfront. Near the waterfront are more restaurants, stores, and a park, so I moved my car from a busy street to a neighborhood street…

IMG_8437

…and headed for the water.

IMG_8459IMG_8440

There’s a three mile path in this part of town, so I walked a little bit, sat on a bench for a little bit, and then went to the busier part of the waterfront. King Street really seemed like it had a lot going on and I would love to “start” there the next time I visit the town! There was an equally long line at Ben and Jerry’s and Pop’s Ice Cream, but I’m thinking the local shop might be the spot to go to first. Whoever volunteered to eat cupcakes with me should also prepare to eat ice cream. 🙂

IMG_8451

IMG_8445

I was hanging out on a bench watching boats come in and out and watching a clown blow up balloons. Doesn’t that sound nice and relaxing? It was 95* and there was no wind so I needed some air conditioning. I went into the building behind me…which turned out to be the Torpedo Factory Art Center. The places I stumbled upon in this town were so random but that’s why I loved it! I would probably never say “let’s go to an art museum” but this place was different. It’s full of working artist studios so you can talk to the artists, see them working, and sometimes even have the opportunity to create something yourself!

IMG_8454

I loved the peacefulness of the rooms with art hanging on the walls…I loved the paper mache animals in the hallway…

IMG_8455

I loved the art studios with jewelry…

IMG_8452

…and I loved the little features that you might not otherwise notice like this little exhibit inside a stair! I was walking past a staircase and saw this:

IMG_8456

Little figurines that you certainly wouldn’t notice when you were walking UP the steps!

IMG_8466

Back to the park because I didn’t want to leave just yet…

IMG_8465

IMG_8479

…and gazing at beautiful townhomes that I probably definitely cannot afford.

            IMG_8439  IMG_8471

I didn’t notice until AFTER I got home that my heels kind of felt like they had blisters, but that must be a sign of a day well spent, right? Adventuring by yourself can seem weird but doing whatever I wanted all day was pretty great and now I have a big list of things to see and do when I take my friends and family back to Old Town!

So tell me…do you like doing things by yourself? Try it!!!