Sunday, August 23, 2015

Reasons Why I Hate Hiking Alone

I can see why the thought of hiking solo would sound enticing. Clearing your head, finding yourself, and all that. But for me, an extroverted extrovert, with an imagination too big for my own good, hiking alone is another form of torture. There are so many reasons why, but I will expand on just a few.

On my recent expedition to find Mount Joy (which is adjacent to Mount Misery, one of my favorite trails), I discovered my lack of skills in the art of map reading. So I set off on a different trail, hoping to find Mount Joy on the way. This trail was a paved path, which happens to be my least favorite kind of trail and was full of strollers and dogs and old men without their shirts on. I mean, it was hot out, but not that hot.

Anyway, here are some reasons why I hate hiking alone. I always like the idea, because it sounds awfully romantic, but there are only so many cute chipmunks and pictures of trees that can be taken before I lose my mind. Also, have you ever realized the danger of a twenty-something-year-old girl hiking alone through the woods? If you've ever seen an episode of Law and Order: SVU, and I have seen all of them, it is not uncommon to either a) get kidnapped or b) get murdered.

Did I mention the fact that there were a lot of old man jogging without their shirts on? If that's not creepy I don't know what it is. I had to pass an old man who was walking by himself with his shirt off, admiring the view. And then I realized, as I was speed walking passed him in my spandex capris, he was probably enjoying the view even more. And that's when I knew I was about to be killed.

But I was already too deep into my hike, too dedicated to quit, and too intent on finding Mount Joy. I took a self-defense class in college, so I put my knowledge to good use by surveying what I had on me. I had both a set of keys, which seemed promising, and a full water bottle, which also seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately they were both in my backpack, and it would be a little too obvious for me to take off my backpack and hold my water bottle in one hand and my keys in the other, with my empty backpack bobbing up and down. So I did the less obvious thing and continued to speed walk, checking behind me every six or seven steps.

Unfortunately this paved path that I was on went through an open field, not through the woods as I had hoped. The field gave me no protection as I imagined trying to run and hide from this inevitable killer. Speaking of running, I can't do that. I've been trying to build my stamina at the gym, and I have gotten up to four minutes straight of light jogging. My boyfriend always says he's proud of me when I hit anything above my average two minute running spree, but I know he's just saying that because he's trying to win brownie points. So I stick to speed walking, with my water bottle sloshing in my backpack with each step, making me slightly annoyed but mostly just nauseous. I really wished this trail was through the woods, because I have seen The Hunger Games a time or two. I even read all the books. If anyone knows about scaling a tree or hunting a deer, it's me. I've studied Katniss and she knows what she's doing. I mean, come on, she's been in the Hunger Games twice now (spoiler).

Entrance to Mount Joy's trail.

Fortunately for me, I finally found Mount Joy and it's a skinny little path through the woods - my favorite kind of trail. Unfortunately for me, my water bottle is still sloshing and it is beginning to sound an awful lot like feet scampering through dried leaves. So I continue my hike, still checking over my shoulder every six or seven steps, and I'm trying to enjoy nature and clearing my head and finding myself or whatever. I have finally calmed down enough to start to enjoy my hike when I see more hikers. Yay, I'm not alone in the woods anymore! But then I realize, more people means more crazy people which means more murderers hiding in the woods.

During one of my many over the shoulder checks, I notice not one, but two men approaching from a distance. I was lucky enough to have taken my water bottle out of my bag for a drink, so I at least had some sort of defense mechanism. I have two options a) hide in the trees and let them pass or b) run. Since I obviously can't do plan B, hiding in the trees is my only option. Which shouldn't be hard, because I've seen The Hunger Games a time or two. When I peek back over my shoulder, because it had been seven steps without a check, they are far too close and have already seen me. One even met my eyes, how dare he. So I resorted to speed walking, and because I had been speed walking for the past two and a half miles, it's starting to get a little hard to breathe. With that said, the first man passed me, and nothing happens. I neither die nor get kidnapped.

With a slight boost of confidence, I checked over my shoulder to see how this other stalker is making out. That's when I noticed he had a dog. If there was even a slight chance that I could outrun a human, I know I could never beat a dog. And besides, I'm more of the cat person. I heard him closing in on me and I casually switched my water bottle to my dominant hand, so that my biggest hit might actually throw him off balance slightly (if he's very weak and if I'm very lucky.) Before he even passes me, I heard a Learn Chinese Yourself audio tape that he is listening to and to make me feel even safer, I notice that his guard dog is some kind of little poodle or something. I don't know the exact breed because, as I told you, I'm a cat person. I even snuck a picture because I knew no one would believe me.

Who takes a tiny dog on a mountain hike? Don't their little legs get enough exercise walking from the food bowl to the water dish each day? Needless to say, I no longer felt endangered and I switched my water bottle back to my left hand as an ancient peace symbol.

Anyway, as much as I love nature, which is enough to desire to go on a solo two and a half hour hike, it is rather boring when the danger of being murdered and/or kidnapped is gone. So I wrote this in the notes section of my phone as I finished my hike for two reasons a) to hopefully be used as a future blog post or b) on the slight chance there is still a murderer/kidnapper still waiting in the woods to get me, there will at least be an amusing story for my friends to remember me by.

Update: I finally found my car only about a mile away from where Mount Joy's trail ended. I made it home tired and sweaty but mostly unharmed, except that my shin splints from high school basketball started acting up again.

I also realized that I didn't exactly give you a list of why I don't like hiking alone, but hopefully you will be able to pick a few reasons out of this terribly long story. Also, quick question. Would you like to be my hiking partner? Because I'm never going alone again.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Local Adventures : Best Places in Pittsburgh

I've been wanting to check out Pittsburgh for the longest time. So when the opportunity came to spend the week with one of my best friends, who happens to live half an hour from the city, everything worked out perfectly.

The drive was a tough one of over five hours, but it was beautiful! We passed so many state parks (it took everything within me not to pull over) and the whole drive was through mountains. I was amazed at the countless amount of trees. I praised throughout the whole drive.

In the city, we hopped around from coffee shops to the prettiest stores all while honoring my One Year Local challenge. Everything was perfect. Amy knows me so well and I couldn't help but wish I lived closer.

I was also able to visit some friends from college and get to know Amy's sweet family. (And her cats. Which may have been my favorite part.)

The drive was beautiful and green the whole way.

No. 14
Classy and smelled so good, but I was mostly obsessed 
with that brick wall. Check out this independent boutique here.

Mt. Washington
This was my favorite night. If you're in Pittsburgh, 
you have to see this view! Get the info here.

Roxanne's Dried Flowers
I would have honestly bought everything in this store if I could.
I ended up with a French garden print that I've been wanting for
years, and the cutest succulent for my classroom. Check it out here
- you'll love it!

Espresso a Mano
Such a cute coffee shop and located perfectly next to so many
cute shops and boutiques! If you're in the area, go here!

Allegheny Coffee and Tea Exchange
Located in the heart of the Strip District, this place is filled (literally
filled) with coffee beans. Half of the store is full of mugs, tea bags, and 
accessories. And baskets and baskets of coffee beans! If you're here 
in the summer, try their lavender lattes! And if you're vegan like me, 
order your drink with CASHEW milk. It's the best.

Point State Park
Tons of events are held here, or you can just come here to relax in the
park. I loved this area and I wish I could have stayed longer. Click here
for more information.

  • Choose a good driver. The roads are extremely tricky, with windy streets and bridges literally everywhere! 
  • Bring cash! Places like the Carnegie Museum of Art is cash only for parking. Also, I had to charge my card for every time I street parked, so my statement has several one dollar transactions. Which isn't necessarily bad, just annoying!

Let me know if I missed out on any good attractions, and I'll make sure to hit them next time I go! I know there will be a next time because I already miss Amy so much. Also, check out Amy's blog here. It's beautiful, just like her!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Let's Be Honest about Social Media

I'm hardly on facebook, and I check twitter randomly. Some days I post three times and sometimes there are weeks between posts. And if you've tried to keep up with my blog, you see that I post very, very sporadically. But I love instagram. I love posting snapshots of my days because when I look back, I get to experience those memories all over again.

I have heard many people upset because their life isn't "instragram perfect". And that is the part I don't understand. I instagram to keep memories, not to impress other people. Because one knows what is going on on the other side of the picture.

For example...

We were so excited to try this cute taco and smoothie
stand, and we sat down at the outside seating..until we realized
we were sitting right next to a huge heap of trash bags. And it
started to smell. So we wandered around until we found
a random bench and it was right next to a stoplight so everyone
who stopped at the light got the privilege of watching us eat our tacos. 
Not a pretty sight. But a pretty picture.

Posted a healthy breakfast. Took two bites, and here's
a fun fact. I hate blueberries. I tried to stand it for the antioxidants
but I ended up eating around all of the blueberries. So don't
think I'm healthy. Because I'm not.

Nick and I bought this towel together and celebrated as if
we had picked out our first house together. Then I took this picture.
Then a bird pooped all over it.

Actually, this brunch was awesome for me. However, my friend's
 coffee tasted so nasty. Like unbelievably nasty. I think the cream 
must have gone sour. It tasted like chemicals. But when I see this
picture, I have to laugh at how incredibly awful it was! And how
incredibly good mine was. She's the sucker here.

While I appreciate people telling me that Nick and I are a
cute couple, let me just be honest and say that I only took this "artsy"
picture because we tried to take selfies so many times and they
all looked SO bad. We cringed and deleted them right away.
So our feet looked better than our faces.

Nick picked these gorgeous flowers for me on our walk and I
fell in love with the way I arranged them. So I took a picture, had a
sneezing fit from all of the allergens, and immediately threw them
outside. Sorry, babe.

I read the first chapter like three times, and I was still confused
so I stopped reading. Also, my reading glasses make my eyes hurt.

My life is not perfect. I take fun pictures to capture memories. I go through my feed and laugh at all of the crazy memories and the imperfect situations. Don't ever wish to be someone else based on their travel posts, twitter feed, or instagram likes. Take pictures for yourself, for your memories. Or don't take any pictures at all. Just don't base assumptions off of social media. Because birds poop on everything and blueberries are gross.