January – April 2017 Reading

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I’m taking a break from hiking posts to share with you a 2017 new years resolution that I’ve been doing my best to follow through with: reading.

I set my reading goals for 2017 pretty high. I typically read like.. 2 books a year and set my goal at 2 books a MONTH! My pitiful two books a year is not because I don’t love reading, but because I never made time for reading. I realized that my standard “well I just need read a little every night before bed” is not a solution for me. If I’m tired and ready for bed and then I decide to focus on a story, either the story is boring and it lulls me to sleep immediately (Aka I retain nothing on the page that Im reading), OR the book is fantastic and I get sucked in. Like completely sucked in, to the point that I can’t go to sleep until I’ve finished the book (at 3am on a weeknight) and even then my adrenaline is too pumping to sleep. By doing this “read before bed” plan, I was setting myself up to fail and only read 2 books a year.

Once I made my 2017 resolution of reading 2 books a month, I was forced to take a look at these habits and figure out what wasn’t working, and then come up with a plan that works. For example, I now don’t start reading any books after 9:30pm, because if the book is good (which it should be) then I’ll be up all night. I find that the first part of books tend to be slower paced (introducing characters etc) so if I’m starting a new book it’s best done at 6pm when caffeine is still in my system and I’m more apt to absorb what I’m reading to get past the first few chapters until I get sucked into it.

Another thing I’ve discovered is AUDIOBOOKS. How am I just realizing this is a thing? Up until this past year I’d only ever listened to Tina Fey’s Bossypants as an audiobook on a road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. I really just got that because I loved getting to hear Tina Fey read it to me, and I needed something to make the long drive go by faster.

Well, after getting my New Haven library card (another 2017 resolution) I’ve started going once a month to borrow a selection of audiobooks and I fly through them! I thought I would have trouble focusing on the book while driving, but it’s been the perfect solution for long car rides to Cape Cod and even for my 20 minute work commute. I’ve actually sat in bumper to bumper traffic and thought “thank god! I needed to find out what was going to happen next!”

January – April 2017 Audio Books:

The images above are a selection of audiobooks I’ve listened to on cd since the start of the year (there are even more than this!) and I’m super proud of myself. I’ve learned so much from all of these books and they’ve inspired me. Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air will make you feel like you are with him up on Mount Everest in this true story. He also wrote Under the Banner of Heaven which is a look at plural marriage, the history and it’s effects today. This book is especially relevant in 2017.

Betty White’s If You Ask Me (and of Course You Won’t), Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me, and Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck are all really fun books to listen to by their author. Betty’s such an animal lover and listening to her on my way into work in the morning would start my day on the right foot. I’ve listened to a few of Nora Ephron’s books and her wit, wisdom and true stories are empowering. She led such an incredible life, and hearing her describe antidotes makes for really fun car listening. She has a few more books that I’m looking forward to listening to.

Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty and Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman are the only fiction books I’ve read (although both are an accurate portrait of their time periods+ setting). I will say that with these plot driven books, it was a little more challenging to listen and not miss important details as I was driving. I did find myself re-listening to chapters to fully grasp the details while driving. Keep that in mind when you pick a genre of audiobook. Also who is reading the book can be helpful. For example Go Set A Watchman was read by Reese Witherspoon and her acting ability and natural southern accent made this book come to life.

Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance was challenging as an audiobook due to all the charts and graphs that I couldn’t see (keep that in mind when picking a book). I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris was fantastic as an audiobook. Her character and charm made it really fun. I actually own the hard copy of this book but loved getting to hear Amy read it.

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Now as for my goal of “reading” (vs. audiobook) 2 books a month, I’m failing. I’m doing the best I can and I keep telling myself I’ll catch up.. but I’m behind. Given all the audiobooks I’ve listened to, I don’t feel like I’m failing, but I’ve only read 5 books since the start of the year.

I started the year reading Jessi Klein’s You’ll Grow Out Of It, which was really funny. She’s a successful, funny female who is completely relatable and I flew through this book. For Christmas I got Kristin Newman’s What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, also written by a funny female comedian/comedy writer. This book is full of true travel stories from a female who lives in LA as a busy writer, but on hiatus lives it up traveling abroad. Warning: you’ll want to book a trip as soon as you’re done reading it (I totally booked a trip).

After two memoirs and a bunch of memoir audiobooks, I switched to a new genre and read The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. It’s part of this genre of strong female leads (think Chicklit but smarter) involved in solving/committing a crime. It has a Big Little Lies/The Girl on the Train/Gone Girl feel and really pulls you in. I read this book over 3 days because it was hard to sleep without knowing how it would end.

Once I hit April and the weather got nice, it got a LOT harder to stay home to read. I ended up re-reading David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim because I needed something light and fun. I LOVE David Sedaris so much that when I get a new book of his I fly through them. I should probably re-read all of his books.

Lastly, I’m in the middle of reading The Room by Emma Donoghue (also a major film that has won Oscars). I basically read the first half in one night (another case of can’t-sleep-until-i read-more-itus) but have been stalling on the second half because I just know something bad is going to happen.. as all books have ups and downs.. I’m just stuck and scared to move forward. I will, I swear.. I just need to be brave 😉

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Lastly, I want to share some books that I’ve purchased, had for a while on my to-read list, and some pre-ordered books that aren’t out yet, all of which are on my list to read next.

In a Dark, Dark Wood was Ruth Ware’s book before The Girl in Cabin 10 and I’ve heard really good things about it. Into The Water also just came out and is the follow up book by Paula Hawkins, to The Girl on the Train. Both are in that mystery+ strong females category.

The Husband’s Secret is by Liane Moriarty who wrote Big Little Lies. This book I started to read but had a hard time getting through the first 50 pages (introductions). I’m sure it will be fantastic like Big Little Lies, I just need to push myself over the hump to get into the thick of the story.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby and Theft By Finding by David Sedaris both come out at the end of May and I am SO excited. I wait years for a new David Sedaris book and it’s finally here. I imagine this is how some people feel watching the Olympics. Samantha Irby’s book was an impulse purchase and Im really looking forward to it. Not knowing much about her means it’s all going to be a fun surprise.

Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody, Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, and Amy Schumer’s The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo are all memoirs by funny women I admire and I imagine I’ll be reading these in-between my more intense crime books.

I’m sharing all of this not to brag, but to hopefully 1) inspire you to read more and 2) suggest some good books to you. Listening to audiobooks is now one of my favorite things, and I wish I had given it a chance sooner. Plus books and audiobooks are expensive and really using the public library has saved me SO much money. I highly recommend it. Also, reading these genre’s of both crime solving strong female characters and real life memoirs from awesome females I look up to has inspired me to write more. Not necessarily publicly, but for now it’s been fun to write creatively and it adds spice to life. I think in a former life I was Nancy Drew, so it’s fun to imagine what that life is.

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Shoreline Greenway Trail- Madison, CT

I’m backlogged in posts, specifically about hikes from my hike book, but I’m going to take a break to share about the Greenway Trail in Madison, CT. This path and separate parking lot are just outside of Hammonasset Beach in Connecticut. There is a Hammonasset “hike” (super easy) in the AMC hiking book, so it makes sense to lump these walks together and do them back to back. For now I’m sharing just the Greenway trail.

As you can tell from the photos, I did this hike back in March (or whenever our last snowfall was). There was only one other person on the trail while I was walking, and I imagine now that spring has sprung, this trail would be packed with walkers + bikers. It has it’s own free parking lot off route 1 (holds maybe 40 cars? so it’s not tiny), just after the entrance to Hammonasset.

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Once you park, you can follow a path that makes you cross the driveway into Hammonasset, but the trail leads away from the entrance and takes you back toward Route 1.. this sounds confusing, but it’s easy to see the trail when you’re there.

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Just to note, that parking lot for the Greenway trail is not overflow parking for Hammonasset. So please don’t park in that lot and then hike your way to the beach as a way to use the beach for free (to avoid paying the entrance/parking beach fee). It takes up valuable parking for those people who are there to use the intended trail. Okay, lecture over.

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Back to the (snowy) trail! This path was basically paved and I would say is handicap friendly with excellent water views.

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The trail goes along the backside of the Hammonasset campground, and you can even see an amphitheater where movies and events would be held in the summer. There is a fence separating the trail from the campground, but the view in made me think I should plan a camping trip there this summer. It was nicer than I had imagined for such a busy park.

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As I keep going on the trail, I was able to see beautiful homes in the distance and big birds flying around. I’m sure this is a great birding spot.

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So pretty, and flat!

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Toward the end the trail follows closely with route 1, but there is a fence divider.

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This is the end of the trail. My only complaint about this trail is that it isn’t very long. If you stopped here afterwork and wanted to do an hours worth of exercise, I would suggested doing 2 loops back and forth… maybe even 3.

I was naughty, and don’t recommend it, but I continued on my walk into the private neighborhood beyond the trail. I’m sure the neighbors hate it, but I really needed more exercise.

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I didn’t take any photos of the street to respect the neighbors privacy, but at the end of each street there was a pretty beach view. That strip of land on the left side of the photo above (way in the distance) is Hammonasset beach sticking out into the water.

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Down another street lead to a “DEP Property”. After this, I made my step count for the day and looped back to the parking lot.

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On the walk back, I noticed that a rock had these painted “bug” rocks attached to it. It was a nice little artistic boost to my walk. Now go, do this loop, and see if you can find the painted rock-bugs!

Hike #33: Bluff Head Ridge in North Guilford, CT

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A big thing I did when I lived in Los Angeles were the Secret Stair walks. That guide book got me out in the sun, visiting a neighborhood that was new to me, plenty of exercise, and all of the cheap price of a one-time book purchase. Now that it’s spring, I dug out my AMC Best Day Hikes In Connecticut hiking book and decided that I should tackle the hikes in this book during 2017. I won’t be able to do all 50 in 2017, but I certainly hope to do most of these hikes. My posts will not reveal all aspects of the hike, as I am not a replacement for owning this book, but hopefully my images can help encourage you to buy the book and follow along. Or at least inspire you to get a hike book for wherever you live and to get outside!

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On a sunny (but chilly) March Sunday, I decided to tackle two hikes/walks (with a reward new-to-me coffee shop in between). Since my morning was filled with errands (as Sundays are known for), I really only had the second half of the day free for outdoor time. Aching for some sunshine and exercise (but not a super long car ride) I decided to head to North Guilford, CT to do hike #33 Bluff Head Ridge, from my hike book. This seemed like a challenging hike, it’s always best to start the day with a hard hike and then end with something gentler.

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This Bluff Head Ridge hike was not crowded (1 other car in the medium sized lot) and still pretty snowy (As you can see below).

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This two mile loop is not very long, but definitely has a tough spot. In the photo above you can see there’s a path going off the photo to the left (flat terrain) and a path leading up a VERY steep hill to the right. I assumed that it would start flat and I’d end up going down the super steep section (which is covered in snow).

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So I started on the flat path, even stopping to visit a cemetery just off the path.

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I kept walking slowly down hill, until I got to this little chained off area and realized that my hike book wanted me to do this hike in reverse.. aka: I was going the wrong direction. This also means that my hike needed to start with a slippery steep uphill climb.

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I took a couple bites from my power bar and started up the hill. I have to say, the photo above does not do the steepness of the climb justice. There were times were my foot seemed nearly vertical and would slide down. I was glad to have my hiking boots on. The snow also made this more difficult, but I imagine in the summer the loose dirt would make this tricky.

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STEEP!

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But the reward of the steep never ending uphill is a sense of accomplishment, the joy of being super out of breath, and great views. While I was climbing There were definitely giant birds swirling around the sky above me… vultures? hawks? no clue, but big and loud.

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At the top, at least the hillside had more access to sunlight so some snow had melted. In the photo above, on the right side, is where the hillside is really a cliff that drops down really far. I was very aware that one slip on the ice could be trouble.

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Another part of this hike, that was more ominous than the vultures swirling above my head, were the constant gun shots that sounded like they were coming from the woods I was walking in. Now I didn’t see hunters.. or hunting signs, so I think I was safe, but it was the soundtrack to the hike.

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Up, up, up!

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So when I got close to the peak, I ended up skipping the highest section. I know this feels like a cop out, but between the gun shots, the vultures and the slippery ice for the last (as far as I know) stretch of uphill, it just didn’t feel safe given the conditions. It’s very hard to tell, but the photo above is that last steep stretch. It was steeper than it looks in the photo, and when I got closer to the start of the incline I could see that it was covered in ice. I felt like I would be okay going up this ledge, but was worried about how I would get down without slipping. The right side of the photo really is a cliff edge (misleading from the photo, but quite a drop off in person). Also no one knew where I was, and with only 1 other car in the lot, I didn’t think anyone would hear me if I needed to yell for help. From my map, I think I got pretty close to the peak, and I felt good about that. Next up was backtracking to a path that would create a loop out of this trail.

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In order to back up to the hiking loop, I had to climb back over some slippery steep rocks. It was nothing crazy, but just slippery in the snow. It’s also clearly a well walked path by the foot prints, so I hope my note about the trail above isn’t a total turnoff.

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Ahh, back on the hiking loop. Now I walked toward the gun shots. There were getting louder and louder so I imagine there must be a shooting range nearby, as they were also constantly shooting. I was brave on continued on 🙂

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I was wearing a bright purple coat, so at least I stood out amongst the trees. I also did my best to make noise on the trail. If there was a hunter out here shooting, I didn’t want to surprise them. This just meant I cleared my throat more often, and took louder steps.

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It was  pretty quick (only 2 miles) before I was back on the trail where I had mistakenly started the hike, and thereby close to the parking lot. Another one done! Since I didn’t get to make it to the absolute highest viewpoint, I’ll have to come back in a month or two when the snow is fully gone.

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After this hike, I was in North Guilford and decided to head down to Hammonasset Beach in Madison. I stopped in the center of Madison (cute little downtown with shops) and grabbed coffee from Willoughby’s.

My next stop was going to be to do my 3 mile Hammonaset hike (#46 in the book), but instead decided to check out the Shoreline Greenway Trail in Madison. Eventually all of CT will hopefully have one long shorline trail, but right now there are just chunks of Greenway trail in several towns. I had posted about the Shoreline Greenway Trail in Guilford, and was anxious to check out the Madison portion along the water. I’ll have this walk to share with you next. Happy Friday! And be sure to get outside this weekend and explore!

 

Hike #47: McKinney National Wildlife Refuge- Salt Meadow Unit in Westbrook, CT

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A big thing I did when I lived in Los Angeles were the Secret Stair walks. That guide book got me out in the sun, visiting a neighborhood that was new to me, plenty of exercise, and all of the cheap price of a one-time book purchase. Now that it’s spring, I dug out my AMC Best Day Hikes In Connecticut hiking book and decided that I should tackle the hikes in this book during 2017. I won’t be able to do all 50 in 2017, but I certainly hope to do most of these hikes. My posts will not reveal all aspects of the hike, as I am not a replacement for owning this book, but hopefully my images can help encourage you to buy the book and follow along. Or at least inspire you to get a hike book for wherever you live and to get outside!

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After Hike 35 (and my stop into Cilantro Specialty Foods Coffee Shop along the Guilford Green) I continued on to Westbrook to complete hike #47. It was getting late in the day so this hike was perfect timing and the right topography (easy) for this cold windy snowy day.

This hike had nice views, but was still wooded which protected me from the wind on this cold day. It was also relatively flat, so the residual snow didn’t pose much of a slippery threat.

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Given the weather, I was the only one brave enough to handle this hike around 4pm on a Saturday. A nice big parking lot with just my Mazda in it. Thankfully based on the tracks in the snow, I could tell people had been there earlier in the day.

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I won’t share the map from the book, but here’s a photo of the map hanging at the start of the hike/walk. You can see it’s pretty straightforward, basically one big loop with some water views along half of the trek.

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This walk features plaques with information about the nature and the buildings on the property. This home has had some famous visitors (Eleanor Roosevelt!).

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Based on the signs, you can tell this is a great birding walk.

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You can see the paths are wide (snowy on this Saturday) and pretty flat.

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This is a view looking back at the homestead. So pretty.

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More birding plaques as the path makes its way into the woods.

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This path gets a little more narrow as it enters the woods, and that’s when water/marsh views come into play as well as a view of the train tracks.

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What a pretty peaceful trek. Just me and the birds.

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Toward the end of the loop are the “ruins” of an old fountains and bbq pit that the owners of the property used to use. Off to the left is a bath leading down to a bird/marsh viewing platform. Don’t miss checking this out because it was a highlight of the loop.

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I didn’t see any “special” birds, but Im no expert.

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The walk loops back up…

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And meets back up with the welcoming hut. Take a look at the paperwork + information inside.

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As a woodworker, I love the close up of the “hut”. From here it was a short walk to the parking lot. This easy just-over-a-mile walk is a great outdoor loop, and a nice addition to follow up a longer earlier in the day hike.

Hike #35: Westwoods Reserve Trails- Lost Lake in Guildford, CT

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A big thing I did when I lived in Los Angeles were the Secret Stair walks. That guide book got me out in the sun, visiting a neighborhood that was new to me, plenty of exercise, and all of the cheap price of a one-time book purchase. Now that it’s spring, I dug out my AMC Best Day Hikes In Connecticut hiking book and decided that I should tackle the hikes in this book during 2017. I won’t be able to do all 50 in 2017, but I certainly hope to do most of these hikes. My posts will not reveal all aspects of the hike, as I am not a replacement for owning this book, but hopefully my images can help encourage you to buy the book and follow along. Or at least inspire you to get a hike book for wherever you live and to get outside!

Now to share my first hike from this book! I started with hike #35 Westwoods Reserve Trails- Lost Lake in Guildford, CT.

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I went right to the small lot that the book described (which only holds about 5 cars by the way). I imagine street parking is allowed as overflow from the lot.. but I’m not exactly sure, so check road signs! The first thing I did was photograph the map. I ALWAYS photograph the map of the trail I’m about to climb with my cell phone, to use as reference incase I get lost. This is surprisingly helpful.

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The book clarifies this hike as “easy with moderate sections” and I would totally agree. For the most part is was small hills and wide stone paths (like photographed above) but there were short sections that involved steep climbing over rocks, up hill and down hill. I was very glad to have my hiking boots on and was glad there wasn’t more snow on the ground – too slippery!

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This path starts be taking you by the railroad tracks which meant you could hear train noises frequently along the trail.

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There are several splits in the trail, so keep vigilant looking for trail markers and confirm on the map.

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At a few points you climb down the rocks along big boulders. The book talks a lot about the types of rock, trees, and plants.. although in the snow none of this was really applicable.

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There are some steep uphill sections that lead to great water views of the lake.

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Okay this made me laugh out loud when I saw it. I have no clue what/who this group is and I refuse to google “Team Alpha Butt Stuff” for obvious reasons.

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Great views from the trail! I saw birds circling, so I imagine this is a great birding spot.

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The hike takes you from down by the water to up on large rocks high above the lake.

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This was a section where I had to use my hands to get up the boulders and then be careful not to slide down the rock faces. This is where the hiking boots really came in handy. It was also around here where I totally got lost. Since it was snowy, I figured if I followed the fresh footprints, Id eventually link back up with the trail. This theory turned out to be a good one, as it did lead me to where I needed to meet back up with the trail.. but I did end up climbing through muddy/swampy areas. So if you find yourself no longer seeing trail markers, work backward until you meet back up with the trail.

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At the furthest point in the loop, there are some watery areas with little wood “bridge” planks. It was pretty fun. Don’t fall in!

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The blue path that I was on became the orange “X” trail, which would lead me back to the parking lot.

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Snowy, but pretty! I like that this trail had a pretty wide path, and the snow actually kept it from getting crowded. I only passed two people on the trail, but I imagine on a nice day this would be a busy trek.

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Once again, you pass by the train tracks to get to the parking lot.

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One thing that is fun about doing a hike in a new-to-me area is checking out the local coffee shops after the hike as a reward. I’m not new to Guilford but it was fun to make time to visit a local coffee shop and soak up the pretty Guilford Square scenery.

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I stopped into Cilantro Specialty Foods Coffee Shop along the Guilford Green to warm up (it was a very cold day), refuel, and read up on the next hike I was headed to this afternoon.

Next up: Hike 47, McKinney National Wildlife Refuge (Salt Meadow Unit) !

Cape Cod Hike: Monomoy River Conservation Lands

After finishing our windy walk at the Coy’s Brook Wetlands, we made our way over to the Monomoy River (on the Harwich / Chatham border). It was still windy and cold, so this woodsy walk with glimpses of water views made for some good outdoor exercise given the weather. According to the Harwich Conservation Trust website this hike is 1.25 miles and the parking lot is off of Bay Rd. There were a handful of parking spots (not a ton). We were only one of two cars in the lot, so on a wintery day it’s easy to park.

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You can actually kayak along this part of the Monomoy River, but be sure to check the tide and time your visit right. My dad kayaked here and got cut up trying to exit his kayak along the newly renovated bridge area (by Route 28 on the map).

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Yay, the trail head!

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It’s woodsy walking out to the cliffside overlooking the river.

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This is the viewpoint out along the river. See the benches? On a warm day, pack a picnic!

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We did some birding as we followed the path along the cliffside.

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Eventually the water falls from view and it’s back to being a woodsy trek.

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You’ll hit an open area with power lines and you can see about the trail clearly continues along this opening..

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Following the power lines…

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And eventually you’ll follow the path to the right back into he woods where the hike loops back to the  parking lot. This was a great hike to link with the short Coy walk for a fuller workout. We also stopped in nearby Chatham at the fish pier to look for seals (and sharks.. I’m always looking for sharks).

If you’re looking for more exercise, or coffee/lunch, head into Main Street in Chatham and stroll around this super adorable street full of shops and food options.

Cape Cod Hike: Coy’s Brook Woodlands

I’m getting a little backlogged in hikes to share with you, so I hope to post a couple this week. When I was in Cape Cod two weeks ago, it was blustery cold and SUPER windy. We did the Bells Neck Hike  on Saturday, and then ventured out on Sunday to two different hikes. The first was Coy’s Brook Woodlands. It was a woodsy walk, less than a mile, with water/marsh views for half of it.

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Click on the map above and it will take you to the Harwich Conservation Trust (who made the map) and you’ll see official details from the hike. Below are photos of this trek on a cold early March 2017 weekend.

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The trail begins off a small parking lot on Lathrop Ave in Harwich Cape Cod, MA. There’s not a ton of parking, but on this freezing day it was only us and a woman walking her 3 dogs.

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The trail very quickly loops down toward the marsh, so interesting views are seen for over 50% of this trail. The tress also helped cut down on the cold wind. This was a very easy trail. You can see from the path image above, it was relatively flat, wide, and not very long. We did this on the same day that we did another short hike, just to make it feel like more exercise.

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Marsh views.

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You can see above, the trail has some bumps but it’s not very hilly and at under a mile, it didn’t take long at all.

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For birders needing to sit and wait for their winged friends, there is a bench along the water. The loop back to the car was woodsy, but before you know it you’re passing a water tower and the back of a private home, and it spits you out in the parking lot. Beware dog (hopefully) poop! I managed to get it on my hiking boots and it was a mess to get off my shoe. Classic Bethany.