Buttermilk Trail Hike

Marriage requires many compromises.  Saturday morning, I wanted to drive to the mountains to hike, and Andrew wanted to watch TV for a few hours, then complete some projects around the house (anything to not drive anywhere.)  Our compromise: a quick garden clean-up and harvest, followed by a local hike in the afternoon.

The Buttermilk Trail runs along the James River from the Boulevard Bridge to Belle Isle (I know that probably means nothing to non-Richmonders…sorry), and despite being within the city limits, the hike definitely gives you the I’m-miles-away-from-civilization feeling.  We started on the north bank of the river (by Maymont,) crossed the foot bridge, and headed east.

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Soon we were in the woods and letting out our wild sides:

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After about three miles, we arrived at Belle Isle.  Well, we arrived at the large rocks beside Belle Isle;  we had to do some rock-hopping to reach the island.

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From there we crossed the river on the pedestrian bridge…

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I ❤ the River City.

…and began walking back on the North Bank Trail.  We enjoyed some pretty nice views of the river, Hollywood Cemetery, and fields of ivy.  We also picked and snacked on a few blackberries. 😀


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While not the mountains, the Buttermilk and North Bank Trails were a surprisingly pleasant local substitute.  They satisfied my desire to be outside in the woods with a serious layer of back sweat.   Hiking is also my favorite active date, and I loved the quality time Andrew and I had while creating the aforementioned back sweat.  😀  According to Hiking Upward, we covered about 6.3 miles.  Not bad!

Have you ever hiked or biked the Buttermilk Trail?
What’s your favorite active date?

Kayaking on the James

On Saturday afternoon, Andrew and I pulled out the kayaks for the first time this season.  The weather was warm, but mostly cloudy, the river level was high, and we knew we were in for a good afternoon.  But before removing the kayaks from the garage, we had one of those arguments about nothing.  When we bought the house, Andrew built a pulley system on the ceiling of the garage to store the kayaks (perk #107 of marrying an engineer.)  We currently use our garage to store lots of things that are not cars, so in order to get the kayaks down without dropping them on anything, we needed to turn them as we lowered.

Andrew: “Okay. I need you do hold the center of the kayak and rotate it as I lower.”

(The kayak is still at head level for me, and I have to lean over a work bench to reach the center.  Andrew lowers one side so I have some more slack to work with.  A watering can is knocked off a shelf after a failed attempt to turn the dang boat.  Andrew gives me an exasperated look.)

Catherine: “I’m trying!  I don’t know what you want me to do!” 

Andrew: “Turn the kayak so it’s facing that way!”

(Something else is knocked off a shelf by the hanging kayak.)

Catherine:  “I can’t do that from the middle!  I need to pull it over from the front!”

Andrew: “Then do that!”

We lowered the kayak to the ground, and the argument–more of a discussion with raised voices–blew over as quickly as it started. 🙂  Do you ever have arguments like that?  Ones in which you are frustrated with a situation but take out your frustration on another person?  I am definitely guilty of it… and I have a feeling I’m not the only one.  Still, I probably need to work on that.

We loaded the kayaks on top of the car, and headed to the riv-ah.  We started at Huguenot Flatwater;  Andrew dropped off me and the boats, drove downstream to Pony Pasture, dropped off his car, and biked back to where I was.

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There’s not a lot of river between the two spots, so we paddled upstream for a bit before going down.  The river was really high, and the “beach” where we usually stop and eat lunch when kayaking was mostly under water.

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We explored the land, paddled around for a while, then eventually headed downstream.  Other than feeling a few drops of rain from the upcoming storm, the weather was great–warm, but not hot, overcast, but not completely grey.  There is a dam along that stretch of the James, with plenty of warning signs instructing boaters where to get out of the water and walk.

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Just after the dam…getting back in the water!

The best part of the trip was the end.  Pony Pasture has lots of rocks and rapids, so it was more exciting than a gentle downstream paddle.  Andrew, the more seasoned kayaker, led the way, and I followed at a distance through the rapids.  When I encountered the first rapid, my boat went entirely under water–still upright, but fully submerged.  Once we made it through, I told Andrew, “I am soaked!”  He laughed and said that he was as well.  When we took the boats out of the water, however, he compared the two and said, “Whoa… you took on a LOT more water than I did!”  I will have to work on my rapid-navigation skills. 😉

We ended a great day with dinner on the back porch–beet greens & kale, polenta, and chicken sausages with a rosemary-mustard sauce that Andrew created:

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Andrew is back out in the kayak today with a group of coworkers!  They are attempting a longer, more rapid-filled stretch of the river.  I am going on a bike ride for as long as the rain will hold off (the sky looks threatening at the moment…)

Happy Sunday!

What’s been the highlight of your weekend so far?

Squash, Tennis, and Homemade GF Cookies

Something tells me I will need to find an abundance of new squash recipes soon…and that something is that our zucchini and yellow squash are growing faster than the weeds surrounding them!  Yesterday we harvested (and ate) three, and we have three more that are ready to be picked today.

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Aren’t they beautiful? 😀  It is unbelievable how fast zucchini grow.  This particular one increased its size by almost 1/3 literally overnight.  We checked on it yesterday morning and thought, “Whoa!  Where did that come from?!”

For dinner, we kept the squash prep simple–sliced, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried thyme, and roasted in the oven.

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…Plus baked pork chops and brown rice noodles with garlic and basil.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t love squash, but this was actually very tasty!  Again, I am fairly certain food tastes better when it’s homegrown.  It’s not too late to buy a few vegetable plants! 😀  You can grow them in pots, and you wont regret it.

After dinner we went to a local public school to play tennis.  My quad is still giving me trouble from our softball game ten days ago–fifteen or twenty minutes into my runs, it starts feeling really tight and achy.  I was happy to do a non-running cardio workout!

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My husband has skills.

We played for just over an hour, and as we were driving home, Andrew reminded me of my promise to bake him something.  Wednesday afternoon I’d baked a few desserts for a meeting at church, and when Andrew got home the house smelled like cookies, but there was nothing he could eat, so I promised to bake him something gluten-free and delicious on Thursday.

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There’s a decent selection of gluten-free all-purpose flours and baking mixes these days, but the best stuff we have come across is Arrowhead Mills GF all-purpose flour.  The first few times I baked with it, I double checked the box to make sure the flour was GF after tasting how good the final product was.  More than once I did that!  We have even served GF baked goods made from this brand to our friends without them being able to tell they were GF.  That’s the true test. 🙂  Anyway, these chocolate chip cookies, made using Arrowhead Mills GF all-purpose flour, did not disappoint.  I’d need to do a side-by-side taste test, but I think I prefer these to regular chocolate chip cookies.  We may have eaten seven between the two of us (it’s okay… we eat our veggies too :-D)

Now, I’m off to pick some more squash before they grow too large to eat!

What’s your favorite squash recipe?  Do you have a gluten-free flour that you really love?

Softball, Fresh Produce, and Unrealized Dreams

Tonight… I play softball.  I have never before played, with the exception of a few intramural games in college and, of course, gym class, but I have always suspected that had I played growing up, I could have been pretty good.  Just a hunch.  (A few years ago when I told Andrew about that hunch, he said, “I don’t know if you have the size necessary to be really good at any sport.” Dream crusher.)

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Yesterday my friend Evan from work asked if Andrew and I would be interested in playing on our church’s team.  In light of my unrealized dreams mentioned above, I gave him an immediate yes.  Our first game is tonight, so last night Andrew and I headed to a local high school field to play catch–or, as Andrew probably thought of it: give Catherine a crash course in fundamentals so she doesn’t embarrass me tomorrow. 😉

But first, dinner:

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Baked salmon with a Dijon mustard/soy sauce glaze, steamed broccoli, and brown rice.  Quick, simple, delicious… and eaten outside on our new deck furniture, which made it taste even better!

During dinner we spotted a rabbit munching on weeds around the garden.  We see them out there daily, and so far they haven’t touched anything in the garden;  we are hoping the weeds will be enough to satisfy them!

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Hey, bunny… get away from those tomatoes!

Speaking of tomatoes…

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Ours are growing like crazy!  In the photo above, the tomato plants make up the jungle on the left.  Most have flowers on them, and the cherry tomatoes are starting to come out!

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We also picked our second strawberry last night;  last week we put netting around the plants to keep the birds out, so hopefully we will be able to harvest more than one berry at a time now 🙂

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As we split the single berry in half I thought, “Vegetable gardening really does make you appreciate the work it takes to produce food.”  You may be wondering at this point, “Is she going to post a picture of each individual fruit or vegetable they pick?”  The answer is: possibly, leaning towards likely. 😉

After dinner and bunny-watching and strawberry-picking, we grabbed our gloves and a softball and worked on some fundamentals.  As I suspected, I wasn’t terrible:  I caught the ball far more than I missed it, I threw it fairly accurately, and I was only hit in the shin once by a close-range grounder… And once in the knee, at which point I immediately fell to the ground in pain.  I now have a lovely bruise and pain to the touch. 🙂

“If that happens tomorrow during the game, you have to throw the ball before you can think about the pain.”  -Andrew

Thanks, coach.

I am excited to play tonight and hope I don’t embarrass the team too badly 😀

Any last minute advice from you softball or baseball players out there?

 

Staying Active Without a Gym + Weekend Stuff

Last week I did not go to the gym.  Not once.  And yet it’s Monday morning, and my legs are still a bit sore from the week’s activities.  When we joined a gym a few months ago, part of me thought, “Why are we doing this?  We don’t need a gym…”  While the gym is very helpful in staying healthy, it is far from necessary, especially now that the weather is warmer.  Here’s how we stayed in shape last week, outside the gym:

Monday:  Rest

Tuesday: Weight circuits in living room (AM,)  Spikeball with friends Michael and Lisa (PM)

Wednesday:  Running- 30 minutes, intervals

Thursday:  Weight circuits in living room (AM,) Ultimate Frisbee (PM)

Friday:  Running-60 minutes

Saturday: Shopping with Andrew (his legs are twice as long as mine… I practically have to run to keep up with him ;-))

Sunday:  Frisbee Golf

It was a week full of Andrew’s ideal workouts–those in which you play.  I have grown to really enjoy playing Ultimate Frisbee;  it’s like a sneaky speed workout with lots of sprints over the course of ninety minutes.  Plus, the game itself is a lot of fun, running aside.  When I woke up Friday morning, my legs felt good, despite lots of prolonged sprinting the night before, so I decided to proceed as planned with my long run.  I am trying to be disciplined about building up my mileage, and I did not want to change my plans for potential soreness.  The run was a success, but as the day went on, my legs became sorer and sorer  (<–is that a word?  More sore?)  Saturday, it was just embarrassing 😉

Friday night we went to dinner and played putt-putt with our friends Amanda and Diron.  Andrew won, I lost by a long shot (or I guess, a series of short shots ;-),) and Amanda and Diron landed somewhere in between.  We had a great time!

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On Saturday we went on a quest;  we’d been feeling the need for deck furniture ever since this happened back in April:

DSCN7829Kitchen chairs and TV trays… classy 😉

We checked a few stores before finally finding what we wanted at Target.  (Is there anyone out there who does not love Target?  I have yet to walk in the store and walk back out without spending at least $50.  It’s a beautiful place.)

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Aren’t those chairs fun??  Andrew was so excited to find a tall set.  That evening, he went to a baseball game with a friend, so I had the night to myself and was eager to use the new patio furniture.  Every now and then it’s good to have some “me-time.”  For dinner I made bruschetta with french bread, fresh mozzarella, tomato slices, and basil from  our garden, all heated in the toaster oven.

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I have since decided I might live on this food combination for the remainder of the summer. 🙂

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Dinner + new magazine + Mike’s Hard Cherry Lemonade in a wine glass to look more sophisticated (hah!)… excellent 🙂

Sunday afternoon we played Frisbee/disc golf at the University of Richmond.  I’d played once before, but determined yesterday that this game is an excellent compromise for Andrew and me:  it’s essentially taking a walk with a competitive objective.  I don’t know the history of the game (and for the sake of what I’m about to say, I’m not going to take five seconds to research it ;-)), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it started when a wife dragged her husband on a long walk through a park;  suspecting he might be bored, he brought a frisbee, throwing it as they walked.  From there, the only step is adding a few targets.

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We had a great time until a thunderstorm rolled in and ended our game early.

And, as usual, Monday arrived too soon.  Have a great day!

How do you stay in shape without a gym?  Do you ever incorporate “playing” into our workout routine?

Cape Charles (Memorial Day Weekend)

As we drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Saturday morning, I thought about the popular get-to-know-you question:  Do you prefer the beach or the mountains?  Then I thought, God bless Virginia, because I don’t have to choose.  Mountains Friday, beach Saturday and Sunday.

Andrew’s dad and his girlfriend recently purchased a house at Cape Charles and have been working hard to renovate it before summer.  The house is finally live-able, and this weekend we helped them move furniture from Richmond.  Saturday afternoon, after moving all the large pieces into the house (plus lunch and a 2-hour nap…hah!), Andrew and I set off the explore the small town. Unfortunately, at 60 degrees with 20 mph winds, it was not a great beach day, but we were content to walk around in sweat shirts. 🙂

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Cape Charles definitely has a small-town feel.  There is only one street with stores–a few restaurants, a pharmacy with a lunch counter, a hardware store selling everything from paint to hula hoops to cleaning supplies that may have expired in 1987.  Outside most of the shops, locals sit in rocking chairs, greeting passerbys.   It was charming.

After dinner Saturday night, we caught a beautiful sunset over the bay:

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On Sunday morning, I went for a short, easy run; my primary motivation was to snap a few pictures before too many people were out and about.

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I saw an otter (that Andrew tells me is a muskrat…) swimming in a pond!  Walking closer to the water I thought, “Either this is an otter (muskrat,) and this is going to be awesome, or it’s the biggest snake I’ve ever seen, and I’m in big trouble.”  Thankfully, it wasn’t a snake. 😉

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For lunch, Andrew and I walked to the Cape Charles Coffee House (where I had also grabbed a coffee at the end of my run :-D.)    On Sundays they only serve breakfast, which suited both of us just fine!  Andrew ordered the egg platter, with scrambled eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit (including local strawberries!,) and I ordered the Belgian waffles, which came with fresh fruit, whipped cream, and sausage links.  The waffles were huge, and other than Andrew helping me with the sausage, I ate every bite.  I was pretty hungry, and it was so, so delicious!  I wish I’d taken a picture!

On the way to lunch we passed this pretty blue wall.  This is what happened when I asked Andrew to model in his red shirt:

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How did I get so lucky? 😉

After lunch we packed up our bikes and drove to the nearby National Wildlife Refuge, then Kiptopeke State Park.  The NWR had paved or fine gravel trails, but not many of them, and the state park had lots of trails, but most of them were grassy and tough to ride through.  Still, between the two, we spent about two hours on our bikes exploring.

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The marsh overlook at the National Wildlife Refuge

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The Bay Overlook at Kiptopeke State Park

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I’ve said this before, but I rarely notice our height difference until I look at pictures… and then I think it’s hilarious.  I look like a child on the bike.  😀

We ended the afternoon with some beach time at the park.

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By the end of the day, we were completely exhausted.  I think we were in bed by 9:30!  It was an awesome weekend, despite the cooler weather on Saturday.  We drove home early Monday and spent most of the day resting and watching Arrested Development on Netflix.

…And I continue to be thankful that I don’t have to choose between the beach and the mountains. 😀

What did you do for the Memorial Day weekend?  Do you prefer the beach or the mountains?

Dobie Mountain Hike + Peeing in the Woods

On Thursday afternoon Andrew and I made the somewhat last-minute decision to take the day off Friday and hike.  We already had a three day weekend for Memorial Day and figured, why not make it four?  Plus, we hadn’t been hiking since that bizarre warm day back in January, and we were itching for some mountain views.  After a bit of deliberation–we wanted to minimize driving distance and maximize views–we decided on Dobie Mountain.  The starting point of this hike shares a parking lot with one of our favorites, Humpback Rocks, and is less than ninety minutes from Richmond, but we had never done it before Friday.  As it turns out, we didn’t know what we were missing.

The weather forecast for Friday showed us that we’d have a cooler hike (about 55 degrees,) and we dressed appropriately for the temperature, but what we did not anticipate was the wind: 25-30 mph!  Thankfully, when we’d walked out our front door that morning it was raining, and even though I knew it wasn’t in the forecast for where we were hiking, I ran back inside to get my rain coat.  Just in case.  I definitely needed the extra (wind resistant) layer!

Aside from the wind, which wasn’t terrible once we entered the woods, the whole day was fantastic.  We took a picture of the map in parking lot to use as our trail map:

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Starting at the Humpback Rocks Parking Area, we went up the Albright Loop, onto the Appalachian Trail to the Glass Hollow Overlook, then back to finish the loop.  The first half of the hike is downhill with a lot of rocks and switchbacks, then the trail ascends to the overlook and back to the start.  It was a good workout, but not quite as strenuous as Humpback Rocks.

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Braving the wind.  My hair tells the story.

The views at the overlook were incredible:

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Because it was a weekday and we were on the less popular of two neighbor hikes, we didn’t see any other hikers once we left the parking lot.  Beautiful solitude… Together. 😉  We set up our ENO hammock and took a break for lunch.

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PBJ’s on gluten-free bread, apples, tortilla chips, carrots (Andrew,) trail mix (Catherine;  fine, I only ate the chocolate)

Also, despite using the restroom immediately before starting the hike and drinking less water than I probably should have, nature called.  Guys have it so easy when it comes to peeing in the woods.  Girls?  It’s a little tougher…and not something I have practiced often.  Here’s my advice: after finding a safe location (no poison ivy or people,) choose a tree, point your backside downhill, grab the tree for support, and squat as if you are water skiing with your butt very close to the water.  That advice and mental image are free.  You’re welcome 😉

Cool finds of the day: a log that looked like a dragon (I decided to ride it,) and… these green things:

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The whole day was a blast, and we were glad we made the trip.  Lots of quality time, beautiful views, and–one of my favorite parts of hiking–a workout that doesn’t seem like a workout.  Seriously, if I lived within 15 minutes of a mountain, I would hike every day.  Or at least a few times a week.

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Do you ever use hiking as a workout?  What’s your favorite hike/place to hike?