Spectacle Island

Did you know there are 34 islands and peninsulas in the Boston Harbor? These islands and peninsulas make up the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. They make the perfect way to get away from the city life for a day. Some are accessible by public ferry while others are only accessible via private boat. This summer, due to covid-19, only Spectacle Island was accessible via public ferry, and I decided to revisit this island one Saturday in the beginning of September.

The round trip ferry costs $25 and leaves from Long Wharf in Boston, not far from the New England Aquarium. The Island is a great place to have a picnic, so stop at Faneuil Hall or the Boston Public Market and grab some sandwiches, drinks and snacks to take with you.

The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes and includes some really beautiful views of the harbor and the city of Boston. It’s a nice short relaxing trip to take in the views of this gorgeous city.

Spectacle Island is 114 acres and is located just 4 miles offshore of downtown Boston. It’s named Spectacle Island as the island is composed of two drumlins connected by a spit which make it resemble a pair of spectacles.

Back in 1847, two hotels were built on the island. Sadly they were closed just ten years later when police discovered the hotels were being used for gambling and other illegal activities. In 1857, it was used as a horse rendering plant and after that it was used as a landfill. The dump on the island closed in 1959, but the trash remained there until 1992.

In the 1990s, the main highway thru Boston started to go through a major reconstruction. They basically took the highway which originally went straight thru the city and instead built a tunnel for the part of the highway that went thru downtown. It took years and was a big nightmare for locals and visitors alike. They called it the “Big Dig”. I mean it is quite the Big Dig to build a tunnel thru a busy downtown. Well when the Big Dig took place, they decided to use the land that was dug up in the Big Dig and take it to Spectacle Island to fill in the landfill

Then finally in 2006, the beautiful Spectacle Island we know today was opened to the public. Visiting there today you would never know that it was a landfill for all those years.

There are many activities that you can enjoy on Spectacle Island, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a great place to have a picnic with views of the Boston skyline in the distance. There’s a small beach, hiking trails and plenty of beautiful areas to sit and enjoy your surroundings.

During pre-covid times, there was even more to do on the island including a small visitors center with some history of the island and a snack bar.

The island would host many events over the summer months, such as a yoga classes, kayaking, clam bakes and live jazz music to name a few.

As most of you know I’m an avid runner, so one of my favorite events on the island is the annual 5K. Nothing better than taking a boat to a race! Due to the island being pretty hilly and the lack of shade, it’s definitely a challenging 5K, but also a lot of fun!

Definitely make sure to walk around the entire island to take in the views from all sides of the island, I honestly could not get enough of the gorgeous views. So close to Boston, yet I still felt so far away, which in a year lacking travel, that definitely felt really nice.

Have you ever visited one of the Boston Harbor Islands? If not, and you will be in Boston during the summer thru the beginning of fall, definitely put this on your list, it’s a great little break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

More to do in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

There is so much to see in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. From hiking trails to covered bridges to waterfalls and kayaking or tubing down the river, you will not run out of things to see when visiting this region. It’s actually the perfect covid trip since there is so much to do outside in the fresh air where it’s safer than indoors and so much wide open space making it easy to social distance.

Flume Gorge

On my first full day of my trip to New Hampshire last month, I visited Franconia Notch State Park. I started the day visiting the Flume Gorge. If you have limited time in this area, this is a great place to visit to get a taste of quite a few of the highlights of the area. While visiting the Flume Gorge, you can see the gorge itself as well as a couple of covered bridges, a waterfall and beautiful mountain views. It’s suitable for families, but some of the uphill parts may be difficult if you aren’t in the best shape. Even though I run all the time, parts of it had me out of breath.

The first site you will come to is The Flume Covered Bridge. It was built in 1886, making it one of the oldest covered bridges in the state. It stretches across the Pemigewasset River. This was an easier part of the walk, as you started high above and made your way down to the bridge.

You then make your way up into the gorge. The gorge is absolutely beautiful and makes life seem small while walking thru with the 70-90 foot tall granite walls along side you.

Once you make it to the top, you will reach Avalanche Falls. Spend some time listening to these relaxing falls.

As you make your way down, you will come to the Sentinel Pine Bridge and Pool. The Pool was formed at the end of the Ice Age some 14,000 years ago. by a stream flowing thru a glacier.

It’s a great experience to walk thru the covered bridge and look down at the pool below.

There were definitely some gorgeous views on this hike thru the flume gorge.

After the Flume Gorge, I decided to take a short hike nearby. I hiked up the Artist Bluff Trail and the views were just amazing! It was just a 1.5 mile hike with only 390 feet elevation gain. Hiking this trail reminded me of how much I miss traveling. I started talking to a guy on the trail who had been making the best of the bad situation that is 2020, he was from California and had been laid off and decided to take a solo road trip across the country. It was interesting to hear his experience and it reminded me what I absolutely love about solo travel – meeting new people and hearing their travel experiences!

The trail was a little more strenuous than I thought it would be since it was pretty rocky. The whole way up I imagined my clumsy self slipping on the rocks on the way down. Luckily I made it down in one piece without falling and boy were those views worth it!

Old Man of the Mountain

When I was a child we spent many summer vacations in New Hampshire and one of the highlights of the ride there was to stop and see the Old Man of the Mountain. The rocks at the top of this mountain jut out in a way that it looked like the profile of a man and it was a big tourist spot right off the highway. Sadly in May of 2003, the rocks collapsed and the old man was no more. They have since created a memorial to the Old Man and have these steel profilers that if you stand behind them it makes it look like the old man is back on the mountain. Definitely needed to visit this for nostalgia purposes.

Kayaking the Saco River

The next day I headed east over to North Conway. North Conway is located not far from the New Hampshire-Main border and is a busy town with lots of restaurants and shops. The Saco River flows thru here and is a great place to go tubing, kayaking and canoeing. There were so many groups of people out tubing together. Since I was alone, I decided to take a 5 mile kayak trip. It started off as a beautiful day but a little over halfway thru, it started pouring so hard I had to go to shore and get out of the kayak because I could not see! After about 20 minutes of trying to take cover under a tree (which didn’t really help much), the rain stopped and the sun came back out. The ironic thing about this is that according to the weather app on my phone, this was the one day there wasn’t a chance of rain on my trip and the only day I got stuck outside in it! It was a great kayaking experience but even though it poured during it, there has been a lack of rain this summer and the already shallow Saco River was even more shallow. There were parts I had to get out of the kayak and push it down river to deeper water. But it was a lot of fun and after I had a late lunch and did some shopping at the outlet mall.

Echo Lake State Park

My last day of the trip, I headed over to Echo Lake State Park. This beautiful park has a picnic area, swimming and kayaking in the lake and hiking. There was a beautiful easy hike around the lake. There was also other more difficult trails that went off of the lake trail. I took one of these up to Cathedral Ledge and it was so nice to hang out by the lake in the picnic area after the hike to relax and have something to eat.

The Cathedral Ledge Hike was 2.8 miles round trip and had 669 feet elevation. Every time I do these hikes, I wonder how I ever managed hikes that were in the 1000s of feet since these ones in the 100s make me feel so out of shape! I guess things were easier when I was younger.

It was really a beautiful hike and the views from the top definitely made it worth it. I could have sat up there all day taking in these views!

On my way back to the hotel I stopped in Crawford Notch State Park to hike up to Ripley Falls. This hike was just 1.1 miles roundtrip with 308 feet elevation gain. It was definitely well worth it! The falls were beautiful and the hike wasn’t too bad. It started by crossing some train tracks which had me thinking of the movie, Stand By Me, which I ended up watching this weekend for the first time in forever and I had forgotten what a great movie it is!

Although summer is a beautiful time to visit the White Mountains, I wish I could head up there in the fall as well to see all the colorful leaves. But even though it was only August, there were definitely some signs of fall already.

Thankfully the leaves get beautiful here in Boston as well so I’ll still get some beautiful fall views just without the mountains.

I hope you enjoyed my few posts on New Hampshire, this is just a few of the many things to do in this wonderful state. There is so much more to see! If you are ever planning a trip here, remember Beyond the Miles Travel is here to help you plan that perfect New England getaway. http://www.beyondthemilestravel.com

Mount Washington

We all have those places not too far from home that we always say we will go visit someday but never do since we are so busy traveling all over the world. 2020 has given us a perfect opportunity to turn someday into today. For me one of those places was the summit of Mount Washington, just a few hours away from home.

Part of the Presidential range, located in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, Mount Washington is the highest summit in the northeastern US at 6,288 feet.

Mount Washington is well known for having some of the worst weather on earth. It’s in the path of three major storm tracks and usually takes the brunt of any passing storms due to it being the highest peak in the northeast. Due to this erratic weather, there is a weather observatory located on the summit.

The temperature at the summit is usually much colder than down in the valley below. While summer days can get up to 80-90 degrees in the valley, the highest ever recorded temperature on the summit is only 74 degrees. The lowest recorded temperature was 49 degrees below zero. On average the temperature falls below zero on over 65 days each year.

But the big weather story on the summit is the wind. In the winter, over half the days see hurricane force wind speeds of over 75 mph. The highest wind speed ever observed by man was 231 mph on the summit of Mount Washington on April 12, 1934. Note that I used the words “observed by man” because there is actually a higher wind speed of 253 mph that has been recorded by weather instruments in April 1996 on Barrow Island off the coast of western Australia during Typhoon Olivia. Regardless of where the highest wind speed was recorded, Mount Washington is definitely known for the wind. Just this August Tropical Storm Isaias quickly went thru New England (I swear it lasted about 20 minutes in the city of Boston, nothing more than a summer thunder storm) and the wind on Mount Washington reached 147 mph.

Now that you know a little more about what makes Mount Washington so special, let’s talk about the three ways that you can reach the summit:

Hike to the summit – If you are up for it, hiking to the summit is the most adventurous way to go. There are numerous trails you can take, some easier or harder than others. They are all full day difficult hikes, so not necessarily for a beginner hiker. Maybe something to work up to after trying some more moderate hikes. The most popular trail is the Tuckerman Ravine Trail which is 8.2 miles roundtrip, has 4,280 ft elevation gain and will take you 7-9 hours. There is a Shelter half way up the trail with a well water pump and restrooms available.

Mount Washington Auto Road – Not up for a hard hike, feel free to drive the 7.6 mile auto road up to the summit. The auto road opened in 1861 as the Mount Washington Carriage Road and is America’s oldest and continuously operating man made attraction. The narrow road has an average 12% grade and no guardrails so it’s not the most fun ride for anyone with a fear of heights. To commemorate the somewhat scary ride on this road, each car driven up is given a “This car climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker. If you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself or just want to be able to sit back and enjoy the view, there are guided tours that will take you up the road.

Cog Railway: The final way to get to the summit is to take the Mount Washington Cog Railway to the summit. Being that I was on a solo trip, I decided that this was my best option to get to the summit. And I’m glad I did, it was such a unique experience.

After getting stuck in a pretty bad storm and having to spend the night on the mountain, New Hampshire native, Sylvester Marsh came up with the idea to invent a train that would transport tourist up to the summit. He took the idea to the state Legislature where they thought his idea was so crazy that they allowed him to build his “railway to the moon”.

On July 3, 1869 the first trip set off to the summit and trains have been using these same tracks and cog technology ever since.

For the first 40 years, wood-fired boilers powered the trains up the mountain and beginning in 1910, coal was used to power the train.

In 2008, the first biodiesel powered locomotive was dedicated. During the peak summer months, the six biodiesel locomotives take tourists up the mountain on an hourly basis.

A couple of times a day a steam powered locomotive will take tourists up to the summit. When my train was making it’s way down the mountain, we passed the steam locomotive at the Waumbek tank where it was stopped to take on more water.

About halfway up, you will reach Jacob’s ladder, the second steepest trestle in the world at a 37.41% grade.

Once at the summit, you are given an hour to look around before catching another train back down the mountain. On a clear day, you can see 4 states, the Canadian province of Quebec and even the Atlantic Ocean. I was lucky that it was somewhat clear when I reached the summit, you could see up to 80 miles away. But the weather on the summit definitely changed quickly in that hour. By the time I met the train to head down there was nothing but clouds. I most definitely lucked out with the view!

I highly recommend taking the cog railway up to the summit of Mount Washington. It was definitely a unique experience and the guides on the train made the ride even more interesting by discussing the history and even talking of personal stories from over the years working there.

They also had safety precautions in place due to covid-19 including: face masks required on the train, hand sanitizer provided as you got on and empty rows to separate families.

It was really great to be able to do something on vacation with some history involved. For those few hours, I felt like I forgot about everything going on in 2020 and felt like I was back to my normal traveling self! Definitely no better feeling in the world than that!

Omni Mount Washington Resort

I recently returned from my first covid trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Since 2020 is the year of so many cancelled trips, I decided to treat myself and stay at a hotel that I’ve always dreamed of staying at, The Omni Mount Washington Resort.

This historic hotel located in the shadow of Mt Washington is on the US National Register of Historic Places and is a US National Historic Landmark.

The hotel opened in July of 1902 and in 1944 it was the location of the Bretton Woods Monetary Conference, where the World Bank and International Monetary Fund were established.

For decades, the hotel would close in late fall and reopen in the spring. But in 1999, it became a year round hotel when it opened for it’s first winter season.

The hotel definitely has that vibe that it looks like it’s straight out of a Stephen King movie, so it’s not surprising it’s been featured in a couple of episodes of the TV show Ghost Hunters.

The interior of the hotel definitely had that old school charm with the usual modern amenities. They also did a wonderful job with their covid protocols. The Omni website listed all of the protocols down to the extra cleaning they would do. They had the sitting areas in the lobby roped off and had signs to encourage social distancing. There was also ample hand sanitizer available in common areas and two masks and hand wipes available in the hotel room. They also had items such as the tv remote and do not disturb sign in a sealed bag in the room. All of these items made me feel extremely safe and happy with my choice of lodging.

My favorite feature of the hotel was the beautiful wraparound porch. It’s a great place to sit in the mornings enjoying your coffee and in the evening it comes alive with people taking in the mountain views while enjoying drinks and small plates. I could sit there every morning and night and it would never get old.

The grounds around the hotel are beautiful. There is a golf course as well as hiking trails. But be mindful that you are in the mountains, so watch out for bears. I actually saw a bear cross the path as I was running one morning. I really wish I had gotten a picture of the bear, it was so adorable! Although I was glad I was at the end of my room so I wouldn’t be spending too much time on the lookout for more bears!

I highly recommend this hotel if you are heading to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In next week’s blog, I’ll talk more about Mount Washington and all the ways you can see the highest mountain in the northeastern US.

First covid vacation

Quick post this week as I’m on my last night of my first vacation during covid.

I left for my trip last Thursday August 20th. As I was packing, I thought of the last trip I took, hard to believe I returned from that trip on February 25th, almost 6 full months ago. Since I don’t own a car, I hadn’t left the city of Boston at all in those 6 months and I had cancelled 6 trips in that time : Disney, Punta Cana, Providence RI, Ireland, Minnesota and Atlanta. Crazy how different 2020 ended up.

So many places I wanted to go! I originally was going to road trip to WV and run a half marathon this weekend (which was still held in a socially distanced way), but due to quarantine requirements in MA, I decided to play it safe and head to NH for some hiking, kayaking and relaxing.

It ended up being a great trip and I felt very safe since I was outdoors most of the time. 2020 is definitely the year we take advantage of everything nearby that we normally take for granted. Look out for future blog post starting next week all about my trip!

Tips to plan travel during a pandemic

2020…it’s been a long year so far and now that things have opened up a little more, we are all eager to get a change of scenery and also to get a little bit of normalcy back into our lives. For those of us who live to travel, that’s the top thing on our mind.

While we all are eager to get on a plane and go explore far off lands, that may not be the best idea at the moment. But we can still travel somewhere, it may not be somewhere that was originally on our bucket list and it may not be that far from home, but there is always some place for us to explore. There are things to keep in mind while traveling during this time though….

Travel Restrictions: The number one thing you must do when planning a trip is to find out the travel restrictions of where you are going and at home for when you return. Most countries have closed their borders, but even when staying within your own country, different states have different restrictions. I live in the US in the state of Massachusetts. We had quite a surge at the beginning of the pandemic, but the past few months our numbers have been on the low side. I originally was planning to head to West Virginia later this week to run a half marathon. It’s one of the few road races that is actually still happening, but a few weeks ago, our governor in Massachusetts said there is a mandatory 14 day quarantine to anyone coming into the state (with the exception of a few other states with lower new cases, mainly the other states in the northeast) and there was actually a fine involved if caught not quarantining. Now I’ve been working from home and could get away with quarantining when I return, but do I really want to not be able to leave the house for 2 full weeks, I’m not sure I could handle the thought of not being able to go for a run or a walk for that long! Also, there’s the thought of, how will they even enforce this, but being that I’m a big rule follower and have a guilty conscience, I just can’t risk it. So I deferred the race to 2021 (fingers crossed things improve a bit by then) and I’m headed to New Hampshire for vacation instead.

Virus Spread: Another thing to consider, is the virus spreading alot where you plan on visiting. New Hampshire has a low amount of cases, only about 20-30 per day vs. Massachusetts 100-300 per day. I may be safer going on vacation than being home in Boston!

Transportation: How will you get there, do you need to fly or can you drive? Everyone will have their own comfort level when it comes to flying, I’m not at the point that I don’t feel comfortable being inside a plane around other people for hours, so driving seems like a safer option to me. With driving you do still need to think of things, like restrooms along the way or if you will need to stop and eat and if you will feel comfortable with this. How comfortable you feel about these things will help decide if you go somewhere just a couple of hours away so you don’t need to stop or if you feel comfortable stopping you can take a longer road trip.

Activities available at location: What activities are available at the location you are going? Are there things you can do outside where the risk is lower than inside? Are there activities you can do that allows you to social distance? Also do these activities require reservations? You’d be amazed at the number of places that now do require a reservation. Some of the state parks in New Hampshire are requiring reservations to limit the amount of people in the park. Make your reservations early, i went to make a reservation and only one day that I was going to be there was available!

Lodging: Where will you stay? Do you feel comfortable staying in a hotel where you will have to walk thru lobby and take elevators where you may come into contact with other people? Do you prefer to rent a house so you can stay away from others? Either way, make sure to check the covid-19 procedures. Will they require face masks in public areas and what are their cleaning procedures? Most major hotel chains are doing extra cleanings and even keeping rooms empty for a few days after a guest checks out. I am staying in a hotel and have purchased this tool to open doors and push elevator buttons, may be overkill, but definitely won’t bother me to use it.

Extras to pack: During this time there are some items you may not normally pack that you will need to now. Face masks, lots of places are requiring them (if only everywhere would) and you should bring multiple with you as you will probably be wearing them each day. Also bring along some disinfecting wipes to wipe things down in the hotel room that you will be touching frequently. Hand sanitizer is something I always have with me, but I’m definitely bringing extra as I’ll probably be using it more than normal. You may also want to bring some snacks and water with you to limit the amount of places you need to stop inside. Also a good idea to bring paper towels to use to open restroom doors and other high touch areas in public. I am also bringing my own pillow, may sound crazy, but with the virus entering our body thru mouth, nose or eyes, I prefer to have my head on my own pillow that I know only I’ve handled.

Strengthen your Immune System: It doesn’t hurt to make sure your immune system is in tip top shape when you travel even without a pandemic going on. No one wants their vacation ruined by illness. About a week before I travel, I usually up my elderberry and vitamin c intake.

I also make sure to pack these items as well and take them each morning while on my trip.

Have fun! Most important, have fun on your trip, be safe, take all the precautions necessary but enjoy your trip like you enjoyed your pre-pandemic travels.

It’s a lot to have to think about, more so than when planning a vacation prior to 2020. Remember no matter how far or close you are traveling, there are many travel agents out there willing to help. They will know all the current travel restrictions and other covid-19 related information you will need for your trip. And by using a travel agent you can also help a small business during a time their industry is struggling.

Have you gone on a trip recently? Do you have one coming up? Do you have any tips to share?

Make Way for the Boston Public Garden

The upside to this tumultuous year of 2020 is being able to explore close to home. There are so many wonderful places in Boston and the Public Garden is definitely one of my favorites!

Established in 1837, the Boston Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in America. It is definitely a must do for all ages when visiting Boston.

If you have young children who have read Robert McCloskey’s popular children’s book based in Boston, Make Way for Ducklings, your first stop in the Public Garden must be the Make Way for Ducklings statue! The statue featuring Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings is a great spot to take your kids photo sitting on the ducks. If you happen to be in town on Mother’s day, you can attend the annual Duckling Day parade.

The ducks celebrate the holidays, seasons and local sports teams in style!

Another great activity for kids in the Public Garden is the swan boats! These boats have been riding along the lagoon since 1877 and it’s relaxing activity for both kids and adults. It’s also a sure sign that spring is finally here in Boston when the swan boats open in mid April each spring

The Public Garden is not just enjoyed by children and families though. It’s a great place for adults, young and old to have a picnic, relax on a bench, read a book or go for a nice slow walk. In spring it comes alive with beautiful flowers which are such a welcome sight after a long, cold, snowy Boston winter.

Summer brings not only tourist to the garden but also palm trees, yes palm trees in the northeast US. It also brings the resident swans, Romeo and Juliet!

Just like the rest of New England, fall is a beautiful and colorful time of year in the Public Garden! There’s this one tree that the leaves seem to change earlier than most trees in the city each year, it’s beautiful watching it change then the rest in the park change afterwards. Nature at it’s finest, living it’s cycle.

Although it’s not my favorite season in Boston, winter does bring some beauty to the Public Garden and I walk thru it often on my way from work to my pilates class or when I go for a quick walk to escape cabin fever. It’s definitely a different view, the trees are without their leaves, there are no flowers, but the bushes are decorated with lights for the holidays, the lagoon freezes over and snow fills the park making for a magical winter scene. So throw on a heavy jacket and head over for a walk thru the garden.

Have you been to the Boston Public Garden, what time of year did you visit and what did you like most? If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. I hope all readers can relax and take in the beauty here some day.

When things don’t go as planned while flying….

Life – it’s unpredictable and doesn’t always go as we planned it. This has never been as apparent in the travel industry as it has in 2020. Life in 2020 has thrown a curve ball at all of us and our planned travels. How are you adapting and trying to be positive in this crazy time?

Even before covid-19 there was always a chance of something to disrupt travel plans, just on a much smaller scale and certainly not happening to everyone in the entire world at once.

Transportation can be so unpredictable, whether you are driving, flying or taking a train, there is always something unpredictable that can happen.

We’ve all dealt with delays when flying, they are annoying and can definitely throw your schedule off track. I’ve gone months and even years with no delays or delays so minimal that it didn’t even affect me much.

But then there are the times when you have major delays. And how you handle these situations can make your trip awful or not too bad. Years ago when flying from Tampa, where I was living at the time, to Boston to visit family, I had a layover in Philadelphia. The plane landed in Philadelphia to dark skies with storms threatening in the distance. After getting into the terminal, I found out that my connecting flight wasn’t just delayed due to the weather, it was cancelled and the next flight they could put me on was 8 hours later. No one wants to spend 8 hours in a busy airport! I was in my 30s at the time and ran into an older lady in her 80s and another lady in her 50s in the same situation. We decided to all go and get some food and keep each other company for the 8 hours. The three of us were from different generations and had absolutely nothing in common, but to this day, that is the best time I have ever had in an airport and surprisingly those 8 hours flew by. Good company always makes a bad situation better! I didn’t do a bad job of handling that delay.

Flash forward to last December, I was flying home from Gulfport, MS after visiting for the weekend for a half marathon. I woke up that morning to a text that my flight out of Gulfport was cancelled and they needed to reschedule my flight. The new flight included two stops one in Dallas and one in DC. Not only would I be flying all over the country to get home (Dallas is in the opposite direction from Mississippi to Boston), but I would be getting in much later too. I started off with a good attitude knowing there was nothing I could do about it and just grateful I had a lot of books on my kindle to keep me busy.

My flight arrived in Dallas and my connection, like most of the flights in Dallas was delayed. They kept delaying it more and more and I was then worried I would not make my connection in DC. Luckily there are a ton of flights from DC to Boston, so I was able to get rescheduled on a later one. By the time my flight left Dallas, it was the same time I was originally supposed to be landing in Boston, it had already been a LONG day.

I arrived in DC and was glad I was able to reschedule to a later flight, since the earlier flight was leaving 10 minutes after I stepped in the terminal. I was instantly happy with my decision and decided to go grab a drink while I waited for my later flight. Well then I got a text stating the flight was cancelled. I realized then that I made a bad decision changing the flight.

Being tired after a long travel day, knowing I would not get home that night and mad at myself for making the wrong decision, I did not handle this cancellation well at all. They claimed it was due to weather in Boston, yet my parents said there was no rain, snow or wind in Boston that day or night at all but that the next morning there was supposed to be a snow storm. I was of course afraid it would take all day to get home the next day due to this storm. I ended up getting in a slightly heated discussion with the gate agent. Not my best moment, but she put me over the edge when she tried to tell me that I would be safe sleeping in the airport. I was alone so sleeping with no one else to keep an eye on things like my purse, didn’t sound safe to me!

Luckily I had some Hilton points saved up and was able to use them to get a free room near the airport so I could get a few hours of safe sleep and then head back to the airport and hope my 6am flight took off.

The next morning was much better, after 3 hours of sleep I went to the airport and my flight took off and landed in the middle of the snowstorm in Boston and I was home and working by 9am. It was a long, tiring, frustrating day and everything worked out well, so I definitely could have handled it better and should have, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, especially not the gate agent. I spent years working at the front desk of hotels, so I know exactly how awful it is to deal with an upset customer.

Looking back at these two examples, I hope I can handle them all like the first one going forward. Have you had a flight delay or cancellation (I’m sure you have), how have you handled it?

Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park

I love being outdoors and national parks are a great way to see the outdoors. My favorite national park that I’ve seen to date is Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park is located in northwestern Montana. It encompasses over 1 million acres and reaches the US/Canada border.

To explore the different parts of the park, you can drive the Going to the Sun Road. This 50 mile long east-west road spans the width of the park and crosses the Continental Divide. The majority of this road is closed thru the winter, it’s opening date is different each year depending on how long it takes to clear the snow, sometimes up to 80 feet deep, from the road. The road is normally open by late June but some years if there is a good amount of spring snow it may not open until July! There are numerous ways to ride along the Going to the Sun road. You can drive your own car or if you don’t want to risk full parking lots, you can take the park transportation. There are also tours like the famous Red Bus Tour, pictured here.

There is so much to see at the park, you could spend weeks here. I was just here for a few days but was still able to check out the major areas of the park. Here are some of the major areas to see.

Lake McDonald

Taking the western entrance into the park, you enter the Lake McDonald valley. There are so many great outdoor activites to explore this beautiful area.

Boating: At the Lake McDonald Lodge, board the historic DeSmet for an hour long ride around the lake. Rent a kayak or paddle board and explore the lake on your own.

Hiking: There are multiple hikes in this area, from easy to difficult. The most popular hike is the Avalanche Creek hike. The park provides a ranger led hike each day, but get to the parking Apgar visitor center really early if you want to take the park transportation to the ranger led hike, otherwise, you will miss out like I did. Next time I’ll be more prepared. The ranger led hikes are great especially if you’re alone, this is bear country, so wise to hike with others. I was able to do the Trail of the Cedars hike which is a great easy hike, a portion of it is on raised boardwalk, so great for beginners!

Logan Pass

At 6,646 feet, Logan Pass is the highest point reachable by car in the park and is located on the Continental Divide. The parking lot often fills up early, so it’s a good idea to take advantage of the park transportation as you don’t want to miss out on seeing this area. There is a visitor center located here and many rangers around leading talks, hikes and answering questions.

Hidden Lake Trail: One of the most popular hikes in the park is the Hidden Lake Trail. This easy 3 mile hike starts at the Logan Pass visitor center and takes you to an overlook where you can gaze down to the beautiful Hidden Lake. Although this trail is fairly easy, be prepared, due to the high elevation, a portion of the trail can be snow covered. These pictures above are from my trip in 2018 which was in mid-July. It was pretty crazy to be hiking thru the snow in 70 degree weather. The views on this trail are amazing as is the wildlife. As always, watch out for bears especially as you get closer to the Hidden Lake overlook. Enjoy the numerous Mountain Goats you will see along the way relaxing and walking along the trail. It’s really great to see them somewhat up close, but remember, they are wild animals so keep a distance.

St. Mary Lake

On the eastern side of the park is St. Mary Lake. Being that the parking areas on this side of the park are much less busy than Logan Pass I took my own car and I’m so glad I did. As I was driving down the road, I looked to the side of the road and out popped the cutest little bear. I stopped the car and the bear made his way across the road right in front of my car. Definitely happy that I saw the bear this way instead of on hike!

I probably could have taken 1000s of pictures of this lake, it was absolutely breathtaking!

Ranger Led Hike to St. Mary Falls: At the Rising Sun boat docks, I boarded one of Glacier Park Boat Company’s boats to head out into St. Mary Lake. This absolutely beautiful boat ride led us across the lake where we met a park ranger to hike out to St. Mary Falls. The ranger talked about the history of the forest and we saw first hand how much fire can impact the forest and how the forest starts to grow back. It was both devastating to see the damage from a forest fire but hopeful to see the ecosystem coming back to life. The falls were beautiful and quite relaxing.

Two Medicine

Located on the southeastern section of the park, the Two Medicine area is not located along the Going to the Sun Road so alot of visitors miss out on this beautiful area.

Ranger led hike to Twin Falls: Like St. Mary Lake, a highlight of this area is a boat ride and ranger led hike. Board the oldest wooden boat in Glacier Park Boat Company’s fleet for a ride out on Two Medicine Lake. Upon docking on the west side of the lake, take a hike with a ranger to Twin Falls. These falls were the most impressive I’ve seen in Glacier National Park. You can even hike up to towards the top of the falls. Another breathtaking and relaxing spot.

With so much to see and do, it’s worth taking a week or more vacation to Glacier National Park. Some tips to remember when booking your trip: book your lodging or camp sites early, the ones in the park fill up rather quick, keep in mind that the Going to the Sun Road isn’t always open by the start of summer, so a trip in July or August might be better than June, and always remember to have bear spray with you when hiking, it’s worth the $50 just in case you end up encountering a bear! Need help planning your trip, let a travel agent like me with first hand experience in the park, help you plan. http://www.beyondthemilestravel.com

Running and Kayaking in Big Sky Country

A couple of years ago, I ran one of my favorite half marathons to date, Missoula Half Marathon in Montana. I never thought of going to Montana and definitely had never heard of Missoula, but I heard it was the race to run in Montana so off I went for a week long summer vacation to Missoula and Glacier National Park.

Race Motivation

I got on the plane in hopes of actually finishing the race, even if it meant crawling. I had been dealing with a pretty bad case of plantar fasciitis for the past few months and really probably shouldn’t have been running a half marathon. But I had been getting ART done on my calf and foot for a couple of months and the doctor said that hiking would actually be something that would help, so since that’s what I had planned for after the race in Glacier National Park, I figured what’s the harm in heading across the country and attempting the race.

I took a very early flight into Missoula on Saturday morning and headed straight downtown to pick up my race bib for Sunday morning’s race and walk around and check out the area. Missoula was beautiful, nothing but fresh clean air with mountains in the distance. Race packet pickup was located near the river and it was so relaxing to sit by the river and watch the people fishing and walking out on the rocks. No walking out there for me, no need to add another injury before the race. With the time change and being that I left Boston fairly early, I was in bed before the sun went down that night, which worked out well since I normally have a hard time sleeping before races.

After a great night sleep I woke up early and drove to the parking lot where they had buses that took us to the start line. While waiting at the start we were able to see the sun rise above the mountains, it was a beautiful sight! It was a good way to start the morning and prepare myself for the beautiful 13.1 miles that lay ahead. This was definitely one of the most beautiful and entertaining courses I have ever run. Nothing but mountains, river, the greenest trees and grass all the way into the cute downtown finish. The locals definitely bring their A-game when it comes to entertaining the runners, how many races will you see a man dressed in a tux playing a grand piano on his lawn for the entire race?

I made it across the finish line in only a little over 3 hours, since my normal time is around 2:45-2:50, that wasn’t that bad considering I walked a lot and stopped quite a few times to stretch out the calves. A couple of friends from my running group here in Boston were running the full marathon and I was determined to make sure I finished the half before they finished the full. They are really fast, so they didn’t finish that far behind me!

At the finish they had free photos and I got to try a beer from Big Sky Brewing, I love trying local beers when I travel.

My foot was screaming in pain after 13.1 miles so after showering and having some food, I spent a good amount of time in the hot tub which helped dramatically. It just so happened to be National Ice Cream Day so I did a quick google search and found out Big Dipper Ice Cream was the place to go for some local homemade ice cream. I drove up and it was crowded so I knew I found a great place. Being that I was in the Northwest I knew I had to have the Huckleberry ice cream, it was the first of many delicious huckleberry flavored foods and drinks I’d have during the trip. When in states like Montana and Idaho definitely indulge in all the huckleberry you can!

After indulging in the ice cream, I knew I had to take a little walk around so my muscles wouldn’t tighten up on me. So I headed downtown to check out the Carousel for Missoula.

This carousel is completely volunteer built. The horses are all hand carved and they are beautiful. What a great thing for the community to build together.

There’s a lot to do in and around Missoula. If I was staying longer, I would have taken a rafting trip down the Clark Fork.

But alas the next morning it was on to my next adventure.

I headed out late morning and the ride was just beautiful, lots of open space and mountains, definitely a different view than driving in Massachusetts. Flathead Lake is a fairly large freshwater lake and it’s beautiful driving around it. I found a great restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the lake and had some lunch. Then I drove further north up the lake to Somers Bay for my kayaking trip.

I took a kayaking tour with Sea Me Paddle Kayaking Tours. The tour ended up being just me and one of the owners of the kayaking company.

It was a really great tour, since it was just me, we went at my speed and he was able to tell me a lot about the area.

We took the kayaks out for a couple of hours in Somers Bay and saw some Osprey and a birds nest.

We also kayaked out to the remnants of an old pier used by the Somers Lumber Company. The guide was very knowledgeable about the area and also took lots of pictures which were great to receive a few days later.

One of the advantages of taking tours with someone that is so knowledgeable of the area, is they can recommend other things to do or places to eat in the area. I told him that I was heading up to Glacier National Park after the tour and he recommended a great place for me to stop for dinner along the way. He mentioned it was a brewery and that they had great garlic parmesan fries, say no more, I’m there. So after kayaking, I stopped at Backslope Brewing for dinner. This place did not disappoint, the fries were to die for and they had great beer.

After dinner I headed to the West Glacier Motel which was just outside the entrance to Glacier National Park. This National Park deserves a whole blog of it’s own so check back next week!