Because I’ve been dealing with some head and neck issues since the New York City marathon last November, I haven’t been running as much as I’d like. While I work my way back into a regular routine, I’ve been looking for other avenues of fitness, and I’ve found one that I really enjoy: hiking. I can surround myself with nature for several hours at a time and enjoy the tranquility that comes with a long walk. Plus, I love that even if you only hike for a couple of miles, it’s still a workout; you’re constantly being challenged by uneven terrain and obstacles like boulders or fallen trees.
This past weekend Todd and I visited Philadelphia, and we spent part of the trip hiking in Wissahickon Valley Park just outside the city. Situated on the Schuykill River, it extends about seven miles to the north, with an abundance of hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails. The trails are color-coded, and signposts indicate whether it’s going to be an easy trek or a tougher one. We ended up on the orange trail, a narrow dirt pathway that wound along the river, and more than once turned into a mud pit we then had to slog through. About half a mile into the trail from our starting point, we reached a landmark called Devil’s Pool (below). The river cut across the trail, and the only way across was to leapfrog over slippery rocks to the other side. At first we considered turning back, but then decided to attempt the crossing—and somehow we made it without tumbling into the river!
We passed several other hikers on our trek, and with each we exchanged a friendly greeting or a nod. When we came to a bridge, we crossed the river and hiked back along the other side, first on a wide gravel road and then on a path that cut through the forest. We got to see different kinds of birds (unfortunately I couldn’t identify any except the geese), butterflies, and so much greenery. In total we hiked about three miles, but it took us quite a long time and felt a lot harder than one might expect. It felt so rewarding to get back to our starting point and take a good long rest on a bench overlooking the river.
This summer I’d like to hike in as many different parks and preserves as I can, and find a spot to stop and do tai chi (my other new obsession, but more about that in another post) along the way. If you know of any good hiking spots along the East Coast, please share in the comments! I’d love to check them out and report on our hike there!
The weather is finally getting warmer, and I can’t wait for the 70-degree days predicted later this week. I’ve been getting outside more often. We recently completed our second attempt at the TD five-borough, forty-mile bike tour, ran our favorite chocolate 5k, and visited the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens (more about all of those in posts to come soon). And just yesterday we finally got in the garden—weeding and pruning and turning the soil and adding a bunch of new little plants that I can’t wait to watch grow!
We haven’t yet transplanted the ones that dad’s been nursing from seeds because they’re too small, so we saved some space for them in our second planter. We have our usual herbs: sage and lilac and chives and mint that all resurfaced from last year, as well as some sweet basil, purple basil, parsley, cilantro, and dill. This year we really want to have more of a veggie haul, so we focused a bit more on those: snap peas, green beans, red and yellow bell peppers, five varieties of tomato, three types of eggplant (black, white, and Japanese), two types of squash, onions…and watermelon!
I’m not sure that the watermelon will actually grow very well, but we figured it couldn’t hurt to try. It would be so awesome to have a fresh-from-the-garden watermelon! We’ve also got blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and black raspberries all growing on the side of the house; I’m hopeful that the black raspberry bush will actually start yielding some fruit this year. I’m excited to start taking care of the garden and spending the rest of the spring with my hands in the dirt. And I can’t wait to hear what everyone else is growing this year!
My very first backyard garden originated from a desire to eat locally, to self-sustain in some small way. Growing primarily herbs and a few tomato plants, I discovered a love for gardening; few activities left me as centered as digging my hands into the dirt or plucking leaves I knew I would cook with later. Last year’s garden saw the addition of a lettuce bed, which really flourished throughout the spring and well into the summer. I loved taking salads made with backyard lettuce to work for lunch, especially if I could also include some ripe homegrown tomatoes.
This year, for my third garden, I’ve followed last year’s layout—lettuce in the shady bed, herbs in the sunnier planter. But I did move all of my veggies to the side of the house, since it gets much more sun than the backyard. And we have lots more variety in our herbs and veggies this year! To help me grow them successfully, I plan to resume my “Growing My Green Thumb” posts (so far I’ve learned about purple basil, Italian parsley, thyme, and lavender) throughout the spring and summer. But until then, here’s an introductory photo tour of what I’m calling Garden 3.0:
Did you know that there exist four times more orchid species than mammal species? I had no idea until I decided to do some research on orchids and how to best care for them now that I’m taking my love for gardening to work in the form of a little potted orchid. Sitting between my Corgi calendar and my Tiffany-inspired note set, it provides me with a sense of calm. I’ve decided to name it “Fuzzy” in honor of an inside joke I had with my former coworker (we previously attended BookCon together), who has moved on to a new job.
When sharing some herbs with my friend Beyza today, I realized I didn’t know much about thyme, except that it does best in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Curious about where the herb originates and what it can be used for, I decided to make it the next garden plant that I would research and learn some facts about. And it turns out that thyme has quite a history!