Traveling Below the Mason Dixon Line

Over Memorial Day, Matt and I ventured south to the land of the Flowering Dogwood, the Cardinal and civil war reenactments. Yes, we went to the Old Dominion State, otherwise known as Virginia.

My sister, Abby, moved to Fredericksburg, VA nearly two years ago after taking a new coaching position at the University of Mary Washington. And even though I have seen a lot of pictures of Abby’s new town, met some of her swimmers and  even took a “FaceTime tour” of her apartment, I’m embarrassed to say that I had never visited her. I know, I am a bad sister — but thankfully those days are behind us. Not only did I visit Fredericksburg, I am fairly certain that I dominated it.

After living in New York City for six years, the transition to Fredericksburg has been a little challenging for Abby. Just as she grew accustomed to city life, she moved to a fairly suburban area. While it isn’t suburban like New Hampshire with lots of trees, cows and fields – it is suburban like strip malls, chain restaurants and a slower pace of life. And while we spent a lot of time celebrating everything that is great about America: dinner at Applebees, shopping at Target and getting ice cream at the local “dairy bar” — we also got to experience a little of the history that makes Fredericksburg so special.

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Thanks Abby for an incredible trip. I can’t wait to come again — Carry me back to old Virginny!

Conquering Half Dome

When Matt and I decided to go to Yosemite, I left most of the planning to him. He talked about going on a few hikes, one in particular called “Half Dome.” I didn’t pay much attention to him during these rants… I figured “hey, I’m from New Hampshire. I practically grew up in the mountains. How hard can this hike actually be?” Well, let me tell you…hard.

When I was in 8th grade, my school spend the first third of the year preparing for our trip to Mt. Cardigan. We practiced outdoor survival skills like getting up tents, starting soil, measuring trees and analysing soil. But more than that, we learned teamwork, independence and real problem solving skills. The memories that I formed in 8th grade, particularly on our trip to Mt. Cardigan, are some of the fondest that I have from my childhood.

When Matt was in 8th grade, his school took a trip to Washington D.C. They toured the city and spent the night in a hotel. Honestly, there is no comparison between our experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I love the city of D.C. and think that the city has a lot to offer. However, going with your school won’t provide a very different experience than if you took a family vacation to D.C. That is what made Mt. Cardigan so special. It was an experience that was created by our teachers and more importantly, by ourselves.

For the past 9 years, every time Matt and I go on an outdoorsy type vacation I compare it to Mt. Cardigan. When we went hiking in the White Mountains, it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. When we went hiking and camping in Havasu, Arizona it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. When we went canyoning and ice climbing in Interlaken, Switzerland it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. When we went cliff jumping in Capri, Italy it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. Matt has grown to detest Mt. Cardigan because none of our trips can ever live up to those 4 days.

Well, after successfully hiking to the top of Half Dome last week, I am happy to report (and Matt is EXTREMELY happy to hear) that it was more intense than Mt. Cardigan. After more than 16 miles, 9 hours, 3 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,  and more than 8 liters of water later we successfully completed Half Dome.

Although we both walked away extremely tired with sore muscles, it was worth it. The views from the top were worth the sheer terror I felt while hoisting myself up the “cables” at the top of the mountain.

So now when Matt and I take our vacations, they will have to live up to the experience of conquering half dome… although, Cardigan will always have a special place in my heart.