We’ll Be Back!

Hi, everyone!

Autumn’s arrival heralds many spectacular gifts: crisp breezes, the scent of pumpkin spice, and the satisfying crunch of dried leaves beneath our boots. It is also the time of the year where we, as students, dive headfirst into our textbooks and practically live in the secluded cubicles on our library’s designated “quiet floor.” This year is no exception. As always, both Colin and I will be chasing after some exciting goals of our own. But this time, we will be continents apart.

Colin will be embarking upon the adventure of a lifetime by studying abroad for three months in Kenya and Tanzania with The School for Field Studies. He’ll be going on awesome backpacking expeditions, aiding local villages through his research, and gaining valuable insight and experience that will ultimately make him an awesome wildlife conservation biologist. I’ll remain in the United States to continue pursuing my own research interests and projects, achieve my Level 1 Kingian Nonviolence Trainer certification, and fully immerse myself in our university’s Peer Advocacy program, amongst a thousand other things. Needless to say, we’re both very excited!

With us being on two different continents and being busy as ever, our hiking trips will unfortunately be put on hold, but only for a few months! We will post intermittently about our own experiences during this time, but as of now, the regular schedule won’t be back in place until the semester ends. When life starts back up again in the spring, you can find our new adventures right here on Mud, Sweat & Mountaineers!

Infinite love, hugs, and successful adventures,

Katie and Colin

Katie and Colin Try Being Tourists: Flume Gorge

We already know what you’re thinking. And no, we won’t stop kidding ourselves into thinking we’re a different breed of tourist (we prefer “frequent visitors”). However, reality points to us being guiltier of tourism than we’d like to admit. Neither of us permanently lives in New Hampshire. We’ve shamelessly dined in cute, bear-themed breakfast places, hoarded souvenirs from the many gift shops scattered across the neighboring mountain towns, and very briefly entertained the idea of taking a moose-sighting tour. The one thing we swore we wouldn’t do was to pay money to see something shaped by nature itself. We personally believe everyone should have access to these sights and places free of charge. But on our non-hiking day, we had arrived at our campsite unusually early and had an entire day to kill. So, we caved to hypocrisy and headed over to Flume Gorge to see what the fuss was about.

Outside the huge, wooden lodge guarding the entrance to the Gorge, we were invited to play a guessing game in which had to we match the animal to its correct footprint. It wasn’t enough for Colin just to guess the common name of the animal. He gleefully provided the genus and species of nearly every animal he guessed (typical, passionate wildlife major). We talked with the guide, Andrea, who was super nice, and learned we were both hiking the Kinsmans the next day! After some talk about the area and hiking, we said goodbye and ventured into the lodge. A fake stuffed moose greeted us, along with a (real) stuffed bear, and an old carriage amongst other things. Although the building is spacious, it seemed much smaller due to the swarms of people inside. Fifteen dollars later (each!), we embarked on our walk through Flume Gorge.

The walk itself was pretty. We picked up a scavenger hunt (provided by Andrea and clearly intended for children) to make the trip more entertaining. Colin even scared away a poor little boy by waddling like a penguin behind him (we had to walk like animals across the street!). The sights were well marked and interesting. Along the way was a glacial boulder, a covered bridge, and various viewpoints that showcased cascading waters and unique rock formations. After weaving through groups of families, we finally reached Flume Gorge.

It was a sublime feeling to stand between two colossal sheets of prehistoric rock, and look down at powerful streams water surging in graceful swirls below. It was amazing to ponder how the gorge itself came to be, and to see evidence of its age through the dark streaks of the main basalt dike. Flume Gorge was majestic. The clusters of tourists were not.

We completely acknowledge that if your family is not the rugged, mountaineering type (or if you have younger children in tow), places like Flume Gorge are an amazing way to experience nature’s masterpieces on a limited schedule and without the exhaustion. But in all honesty, we felt trapped in a tourist’s nest. We couldn’t get any good pictures of the Gorge without at least one person in the shot. While we tried to stop and admire the scenery for two seconds, we were interrupted when we had to make room for lines of people who wanted to keep crossing the narrow bridge. And worst of all, we witnessed parents allowing their children to go behind the fences that guarded potentially dangerous parts of the area (something that hit home for us, especially because of last weekend). One boy was playing directly on top of a waterfall! WHO LETS THEIR KID DO THAT?! Maybe it was just the day we were there, but a potentially enjoyable experience was dampened by too many people.

Flume Gorge’s beauty is not worth fifteen dollars–it is priceless. However, we were both a little bitter about forking over $30 total to not even have an opportunity to fully appreciate its beauty. We walked back, trying to conquer our disappointment before we reached the lodge. Sure, we realize that we were also part of the congested walkways, the narrow footpaths, the small wooden staircases. We were tourists, too. There’s no denying our hypocrisy. Flume Gorge is a stunning testament to the glory of nature, and we’re so appreciative that it is open for anyone who wants to see it. We even excuse the expensive admission fee, since a lot of people work hard to maintain its beauty. But for now, we’ll just stick to the mountains, where the people are sparse but friendly, the surroundings beautiful, and the admission fees non-existent.

Best Weekend Ever! Only Not…

After last weekend’s trip, we wouldn’t blame our friend Dan if he never wants to go camping with us again. We promised him clear views of the ruggedly pristine White Mountains, a relaxing campsite by a river complete with a roaring fire and jolly camaraderie, and a hike through gorgeous Franconia Ridge. Who wouldn’t want to go after hearing that? Our reality turned out to be quite different. Murphy’s Law plagued nearly everything we did over the stretch of two days. Long story short? We hate basins and thunderstorms.

We all packed into the car Saturday morning, breakfast sandwiches in hand, and began the drive up. Thick clouds covered the sky from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, but the possibility of storms didn’t register in our minds. We claimed a nice gravel patch by the river at Hancock Campground—a site Colin has sought after since we first tried to stay there. As we set up our tent and Dan secured his hammock, the sky darkened to an ominous gray and gave us a preview of the weather to come by splattering with sparse, yet heavy raindrops. No big deal, we thought. After setting up everything, including a protective orange tarp over Dan’s hammock (which reportedly smelled like vomit), we eagerly raced down to Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill before they closed.

Polly’s was probably one of the best parts of our weekend. The inside was reminiscent of an old, cozy, New England farmhouse, and our table was adorned with cute touches like red maple leaf shaped placemats and local goodies like maple spread and maple-infused sugar. The adorableness was overwhelming. We all enjoyed some unique, afternoon pancakes and buzzed with anticipation about the next day’s hike (and naturally grew more concerned about the weather). By the time we left, it was pouring, but at least there was a pony we could visit across the street! What’s better than pancakes? Pancakes and ponies. What’s better than that? Nothing.

Before settling at out campsite for the night, we stopped at Abbey Cellars to buy our ritual wine and cheese. Dan, being on the cusp of twenty-one, was not allowed to come with us. Inside, we were surprised by a free wine tasting, which took up a good fifteen minutes before we actually set out to find the perfect pairing. Meanwhile, Dan fell asleep in the backseat of the car while the thunderstorms intensified (Sorry, Dan…). We emerged with a bottle of Merlot and a cheese with a black tea leaf film. We then stopped at Rite-Aid for some rope to hang the tarp we brought for over the picnic table, and we were off.

Upon our return, our site was nearly flooded. Dan’s hammock and his pillow, despite the tarp, were soaked (our little pumpkin tent held up, though!). The fire pit was almost brimming with rainwater. It was dismal. The rain continued plummeting down on us at full force, so we donned our raincoats and went to work.  We rigged the tarp so it hovered over the picnic table, and relocated the fireplace to halfway under our makeshift shelter. Somehow, we started a fire, attempted to dry out our clothes and raincoats (to no avail, naturally), cooked up some weenies, and indulged in some wine before heading to bed obnoxiously early. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, we now know how to equip our campsite to handle heavy rain!

The next morning, we found the rain had stopped—a fantastic sign! Except for the thick fog surrounding most of the mountains we saw on our way to breakfast, and the dark thunder clouds looming over some of the summits. We had to make a decision. We figured safety is priority, and it would really suck to get caught in a storm while hiking. Plus, the trails would likely be slippery and the mud thick and abundant. So, we opted out of Franconia for the weekend in favor of experiencing New Hampshire’s other natural wonders, like The Basin! This turned out to be a terrible idea. Also, remember that time when we wrote “safety is a priority” a few lines up? We lied.

Here’s the Sparknotes version of what happened. Dan and Colin decide to jump the fence in front of the Basin that specifically says “Do Not Cross Fence.” Katie decides to join them. Colin and Dan jump between high slabs of rocks and over a rushing stream to get a better view of the pool. On her way over to the other side, Katie falls right into the Basin itself (as only she could do), which was much deeper than anticipated. Fun fact about Katie? She can’t swim. Colin booked it down to the pool from where he was standing and dragged her out, essentially saving her life. A near drowning pretty much killed the mood for the rest of our time in New Hampshire, so we left as soon as we could, leaving The (Stupid) Basin and our stupid decisions behind.

So, that was our trip. We formally apologize to Dan for the terrible culmination of disaster that was last weekend. We’re sorry we promised you such an awesome trip and it failed so miserably. We’re sorry your hammock and pillow got soaked, and we’re sorry for laughing when you recounted how you fell out of your hammock while you were sleeping. We’re sorry you had to spend two days in wet clothes and shoes (on a related note, we’re sorry we forgot to advise you to bring a change of clothes). We’re sorry we left you in the car for so long while we were getting wine that you ended up not liking. We’re sorry we accidentally dropped your chicken sausage in soot while it was still cooking. We’re sorry we canceled the hike. We’re sorry you had to witness an almost-drowning. And most importantly, Katie is very sorry she asked you to sing that penguin song so many times. At least you got to hold Captain Feathersword for a while.

All jokes aside, please don’t be stupid like us and pretend signs are just there to protect stupid people from slipping, because not just stupid people encounter danger (although we’re certainly the poster children for dumb kids doing dumb things). The most experienced hiker in the world is still always at risk for danger, especially if they are tragically overconfident in their abilities. Thankfully, the situation ended far less worse than it could have. A lesson well learned in safety that we surely won’t forget for the rest of 48, or ever.

Adventures in New Hampshire: North Woodstock, Lincoln, and Beaver Brook Pond

Whenever we haul up to New Hampshire for the weekend, we reserve Saturdays for exploring the surrounding towns, making spontaneous stops at waterfalls, ponds, and scenic overlooks, and occasionally visiting a historical place. Given our typical late-afternoon arrivals, we find ourselves left with only a few hours of daylight (especially after scrambling to find a campsite, which we somehow always manage to do), so it works for us. It’s a great way to relax and soak in the state before setting out to the heart of the mountains. Last weekend, we took some time to get better acquainted with North Woodstock and Lincoln, the closest towns to our campsite, and sought some sweet tranquility at Beaver Brook Pond.

The stress of finding a vacant campsite at four o’clock in the afternoon can be a little overwhelming. The stress of watching people in an RV snatch the site you were two seconds away from pulling into absolutely transcends frustrating. So, when we finally set up our tent and deposited our money, we went searching for a place to just hang out. On our way into town, we stumbled across a glistening pond half encircled by mountains. Sights like these are pretty common (but certainly not unappreciated by us!), but what compelled us to stop and walk around was the trail to a large rock that jutted out into the water. Off went our shoes, and we crossed a shallow stream to reach the little trail. After a minute’s walk, we reached the rock, sat down and basked in the scene surrounding us. Since we were right next to the Beaver Brook Trail, we thought we could see Moosilauke from the pond (we were wrong, oops!). Colin and his camera had some fun, too, as evidenced by the pictures in the post!

After unwinding, we hopped back into the car and traveled a few miles down to North Woodstock to ogle at the cute shops. Much to our delight, the first thing we saw was the Cascade Coffee House. Obviously, we had to go in and we weren’t disappointed. We both got shots of maple syrup in our iced coffee, which was surprisingly delicious. Fuel in hand, we perused through many (if not all) of the charming local gift shops. Katie emerged from one with a wooden bear keychain that now guards her keys, while Colin found another shot glass to add to his travel-themed collection. The day began to wind down, so we journeyed a few minutes away to Lincoln.

Among all of its stores on the main drag, Lincoln has a little wine and cheese shop called Abbey Cellars that both of us were curious to explore. It’s been our tradition for a little while now to try a new wine and cheese when we’re together during the weekends. We had just narrowly missed out on a free wine tasting, but the staff was so helpful in finding us the best wine and cheese pairing (we ended up with a Pinot Gris and some delicious triple-cream cheese). We ambled in and out of a few more shops, one of which we discovered 65 cent plastic wine cups, how convenient! As the sun was setting, we settled down at our campsite, cooked some weenies (chicken sausage for us, though), and indulged in some wine, cheese, and soft acoustic music under the stars. Pre-hike perfection!

10 Reasons Why I’m Pumped to Hike the 4,000 Footers:

  1. The views. One of the best parts of ascending a mountain is looking out from the summit and realizing that you climbed so high that the smaller details of the world below have blurred into each other. It’s a sublime feeling. Better yet, we’ll be experiencing New Hampshire views. Anyone who has been knows well that New Hampshire’s beauty transforms with the seasons, but it never wanes.
  2. Saying “farewell” to the Freshman 15: On a completely superficial level, I have high hopes of getting in better shape. I’ve eaten an inexcusable amount of brownies, lemon squares, and cupcakes in the past year (only because the place I live during the school year has such an awesome chef). Strenuous hiking almost every weekend is bound to lead me to a stronger body, and a healthy-ish lifestyle change.
  3. Actually doing something productive with my summer. While I work and take summer classes after the school year has ended, I often find myself glued to a screen during my downtime (Internet, I’m looking at you). However, climbing mountains and being outside is way more fun, comes with a sense of accomplishment, and sounds cooler when you’re explaining how so-not-lame your summer was when you get back to school.
  4. Hiking makes you happy! Think about it. You’re physically exerting yourself in the sunshine (vitamin D!), inhaling fresh mountain air, and all the while, your brain’s increasing the concentration of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, which, very simply put, can cause a mood-boost!
  5. Spending time with Colin. (cue collective gushing and “awws.”) Seriously though, he’s my favorite person to be with, and if I’m going to be spending hours and energy hauling ass up a mountain, there’s no one else’s I’d rather do it with. We understand each other’s limits, the conversation’s ongoing, and I kind of like him, which is always a plus.
  6. The adventure. When going on these hikes, we never know what we’ll discover. We’ve found old pump houses, small monument markers and plaques with cool historical info, and grafittied cabins. My adrenaline is usually pumping non-stop when we power to the summit. I can attribute this to half excitement, half physiological preparedness in the event we encounter a bear. Either way, not knowing what will happen is awesome.
  7. Splurging on new hiking gear. I’m more excited about this than I am dreading the expense. Colin and I recently acquired a new tent, and I’m in the market for some solid boots and a small CamelBak. I love the thrill that accompanies an important purchase because it gets me pumped about the occasion(s) I’ll be using it for.
  8. CAMPING! I haven’t gone camping in four years, which sucks because I love almost everything about it. I love starting fires from scratch, campfire cooking, stargazing, and appreciating the soft serenity of the woods at twilight.
  9. The journeys up. Journeys meaning two things. One: the long drives during sunrise to our destination. I always anticipate them, even if I wanted to personally strangle every living thing when I first woke up. And of course, the climb to the summit can be just as rewarding as reaching it. But if you’re someone who enjoys hiking, which you probably are (unless you’re here mistakenly because you Google searched “sexy hiker”), then you know. If you haven’t hiked, find out before you die.
  10. I don’t really have a number ten, I’M JUST REALLY EXCITED, OKAY?

Stupid Finals

Hi! Bet you were expecting a post about hiking or climbing or happy little trees. Sorry about that. We’re still cramming for finals and blog posting isn’t particularly conducive to studying. We know you’re sad, but we’ll be back next week. Until then, here’s a picture of a pony!

I did this all by myself!


P.S. To the people who found our blog by Google searching for “sexy hiker” or “cute hiker” (we have a stats page that tells us how people find our blog), I apologize for any crushing disappointment you experienced. Mop up those tears and look elsewhere!

Adventures in Newport!

Sometimes we do things other than hiking!

This weekend we decided to take a break from studying and headed over the bridges to Newport, RI. When we left URI, it was a perfectly clear day, but once we hit the Jamestown Bridge our car was shrouded in mist from the water below. At first it was pretty strange, but once we broke through the top of the fog we could see out into the Atlantic. Thankfully, because it’s technically the off-season, the crowds were low and, more importantly, the parking was free.

On our walk to the shops, we enjoyed a cool ocean breeze. Colin thought it smelled magical. Katie thought it smelled like high tide and dead fish. To escape the stench, we ducked into Yankee Candle, where we spent an unreasonable amount of time getting high off candle fumes and picking out car air fresheners. After some shop-hopping, we discovered a quaint little museum devoted to Newport’s illustrious history (four whole rooms worth!). When we saw a sizable crowd congregated at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the exhibits, we thought it would take forever. We were relieved to find that it was just the line for the restrooms. Apparently, people don’t value history or culture much anymore. Losers.

Because Colin was hell-bent on going to Patagonia, we skipped most of the shops along the way, only stopping for cupcakes at Cupcake Charlie’s, which was absolutely necessary. We stumbled across an adorable little dress shop. As a trade-off for the amount of time Colin anticipated spending in Patagonia, Katie tried on half the dresses in the store and infuriated the owner when she didn’t buy a single one. Patagonia was a letdown, as it was far too small and didn’t have anything fun. We turned around and headed back for the shops we missed in Colin’s rushed excitement. Colin needed a smoothie to help him cope (it was a rough time).

After exploring down by the water and ogling a few coffee shops, our tummies demanded it was time for dinner. We stopped at The Red Parrot, which was absolutely massive and accommodated far more people than we thought it could. Even though there was an intimidating line of guests waiting to be seated, we were brought to a table upon our arrival. We browsed a twenty-page menu, ordered drinks, and watched the unusual amount of bachelorette parties parade down the street, bearing sashes and crowns proclaiming their bachelorette-ness. There was also the lovely juxtaposition of a man dressed up in formal attire while sporting hot pink hair.

When we finished gorging ourselves with quesadillas and raw oysters, we ventured out to see the rest of the shops before heading home. Colin bought a commemorative shot glass to add to his collection because he’s a shameless alcoholic (not really, though). Our biological urges got the better of us (not THOSE biological urges, the peeing ones), so we booked it home and back to reality, where final papers and project awaited our arrival.


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