Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2023

Balloon Glow at 2023 Albuquerque Balloon Festival
Balloon Glow at 2023 Albuquerque Balloon Festival

I’m way overdue on this blog post. There are some adventures that I know a blog post can’t properly describe. My photos and writing just aren’t skilled enough to capture the beauty of the unique experience! This is one of those adventures.

The Albuquerque Balloon Festival has been on my bucket list for awhile. In fact, it was the only item (#32) on my original 60 until 60 list that I didn’t accomplish. (Instead I substituted walking 2019 miles in 2019).

Any good adventure is not just about the experience, it’s also about who you go with! So, when one of my favorite girlfriends, Sonja, asked if I’d want to go to the Balloon Festival, I jumped on the opportunity! Heck, yeah!

Morning Ascent

Morning Session at Albuquerque Balloon Festival

Being newbies, we were both a bit unsure of the logistics. We made the 7-hour drive without a problem and rose at 4:30am in order to catch the shuttle for the sunrise ascent.

I’d read that we didn’t need to get admission tickets ahead of time, but it turned out the shuttle tickets were sold out and we were stuck in traffic at sunrise. Boo.

Despite this disappointment, when we did finally did make it to the park, the weather was clear and the balloons were plentiful.

Clear Sky Full of Colorful Balloons!

There was such a huge variety of balloons and it really was magnificent to see so many fill the sky all at once!

Old Town Albuquerque

Sonja with an artsy drink at The Dancing Crow in Old Town, Albuquerque

I was able to use my new Home Exchange Membership to get us a fabulous house for our 3-night Albuquerque stay. The house was beautiful, unique, and full of custom woodwork. It also turned out to be walking distance to Old Town, Albuquerque!

There were many fun and colorful shops full of whimsical items on display, including a “Seize the Day” mirror!

I loved this colorful Carpe Diem Mirror!

The town square was full of people dancing and enjoying music. One of my favorite memories from the trip is when Sonja and I danced and sang while the band played Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl.

Singing Brown-Eyed Girl with Sonja!

If you look at our ears in this video, you’ll see Sonja had bought us both some really perfect earrings! Hers had sunflowers and mine were my carpe diem colors of purple and turquoise. I love them and they’ll always remind me of this trip!

Evening Balloon Glow

Balloon Glow at Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2023

Our second night in Albuquerque, we went for the evening session at the park. This time, we knew to get the shuttle tickets (which included park admission) before they sold out. We also brought blankets and snacks, so we were much more prepared to relax and enjoy the evening festivities.

And those festivities were plentiful! This time, as the sun set and the sky darkened the balloons glowed as they were fired up in unison.

Nighttime Balloon Glow was Magnificent!

Besides the magnificent display of gorgeous colorful balloons, there were skydivers, a drone show and two sets of incredible fireworks! The shows totally exceeded all expectations!

In Summary

I understand now why the Albuquerque Balloon Festival is so highly recommended. Since we missed the morning shuttle, we didn’t make it to the park in time for the sunrise mass ascension, but we still were able to witness the beauty of the sky filled with colorful balloons.

But for me, the highlight of the Fiesta was the night session including the Balloon Glow, skydiving show, drone show, and fireworks. I’d never seen anything like it! So gorgeous!

Sharing the experience with Sonja was what truly made it special. Everything… the road-trip, our long talks, our shared excitement and joy of the shops and galleries, the thoughtful surprise earrings.. and, of course, the thrill of seeing all those gorgeous sites together – they all are memories I’ll treasure.

April Adventure: The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC

Cherry Blossom Festival 2023 in Washington DC

The Cherry Blossom Festival is an adventure inspiring awe

Last year was the year of Microadventures. I did some kind of activity or excursion at least once a week that inspired awe. My “rules” were that I had to do it with another person and then blog about it.

This was a wonderful habit to get into and even though I haven’t been blogging about all my 2023 Microadventures, I am going to blog today about a very awe-inspiring excursion: The 2023 Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC.

What makes this a full-blown “adventure” (as opposed to a “micro”-adventure) is that I’ve been planning for it ever since Scotty moved to Washington DC last year! This took planning and travel and was a much anticipated escapade.

I just love flowers, flowering trees, and had heard how gorgeous the cherry blossom trees would be when they were at their peak.

Timing the peak

One of the difficult things about seeing awe-inspiring natural beauty is that it’s difficult to time the peak days, which change from year to year.

Because I needed to make my travel plans in advance, I just estimated the peak to be around early April, and got nervous when this year’s peak turned out to be March 23.

Even though we were there 9 days after the peak, there were plenty of beautiful, full trees. The weather was cool (about 57 degrees) but sunny so the scenery stunning. I absolutely want to make this an annual event (as long as Scotty is living in the DC area). Maybe next year, we’ll be able to hit it right at its peak. Now I feel confident, though, that it’s still worth going even a week or so past peak bloom.

Photos of the Cherry Blossom Festival in historic Washington DC

The Cherry Blossom Trees surround the Tidal Basin of Washington DC’s National Mall. This is where you’ll find all the historic monuments honoring our country’s forefathers.

The Jefferson Memorial framed by Cherry Blossom Branches
Martin Luther King Memorial Surrounded by Cherry Blossom Trees
Tulip Garden with the Washington Monument in the background
Cherry Blossom Trees in the Japanese Lantern section

Getting off the beaten path

The one downside of this adventure were the crowds. Luckily, we were able to take the subway to get to the National Mall, but the sounds of cars honking and whistles blowing (from people who were directing traffic and pedestrians) kind of took away from the audio ambiance.

After getting our fill of the trees around the National Mall, we got back on the subway to the Armory exit and from there took a Lyft to the National Arboretum for more beauty.

Cherry Blossom Trees at the National Arboretum

The National Arboretum offered up more opportunities for Spring Blossoms. Scotty kept saying they should have a race through these trails. After I’d scoffed at such an idea, we saw that, in fact, there was going to be a 5K in early June when all the azaleas would be in bloom!

Fields of Bluebells in bloom

It also was the season of bluebells! The vast blooms on this walking trail right by Scotty’s house were gorgeous and plentiful.

All-in-all, this was a super-successful adventure. These early April flowers fill me with joy and I’m so grateful that I was able to experience such a memorable sight with Scotty.

2023 Tuesdays with BB & Yvy #1: Robinson Preserve

Yvy (pronounced “Evie”) and BB at Robinson Preserve

Last year I blogged at least once a week about my Microadventures. This year I’ve been going with “Healthy Aging” as my loosey-goosey theme. I’ve also thought about blogging each week about someone I admire. I can do a twofer with this post by blogging about Becky and how she contributes to my brain health!

Healthy Aging

One thing that’s super-important for healthy aging and brain health is having good friends. Having new experiences is also great for the brain, so new experiences with good friends is like a double-dose of brain food!

During my snowbird months while I’m in Bradenton, FL, I’ve wanted to get into a routine. My best and very wise friend in the area is Becky Burns. We are both busy with our various projects, but I asked Becky if we could have a weekly get-together while I was in Florida. I love weekly rituals and rather than comparing calendars every week, it’s so much easier to just have a regular day/time blocked off so I can look forward to “BB Time!”

We agreed that Tuesday mornings worked well for both of us and Becky suggested that each week we could do different “microadventures” such as walks, paddle-boarding, cafes, beach, etc. Perfect!

A New Experience: Robinson Preserve and Sage Biscuit Cafe

I asked Becky to pick our first outing. The next morning I got an email titled, “2023 Tuesdays with BB & Yvie #1: Robinson Preserve.” I love the title of the email, both because it caters to my systematic titling of activities and uses my self-suggested nickname! (Though, I like spelling it Yvy, even more to really confuse people!)

Our scenic walk through Robinson Preserve was followed by a healthy brunch at Sage Biscuit Cafe. CarpeDeeLicious!

Robinson Preserve is a 600+-acre coastal preserve located in northwestern Bradenton.
Plenty of scenic hiking for Jack, Becky, and I to enjoy.
Delicious healthy brunch at Sage Biscuit Cafe in Bradenton

Someone I admire: Rebecca Burns!

Becky is a wonderful blog-post topic for a variety of reasons:

  1. She’s always interesting, fun, creative, witty, and willing to try new things.
  2. She doesn’t mind being the topic of blog posts!
  3. She’s one of the few people who reads my blog and often sends me a supportive comment, even when I know I’m being lazy about the writing.

In the Spring of 2020, we were Covid Lockdown partners at her home and she was my co-host on Season 2 of my Carpe Diem Connections Podcast.

In fact, I’ve blogged about Becky quite a bit, as an example of beauty and birthday-celebrator, as a supreme listener and animal-lover, as a guest on my podcast talking about self-acceptance, and on countless other posts as a fellow-adventurer.

BB & Yvy!

I’m so grateful to know this wise and wonderful friend and I bet my brain is 10x healthier than it used to be, thanks to our friendship!

iFly Indoor Skydiving: I Can Fly!

Tony and I give indoor skydiving a try at iFly Orlando.

iFly Indoor Skydive in Orlando
Adventure at iFly Indoor Skydiving

Another flying adventure

Even though my year of Microadventures is over, the adventures continue!

Knowing I’d be in Florida for the winter, Tony invited me to join him in Orlando for yet another flying adventure! (I’d also had an unexpected hang-gliding adventure in November).

Wow! Another opportunity to fly? I only wish I’d had my SuperCarpeDiemWoman cape! (Well, actually, we had to wear a special flight suit so… nevermind about the cape. At least I had my butterfly pants and Carpe Diem shirt for the pre-flight picture.)

iFly Indoor Skydiving was yet another activity that I didn’t even know existed!

“Cousin” Tony is friend, family, and most importantly, a VIP Carpe Diem Adventurer!

What’s it like to have an iFly Indoor Skydiving Adventure?

Tony, an experienced iFlyer, had bought us each three flights with one of them being a high flight, where the instructor brought us up high in the wind tunnel and spun us around.

We didn’t have our phones or cameras when we were all suited up and flying, so no pictures of me flying, but here’s a YouTube video of what it’s like:

Yeah, that’s exactly what it was like! OK, we weren’t doing any fancy flips, but our instructor, Ryan, did tell me I did “very well.” And for the record, he didn’t say that to everyone. I was a proud graduate of the First Flight of iFly Flying School.

My Certificate of Completion of my first iFly flight

iFly Indoor Skydiving is for every age!

I thought this might be a fun thing to do with Diego and Reneya and asked what age range could fly.

“The youngest is 3 and we’ve had a few people who are over 100,” answered Ryan.

Ages 3 to over 100! One of the women in our group was celebrating her 70th birthday. I love an activity that spans all generations! Maybe I’ll take Mom, too!

If you’re looking for something fun and exciting to do, fly it out!

2022: A Year of Microadventures

It’s getting late on New Year’s Eve and I’m enjoying a tradition that I’ve grown to love – quiet reflection about the events of the past year as I peruse my photos, journals, and blog posts.

Last year my New Years Resolution was to have at least one “Microadventure” a week with at least one other person and blog about it. I thought it would help me be more intentional about creating fun experiences with people I love and maybe make some new friends, too! It turned out to be a huge success!

Some of my favorite Microadventures

When I describe this project, people often ask what were some of my favorites. Here are some that are memorable for me:

Santa School Graduation – This was fun because it was a surprise (Thank you, Michael Bolé!), something that I loved and didn’t even know such a school existed!

Santa School Graduation

Hang-gliding in Nags Head, NC – This was special because I didn’t ever think I’d even want to try hang-gliding! Doing it with my kids was extra special!

Hang-gliding school in Nags Head

In this summer-time MMAP (Multi-MicroAdventure Post) (which was light on blogging), I loved realizing that my life was filled with daily Microadventures! I especially thought it was cute when Reneya suggested we go to IHOP as a Microadventure.

Quotidian Microadventures including IHOP with the kids!

Of course, I loved all Microadventures that included my grandchildren, but this Trick-or-Trot 5K race was another highlight for me because I never thought I’d be able to run another race!

The Arvada Trick-or-Trot 5K with my favorite “foods”

Perhaps my favorite Microadventure blog post is this one where I took Scotty to meet his FlamingBro, Kazi at the Sarasota Jungle Gardens. Admittedly, I haven’t been putting much effort into the writing of these posts, but I had some fun with this one.

Scotty meets his FlamingBro, Kazi

My spontaneous international trip to San Miguel de Allende with “Bali Chris” was exciting and included many micro-adventures, perhaps the most memorable being a hot-air balloon ride.

Hot Air Balloon ride over San Miguel de Allende

I had a number of Microadventures with my good friend, Becky, including this one where we saw the play Our Town in Sarasota.

Becky strikes a pose

My friend, Jack(ster), always finds something special to do when I visit him in San Francisco.

Me and Jackster in Sausalito

This girlfriend getaway to Red Feather Lakes was such a welcome retreat.

Girlfriends Getaway

This post about a series of Microadventures while I was in Florida reminded me that the people were the magic ingredient that made my adventures so special.
This popular Big Panda quote capture the importance of the people in our lives.

Oh my goodness! Yes, there are so many more that I love because I love the people! I’m so grateful for all of the people who shared this year with me. What wonderful memories. My heart is full.

Worked well
  • The people! Whether family, good friend, or someone I was just meeting, doing this with at least one other person made it extra special!
  • Knowing that I was going to be writing about my Microadventures, I took more pictures, and paid closer attention to the details of the event. I often provided a hyperlink, and that would give me more information about the place I visited.
  • Writing the blog posts helped solidify the memory for me. Tonight, as I’m reading through the many, many (117+) Microadventures I’ve had, I’m amazed at all the incredible experiences I’ve had this year.
  • It helped to not plan too much! As I was thinking about my favorites, a lot of what made them my favorites is that they were unexpected or surprising in some way.
  • I was very flexible on my “rules”.. which made it very easy for me to come up with at least one Microadventure every week.
  • I had microadventures even on the weeks that were hard for me for some reason.. When I look back at the year, I’m reminded much more of these happy memories rather than my difficult ones.
Could have been better
  • My WordPress skills
  • My writing skills
  • I haven’t spent the time to write about all my recent Microadventures and its the last day of the year! I have a few more to catch up on!
What I’ll do next year
  • Continue weekly blogging
  • Take at least one class a month (including a class on writing)
  • Continue looking for new experiences and people to enjoy them with!

Microadventure #111-#117: Wilmington, NC with Matt & Stella

Microadventure #111: Stay at the Sunflower House in Wilmington, NC

After leaving Nags Head, Matt, Stella and I headed down the coast to the town of Wilmington, NC. We stayed at this charming Airbnb named the Sunflower House after the Van Gogh masterpiece.

Sunflower Mural on the side of the Sunflower House in Wilmington.

Stella needed to work our first day in Wilmington, but Matt and I ventured out to the RiverWalk and did another DIY Walking Tour (we’d also done one in Asheville), learning some of the history of the town. We also perused the Cotton Exchange shopping center, all decked out for the holidays.

Microadventure #112: Cape Fear River Walk in Wilmington
Christmas Tree decorated with Cotton in the Cotton Exchange Shopping Area

The following day we learned a lot more about the history of Wilmington at the very informative Cape Fear Museum.

Microadventure #113: Cape Fear Museum

This museum included a photo scavenger hunt, and, yes, even though it’s for children, I thoroughly enjoyed finding all the items. It was only a little embarrassing when Matt let the museum personnel know that I’d completed the scavenger hunt and should get the promised prize. It turned out to be a sticker which wasn’t enough to warrant the embarrassment, but I admit, I was curious about the prize myself.

One of the most interesting things we learned on the tour was about the 1898 coup at which White Supremacists overthrew the government in the only successful insurrection in America’s history.

I was amazed that I’d been unaware of this important and mostly hidden piece of American History. Matt, Stella and I watched the Documentary, Wilmington On Fire to learn more, and as we were leaving Wilmington we visited the 1898 Memorial.

Microadventure #114: 1898 Memorial

While we were at this Memorial, I saw a bus advertising Website, Though we didn’t discover this site or opportunity to learn more about this heritage tour until we were leaving Wilmington, it’s on our list for our next visit.

Future Microadventure: WilmintoNColor Tour

Another thing I learned about Wilmington is that it is the home of Carnivorous plants, including the Venus Fly Trap. We visited the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden and learned that the Venus Fly Trap can only be found in a 75-100 mile radius of Wilmington! The Venus Fly Traps were really quite tiny and hard to find – not the big scary-looking plants that I’d imagined based on The Little Shop of Horrors!

Microadventure #115: Venus Fly Traps at the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden

One of the surprisingly interesting Wilmington Microadventures was touring the USS North Carolina Battleship with Matt. I say ‘surprisingly’ here because I’ve never been that interested in Battleships. I wouldn’t have picked this particular tour on my own, but Matt wanted to go, so I thought, ‘why not?’ secretly hoping we wouldn’t spend too much time there. We ended up spending at least 3 hours as we slowly went through the huge ship, taking it all in.

Microadventure #116: USS North Carolina Battleship

It was incredible to me that the men who served on this ship in the 1930’s might still be alive today and that all the technology that controlled the ship was before the age of personal computers or the Internet. Also crazy how uncomfortable and lacking in privacy it must have been for them with very uncomfortable looking bunks stacked up four in a row.

Matt joins me for a fun Happy Huladays pose!

There’s so much more I could write about each of these microadventures. In fact, there are quite a few more experiences we enjoyed in Wilmington, including crossing the bridge from One Tree Hill, exploring unique coffee shops and dinner spots, and Civil War Memorials.

Mostly, it was just wonderful to be sharing these microadventures with Matt and Stella. Even when we all lived in Colorado, we rarely travelled together.. or even saw each other much during the Covid years. I feel super-grateful to them for this trip and for this past two months full of new experiences and memories!

Microadventure #117: One Tree Hill Bridge
Biggest Adventure – Spending Holiday Time with Matt and Stella!

Microadventures #106-#110: Nags Head, NC with Matt, Stella, and Scotty

As I mentioned in my last post, hang gliding was just one of many microadventures I experienced in Nags Head, NC last week.

Microadventure #106: Dinner at The Jingle 12 Christmas Themed Pop-up

Matt, Stella, and I arrived at Nags Head on Friday, Dec.9th, in time for dinner. It turns out that this is the off-season in Nags Head and the first three dinner places we tried to eat at were closed (they really need to do better at keeping their Websites current.)

We’d passed this very festive-looking place called “Jingle 12” which I thought looked perfect! Matt, however, had given it a thumbs down. Even after three of his picks were closed, he wanted to go to the Outback.

It took a bit of persuasion, but I finally convinced Matt to try Jingle 12. We were all pleasantly surprised. Sure, it was over-the-top Christmas, but if you’re gonna decorate, go big, right? Every inch of this place was covered with lights and Christmas decor. The theme continued to the menus with holiday-themed drinks and dishes.

The food was delicious and unique. We even took home a cookie sampler as though we’d been to a traditional cookie exchange party.

All of this was a “pop-up,” only available for the month of December! Despite Matt’s initial hesitation, Matt, Stella, and I all agreed that it was the perfect way to start our Nags Head Microadventures.

Microadventure #107: Bodie Island Lighthouse

Scotty arrived in Nags Head, joining us at the Airbnb late Friday night. Saturday morning, our first stop was Bodie Island Lighthouse.

We read about this history and debated about it’s ‘distinctive’ black and white design. (When Scotty and Matt are together, everything is a debate.)

We also walked through the grounds with the dogs (though, unfortunately, this is where they may have been exposed to ticks). Still, it was good to get some steps in and just the beginning of our very full day.

Me, Scotty, Stella, and Matt – Walking around Bodie Island with the Lighthouse in the background
Microadventure #108: Elizabethan Gardens

The family discussions and walking continued as we roamed through the beautiful Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, NC. The grounds were gorgeous and decorated for the holiday season.

Matt, Stella, Mochi, and Choco

The snowmen bench provided the perfect photo op for family holiday cards.

These gardens were meant to recreate the gardens of England and as a memorial for the Lost Colony – settlers that came over to the area over 400 years ago.

Personally, I didn’t know anything about the Lost Colony, but one of the guides at the park, told us all about it. We got a kick out of his dramatic story-telling. Maybe I’m getting used to the faster speed that Matt & Stella listen to podcasts, because I was getting a bit impatient with his theatrical pauses and rhetorical questions.

I have to admit, the story was a lot more interesting than a typical history class and did whet my appetite for wanting to learn more.

Microadventure #109: Wright Brothers Memorial and Museum

After our hang gliding experience, we continued our busy day by going to the Wright Brothers Memorial and Museum.

The museum celebrates the history of flight describing Wilbur and Orville’s early designs and trials.

It’s really amazing that those first flights were a mere 120 years ago! We’ve come such a long way in such a short time.

Microadventure #110: Beach house Airbnb stay

One of the novelties of any vacation is the lodging. Since Airbnb has become an option, it’s especially fun to be able to stay at places other than hotels. Stella’s especially good at finding unique and beautiful places, and this trip was no different. We were at a house right on the beach where we could hear the waves crashing to shore from our beds.

After our busy Saturday of Microadventures, Scotty suggested we watch the Star Wars Holiday Special. This 1978 made-for-TV special apparently was considered so bad that it won the #1 in The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. One of my favorite memories of the day was listening to Matt and Scotty laughing hysterically at some of the Chewbacca family scenes.

The next morning we played board games before checking out and eating our final meal in the Outer Banks. Scotty needed to head back to Virginia and Matt, Stella, and I were headed to Wilmington.

It was a short trip for Scotty, but fully loaded. And in just a couple of weeks, he’ll be coming back to North Carolina for Christmas!

Microadventure #105: Hang-gliding in Nags Head, NC

I was going to title this blog post: “Learning to Fly.” Flying, after all, is a skill most superheroes have, and this more-than-microadventure experience is totally one that caters to my SuperCarpeDiemWoman alter-ego.

Stella planned a vacation within a vacation for us to Nags Head, NC, during my 2-month holiday visit to North Carolina. Scotty drove down from Centreville, VA to meet us at an awesome Airbnb beach house right on the coast.

Our itinerary included at least 5 events that I’d consider “Microadventures” but I will save the other 4 for another post.

Matt & Scotty going to Hang Gliding School!

Originally, it was only going to be Matt & Scotty who had planned to experience hang gliding at KittyHawkKites. We’d thought it was a 3-hour training period which concluded with a flight.

Knowing that any previous classes I’d taken involving wind (sailing and wind-surfing) were embarrassingly pathetic, I had no interest myself in even trying.

In fact, I’ve been avoiding any sport that is at all risky or dangerous since I started having back problems 4 years ago. And I’d heard that hang gliding was one of the most dangerous sports there is!

Stella and I had planned to just go find a pretty walk somewhere on the beach while Matt & Scotty took the class and be back in time for a photo shoot of their flight.

However, we discovered that we could tag along for the class, which included 5 flights to actually experience what they were learning. Willie, one of the instructors, asked Stella and me, “Are you sure you don’t want to join, too?”

Stella said she was perfectly happy to watch with Choco and Mochi.

Stella on the Sand Dunes of Jockey’s Ridge watching our attempts at hang gliding

I, however, hesitantly said that I might like to try. I’ve lived through skydiving, bungee jumping, and para-sailing (although I did break my tooth on the skydiving landing.) I’m all about the one-time adventure experience in a controlled environment.

I also realized that this was an opportunity to experience something new and adventurous right alongside my dare-devil sons, Matt and Scotty.

Willie told me that I could watch Matt & Scotty’s first flights and decide. When I saw that it didn’t look nearly as scary and dangerous as I’d imagined (this was a beginner’s lesson, after all) I decided to go for it!

It ended up being amazing! Willie and Megan, the two trainers, were there to guide throughout my three flights and I had no problems at all, even on the landings!

“I’m flying!”

Interestingly, there was a woman around my age, Sonia, who was working on getting a hang gliding certification. We chatted and exchanged numbers and I admired her passion in wanting to advance with her skills with the sport.

Personally, I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to do it at all. Experiencing the thrill of “flying,” the relief of the ease of landing, the excitement of the instructors yelling out, “You’re doing it!” and being with Matt, Scotty, and Stella– yeah, that’s once-in-a-lifetime priceless.

12-31-22 Update: I just received this text from Sonia: Happy New Year, Yvette. I’m back home in Ohio, I arrived only a few days ago. I stopped in Washington D.C. on my way back and spent Christmas day at Mount Vernon–George Washington’s estate. Had no idea how entrepreneurial a man he was, they still have a distillery there and sell his whiskey, that is whiskey produced using his recipes. The best news of all though, is that I got my Hang 1 certification. Glad to share the news with you because, well, you were there for a small part of the journey. Hang 2 or Bust!!! Keep in touch.

Microadventure #104 – Hiking in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with new friends

Occoneechee Mountain Fall Colors Hike

My very first Microadventure for my 2022 Project was a hike on Myakkahatchee Trail in North Port, Florida. Now, here it is, over 100 Microadventures later and I’m writing about a similar experience, this time in North Carolina, on another hike with a chee-ending name: Occoneechee,

Walking and hiking has been a wonderful “happy” habit of mine for the past few years, since I gave up running (and a full time job!)

I’m just amazed at how many parks and trails there are everywhere! And here in North Carolina at this time of year, the trees are especially gorgeous.

Hiking and walking are a wonderful way to make new friends when you’re in a new location, as I am these days.

The Carborro Parks and Recreation has a “Golden Trails” program and I was able to tag along as Naturalist Kate Finlayson led us with facts about the trees, birds, and all things nature! For example, Kate described how you could tell the difference between different types of oak trees based on the bark. I hadn’t even known there were different types of oak trees at all! I loved seeing Kate’s passion for nature and her excitement when teaching us.

Pumpkin Loop Trail with Meetup Group

I also discovered a Meetup Group for Women (55+) Walkers. This is a very active Meetup group and it’s been fun to find like-minded ladies to hang out with while I’m here in Chapel Hill.

The Pumpkin Loop Trail is in the same Forest that’s right in Matt & Stella’s neighborhood so a short drive to get to the trailhead.

Eno River Trail Hike with Meetup

Another hike I went on with this group was in Eno River State Park. I’ve taken so many pictures on every hike I’ve been on and they all are beautiful. Each has its own unique charm, whether that be a river or creek, moss-covered tree bark, or a scene that looks like an artistic masterpiece.

But the hikes I’m describing here add an extra special ingredient: People! Already, a few of these like-minded walkers have met up with me for lunch or an activity. I’ll only be here for a few more weeks, but I’ll be back for visits, and it’s fun to make some new friends during this short chapter of my life while I’m visiting Matt & Stella.

Nature, sunshine, exercise, beauty and new friends – a recipe for happiness!

Microadventure #103: Asheville and Black Mountain with Matt & Stella

The Blue Ridge Parkway – Another stamp for my National Park Passport

Since I’ve been in North Carolina, I feel like I’ve been on vacation – I really have no responsibilities. But this past week, Matt and Stella took vacation, too, and the three of us visited Black Mountain and Asheville, North Carolina.

Stella’s an expert at planning fun vacations and is always so thoughtful in everything from picking out podcasts that we’d all enjoy to listen to on the road to finding the perfect Airbnbs and restaurants.

Pretty Airbnb house that we stayed at in Black Mountain, N.C.

The Airbnb house that they had found for us was big and beautiful and my upstairs room was very comfortable! There were plenty of decks and outdoor seating and a very comfortable chaise lounge and loft area where we played games in the evenings.

Purple swing and gazebo

The owners of this home clearly liked purple (my favorite color!) and I was happy to see purple influence in the dish-ware, decor, and even this outdoor purple swing.

On the first day after we arrived, while Stella worked from the Airbnb, Matt and I went on a DIY walking tour of Asheville.

Stop on Ashville walking tour

Matt was the guide and the tour was like a scavenger hunt as we found the different markers, buildings, and statues along the way, telling us about the history of Asheville.

I, of course, liked to be part of the scene, whenever possible.

I thought this tour was fun and informative and I was impressed that it was all free (especially after learning how expensive tickets were to see the Biltmore! Tickets at Christmas start at $99! No thank you!)

Every morning we would start the day with coffee shop pastries – a tradition we were doing on Sundays, but I was happy to see it extend to vacation days.

This was usually followed by a trail walk with the dogs, Mochi and Choco. One morning, while Matt & Stella went for a training run, I was in charge of watching my grand-dogs. So cute!

On our second day, Stella finished up her work early enough that the three of us were able to visit the Asheville Pinball Museum for an all-you-can-play pinball experience.

Pinball Museum in Ashville, NC

Playing pinball was very nostalgic for me because my family used to own a pinball machine. I’d spent many hours as a kid playing on our machine and many of the machines in the museum were similar. My brother, Chris, owned a few pinball machines of his own, and had won some pinball competitions. Chris died over 25 years ago, but, of course, the afternoon brought back a lot of memories.

And, even though I really don’t think it has anything to do with skill, I was especially pleased that I was able to beat Matt and Stella when we were all competing. (There are so few games that I ever beat them at.)

We all were a little less mindful of our usual healthy eating habits and indulged in some sweet treats. Matt brought their toaster-oven in order to make us his cookies toped with toasted marshmallow.

Matt makes us an evening treat!

On our final day, Matt made a little detour to take me on part of the Blue Ridge Parkway which would give me another stamp in my National Parks Passport book. We also stopped to do a short trail walk with the dogs.

Trail walk off the Blue Ridge Parkway

While this was a beautiful walk, we agreed that it was similar to the Carolina North Forest trails that are right in Matt and Stella’s neighborhood!

Matt reiterated what he’s said before – there’s no real need to go on vacation any more, since he lives in such a beautiful spot!

I know they really took this trip for me! They knew I’d love Black Mountain and Asheville and they were right!