Namaste & Nature: Hikyoga™

Hikyoga™ class overlooking Lake Ontario.
Hikyoga™ at Chimney Bluffs State Park overlooking Lake Ontario last month.

I love yoga, and I love the outdoors. It only makes sense then that I would eventually find a way to take my practice outside, right? Usually my practice takes place at my gym’s Vinyasa class, interspersed with some occasional hot yoga classes at the local Bikram studio. The first outdoor yoga class I took was in July 2014 when Rochester Young Professionals offered the outdoor recreation event “Yoga in the Park” led by Sarah from Inner Bloom Yoga. The event took place near the Sunken Garden in Highland Park – a truly beautiful setting for a peaceful practice right in the city of Rochester.

RYP's Yoga in the Park event in July 2014.
RYP’s Yoga in the Park event in July 2014.

I loved the class and the instructor did a great job, however I hadn’t heard about many other opportunities for outdoor yoga classes in the area since. Through social media and friends near Washington, DC I heard about something called Yoga Hikes DC and I thought it sounded like a terrific way to combine two of my favorite activities – and I wished such a thing existed in Rochester, NY. So I was thrilled to open up the Democrat and Chronicle one day to find an article about a Webster woman guiding adventures in area parks that blend hiking and yoga. Count me in!

Hiking along the Bluff Trail during a Hikyoga™ event.
Hiking along the Bluff Trail during a Hikyoga™ event.

I signed up for the October 4th Hikyoga™ at Chimney Bluffs State Park in Wolcott, NY. Chimney Bluffs State Park is about an hour east of Rochester. The park offers hiking in wooded trails and along the lakeshore featuring incredible views of the razor-sharp bluffs. The steep cliffs and rock/mud formations were carved by glaciers and are constantly evolving due to erosion.

Chimney Bluffs

Nicole Kazimer led a good-sized group of us through a yoga warm up, hike to the bluffs, and a full yoga class in a grassy area of the park overlooking Lake Ontario. The hike was mostly flat and not very long, less than two miles total. We ventured out to an overlook on the trail with views of the impressive bluffs, then went back the same to way we came to our spot on the lake for an invigorating yoga practice. There was a pleasant breeze and the sound of Lake Ontario’s waves crashing against the shore added a special ambiance to our meditation that really made me feel connected to nature.

Hiking along the steep ledge of the Bluff Trail.
Hiking along the steep ledge of the Bluff Trail.

Overall it was a truly wonderful experience and I’ve been dying to join another Hikyoga™ outing, but schedule restrictions have gotten in the way of previous and upcoming events. If you’re interested in attending, check out Nicole’s website www.helloyogagirl.com to learn more. You can also follow her on Instagram for some wanderlust-inducing yoga shots at @helloyogagirl.

Have you ever tried a yoga hike? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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Re-establishing a Running Routine

A gorgeous day on the trails might be enough to pull any runner out of a slump!
A gorgeous day on the trails might be enough to pull any runner out of a slump!

I have a confession to make: I did’t run for almost 4 months. Okay, so that might not seem too crazy. But it’s the longest break I’ve taken in almost four years since I began my running/fitness journey. In those four years I ran a full marathon, five half marathons, several 5Ks and countless trail and road races of other distances. From mid-July to November 2015 I ran zero miles.

2015 running stats showing no activity in the months of August, September and November.
Full disclosure: I’ve put up some terrible running stats this year. But note the complete lack of anything for August, September and October. Yikes!

Now, it’s not like I was a total slob – I went on some great bike rides, many walks, and even some pretty amazing hikes during that time. I took some yoga classes, joined an indoor beach volleyball team and got in a few nice gym workouts. I also wasn’t without my reasons for taking a hiatus, which I am choosing to keep private for the time being. But the fact remains that the long break started to cause some palpable physical, mental and possibly even emotional changes. I didn’t feel like myself when I wasn’t running, but for some reason getting started again felt so difficult. Why is that?

Photo of running sneakers and iPhone armband.
I wonder if my running shoes enjoyed their vacation?

Sometimes, especially when it comes to fitness routines, it feels like starting again means starting over. According to Active.com, “it takes about seven to 14 days for your aerobic fitness to start declining.” The full impact of taking a few months off depends on a number of factors, including the intensity and frequency of your running. For me, as you can tell from those MapMyRun distance stats, I wasn’t running consistently prior to my hiatus. Not only was I likely facing a significant loss in aerobic fitness, but my body’s structural fitness was suffering as well. I became apprehensive to get out and run, knowing I would be nowhere near my peak or even previous fitness level.

A sunny fall day on the Genesee Riverway Trail.
This is what awaited me on my first post-hiatus run in Turning Point Park. I couldn’t ask for better running conditions.

You might be wondering, what finally changed? Well, I think the stars aligned a bit and I worked up the courage to just strap on the ol’ running shoes and make my body do the thing that used to feel as natural as eating or breathing. Here in Rochester, we’ve been blessed with a few exceptionally warm and mostly sunny days to start the month of November. Thanks to the ending of Daylight Saving Time, I’ve found a new motivation to wake up early (gasp!) and run outside in order to savor the only hours of daylight not spent at work. I’ve only logged 3 runs so far since the beginning of the month, and I’m feeling a bit sluggish but overjoyed to be back at it. I’m looking forward to rebuilding some speed and endurance and setting some new running goals for 2016 and beyond!

View of boardwalk over the Genesee River through trees.
Looking at the Genesee River boardwalk from the wooded trails in Turning Point Park. According to social media, that section was a highlight of the MVP Rochester Marathon’s new course. 2016 goal race?!

What are your running goals? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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“Falling” at Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park in the fall.

It’s November now, and in Western New York that means the snow can fall at any time. That’s reason enough for any outdoor enthusiast to get out and enjoy every remaining minute of this beautiful fall season. So last weekend we set out to do exactly that by making the drive down to Letchworth State Park.

A photo of orange leaves on a tree in Letchworth.
Go peep some leaves while there’s still time!

Letchworth State Park, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is located almost 60 miles south of Rochester and was voted the best state park in the country by readers of the USA Today and 10Best in 2015. The park features three waterfalls surrounded by lush forests and offers 66 miles of hiking trails and plenty of other recreational activities.

Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park in the Fall.
Middle Falls in the fall.

We got a late start, leaving Rochester in the early afternoon, and hoped to hike a portion of the Gorge Trail, which offers some of the best views of the park’s waterfalls and scenic gorge. We set out from the parking lot at the Portageville Entrance and planned to hike four miles out to the Great Bend overlook and back, for a total distance of about 8 miles.

Ready to start our hike in the rain at the south end of Letchworth.
Ready to start our hike in the rain at the south end of Letchworth.

The Gorge Trail follows Park Road for much of the section we hiked, with easy access to and parking areas near most of the scenic overviews along the trail. While this is great because it allows folks of all fitness levels and physical abilities to take in the magnificent scenery, it was quite a different experience than the type of scenic hiking we are accustomed to.

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When climbing a high peak, for instance, you might spend several hours in the deep woods before summiting and after your hard work you are (sometimes) rewarded with an absolutely breathtaking view. I imagine stopping at these overlooks amongst park-goers in their street clothes, fresh out of their warm vehicles, is similar to climbing a mountain that also has summit access by car or chairlift. Your journey wasn’t the same, and you may have had to work a little harder, but the shared appreciation for mother nature’s beauty is undeniable.

Photo taken by a nice woman who drove to the Great Bend overlook, which was 4 miles in to our hike.
Photo taken by a nice woman who drove to the Great Bend overlook, which was 4 miles in to our hike.

Do you have a favorite state park? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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Throwback Thursday: Algonquin Peak

Survey marker at the summit of Algonquin Peak.
Survey marker at the summit of Algonquin Peak, June 2014.

For my first edition of “Throwback Thursday” I’d like to share an exciting first – my first Adirondack High Peak! For those who might be unfamiliar, the High Peaks are the 46 peaks in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate NY which were originally believed to be higher than 4,000 feet in elevation.

My partner is an avid hiker and mountaineer and had climbed at least a dozen high peaks prior to our relationship, so he could not wait to share this experience with me. We planned our first Adirondack adventure together for Memorial Day weekend 2013 and set out to do Algonquin Peak, which offers spectacular views and is achievable in a day hike. Algonquin Peak is the second highest mountain in the Adirondacks (and New York state).  We took a long weekend, booked a hotel in nearby Lake Placid, and set off!

View of Mirror Lake and the High Peaks from our hotel room balcony.
View of Mirror Lake and the High Peaks from our hotel room balcony. Mountain in the distance is NOT Algonquin Peak.

We figured that since our trip was to take place the last weekend in May, that we would be in the clear weather-wise. Unfortunately for us, the mountains had other plans. It rained for a week-straight leading up to our trip, which translated into a ton of snow accumulation in the colder high elevations. Three feet of snow accumulation, as a matter of fact. Not to be deterred after traveling several hours and booking our hotel stay, we set out to see if we could still summit a mountain. Snow be damned!

Posing in the Adirondack Loj before starting our hike.
Posing in the Adirondack Loj before starting our hike.

We set out for Algonquin Peak from the Adirondack Loj, following a popular trail that leads to the summit. The trail was incredibly wet and muddy, and it didn’t take long before we encountered snow. After a short time we came upon Marcy Dam, where we took shelter from the cold rain/snow mix in a nearby lean-to. A little cinnamon whiskey helped warm us up! Before long, a forest ranger came by and asked us where we were heading. When we told her our plans to hike to the summit of Algonquin, she informed us that the trails were covered with a few feet of snowfall beyond where we were, and that summiting would require snowshoes or skis. We had neither. At this point, it was in our best interest to turn around and head back, accepting defeat.

This blurry lean-to selfie shows the mix of mud, snow and rain on the ground.
This blurry lean-to selfie shows the mix of mud, snow and rain on the ground. Conditions were not ideal.

Even though I did not get to summit a peak on my first Adirondack hike, it was a great experience to see the wild beauty of the mountain trails (for the few miles I did get to hike, anyway). I also learned how quickly conditions can change in the high peaks, and that preparedness is essential to a successful hike – though who would have thought to bring snowshoes a few days away from June?!

Standing in front of a field with mountains in the background.
Immediately after our hike the sun came out and gave us a nice view of the high peaks on our way back to Lake Placid.

Luckily, we are not the type to give up that easily and my almost-summit experience made me want to climb a high peak more than ever. So we scheduled our second attempt a little over a year later, in mid-June 2014. This date happened to put us in the heart of black fly season (ugh!), but certainly we had to eliminate the risk of another snow-fueled turnaround. We stayed at the same hotel in Lake Placid and made our way back to the Adirondack Loj to tackle Algonquin Peak – for real this time! The conditions were more favorable: a little overcast/cloudy and threatening rain. Because of the clouds, we weren’t sure if there would be much of a view at the summit. That didn’t matter, because nothing was going to stop us this time!

We lucked out and made our way up to the summit at a relatively easy pace. I even passed an old high school classmate who was on his way down from Wright Peak – how weird is that?! It’s not the last time I’d see an old familiar face out in the high peaks, strangely enough. The biggest obstacle we encountered that day was running out of bug spray before reaching the summit – I did mention it was black fly season, correct? The bugs were insane. Luckily, there was one other small group of hikers at the summit who generously let us use some of theirs, and they took a few pictures for us as well.

Standing on the summit of Algonquin Peak.
We summited Algonquin on our second trip and were rewarded with breathtaking views of the high peaks!

Summiting my first high peak is an experience that’s hard to describe. I think overwhelming comes close. Perhaps this experience was a little more dramatic, given our failed attempt one year earlier. One thing was certain, though: I WAS HOOKED. This cool experience was about to become an obsession. I’ve climbed 7 more high peaks in 14 months since this day, and though I don’t really define myself as an aspiring 46er yet (that’s someone who climbs all 46 high peaks), I am aching to bag as many peaks as possible!

A panoramic shot from the summit of Algonquin Peak.
A panoramic shot from the summit of Algonquin Peak.

Have you ever been unable to summit due to difficult weather or trail conditions? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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Alli on Two Feet

Alli on Two Feet

My name is Alli and I’ve come to believe that the best way to explore our world is by foot. For this reason I can usually be found hiking, running, frolicking or falling clumsily somewhere in Western or Upstate New York. After growing up in a suburb of Syracuse, I made my way to Western NY for college and have since settled in Rochester. Throughout the past few years I’ve fallen in love with all of the incredible outdoor spaces this area has to offer – even choosing to purchase a house in part because of its proximity to a particular park. In this blog I plan to share my adventures and the challenges faced, lessons learned and reflections from along the way. I hope you enjoy reading, and please feel free to share what you love about these beautiful places as well!

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