Climbing the Mountains

My legs and hips are sore, but it’s a “good sore.” The kind of ache that comes after working hard and pushing myself.

I often feel it after gym boot camp, which I take three times a week at 6am. And I feel it now, after three fairly significant climbs we did on Skyline Drive this weekend.

We arrived late Friday, car packed with supplies and food, just in time to set a warm fire and cook dinner. I love the cabins at Lewis, where we get a real bed and hot shower, but cook meals outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Early Saturday, we decided to climb Stoney Man, a relatively easy hike with a gorgeous view at the top. Leaves of yellow, gold, and red and evergreens surrounded and sheltered us on our hike, a peaceful climb with only a few steep sections. And then the gift–we walked to the open summit and a view that made me breathe deeply. I hear the mountains can be crowded in October. Half the world wants to see the leaves change. But our early climb meant we were nearly alone.

After a lunch of peanut butter and jelly, I talked David into “walking” to the Rapidan Retreat, Hoover’s summer getaway. The three mile climb about did me in. Heading down was not problem, with beautiful mountain laurel and bright yellow leaves rimming the tree trunks. We stayed close to the brook, and the sound of flowing water was soothing. After a short tour of the house from one of the Park Service reps, we headed back. And this time, of course, we climbed up. A mile and a half over rocks and streams left me breathing hard and wishing for an end much sooner than it came.

We collapsed back at the cabin and rested before preparing our chicken on the grill. The setting sun glowed off the golden leaves in the sky.

Early Sunday, we drove to Hawksbill Mountain for a delightful climb, one where we could chat the entire time and not be out of breath! Because we were so early, we ran into few people. And we had the 360 view to ourselves. Absolutely amazing.

Did I think about writing? Of course. And I wrote a little, too. My friend, Elizabeth, has mentioned how a good walk can change an entire writing perspective. Ah yes. And–sometimes quirky ideas just happen. Like the woman in the cabin next to us who chased a frightened mouse around her cabin, couldn’t catch it, but found it floating in her toilet the next day. Yuck.

What can I do with that? Thinking, thinking…..


Posted in Fun

Coming Back

I closed the door to the cabin this morning at 6am, ending a restful two-week vacation. The cabin sits behind my mom’s house in a small community in South County, Rhode Island. Walks down to the salt pond, boat trips across the pond to the beach, and visits with cousins and friends gave me time to think, read, and sleep. We arrived home around 3 today, dog and cat grateful to be out of the car.

And I am ready to put finishing touches on a presentation I’ll be doing at Collegiate School in Richmond next week on project-based learning. Actually it’s more of a workshop as teachers are coming prepared to dig in and rethink their curriculum. I’m looking forward to the conversations about inquiry-based learning and what that means for all of us.

But tonight I’m missing the sand between my toes.


Posted in Fun

Overcoming Fear

I went skiing yesterday.But that wasn’t the hard part. Riding the chair lift almost paralyzed me.

You see, I hate heights. Really. And fast rides that make me feel out of control. I tried skiing a few years ago at Snowshoe, and I almost fainted when the lift stopped halfway up to rescue someone who was injured. Humming, staring off at the beautiful view, breathing my yoga breaths–nothing seemed to help. I swore I would never ski again.

So when our friends asked us to join them on a quick trip to Seven Springs, I hesitated, knowing I would have to ride that lift again. And then, I thought: “what’s the worst that could happen?”

I guess I am tired of my fears controlling me. I’m a worrier, even when I have no control over whatever it is I am worrying about. All my reading about mindsets and mind-body connections has convinced me that I can–that I should–let go of some of this.

We packed up food for several days, rented a condo, and drove up Sunday morning. My first test was Sunday afternoon, when my friend suggested tubing.

“How scary could that be?” I wondered. At the top of the mountain, I hesitated. The longer I waited, the faster my heart beat. And then I watched a 4-year-old go down. Geesh.

I jumped in, spun around a few times, held my breath–and made it. Not only did I have a wonderful time, I even went down face first on my last ride.

By the time we hit the first ski lift, I was ready. And you know, it wasn’t so  bad. I can’t say I was completely at ease. Getting up and off that contraption took a lot of focus and mental effort. But each time, I realized I was relaxing more and more. I would have missed a great three days if I’d let my fears keep me home.

How often do we anticipate the worst? How often do we let our worries control our emotions and actions? Why do we need to have such control in our lives?

Letting go is sometimes all it takes.

First Night in Fredericksburg

Last night we walked around downtown Fredericksburg for the city’s version of First Night. Now that our children are grown, we find we head to the music venues rather than the street vendors trying to sell everything from burgers to plastic, flashing glow sticks. Though hundreds of people roamed around somewhat aimlessly, we enjoyed these guys and others in small, out of the way places instead.

On our way to and from, we had to make our way through the crowds on the streets, and I kept running into my old students.

“SCarter,” they yelled, which absolutely made my day. That was their nickname for me, a part pirate, part email moniker (

And I got hugs, too! “We miss you!”

“I miss you, too!”

A friend of mine once said our town reminded her of Bedford Falls. We seemed to say hello to familiar faces on every corner as we made our way to my favorite breakfast spot a few blocks from home. She’s from Northern Virginia so I can see why she thinks of my town as “quaint.”

So as tacky as last night’s event was (the smell of grease, the costumes, and flashing lights can seem so over the top),  it’s worth it to see a small slice of our Virginia town. And though we headed home early and missed the lighting of the First Night Pineapple, we were able to see the fireworks from our back porch!

Not a bad way to start the year.

Posted in Fun