Seen along the way

I’m traveling west today, sitting too long among strangers after spending several lovely days with family and friends.

A couple of weekends ago, I got to see one of my dearest friends and two of her children, now grown into amazing young women. We met in Napa and spent a fun day together.

Worried I’d get slowed down in traffic, I wanted to arrive at our first destination early. I hit traffic (of course) but still arrived with time to wander the gardens at our first stop. I thought you might enjoy wandering along with me for a few moments.

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Playing tourist in your own hometown

Two years ago, I shared a post with you about my first trip back to Raleigh after the big move to California. As I prepare for the same trip this year, I find myself eager to go home but anxious about not being able to see everyone or visit all the places I love. To my friends and family there, please know that I’d love to sit with each one of you for several hours and catch up. This trip simply does not allow for that luxury. I hope you understand.

I’ll see a few beloved people and eat biscuits and drink sweet tea, and that will have to be enough until the next time.

Trying to figure out which places I absolutely must visit while I’m there has me pondering: do you ever play tourist in your own hometown? What are the top three places you always take family or friends when they visit you? Is it a beautiful place? Something fun? Maybe a favorite restaurant or cafe?

I’d love to hear your top three must-see spots in your hometown or where you live now. Will you share them in the comments below?

In the meantime—though my Raleigh list would change each time I made it—here are my top pics for scenery, fun and treats.

For beauty, JC Raulston Arboretum

For fun, Pullen Park

For chocolate, Videri Chocolate Factory

I’m looking forward to hearing your favorite hometown tourist destinations!

Traveling animals

My husband and I were driving to a race Saturday morning and heard an interview with Wendy Williams, author of the new book The Horse. NPR’s Scott Simon asked Williams why humans and horses are so drawn to each other, and she said something I just haven’t quite gotten out of my mind. She called both humans and horses “traveling animals.”

The concept struck both my husband and me. As frequent travelers and avid runners, we  can embrace Williams’ description of humans as traveling animals. It seems the perfect way to describe us.

On one of our favorite North Carolina running trails, bicycles aren’t allowed, but horses are. For the most part, runners and horses coexist well. I’ve learned to call out if I’m nearing a horse and its rider. Sometimes, it’s clear to me that I can trust the horse even if its rider is a bit daft. On beautiful days, especially weekends, trails are packed with horses and runners alike, traveling up trails and down, heading toward mountain tops or scenic overlooks or low-lying lakes.

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Horses and their riders out on a beautiful day while I hiked with my camera

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One of my all-time favorite horse pictures: a horse rests before the ride back down the mountain

For those ultra runners among us (I haven’t yet succumbed to that level of challenge/training rigor/resilience/insanity, but my husband has), we can thank horses—or perhaps the want of a horse—for the birth of the 100-mile trail race.

This Saturday marks the lottery opening for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, now more than four decades in the making. Look at the history of the race, and you’ll discover it all started with a horse race. But in 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh hadn’t replaced his lame horse and, not wanting to miss out on a race he had enjoyed in prior years, decided to run the race on foot. He completed it just 13 minutes shy of the horse race’s 24-hour limit. His effort that day inspired a foot race that has become one of the most prestigious of ultra marathons. (Don’t miss the superb Salomon video The Original highlighting Ainsleigh and the history of Western States.)

From Old Testament times onward, we humans have been traveling animals, and other animals have tagged along with us for the journey, inspiring us and helping us reach places and realize dreams we might not otherwise achieve.

How about you? Do you consider yourself a traveling animal? Do you prefer to travel on foot, by bike, on horseback, in a car, on an airplane?

Celebrating Earth Day but not the pollen

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
– Psalm 96:11–12

Today is Earth Day, and I wanted to celebrate by sharing some photos of what’s blooming in my garden right now.

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The previous owners left behind lots of beautiful roses.

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Rhododendron in bloom

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A delicate iris

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Deep purple bearded iris … so velvety beautiful!

How’s the earth exulting (and celebrating spring and Earth Day) where you are?

One thing I simply cannot celebrate today, though I know it has to exist for all these wonderful plants to grow, is pollen. I’ve struggled with springtime allergies for many, many years. I had hoped the move might bring fewer allergies. Boy, was I in for an unpleasant surprise.

California has brought me the worst pollen-related allergies I’ve ever experienced. My tried-and-true allergy medicine is barely making a dent in what’s happening in my head and throat, and my constant coughing leaves me exhausted.

California won me over during winter, but in the NC2NC contest, I have to declare North Carolina a winner in the springtime pollen game. I never thought I’d yearn for NC’s thick yellow pine pollen. However, the drought and warmer-than-usual temperatures here in Northern California are making me sick. Bleh.

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North Carolina wins when it comes to the pollen war, at least for me. Are allergies getting the best of you, too?

Let’s talk about something more fun this Earth Day. I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite places on earth. Some are near home, and some I may never see again. One favorite I hope to visit again some day is Knocknarea in County Sligo, Ireland:

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Serene Knocknarea overlooks Strandhill (the little village you can see sparkling at the shoreline) and Sligo Bay. My husband and I hiked up late in the day to see this stunning vista.

Do you have a favorite spot on earth? If so, I’d love for you to describe it in the comments below. Happy Earth Day!

Sugar trees

On our recent trip to New England, my husband and I ventured into Vermont with the promise of cheese trails to rival California’s wine trails, maple syrup concoctions, and a few quiet, unhurried days to unwind.

Vermont is a lovely place in late spring (even though it felt like full-on summer when we were there). We drove among rolling hills, lush and green from trees leafed out. We saw signs at small country stores for maple cremees, and our southern brains scrambled for a moment to decipher the term. My husband’s guess was right: something akin to soft-serve ice cream.

We took a morning drive out to a working farm, Sugarbush Farm. The scenery along the way was stunning, and even without the reward of the farm at the end, the drive was worth making. The farm was filled with friendly staff, the aroma of cheese smoking in the smoke house, and lots of talk and explanation of maple syrup. We sampled cheese and syrup when we first arrived and then walked around the farm a bit before heading back in to buy a few food souvenirs. Continue reading